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August 31, 2008


I Surely Do Love Final Episodes

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congratulations to Lynn Johnston and best of luck to her on her new-run endeavor
 
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Emptying The Big Basket 05

CR receives two to three comics a day. That adds up. It's more than we can handle in our 200-plus regular 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: Lost Colony Vol. 3: Last Rights
Creator: Grady Klein
Publishing Information: First Second, softcover, 152 pages, October 2008, $18.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781596430990 (ISBN13)

First Second's bravest experiment continues by splitting into two different directions. Grady Klein ramps up the story elements in this the third volume in his classic small-community children's story; with the characters given a more compelling schedule of things to do, there's less shtick and performance and a cleaner through-line when it comes to Klein's daring page design choices. At the same time, this is the first story that feels to be continued. In other words, Klein has both made his narrative leaner and made more complex the general story. Klein's other virtues remain. As the kids' comic market gets crashed by more and more pre-packaged junk done in the crudest and most pandering wasy possible, one hopes that Klein's series survives if only because it dares to be difficult and odd.

*****

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Title: Water Baby
Creator: Ross Campbell
Publishing Information: Minx, softcover, 176 pages, July 2008, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 140121147X (ISBN10), 9781401211479 (ISBN13)

I don't read enough books aimed at teenage girls to know if the sensuality of Ross Campbell's art on display in Water Baby is ahead of or behind the curve. Campbell's characters are all sexually attractive, and with the exception of a few walk-ons including Mario Van Peebles, I believe they're all minors. Since my days as a minor with two digits in my age were mostly about sexual attraction and compulsion on some level or another, and because Oprah Winfrey tells me that today's kids are even more active than we were, I have to imagine that this isn't a big thing at all except for older people reading these books and feeling slightly queasy as they begin to put two and two together. The story is a kind of hard to categorize meditation on friendship and romance. I like how the lead character has her youtful potency reduced in overt fashion (her leg is chomped off by a shark), which kind of underlines the limited choices facing the characters as they struggle to go from one place to another and deal with each other with as much kindness as they're able to sustain. It's a weird damn book, that's for sure, and one can easily imagine some severely negative reactions. I had a hard time getting on board, although I appreciate that unlike a couple of the other Minx books I've read it doesn't seem like a TV show pilot. I also have to admit that reading the back cover describe it as a punk rock romance only made me never want to open it.

*****

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Title: Milla and the Prince of Space
Creator: Evan G. Palmer
Publishing Information: Self-Published, softcover, 64 pages, Spring 2008, $35
Ordering Numbers: www.evanpalmercomics.com

This limited edition book is stuffed to the gills with promising page design and already-lovely visuals. Any of you editors out there curating a line of comics aimed at young people should stop reading right now, click on the artist's site link and sign him up before someone else gets to him. In fact, this book by itself wouldn't be out of place in one of those lines. The narrative is paper thin and doesn't work according to the broad rules established for this kind of literature. The ending is way too pat and the meaningfulness of the initial encounter that allows cartoonist Evan Palmer to build the rest of the story is implied rather than shown. It feels like a story that happens because the story needs things to happen. I should also mention that the story is enormously sweet, like eat the frosting right off those cheap Wal-mart cookies sweet; the most delicate page from Blankets would beat up the toughest page from Mila and the Prince of Space and steal its lunch money, if it wanted to. Still, there's a definite talent here, one that might develop into something that a lot of people will greatly enjoy. Editors! Go recruit!

*****

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Title: Comic Foundry #3
Creators: Tim Leong, Laura Hudson and a Bunch of Freelancers
Publishing Information: Magazine, 64 pages, Summer 2008, $5.98
Ordering Numbers:

The central irony of Comic Foundry magazine is that despite the many ways in which the magazine and editors define what they do in opposition to fanboy bible Wizard, their approach can perhaps be summarized as an extension of that magazine's two most popular features: their top ten writers and top ten artists lists. As is the case with those lists, the funny profiles and photo essays and tongue-in-cheek articles in CF's pages tend to appeal to the creators they're covering by making them look good. Who wouldn't want to appear on the cover of a cool-looking magazine in a glamorous-looking photo or two? Who wouldn't want to be one of the "cutest creator couples in comics"? Who would be opposed to seeing elements of their comics reincorporated into a clever, modern-looking page design? I'm a big supporter of the magazine, honestly, so I'm glad that I finally have an answer to the question of who would want to read a magazine like this with comics at their core: anyone who wants to eventually appear in its pages. I'm more confident than ever it will be around for a while.

Content-wise I thought #3 was a step back from the previous issue. There's nothing wrong with interviewing a television personality that covers comics, and one of the great thing magazines can do is introduce or re-introduce you to a person in a way that makes you consider them in a fresh or compelling way. That said, I found the Blair Butler interview to be dull as dirt, and I wish it had been shortened by half just so it could have been over sooner. I feel like part of me is off somewhere still reading it. The shorter articles are better than the longer ones, although there's very little in the magazine longer than a page or two. I still had a feeling that more could have been done with what was presented. A cover-blurbed piece on a recession's potential effect on comics might have made a fine blog posting, but a print magazine article should probably do better than having the idea of peak oil introduced into its midst by Heidi MacDonald and its general economic forecast made by Michael Martens. There was also no firm conclusion to that article, nor was a compelling case made that such a conclusion was impossible, and as a result you don't know much more than when you started. These are growing pains, I think, and I look forward to how they next flatter their industry of choice and how quickly the industry responds with a run of its awards hardware. It's coming.

*****

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Title: The Rough Guide To Graphic Novels
Creators: Danny Fingeroth, Roger Langridge
Publishing Information: Rough Guides, softcover, 320 pages, $18.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781843539933 (ISBN13)

I'm the worst person in the world to review something like this, one of two major books this summer that doubles as a guide and a shot at a graphic novel canon. My main hang-up is that I hate shoving comics' beautiful array of approaches and story lengths into a commercial designation like the GN. I also don't think that you can use a definition that deals with content and intent -- which you have to do to include A Contract With God -- while ignoring all the long-form serial stories of the strips' distant past. In other words, I have a nerd's reaction to efforts like the one being made here.

With that understood, this is an attractive volume and Fingeroth is allowed to shoehorn in a lot of works that don't make his canonical list through a discussion of various forms and history and creators and the like. So I can imagine it being a useful book. I don't have much use for his canon. There are two books in his top ten that didn't make my top 40 list for the year in which they were released, and in general I think the lists are safe and conventional rather than daring and forward. Given a chance to bring a work back into the graphic novels discussion, Fingeroth favors a work like Brooklyn Dreams over something like Maggots. That's just not where I am right now. Comics seems to me to encompass a lot more in terms of artistic expression than a replication of the values of literary work in the format that's the most commercially viable for it to be purchased. Comics is bigger than graphic novels, or at least it should be. If all of that sounds snotty and you need to hear it in the form of a tagline: it's hard for me to imagine returning to a book that values Larry Young's fun but lightweight and always-in-print Astronauts in Trouble over Eddie Campbell's ambitious, unforgettable and hard to track down in all of its messy glory Alec.

*****

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Title: New Character Parade
Creator: Johnny Ryan
Publishing Information: Buenaventura, handmade comic, 28 page, 300 printed in total, $10
Ordering Numbers: go here

Johnny Ryan's work makes me laugh, and I think it's very well-crafted. I can't really go much deeper than that, and part of me would feel stupid for doing so. I mean, of course you want this new limited edition comic book, or, I suppose, of course you don't. If there are people on the fence I will say that this has a lot more humor that doesn't fall comet-like into a litany of crudities -- I mean, I like those, too, but it's fun to see things like Ryan riffing on old All in the Family dynamics and cockpunching the sacred cow of 9/11 humor by showing a dad spanking a child by crashing an airplane into his butt at which point the panel becomes, simply, "Ass 9-11." If you just groaned in horror or dismay, well, this comic really isn't for you. I laughed. I just hope we don't all one day wake up and realize we wasted Johnny Ryan by not buying enough of his books. Please help me in keeping this from happening.

*****

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Title: Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire, Vol. 1
Creator: William Messner-Loebs
Publishing Information: IDW, softcover, 600+ pages, July 2008, $19.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781600101915 (ISBN13)

The thing I like most about IDW's reprinting of the Journey is that it runs over 600 pages at $19.99. Not that I'm cheap -- well, I am -- but this mean the reprint is clearly meant to be read rather than collected or even offered up for purchase by charitable-minded buyers. As to that last point, a once-prolific mainstream comics writer after his run as a independent comics mainstay, Messner-Loebs' financial plight has been a part of comics lore for about a half-decade now. While that's a reason I imagine this book has seen the light of day, whatever the reason is you should be happy to get this many solid, idiosyncratically created comics at this price in a sturdy format (the reproduction is about as good as can be hoped, although some of the more delicate linework is lost after this many years) clearly intended to give it a shot at a wider readership.

As for the content, I hadn't remembered the comic being this loopy. While it didn't work for me as well as a historical novel this time out -- in fact, a lot of the book's more ambitious elements feel forced to me -- I quite enjoyed it on as a humorous adventure story, and found Messner-Loebs artwork to be exactly as evocative and moody as I recalled. I love the fact that this book exists if only that it reminds me that a comic book like this once existed, and that such a comic can retain its unique voice some 20-25 years after its brief, initial, flickering lifetime.

*****

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Title: MOME Vol. 12 -- Fall 2008
Creators: Olivier Schrauwen, David B., Killoffer, Nate Neal, Dash Shaw, Tom Kaczynski, Jon Vermilyea, Ray Fenwick, Sophie Crumb, Al Columbia, Derek Van Gieson, Sara Edward-Corbett, Paul Hornschemeier
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 120 pages, Fall 2008, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781560979302 (ISBN13)

The only thing you have to say about the 12th volume of MOME is that the first time co-editors Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds ran a story by David B. it fairly overwhelmed the entire magazine and this time it fits right. Part of that has to be the fact that their steady hand with the anthology has encouraged more cartoonists to come forward. Unless I'm missing something, there are exactly two of the original contributors in this issue. Also, I've gone three sentences without mentioning Olivier Schrauwen or Al Columbia, and both of their contributions are as good as their reputations. A must-have issue from a should-have anthology.

*****

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Title: Flight, Vol. 5
Creators: JP Ahonen, Graham Annable, Chris Appelhans, Bannister, Matthew Bernier, Scott Campbell, Svetlana Chmakova, Tony Cliff, Phil Craven
Michel Gagne, Kazu Kibuishi, Kness, Sonny Liew, Reagan Lodge, Made, John Martz, Sarah Mensinga, Ryan North, Richard Pose, Paul Rivoche, Dave Roman, Kean Soo, Joey Weiser
Publishing Information: Random House, softcover, 352 pages, July 2008, $25
Ordering Numbers: 9780345505897 (ISBN13)

We'll all be firing up our decade-in-review article next year about this time, and Flight will have to receive a lot of consideration as an influential anthology, injecting into comics at about as art comics fussy as it will ever get (I'd say not very) an assault of pretty, impressively-crafted short stories that can be read and enjoyed by a wide audience. I don't think by volume 5 you get the same sense of discovery, but there are certainly still a lot of nice-looking comics in there: my favorites were by Graham Annable and Kazu Kibuishi; I also liked the look of a couple of them, primarily a polar bear-starring short by a pair called "Kness and Made." The drawbacks seem more pronounced here than they did on earlier books. My main objection is that some of the stories are choking on sentiment to an almost ridiculous degree. There's a baseball story by Richard Pose that almost seems like a parody of heartwarming baseball stories, it lays the wide-eye emoting on so thick. I can't imagine its target audience will mind, and while there's practically nothing here I'd care to read again, I like the idea of this book hiding away in middle school libraries, holding the hands of its uniformed readership and potentially leading them someplace swell.

*****

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I enjoyed the enthusiasm the creators bring to this work, essentially a cross between hardboiled crime fantasy of the Mickey Spillane/Frank Miller school re-tooled to add a lot of monsters to the cast. However, to work with ideas this cliched and in the visual language of another artist (Sin City-era Miller) you really have to have major chops to execute matters so that by itself you've added something to the mix that the reader can't get by simply re-reading the source material. Ben Fisher and Mike Henderson aren't quite there yet, although one can imagine one or both continuing to work in comic books. If this were a movie, it'd be one you'd find on pay cable at 2 AM where you couldn't figure out if it was made two or twenty years ago. It'd pass the time, but you wouldn't hesitate to go to bed once you got tired. For this to be your cup of tea, you'd have to really want some tea.

*****

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Title: Gimoles: Secrets of the Seasons
Creators: Mike Bullock, Theo Bain, Michael Metcalf, Bob Pedroza
Publishing Information: Image Comics, softcover, 128 pages, June 2008,
Ordering Numbers: 1582409552 (ISBN10), 9781582409559 (ISBN13)


This is the product description for this book from Amazon.com:
"Follow Limmy and Ohgi Gimole on their quest to shut down the machines of winter when Ichabod Cornelius Frost, the nefarious Czar of Winter, refuses to let loose his icy grip in this all-ages adventure from the creator of the critically acclaimed Lions, Tigers, and Bears!"
If that sounds like a generic romp of the kind that appear on cable in animated form by the dozens during the holiday seasons, that's because that's exactly what this is. The art here is accomplished, particularly the execution of the various character designs. However, the designs themselves prove completely uninspired, a selection of generic looks and signifiers of the kind a harried costume designer might throw together working the racks at the local civic theater's wardrobe closet. The storytelling is muddied, the narrative meanders wildly and is outright dull in several stretches, and the message ends up being banal. Unless you're such a fan of holiday material of this type that you can look on this work in a way that an outsider like me simply can't, I suspect that you, like me, won't remember a single moment when you're done.

*****

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Title: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
Creators: Paul Gravett, Peter Stanbury, an army of creators
Publishing Information: Running Press, softcover, 480 pages, $17.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781845297107

This is a pretty solid anthology of its kind, a massively-stuffed anthology from a person with good taste, well-selected, at a terrific price. The only hall of fame works here are an Alack Sinner story and a Spirit strip from the immediate post-War era, but Gravett comes through with an eclectic group of top-rank cartoonists and comics creators working in a minor key, folks like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Jack Kirby and Charles Burns. In fact, the Charles Burns inclusion is the kind of thing that really distinguishes a book like this one amid so many older works that may work better as attractive, sturdy filler than a source for re-discovery. Additionally, it's always nice to see selections from Torpedo and Kane. One wonders if the editors couldn't get their hands on certain works, or if the designation "crime comics" leaves off the table radical departures on detective books like the Karasik/Mazzucchelli City of Glass adaptation. It would have been nice to see something by Ed Brubaker in here as well, perhaps at the expense of Ms. Tree, which pains me to say as nice as its creators were to my father once upon a time. I just don't get that appeal of that one, and certainly believe that Brubaker's work with Jason Lutes, Eric Shanower, Sean Phillips and Michael Lark wee much, much stronger. Still, a pleasant surprise and great beach reading. Seriously.

*****

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Title: Method Man
Creators: Method Man, Sanford Greene, David Atchison
Publishing Information: Hachette, softcover, 96 pages, July 2008, $13.99
Ordering Numbers: 0446699721 (ISBN10), 9780446699723 (ISBN13)

I wanted to like this book because I like the idea of someone enjoying comics so much they have to put themselves into one. Sadly, this is a pretty pedestrian effort all around. A PI teams up with an ancient order to fight a great, world-threatening evil, tapping into his own resources as a once-promising member of that order to help thwart the bad person's plans. The execution would have to be off the charts to overcome that kind of straight to video plot, and it doesn't come close. Moreover, I wonder after its effectiveness in the marketplace due to a manga price point plus half again that amount for what feeles like much less than its 96 or so pages. Since some money apparently went into this project at some point, it's disappointing how much this feels like three or four dozen other comics that I've seen in my lifetime. Sorry, Method Man.

*****

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Title: National Waste #7
Creator: Leif Goldberg
Publishing Information: Self-Published, handmade, 38 pages, Spring 2008, $8
Ordering Numbers:

Available through PictureBox Inc., the latest in Leif Goldberg's mostly-good, sometimes-great mini-comics series is a pretty standard effort of its type: a few short stories, a lot of silk-screened imagery, some wonderful visuals, and more than a few abstract moments. In fact, the whole thing proves to be pretty first class for just about all the reasons you go to mini-comics -- well-crafted, idiosyncratic work that doesn't really stand a chance in the current marketplaces. If I told you it was a perfect mini-comic for everything except narrative coherence I'd be close to getting at the truth, but that sounds mean instead of the way I'd intend for it to be taken. It's more like I don't have any avenue to express a negative opinion about art like this, because it's so closely tied into a set of desires concerning personal expression that are impenetrable and have very little to do with the alchemical reaction that takes place when those ideas meet a readership. I can I don't think this is the best issue of the series, but at this point in the history of mini-comics there's so little continuity out there that simply having another one of these feels like a greater victory than it did with the release of past issues.

*****

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Title: Ralph Snart Adventures #1
Creator: Marc Hansen
Publishing Information: Self-Published, comic book, 24 pages, July 2008, $2.95
Ordering Numbers: MAY084037 (Diamond)

I used to buy Ralph Snart at my local drugstore, the first and possibly last time I could buy a straight-up comic book with this kind of weird, ugly art and featuring a character not Alfred E. Neuman. Marc Hansen's vibrant inks and his "hello, I don't give a shit" storylines are as admirable as ever. In this issue alone, Snart becomes world famous, goes to prison, loses his memory and murders a bunch of people, in approximately that order; it's the kind of done-in-one that used to happen on TV when they figured the appeal of the character wouldn't lead to a series. I think you could buy this comic and get 80 percent of what Hansen does about 15 or 16 pages in. Making a case for his own special uniqueness wasn't ever Hansen's deal; making loud and dumb comics where his lead runs around harming people while surfing a wave of mostly dumbassed behavior is. It may not feel necessary, but it's hard to imagine Hansen making a comic like that and staying true to his disposable, loud, and ultimately goofy roots.

*****

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Title: Tales From Greenfuzz #2
Creator: Will Sweeney
Publishing Information: Amos Novelties Ltd, comic book, 24 pages, 2006,
Ordering Numbers:

I'm not going to pretend I know what the hell is going on here. In what looks like a full-color cross between the demented world-creation efforts of an inebriated shut-in and educational film strip about nutrition, a sandwich is trying to rescue his girlfriend while an army of french fries sacks a town full of vegetables. Dan Nadel at Picturebox shoved one of these into my hands against my desires, and although I like the fact that it marches to beat of its own drummer -- I mean, forget marching: it fairly skips and jumps and rolls around in an irregular rhythm to its own drummer -- I can't say I enjoyed the book or was so taken with its displayed craft elements that I stopped to pay attention. It's bright and pretty, though, and it will make you glad we live in a world where this kind of dementia still exists. Of course, having said that, I'm going to find out this is the most popular children's book in Ireland or something.

*****

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Title: Comics Comics #4
Creators: Various
Publishing Information: PictureBox Inc., giant newsprint tabloid, 16 pages, $2.95
Ordering Numbers:

I heard a rumor that Comics Comics is going to settle into a more standard book project that may even come out quarterly from now on. I sort of hope not, because even thought there are several areas where the PictureBox-published celebration of comics and comics culture could improve, the irregular publishing schedule and demented format so perfectly match the content that I'd hate to see them go away. A sideways and passionate attack on a lot of comics' sacred cows -- imagine them as the much more fun DIY festival set up outside of museum-like official selections on the comics chatter map like Comic Art, TCJ and this site -- Comics Comics works better the further its writers reach past the accepted pantheon into a primordial stew of fevered creation to make the case for things like chalk talks, Shaky Kane, and the comic book format not as a publishing strategy but as a way of organizing art that's deep and mysterious and satisfying. The living embodiment of a way too drunk thinker about or maker of comics grabbing your arm in a bar at 2:30 in the morning, I'll miss it if it puts on a tie and goes to work.

*****

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Title: Webcomics 2.0
Creators: Steve Horton and Sam Romero
Publishing Information: Course Technology, softcover, 240 pages, 2008, $29.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781598634624 (ISBN13)

Title: How to Make Webcomics
Creators: Brad Guigar, Dave Kellett, Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz
Publishing Information: Image Comics, 200 pages, 2008, $12.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781582408705 (ISBN13)

I can't read either one of these books as they deserve to be read -- with the eyes of a wannabe cartoonist hungry to make work of their own. I can still say with great certainty that the latter book, How to Make Webcomics, seems to me and my jaundiced eye about 25 times more useful and more of a quality effort than Webcomics 2.0. There's much more content in the Images Comics book, it's better presented, it's from cartoonists I've actually heard of in a webcomics environment, it's less than half the price, and like most of the best on-line comics it's essentially self-published.

The primary thing that may be missing from How to Make Webcomics from my outsider's perspective is that despite having four authors and despite the fact its text hashes out any number of differences in philosophy and divergent strategies in practical matters, it doesn't seem to represente a wide array of authorial voices and variety in kinds of webcomics. All four authors seem to do pretty standard transposed strips, and they're all guys of what seems to be roughly the same age (I'm going by the photos). I also suspect they may all like each other and each others' work too much for there to be compelling clashes when it comes to discussing that work. (There was one mini-roundtable of criticism in particular where I just kind of wished someone had it in them to challenge the quality of the gag as opposed to how the cartoonist got to the gag.) The continuity between the authors probably sharpens the focus in that there's enough agreement between them for that they can get to specific matters pretty early on, but I'm not sure if it ends up being for everyone as opposed to people that want to do comics like the authors' efforts. (Johanna Draper Carlson had many of the same objections I did to Webcomics 2.0, although she's much nicer about it than I would have been had I gone into detail.)

*****

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Title: Delphine #3
Creator: Richard Sala
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics/Coconino, Ignatz, 32 pages, $7.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560979357 (ISBN13)

Another ridiculous good-looking comic book from Richard Sala who's been on quite the run for about a half-decade now and with this project is working in a format that's particularly flattering to where's he has taken his art. I mention it here not because I have much of anything to say about it -- although I did find it interesting how much of the book is in a rigid grid -- but because I want to point out that the werewolf sequence reveals that Sala may be one of the few people that agrees with me that the horror isn't a man that turns into a wolf, but some freaky-ass four-legged animal turning into a man!

*****

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Title: Charlton Spotlight #6
Creator: Various
Publishing Information: Argo Press, magazine, 68 pages, Spring 2008, $7.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781560979357 (ISBN13)

I don't have much to say about this latest issue of the magazine which, as should be obvious from the title, is devoted to the Charlton Comics company, a stalwart of 20th Century mainstream funnybooks. This issues features two pleasant but extremely slight Nic Cuti/Joe Staton efforts, an early 1990s E-Man effort that was never published and a 1970s Michael Mauser story that met a similar fate. It's buttressed by a number of pages of art and ephemera from the company's history including a nice promotional image from Steve Ditko, and the magazine's usual features providing obituaries for Charlton creators and letters from fans. I'm glad this material is out there, and I think future histories if they're written will be better for having this kind of first-draft material at their disposal. My own appetite for this kind of material is severely limited.

*****

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Title: Strange Detective Tales #3
Creator: Jesse Bausch, James Callahan
Publishing Information: Oddgod Press, comic book, 48 pages, $3.95
Ordering Numbers:

This is the third in I believe a three-issue series, concluding a storyline carried over from the first two issues. There used to be a lot of comics like this on the stands: genre-corrective or myth-blending efforts that march a bunch of different visual and prose icons through a different but still-familiar set-up. The execution outstrips the basic idea -- the dialogue snaps and some of the individual panels show off a nice, fiercely controlled line; I accepted the big moments as big moments rather than attempts to portray big moments, if that makes any sense. That said, it's hard remembering a whole lot of what happened even five minutes after I've put the comic done, even when the work is much better than I'm used to seeing in similar efforts. One thing that lingers is that I wonder after an audience. I don't get a sense in 2008 the way I did in 1978 that comics is the place where a lot of people are going with an equal passion for all these different corners of junk and fantastic culture. Still, I'd be interested in seeing the next work from both participants.

*****
*****

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Title: The Martian Confederacy, Vol. 1
Creators: Jason McNamara, Paige Braddock
Publishing Information: Girl Twirl Comics, 140 pages, August 2008, $15
Ordering Numbers: MAY083907 (Diamond), 9780979420719 (ISBN13)

I have no idea what to say about this comic, no firm conclusion, which is why it goes here instead of into its own review. It's pleasant enough company -- a kind of modern western/crime caper set in a far future Mars where an information-wipe and the evolution of animal-men has changed mankind's attitude towards history and civilization -- and the cartooning is breezy and flows well, even if it's not as atmospheric as the work from the sort of artist that usually gets this kind of gig. Much of the script is either amusing or close enough to it you recognize it as such and keep going. At the same time, it never really transcends its genre-blend roots, it never makes so much of an impression that I can imagine people flipping out over it and tracking it down. In a different world, there would be so much material in all genres that an audience could be had simply by creating work that was better than the average. Because there's almost no work like this, it has to compete not against mediocre but against the much more daunting barrier of people getting out of their comfort zone and trying something new. Works like Bone and Persepolis hit enough high points to draw that initial attention that led to a rush of readers. I'm not sure this work has it in it. I love the fact that there's a big ol' rambling science fiction western crime story out there, in this style, but I also don't think liking the idea of something is enough.

*****

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Title: The Shortpants Observer #1
Creators: Sarah Becan, Anya Davidson, Corinne Mucha, Becca Taylor, Jeremy Tinder
Publishing Information: Shortpants Press, comic book, 72 pages, 2008, $8.00
Ordering Numbers: 9780981846705 (ISBN13)

Shortpants Press is the Chicago-based mini-comics house whose various efforts I've enjoyed in the way one tends to think well of an effort to put young, developing cartoonists into print with their own, albeit essentially handmade books. I'm not sure that that goodwill follows into the first issue of their anthology, a definite step-up in ambition from the earlier publications. It's... well, it's okay. The most interesting work in the book (Becca Taylor's) is also the most aggravating in its execution; it just doesn't come together in a way that matches the ambition of the concept involved. Jeremy Tinder is the work's most fully-realized talent, but his contribution is slighter than slight, and ends in a way that feels more like a narrative twist or even cheat than a resolution. I like the idea of another anthology for cartoonists, particularly one that's regional in nature, so I hope this does well enough for there to be more. For one thing, it may be a few issues before I can recommend it.

*****

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Title: Dead Man Holiday #-3
Creator: Colin Panetta
Publishing Information: Self-Published, comic book, 32 pages, 2008, $3.99
Ordering Numbers: www.deadmanholiday.com

I was really charmed by this "haunted science fiction" comic. The artist shows some promise in terms of his laconic pacing and the way he provides some of his duller scenes with a bit of visual interest by moving the reader's point of view to different places (without calling attention to his doing so). The craft chops just aren't quite there for this to be the kind of comic book that demands $4 in today's marketplace, except by people that are strongly inclined to supporting this kind of work in the first place. There could be leaps and bounds to come -- it's certainly no less professional than the first Comico books from 25 or so years ago, for example. But right now this is more of an idea of a comic book than a fully executed comic book, and as a reader there's just too much for me to process and forgive to even begin reading it. Given the kind of genre-mixing involved, it's not as if I would be willing to give the cartoonist a lot of leeway of any kind when it came to presenting the story. But I wanted to let y'all know about it, because I love the fact that people are still making comics for other people to enjoy; it beats most of what I've done in with my free time the last couple of years.

*****

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Title: Shelter Stories
Creator: Patrick McDonnell
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, hardcover, 168 pages, 2008, $16.99
Ordering Numbers: 9780740771156 (ISBN13)

This is a book collecting those Mutts strips of Patrick McDonnell's where he urges his readership to consider adopting a pet from the local animal shelter. Sometimes he does this directly, but mostly he does so by showing some of the animals in the shelters as they experience this themselves or as they wait for it to happen. The strips -- which are enormously sweet even when charted against McDonnell's genial baseline -- are interspersed with photos of animals and testimonies from their owners. In other words, this book is completely un-reviewable! I like McDonnell's work quite a bit, and at 14 years he's entered that phase of his run with Mutts where he's going to be ignored and even criticized for a while. It's almost an historical imperative at work. He's always an effective cartoonist, though, and even when he's working in an extremely strong set of emotional clues and icons and imperatives in a way that might not be to your taste as much as it is mine there's no getting around that basic fact. I like that he does these strips and hope they'll follow him until the end of his time in newspaper. Plus, he's undeniably right in this case: adopting an animal from a shelter can be a wonderful thing.

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If I Were In Georgia, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, look: Von Allan's first graphic novel

* go, look: a Luke Cage mystery

* go, catch up: Rutu Modan in the NY Times Sunday Magazine

* go, bookmark: Strange Maven's Diary

* go, look: what Ron Rege was doing in July for you
 
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FFF Results Post #133—Moneybags

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Comics Rich People." Here are the results.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Uncle Scrooge
2. Kyle Richmond
3. Hyacinthe de Cavallere
4. Reginald Van Dough
5. Hanazawa Rui

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Dave Knott

* Casanova Quinn
* Wimbledon Green
* Roberto Rastapopoulos
* Jiggs
* Wesley Dodds

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Ben Schwartz

1) Kirby's Green Team -- back when "green" meant money.
2) Richie Rich and his crew: Mayda Money, Reggie Van Dough, Jr., and Aunt Noovo Rich
3) Donald Trump when drawn by Drew Friedman
4) Scrooge McDuck or his arch-rivals John D. Rockerduck and Flintheart Glomgold
5) Odin -- Asgard's gotta be worth zillions, and it's all HIS.

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Uriel A. Duran

1) Scrooge McDuck
2) Gomez Addams
3) Herv R. Costigan
4) Veronica Lodge
5) Doctor Doom

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Mark Coale

Bruce Wayne
Lex Luthor
Daddy Warbucks
Britt Reid
Richie Rich

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Grant Goggans

1. H.R. Costigan
2. Hiram Lodge
3. Zonker Harris, when he won that lottery in the late 1980s
4. Ethan Kostabi
5. Gomez Addams

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David King

Uncle Scrooge
R.J. Brande
H.R. Costigan
Uncle Bim
Daddy Warbucks

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Will Pfeifer

1. Thomas Wayne -- who, given his son's spending habits, must've been even richer than Bruce Wayne
2. Steve Dayton, aka Mento from The Doom Patrol
3. H.R. Costigan
4. Mr. Big, the villain in OMAC #2 who was so rich he could "RENT A CITY -- FOR ASSASSINATION!"
5. Bob Hope

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Tony Collett

1) Uncle $crooge
2) Bruce Wayne
3) Richie Rich
4) Janet Van Dyne
5) Barry Ween, Boy Genius (I'm sure in least one of the issues it mentioned his dummy corporations, money laundering, etc. Even mentioned he did a documentary film about migrant workers. And in the words of Jack Napier "Where does he get those wonderful toys?")

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Tom Bondurant

1. R.J. Brande
2. Myndi Mayer
3. Lacey Davenport
4. J. Jonah Jameson
5. Bruce Wayne

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Peter Rios

1. Steve Dayton, New Teen Titans (DC)
2. Mason Lang, Invisibles (Vertigo)
3. R.J. Brande, Legion of Super-Heroes (DC)
4. Cerebus (on and off, certainly made for some interesting stories when it was on)
5. Tony Stark, Iron Man (Marvel) Come on, the movie just made it look like so much fun.

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Scott Dunbier

1) Daddy Warbucks
2) Uncle Scrooge
3) RJ Brande
4) Herv Costigan
5) Veronica Lodge

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John McCorkle

* Largo Winch
* La Senora Millonetis
* Charles Montgomery Burns
* Maxwell Lord
* Aime De Mesmaeker

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Vito Delsante

* Veronica Lodge
* Bruce Wayne
* Wally West (didn't he win the lottery once?)
* Charles Xavier
* Reed Richards (although, in recent years, he lost money and Ben became the rich one)

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Sean T. Collins

Bruce Wayne
H.R. Costigan
Adrian Veidt
Lex Luthor
Emma Frost

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Five For Friday will return in three weeks.

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Rick Parker!

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First Thought Of The Day

I know I shouldn't do this to myself, but I'm pretty sure it's been more years since Appetite for Destruction came out than between Appetite for Destruction and Sgt. Pepper's.
 
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August 30, 2008


CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from August 23 to August 29, 2008:

1. Lynn Johnston wraps up her forward storyline phase on For Better Or For Worse, and is moving into new strips that work in that series' narrative past.

2. Virgin Comics closes.

3. Providers to/clients of the Wowio download service complain that second quarter payments are late.

Winner Of The Week
Lynn Johnston

Loser Of The Week
Marvin

Quote Of The Week
"If I had to do it all over again, I probably never would have done an interview." -- Dan Clowes

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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If I Were In London, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Georgia, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Meldorf, I’d Go To This

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Jacques Tardi!

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Happy 65th Birthday, R Crumb!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Ken Bruzenak!

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August 29, 2008


Five For Friday #133—Moneybags

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Five For Friday #133 -- Name Five Of Your Favorite Comics Rich People

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1. Uncle Scrooge
2. Kyle Richmond
3. Hyacinthe de Cavallere
4. Reginald Van Dough
5. Hanazawa Rui

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This Subject Is Now Closed. Thanks To All That Participated.
 
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FBOFW Wraps Up Last Week In Current Incarnation; Heads Into New Waters

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Lynn Johnston's mega-popular For Better Or For Worse will reportedly make its shift over the holiday weekend from its current "new storylines interrupted at times by older storylines that may or may have not been tweaked a bit" version to its new incarnation as new but using older storylines. (I think.) It's been about two full years since the strip's ultimate fate has been a part of almost monthly tweaking and constant speculation, and the final fate of the strip was actually kept under wraps until I think the cartoonist's appearance at the Doug Wright Awards and a subsequent scramble by the syndicate to disseminate information as to exactly what was going to happen starting next week. I think it's been handled kind of poorly, to be honest, which is a shame because it was a really good strip for a really long time, Johnston's been a class act since basically forever, and newspapers don't really need to have such odd and frequently incomplete information out there on a tent-pole attraction. I'm sure there will be some tough decisions regarding the strip over the next few weeks.

For today, though, and through the weekend, I'd suggest we put aside thing like our feelings on the way various storylines turned out (although this nearly-perfect on-line rant is always worth a re-read, even more so given how things developed) and appreciate the cartoonist's achievement. I can't think of too many North American art form where for even a brief period of time its generally most successful and well-liked practitioner was a woman, and I think the obvious affection with which people regard her strip -- enough to kvetch about it -- is to her work's credit. Our congratulations to Lynn Johnston on finishing one part of her life and moving into another.
 
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Go, Read: Morrison on Saving Comics

Grant Morrison has one of his typically entertaining interviews up at IGN and on the last page he's asked about Robert Kirkman's recent video exhorting creators to make their own comic books. I'd quote extensively, but I always groan when people do that because the idea is for you to go to the article rather than for me to re-present their material here. But I think it's worth reading.

In general, I think comics just experienced a long August of defensive recriminations after a particularly weird summer and a "Is that all there is?" San Diego Con where the promise of comics' recent trends is beginning to be supplanted by the reality of those trends' unfolding, including the notion of who is likely benefit and who isn't. The result seems to have been a greater than usual number of people telling other people how they should do things that I suspect comes as much from 1) a desire to be taken seriously as a person who gets to say things like that and/or 2) an attempt to make the case for how the prescriber does things by asserting its specialness, at least more than it is an engagement with some actual issue or even an overwhelming desire to see that specific reform take hold. I think if you see Kirkman's tape as some sort of assault on or indictment of certain ways of doing things you're likely to have a negative reaction; if you tend to see this kind of thing as a the kind of friendly advocacy that naturally comes from someone doing successful work, you probably won't get worked up at all. Morrison doesn't seem agitated in the slightest.
 
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If I Were In Georgia, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: King Kojo

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Go, Look: Meet Sally Sampers

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Go, Bookmark: Danny Dutch

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* although I'm not certain why this hasn't occurred to me before, you know, the way the Kindle works does seem pretty perfect as a way to do New Comics Day on-line.

image* there needs to be more people doing interviews with Chester Brown. He feels under-interviewed to me in a way most cartoonists do not.

* I'm having a hard time seeing Apple taking a pass on a slightly bawdy comic as part of its offerings for some service as censorship, or, really, much of a story.

* in a letter to The Beat, Wowio client T Campbell notes that one of the reasons he would like to see his 2Q earnings is that his 3Q earnings have fallen 97 percent under the new ownership plan.

* I visited the Art Institute of Chicago yesterday: they have a couple of Crumbs up, a huge Jim Nutt painting in I guess the modern art section, a Lyonel Feininger to look at if you can't get a good place to stand and gaze upon their famous Suerat, and a small, under-glass thing on the Hairy Who in the library. Me, I was there for some alone time with the Winslow Homers.

* also, Chicago Comics' Eric Kirsammer says they're still selling a couple of Watchmen every day.

* did I ever post a link to this lecture by Rian Hughes? I think I did, but maybe I didn't.

* two papers in Texas have apparently shrunk their comics pages from two pages to one. I can see a lot of this happening over the next year.

* the writer Steven Grant has been on a really nice run recently, and I enjoyed this piece on Steve Ditko. I would suggest, however, that Dan Nadel's Art of Time provides us with the names of any number of artists that were using the comic book medium for personal expression in the way I think Grant means it long before Steve Ditko was doing so. By the way -- Sean T. Collins noted to me in conversation that Art Out of Time has led to something like a half-dozen books or future book projects, which will likely add to its reputation over the years as an important book.
 
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Quick hits
Craft
Kim Thompson, Eddie Campbell on Graphic Novels

Exhibits/Events
Go See Trina Robbins
Books Vs. Blogs In GA
SPX Announces Panels
Scott Out, Jantze In at Toonfest

History
On Superman
When The Wind Blows as Cold War Document

Industry
Store Increasing In Size
Mark Millar To Quit At Age 45
What To Look For In A Comic Shop
Pour One Out For Virgin Comics NYC
Russian Among Manga Prize Winners
People Pull Hair Out Over Strong Language
I Kind Of Thought This Might Get Back Into The News

Interviews/Profiles
Feministing: Various
Mr. Media: Jerry Scott, Rick Kirkman, Jim Borgman
LA Times: Tite Kubo
IGN: Daniel Way

Not Comics
Ted Rall Animated
This Made Me Laugh
This Guy Hates Billy Crudup
Ithaca Students Read Persepolis
Does Marvel Have a Character Called Shouty Bald Muscle Man?

Publishing
Cowa! Profiled
I Want My Boys Love
Creators Launching The Barn
Daddy's Home to Herald-Leader
Prince Of Persia Project Profiled

Reviews
Steve Higgins: Daddy's Girl
Greg McElhatton: Real Vol. 1
Rob Clough: Abandoned Cars
Byron Kerman: Boys Club #1
Steve Duin: Red Colored Elegy
Sean T. Collins: Brilliantly Ham-Fisted
Johanna Draper Carlson: Teen Titans #62
Jason Green: The Chronicles of the Wavecutter #1
Good-Looking Actress Woman's Favorite Funnybooks
 

 
August 28, 2008


Jack Kirby, The King of Comics, Would Have Been 91 Years Old Today

Jack Kirby, the mighty heart of the American comic book industry, would have been 91 years old today. Below is a tiny, even insignificant sample of his awesome image-making power, culled from around the Internet, for your ruminative and reflective pleasure. Long live the King.

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Wowio Contributors: Late 2Q Payments

Twelve days and counting as of last night. As you recall, this is a story of interest because the company, which reportedly helped provide several creators with a substantial revenue stream at one point, was sold to Platinum, a company that has a lot of properties and doesn't have much of a track record when it comes to print publishing. There was at the time some concern about a money flow situation or something similar developing. Sean Kleefeld is also tracking this story.
 
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Go, Look: Dan Zettwoch’s Line-Up

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OBTP: The Last Of The Funnies

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Go, Look: Charles Burns Gallery

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's another interview with DC's Paul Levitz, this time on digital comics. It's a fine interview and everything, but the one thing that really jumps out at me is that there's very little conceptualization of content except as something to be leveraged effectively or not. I'd that that's partly unavoidable, reall, but it still sort of freaked me out.

image* the writer Marc Sobel continues with one of my favorite critical projects, examining " title="the 35th issue">the 35th issue of greatest comic book series of all time: Love and Rockets Vol. 1.

* the prominent comics blogger Sean Kleefeld talks about his continuing attempts to find an on-line comics reader interface that suits his needs.

* it really is beginning to look like a newspaper industry apocalypse. Let the flailing begin.

* the writer and blogger Kevin Church disagrees with my commentary on his commentary about that retailer that writes negative reviews of comics he carries.

* finally, a bit more on the Virgin Comics closing: this PW article notes that eight people were in the New York office, and that there might be a chance this is a re-structuring move and the company could end up in LA in some form. If you want to look around, there are some assertions in various high-profile blogs about what doomed the company: bad business practices and strategy, an inflexible Direct Market denying purchase to their seed, a model that simply doesn't work. I don't have enough information to make a more informed opinion than the hunch I shared yesterday that the books were generally unappealing to the extent that they failed to meet sales levels in any market to the extent required to sustain its particular infrastructure and specific cost outlays. However, I'm really, really hesitant to take my shoe off and bang away at the podium about the implications of this failure for all enterprises of its various asserted types. I feel most strategies can work if the model and expectations are adjusted to meet them.
 
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Happy 37th Birthday, Joann Sfar!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Elijah Brubaker!

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Happy 52nd Birthday Benoit Peeters!

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Quick hits
Craft
In Praise of Hank Ketcham

Exhibits/Events
More DWA Photos
From Lynda Barry On Tour

History
Dr. Seuss For President

Industry
James Jean on Leaving Fables
Mike Lester to United Features
For Navy, Graphic Novel = Diversity

Interviews/Profiles
Rocketship: Fred Van Lente

Not Comics
Mr. Punch On The Boards

Publishing
Brand-New Infinite Kung Fu Chapter
WaPo on the End of This Incarnation of FBOFW
Lynn Johnnston in WaPo on the End of This Incarnation of FBOFW

Reviews
Adam Klin Oron: Whiteout
John Mitchell: That Salty Air
John Mitchell: Therefore Repent
John Mitchell: Red Colored Elegy
Richard Bruton: Princess at Midnight
Gary Tyrrell: The Great Outdoor Fight
Jog: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1
John Mitchell: Sardine in Outer Space Vol. 5
Leroy Douresseaux: Hunter X Hunter Vol. 22
Don MacPherson: DC Universe Last Will and Testament
 

 
August 27, 2008


CR Newsmaker: Sammy Harkham

imageThere's no publishing project this Fall as talked-about as Sammy Harkham's Kramers Ergot Vol. 7. The well-regarded anthology series has been one of the more restless titles of this decade in terms of its-always ambitious presentation and an expanding contributors list that strikes a body between older, sometimes-neglected masters and younger talent. Its growth has mirrored the career path of Editor Sammy Harkham, a talented cartoonist and bookstore retailer based in Los Angeles recently termed a genius by scholar Paul Buhle in Jewcy.

The latest volume of Kramers, due in November, is an over-sized edition with deluxe printing that will cost $125 retail. That price point apparently set off alarms for a lot of people, as much more virtual ink than usual was spilled in discussing its cost and aims, not all of it flattering to Harkham or publisher Alvin Buenaventura. As the anthology heads into its pre-publicity phase, I wanted to talk to Harkham about the project and get him on the record about the contributor list and its price point and the impetus for the book. Happily, he agreed, and a flurry of e-mails became the conversation piece printed below. My thanks to Buenaventura for his help in putting us together.

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Note About The Art: Okay, what I did was use imagery from a PDF; credited below. The PDF isn't the final product. Also I had to use bits of imagery or shrink things down, so that can have an effect on quality, too. At least click through Sammy's cover to see how changing the size on imagery can have an effect on the images being manipulated even at a low-rez level. The PDF of this thing is certainly stunning -- the Kevin Huizenga panel is like one panel one-third width on the page. Anyway, I wanted to give you a sense of how a couple of the artists were going off on their pages, and a sense of some of the art inside, and I hope this does it with the huge caveat that the final product is likely to be 100 times as attractive.

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TOM SPURGEON: Now, am I to understand that some of the information that's out there on Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, including the Amazon.com information, is incorrect?

SAMMY HARKHAM: Besides the cover on Amazon, the contributor list there is not correct. That is due to having to give our book distributor the contributor list and cover image before it was ready, and of course since then people are out of the book for various reasons. They are working it to update the Amazon listing and contributor list.

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SPURGEON: So with that in mind, let me ask you a bunch of questions about the project to get you on the record. First, we know that the book is big; exactly how big is it?

HARKHAM: It's a 16" x 21" book.

SPURGEON: And why that size?

HARKHAM: It's the size of old tear sheets.

SPURGEON: Who's in the book?

HARKHAM: The complete contributor list is: Rick Altergott, Gabrielle Bell, Jonathan Bennett, Blanquet, Blex Bolex, Conrad Botes, Shary Boyle, Mat Brinkman, John Brodowski, Ivan Brunetti, C.F., Chris Cilla, Jacob Ciocci, Dan Clowes, Martin Cendreda, Joe Daly, Kim Deitch, Matt Furie, Tom Gauld, Leif Goldberg, Matt Groening, John Hankiewicz, Sammy Harkham, Eric Haven, David Heatley, Tim Hensley, Jaime Hernandez, Walt Holcombe, Kevin Huizenga, J. Bradley Johnson, Ben Jones, Ben Katchor, Ted May, Geoff McFetridge, Jesse McManus, James McShane, Jerry Moriarty, Anders Nilsen, John Pham, Pshaw, Aapo Rapi, Ron Rege Jr., Xavier Robel, Helge Reumann, Ruppert & Mulot, Johnny Ryan, Richard Sala, Souther Salazar, Frank Santoro, Seth, Shoboshobo, Josh Simmons, Anna Sommer, Will Sweeney, Matthew Thurber, Adrian Tomine, C. Tyler, Chris Ware, and Dan Zettwoch.

SPURGEON: At one point I heard everyone was going to be doing the same length strip, but there's actually a lot of variety in storylength in the PDF you sent me. No one has a ton of pages, but some definitely have more than others.

HARKHAM: Most strips are between one to thee pages, though there are a couple instances of four-pagers.

imageSPURGEON: Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

HARKHAM: In 2005, I think, both the Masters of American Comics show came to L.A -- which displayed many newspaper pages -- and Peter Maresca's awesome book Little Nemo In Slumberland arrived in a huge box at my house. The double whammy of that flipped me out.

What was interesting about the incredibly large format was that it was a lovely size for really immersing yourself in a strip, regardless of how dense the comics are, the size really affects the reading in a nice way. It was a new experience for me. I thought it would be amazing to see modern comics at that size, that it would be like nothing we had ever read before. a very special, exciting book. I also liked the idea of connecting the lineage from Winsor McCay to artists like Leif Goldberg. That's also why its an "all-comics" issue, to make that connection more obvious.

When pulling together a contributor list, I realized I could ask a wider spectrum of artists than in the past, because every cartoonist becomes a new reading experience at that size. So I could ask someone like Jaime Hernandez, an artist I have respected and liked a long time but had no reason to get them in anthology what with his own regular comic book and everything else. There were many artists like that I could finally include in the overall mix. Which is nice -- I like a book where Blex Bolex is in the same book with Matt Groening.

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SPURGEON: The Groening inclusion made my eyes pop a bit. How did you get Matt Groening?

HARKHAM: Matt is known as a huge alt comics fan, totally still engaging with new work coming out, and he is someone who I have seen around at different conventions and local places a lot. I knew he would like the ideas behind the book. I found it out odd that despite doing a great weekly strip for years and years, he never comes up much in alt comics conversation, and never seems to be asked to be in anthologies much. I told him about the book, and he happened to have an idea for a very dense single panel cartoon that he was unsure how he was going to run in the paper at the usual space they give him. So it was perfect timing.

SPURGEON: It's my understanding you'll be doing a tour in support of the book?

HARKHAM: When I finished Kramers Ergot Vol. 4 it seemed like a good idea to do a tour, because, mainly, it forced forced people to see it, which they may not have otherwise. So we are going to do that again, and hopefully help retailers who have supported us in the past sell some of these. That will happen throughout November.

SPURGEON: When will you have the details ironed out?

HARKHAM: In about a month we should have it worked out.

SPURGEON: Approximately how many shops and how much of North America will this encompass? Will there be different artists at different stops according to where they live or will some of you travel with this book?

HARKHAM: I am thinking about eight to ten stores on either coast and in Canada. I am approaching the comic stores that have done well by us in the past, and have reputations as good stores for the kind of books I make. And if other stores contact us and want to do something, we will try to make it happen. Some cartoonists will show up at events in their cities, others will travel and do multiple events.

SPURGEON: Will future issues of Kramers be the same size? Are there going to be more issues like this?

HARKHAM: It's a one-off. Even if the book is a huge success and sells out quickly, the amount of work involved, the logistics of the project are way beyond a workload we can handle. So there wont be another issue of Kramers like this probably ever.

Dealing with 60 cartoonists at one time is incredibly hard. The demands a book like this present are hard on every level: for the cartoonist working in a specific format, for the editor who is trying to get specific things from each person, for the production staff who need to prepare everything to be super immaculate for press on a level they are not used to, to the printer who doesn't have a binder big enough, to shipping when only three books fit in a box, to stocking on a shelf that doesn't fit-on every level its a whole new set of problems.

SPURGEON: Will you be able to move copies overseas?

HARKHAM: Yes. Kramers Ergot has always sold pretty well overseas.

SPURGEON: Did all artists work at size?

HARKHAM: No, some worked larger. Nothing has been blown up to fit the format (as far as I know!).

imageSPURGEON: What have you heard back from the artists while they were working on their pages? How has that been different than the experience of working with artists on past issues?

HARKHAM: From those I spoke to about it, many found it liberating, having always wanted to work in this format, others took it as an interesting challenge. It seemed like many of the artists spent a lot of time trying to make the most of their contributions. For previous issues, I gave rough page counts to different people depending on what I was envisioning. For this, I kept harping on the same things. Usually when you talk about one to three pagers, you think of simple throwaway gags or non-sequiturs. I didn't want strips where it's 11 panels of set up, and the last panel is the punchline. On the other end of the spectrum, I didn't think it necessary for each strip to be jammed with a million panels or be insanely inventive with page design. I think there is just as much beauty in reading a wordless 12-panel-gridded comic at this size as there is in reading a super dense epic. It's more of trying to get work that merits revisiting for the reader.

So ideally there is a range of stuff that runs the gamut in approach, but all really satisfying. I can say without a doubt, I have never been more severe as an editor in only including stuff I really could stand behind. A lot of artists redid their strips, or completely started over from scratch. There could be no "filler." Each page had to really count. I didn't have a set page count to fill, so that could have meant publishing a 40-page book or if everyone I approached came through, a 120-pager.

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SPURGEON: Have you heard anything in advance from your retailing contacts as to how they're going to sell it -- has anyone been working with you in advance of sales, say asking about shelving or trying to arrange a tour stop? Or is that something you look forward to doing?

HARKHAM: I have not heard from any retailers yet. I hope to. I want the book to do well by the retailers who have supported us in the past.

SPURGEON: What percentage of copies do you think will be put into the comics system vs. the bookstore distribution system vs. left to you to hand-sell? Do you expect difficulties in warehousing the book?

HARKHAM: I think the ratio of comic shops vs. bookstore vs hand-selling will probably be the same as last issue: 30-40 percent through comic shops, 40-50 percent through bookstores, and the rest direct. Maybe the huge Amazon discount will make it sell better through the book trade, but I am hoping the tour will balance things out.

And if I understand correctly, Buenaventura Press has organized a whole warehouse space for storage!

SPURGEON: To be clear, you won't be doing an issue like this again, but will you be able to reprint this issue?

HARKHAM: I guess so, but its such a risk doing a book like this.

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SPURGEON: Did you enjoy doing the cover? How did you approach that kind of a canvas for the cover?

HARKHAM: Ha! It was a nightmare. Seriously, I don't feel very confident in my skills as a cover artist, but two other people fell through late in production. Because of the size, I didn't do the usual thing of pencil first and then inking the whole thing. For me, inking is drawing and I couldn't stand to pencil for a week when that is such a hazy way of seeing how things are looking. I worked out the composition on a couple small sketches, and then on the final piece of paper would pencil and ink parts, working all over the page, and ideas would be added and changed throughout the whole process, with the hardest parts being held out till the end. It took two solid weeks to get the line art done.

I had no idea how to color it without ruining it. Usually, I like to color by hand. and to get your line art printed in 1200 dpi, you need to color on a separate piece of paper and layer them when printed. But I could never figure out a way of printing it out large enough. So I colored on the computer, which I am not adept at at all, and with scanned-in black overlays. It was daunting; I didn't even know where to start. That took about two to three solid weeks working full days on it. I can't even look at it anymore. I hope it works and doesn't ruin the book.

SPURGEON: Sammy, I know that you're aware of some complaints about the price here and there. While I don't want to turn this into a platform for those complaints, mostly because I don't understand them, I don't want to ignore the issue, either. So I was wondering if you could maybe simply list some of the factors that led to your pricing the book at $125, the way you might explain it to someone that's interested in the price but not accusatory.

HARKHAM: Scanning. We paid for many artists to get their work professionally scanned, since the fidelity of cheap scanners doesn't hold up when you look at the pages at print size.

* A low print run. If this was a book that had a larger print run, our price per copy would have gone down, but our readership is not big enough to warrant that. If Chris Ware ever decides to do a solo book in this format, with a print run similar to the Pantheon ACME book, I would think the cover price would be close to half of ours.

* We are using a very expensive paper, this stuff called NEW AGE. I am excited about it because it gives you the vibrancy of color you find on glossy paper, but doesn't "feel" like magazine stock. It should make everything look really, really fantastic. We also have foil stamping on the cover, a sticker with quotes and bar code, and the books are shrink-wrapped to guard them from shipping damage. Those are not mega costs, but they add up.

* The book has to be bound by hand, since no binder at that size exists.

* Since only three books will be in a box when shipped from the printer, it's a lot of boxes and it's a larger shipping bill.

* The process of looking over proofs were extremely expensive due to a) the size, and b) we needed to see more proofs than usual because we couldn't let any pages we had any doubts about -- usually those pages colored by hand, where matching color can be tricky -- possibly getting printed wrong. Let's say on average you see 10 pages of proofs, with this we had to see over half the book in proof form.

* Due to the nature of this book -- the size of reproduction, the unlikelihood of a reprint -- it was essential we go over to Singapore for a press check, and flying is expensive.

* Storage has to be rented specifically for this book.

* Shipping direct orders requires Buenaventura Press to special order custom size boxes.

* Paying all 60 artists.

* There's probably more, but those come to mind first.

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SPURGEON: What's the print run?

HARKHAM: I knew the book was obviously going to be more expensive than past issues, and we would lose the more casual buyers -- this one is for the real comics nerds who love the same stuff I love. So the print run is half of the last issue's. 3500.

SPURGEON: That all I have... it's going to debut at APE, right? How many of the artists will be there? Will there be any sort of special event to go along with the release?

HARKHAM: We are hoping to debut the book at APE. It may not happen. If it does, we will have over 15 contributors on hand for a signing at the show, among them: Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, John Pham, Ted May, Dan Zettwoch, Dan Clowes, Souther Salazar, and myself.

*****

* Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, edited by Sammy Harkham, Buenaventura Press, hardcover, 96 pages, 9780980003956, November 2008, $125

*****

* photo of Harkham from HeroesCon 2008 by Whit Spurgeon
* "tiny" panel from Adrian Tomine's story plucked and run here, looking humongous
* a Dan Clowes page; it will look like this if you open it on the ground and stand on a rooftop
* a tiny snippet from a Matt Groening page
* Kim Deitch's explosion of color and go-for-it design as if seen from across a football field
* a random panel from Kevin Huizenga's contribution
* cover of Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 by Sammy Harkham. On this one, PLEASE click through the image for a sharper-resolution look
* image plucked from a beautiful Shary Boyle page
* photo of Alvin Buenaventura and Sammy Harkham at HeroesCon 2008 by Whit Spurgeon

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 1:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the 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 works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and this might be not a good thing as far as my retailer is concerned.

*****

MAY080062 ACHEWOOD THE GREAT OUTDOOR FIGHT HC $14.95
The first print collection of the first great comic of the second major wave of comics published on-line.

JUN080203 CATWOMAN #82 $2.99
Wasn't this canceled?

JUN080182 FINAL CRISIS SUPERMAN BEYOND #1 (OF 2) $4.50
The two great uses I've been able to find from making these lists is reminding me of stuff like this and finding out about stuff like the Al Jaffee collection talked about below. I think this is like a fancy 3-D thingee, a comic in the spirit of All Star Superman done in conjunction with the latest mega-crossover. It's definitely something I'd pick up in a store and pore over, despite my rigorous disinterest in all things Final and Crisis-Like.

MAR082251 DAREDEVIL BY BENDIS OMNIBUS HC VOL 1 $99.99
I think I bought all of these comics for about $75 a couple of years ago. It's a good superhero series.

JUL083597 AL JAFFE TALL TALES HC $14.95
See, I didn't even know this existed. This is a late 1950s/early 1960s syndicated strip done in a vertical strip by the great Al Jaffee. This collection even features an introduction by Stephen Colbert. I would totally check this book out in a comic shop. In fact, I will check this book out in a comic shop tomorrow.

JUL083935 TYPHON GN VOL 01 (A) $24.95
Danny Hellman's big, frequently beautiful, brightly-colored comics anthology of what turns out, basically, to be another glimpse down the comics road mostly not taken -- a kind of third generation underground anthology, if that makes any sense.

JUL084326 UZUMAKI GN VOL 01 2ND ED (MR) $9.99
A re-release of 2007's re-release, I think, and the only manga to jump out at me on the to-be-shipped list. Granted, I'm kind of manga-deficient.

*****

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, albeit a while back and probably drunk, try this.

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

If I didn't list your new comic, it was on purpose. How do you like it, chump?

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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I know this is getting sort of ridiculous, but I'm still in a crush phase when it comes to Thompson's work and he's posting a LOT of it these days
 
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Go, Read: Make It Loud

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Why Comics?


 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this is for the pair of you that keep e-mailing to ask if I think this material about a retailer that suggests people don't buy certain comics is an example of backseat driving someone's business: I suspect it is. I understand why folks might think that kind of thing worth commentary as an example of comics' twisted values. I'm sure someone has posted "Never tell your customers not to buy something!" somewhere, and I bet someone has brought up some horror stories about being made fun of at the cash register. At the same I also think it's pretty common in retail on a lot of levels. I've even had the owner of a restaurant tell me he didn't particularly like the white fish he had in the house at the moment and I should stick to the crab cakes. It was an owner of a restaurant where my father and I ate -- you guessed it -- every Wednesday night. I have no idea how this retailer conducts business from day to day so I can't testify as to how his telling people not to buy something fits within the overall tone of his establishment. To be honest, I'd rather have the retailer that told the truth about some comic he didn't like as opposed to all the retailers I've had that failed to tell the truth about the availability of books I wanted.

image* I'm sure there's an explanation for this picture of Richie Rich with Elvis Costello somewhere on Fred Hembeck's non-permalink having 1996-looking site, but who wants one? Besides, ask too many questions and Fred's incredibly skeevy-looking Master Rich may pay for something horrible to be done to you.

* missed it: a long essay riffing on a snippet of audio from the Final Crisis Management panel at San Diego's CCI.

* some not comics, publishing division: hearing about a half dozen people I know that work in publishing and a couple that don't suggests that people in that industry are either praising this article on how to use social media as a promotional tool, or, if you prefer, how to employ social media as a model for transforming the publishing businessness, or ripping into it. I'm in the latter camp: I thought the article was a prime example of someone taking their own very positive experience and spinning it into a manifesto for everyone without providing any salient details or making a strong case beyond several "wouldn't that be nice?" assertions. Articles like that never consider that one reason these things may work right now is because the industry hasn't changed around them. (I bet the book industry had a much different view of the success rate of book signings when only a few authors, such as Julia Child, were doing them.) The $50,000 as a crummy advance figure isn't a slip-up; it's the unrealistic heart of the article. Still, I have a suspicion that the up-from-the-bootstraps comics crowd will like a lot of what she says.

* finally, some not comics, movies division: Kyle Garret wrote in to make the following point:
Hey, Tom, just something that stuck out to me -- and something I was going to mention way back when the Incredible Hulk numbers started rolling in.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter if the new version makes more money than the Ang Lee version. All that matters is public opinion, which is high, high enough to, say, garner a sequel. Once the movie is chugging along, how many people see the movie isn't so much the issue is how many of those people would see another movie in the franchise. The Norton version lends itself to franchising; the Lee version not so much.

That's the core of what Marvel's doing. They didn't need to make a lot of money on the Incredible Hulk, they just needed people to like it enough to come back for more. Given the reviews from both moviegoers and critics, it seems like they did that.
I think I'd agree with the general sentiment that perception means more than the bottom-line numbers. After all, Garfield made more money than Sin City, but you'd never know that by how each one is perceived. While I'm not sure they'll do more movies based on lower numbers they got with this last Hulk, I could see DVD sequels and the character's inclusion in other movies. Most importantly, Marvel protected its general momentum, although if one or two of the next few movies performs poorly, someone will likely try to reclaim Incredible Hulk as a mediocre performer.
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Phil Hester!

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Happy 62nd Birthday, Denis Kitchen!

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Happy 30th Birthday, Matt Wiegle!

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Quick hits
2008 Democratic National Convention
Cagle
Mike Keefe
Drew Litton
Ron Rogers
Rob Rogers
Walt Handelsman
Obama Picks Biden Round-Up
Rob Tornoe's Convention Sketchpad
Rob Tornoe Blogging On Cartoonists At Convention
 

 
August 26, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

* the Hansen Literary Agency announced two new book deals last week. The first was a two-book deal for the cartoonist Jake Parker's Missle Mouse character at Graphix, the Scholastic imprint. The first of the two, Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher is due in Srping 2010. I'm working from a press release but I'm sure the same information is on-line; here's a mention.

The second deal was a two-book deal for Ben Hatke at First Second Books for a character called Zita the Spacegirl. The first book will be called Zita the Spacegirl: The Longest Day, and is near completion.

Parker and Hatke are alumni of the Flight/Flight Explorer anthologies.

image* the mighty Al Columbia would like to let you know that his work will not appear in the forthcoming giant-sized Kramers Ergot Vol. 7. The story he was working on expanded into a 48-page work to be called Belladonna and to be published by KE's Buenaventura Press.

* covered earlier this week: a proper sequel to '90s superhero cornerstone Marvels: Kurt Busiek, but no Alex Ross.

* Pantheon has acquired rights to Dash Shaw's on-line Body World. I don't understand the rest of the article that PW runs. Why does it matter if his book at Fantagraphics has Hollywood interest at all? Is the interest really "unprecedented"? Given how many books have been sold to Hollywood over the decades for how much money under how many terrifically odd circumstances, that would have to be a pretty astounding process for it to be unprecedented. Well, no matter weird the article is, Shaw's a super-talented cartoonist and I'm glad he's being rewarded for his ambition, skill and hard work. I greatly look forward to the book.

image* the new Fall/Winter catalog from the University Press of Mississippi features three books of comics-related interest. The first is Harvey Pekar: Conversations, edited by Michael G. Rhode; the second is A Comics Studies Reader, edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester and featuring an army of academics and writers about comics; the third is Bruce Campbell's ¡Viva la historieta!: Mexican Comics, NAFTA and the Politics of Globalization. The first two are exactly what they sound like: a book of interviews and an anthology of new comics scholarship; the third is Campbell's look at changing Mexican national identity through its various comics.

* finally, Charlie Hebdo introduces its own line of books. I wonder if it's good or bad to be in the midst of an internationally-covered, controversial news story when you launch a book line. I guess we'll find out.
 
posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Virgin Comics Enters Kali Yuga Stage

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Comics companies tend to open with an endless barrage of convention appearances, interviews and press releases; they tend to close with whispers, disconnected phone lines and message board threads. And so it looks like Virgin Comics has gone the way of so many ambitious start-ups before it: almost certainly dead, certainly altered if any future salvaging is done (it looks like the Southeast Asian comics efforts may have a second life). Virgin Comics started in 2006 with a burst of big-name and semi-big-name signings, a rolling series of partnerships with Hollywood types that seemed to want to use the comics form to develop a property or two, and the unique promise that their books might gain entry into an Indian market that has a rich tradition of editorial cartooning and a recent past of English-language graphic novel sales, but didn't offer a pulp-fantasy tradition in the way that Virgin might be able to provide.

As it moved forward, Virgin began to look less like the shiny new car it was in those first few weeks and more like a lot of other comics companies of its type: nothing really had a market impact, despite the names involved; comics and books came out in a haphazard way when one noticed them coming out at all; and rumors of frustration and inside-company pressures became more prevalent than public excitement over the actual publishing efforts -- although a lot of people seemed to like the recent Garth Ennis-written Dan Dare series and I would imagine that many of their individual offerings had their fans throughout their short run.

I would be hesitant to put all of the blame for Virgin's predicament or even a significant amount of blame on the Direct Market of comic book and specialty shops. I would point to a broader reason: they didn't make comics that a lot of people wanted. Certainly the DM is calcified to an unbelievable degree. Not only is it absolutely conditioned to sell American mainstream superhero comic books, it's at the point where it's becoming more and more defined by its ability to sell certain books of that type rather than all of them. You can count the successful crasher to that particular party on one hand.

imageAt the same time, Virgin certainly seemed to offer bookstore-ready books in addition to comics. Since I don't recall the books setting the world on fire any more than the comic books, and without some inside knowledge of the company that tells me they were banking on serial comics sales to the exclusion of any other revenue stream, it's hard for me to say that it's the market rather than the works themselves that were at fault.

My gut feeling is that this is more of a case where results didn't match a) expectations, b) investment, and finally, c) bottom-line projections. Dirk Deppey's use of CrossGen as an example sort of makes my point. That company was extremely forward in its book publishing efforts, and it was much more aggressive than a lot of successful companies in that specific arena by a wide, wide margin. In the end those efforts weren't enough to make a success of CrossGen given the framework of talent and support infrastructure they were being asked to sustain, and the world was not as hot and heavy for the creative output CrossGen was able to offer as a best-case scenario might suggest. I don't think there's a Sigil-shaped hole in anybody's heart, or at least not in the hearts of a significant cross-section of the American comics-reading public. It's an amazing enough feat to create a single property that reaches a significant audience like Jeff Smith and Neil Gaiman have; creating a whole line of them like CrossGen and Tekno and now Virgin wanted to, that seems to be almost impossible. The irony of this being announced two days before Jack Kirby's 91st birthday shouldn't be lost on anyone.

I would bet that everything that Virgin was selling in multiple areas -- including film and television development rights that would likely have delighted a smaller publisher -- wasn't enough to sustain big contracts, full-color production, multiple involved executives, probably a few consultants and an infrastructure that had offices at least in New York and maybe somewhere else as well. They came in big and went out big, signing writers and hinting at major announcements as recently as last month's CCI 2008. I have a sneaking suspicion Virgin could have met 80 percent of their goals with a single LA-based office put together on the cheap, modest contracts aimed at workhorses rather than stars and a staff of smart multi-taskers you could count on one hand even if that hand were Thomas Covenant's, but maybe I'm wrong about that, too. We'll likely never know.

My best wishes to all staffers and freelancers that feel the impact of this development.

(my apologies for any inexactness or offense in the headline: I was looking for the Hindu equivalent of Armageddon)
 
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
OTBP: Will Eisner’s Expressive Anatomy For Comics And Narrative

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It seems kind of amazing to me that Will Eisner's last book, a release from a major publisher, can slip out with nary a whisper, but I'll be darned if I've seen one press release, one mention of it in other press, or the book itself as a review copy. Such is comics at the moment, I guess. James Vance has a nice post about this book's publication and on editing Norton's Eisner Library.
 
posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: 20 French Cartoonists Who Dragged Eurocomics into Adulthood

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Here is the list of 20 cartoonists that helped bring about adult comics expression in Europe that Kim Thompson -- one of the great and largely unsung champions of European comics in North America -- presented to a crowd of interested listeners during Seattle's recent week of celebrating French comics.

(1) Rene Goscinny
(2) Reiser
(3) Jean-Claude Forest
(4) Jean Giraud/Moebius
(5) Gotlib
(6) Fred
(7) Jean-Claude Mezieres
(8) Claire Bretecher
(9) Druillet
(10) Tardi
(11) Boucq
(12) Loustal
(13) Yves Chaland
(14) Yann
(15) Dupuy and Berberian
(17) Lewis Trondheim
(18) David B.
(19) Blanquet
(20) Marjane Satrapi

You need to go to the original post to get Thompson's notes about what's available in English translations -- not as much as you'd think, even if you're being a pessimist. It seems like there should be a giant Bretecher book out there, doesn't it?
 
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Go, Look: Thing Sketch Extravaganza

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posted 7:46 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Fort Thunder Stuff Archived at The Wayback Machine Site

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posted 7:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* congratulations to former Wizard Entertainment and ComicMix employee Rick Marshall on his new gig.

* veteran comics executive Paul Levitz writes about DC's efforts to use recyclable stock and to participate in sustainable forest programs, which is fantastic, it really is. Still, I have to imagine the first thing that entered into a lot of close industry watchers' minds was "I wonder how ecologically friendly pulping comics is?"

image* wait, hasn't superhero comics been bringing the semi-illicit sexy in subliminal fashion since early Wonder Woman and overtly since the "Hellfire Club" Uncanny X-Men sequence in 1979 or whatever? I suppose the traffic that will likely hit a post like this one is its own justification.

* The only thing that struck me as odd about that sex post is that evil Mary Marvel apparently grew bigger boobs -- I'm guessing, because I've hardly made a study of it, but the Mary Marvel I remember even from the recent past looked like a girl. I can't figure out if this is some admirable effort not to sexualize a child's body or an inability on the part of male superhero comic book fans to find anything other than giant boobs attractive. I'm also not sure of the precedents involved. While my own boobs have certainly grown bigger the more evil I've become, I'll note this was not the case for evil Mia Sara, which is the generationally appropriate place my mind went when I first heard they'd be making Mary Marvel a bad girl.

* two smart adult people I don't know talk about their CCI experience from a point of view that's not really comics-directed, no matter what either person might assert. You may not want to read another CCI article at this point, but my desire to go back and find this article at a future date trumps your disinterest.

* so why not one more? The writer Mark Evanier has another post up about sexual harassment at CCI. It features a letter sent to him by someone involved in the effort to get CCI to make an official policy against such behavior. Once you get past the bizarre open groping story and the revelation that fandom proper is apparently driven by the appetites of sexual libertines -- who knew? -- it's a heartfelt letter, I think. It's funny that such a loathsome set of behaviors that everyone that shouldn't be smothered with a pillow agrees is wrong doesn't come with an appropriate, obvious response. I have no idea if an official sexual harassment policy will do any good or even if it's desirable. I agree with Mark that some of what gets called sexual harassment is simply assault, although I think there is harassment that depends on imbalance between genders that isn't a boss stroking his secretary's hair and that all of it is awful. Where to go next is problematic, and not in a "I'm afraid what to say" way but in a "I'm not sure what isn't stupid" way. I'm not even certain what role calling in security plays, let alone "calling in security." (I'm still 12 years old, so I'm tempted to think of the latter before the former, which isn't helpful at all.) So I guess it's good to talk about this stuff until the maturation-challenged among us on both sides of the issue find a way to process it in a way that serves the greater good. For now, I think, a baseline of non-tolerance of such stupidity will be a first, not a last, step. I hope you'll join me in blasting asinine, horrible behavior wherever you see it, and in trying to be more sensitive to it perhaps happening nearby.

* I liked this Abhay Khosla review of Air #1.

* finally, now and forever, book publishing is gross.
 
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Go, Look: Boy Comics #13

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Go, Look: Moon Mullins #3

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Quick hits
Craft
On Autocritbiography

Exhibits/Events
Did I Forget To Link To These DWA Photos?
Hero Initiative and ComicsPro Sponsor Steve Dillon Tour

History
On Crime Comics

Industry
ComicsPro Picks Up New Members On Road

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Pia Guerra
RedOrbit: Posy Simmonds
Daily News: Scott McCloud
Vancouver Sun: Kim Deitch
Comics Bulletin: Amy Hadley
LA Times: Act-I-Vate Collective

Not Comics
Ross Rojek Out Of Prison 9/12

Publishing
New Column on Uncollecteds
Guy Soliciting For Anthologies In Comments Threads

Reviews
Deb Aoki: Gantz Vol. 1
Chris Mautner: Various
Sean T. Collins: Incanto
Shannon Smith: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Bill Sherman: How To Love
Austin English: Dead Ringer
Richard Bruton: Alison Dare
David Brothers: Special Forces #3
Richard Krauss: The Mourning Star
Eddie Campbell: Impollutable Pogo
Jarett Kobek: Strange and Stranger
Greg McElhatton: Criminal Vol. 2 #4
Matthias Wivel: Bottomless Belly Button
Don MacPherson: Jonah Hex's Good Luck
Don MacPherson: Amazing Spider-Man #568
Johanna Draper Carlson: Monkey High! Vol. 2
Scott Cederlund: Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1
Jog: A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child
 

 
August 25, 2008


Marvels Sequel Starts In December

Comic Book Resources has an article up on Marvel announcing they've scheduled Marvels: Eye of the Camera, a sequel to the 1990s best-seller Marvels to begin publication starting this December. The original series' writer, Kurt Busiek, returns, this time working with painter Jay Anacleto as opposed to original series painter Alex Ross.

imageMarvels was a big, obvious success for the company in a post-Image era where the company was being squeezed for every last bit of leverage and value it was worth. The publishing side of things really needed a defining hit, and Marvels was it for a really, really long time in publishing and public identity terms. Marvels was also kind of an odd book in that -- as more than a few critics have noted -- it's best remembered for a kind of wistful re-imagining of superheroes from the vantage point of people on the ground when both the witness-to-history metaphor that it represented, as well as the criticism of loving superheroes too much that was obvious on a close reading, are now almost completely forgotten.

My interest in this as a publishing news story is that I think it will underline how much the mainstream comic book business has changed in the last 12-15 years: the big publishers cultivate and manage premeditated blockbusters based on plot progressions and positioning now, they tend not to wake up and realize they have hits in their midst based on folks' reaction to a creative approach.

(I imagine there's also something to be said in a non-comics fashion that this was announced at Fan Expo Canada, and is a bigger announcement than any I can remember from any of the Wizard shows; it was only a short while ago that just about all major announcements were held for a Wizard show.)
 
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Dear Fantagraphics: Please Make This The Comics Journal #300

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posted 8:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Dallas Middaugh Interview

"The important thing to understand is that really manga is now just very much like any other category in the bookstore."

imageThe comics business news and analysis site continues its back-to-school period interviews in a three part discussion with Dallas Middaugh, Associate Publisher of Del Rey Manga and a trusted, veteran industry voice. It's a lot of business positioning and general strategy stuff, but that can be compelling in a way if you're interested in the publishing area. One thing that he notes is that Del Rey is starting to see major bookstore clients decline to participate in later volumes on some series although all new series get a chance to establish themselves in that market. (photo by me)
 
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Missed It: SLG Expands Its Webcomics Offerings Over The Summer

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My chronic inability to notice proper webcomics news and my unfortunate superpower that makes me black out whenever SLG tries anything have apparently teamed up to keep me from noticing that the comics publisher has moved into the free webcomics-sponsering business with a portion of the site devoted to three offerings: Java Town, Serenity Rose and Sparko. SLG had earlier made a move into digitally downloaded comics with their Eyemelt initiative. The more companies that try such initiatives, the closer we get to all publishers trying it; I think a massive changeover in this area in terms of what's expected and what's encouraged and what's viable is inevitable.

Granted, this could actually be a post about how my aphasia when it comes to interpreting time stamps has just led me to write about "news" that's three years old or something like that. Hopefully I got it sort of right.
 
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Go, Read: On The Mickey Mouse Rights

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Click through the above to go to an LA Times article about various potential copyright challenges to the Mickey Mouse character.
 
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Go, Look: Lynd Ward’s Frankenstein

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Go, Read: Raw Beginnings

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and here's the accompanying article
 
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Go, Look: North Korean Propaganda

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* industry veteran Bob Greenberger assumes the position of News Editor at ComicMix beginning today.

* someone tell the New York Times that the Berenstain Bears was an illustrated series; Watchmen is a comic book.

* there aren't a whole lot of blindly e-mailed items that I end up including in the non-Quick Hits portion of the site, but I don't think R. Crumb does a whole lot of podcasts. As one might expect, much of it is apparently about music.

* Brad Mackay of the Doug Wright Awards and a recent interviewer of Lynn Johnston writes in about the accusation that syndicate sales reps are misrepresenting the forthcoming format change on For Better Or For Worse in order to press a competitive advantage:image
Read your post and thought I'd chime in. Johnston herself said (both in person, and later on stage at the DWAs) that other syndicates have been eying her "real estate" for a while now and spreading disinformation about her plans; i.e., that the strip was just going to be straight re-runs. While she definitely seemed annoyed by this, she didn't appear to think that the tactic was wrong necessarily -- my sense was that she thought it was a sign of the times in an increasingly shrinking and therefore competitive marketplace.
I still think it's wrong, but I don't have the serenity that must come from a hugely successful cartooning career and a still-thriving 2000-paper client list. By the way, FBOFW is in its final week in this incarnation. Spoiler: Anthony wins.

* one retailer mulls over the question of what to do with selling a creator's work when you can't stand the political view held by that creator.

* I forgot to hit the right tab on this on the day it happened, so a belated happy 5th birthday to Mr. Eli Kochalka.

* one of the few cartoonists in the alternative/arts corner of the medium still making a serial comic book, Ted May talks about recent writings wistfully hoping for more of those publications. Dash Shaw wrote this site a strongly-worded letter that's now posted here. You should read both. I have to admit, I'm unfamiliar with the work that Shaw mentions, so I have some reading to do before I can respond.

* the PW comics blogger Heidi MacDonald is tracking rumors about downsizing at Virgin Comics. That line's almost non-existent impact on the American comics industry on any level is likely the cause of whatever might develop and also the reason why such changes won't have much of an overall impact.

* finally, some not comics news: in case you missed it, this is the article that most people read late last week regarding the direction of the Time Warner movie business and DC Comics' role within it. No one would pay me 25 cents for my opinion about the movie industry, but it seems to me that billions of dollars are being staked on the results of 1) one mega-hit movie with a unique pedigree and 2) swiping as theirs a Marvel strategy that is exactly one successful film and one not-as-successful film into its slow build, minus that company's partnership tracks on the X-Men (a Wolverine movie and perhaps a prequel) and Spider-Man (I have to imagine one more movie) franchises. In a way it's kind of interesting that Time Warner is going to be mirroring DC Comics' big event strategies, as those haven't exactly been setting the serial comics world on fire, at least judging from their thorough and consistent beatings at the hands of Marvel's books on the Diamond charts this year. Also, I would have guessed that Speed Racer's performance was a vote against a limited-release, go-for-the-fences movie strategy as much as The Dark Knight was a vote for one. One positive is that with Time Warner publicly castigating their 2006 Superman film (starring the Superman that lifted a lot of things and the second most evil real estate plan in a Superman movie... ever!) maybe a certain subset of Superman fans will stop insisting that it performed to expectations.
 
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Happy 61st Birthday, Michael W. Kaluta!

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Quick hits
Craft
Layouts Vs. Finishes
His Dad's Sketchbook
Not Everyone Can Become a Cartoonist

History
Beano at 70
On Steve Ditko
No Love For Namor

Industry
Five For Libraries
He Loves His LCS
Sales Down at B&N

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Garth Ennis
Phoenix: Matt Bors
THOnline.com: Dick Locher
Newsarama: G. Willow Wilson
Montreal Mirror: Matt Forsythe
De Volksrant: Robert Grossman
Blog@Newsarama: Ethan Nicolle
ComicBookMovie.com: Wardell Brown

Publishing
New Evan Dahm Comic Up
New Owner For PW By October?

Reviews
Shannon Smith: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Eric Burns-White: Skin Horse
Brian Heater: Burma Chronicles
Charles Yoakum: Starman Omnibus
Steve Sunu, Kate Napolitano: Various
Brian Heater: Jews and American Comics
Johanna Draper Carlson: Love*Com Vols. 6-8
Eddie Campbell: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comies
 

 
August 24, 2008


Not Comics: Cold Heat Video Special #1



discussion here, I suppose
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Sunday Interview: Danny Hellman

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*****

You'll get a pretty thorough biography of the illustrator and cartoonist Danny Hellman in the body of the following interview. I've known of Danny for about 15 years now, and his consistently funny work on the cover of SCREW was one of the more distinctive discoveries I made sorting books in the Comics Journal library for a half-hour every day my first year in the Fantagraphics office. He's done a number of comics but is perhaps best known for being the subject of a lawsuit tossed his way by the cartoonist Ted Rall based on an Internet prank. That lawsuit resulted in two charity anthologies designed to raise funds; what was to be a third issue became the summer anthology TYPHON. In a way, TYPHON is to a certain kind of black and white 1980s and 1990s comic book what MOME has become to the black and white alt-comic: a shelf-ready collection of a certain creative impulse recognized and appreciated by the publisher -- in this case, Hellman. I was surprised by how much I liked it, particularly some of the work from cartoonists with whom I was completely unfamiliar. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Danny, I was checking your biography and it says you graduated from high school in 1982 and started on your illustration career in 1988. What took up your time right out of high school? How did your career then start?

DANNY HELLMAN: I graduated from Manhattan's High School of Art & Design in June of 1982. Around that time, an upstairs neighbor of mine introduced me to his friend, Marvel writer Bill Mantlo. Mantlo was writing various licensed books, (Micronauts, Rom, etc), and after checking out my drawings, he thought I might be a good choice to work with him on test pages for Robotron 3000, an arcade game-based book he was planning to pitch to Marvel. We worked on those test pages for weeks, but when we finally presented them to editor Tom DeFalco, he dismissed them as "fan art." I'd dreamed of drawing for Marvel since childhood, and this rejection bummed me out bigtime.

At about this same time, I started at the School of Visual Arts. I found my first few weeks at SVA to be a nearly identical rerun of my time at Art & Design, with many of the same classmates, and the same sort of rotational courses that are designed to introduce students to all aspects of art-making, from photography to sculpture. I'd done all of this before, but now my Dad was insisting that I get a job to pay my tuition. It was at this point that I entered my "fuck the world" phase. I dropped out of SVA, sold much of my comic collection, got a job as a bike messenger, and started smoking pot with a vengeance.

I spent the next five or six years daydreaming, getting high, and taking life drawing classes at the Art Students' League in Manhattan. I worked on various comic strips during these years, but I was struggling with an insane, crippling perfectionism, and little publishable work resulted. I managed to complete a handful of strips, and sent them to Aline Crumb at Weirdo, who politely rejected them.

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By the late 80's, recreational drugs and the bike messenger grind were turning me into a basket case. I was determined to clean up my act; to quit the stoner lifestyle, stop eating dead animals, and to somehow make money from my drawings. In the Summer of 1989, I was living in my grandparents' filthy attic in Queens, and I was broke. Friends of mine were selling drawings to Kevin Hein, art director of NYC's infamous weekly porn tabloid SCREW. Any distaste for pornography that had been drilled into me by my feminist Mom went out the window. I visited Kevin Hein at SCREW's legendary 14th Street offices, and showed him some gig posters I'd drawn for the band Floor Kiss. Hein thought one of the posters could easily be tweaked into a SCREW cover, and I was happy to comply. I was soon working regularly for SCREW, and continued to do so until the paper folded in 2006. I believe I hold the honor of having drawn more SCREW covers than any other human being.

Working for SCREW and meeting tight deadlines helped me work through my problems with perfectionism. From SCREW, I went to the New York Press, where former Hustler art director Michael Gentile was running the art department. I quickly became one of the paper's hardest-working illustrators. New York Press had a big readership in those days, and with the visibility I got from that paper, I was able to branch out in all directions. In a period of about six years, 1990 to 1995, I went from being a clueless stoner to a fairly widely-published illustrator.

imageSPURGEON: I think most people think of you as an illustrator first, but I've seen enough of your pages to wonder just exactly how many comics you've done at this point. Is there a book's worth of stuff at this point? I think of your work in terms of some anthologies that may not be around any longer. Can you track in brief, summary fashion the comics portion of your career?

HELLMAN: In the early to mid 1990s, I self-published a handful of mini comics, which included Coffee Drinkin' Man, (written by my late friend Geoff Gilmore), the original version of Legal Action Comics, (which reprinted strips of mine from SCREW parodying Superman, The Simpsons, and The Cosby Show), and Peaceful Atom and the Mystery Mice.

In the mid-1990s, Andy Helfer at DC's Paradox Press spotted my illustrations in New York Press, and hired me to do strips for their Big Books series. I appeared in the following Big Book titles: Conspiracies, Urban Legends, Weirdos, Scandals, Bad, Vice, Death and The Seventies.

Also in the mid-1990s, Noah Mass asked me to contribute to the anthology series he edited, Last Gasp Comix & Stories. I appeared in four or five issues of that title.

SCREW and Fantagraphics briefly joined forces in the mid-1990s for SCREW Comics, to which I contributed a cover and a strip. I also contributed short strips to the following Fantagraphics titles: 2 Live Crew, Real Schmuck, Spice Capades, a Hate Annual, and more recently, Glenn Head's Hotwire books.

In 2003, Joey Cavalieri asked me to contribute to DC's Bizarro World. I drew an 11-page strip about Aquaman, from a wonderful script written by Soul Coughing front man Mike Doughty.

In 2001 and 2003, I published the anthologies Legal Action Comics volumes one and two, both of which featured strips of mine. 2008's TYPHON Vol. 1 also features a new five-pager by me.

Much of the material I've just listed was work for hire, and as such, can't be easily reprinted. If the strips for which I hold the copyright were collected, they might amount to a 50- or 60-page book.

imageSPURGEON: Typhon grew out of Legal Action Comics, which was your fundraising mechanism to allay some of the costs of defending yourself against a $1.5 million lawsuit brought against you by Ted Rall. I'll ask you about the other circumstances that changed the project in a bit, but am I to understand that the status of that case is in limbo because Rall's lawyer passed away? Can you explain what happened?

HELLMAN: Rall's lawyer died of brain cancer a few years ago, and that brought Rall's lawsuit to a halt. Rall had a contingency agreement with that lawyer. In order to move forward with his lawsuit today, Rall would first need to hire a new lawyer, and I suspect he would have a very hard time finding another lawyer willing to take his case on contingency. Without a contingency agreement, Rall would need to pay a new lawyer boatloads of cash, and I doubt that he's willing to do that.

SPURGEON: How do you expect things to progress from here, or do you?

HELLMAN: I believe that Rall v. Hellman is over. Rall would never have had an easy time proving to a jury that my Rall's Balls email prank harmed his livelihood, but as the months and years pass, it becomes increasingly hard. My feeling about Rall v. Hellman is that Rall and his lawyer never intended to take the case to trial; rather, they were hoping for a quick cash settlement from me. Once it became clear that I wasn't going to hand them a check right away, I think that Rall and his lawyer soldiered on for another five or six years in the hope that I would eventually break down and settle.

In my opinion, the lawsuit was never an especially bright idea, but to resume it at this late date would be completely nuts.

SPURGEON: You've mentioned in a couple of interviews that the birth of your daughter was a contributing factor to your doing the anthology. How so? Was it just the delay that getting through that first year caused?

HELLMAN: I think I started collecting work for a third volume of Legal Action Comics late in 2004. At that point, I was mulling over the idea of doing some color pages in that book, but in emails to my contributors, I only hinted at that possibility. Our daughter Alice was born in May of 2006, and my wife Linda and I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in November of 2006. Between the baby and the move, our lives became extremely busy. I did my best to stay on top of my illustration assignments, but I couldn't even think about the book project for that first year.

Once our lives became more manageable, I revisited the book project. With a fresh perspective, I realized two things: that I wanted to do a full-color book, and that I was completely disinterested in Rall v. Hellman. One more factor that contributed to the book's evolution; during that year's hiatus, I met a lot of talented folks on the Internet, many of whom ended up in the pages of TYPHON.

SPURGEON: Even untethered from the need to raise money for the case, I'm still a bit unclear as to how you look at the Legal Action work and thinks, "Okay, I think instead I'm going to do an oversized full-color book anthology?" What was your thinking behind the shape and form of the final project?

HELLMAN: When I announced in 2000 that I was doing a "benefit anthology book," several smart people pointed out right away that this kind of book was unlikely to raise much money. This was something that I already suspected, and it didn't change my mind about the book project. Rather than providing my lawyers with one more revenue stream, the intention of the Legal Action books was to get the word out about Rall v. Hellman. Beyond that, the books were really just a good excuse for me to edit anthology comics, which is something I'd been wanting to do for years.

Truth be told, one of the things that motivated me to do LAC #1 was the thought that I'd be placing a portion of my savings beyond my lawyers' reach. In 1999/2000, my lawyers were quickly burning through my savings, and I was determined that before they completely cleaned me out, I would carve out a chunk of my savings and spend it on something good.

All you really need to understand about the shift from LAC to TYPHON is that lawsuit or no lawsuit, I enjoy making a book now and then. I think it's a natural tendency that we set out to do something better and more ambitious than what we did before. The Legal Action concept had run out of gas, but my urge to make books was alive and well, and the result is TYPHON.

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SPURGEON: Was it difficult finding people to want to do the anthology? Did you get everyone you wanted? Since there are so many avenues open to people these days, what do you think attracted these artists to your project?

HELLMAN: I think there are many more talented people in the world than there are outlets for their work. When it came time to solicit contributions, I cast my net widely, and while I didn't get everyone I wanted, I'm very happy with everything I got.

SPURGEON: A lot of the comics in TYPHON seem connected by a few factors, but one of them is definitely that nearly everyone you use has chops. Your comics are well-regarded for their craft qualities; was that an important factor in assembling this work? Do you feel that being able to draw well sometimes doesn't get enough play in terms what's being published?

HELLMAN: I think we're in a time right now when a lot of people who don't have drawing chops are feeling empowered to do comics, and I think that's great for readers who don't place a high value on drawing chops. However, I'm someone who has spent my entire life learning how to draw, and I would much rather look at good drawing than shitty drawing.

That said, it can be tough to pin down precisely what "good drawing" is. Ultimately, beautiful art is a matter of taste. Drawing chops, anatomical knowledge, the ability to recreate the natural world in two dimensions and have it be both accurate and pleasing to the eye; these are important. But what's really vital is that we connect with the art on an emotional, perhaps spiritual level.

Simply put, the art that's in TYPHON is art that I enjoy looking at.

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SPURGEON: There are a number of very good cartoonists in your book, but I was wondering if you could talk about what you like about a few of them that maybe haven't yet become as well-known as the others, even where you found them. Maybe we could start with a strip called "Summer of 7-11" by someone named Hawk Krall?

HELLMAN: I'm not sure where I first came across Hawk Krall's work. I don't think we've met in person yet, but I've been seeing Hawk's stuff for a few years, and I've always enjoyed it.

SPURGEON: I'm not familiar with Hugo, who did "Virgil at the Video Store." Is Virgil a recurring character?

HELLMAN: "Hugo" is the pen name of a cartoonist I've known for nearly a decade. I think we met years ago when we were both contributing drawings to Dominic Salemi's long-running 'zine Brutarian. "Hugo" had strips in both Legal Action books, but they appeared under his real name. For whatever reason, "Hugo's" chosen to go the pseudonymous route, and I'm not about to argue with him about it, as long as I get to keep publishing his work. I think "Hugo" is one of those rare cartoonists whose writing is every bit as enjoyable as his drawing.

SPURGEON: Oliver Schulze?

HELLMAN: I met Oliver Schulze via MySpace, most likely in the wee hours between diaper changes. I think he's in Koln, Germany, and he's a perfect example of my point that there's a seemingly bottomless ocean of talented folks out there whose work we haven't yet seen.

SPURGEON: Nicholas Gazin?

HELLMAN: I met Nicholas Gazin at one of the SPX shows where he was making the rounds dressed as Robin, The Boy Wonder, asking the exhibitors to draw him in his costume. I originally thought of Nick as that young fellow with the odd moustache, but when I saw his drawings, I started to think of him as tremendously talented.

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SPURGEON: You also work with a handful of emerging stars, people that are well-regarded if not quite widely known yet. What is it that you like about Hans Rickheit? Why do you think he remains kind of an elusive figure, even in the small world of alternative comics?

HELLMAN: I like Beckett. I like Balthus. I like Bellmer. I like Burroughs. I like Survival Research Laboratories. I like the Quay Brothers. I think Hans Rickheit is leading us on a tour of that same disturbing, fascinating terrain. I think his stuff is as good as it gets. I'm not sure why you describe him as "elusive." I've met him a bunch of times.

SPURGEON: Maybe I mean in terms of attention that seems to elude him. I don't know. So why did you have Tim Lane's piece colored, given how good he is as a black and white artist? What can you tell me about Lane, who just dropped his own book with Fantagraphics into the marketplace?

HELLMAN: Tim Lane's work is great in color as well as black and white. Once I'd decided that TYPHON would be a full color book, I resolved to keep the book's black and white contents to a minimum. Time constraints kept Tim from coloring his strip, but Gregory [Benton] volunteered to do the work, and Tim and I agree that Greg did a fantastic job with Tim's strip -- just as he did with his own strips in TYPHON.

Tim Lane started illustrating for the New York Press during the last couple of years before the paper went down the toilet. He provided surreal illos for Michelangelo Signorile's weekly column, and I thought they were beyond brilliant, like some dazzling combination of Goya and Bosch. I emailed Tim and asked if he drew comics strips, and I think his reply was that he did do "a sort of graphic narrative thing." He sent me a few strips, and I realized that not only did he do some sort of graphic narrative thing, but that he was one of the most talented cartoonists I'd ever seen. Tim Lane is the next big thing, for whatever that's worth in this cruelly unrewarding world of alt/indie/underground/whatever we're calling it today.

imageSPURGEON: Was there anything that you wanted from the stories that you solicited in terms of theme or meaning? Because the stories you ended up with seem to have a fascination with the darker sides of human nature -- there are more than a few actual devils or demons overtly portrayed. What is it about this project or your editorship that you think gave voice to this kind of story, mostly?

HELLMAN: Again, TYPHON's contents reflect my tastes. I don't do themed anthologies. I solicit contributions from artists whose work I admire, and I tend to enjoy comics that are funny, scary, sexy, offbeat, or some combination thereof.

SPURGEON: Between this book, and the second HOTWIRE, Lane's book and now TYPHON it seems to me like a mini-renaissance in a kind of underground-reminiscent cartooning that may have taken a backseat to more standard literary or formalist comics the last few years. Would you agree with that assessment -- I mean, are there are a lot of comics on the stands that you think make for sensible fellow travelers with TYPHON? Would you personally like to see more comics like this?

HELLMAN: I haven't seen Tim's book yet, but I'm sure it's amazing. I'm a big fan of HOTWIRE, and of Glenn's work overall.

I see two things going on in alt/indie/whatever comics right now. You've got this grasping for a literary dryness that screams "please take me seriously." Meanwhile there's an influx of all these fresh-faced art students who are doing comics that make the Zap guys seem conservative. These aren't necessarily bad things, but generally speaking, these movements aren't really giving me the kind of work that I enjoy. If I had to land on either side, I'd go with the art kids, because I do see visually exciting stuff coming from those folks. I really hate the literary thing, because it's so fucking boring, and ultimately it's just the latest manifestation of comics' eternal self-esteem problem.

SPURGEON: TYPHON's been out for a while now, and I'm sure you've done some hand selling as well as moved some copies through retailers. How has the book been received as far as you can tell? Are stores carrying it?

HELLMAN: I got my TYPHON shipment from Regent in Hong Kong in mid-June. Last Gasp placed an order right away, while Diamond only just placed their order this week. [we're presently in mid August] Meanwhile, Tony Shenton has been plugging away for me with his set of retailers, and I've sold a few dozen TYPHONs via the web. I suppose TYPHON is beginning to show up in comic shops, but I think availability is still limited. I've sold approximately 450 books to date, and I'll need to sell twice that amount again to hit break-even.

Everyone who's seen TYPHON seems to like it. The only thing resembling a negative comment that I've heard is a couple of folks who've observed that TYPHON's cover looks a lot more impressive in person than it does on the web. I think R. Sikoryak's cover drawing for TYPHON is a real stunner; a spectacular drawing that only the web's crappy, low-res RGB presentation could diminish.

imageSPURGEON: How much did you like the editing and publishing process with this big of a project? Is this something you'd like to do in the future?

HELLMAN: At the risk of repeating myself, I'll repeat myself: I enjoy making books. I doubt that I'll ever be more than a very small publisher, one who does a book every couple of years, but who knows. I'd like to think that there'll be a second volume of TYPHON, and maybe some different books, but that's really up to the marketplace. Publishing these books is expensive, and contrary to popular rumor, I'm not the heir to a vast mayonnaise fortune.

SPURGEON: What does the future look like generally, Danny? Last time we exchanged e-mails about anything, I think it was about the shrinking illustration marketÅ  how do you see your professional future the next five years or ten?

HELLMAN: I'm not a big long-range planner, and I cringe at those "where do you see yourself in five years?" questions. I think we can get distracted by dwelling on the future, when what's most important is to do the right thing in the present moment. We can all agree that Hitler was largely an asshole, but he has that one good quote: "I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker." I'd like to think that in five or ten years, my family will be alive and healthy, that I'll be doing work that I enjoy and getting well-paid for it, and who knows, maybe I'll be done (or nearly done) with the graphic novel I've been daydreaming about for over a decade -- God knows how or if I'll find the time to get that project done)

My attitude about the illustration market is thermostatically controlled by the amount of work I'm getting at any given time. I've been oddly busy with illo assignments these past few weeks, so my outlook today is a little rosier than it was in Late Spring.

If you step back and look at the big picture from an illustrator's perspective, it's clear that in general, Bush has trashed the US economy, and in particular, the Internet is sucking up all the advertising money, leading to the widely-proclaimed "death of print" -- widely-proclaimed on the Internet, mostly. While it's undeniable that print is hurting, I tend to doubt that print will die any time soon. After all, plenty of "old" media have survived in spite of new distractions coming along. My main beef with the Internet is that it wants to swallow Publishing whole, yet it has made no place for illustration, which has always been part of print. I'm not sure why that is, but hopefully this will change as consumers of the web begin to demand greater visual sophistication.

*****

* TYPHON cover by R. Sikoryak
* commercial illustration by Danny Hellman
* SCREW birthday party illustration by Hellman
* Legal Action Comics #1 cover
* panel from Gregory Benton effort in TYPHON
* panel from Hawk Krall effort in TYPHON
* panel from Hans Rickheit effort in TYPHON
* panel from Rich Tommaso effort in TYPHON
* panel from Rupert Bottenberg effort in TYPHON
* page from Patrick Dean effort in TYPHON

*****

TYPHON, edited by Danny Hellman, Dirty Danny Press, softcover, 192 pages, 9780970936332, July 2008, $24.95

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 8:00 am PST | Permalink
 

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

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

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, listen: Kyle Baker on Studio 360

* go, read: R. Beast's Out Of Love

* go, read: Don MacPherson on The Martian Confederacy

* go, look: Leigh Walton's Tintin Sketchbook

* go, contribute: fan history wiki needs your help
 
posted 7:40 am PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #132—Fifty-Plus

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Comics That Came Out Before 1958, No Matter Whether You Read Them In Original Or Reprinted Form." Here are the results.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Barnaby
2. Thimble Theatre
3. Sick, Sick, Sick
4. MAD
5. Mad Man's Drum

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

*****

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George Xydas

1. The Bash Street Kids (from The Beano)
2. The Calculus Affair
3. Frontline Combat
4. Uncle Scrooge
5. Blake and Mortimer

*****

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James C. Langdell

1. The Land Beneath the Ground (Uncle Scrooge)
2. Pogo Stepmother Goose
3. Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend
4. The Last Flower (Thurber)
5. Plastic Man

*****

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Jason Michelitch

Sugar and Spike
Tales From the Crypt
Jingle Jangle Comics
Donald Duck
The Spirit

*****

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Scott Dunbier

The Spirit
Two Fisted Tales
Shock Suspense Stories
Tintin
Eagle

*****

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Jim Wheelock

* Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (a.k.a. The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck)
* God's Man
* Two-Fisted Tales
* Terry and the Pirates
* The Kin-der-Kids

*****

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John Vest

1. Krazy Kat
2. Little Orphan Annie
3. Captain Marvel
4. Plastic Man
5. Dick Tracy

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. Skippy
2. Chamber of Chills (Harvey-Nostrand! Elias!)
3. Hey Look!
4. Pogo
5. Nancy

*****

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Tom Bondurant

1. Peanuts (debuted October 2, 1950)
2. "The Joker," from Batman #1 (Spring 1940)
3. "Rat Tat, The Toy Submachine Gun," a Spirit story originally published September 4, 1949
4. "Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt," from Showcase #4 (September-October 1956)
5. "Superduperman," from Mad #4 (April-May 1953)

*****

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Nat Gertler

1. Peanuts
2. James Thurber's The Last Flower
3. King Aroo
4. Scribbly
5. Pogo

*****

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Johnny Bacardi

1. Strange Worlds: #6
2. The Spirit, of course
3. The Mighty Atom and the Pixies
4. Yep, Venus
5. Jack Cole's Plastic Man

*****

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Tony Collett

1) Shock SuspenStories
2) Uncle $crooge
3) Captain Marvel Adventures
4) Little Lulu
5) Crime Does Not Pay

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Little Nemo in Wonderland (1905)
2. Piracy (1954)
3. The Spirit (1940)
4. Showcase (1956)
5. Krazy Kat (1913)

*****

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Lou Copeland

* Thimble Theater by Segar
* Krazy Kat by Herriman
* Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton
* Captain Marvel stories by Otto Binder & C. C. Beck
* The Four Immigrants Manga by Henry Kiyama

*****

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Mark Coale

* All-Star Comics
* Captain America (1950s Commie Smasher version)
* Terry and the Pirates
* Peanuts
* The Mask of Dr. Fu Manchu

*****

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Chris Mautner

Thimble Theater
Little Nemo in Slumberland
Gasoline Alley
The Juggler of Our Lady
"Master Race"

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

Sparky Watts
The Spirit
Sally the Sleuth
Airboy
MAD

*****

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Jean-Paul Jennequin

1. Peanuts
2. Tintin in L'Affaire Tournesol (The Calculus Affair)
3. Blake and Mortimer in Le Mystere de la Grande Pyramide
4. Pogo
5. Astro Boy

*****

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Mark Brodersen

Plastic Man
Little Nemo in Slumberland
Dick Tracy
Uncle Scrooge
The Katzenjammer Kids

*****

I apologize for any and all I shunted to the letters section. Please try not to be vague, load your answers, or otherwise be cute, and please have a sense of humor about this. I'm not editing your copy on Sunday morning before I go to the gym, I'm not an open mic and a brick wall, and since people complain when they perceive other people get to do things they don't get to do, I have to drop some answers or I receive complaints and even demands from people wanting to change their own responses. I figure it's either be a hard ass or ban the complainers, and the former doesn't involve keeping a list. Remember when the feature disappeared for a year? That was why. No biggie, and I hope you'll still contribute. If you ever have questions, use the example five as a guide.

*****
*****
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Keith Knight!

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Happy 67th Birthday, Jim Scancarelli!

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First Thought Of The Day

One thing that's strange about comics right now is that the proliferation of films based on comics has weakened if not derailed the assumption that certain comics are unfilmable. Like it occurred to me getting up just now that you could actually quite easily make a film straight out of Cerebus: High Society by establishing Jaka early on and changing the line about the Hsiffies to something like "They're on our side" and turning Moon Roach back into the Roach and as a result have a completely normal, funny film (as normal as a Charlie Kaufman movie, say) which you could animate in the Persepolis style.

I'm probably not communicating that very well, because I don't care about movies based on comics as much I like reading the comics and I have no interest in seeing a Cerebus movie of any kind let alone backseat driving one. It just seems to me our perception of film has changed somehow. Fifteen years ago I would have assumed just about any film closely informed by a comic book would be visually atrocious, impenetrable nonsense, while these days I could see just about anything having a legitimate shot at being either good or bad based completely on traditional merits. Heck, just five years ago the thought of Steve Rude and Mike Baron doing a Nexus movie seemed like insanity because the good guy might kill people and the concept might be difficult, while today's pop culture has shifted just enough where Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' sometimes horrifically nasty take on superheroes built on bits and pieces of squirelly-ass WildStorm Universe side story seems like a perfectly reasonable vehicle for Tom Cruise. Part of this may be that the Lord of the Rings films made a virtue of reduced expectations when it comes to adaptations -- that series wears its "boys' adventure version" label as a badge of honor -- part of it may be the proliferation of comics-influenced visual stylists finally having as much of an influence as they've had for as long of a time as they've had it, and part of it could even be an increased tolerance for unexplained, accrued detail in pop culture efforts. Whatever it is, it's totally weird.
 
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August 23, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

August 23

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August 24

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August 29

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August 30

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from August 16 to August 22, 2008:

1. One of the two Tunisian men in custody facing expulsion from Denmark among other penalties for what authorities believe is their role in a plot to assassinate the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife has left the country of his own volition.

2. A newspaper editor accuses syndicate sales reps of misrepresenting the fate of For Better or For Worse for gain.

3. L'Affaire Sine continues.

Winner Of The Week
Justin Bilicki

Losers Of The Week
Artists in the Philippines if this legislation goes through.

Quote Of The Week
"We may not share a philosophy or world-view, and only one of us apparently knows who Dorothy Parker is, but I really genuinely think it's wonderful how the magic of the Internet and blogs and comics, how they let us both have a little moment of smug superiority that we didn't deserve today." -- Abhay Khosla

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Wesley Osam On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* John McCorkle On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Greg Holfeld On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Domingos Isabelinho On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Don Sticksel On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Tucker Stone On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Dave Knott On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Fred Hembeck On His Favorite Comics From Before 1958 (8/23/08)
* Matt On Gilbert Shelton's Forthcoming Signing Via Gosh! Comics (PR) (8/20/08)
* Jim Kingman on Alan Moore's Difficulties With Watchmen Including Difficulties With DC Comics (8/18/08)
* Hugh Stewart on One of My Recent Batman Comments (8/16/08)
* Katherine Wong On Nickelodeon's First Ever Best Kids Graphic Novel Awards (PR) (8/16/08)
* Justin Colussy-Estes on Comics at the Decatur Book Festival (8/16/08)
* Matt Maxwell on Batman Year Two and Fantagraphics Publishing Dr. Strange (8/16/08)
* John Vest on the State of Traditional Alt-Comics Publications (8/16/08)
* Dustin Harbin on KE Vol. 7's $125 Price Tag (8/16/08)
* Chris Mautner on Whether or Not Shops Stock Back Issues of Optic Nerve to Sell As Comic Books (8/16/08)
* Chris Mautner on L&R Going With a Spine (8/16/08)
 
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Happy 43rd Birthday, Chris Bachalo!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Terry Austin!

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August 22, 2008


Five For Friday #132—Fifty-Plus

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Five For Friday #132 -- Name Five Of Your Favorite Comics That Came Out Before 1958, No Matter Whether You Read Them In Original Or Reprinted Form

*****

1. Barnaby
2. Thimble Theatre
3. Sick, Sick, Sick
4. MAD
5. Mad Man's Drum

This Subject Is Now Closed.

*****

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

* one of the two Tunisian men arrested on February 12 for plotting to kill the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife has left the country on his own rather than face deportation.

* reading this idiotic screed that uses the tragedy of people dying protesting the Danish Cartoons as some sort of triumphant warning not to mess with downtrodden people makes me want to change this blog to nothing but a constant roll-out of Muhammed caricatures.

* a Danish Cartoons proclamation as an indictment of the UN Human Rights Council.
 
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Go, Watch: DNC Delegation Slideshow

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Not Comics: Just So You Know…

... if it's Lugar, CR is shutting down next week to watch the insanity of the Democratic Convention gavel to gavel.
 
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Watching the Watchmen Watchers 04: How Do You Answer This Question?

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Nathan Rabin's review, the latest and maybe in comics terms the most high-profile of a burst of reviews of the decades-old Watchmen series following its movie trailer debut last month, made me wonder something. When someone asks you, "So what is Watchmen about?" What do you tell them? Because I'm not sure I know what the book is about, let alone how to politely communicate it in a sentence or three to a friend or family member. What would you say to someone that asked you this question? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

joke answers, while appreciated in this cold and angry world, will not be included below

*****

Domingos Isabelinho:
It's very simple, really. Watchmen is about three things:

1) Like Stanley Kubrick, Alan Moore wants to infuse new blood into old, formulaic, genres. In this case the superhero genre.
2) He does this asking himself: what if superheroes were real, living in the real world (by "real" we must understand a fictional future here: Watchmen is also political fiction).
3) As usual with Alan Moore, Watchmen is all about experimenting with the form. This is underlined in the symmetry chapter.

*****

Jon Hastings:
I think Watchmen is about gravity. That is, the traditional superhero comics show us beings who are able to defy gravity -- who exist in an idealized state, not subject to the laws of nature -- but Watchmen gives us characters who are bound by the laws of gravity. The superheroes in Watchmen (with one exception) look like normal people and have realistic, non-idealized bodies. They're flabby and sagging and scared and wrinkled. They don't strike poses: they just kind of stand around like normal people.

*****

Rick Marshall:
I was asked that very same question yesterday, and answered it as follows:

Watchmen examines the relationship between superheroes and society and the ways in which this relationship changes over time given a variety of real-world factors. What would happen when the shine wears off and things like politics, economics, racism and the knowledge of one's own abilities far and beyond that of everyone else come to the surface? The story examines all of this by way of a noir-style murder mystery in which one of the former "superheroes" investigates the mysterious death of a former member of the superteam "The Watchmen."

That was my three-sentence answer that skips over so much of what makes Watchmen great to comics fans, but is most likely to hook newcomers to the comics scene. In this case, it seemed to work, as the person I told this to called me up an hour later to say he'd watched the trailer again and now definitely wants to see the film.

*****

Andrew Mansell:
Watchmen is about the survival of costumed heroes in comic books. No matter what happens -- politically (Wertham) or financially (the '50s) as long as Superman exists, superhero comics will go on...

*****

Vernon Jones:
I tell people that it's about how it would be if superheroes actually existed in the real world. I know it's the obvious answer but in a nutshell, that's it.

*****

Colin Panetta:
For me, Watchmen is a thoughtful, reality-based rumination on how America would have developed if superheroes had been a part of its history. The world turns into a darker, even more dangerous place than it did in reality. This warning against giving people the autonomous power that superheros need to operate gives the book a strong anti-authoritarian theme (i.e. "Who watches the watchmen?") It's very symbolically dense and thematically intricate, but is also a very entertaining adventure story full of fascinating characters.

*****

Dustin Harbin:
I actually just finished a short article on how to use Watchmen as a "gateway" comic for Newsarama, so this is on my mind. I generally tell customers: "Watchmen starts out as a superhero murder mystery and turns into a really dense rumination on the motivations behind might and right." Then when their eyes start rolling back in their heads, I backpedal and say, "Seriously, it's awesome. If you don't like it I’ll totally give you your money back." That usually gets them.

*****

Matt Silvie:
Watchmen is a meticulously-plotted and beautifully-drawn story about some superheroes who get old and caught up in a murder mystery, with some very clever, "meta" subtext on the history and the nature of comics as an art form.

*****

Cole Moore Odell:
Watchmen is about power: its trappings, its limits, and the consequences of its use. We see the USA and Russia as global superpowers; Dr. Manhattan with the literal power of a god; the power that normal people have to affect both individual lives and the course of history, and the power of writing to shape thinking. It is also about powerlessness -- as embodied by the child who would become Rorschach, or the inexorable slide toward war -- and the self-deception practiced by people (Ozymandias in particular, but all of them) struggling against that helplessness. It's only about superheroes to the extent that the genre allows Moore and Gibbons a multitude of ways to explore the theme.

*****

Matthew Craig:
1. Watchmen is the ultimate mid-life crisis

2. Watchmen is the ultimate mid-life crisis, only instead of a Ferrari, you buy Armageddon.

3. Watchmen is the ultimate mid-life crisis, a counterpoint to the coming-of-age story, in which the characters ask what kind of man they have become, and where -- if anywhere -- they go from here.

4. Watchmen is the ultimate mid-life crisis: like Fight Club, but with giant blue balls.

*****

Matthias Wivel:
Watchmen is about a lot of things, many of which have been brought up in your round-up, but fundamentally it is about what all Alan Moore's comics are about: Order. The sense that there is a structure to the universe, and to existence, and how this structure starts in ourselves and determines our perception of the world. Moore exemplifies this in the meticulous structure of the comic itself, but also in the character of Dr. Manhattan who perceives the order we can only intuit.

The conflict of the story arises from the way the individual deals with it, and the main characters each make their own choices: The Comedian absolves himself and becomes amoral, Ozymandias wants to control it, Rorschach has lost faith in it, Dan and Julie chose to make their way within it, and Dr. Manhattan stands back. The play's the thing.

*****

Sean T. Collins:
"It's a very realistic take on superheroes -- like, what would the world be like if they really existed, how would society be different. And then what happens if some of them go bad."

*****

Patrick O. Watson:
Watchmen asks the reader the age-old question, "Does the end justify the means?" The novelty of it comes from using a world impacted by superheroes and a tightly-choreographed narrative.

*****

Leland Purvis:
Watchmen is an expression of the dilema that arises when Truth is pitted against the Greater Good.

*****

Johnny Bacardi:
When people ask me "What's Watchmen about?" (happens all the time, really) I tell them "It's about twenty bucks from Amazon, eleven if you catch it on sale."

But seriously, folks --

I tell them that it was British writer Alan Moore's update of several old comics characters that DC obtained from another publisher, and since they weren't SUPERMAN and BATMAN and WONDER WOMAN, etcetera, he was given carte blanche to redo them in a near-future world of his own imagining where superheroing has been outlawed, and portray them more-or-less realistically, like in the case of the Nite Owl, a Batman-like character (they won't know who the hell Blue Beetle is) who has settled down into a midlife sort of mediocrity, getting fat and complacent. Another refuses to stop hunting crooks, and is borderline nuts. It's also a murder mystery; when one of the group is killed, another takes it upon himself to find out who did it, eventually recruiting the other former members of the team -- and the answer lies in a direction that none of them expects. Then I just say, there's more to it than that, but that's the gist of it.

Don't know if that will convert any of the great unwashed out there, but that's what I'd tell them.

*****

Ben Schwartz:
As to explaining Watchmen... Since Nathan Rabin thinks that Frank Miller and Alan Moore are the modern architects of pop culture and that comics have somehow gone beyond Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge, I think you're going to have a tough time of it. I guess Rabin hasn't seen the Spider-Man, X-Men, or Iron Man films, not to mention any of George Lucases Barks/Kirby influenced and reportedly profitable film output.

My neighbor, not a comics fan, read Watchmen and came away loving the symmetrical chapter, the time and space perspective of Dr. Manhattan, and hated the ending -- so I'd say he got it. Since most people about to read it are movie fans who happen to be into superheroes, or people who actually read novels -- why not just tell them it's a superhero book? It's a fun read, and not that complicated, until you try to make sense of that ending.

*****

Eric Millikin:
I usually describe Watchmen as "Using super heroes to explore what can happen when people have too much power." It's a classic piece of Cold War justified paranoia.

*****

Randall Ragsdale:
I tell interested readers that Watchmen is like that old story about the Emperor's new clothes, you know, the one where a child points out the Emperor's nudity. Got it? Now imagine that same story but flash forward a decade and a half. Where's that kid? How does society feel about the Emperor? What became of the Emperor? That's Watchmen.

*****

Don MacPherson:
Watchmen is about the eradication and sacrifice of individual rights to further the agendas of the establishment. Ozymandias, as a corporate powerhouse, is the establishment in this case. It's about using fear to control the masses, and it's about lying about potential threats so everyone can get with the program. It's all that, with superheroes.

Sounds just as relevant today as it was two decades ago, don't it?

*****

Douglas Wolk
Watchmen is about the way the world works: the fantastically complicated clockwork of human existence, as well as the aspects of humanity that can't be reduced to determinism. It's also about the superhero genre and the bizarre conventions it's accrued over time -- the denials of realism that make it enduring and powerful, and its peculiar attachment to the comics medium.

*****

Patrick Dean:
You've got some pretty great answers on the site already, but I'd thought I'd share with you one I read about after the Dark Knight movie opened with the Watchmen trailer attached.

Someone on a movie message board (I think it was at CHUD) mentioned his friend whispered to him what Watchmen was about at the end of the trailer; "They're like the X-Men, but stronger. I think at some point they wanted more power, so they try to take over the world. The blue guy is their leader."

Having read the book, if my friend told me that, I wouldn't have the heart to correct him.

*****

Gil Roth
I usually just tell people, "It's a murder mystery/thriller about superheroes." Once they start reading it, the formal elements are strangeness of it reveal themselves. Sometimes I add, "It's from 1985-6, so there's also a heavy cold war undertone."

I would find it a lot easier to introduce Watchmen in a sentence than I would Cerebus.

*****
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Go, Look: Parade Of Comics (1966)

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Above is an image from Parade of Comics, a 1966 coloring book by the Newspaper Comics Council to which many cartoonists contributed original work. For more: One, Two, Three. Is it my imagination, or does that look like a Jaime Hernandez drawing?
 
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I Just Sort Of Like These Moebius Covers

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review here; lots of interior art here. The black and white material is astounding-looking.
 
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Make Your Own Future-Publisher Fumetti: Photos From Late ‘80s Eclipse

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That's AdHouse's Chris Pitzer back when he had hair facing IDW's Ted Adams.
 
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Go, Look: Marvel Tales #104

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Hugos have added a comics category.

image* firebrand cartoonist Frank Santoro's sweet tip of the hat to the Joan Reidy and Ron Rege effort Boys -- which is indeed a great one-shot comic book -- reminds us that a D&Q anthology series of Ron Rege's work begins next month with Against Pain.

* the LA Observed blog takes note of Dave Strickler's effort to index every strip that's ever appeared in the LA Times.

* one of the more interesting of this decade's emergent cartoonists, Kazu Kibuishi, talks about getting into the final stages of a graphic novel project and is asking for volunteers.

* I tend not to mention sales here, because, well, it's kind of gross, but this one looks pretty nice. While I'm in new, uncharted territory, what the hell: former ComicMix heavy-lifter and Wizard on-line anchor Rick Marshall has some between-gigs auctions ending today that you might peruse.

* this seems to me a reasonable summary of the big American mainstream comic book comapanies' effort to diddle around with a few on-line initiatives. It doesn't really look impressive when it's all gathered into one place, at least not to me. Anyway, it's nice to have the James Sime stuff in there about how he welcomes comics moving on-line, even monthly serial pamphlets, because it's a refreshing break with conventional wisdom that retailers see a 10 to 30 percent of migration to on-line material as a meteor-slamming-into-planet event.

* it's hard to know what to think of this semi-demented profile of Mark Millar, except maybe that it's less boring than a lot of comics creator profiles.

* the cartoonist Rutu Modan and the Eisners boiled down in Haaretz.

* is it the drugs talking if I suggested one of these companies just do a top-creator, formatted-for-screens webcomic starring some of their best-known characters? DC should do its next weekly this way, or Marvel could do its next off-beat event support comic like that weird Civl War one that was about reporters browbeating Iron Man. It's weird this hasn't been done yet.

* apparently, Sammy Harkham is a genius.

* finally, it's more not comics of the "holy crap, what's going on with newspapers" variety, but it definitely has an impact on one of the major comics industries: Editor & Publisher provides a nice summary article on the cavalcade of strategies under consideration by papers dealing with the changing nature of that industry.
 
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Happy 53rd Birthday, Will Shetterly!

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Happy 44th Birthday, D.G. Chichester!

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Quick hits
Craft
Star Trek
One False Move
One False Move 02

Exhibits/Events
Len Wein's San Diego
Most Adorable Event of Week

History
Paul Levitz on LOSH
Marie Severin Birthday Tribute
Those Old Newsletters: Awesome

Industry
More on Kurtz Vs. Critics
Sexual Harassment at CCI
Selling (Old) Comics To Kids

Interviews/Profiles
The Walrus: Seth
Inkstuds: Craig Yoe
LA Times: Paul Pope
Inkstuds: Robin Enrico
Studio 360: Kyle Baker
Newsarama: Guy Davis
Bookworm: Art Spiegelman
Riverfront Times: Lynda Barry
Icon 5: Gary Panter, James Jean
Inkstuds: Verne Andru, Steve Rolston
Panel Borders: Paul Gravett, Dave Shenton

Not Comics
Our Prez, A Villain
Killer Michael Kupperman Print

Publishing
Takehiko Inoue PR
Stand Project Previewed
Jason Lutes Actually Small Child

Reviews
Gabe Bullard: Veeps
Sandy Bilus: Pixu #1
John Mitchell: What It Is
Newsarama: Rob Vollmar
Jarrett Duncan: Alias the Cat
Katherine Farmar: Apocalypstix
Leroy Douresseaux: Slam Dunk Vol. 1
Sean T. Collins: Where Demented Wented
Noah Berlatsky: Grant Morrison: The Early Years
John Mitchell: The Amazing, Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
Matthew Brady: The Amazing, Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
 

 
August 21, 2008


Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

This article appeared on international wires this morning, talking of an imminent terror threat in Denmark stemming in part from the 2005 publication of caricatures of Muhammed in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. I wanted to mention it because I'm not sure why on earth any government would issue such a dire, general warning, and also I'm pretty certain that something like this came out the week before three men were detained for plotting to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and his wife.
 
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Uderzo + Goscinny + Herge + Franquin



I don't care what language they're using, that's a ridiculous line-up.
 
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Kill It! Kill It! Kill It! Kill It! Kill It! Kill It!

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Matthias Wivel scratches his head on the whole casual slaughter of alien beings thing.
 
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Not Comics: Editor & Publisher On Reports About Time Spent Site Figures

This isn't comics in any way, shape or form, but I think it's worth paying attention to studies about newspaper site time-spent figures. The ability of newspaper to retain eyeballs is going to be a huge factor in deciding whether or not they make the transition into on-line media in a way that's able to sustain itself, and will definitely have an effect on how they might use licensed material like comics.
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Arne Bellstorf

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Go, Look: donnabavosa records & comix

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Go, Look: Fuller Bunk

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Justin Bilicki has won this year's Science Idol contest. Its apparent full name is the Science Idol: Scientific Integrity Editorial Cartoon Contest. The winner, a Livonia, Michigan native now in Brooklyn, New York, has been put up for auction to benefit the contest's sponsor, the Union of Concerned Scientists. Over 20,000 people voted. The winner gets a cash prize, a trip to Washington, DC, and their cartoon will grace a calendar feature the 12 finalists.

image* I totally missed this post from Scott Edelman about the process by which Stan's Soapboxes were created.

* this interview with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg of the not really a comics company comics company Platinum is completely terrifying, and, I think, very much not good history. Speaking of which, does anyone out there have any idea what he's talking about in terms of a company that supposedly switched distributors on him in his distribution business days? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

* I had a dream last night and in part of it I was reading a huge, over-sized issue of Legion of Super-Heroes featuring Jaime Hernandez on the art in a retro-'50s style. I don't want Jaime doing anything other than his own stories, but that would be sort of freakishly adorable, don't you think? Also: I need better dreams.

* Abhay Khosla vs. Scott Kurtz.

image* the yearly ICv2.com interview with Paul Levitz is a must-read, if only to take the temperature of one of comics' more influential executives: part one, part two, part three. A lot of it is broad strategy-speak, but one thing worth noting is the undercurrent of praise for the Random House distribution deal and the offhand revelation that it has apparently had a noticeable effect on a trade series as far along in its volume numbers as Fables. That distribution switchover isn't yet six months old, I don't think. A few other things stand out for me. First, like I wrote earlier this summer, I don't think comics have always done well in a recession -- not even the cheap comics. Second, I've seriously never heard of Watchmen being touted as a gateway comic, let alone am willing to join Levitz and acknowledge that fact as widespread industry conventional wisdom. I've heard more people mention GI Joe than Watchmen as a book that got them from not reading comics to reading comics. Third, someone out there is likely to interpret Levitz suggesting that it's not editorial policy or general direction but execution that has put Marvel's series ahead of DC's this summer as Levitz blaming the talent. That's not what he's doing, but I'm certain someone will see it that way.

* finally, here's a fascinating essay by Steven Grant that uses as a jumping-off point the recent Robert Kirkman video exhorting folks to readjust their careers with self-directed creation at its core. I don't agree with a lot of it, but it's well-stated. The only thing I'd really object to outright is his assertion that smaller companies don't have effective promotional arms. I think some of them do. I actually think folks like Peggy Burns and Eric Reynolds are more effective than big company PR people in most cases. Their creators get just as much press as many big companies get for their creators, and in many cases these creators enjoy a just-as-high profile despite not moving nearly as many copies in the overall scheme of things. Part of this is that they're good (especially in relation to functionaries in your average big-book publisher PR departments, who can be nightmarish), part of it is that they're allowed to be good and don't have to function as a cog in various inter-company political games, and part of it is that they aren't also being asked to promote some goofy fictional character and/or the company as much as they are allowed to focus on creators.
 
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Happy 79th Birthday, Marie Severin!

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Happy 5th Birthday, Eli Kochalka!

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Quick hits
Craft
I'm Not Sure How This One Got Into My Link List

Exhibits/Events
This Sounds Weird But Fun

History
10 Biggest Retcons

Industry
Eric Burns-White On JDC Vs. SK
Gainesville Pick-Ups All From United

Not Comics
Great Headline
Job Cuts at WoTC
Mean McCain Cartoon
Mitch Albom Clearly Loses Mind
Review of DC Filmation Cartoons
Remember: Back Up Your Computers
Watchmen Movie Lawsuit Raw Materials
Next Movie, I Hope He Lifts More Things

Publishing
I Didn't Even Know This Was Coming Out

Reviews
ADD's 100 Must-Read GNs
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Leroy Douresseaux: Bleach Vol. 24
Richard Krauss: The Bedsit Journal #2
Michael May: Rob Hanes Adventure #11
Johanna Draper Carlson: High School Debut Vol. 4

 

 
August 20, 2008


This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the 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 works listed here -- I might not buy any -- but were I in a comic book shop I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and this might be not a good thing as far as my retailer is concerned.

*****

HERBIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 01 $49.95
I think the whole comics-in-trade-form revolution has been leading up to this moment: Hardcover Herbie.

JUN080180 FINAL CRISIS LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #1 (OF 5) $3.99
I'm not much of a follower of big superhero events, and haven't been following this latest one, but a bunch of the Legion reboots fighting in a casualty-producing style with an evil Superboy might be fun. Huh. That's interesting. Suddenly I have a hankering for Mountain Dew and Cheetos.

MAY080258 SANDMAN PRESENTS DEAD BOY DETECTIVES TP (MR) $12.99
JUN082319 CAPTAIN AMERICA #41 $2.99
Your week in Ed Brubaker.

JUN082361 INCREDIBLE HERCULES #120 SI $2.99
Your week in well-liked second-tier Marvel books.

JUN082327 MARVEL 1985 #4 (OF 6) $3.99
This is still coming out? I wish it had photos, although I'm told the art is very nice.

JUN083955 ABANDONED CARS HC $22.99
Tim Lane's powerful debut book, sporty a lovely design and several muscular stories.

JUN083973 AMAZING REMARKABLE MONSIEUR LEOTARD SC $16.95
New Eddie Campbell! In my world, people greet the new Eddie Campbell by holding it at arm's length and dancing round and round in circles.

APR083839 DELPHINE #3 $7.95
APR083845 GROTESQUE #2 $7.95
Your Ignatz offerings of the week, both of them beautiful installments in attractive series.

MAY083867 MOME VOL 12 GN $14.99
Maybe the best issue of the anthology yet, with compelling work by five or six cartoonists and not an outright dud from anyone.

MAY084228 NAOKI URASAWAS MONSTER TP VOL 16 $9.99
The only manga that leapt out at me this week. That sounds kind of spooky, but I really just meant the idea of it leapt out at me not that the book launched itself off the shelf in my direction.

APR083922 SCORCHY SMITH AND THE ART OF NOEL SICKLES HC $49.99
The size and scope of this book would be incredible if it featured a really bad artist instead of a frequently thrilling one. A really nice book.

MAR083709 WHERE DEMENTED WENTED THE ART AND COMICS OF RORY HAYES $22.99
A great artist, a great comic book artist and a great American artist gets a little bit of his due.

JUN084472 JEWS & AMERICAN COMICS ILLUS HISTORY OF AMERICAN ART FORM $29.95
This is the latest from Paul Buhle, I think.

MAY084264 TRIPWIRE 2008 ANNUAL $14.95
As this magazine's 25th most powerful person in comics and by my count therefore the most powerful person per-dollar-earned in entertainment history, I command you to consider buying this resurgent publication about comics and pop culture.

MAY080061 MYSPACE DARK HORSE PRESENTS TP VOL 01
Is it weird to anyone else that DHC would want to replicate the anthology feel of its MySpace.com comics offerings with a print anthology? I think for most people the on-line anthology means those works get to print that step going to print.

MAY083868 TALES DESIGNED TO THRIZZLE #4 (MR) $4.50
The best comic book of the week. I don't know, Frank, I think I could walk out of the store this week having thrown a $20 bill at the Sala, this book, the Captain America maybe and I guess the one where I might get to see Brainiac 5's arms pulled off and I'd be a satisified serial comics customer.

JUN080289 AIR #1 (MR) $2.99
This seems to me an interesting concept executed poorly. Kind of like the Bill Richardson presidential campaign.

*****

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, albeit a while back and probably drunk, try this.

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

If I didn't list your new comic, it was on purpose. How do you like it, chump?

*****
*****
 
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Go, Look: Kevin Cannon’s 24HCD Poster

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Are Syndicate Reps Misrepresenting For Better or For Worse Changes for Gain?

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Editor & Publisher's Dave Astor talks about the changeover coming for Lynn Johnston's juggernaut For Better or For Worse as it shifts from its current state into a new strips/old strip mix centered on storylines marked from the strip's beginnings to the August 31 end point. I think. Astor astutely captures this blog mention that suggests that sales representatives from other syndicates may be misrepresenting the upcoming changeover in order to convince people to drop FBOFW, and, one supposes pick up one of their strips as a replacement.

This is a really bad thing if it's happening as claimed. Lying about another syndicate's offering is an awful sales tactic, and it's doubly so in this case if it's being used against a generally thought-of class act and hugely successful member of her profession like Lynn Johnston. In fact, I'm not sure how even mentioning another syndicate's offering can work as a sales technique; that just seems way too skeevy and pushy for that relationship as I've seen it exist in newsrooms past. But if it does, there's a huge danger with declining papers and slots that things could get ugly quickly despite the overwhelming number of honorable people working as syndicate sales staff.

On the other hand, I'm not even 100 percent sure what the hell is going on with For Better Or For Worse and part of my job is to know stuff like this. I haven't heard how long Universal Press Syndicate salespeople have been going out on this changeover and what they're saying to editors, but the "New Run" strategy wasn't made public knowledge until recently, well after the syndicate had to have known about it if deadlines provide reasonable parameters by which to measure the timing. So while lying is wrong and Lynn Johnston should be celebrated (and not second-guessed, you bozos) for doing whatever the heck she wants to do, I'm sympathetic to the idea that misinformation out there about FBOFW may exist or persist because the actual information has been so fluid and the last burst of it seems to me was delivered in ham-handed fashion.
 
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Go, Look: Russell Keaton’s Superman

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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* Danish Cartoons Controversy, the TV show.

* here's an article about the Human Rights Commission taking a pass on Ezra Lavant's republication of the Danish cartoons that suggests that the article passing muster isn't the issue; that fact that it's asked to is.

* Danish Muhammed caricaturist Kurt Westergaard adds his voice to the chorus of those disappointed by Random House recently pulling The Jewel of Medina.

* Westergaard is also doing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) about being subpoenaed by Jordanian authorities to appear at trial in that country; he's sort of worried that such a trial might not be fair.
 
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You Asked, They Answered: Tim Lane on Plans For Happy Hour In America

Sammy Harkham: "Is 'Belligerent Piano' going to continue as a comic book? It sounded like that's what [cartoonist Tim Lane] wants to do, but I was unsure if that's what's going to happen."

Tim Lane: "Yeah, hopefully as installments in Happy Hour in America. Of course, affording print costs and everything else is another matter. Diamond pulled out as a distributor for Happy Hour after the second issue because sales were lower than they were for the first issue. I really haven't known what to do about it since then. I have no head for business or salesmanship or any of that. But I hate having it end there -- I just haven't figured out how to solve that riddle yet.

image"Belligerent Piano is the complete opposite of the short stories making up Abandoned Cars, and the next two books of short stories. It's a vehicle for opposite interests -- a very, very long story as opposed to collected shorts. I'm trying to make a decision about how to continue producing Belligerent Piano, and Happy Hour in America, the comic in which Belligerent Piano would continue as installments. Belligerent Piano is going to continue one way or another, in some form. Right now it is taking the form of a serialized strip on my weblog.

I'm producing it that way for two reasons: One is because I really want to do a serialized strip, in the tradition of Dick Tracy, etc...I love that part of the tradition of comics; the other is because I want to keep the story going. The story itself is very long -- I always imagined it to be this huge, textured story that meanders and indulges in digressions and substories...on and on like that. But you have to take one step at a time, one panel at a time. I don't mind publishing it only on my weblog, but I'd love to have some alternative weekly papers want to publish it. I'd love to see it as a traditional strip -- among the clutter of news and ads surrounding it...just in print, in general. My tastes are too old fashioned to be completely satisfied with the internet. Again, like comic books, it's a shame that serialized comic dailies or weeklies are dying out. Not just one-time gag dailies or weeklies, but extended stories. I think Belligerent Piano works well as a strip, partly because it takes place in my surreal, absurd version of late 1940s America -- a time when serialized dailies were prevelant. There's that connection or link. There's also something great about having a deadline.

"The way I imagine it, the Belligerent Piano strips would be collected into stories that'd run in larger installments of Happy Hour, along with other stuff -- pieces from Folktales, for example, or experimental work. I really don't know what to do about Happy Hour. I want to keep it going because there's something personally very satisfying about fitting into that tradition of comics, however minimally.

"But the story of Belligerent Piano has developed over the years. I just need to figure out how to keep it alive, and right now it's kept alive on the weblog. There are also several short stories based on the characters of Belligerent Piano -- I don't know what to do about those."
 
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Watching The Watchmen Watchers 03

imageHere's something I wish I'd thought of: compiling a bunch of reviews of Watchmen from people that have picked up the 20-year-old book since the trailer for its movie version appeared. There's even a special link to a suite of negative reviews of the book, which are fairly fascinating in their own way. I know from my own experience of people swiping books from my bookshelves and taking them home that Watchmen can be a baffling work for some folks, even as good as it is.
 
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Hulk Smash Hulk’s Punchlines

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Go, Look: Notes From ‘Zines

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Go, Look: Gustaf Tenggren Does Grimm

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist and prominent blogger Gerry Alanguilan alerts his readership to an anti-obscenity law being debated in the Philippines that if passed could have dreadful consequences.

image* I totally missed this John K post on composition in the work of Harvey Kurtzman, Howie Post and Milt Gross.

* the artist Humberto Ramos provides a long appreciation of his friend, the late cartoonist Carlos Meglia.

* this analysis of the decline of the traditional comic book format is pretty much all supposition, no analysis, and it doesn't get into how important serial comic book sales are to the big American mainstream companies, which gives them a vested interest in seeing they continue above and beyond their general market prospects. Still, it's worth reading if you're interested in an outlook shared by a lot of comics readers.

* various comics professionals respond to Robert Kirkman's video from earlier this week that painted a vision of the American comic book industry he'd like to see.

* finally, that list of quality 1990s superhero comics has been supplemented with your suggestions, at least where I could through a dim memory of my own or through knowledge of the suggesting party's taste have at least a tiny bit of assurance that the suggested work was arguably good. It's funny, I'm not sure you'd come up with such a wide list of non-superhero works were you to ask about another grouping of comics.
 
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Happy 50th Birthday, Daniel Torres!

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Quick hits
Craft
Finishing A Work
Eddie Campbell Sketch
Eddie Campbell Makes A Cover

Exhibits/Events
Missed It: AAEC Photos
Eddie Campbell on CCI
Eddie Campbell In Chicago
Eddie Campbell In Manchester
In The Shadow Of No Towers Performed

History
Comics Before The '90s
The Pete Best of Superman
When Wacky Packages Ruled
Remembering Traveling Around the World

Industry
July Manga In The DM
On The Kirkman Video
On The Kirkman Video 02
What Makes A Top Ten Book?

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Jason Lutes
PWCW: Charlie Trotman
Newsarama: Garth Ennis
About.com: Hiro Mashima
Newsarama P. Craig Russell
CBR: X-Men: First Class Team
Comic Riffs: Brian K. Vaughan
My Sinchew: Rumiko Takahashi

Not Comics
Miracleman: The Show
CCI Accountant On Amazing Race Show
People Seem To Enjoy This Prose Trailer
Why Bands Are Better Than Comics Creators
People Seem To Like This Piece On Dark Knight

Publishing
On Multiple Titles
Muppets Go Boom!
DC Kids Line Profiled
Apocalipstix Project Discussed
Tucker Stone on Buying Trades
Strange and Stranger Excerpted

Reviews
Jog: MOME Vol. 12
Greg McElhatton: Paris
Dave Cooper = Worth It
Steve Saunders: Various
Don MacPherson: Various
Craig Fischer: Child's Play
Hervé St-Louis: Thor #10
Eric Burns-White: Achewood
Noah Berlatsky's Best of 2007
Librarians Discuss Robot Dreams
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Frank Santoro: How to Draw Stupid
Johanna Draper Carlson: Detached
Matthew Brady: Black Lagoon Vol. 4
Leroy Douresseaux: Fairy Tail Vol. 3
Johanna Draper Carlson: Kasumi Vol. 1
Deb Aoki: Me and the Devil Blues Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Supernatural Law #45
Sean T. Collins: Invincible Iron Man #1-4
Nina Stone: Hellboy: The Crooked Man #2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Honey and Clover Vol. 3
 

 
August 19, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

what's coming out, who's doing it and what it's going to look like; gathered into one place once a week for ease of consumption

* the cartoonist Elijah Brubaker has released the cover image for the fifth issue of his Reich ongoing.

image* the Hero Initiative charitable group will publish a collection of Stan Lee's "Stan's Soapbox" editorials in November. I'm betting half of you just thought, "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard" and half of you just thought, "Oh yeah, I'm totally getting that."

* starting with the fifth volume, publisher IDW is revamping its approach to their Dick Tracy reprint series to better accommodate the Sunday reprints. Considering how gorgeous those Sundays are, anything that shows them off more effectively is great news.

* I totally missed this, but Jason doing a werewolf story at some point would be pretty great.

* the cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks does the full preview thing for December's The War At Ellsmere, coming from SLG.

* finally, Derek Kirk Kim is working on the follow-up to his forthcoming collaboration with Gene Yang, The Eternal Smile, to be published by First Second in 2009 (art sample below). The one he's working on now is a solo effort, also coming from First Second. I had barely heard of the collaboration, and hadn't heard at all about the solo work, so: fantastic.

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Summons And Venue At Issue In Sine Case Going Before LICRA Next Month

The French comics news clearinghouse ActuaBD.com has an update on the status of the case against the cartoonist Maurice "Sine" Sinet, fired from Charlie Hebdo after a comment about the son of French President Nicholas Sarkozy was charged with anti-Semitism. This is some of interest not just because of the profession of the person making the comment and the job from which he was fired, but because Charlie Hebdo won a significant case brought against it by Muslim groups that objected to their coverage of the Danish Cartoons Controversy and is generally a beneficiary of free expression. Obviously, these developments could be interpreted as working against that general spirit.

A couple of the more interesting pieces of analysis mentioned in that article, if I'm getting it correctly, notes that Sine's September hearing before a committee designed to hear cases like this (LICRE) will take place in Lyons, not France and that a reading of the summons shows more at issue than the Sarkozy commentary. What I think is a much less interesting line of reasoning seems to be suggesting that the committee's decision will justify or fail to justify the reasons given for the firing by Sine's employer.
 
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July 2008 DM Sales Estimates

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The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com offers their usual array of lists, estimates and analysis regarding the performance of comic books and graphic novels in the Direct Market of comic and hobby shops, this time for July 2008.

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

We'll link to an update from John Jackson Miller's Comics Chronicles right below here when available:

* Comic Book Sales Estimates
* Comics Shop Sales Market Share

The big news would have to be the performance of the Watchmen trade following the release of a trailer for its movie version that preceded the popular Dark Knight. The co-big news would be a decline in comic dollars spent extending to a half year now, making it a significant trend and not one that I think can be explained away via historical circumstance.

Among other stories worth noting is that the #2 and #3 issues on the serial comic book top 10 are from the X-Men franchise. Now, there's every reason to note that the issues in question are special issues that likely drove those books' sales pop, but right now the health of comics franchises in the Direct Market lies in their ability to drive top-of-chart numbers when it's possible for them to do so. Given Marvel's success reviving the non-mutant part of their publishing line-up, an increasingly heated performance from the X-Men books could sustain their relative juggernaut status for a while. No surprise that the Joker-driven Killing Joke edition led the various Batman franchise books getting a movie bump; little surprise that Trinity has yet to find its bottom.

*****
*****
 
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Go, Read: Publishers Continue To Mull Over, Dabble In On-Line Options

Okay, I know that's a loaded headline, but I've never quite understood why a practical but all-in approach hasn't dominated comics publishers' strategies regarding the Internet rather than the excruciatingly slow toe in the pool approach we have now. This is a survey of where things stand at present. You likely won't be impressed.
 
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Dick Hyacinth Asks: What Were The Good Superhero Comics Of The 1990s?

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Here. While I'm not so interested in hashing out various opinions regarding the works, the fact I couldn't easily find a list of half-way decent or well-regarded superhero comics from the decade of Image and Marvels struck me as kind of odd, so I thought I'd make one of my own here for future reference.

Please note that I said "half-way decent or well-regarded," and didn't say "books I'd endorse as the best books ever and defend against all comers." In fact, some of these I personally don't like at all, and maybe one (not the one you think) would make a personal top 100 comics of the decade list. But I'm sure there were a lot of pretty good superhero comics that decade. Weren't there? Here's what I could come up with:


* 1963, Alan Moore and Various
* Ambush Bug Nothing Special, Robert Loren Fleming and Keith Giffen
* Animal Man, Peter Milligan
* Astro City, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
* Aztek the Ultimate Man, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris
* Avengers, Kurt Busiek and George Perez
* Batman: Blades, James Robinson and Tim Sale
* Batman: Faces, Matt Wagner
* Batman: Gothic, Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson
* Batman/Grendel, Matt Wagner
* Batman: Mad Love, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
* Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
* Black Panther, Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira
* Cable, Joe Casey and Jose Ladronn
* Captain America, Mark Wait and Ron Garney (their first run)
* Chase, D. Curtis Johnson and JH Williams
* Daredevil, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord
* Daredevil, Karl Kesel/Joe Kelly and Gene Colan
* Daredevil: Man Without Fear, Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
* Deadpool, Joe Kelly and Various
* Dr. Strange: What Is It That Disturbs You Stephen? Marc Andreyko and P. Craig Russell
* final run of comics in Animal Man and Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison and Various
* final run of comics in Legion of Super-Heroes by Keith Giffen and Tom Bierbaum and Mary Bierbaum
* final run of comics in Suicide Squad, John Ostrander
* final run of comics in Zot!, Scott McCloud
* Elektra Lives Again, Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
* Enigma, Duncan Fegredo and Peter Milligan
* Excalibur, Alan Davis' run
* Firearm, James Robinson and Various
* Flaming Carrot, Bob Burden
* Flash, Mark Waid and Mike Weiringo
* Flex Mentallo, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
* Foolkiller, Steve Gerber
* Grendel Tales, Various
* Hitman, Garth Ennis and John McCrea
* Incredible Hulk, Peter David and Variouis Including Dale Keown and Gary Frank
* Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect, Peter David and George Perez
* Incredible Hulk Vs. Superman, Roger Stern and Steve Rude
* JLA, Grant Morrison and Howard Porter
* John Byrne's Next Men, John Byrne
* Judge Dredd, John Wagner
* Kingdom Come, Mark Waid and Alex Ross
* Madman by Mike Allred
* Marvels, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
* MAXX, Sam Kieth
* Miracleman, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham
* New Warriors #1-25, Fabian Niceza and Mark Bagley
* Nexus: Alien Justice, Mike Baron and Steve Rude
* Nexus: Executioner's Song, Mike Baron and Steve Rude
* Nexus: Nightmare in Blue, Mike Baron and Steve Rude
* Nexus: The Origin, Mike Baron and Steve Rude
* Nexus: The Wages of Sin, Mike Baron and Steve Rude
* Power & Glory, Howard Chaykin
* Quantum and Woody, Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright
* Sandman Mystery Theatre, Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle and Guy Davis
* Savage Dragon, Erik Larsen
* Spectacular Spider-Man, JM Dematteis and Sal Buscema
* Starman, James Robinson and Tony Harris
* Stormwatch (final issues)/The Authority, Warren Ellis and Various Including Bryan Hitch
* Superman Adventures Scott McCloud/Mark Millar Issues
* Superman For All Seasons, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
* Supreme, Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse
* "The American Evolution," Legends of the DC Universe #14, Mark Evanier and Steve Rude
* The Batman Adventures, Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck
* The Demon Garth Ennis and John McCrea
* The Golden Age, James Robinson and Paul Smith
* The Invisbles, Grant Morrison and Various
* The Jam, Bernie Mireault
* Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Kurt Buisek and Pat Oliffe
* Vigilante: City Lights, Prarie Justice, James Robinson and Tony Salmons
* WildCATS Vol. 2, Various
* World's Finest, Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude
* Youngblood, Alan Moore and Steve Skroce

Others written in that I've either 1) never seen or heard of, 2) seen but thought they were so terrible I can't even begin to see someone else's view that they're good, or 3) haven't seen or barely seen and just don't know the person recommending them to me so I can't speak for their taste, include: Impulse, Nightwing, Robin, Young Justice, Chronos, DC One Million, Tangent Comics, Batman: No Man's Land, Hourman, Resurrection Man, JLA: The Nail, Spider-Man 2099, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Justice League Europe, Avengers #314-318, Thunderbolts, New Warriors, JLA Year One, Supergirl, Aquaman, Static, Catalysts: Agents of Change, Barb Wire, Swamp Thing (Morrison and Millar), Ghost, Prime, Violator, Will to Power, Thor (DeFalco and Frenz), Thunderstrike, Maximum Carnage, The Clone Saga.

The most depressing letters were those that 1) thought I was speaking about all comics not just superheroes, 2) subsequently upbraided me for Hellboy and Sandman not being on the list rather than noting the absence of ACME Novelty Library and Palestine.

There's a good thread here with contributions from Abhay Khosla.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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Go, Read: Bear Creek Apartments

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Go, Look: Maruo Jigoku

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OTBP: The Art of Alex Nino

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Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it's refreshing to hear about a cartoonist resigning instead of being fired, and the reason being a change in owners as opposed to a massive drop in circulation and ad revenues. One has to go to Nepal for such an article, but still.

* not comics: I suppose this is a big story based on the fact that it hints at possibly denying people some future movie-watching pleasures and it may unleash a blogosphere's worth of self-appointed legal experts and alarmed headline writers. It's not something about which I can generate a lot of passion until it has an impact on graphic novel sales, which is a long way and two or three maneuvers that may never happen off.

image* the essential dickishness of Sub-Mariner survives across the years and two very different cartooning styles in this James Kochalka re-drawn page from a Jack Kirby Fantastic Four comic book.

* I'm not saying he should do this, but I'd certainly read a Chris Butcher blog where he interpreted various comics industry debates according to an appropriate strip from Achewood.

* not comics: it's also hard for me to get worked up about prospective movie deals as news, but I'd certainly go see a decent movie based on the Brubaker/Phillips comic book Sleeper. There might be something to the fact that the article mentions the rights situation as complicated; that could mean a lot of things, though.

* I greatly enjoyed this broad survey article about the value of editorial cartoonists to the history of the newspaper in Australia. Even the opening lines are funny.

* there's a really long and for-mainstream-audience-as-well interview with Jeff Smith up at the PBS NewsHour site.

* finally, Franklin Harris provides Reason with a short history of EC Comics; I'm not skilled enough with the history of this period to be able to double-check it as history just by looking at it, though. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Stefano Gaudiano!

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Happy 64th Birthday, Skip Williamson!

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Quick hits
Craft
Jesse Hamm Sketches
Karl Kesel Draws Medusa

Exhibits/Events
EIBF 2008 Report
Indian Cartoons Exhibit

History
On Linus
This Made Me Laugh
Elephants On Parade
Seven More Weapons
Kid Enjoys Pep Comics #28
The Answer Is Element Lad's 'Fro

Industry
Gainesville Sun Adds Cartoons
PR Black Hole Created, Brain Sucked Into It
Johanna Draper Carlson on Retailer Economics

Interviews/Profiles
Propaganda: Paul Pope
Daily News: Abby Denson
Newsarama: Karen Berger
Comic News: Joe Chiappetta
OregonLive.com: Matthew Bernier
Metromix: Owen King, John McNally
Mediabistro.com: Marc Tyler Nobleman
Citizen-Times: Bryan Lee O'Malley, Hope Larson

Not Comics
No
God Bless Joe Ferrara
Pre-Movie Rape Scene Hype
We Need More Bigfoot Hoaxes
Bookstore Sales Down In June
Well, The Headline Made Me Giggle
Hopefully, He'll Lift Even More Things
Spawn Endorsed Abstract Notion of Vengeance

Publishing
Oh Great
Opinions Sought
Sexy TinTin Fails To Fly
Incredibly Weird Article
More on FBoFW Decision
New Trudeau Book Profiled
Drug Comic Hits PR Bonanza
That Lynn Johnston Video on FBoFW

Reviews
Paul O'Brien: Various
Greg Burgas: Various
Richard Bruton: Laika
Jog: The Punisher #60
June: Steal Moon Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: Air #1
Ed Sizemore: Yen+ #1-2
Jared Gardner: Wasteland
Jared Gardner: The Sword
Rob Clough: Grotesque #2
Jonah Winter: Jackie Ormes
Andrew Wheeler: Flight Vol. 5
Shannon Smith: Rashy Rabbit
Sean T. Collins: Three Shadows
Henry Chamberlain: Exit Wounds
Hervé St-Louis: Fantastic Four #558
Xaviar Xerexes: How To Draw Stupid
Bill Sherman: Too Cool To Be Forgotten
Paul O'Brien: X-Men Origins: Jean Grey
Chris Mautner: Glamourpuss, Judenhass
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: Secret Invasion #1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Beauty Pop Vol. 8
Leroy Douresseaux: Warcraft: Legends Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: High School Debut Vol. 3
I Wouldn't Share Most of These With Anyone, Actually
Geof Boucher: The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics
 

 
August 18, 2008


Watching the Watchmen Watchers 02

imageIt may just be me, but I'm dubious of a line of reasoning that seems to be developing around Alan Moore and his disinterest in the forthcoming movie adaptation of the Watchmen series he wrote and co-created with artist Dave Gibbons. It feels to me that what I'm reading about Moore's lack of interest tends to brush past the writer's well-documented tussles with the Time Warner-owned DC Comics publishing arm if favor of an interpretation that Moore's something of a grumpy gus that didn't like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie and thought 300 was kind of stupid.

I'm a grumpy gus that didn't like LOEG and thought 300 was kind of stupid.

Alan Moore, on the other hand, is a renowned comics author that has objected to his treatment at DC Comics, the company whose corporate logo will precede this film. Some of those incidents of dissatisfaction specifically touch on Watchmen. Evidence suggests Moore would not have worked with the company in recent memory were it not for finding himself in a very specific quandary about where his then-publisher ended up and at what time in those projects' development they ended up there -- in spirit, at least, this is a close to two decades break with the publisher. According to public statements, Moore has made the decision to publish future work through Top Shelf, not DC, based in great part on his appraisal of how each entity has treated him.

You can debate the reasonableness of Moore's objections and the wisdom of his resulting choices. You can talk of his specific unwillingness to grant that the Watchmen movie could be of any interest at all in terms of his limited but negative past experiences with film based on his work. You can even mention his take on 300, a criticism he made.

But I think you're only telling part of the story. The easy part.
 
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Carlos Meglia, 1957-2008

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The talented Argentinian illustrator Carlos Meglia passed away early Friday from aortic complications that put him in the hospital on the 12th and were perhaps related to ongoing heart problems including a previous surgery. He was 50 years old.

Meglia was born in 1957 in Quilmes, about 10 miles outside of Buenos Aires. He entered into the school of Fine Arts because of a proclivity for drawing. He began work at an early age as well, assisting the artist Oswal beginning in 1974. In 1976 his own byline was established on illustrations for the magazine El Pendulo and some book cover work. He pursued book illustration work in the remainder of that decade, expanding to magazine illustration in the '80s from a variety of platforms. According to an interview he gave in 1994, he also taught at the school where he himself was trained.

His comics work began in 1983 when he contributed a few short stories to an already existing client, the publisher Record. He moved into animation in the middle part of that decade, working on properties such as The Smurfs, Super-Friends, The Jetsons and Scooby Doo.

imageIn 1987 he teamed with Carlos Trillo on the series Irish Coffee. The pair launched the wild fantasy series Cybersix four years later; that series may have been Meglia's best-known and most highly-regarded work. In that 1994 interview he described his relationship with Trillo as a special one. The interview also suggests that Meglia may have been producing somewhere between 100 and 250 pages per month with a team of eight on Cybersix, which would be astonishing. By the mid-'90s, that work found purchase in the European market.

Also in the 1990s, Meglia moved to Spain and began to work for the North American comics market, primarily for Dark Horse and DC. He worked on the Star Wars, Elektra, Spyboy and Superman franchises, and worked on the DC/Dark Horse crossover Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle. He received an award described as the Caran D'Ache in 1995 in Rome. He was an influence on several illustrators working in a comics style reminiscent of animation, including Humberto Ramos, who remembers his friend in this blog posting.

In recent years his work had been published through Soleil, including the series Canari with collaborator Crisse. His last published work was a first issue of Red Song with Trillo. Upon his passing, friends and collaborators mentioned his lively personality and sense of humor, the palpable life force they were astonished to discover had been extinguished. Testimonials have flooded the the blog kept in his name. It is believed he is survived by a wife and at least one child, a son.

please note: a few sources, including Ramos, have Meglia passing away on August 14 rather than August 15

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Missed It: Magazine Express Offering Comics Subs Through Amazon.com

I had three e-mails this morning asking after the fact that Amazon.com vendor Magazine Express, Inc. is apparently offering comics subscriptions through Amazon.com. This mean that someone out there almost certainly posted something about it, and I apologize to that person. On the flip side, I have no idea if this service has been available five days or five years.

imageIt looks like this is just a discount service that hooks you up with a traditional from-the-company mail-order subscription, the kind they used to offer through those ads that had the Hulk dressed up as Santa or whatever and that came in that brown paper sleeve that everyone of a certain age has registered as a sense memory. As I don't think the Marvel buttons even work, and The Comics Journal and Comics Revue are near the top of the bestseller list, I can't imagine this program is moving a ton of copies, just as from-the-company subs aren't really a super-popular option in most cases for most fans, particularly fans with options elsewhere.

I guess it bears watching. The ability to cancel your subscription and get money back through Amazon.com's mechanisms (I think that's how it would work) seems pretty appealing. Subscriptions and fealty to certain titles is a good way for kids to enjoy comics, so it could have an effect on that segment of the market. If it works, I suppose more could be done in terms of someone trying to replicate a comic shop experience through Amazon.com, although the non-returnability of items pretty much keeps that from happening unless some major deal were reached.
 
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Our Condolences to the Greenbergers

Longtime comics industry veteran and author Bob Greenberger and the Greenberger family lost son Robbie, 20 years old, to cancer, it was announced late last week. Many comics fans and comics industry members had become aware of Robbie Greenberger's situation through on-line updates and through comics/science fiction convention circles. Greenberger spoke of how proud he was of what his son had endured to date in a June interview on this site. The Greenbergers and Robbie's extensive mosaic of friends and acquaintances have our deepest sympathy. A burial is planned for early this afternoon.

Donations can be made to the charities indicated here.
 
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Rene “RB” Clemente, RIP

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Rene Clemente was apparently a veteran Filipino comics artist with a productive career perhaps focused on romance comics or that industry's equivalent, partnering with the writers Georgina De Guzman and Elena M. Patron, among others. He worked as RB Clemente. No date of birth was given. The exact date of Mr. Clemente's death wasn't provided either, although it looks like the postings about it occurred late last week. Click through the image above to go Gerry Alanguilan's write-up on the artist's passing and a better look at his art.
 
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Go, Read: Kurt Westergaard Interview

"I feel like a cartoonist who has only done his job."
 
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Go, Look: William Steig Ad Work

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thanks, Paul Di Filippo
 
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Go, Look: Loveless!

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Go, Read: RK Laxman Profiled

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Go, Look: T. Edward Bak In Alaska

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Go, Bookmark: Chris Wright at Partyka

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's the awe-inspiring shot of the line for the weekend just past's Comiket you've been looking for. Holy Guacamole. There's a nice bloggish report in English accompanying that photo and many others like it: Day One, Day Two, Day Three.

* one 20-year-old man was arrested for threatening to throw a grenade at the massive comics show.

image* there is a long post and longer comments thread here about the $125 price tag borne by the forthcoming Kramers Ergot Vol. 7. Participants include me and -- much more importantly -- KE publisher Alvin Buenaventura. It may be of some interest to a few of you. I'll warn you that a couple of friends that went there when I sent them the link in an e-mail wrote back to call me names. I don't think the issue is of such a compelling, intricate nature that it necessarily flatters 100-post comments threads, and in fact the lengthy nature of the response thread may distort more than it enlightens. I remain fairly baffled by the reactions, period, and I particularly don't get the basis of responses beyond the gut consumer impulse yay or nay. It sure gets a thorough workout, though, and I know that for some folks a long, semi-dysfunctional industry issues thread is frosting straight from the can.

* the retailer Brian Hibbs continues his series on changes at his store brought about by the use of a POS system and what it's told him about what sells.

* the writer Matt Maxwell points out that the X-Men moving in storyline to San Francisco in part to draw out its persecuted minority metaphor isn't exactly a groundbreaking move considering the title's always been about its persecuted minority metaphor. Sean Collins argues that a storyline elimination a few years back of all mutants not the elite fighting mutants that might end up on cartoons and the baddies who occasionally throw down with them kind of dilutes the metaphor no matter where they live.

* Mark Evanier writes about John DiBello's multi-venue post on sexual harassment at the San Diego Con. He also urges folks to stop complaining -- the more general complaints, not the serious ones like DiBello's -- and find the con they want to attend in the middle of the con that makes them grumpy.

* speaking of cons in a way that embraces a not-comics posting, the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com looks at the just-concluded gaming show Gen Con for clues that weaknesses in the economy or changes resulting from a Chapter 11 filing might have a drastic effect on the show. The first of those two factors is something in which comics-related shows might evince a particular interest.

* finally, some dog days of summer not comics action: many people are enjoying this pleasant, not really essential, deleted scene from the pleasant, not really essential Iron Man movie that will end this summer as the #2 movie even though it seems like it opened three years ago. Seriously, dude: Iron Man will beat Indiana Jones, at least here in the US. Comics nerds everywhere are starting to feel bad for not wishing for world peace back in 1982. Or you can make yourself a t-shirt.
 
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Happy 34th Birthday, Kevin Church!

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Happy 31st Birthday, Jenni Rope!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Brian Bendis!

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Quick hits
Craft
On Bill Sienkiewicz in Big Numbers

Exhibits/Events
1970s Panel From CCI
Go See Art Spiegelman
Go See John Rose Show
Comics Show in Terre Haute

History
On 1990s Marvel
So Is The Beast Gay Or What?

Industry
Comic Book Art Prices Soar
Mile High Moves Into New Home
Teaching Shortcomings at Purdue
Profile of Les Humanoides Associes

Interviews/Profiles
Post Chronicle: Gerard Way

Not Comics
Please God No
Article on Scott Adams' Malady
Buying Funnybooks at the State Fair

Publishing
Another Summary of FBoFW Plans

Reviews
Richard Krauss: Sorry
Douglas Wolk: Strange and Stranger
Holly Ellingwood: Vampire Knight Vol. 5
Leroy Douresseaxu: Captain Britain and MI13 #1
Pauline Wong: The Palette of 12 Secret Colors Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: Hiroki Kusomoto's Wild Butterfly
Nicholas Lezard: The Mammoth Book of Crime Comics
Dennis Lythgoe: Garry Trudeau: Doonesbury and the Aesthetics of Satire
 

 
August 17, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: Tim Lane

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*****

Abandoned Cars came out of nowhere for me. I has seen Tim Lane's work here and there, things like the attractive cover he did for the latest Hotwire anthology. Nothing about those projects had prepared me to process what was between the covers of this new, handsome hardcover volume. Lane's work reminds me a lot of the post-underground generation that kind of fell to the wayside in the mid-1990s in favor of the humorists, fantasists and more strictly literary-minded and formalist crowd. If this were 1993, we'd be getting Lane's comics in a $2.95 black and white comic book four times a year and Denny Eichhorn would be banging down his door for a chance to work with him in Real Stuff. Lane's best comics are chilling, deeply melancholy character studies told with straight-forward prose and considerable visual panache. His web site shows that he's a talented illustrator and restlessly creative cartoonist. I hope Abandoned Cars isn't the last volume we see from Lane; indeed, he has two more volumes planned in the same vein. I enjoyed my brief contact with him in the course of preparing this interview, and thank him for his time.

*****

TOM SPURGEON: When I was researching for this interview I looked at your web site and unless I'm mistaken, most of what you've put up you've put up in the last several weeks. What caused you to go on-line in such a big way so recently?

TIM LANE: I think what you're referring to is the weblog, jackienoname.wordpress.com.

SPURGEON: I am. Sorry. Is there another web presence somewhere?

LANE: My website, jackienoname.com, has been up for a long time -- so long, in fact, that it hasn't been updated for a couple of years. My website guy moved to Thailand, and since I don't know anything about website construction, the jackienoname.com site came to a halt after that. I recently put up the weblog in order to display some of my "non-commercial art" related work, such as Abandoned Cars. The jackienoname.com site is pretty much dedicated to illustration work I've done for clients.

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SPURGEON: Your book reminds me a lot of a certain kind of post-underground comic that you really don't see right now. Can you talk about your comics and illustration influences, who you find interesting and who might directly inform you work as it exists today?

LANE: I think the biggest, earliest, and most sustaining influence on my work, in terms of comics, is Will Eisner -- specifically The Spirit. When I was growing up, during the mid to late 1980s, Kitchen Sink Press was reprinting all of those great Spirit comics from the 1940s, and I couldn't get enough of them. I'm a fan of his graphic novels, too, but, for me, it was The Spirit that really resonated, got me interested in comics. I still refer to them, especially the ones created during the late 1940s, where the dynamic contrasts of black & white in his ink work, the shifting perspectives, make it very evident that Eisner was influenced by film noir. Eisner's collected Spirit material offers some of the greatest examples of everything from story pacing, page design and panel arrangement, etc, that I can think of -- everything about that period of his work seems innovative. And very fun. His splash pages from that era are incredible, too -- they just suck you right into the story.

Also reprinted in the '80s were the old pre-comics code EC Suspenstories. That material really had an impact on me, too. The work of Johnny Craig was, and still is, a big influence on me. But also Al Feldstein, Jack Cole, Jack Kamen, Wally Wood. Those Crime/Shock Suspenstories have the same kind of charm and appeal that old radio dramas from the '40s and '50s have -- radio dramas like Suspense, Inner Sanctum, Escape. And I think some of those pre-comics code tales are gruesome, even by today's standards.

imageI really love those old Dick Tracy newspaper dailies. I love the surreal meandering nature those stories can sometimes have about them. The oddness of the stories. In certain cases, you get the sense that Chester Gould wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen in the next episode, and I really love that about them. I might be wrong about that -- perhaps he had the structure of each story nailed down long before he put pencil to the page. But there's a real lively fluidity to those stories, filled with the absurd. Those characters: The Brow, Pruneface, Shakey... every time I look at Shakey, for instance, I'm amazed by the simplicity and originality of Gould's artistic choices, the way he chose to depict a human face.

The underground comics of the '60s have had less of an impact on me, although I really appreciate the work of Robert Crumb and Spain Rodriguez. I've had a harder time tracking down compilations of Spain's work, and that's been very frustrating -- if you know of any, please let me know. I'd love to get my hands on them.

I've learned a great deal about overall page design and unique panel arrangements by looking at the comics of Glenn Head, especially his recent work. You can look at some of those pages for hours; they're really dazzling and absurd, but beneath the apparent craziness are some incredibly disciplined choices.

Recently I've gotten to be a big fan of Kim Deitch. I love his writing style, especially Alias, the Cat. I love how he plays the reader -- balances between believability and hogwash. He tells a yarn in what I think of as the old fashion Irish way. My Irish grandmother used to tell stories like that, a talent passed down to my father. The kind of story that leaves you wondering if the story is true or not, then reveals itself in the end. That's skill, and it takes real talent to keep your audience guessing -- "paddling in the water," so to speak. Deitch does that, and he's extremely good at it -- I'm thinking particularly of chapter two of Alias. I love the multi-layered aspect of his stories, too: their depth and texture. Like with the first chapter of Alias: a guy is telling a story about guy telling a story about a guy who told a story.

Charles Burns has been very influential, even pivotal. I'm constantly impressed with the precision of his imagery, his line work. It almost doesn't look like it was drawn by a human being, but a machine instead. It's incredible. That style works for him so well, but for myself, I'm glad I couldn't do that; I like there to be evidence of the human hand, the person who rendered the drawing. It's important -- even integral -- to the kind of stories I'm interested in writing.

Other comic artists I like are Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Joe Sacco, Seth, Joe Matt, Chris Ware. I've learned a lot from all those guys. I continue to learn a lot from all those guys!

David Mazzuchelli has also been a big influence. Again, growing up, I loved the Batman series he did with Frank Miller -- Batman, Year One. Later, he illustrated the graphic adaptation Paul Auster's City of Glass, and that had an impact on me, too, but of a different kind.

Geof Darrow left a big impression on me, too... but I think I'm getting a little too long-winded here.

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SPURGEON: To shift gears a bit, am I to understand that you went through a period of wandering around and living in different places in America, maybe even having some of the experiences that later worked their way into this collection? What caused you to set out to these different places? What put you finally in St Louis?

LANE: Yes. Before I moved to St Louis a couple of years ago, I moved around a lot. Throughout my twenties, especially. And I traveled by land as much as possible -- buses, trains, cars. The landscape is an important element to the character of every part of the world, I suppose, but I think it's especially true in America. It's been important for me to see the way the landscape changes as you move from one part of the country to another. On a plane, you don't get that -- the dramatic changes in the land, the distances between places. Also, you meet people on trains and buses. You're with them for a long time. People start talking. Particularly on trains.

My experience has been that people who take Amtrak are mostly travelers who want to see the country, want to talk to people -- that's why they're doing it. Or maybe I just keep running into the people who are like that. I once spent a couple of days traveling from Oakland to Minneapolis with a guy who'd written a country song that sold to a well-known musician. He was living on the money he made, traveling around the country. I never saw him again, but for a couple days, we were traveling friends. Those are the kind of people you meet, and you learn a lot from them. Most of the characters in Abandoned Cars are directly related to people I've known -- some combination between real and imagined people. The accuracy to their depictions varies somewhat. I've always been a collector of conversations. Living in different places is helpful in collecting a huge arsenal of potential material. But it isolates you, too. You're always on the outside looking in.

One of the main reasons I moved to St Louis was to work on comics more seriously. Before that, I was living in New York City, and was constantly working freelance illustration jobs just in order to keep my head above water. I really loved all that -- the illustration business -- but illustration has always been for me a means to an end. I knew if I wanted to get anything else done, I'd have to go somewhere else. I had lived briefly in St Louis once before, and knew of this neighborhood called Soulard. It seemed the perfect place for me to live while I worked on comics -- at only a quarter the price I was paying in rent at my last apartment in New York, which was in Crown Heights, Brooklyn -- not so great a neighborhood, at the time.

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SPURGEON: I hear different things about St Louis as a city for artists. There are certainly some talented younger cartoonists that live there, and I hear that it's one of those towns that offers some of the amenities of a city without some of the over-gentrified high rents and insular scenes that other cities may have. What is it like for you to live there as an artist?

LANE: St Louis is a great old American city. You still have in St Louis great, gritty vestiges of the American past. It's also a city deeply rooted in American mythology. Stagger Lee shot Billy Lyons here. Frankie shot Johnny here. And you can see Chuck Berry perform nearly every month at a bar/restaurant called Blueberry Hill. To me, that's an incredible thing to experience hearing live, at a small venue, that unique guitar sound, which is practically as familiar as your own mother's voice. If you're into the blues, rhythm & blues, soul, etc, St Louis is a great city to live in. There's a stretch on Broadway -- downtown St Louis -- where, at night, out on the street, you can hear the best lives blues or rhythm & blues coming from three different bars simultaneously, while freight trains roll toward the Mississippi on the railroad bridges overhead. Not everybody would think of that as attractive, but I do. The only bad thing about St Louis is the summer's stifling heat and humidity. I grew up in Minnesota; the heat is brutal if you're from the north.

SPURGEON: You mention that you went through a period where you were very serious about your art and then that you wanted to get back into comics as a reaction to what was perhaps a specific kind of young man's feelings toward making art. Is that fair? What finally set you on the path to doing comics?

LANE: I think everyone with a creative inclination goes through a period, usually just after college, of discerning -- or having to discern -- the nature and uniqueness of their creative voice. It's one thing to exercise that inclination in the relatively safe environment of a college campus, but very much another thing when you're out their on your own, facing the pressures of daily life. And it's at this point when your idealism has to stand up to practical realities, as well. Paul Auster writes well of this in his book Hand to Mouth. He writes about how -- and I'm paraphrasing -- between his late twenties and early thirties, everything he touched turned to ruin. I love the way he phrases that. He goes on to talk about the anxieties of trying to reconcile wanting to communicate as an artist against the enormous pressures of practical living. For myself, that process involved coming back to comics -- or coming back to the things that first inspired me to communicate creatively. The important intuitive things that existed before pretensions had the chance to develop.

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SPURGEON: Your work will no doubt remind people of a lot of mid-century authors: John Fante perhaps, and maybe some pulp writers -- your back cover text mentions Jim Thompson. Are there writers that you feel are an influence on your work? Are there specific difficulties in working a prose influence into comics?

LANE: The pulp writers comparison in the PR material for Abandoned Cars wasn't made by me. I've read Jim Thompson, but haven't read David Goodis. I've only read one book by John Fante, and I don't remember much of it. A long time ago, I went through a phase of reading that kind of fiction: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, James M. Cain. I think it's great, but I wouldn't say it's had a huge influence on me, in terms of writing style. That comparison surprises me; I don't really see it. Writers, though, have made more of an impression on my life than anything else. I mention that -- perhaps too much -- in the first part of "Spirit." Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Wolfe, Henry Miller... those guys really helped shaped my life in every way -- and it was largely because of them that I began traveling and, of course, writing.

Jack Kerouac stands out as the biggest influence when I was in and just out of college. His writing doesn't affect me like it once did. He's definitely a very young man's writer. But whatever one thinks of his writing, in terms of technique and style, he created a world so vivid you can touch it. I could go on forever about that stuff -- with all of the writers I mentioned. I won't bore you with it too much more. But the older I get, the more surprising it is to me that a guy like Kerouac ever even existed. He really represents to me the ideal of an artist -- his dedication to his craft, his ability to so clearly describe his vision, his experimentation, on and on.

In terms of the writers most influential to the writing in Abandoned Cars, I'd include Raymond Carver, the short stories of Denis Johnson, Hemingway, Nelson Algren. I'm really into learning how to craft beautiful, tight graphic short stories. Adrian Tomine is excellent at the graphic short story, in my opinion. I really admire his work. I've got a lot to learn, but am very excited about that process.

Which leads to your question about the difficulties in working a prose influence into comics. All of the stories in Abandoned Cars began as literary short stories -- written out in prose form. I always planned on them being comics, but it was more natural for me to write them out in prose form first. It's taken a lot of pages to realize that that doesn't always work. Most of these stories were also very loosely constructed -- in some cases, I wasn't sure how they would end, but I'd be working on inking the first pages already anyway. The balance of text and image needs to be equal, overall, in comics. The work in Abandoned Cars doesn't always express that. Those are some of the things I'm trying to learn how to do better.

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SPURGEON: A few of your more effective works in Abandoned Cars are essentially character studies as much as they are narratives that detail an incident. What draws you to using comics in that way, what do you hope to achieve in taking that kind of a snapshot of someone, as in "To Be Happy" or "The Drive Home"?

LANE: That question relates to another influence on Abandoned Cars: an album by Bruce Springsteen called Nebraska. It's a very stripped-down acoustic album -- he apparently recorded it on an 8-track in his living room -- filled with, in essence, short stories that, when strung together, make up a bigger story -- or suggest a theme about American life. Each one of the songs speaks in the language of the characters. Springsteen is a great storyteller, and he paints with a broad brush.

In the two stories you mentioned -- those stories about John -- as in many of the stories, I wanted to capture the language of the character and let them tell their own stories. With John, I wanted him to seem like he really didn't know what went wrong, why his marriage ended, but in his narration he inadvertently tells us what went wrong. We know why things didn't work out (or at least we have a pretty good idea), even though he -- at this point in his life -- doesn't. That's one of the things about just talking to people that's interesting: How much they reveal about themselves without intending to. Another thing about a character snapshot is that it allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. In a sense, I, as the writer, am not there. It's just John talking. But he's describing in his casual way incidents in his life that were critical.

SPURGEON: Some of your most compelling pages bring the reader's eye back away from the character to capture an element of their surroundings; is that just a matter of varying the visual in order to keep a page interesting, or are there thematic concern in how you frame an individual panel.

LANE: It's both. In the more recently done stories, my intention was to create a sense of hugeness to the landscape -- or, to a greater extent, the "Great American Mythological Drama," which is the theme binding all of these stories together -- by juxtaposing these smaller, more individual, ordinary narratives against the bigger things surrounding them. My hope is that it gives the sense that these characters are lost in a kind of enormous landscape – both a figurative and literal landscape... that the angles create a sense of tension and anxiety, like in film noir movies.

I've read that early American pioneers spoke of the "sublime" when they spoke of the American wilderness. By that, they meant they were struck by its awesome beauty, but they were terrified, as well. Try to imagine how frightening the Alleghenies must've been, if you had no frame of reference. What lay beyond was a complete mystery. I'd be terrified, too. I think that awesomeness still exists today, only in different ways. In an American story, I believe Nature is a character.

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SPURGEON: You wrote a fascinating essay about your Stagger Lee strip in which you talk about other cartoonists' attempts to work with that legend and suggest that you're all part of the rich tapestry of interpretation and meaning that surrounds that particularly folk story. One thing I found interesting was that you talked that at first you were going to work with the legend in terms of an old-time newspaper format, but the resulting work didn't have very much of that flavor at all. How in this case did subject matter dictate what you did with the material?

LANE: I guess I meant the old newspaper daily concept in very general terms. You're right, though: Now that you mention it, those Stagger Lee episodes don't look much like old Dick Tracy strips, in terms of format. But the Stagger Lee story ran as a serial at first: It has that in common with the newspaper dailies, if nothing else. The weekly You Are Here column had to work within a pre-established format -- you have to take what you can get, right? Old newspaper dailies were the idea behind the conceptual approach to the Stagger Lee story. Maybe that's where the similarity ends.

SPURGEON: Did you design the book? That has to be one of the more handsome debut works I've seen.

LANE: Thank you! I really appreciate that. Or are you making fun of me?

SPURGEON: No! [laughs].

LANE: Yes, I designed Abandoned Cars -- Fantagraphics was great about letting me do what I wanted. They were great about everything. I had very specific ideas about how the book should look, and how it should be paced -- they really seemed to appreciate that. The main "fictional" portion of the book is sandwiched by the young and old portraits of Marlon Brando. They are the book ends. I just wish I could draw portraits better; I don't know if people are recognizing Brando. It's an important element to the book, that recognition.

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SPURGEON: Did you assemble the work that appeared in Abandoned Cars? Was there anything to going back over so much work and putting it together in book form? How did you feel about the finished product?

LANE: That's a tough question to answer because there are so many elements to consider, and I've only had my own final copy for a short time. I'm happy with the finished product overall. And, yes, I assembled all of the work. Those stories were always meant to be together.

I think the quality of the work, from story to story, definitely indic ates the passage of time -- or more appropriately, the development of skill over the passage of time. These stories span about six years. The earliest story is "Ghost Road," the last was "Spirit, Part 3." The story of "Ghost Road" makes me wince a little. But thematically it fits in very significantly. So, although I'm not thrilled with its writing, I believe it serves its purpose well in the greater context of the book, however cumbersomely -- and I'm very glad I could include a fabrication of Art Bell's Coast to Coast coming from the radio.

Overall, I think Abandoned Cars is a fairly good start. For all of its faults, I can look at it as an accurate representation of myself, artistically and as a human being, and that means a great deal to me. Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it. But I'm still a long ways from being as good as I want to be.

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SPURGEON: What's next for you, Tim?

LANE: Abandoned Cars is the first book of graphic short stories in a series of three -- the next two are tentatively titled Folktales and The Believers. There were lots of stories in varying stages of development that didn't get into Abandoned Cars, which are all connected by the same umbrella theme. Mostly these will all be stories about new characters, but ones already introduced in Abandoned Cars -- such as John and the Manic Depressive from Another Planet -- will return, sometimes as background characters, sometimes as central characters, at various stages in their lives -- and not necessarily chronologically ordered. Also, a few who were background characters in Abandoned Cars will appear as central characters in the next books. I'm working on those stories now.

I've been working on the story for a separate graphic novel, as well -- unrelated to the three books of short stories. Beyond that, I'm trying to work out a story called Belligerent Piano -- a story I've been working on, on and off, for a long time -- as a weekly strip, in the style of Dick Tracy or Steve Canyon. Dan Nadel recently put out a book called Art Out of Time. In it are some incredible and weird old daily strips. My favorite is Dauntless Durham of the USA. Even it's title makes you smile and wonder "who the hell is that?!" Although you need a magnifying glass to read it -- sort of fun in itself! That stuff sort of inspired me to try a weekly strip. I'm publishing that on my weblog. But it takes a back seat to these other projects.

I'd really like to keep producing material for these next books, and other material that isn't meant to go anywhere else, in a regular pamphlet -- or what used to be called a comic book (to me, it doesn't feel comfortable calling them "pamphlets"). That's what my comic book Happy Hour in America was supposed to be about. Happy Hour was self-published, and distributed by a few distributors (Diamond, FM International, Last Gasp, and Cold Cut -- if I remember right -- but nobody seems to have ever heard of it. I really suck at self-promotion, so I'm not a good candidate for publishing my own stuff. But it would be great to have that regular outlet. I myself love that stuff. With Daniel Clowes' Eightball, although he might be working on installments of a graphic novel -- things that will eventually be published as a graphic novel -- you still get things in it that are unique to that particular issue of Eightball. Also, it seems to me that comic books are an important part of the tradition of comics. I guess people aren't buying comic book pamphlets anymore. It would be a shame to watch that die because they don't sell as well as they used to. Some things should be kept alive, just because.

*****

Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane, Fantagraphics Books, Hardcover, 128 pages, 1560979186 (ISBN10), 9781560979180 (ISBN13), September 2008, $22.95.

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all images from Abandoned Cars

*****

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*****
*****
 
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If I Were In Charlotte, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go—Special DC Characters Category On Jeopardy Episode I Just Watched Edition

* who is the penguin?

* who is the green arrow?

* who is robin or dick grayson?

* who is the swamp thing?

* who is plastic man?
 
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FFF Results Post #131—Armed, Dangerous

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Weapons From Comics You Wouldn't Mind Using In An Emergency, Or Just Otherwise Think Are Cool" Here are the results.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Gigantor
2. Mjolnir
3. The Black Knight's Ebony Blade
4. Jon Sable's broom-handle Mauser
5. Green Arrow's Boxing Glove Arrow

*****

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Gil Roth

1. Daredevil's billyclub
2. Ultimate Nullifier

Well, that pretty much runs the gamut, sad to say.

*****

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Eric Knisley

1. The ultimate nullifier
2. Captain Boomerang's... boomerangs
3. Paste Pot Pete's paste gun
4. Cap's shield
5. Orion's Astro-Force harness

*****

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Dave Knott

* Magic Potion of Getafix
* Big Barda's Mega-Rod
* Herbert the Duck's Sword of Destiny
* Eye of Agamotto
* Joker Gas

*****

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Mark D. Ashworth

1. Pottsylvania Creepers
2. An Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator
3. The Dupe-o-matic
4. Green Kryptonite
5. The Damascus blade

*****

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Jim Wheelock

1. Elric's sword Stormbringer
2. The Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter's teched-up Mauser broomhandle pistol
3. The Marquis' pepper-mill flintlock revolvers
4. The Shadow's twin .45 automatics
5. Sarge Steel's stainless steel Luger

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. The Green Goblin's Pumpkin Bombs
2. Hellboy's Right Hand of Doom (Someone else had it first, so I think it qualifies as a kind of sort of weapon. I think.)
3. Ronan the Accuser's hammer-thing
4. The Trapster's paste guns (god help me)
5. Herbie Popnecker's lollipops

*****

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Nat Gertler

1. This here lollipop
2. Wolverine, as occasionally used ballistically by Colossus (yes, of course I could throw him. He's short. And Canadian.)
3. Fleegle's Evil Eye
4. The ass-kicking boot of a Rube Goldberg machine
5. The Phantom's ring - the one he punches the jaw of bad people with to leave them with a mark that gets them shunned by everyone (not the one he punches the jaw of good people with to get them treated kindly.)

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. Johnny Alpha's variable cartridge Westinghouse blaster
2. The Space-Boomerang Trap from The Flash # 124
3. Charles Fort's cricket bat from Necronauts
4. The Painting That Ate Paris
5. Mjolnir

*****

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Wirt "Erik" Salthouse

1 Calvin's transmorgofier gun
2 Motherbox
3 Green Lantern's Power Ring
4 Ignatz's Brick
5 Schmoos

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1. The Arcadia
2. The Cosmic Cube
3. The Batarang
4. Ultra-rare Cinnanom Flavored Lollipop
5. Kona's M-60 machine gun

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. Madman's Yo-Yo
2. Batarang
3. Any one of the Mandarin's rings
4. The Ultimate Nullifier
5. Any one of Herbie Popnecker's lollipops

*****

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Marc Arsenault

1. The Wave Motion Gun
2. Batarangs
3. Mother Box
4. The Zodiac Key
5. A Green Lantern Ring

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. The Ultimate Nullifier
2. Linus Van Pelt's blanket
3. A Lawgiver
4. Dr. Doom's gauntlets
5. Moon Knight's short-lived, wrist-mounted, crescent blade launcher

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. Spaceman Spiff's raygun
2. Wolverine's claws
3. Batarangs (the tiny dart kinds)
4. The Crow's sword
5. Green Arrow's longbow

*****

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Frank Santoro

* pumpkin bombs
* repulsor rays
* sword from Berserk
* cosmic cube
* doomsday machine (from that one famous Charlton comic)

*****

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Matthew Craig

* Judge Dredd's Lawgiver
* Captain Marvel's Soul-Gun (NextWave)
* Batarang - Oh, I'm sorry: "The" Batarang
* Megatron (or possibly just Megatron's Fusion Cannon - which, for an asexual robot tyrant, is still pretty overcompensatory)
* Paste-Pot Pete's Pastey-Hose

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Web shooters!
2. Bat-arang
3. Ultimate Nullifier
4. collapsible cane billy club
5. lollipop!

*****

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John McCorkle

* Judge Dredd's Lawgiver
* Ken Parker's Kentucky Long Rifle
* The Punisher's entire armory
* Dylan Dog's Italian Bodeo 1889 revolver
* Galactus' Ultimate Nullifier

*****

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Gerry Alanguilan

1. Ronin's "Tachi"
2. Wolverine's Claws
3. Daredevil's Billy Club
4. Batarangs
5. Ultimate Nullifier

*****

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Fred Hembeck

1. The Batarang
2. Spider-Man's Web-shooter
3. Pinky Pinkerton's Umbrella
4. Lulu Moppet's Water Pistol filled with purple-staining Beebleberry juice ... and when all else fails,
5. The Cosmic Cube

*****

Tom Bondurant

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Three from American Flagg!:

1. BuzzKnucks (TM) -- brass knuckles with built-in electro-shock
2. The Snowball 99 (a/k/a Caligari's Equalizer) -- fires frozen globes of industrial-strength Somnambutol (TM) and puts miscreants to sleep to the distinctive sounds of PAPAPAOOOO MOW MOW
3. The .666 Magrum Automatic ("The Mark Of The Beast")

And, what the heck, I'll be unoriginal:

4. Captain America's shield
5. A Green Lantern power ring

*****

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Jacob Goddard

1. Linus' blanket
2. Prince Valiant's Singing Sword
3. Dennis the Menace's slingshot
4. Batarangs (mainly because they're fun to say)
5. Iron Man's armor

*****

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Vito Delsante

1. Captain America's shield (the real one, not the energy one...in fact, I'd rather have the WW2 one over the round one)
2. Batarangs (hell, I'll take the entire utility belt)
3. The Ultimate Nullifier (I'm sure everyone picked this one)
4. Daredevil's billy club(s)
5. A Green Lantern power ring

*****

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Matthew Maxwell

1. The Ultimate Nullifier - Sometimes the job just needs to be done.
2. Batarangs - Oh come on, like you wouldn't.
3. Dr. Doom's Mauser - WHO DARES MANHANDLE THE SIDEARM OF DOOM?
4. The Painting That Ate Paris - The colors the colors the colors!
5. Dr. Bong's bell - Bong, just bong.

*****

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James Langdell

1. Orb of Agamotto
2. Cat juice
3. Max the Bunny (used as a projectile)
4. The (banana-enabled) Sun Gun
5. This here lollipop

*****

complaining about the art is fine; I only have time to delete the entry, though

*****
*****
 
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Happy 50th Birthday, Andy Helfer!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, John Romita Jr.!

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Happy 70th Birthday, Trina Robbins!

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First Thought Of The Day

The weird part to me about sports' current obsession with steroid and other body-altering drugs and their application to athletic competition is that it involves revisiting contests that have been completed. This means that every result in sports is open to interpretation forever, which I think weakens the finality of these contests -- events are never over now. It's strange to me that a competing idea hasn't developed further: that if you cheat in sports and don't get caught, you didn't cheat. This seems to me to make a lot more sense than it does to keep all sporting contests forever open to re-examination, only closing those that seem to have some general public agreement that they're closed. It would also provide greater consistency between cheating that has news currency and cheating that doesn't.
 
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August 16, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

August 23

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August 21

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August 17

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from August 9 to August 15, 2008:

1. Doug Wright Awards given out; accused of discrimination against French-language comics.

2. Longtime Wizard fixture Brian Cunningham let go by company, bringing renewed attention to its massive staff overhaul.

3. Baltimore Sun drops entire page of comics as newspapers nationwide struggle with costs and priorities.

Winner Of The Week
Whoever had "a mixture of old and new strips but the new strips drawn in the style of the old strips" in the pool.

Loser Of The Week
Wizard.

Quote Of The Week
"... I gotta say the thought of doing an interview with someone who launched a thread titled "Stupid Publisher Tricks: Excessive Pricing" aimed at this project and us as publishers isn't so appealing for obvious reasons." -- Alvin Buenaventura

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Alhambra, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Emily Man on September Events at Orbital Comics (PR) (8/11/08)
* Russell Lissau On His August-September Appearances (PR) (8/9/08)
 
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August 15, 2008


Five For Friday #131—Armed, Dangerous

Five For Friday #131 -- Name Five Weapons From Comics You Wouldn't Mind Using In An Emergency, Or Just Otherwise Think Are Cool

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1. Gigantor
2. Mjolnir
3. The Black Knight's Ebony Blade
4. Jon Sable's broom-handle Mauser
5. Green Arrow's Boxing Glove Arrow

This Subject Is Now Closed.

*****

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

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at least there are initial reports
 
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Kurt Westergaard Ready To Stand Trial In Jordan; Not Actually Going, Though

This article notes that a major interview with Danish cartoonist and original Muhammed caricaturist Kurt Westergaard has appeared in Jordanian press, on efforts by a prosecutor in that government's court system to indict and try in Jordan a number of those people responsible for the publication of the Muhammed cartoons. It's interesting to note that neither Westergaard nor the publication editor that says much the same thing as Westergaard actually received the subpoena in question, but have heard about it through press reports.
 
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New Watchmen Printing: 900,000 Copies

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A number of industry sources are noting a story about DC reprinting 900,000 copies of Watchmen to meet perceived, trailer-instigated and hype-driven demand for the book leading up to its movie version's March 2009 release. It's pretty much a "there it is" story, and while I'm not always willing to grant DC the full extent of its claims given they don't release sales figures but insist on making claims on those figures' behalf, I more than believe them here, and it's pretty clear that this is a staggering, historically significant number of books no matter how one may sometimes wonder after the asserted profitability of a few of their unrelated serial comics. In fact, this is way closer to "all-time book publishing phenomenon" than a comics sales story. In other words, I'm not sure we shouldn't report it without temporarily breaking down and shouting "Holy Freaking Crap! One million copies of a 22-year-old comic book series! Holy Freaking Crap!"

Ironically, I wonder if the ability to sell so many books will keep the Watchmen movie in March despite both the Star Trek and Harry Potter franchises abandoning Christmas 2008 in a way that would seem to leave wide-open a place for a fantasy franchise not aimed at teenage girls.
 
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Another Note Or Two On Brian Cunningham Being Let Go From Wizard

* I think it's pretty safe to say that Brian Cunningham being let go from Wizard, where he currently served as Executive Editor, apparently had primary editor duties on the magazine, and where he had been since the early days of the company, has been generally confirmed by insiders and widespread agreement if not specifically confirmed by the company, or to my awareness yet by Mr. Cunningham. There's even a thread about it on the Wizard boards.

* I'm also told that Alex Kropinak and Jordan Hammill, two more recent hires, were recently let go -- this had been reported, actually, just not by me. ToyFare Price Guid Editor Jon Guttierez may have given notice yesterday, too. Other employees that may no longer be with the company were described to me as "Regan M., Matt C., and Carolyn F."

* I've also been told that Cunningham being let go was a surprise to the entire staff and several ex-staffers, and there was a rumor among the ex-staffers that the current staff was given the rest of the day off.
 
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A Few Quick Notes On Serial Alt-Comics

There's a fine comments thread over at Comics Comics on the issue of serial comics and the alternative comics fan that's worth your time if you, like me, have some affinity for the topic. A few notes:

* one thing I haven't seen anyone talk about it yet is how difficult it is to process whether or not those new comics that happen to be out there are desirable. In other words, the sheer number of comics means that making a decision on a graphic novel or trade format collection for occasional purchase is easier than tracking them in a way you can make weekly decisions. I tend to like comic books more than I like comics with a spine, but when I buy new comics they tend to be six to 12 months old because I can't get a grasp on whether or not I want it until it's like five or six issues in. Sometimes this is great, because you can get an entire series for $1 a comic; sometimes this is a pain, like when my brother decided he really liked the Brian Bendis Daredevil and wanted it in comic book form when Bendis was about three issues away from leaving the title. I think the last alternative comic book series with significant back issue retention -- older comic book offered as new -- in stores was Hate, although maybe I'm wrong. Do comic shops carry back issues of Optic Nerve along with newer issues? That's by far the most popular of the really good alt-comics right now, I think.

image* in my own personal version of events, I think the big turning point with alt-comics series was The Nimrod. That was a rewarding, pleasurable and entertaining read from a fine talent, work that didn't serve some eventual collection and was well worth the cover price. Still, no one bought the thing. That was the one that at the very least opened my eyes to the growing difficulties of getting work over in that format.

* sometimes I wonder if what's alarming isn't the overall lack of titles available in serial form but the amount of work out there that could be published in serial form and simply isn't. Because I seem to remember buying a lot of books like Sandman Mystery Theatre on weeks at the comic book shop in the early '90s, too, to have something to take home. I liked SMT, don't get me wrong, but at that point in my life I was going to the shop looking for new Chester Brown.

* similarly, I'm not sure I buy the argument that a lot of those works are on-line. Are there really a bunch of ongoing comics on-line that would fit on the stands next to Or Else, Crickets, Uptight, and Injury? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) I'm sure there are a few, but it seems to me there's still more material in comic book form of that type than books not in that form.

* I still don't think that enough people have stopped to consider what a massive vote of non-confidence in traditional comic books, serial comics, took place when the Hernandez Brothers moved Love and Rockets to a book with a spine. It doesn't really matter in terms of the art, because Los Bros would demand tracking down if they were publishing in the back of Parade Magazine or if they were mimeographing their comics and leaving them at truck stops. But I do think it says something about the state of the format. Another one you have to rope in is the new Gilbert Shelton apparently isn't going to have a comic book serialization, either. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like it will appear in English in the anthology MOME and then go to an album/GN. That's a pretty remarkable one-two punch from the best-known serial comics makers of two generations.

In the end, I'm not sure any of this matters, but it's sure fun to noodle around talking about it.
 
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If I Were In Durham, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Streets and Roads

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Go, Read: Mike Sterling’s Things Not To Say To A Comic Book Shop Employee

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the critic and writer Francis Lacassin, an important figure in the acceptance of comics as an art form capable of sophisticated expression, died on Tuesday. He was 76 years old. His stand-alone essay Tarzan: Tarzan ou le Chevalier crispe featured a preface by Burne Hogarth.

image* there's likely something profound to say about the popular exercise of mixing two pop culture creations together into one thing, but I can't get much deeper on this blend of Calvin and Hobbes and V For Vendetta than I think it's amusing.

* one long-time CCI goer declares in a San Diego Reader article he won't be going back and why. "Each year it becomes an increasingly voyeuristic affair where you leave with nothing other than the experience itself."

* the book industry veteran John DiBello takes on a more serious topic, sexual harassment at such shows.

* Leigh Walton updates his admirable attention to Dan Walsh, the author who will do the Garfield Minus Garfield book despite not originating the concept.

* finally, the twice-yearly, stupendously huge convention Comiket gets underway today at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center. Famously, the show caters to self-published work, much of it riffing on popular licensed work, and is awash in cosplay as well. This summer's version will apparently be marked by the suspension of use of certain escalators after an incident that injured several people at a similar show, and a search for dangerous weapons because of threats made. This appears to be the official site.
 
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Happy 55th Birthday, Paul Gulacy!

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Quick hits
Craft
Comparing Pages 01
Comparing Pages 02

Exhibits/Events
Alexis Fajardo at CAM
Kim Thompson Lecture Report
Schulz-Beethoven Exhibit Explored
Chris Claremont GoH at Mid-Ohio Con

Industry
Critics Vs. Creators
Virgin Comics' Digital Deal
Another Retailer on KE Vol. 7
Creative Commons In Comics Form

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Brahm Revel
Newsarama: Mike Grell

Not Comics
Everything Needs Movies
Jim Valentino's Kids Book
Stoned Teenaged Me Could Have Watched This Forever

Publishing
CSM on IDW Candidate Comics
Bob Fingerman's From The Ashes to IDW
I Will Never Understand the Costume Impulse

Reviews
Tom McLean: Various
Tom McLean: Various
Tom Baker: Good-Bye
Chris Mautner: Various
Greg McElhatton: Stinky
Dick Hyacinth: Rock of Ages
Noah Berlatsky: Ronald Reagan
Josh Sullivan: Hectic Planet #5-6
 

 
August 14, 2008


Brian Cunningham Fired By Wizard?

I e-mailed for confirmation long enough ago I have to figure I'm not going to get any, so here's this: I'm told by multiple sources that longtime Wizard fixture Brian Cunningham was let go by the company today. He was currently Executive Editor, a company-wide title, but I'm told that included serving as the magazine's editor. So one bit of follow-up news should be to try to figure out who will fulfill that role now -- a leading candidate I guess would be current managing editor Mike Cotton. Cunningham was there almost 15 years, I think.

I could be totally wrong about this as well, but I was casting about for Brian's address and I think he may have been posting on their messageboards as late as this afternoon, which suggests that the move may have come as a surprise. I'm told that the news was a surprise to a number of ex-Wizard employees, who considered Cunningham an ingrained part of that magazine's culture. If I get confirmation from an official source, I'll post it here.

Wizard has undergone a tremendous amount of employee turnover, particularly among the entertainment company's "middle class" -- employees not upper management but not intern or starting-level salaried, either. With lost momentum in the convention arm of their business since Reed snagged the New York show many thought would go to the then-surging company, and with things tough for print magazines all over, the massive turnover has been seen as a sign of something other than rock-solid stability and a series of person to person staffing decisions.
 
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Presidential Nominees Share Cartoon Ad

imageThis article discusses the anti-Semitic campaigns by white American extremist and in various politically severe Arab world publications to suggest that both presumptive US presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain are tools of Israel. Apparently, this includes cartoons that are more frequently circulated around the Internet rather than sponsored and posted in any one place. The article suggests that the dominant mode of attack against Senator McCain is the favoring Israel thing but the cartoon included here notwithstanding a lot the attacks on Senator Obama focus on his race rather than any one political relationship.
 
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I Think I’ve Given Up On Ever Understanding What The Heck Is Going On With For Better or For Worse

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Universal Press Syndicate has hit media sources with the full news on plans for For Better or For Worse. The great Dave Astor has E&P's version of events. The weird thing about this is that it comes two days after a version of the story was in retrospect leaked by an appearance of cartoonist Lynn Johnston at the Doug Wright Awards, an appearance they helped hype. And, again, there are pertinent details that didn't come across in that appearance. The news of those details now comes out about two weeks before the change, which will be from a new storylines/old storylines hybrid to a long sort-of do-over buttressed by the older material. It's weird for details about a feature of this size to come out so late in the game and come out in stutter-step fashion.

As for the decision itself, Lynn Johnston is a class professional from everything I've ever heard and a hugely successful creator and she should do whatever she wants. "New-runs" seems an idiosyncratic strategy, and not the one I would have guessed she'd pursue. The only thing I can compare it to is George Lucas noodling around with the first three Star Wars movies, except with a much more modest new storyline component than those three recent prequel movies. I have to admit, I hope this is the last time the subject comes up, as it's been over two years since the first in several potential futures for the feature was discussed.
 
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Go, Read: Steve Bissette on Steve Ditko and Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger

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Steve Bissette's post about Blake Bell's new Steve Ditko biography/art book Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko is of high quality in general, but I'm outright jealous of two lines of analysis. The first is his comparison of Ditko's relationship with Robin Snyder to Alan Moore's relationship with Chris Staros; the second is his call to view Ditko's career in terms of a continuity that stresses professional treatment far more than it does financial concerns, which is a tweak on conventional wisdom that seems totally logical but I don't remember it being emphasized that way before.
 
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BP To Publish Huizenga’s Fight Or Run

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At least I assume that's what this means.
 
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Frank Santoro On New Comics Day

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Frank Santoro writes about the experience of going to the comics shop on New Comics Day in the post-alternative comic book world when what you like to read is alternative comic books. Basically, he says he ends up buying a lot of fun stuff, just not stuff in his favorite idiom. I think a lot of people are sympathetic to Frank's frustration as a consumer, although I'm not sure there's anything that can be done about it.
 
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Go, Look: Various Print Cartoons

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Go, Look: Tip-Top Beauty Book

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* a manga company offers an on-line rentals program.

image* there were more than a few entertaining articles around the Comics Internet this morning. Tim Broderick took his daughters and their friend to Chicago Comics. I think the reason I like it is because if I had jumped in a time machine in 1978 and ended up at Chicago Comics I would have wet myself and cried for three hours it would have been so amazing. Today's kids: not so much. Abhay Khosla provides maybe the best Comic-Con panel write-up ever, including an imaginary Joe Quesada hanging and resulting coprophagia, in the guise of a review of Secret Invasion #5. Evan Dorkin is always fun to read when he writes about his own work, and these three posts about rejected gags are no exception. This interview at The Factual Opinion is the best person that doesn't read a comic book encountering a comic book thing they've done yet. There's even a good Aquaman joke in there.

* although I suppose it's possible I'm missing something and I'll get an angry letter from somebody telling me how rotten the following is, it seems to me that this write-up of suggestions for Comic-Con International is a model of the form: a genial and sympathetic tone, specific and achievable solutions, fueled by personally informed opinions from someone on the ground. It doesn't mean I agree with the recommendations, but they seem ideally presented.

* this video editorial from Robert Kirkman makes me think that there should come a day when we turn on our computers and this kind of thing flickers on screen whether we want it to or not.

* best freelancer excuse ever.

* finally, I've had three people write in to tell me that they like this on-line comics reader better than any other they've seen, which means someone must have posted about it out there somewhere. Anyway, it seems like kind of a nice one to me, but I'm not familiar with such readers. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 
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Happy 58th Birthday, Gary Larson!

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Happy 65th Birthday, John Costanza!

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Quick hits
Craft
Nerdiest Pun Ever
Steve Buccellato's Colors
Eric Reynolds Sketchbook: #79

Exhibits/Events
Go See Mike Lynch
Go See Dan Clowes
Charles Hatfield on CCI
Go See Groo Crew In Kansas
San Diego Reader: CCI Report
Go to Jeff Lester's Garage Sale
Go See Turkish Cartoons Exhibit
Comics at Edinburgh Book Festival
Steven Grant's Favorite CCI Moment

History
Re-Discovering Briggs
Manga With Literary Merit
Remembering Treasury Comics
Embracing the Gothic in Batman

Industry
Baldo Team Doing Press
Gitmo's Favorite Cartoonist
Kevin Church Is Thinking About Marketing

Interviews/Profiles
Panels and Pixels: Jason
Eddie Campbell: Nick Abadzis
Word Balloon: Robert Kirkman

Not Comics
Work Spaces
Feel Better, Dirk!
David Malki's Wedding Trailer
Eddie Campbell's Favorite CCI Costume
Cartoonists They Wish Would Make Movies
Robert Downey Jr. Baffled By DC Comics Movies

Publishing
Understanding Yaoi
Grandville Previewed
Rolling Out Sublife at CCI
Dini Cartoons To Launch in November
Hero Initiative Working With Blake Bell on Everett Book

Reviews
Jog: Batman #679
Deb Aoki: Real Vol. 1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Jillian Steinhauer: Little Things
Abhay Khosla: Secret Invasion #5
Graeme McMillan: Secret Invasion #5
Kenny Penman: 73304-23-4153-6-96-8
Don Koller Fanboy: Zot! Black and White
Johanna Draper Carlson: Salt Water Taffy
 

 
August 13, 2008


This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the 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 works listed here -- 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 causing my retailer to be sad.

*****

JAN080240 ABSOLUTE LOEG THE BLACK DOSSIER HC $99.00
A deluxe and I think over-sized version of the recent Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill effort, apparently without a once-promised audio recording.

MAR082113 WALKING DEAD #51 (MR) $2.99
One of Robert Kirkman's two big hits at Image Comics, in the middle of a severe tonal/plot shift.

JUN080081 HELLBOY THE CROOKED MAN #2 (OF 3) $2.99
JUN082385 ASTONISHING X-MEN #26 MD $2.99
JUN082442 NEW X-MEN BY MORRISON ULTIMATE COLL TP BOOK 02 $34.99
A pretty good week for genre/superhero comics done by people not the creators, including work from Richard Corben, Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison.

MAY083873 MINESHAFT #22 (MR) $6.95
An old-fashioned comics and underground culture 'zine, and one of the few places I go to learn stuff about comics I'd never heard before.

JUN083951 DISAPPEARANCE DIARY GN (RES) $22.99
JUN083952 ICE WANDERER GN $21.99
Two books from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, one a huge and much-anticipated autobiographical work by Hideo Azuma, the other one a Jiro Taniguchi collection of short stories I swear had already come out.

JUN082401 PUNISHER #60 (MR) $2.99
A friend of mine e-mailed to say that this was the last Garth Ennis issue, which means that it will be the last issue I scramble to buy two years from now when I have a sudden hankering to own all of these comics.

JUN084186 MAGICAL LIFE OF LONG TACK SAM TP (O/A) $14.00
Fresh off its Doug Wright Awards win, this memoir is offered again. Tell me you're not at least a little bit interested in seeing it. Actually, don't tell me, because that would depress me.

APR084023 A TREASURY OF 20TH CENTURY VOL 01 MURDER OF LINDBERGH CHILD $15.95
New Rick Geary is always worth a look.

MAR084194 500 ESSENTIAL GRAPHIC NOVELS SC $24.95
Gene Kanneberg's shot at canon-building and medium advocacy.

MAY084101 MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST CRIME COMICS TP $17.95
Another massive collection of genre comics, this one distinguished by Paul Gravett's involvement and it actually being good, despite the fact that there's only one or two truly great works represented in its pages.

*****

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, albeit a while back and probably drunk, 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, that's okay. I just don't like you.

*****
*****
 
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A Response From The DWAs Regarding The Charge That They Discriminate

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On yesterday morning, I noticed a posting by Hervé St. Louis about the Doug Wright Awards, accusing them of discrimination and criticizing them over their self-characterization as a Canadian awards considering their policy to only consider English-language work. Last evening, I got the following e-mail in response from Brad MacKay:
All of those involved with The Doug Wright Awards are committed to the best in Canadian comics, and that includes work created by francophone cartoonists. A simple glance at our website supports this; Michel Rabagliati won the Best Book award in 2006 for Paul Moves Out, Albéric Bourgeois was inducted into the Giants of the North in 2006, and Guy Delisle (Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea), Genevieve Castrée (PAMPLEMOUSSI) and Julie Doucet (365 Days: A Diary) have all received nominations.

The Wright Awards were created back in the winter of 2004 to fill what we believed was a vacuum in terms of recognition for Canadian comics and cartoonists. One of the first things we did in our initial planning stages was discuss the inclusion of French-language comics. The amount of work it entailed to do the medium justice (and the fact that the Prix Bédélys, a Montreal-based organization that recognises the best in Quebec's comic industry, already existed) led us to put the idea on ice for the time being.

Each year since the issue has arisen at our meetings, and we've fervently debated the whether or not to include French comics-works. In the end, we've decided that any effort on our part would be not only repetitive, but perhaps even presumptive. (What business would an outside -- i.e., Anglophone -- organization have judging the best in Francophone comics?)

This is why we added the "English-only" requirement to our submission guidelines; not as a prohibition, but rather to make it clear what our scope was. (We even included a link to the Bédélys on our site, but it was accidentally deleted -- along with our entire Links page -- when we did a mild re-design last month. Rest assured we will remedy this shortly.)

The fact that we consider English language comics does not in any way make us less Canadian than say, for lack of a better comparison, The Prix Bédélys. This country was founded by two cultures, and last time I checked you don't have to be fluent in French and English to call yourself Canadian.

There are plenty of English-language awards that promote themselves as "Canadian" (The Giller Prize being the most prominent) and that fact does not exclude them from being Canadian or calling themselves such.

Further, we have never made the claim that we are the only Canadian comic award. Rather we consider ourselves to be part of a small but growing effort to raise the profile of all cartoonists in Canada, regardless of the language they work in, or what province they live in.

Suffice to say, we recognise the tremendous talent that exists in the French-language comics community. At our upcoming planning meeting, the topic of whether or not the DWAs needs to expand it's scope to include French comics (whether that means creating a new branch of the organization, or forging some sort of association) will certainly be on the agenda.
Earlier yesterday, I received the following responses.

From Bart Beaty:
I think that the analogy drawn by Hervé St-Louis between language and bodily mutilation obscures more than it illuminates, but I do think, otherwise, that he is absolutely correct. I have been dismayed by the fact that the DWA present themselves as a Canadian award when they do not consider works in French. The DWA's vision of Canadian comics is, frankly, one that I can't endorse. Despite his over-heated rhetoric, St-Louis has highlighted a very serious issue with these prizes.
Robin McConnell:
saw that article by Hervé St-Louis. Here's what i think, while i may not be a part of the DWA's, I am canadian comic geek. The DWA's are not a complete Canadian award. They do not touch on mainstream comics at all, and in that aspect, they are already lacking of being a pan-Canadian award. The Shusters do claim to be very pan-Canadian based and have a focus on covering French and English products.

As a westcoaster, French comix have nothing to do with me, and I am sure the same can be said about how folks in Quebec would feel about much of the work that some of our locals produce.
David Turgeon:
Regarding the DWA criticism, I think it boils down to one thing: if
you claim your award to be "Canadian" but do not take into consideration the fact that there are two official languages in Canada, then you are not a legitimate Canadian award.

Indeed, there are two awards for French comics in French-speaking Quebec (Bédélys and Bédéis Causa) and obviously, none of them claim to be "Canadian" or to represent the entirety of Canadian comics. The Shuster Awards, on the other hand, do accept French language comics (though I must say the French text on their website seems to have been written by a ten-year old, i.e. they don't make it seem like they are even able to read the French comics that are submitted to them -- anyway, whole other story).

Beyond all the rhetoric, what Hervé St.Louis seems to suggest is that the DWA either accept French language comics, or that they stop claiming to be a "Canadian" award.

As for my own opinion, there's not much to it. I think St.Louis' request is reasonable. Some people will make this a can of worms but really it's mostly about the DWA clarifying where they stand on that issue, hopefully without resorting to hypocrisy or sweet-talk. I don't think a Francophone or a Quebecer would be shocked about the existence of an award for English language comics in Canada if it is correctly labeled as such (again, there are TWO French language awards, and the fact is that English and French comic cultures are significantly different so it actually does make sense to have language-specific awards).

The larger language issue at play boils down to one thing: the perception that English-speaking Canadians tend to view their country as inherently English when convenient, only to reverse to Bilingualism when some form of Quebec Separatism is at play. Again it's a perception but it is one which French-speaking Canadians are very sensitive to, probably much more so than English-speaking Canadians might think we are.
Patrick Bérubé:
I am writing concerning my editor's article about the Wright Awards and you reaction to it. First, I would like to mention that, even if he is French-Canadian like me, I do not agree on everything he wrote. Nevertheless, I will stand by him for no other reason that he is my editor and that he gave me my chance as a reviewer/feature writer even if my English is clearly not as good as my colleagues.

What I can do instead is try to clarify the situation and explain where his frustrations might come from. I will not get into the cultural French/English debate. If I ever meet you at a convention, we can have a few beers and I will tell you everything you want to know about this 300 + years feud and all the political games that are being played. For the moment suffice to say that the French Canadian comic book scene is living a small golden age. We get reprint from our classic materials, new and young cartoonist push the medium farther than before, artists are becoming Europe's lovechilds and many works for the American big two. We even got rid of the US/Europe format war and started publishing for our own needs.

The problem is that all that seems to go unnoticed by the English speaking parts of the country (Canada that is). If you work in Europe nobody know you here. If you work for the big two you might win an Eisner which is not a Canadian Award. The Shuster Awards made some effort to translate their website and add french nominees but only recently and with moderate results. If you publish in french 25 millions out of 32 millions people will not understand a word of what you wrote.

As you can see, you can't get much national (as in Canada, not Québec...) recognition if you are a french speaking author. In this context, frustration can easily sets in even for people like me who are not involved in the creation process. We simpy wish creators we admire get the attention they deserve.

I do not know enough about the Wright Awards and their nomination process to say that you can't win if you are not one of the few translated artists. But as I said, I will stand by my editor's opinion and I just wanted to shed some lights on the situation.
Sean Craig:
I think it's important to recognize that the issues raised by M. St. Louis are subject to more nuance than he and those who agree with him are willing to let on. I'll do my best to explain my thoughts.

Of note, I am a Toronto-born dual citizen, raised and educated in Texas and New England. I was born to New Brunswickers and have Acadian in my blood. I'm proud of my French-Canadian ancestors who gave me my green eyes.

M. St. Louis' statements likening the Wrights to racists and sexists gave me serious pause, coming from a place where, not long before my childhood, segregation was a legal policy. They seem to have undermined his arguments with a number of your readers, but even without these unnecessary statements he's managed to make a personal argument without considering the facts before him.

Like M. St Louis and the Wrights, I recognize the artistic talent, past and present, that French-Canada has given to its country and to the rest of the world. Studying art history, I was exposed to Jean-Paul Riopelle, Claude Gauvreau, and Paul-Emile Borduas, who helped shape the modern sensibilities of secular liberalism in Canada. Gavreau was a writer whose output was limited to the French language, but he is nonetheless a towering figure in Canada's artistic and social histories. I celebrate his contributions, and those of all the Automatistes, to the arts as distinctly Canadian -- just as much as I celebrate the work of an English group like Kids in the Hall as a considerable Canadian achievement in the arts.

I take care in recognizing that there are distinct English and French cultural paradigms in our country and I recognize that they carry the same national weight. As I result, I see no grounds for rejecting an institution that operates within either framework, or both.

I find it ridiculous to say that we can't be proud of French language work as Canadian or English language work as Canadian without being limited by qualifiers and asterisks. The Wrights award Canadian works, as does the Giller Prize, the Canadian League of Poets' Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction, and the Canada Award -- given out for an achievement in English-language television at the Gemini Awards by the federal government's Ministry of Canadian Heritage. These are all English language awards and they are unquestionably Canadian, even according to the standards of the national, bilingual government.

To me, the same standards go for French language cultural institutions. They are Canadian, they support Canadian artists, and their productivity is equally as important to our country as that of English language institutions. I have no problems with a French language institution in Canada calling itself Canadian. Why? Because it is. There's not anything to argue here. Despite this, M. St Louis argues just that: nothing.

If M. St Louis wants to balkanize our country's artistic community, claiming that only certain people and organizations are privileged enough to call themselves Canadian, I can only wish him luck with this highly dubious task. The Wrights, the Shusters, the Bédélys, and the Bédéis Causa are all crucially important to the Canadian cartooning community. The awards all claim their own bases and overlap in scope, covering more ground than any one organization could. We have a tight-knit cartooning community and I'm glad to have them all out there working on its behalf. The Shusters this year recognizing Cecil Castelucci and the Wrights recognizing Ann Marie Fleming were wonderful steps for women in the medium and show what progress Canadian comics are making with demographics across the board.

Personally, I think that recognition in artistic fields within linguistic frames maintains a national integrity. Clearly, M. St Louis does not. I hope that, considering things like the Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren (a Dutch language literary award that is handed out in alternating years by the Belgian monarch--- the leader of a country with three official languages), he will reconsider his position and acknowledge that Canada and multi-lingual countries around the world have moved beyond the divisive, unavailing arguments he is trying to make.

I applaud the Wrights commitment to recognizing works that push the comics medium forward. They recognize books that run the gamut from mainstream superhero genre exercises (Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier) to self-published minis (Jason Kieffer's Kieffer). Every Canadian cartooning award could stand to see some improvement. M. St. Louis seems, more than anything, intent on starting a self-glorified message board/blog crusade. I hope this is not the case, and I hope he will resign himself to the fact that French language and English language institutions are Canadian and that the majority of us in this country are proud to call them our own. If he wants to reject the Gillers, the Wrights, and even the standards of the federal government, he is absolutely welcome to. If he wants to reject all French and English Canadian institutions that are unilingual, he is welcome to. If he wants to participate with all Canadians in recognizing the uniqueness and the strengths of our linguistic bonds and divisions, I would welcome him. Regardless, the rest of us will continue to salute the red and white and take pride in all sides of the terre de nos aieux.
Thank you to all that took the time to write in.
 
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Go, Watch: How Sheldon Is Created


How the Comic Strip "Sheldon" is Created from Sheldon Comics on Vimeo.
 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* this summary of the recent dismissal of human rights charges against Canadian Ezra Levant notes that Levant reportedly spent approximately $100,000 in his defense and still faces 17 charges in various venues stemming from the republication of the Danish Muhammed caricatures in his then-existent Western Standard.

* the trial of two men accused of planning a bomb attack within Denmark began Monday, this article notes. The article notes that the Danish Cartoons Controversy of 2006 has changed the way the country orients itself to potential violence that that asserted here.

* I haven't really covered a decision by Random House to withdraw a novel of Muhammed's youngest wife because a) it's not comics, and b) various aspects sound so stupid I was afraid I might end up throwing myself off of a balcony. But certainly the debate about the work, its asserted threat to instigate terrorism against the publisher and Ballantine's decision to bail are all framed in part by the controversy surrounding the 2005 Muhammed caricatures.
 
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“Canceled” Tokyopop Vols Only Postponed?

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It's always a danger that I'm reading a piece of manga news incorrectly, but Tokyopop official Marco Pavia seems to be insisting that some of the titles believed by some folks following that industry as being canceled due to the publisher's 2008 contractions and subsequent, broad statements that this would have a cumulative effect on the line, are really only postponed. Details on what titles are covered by this waving of the hand beyond a few big projects seem difficult to ascertain, which means they either don't know or they don't see any advantage to tipping their hand, or both. Chris Butcher has published a list of books that might be found in this particular limbo.
 
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Go, Read: Elder Statesman Of Comics

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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Is Europe Necessary?

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Go, Look: John Buscema Sketches

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Go, Look: Pat Plank

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Go, Look: Flash Comics #99

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* as part of their roll-out of books featuring Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack Vertical Inc. will be releasing hardcovers that will have material the softcovers won't. This kind of thing isn't uncommon in core American comic book publishing, but you don't usually see it in comics efforts from prose publishers.

image* the cartoonist R. Kikuo Johnson crossed my mind the other day, and I wondered what he was up to. Well, one thing seems to be this poetry project. I had forgotten all about that series.

* this LA Times profile of the resurgent art scene in Kashmir includes a brief discussion of the work of cartoonist Malik Sajad, including a link to his site.

* not comics: the critic Noah Berlatsky digs into Scott Kurtz's recent essay about criticism, pointing out that an example Kurtz uses to suggest that someone shouldn't follow criticism is exactly the kind of criticism he criticizes. I was one "criticism" away from opening a black hole right there.

* the writer Tucker Stone gives you a brief guide to Important Issues On The Internet, and how they should be discussed.

* being on Oprah's Kids Reading List is good, right?

* finally, the great Eddie Campbell returns to blogging after a long business trip. He talks about that trip and a CCI convention panel where he elaborated on some of his more recent thoughts about the state of the comics industries.
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Shannon Wheeler!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Bret Blevins!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Donna Barr!

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Quick hits
Craft
William A. Smith
Her New Inking Style
Brian Fies' Next Cover
Cartoon Appropriation
Syd Hoff Advertisement
Eric Reynolds Sketchbook #78
Cartoon Advertisement From Fortune

Exhibits/Events
Otakon Report
Punk House Exhibit
David Macaulay Exhibit
Caption 2008 Coverage
A Brief History of Comiket
Kristy Valenti on CCI 2008
Eddie Campbell at Page 45
Clifford K. Berryman Work In Show
What the Pigskin Peters Award Looks Like

History
On God Loves, Man Kills

Industry
What's Literary?
Whither The Comic Book?
Times Are Tough All Over
Comics On Immigration Issues
Retailers Respond to KE #7 Survey

Interviews/Profiles
PWCW: Blake Bell
FPI Blog: Paul Gravett
PWCW: Grant Morrison
AudioShocker: Jay Faerber
New Yorker: Josh Fruhlinger
Sydney Morning Herald: Marjane Satrapi

Not Comics
Get Your Geek On
Ian Garrick Mason on Batman Movie
Gravitas Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Publishing
Ellen Forney Leaving Lustlab Gig

Reviews
Julie: Candy
Steve Duin: Gus
Jog: Final Crisis #3
Eddie Argos: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Bill Randall: Achewood
Chris Barsanti: Various
Jared Gardner: The DFC
Alex Boney: Water Baby
Greg McElhatton: Hulk #5
David Apatoff: Gary Panter
Steve Duin: Criminal Vol. 2
Ed Sizemore: SS Astro Vol. 1
Andrew Wheeler: Scout Vol. 2
Jog: Where Demented Wented
Ed Sizemore: xxxHolic Vol. 12
Derik A Badman: Shortcomings
Sean T. Collins: Mesmo Delivery
Andrew Wheeler: The Fart Party
Van Jensen: Astro City: Dark Age
Tyler Curtain: BTVS: Season Eight
Dave Ferraro: Cold Heat Special #4
Hillary Chute: Awkward & Definition
Brendan Wright: Essex County Minis
Alex Boney: The Umbrella Academy
Robert Langro: The Green Lama Vol. 1
Cory Doctorow: Y The Last Man Vol. 10
Brian Cronin: Strangeways: Murder Moon
Rob Clough: Tales Designed To Thrizzle #4
Kelvin Green: Captain Britain and MI:13 #4
Noah Berlatsky: Dream of the Rarebit Fiend
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various Raymond Briggs Efforts
Matt Springer: Zot!: The Black and White Collection
Alex Boney: Crime Bible: The Five Lessons of Blood
Ian Goodwillie: Zot!: The Black and White Collection
 

 
August 12, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

By Tom Spurgeon

what's coming out, who's doing it and what it's going to look like; gathered into one place once a week for ease of consumption

* the on-line comics fixture Bill Kartalopoulos discusses the publisher's description for David Mazzucchelli's forthcoming Asterios Polyp, surely one of the most anticipated releases for 2009.

image* David Lasky announces he'll be doing a Carter Family biography for a major publisher -- you may have seen one of his Carter Family shorts before. A nice, nice man and a super-talented cartoonist somehow without a major project on his resume: this is great news. He'll be working once again with Frank Young.

* Guy Davis' Marquis has moved to Dark Horse and will start up again in 2010.

* female editorial cartoonist Jen Sorensen tackles the question of why there are so few female editorial cartoonists, like Jen Sorensen.

* the Ted McKeever Library will start publication in October with Transit.

* the comics news site ActuaBD.com catches that the first Marvel/Soleil effort has gone back to press and the second project may as well. What's additionally interesting here is that the company official cite the non-graphic novelness of the selected format as a contributing cause to the initial, positive reception.

image* the great Al Columbia has re-launched his web site. AdHouse Books has re-launched theirs, although it's hard to catch what they've changed at first.

* speaking of AdHouse, they're going back to press for a second printing of Josh Cotter's fine Skyscrapers of the Midwest; they've sold out of a first printing of 2000. Fantagraphics has gone back to press on Bottomless Belly Button, print run unknown, although I may have mentioned that before.

* the cartoonist Brendan McCarthy is working on a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange series for Marvel.

* the cartoonist Nick Abadzis lets slip that he's working on placing a complete Hugo Tate with a publisher. A certain number of years ago, if you had had me make a list of cartoonists lost forever to comics publishing, Abadzis would have been near the top of that list.
 
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Bart Beaty on Herve St. Louis Vs. DWAs

I think that the analogy drawn by Herve St-Louis between language and bodily mutilation obscures more than it illuminates, but I do think, otherwise, that he is absolutely correct. I have been dismayed by the fact that the DWA present themselves as a Canadian award when they do not consider works in French. The DWA's vision of Canadian comics is, frankly, one that I can't endorse. Despite his over-heated rhetoric, St-Louis has highlighted a very serious issue with these prizes.
 
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Eugenio Colonnese, 1929-2008

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Eugenio Colonnese, an Italian-born cartoonist and creator of several horror character and series that spent the majority of his professional life in Brazil, died on Friday, August 8. He had suffered a major stroke in June and had suffered various medical difficulties since that time. He was 78 years old.

imageColonnese was born in Italy and began his career in Argentina in 1949 for the publishing houses El Tony and Columba. He settled for the first time in Brazil in 1964, sharing a studio with artists such as Rodolfo Zalla and Osvaldo Talo. He was known primarily for his horror comics, although he worked in war stories, superheroes, and educational book in comics; outside of comics he worked in advertising, movie poster illustration and textbooks. Some of his better known creations were Mirza, Morto do Pantano and Pele de Cobra. He would also do the circus cowboy series Beto Carrero starting in 1980 and drew a history of Brazil for that country's Foreign Affairs ministry in 1990. Colonnese spent 20 years at Editora Atica running one of their educational comics divisions, and was most recently employed by Opera Graphica. He won several awards for his work.
 
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Pat McCarthy, 1931-2008

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The Amarillo Independent (not a permanent link) and Editor & Publisher not the passing of Amarillo Globe-News cartoonist Pat McCarthy on August 5. A former marine and occasional greeting card cartoonist in addition to his newspaper work, McCarthy seems to be remembered as a pleasant, genial man by those who worked with him. A small gallery of work can be found here.

He is survived by a wife of 50 years, Jodi. McCarthy requested that no memorial service be held. He was 76 years old.
 
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Hervé St-Louis: DWAs Discriminate

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Comic Book Bin's Hervé St-Louis launches into the Doug Wright Awards, claiming that as an English-language only awards they should not get to claim status as a Canadian award.

I don't know enough about French-language culture vs. English-language culture battles in Canada to say much here. As an outsider, some of the distinctions being made strike me as silly, and the comparison between the Wrights asking folks to submit work only when published in English and the Eisners or Harveys asking people to bleach their skin or undergo gender-altering surgery before submitting is so magnificently idiotic -- one is a change to a work, one is a change to a person; the equivalent would be Marjane Satrapi forced to draw a penis on her character in Persepolis, not add one to her body -- that I considered not linking to the piece at all. I just hope that was emotion taking over because if that's the level of reasonable discourse this issue engenders I'm heading for the door and I don't care if it's marked "Exit" or "Sortie."

Still, I think there's a point to be made here, enough that I'd love to hear the other side of it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Here's the DWA rules page. It also looks like at least one member of the Hall of Fame made work in French, but I'm not certain.
 
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IDW Publishing’s Ted Adams On The Future Of Print: “Comic Books Are Different”

imageThis article on how the comic book industry is set to surf the ongoing tidal wave of new technologies and changes in advertising hitting the print medium offers up a few compelling ideas that I haven't seen discussed in great detail as of yet. One is that the tendency of fans to re-read comic books means that readers are exposed to a comic book's advertisements multiple times instead of the one-and-done routine that is likely the dominant model at many magazines. Another is that comics' slow move into digital media may have left it less exposed to a collapse in print sales hitting a few other markets. Adams also talks about IDW's search for a digital strategy that will work long-term.

Related: Don MacPherson looks at recent discussions on the future of print comics.
 
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Cartoonists At Work: Seth, Others

imageProcess porn alert: Seth talks about the daily grind of being a cartoonist and even provides a one-sheet strip about it for The Walrus. You can find a giant post of links to pieces on how various people work, including comics folks ranging from Herge to Warren Ellis, here.
 
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Shoe Makes Move From Tribune to King Features; Starting September 1

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The long-running Shoe created by the late Jeff MacNelly and currently authored by widow Susie MacNelly, Gary Brookins and Chris Cassatt (the daily is signed in different places, once by MacNelly, and then again by Cassatt and Brookins together), will be distributed by King Features Syndicate beginning September 1. This comes as something of a surprise given that late last year MacNelly's company sued Tribune Media Services in order to make the move and as far as I know, no one had announced that case had been settled or won, although given the time frame I'd guess the former is more likely than the latter. Dave Astor's report linked to above notes the feature still has over 500 clients. The desire for the Shoe team to move their strip has some symbolic significance in that the strip's creator was a prominent Chicago Tribune cartoonist for years before his 2000 death.
 
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Go, Look: The Return of the Ghoul

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Go, Look: Alan Hanley’s Comic Book #6

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's a piece about the state of the graphic novel in Israel.

* the publisher Jonathan Cape is gearing up for another round in its comics short-story contest. Remember to read all the rules before deciding whether or not to participate.

* the Palm Beach Post discusses the retirement of its cartooning legend, Don Wright.

image* the PW comics and pop culture blogger Heidi MacDonald has more 1974 comic book convention photos. The initial impressions are fairly easy to make: more women than you'd guess, fewer fatties, nobody in costume. I'm fascinated by the guy in the photo accompanying this slugged point: something about a grown man in a suit coat with a cane casually hooked over his arm while reading a comic book screams "different era" louder than all of the young, long-haired men in the other pictures combined.

* a few readers were were surprised to see a Francoise Mouly coloring credit on an old Claremont/Byrne X-Men spread linked to yesterday, although Mouly's freelance work at the House of Ideas occasionally crops up in profiles and biographies. Here are a few of her efforts for your Mike Mine Mouly collecting efforts.

* I don't agree with Kevin Church that a store owner reviewing new comics in a negative fashion is a fanboy impulse or even necessarily a bad thing, but I understand both arguments.

* Noah Berlatsky wonders out loud why they aren't overtly directing people to related Batman comic books in advertising that comes with Dark Knight. I don't know that I've ever seen that kind of targeted marketing in movie commercials, and I wonder if it would work. I have seen plenty of Batman-related presentations in the big box stores, although it's true that they have a variety of products to push such as kids' books and the Greenberger encyclopedia as opposed to focusing on the graphic novels closest to the movie. I would imagine that the success they've had with selling Watchmen will make them consider a focused strategy on future film projects when it comes to promoting related books.

* the thing that occurred to me after seeing the movie -- well, after AIIEE! My Eyes! when I stepped out into the sun -- is that you'd think from the comics end there would have been a follow-up to Year One that extended that work's appealing ground-level and straight-forward crime-oriented Batman into a Batman vs. Joker story or something similar. That makes perfect sense. As I recall, the actual sequel to Year One was a lot more continuity-conscious, the superheroics a lot more standard, and it featured some goofy-looking guy whose name I can't even remember that kind of looked like a Antonio Prohias design. (Please don't e-mail me the name.)

* folks keep e-mailing me this general survey of the manga publishing landscape

* I expect we'll see more announcements like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution saying that they're dropping For Better or For Worse after the new storylines end on August 31st.

* the cartoonist Scott Kurtz talks about the critic-cartoonist relationship and suggests it doesn't exist. I think I'd agree with Kurtz on the principles fueling this one, although I'd likely disagree with the tone and make-up of the argument that gets each of us there. Here's a discussion thread and commentary about the subject.

* not comics: due to a change the Television Critics Association press tour, Comic-Con International may become even more important to TV writers next summer.

* finally, Matt Fraction dreams...
 
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Go, Look: The Beekeeper

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Go, Look: Lorna The Jungle Girl

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Quick hits
Craft
Yoda Sketchbook
Brian Fies' Studio
On The Use Of All-Black Panels

Exhibits/Events
Your 2008 Caption Round-Up

History
Patrick Berube: Casterman
I Have No Idea What This Is
Funky Pays Tribute to Superman

Industry
New Strips Added
Woodring For Sale
I Hate Your Cartoons
I'm Off to Cartoonin' College!
Little Orphan Annie Can Go Away Now

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Pia Guerra
Wizard: Elijah Brubaker
NY Daily News: Liz Baillie
Newsarama: Jose Villarubia
Comicdom: Jason Thompson
Talking With Tim: Dirk Deppey
Comics Waiting Room: Colleen Coover

Not Comics
My Tummy Hurts
Jem Scamped A Lady
Shel Silverstein's Musical Beginnings
What Would A Watchmen Movie in the '80s Have Been Like?

Publishing
New Nast-Tweed Book

Reviews
Paul O'Brien: Various
Paul O'Brien: Cable #6
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Greg McElhatton: Vix! #1
Nina Stone: Final Crisis #3
Her Graphic Novel Shelf: K
Shannon Smith: Brad N' Josh
Paul O'Brien: The Authority #1
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Flight Vol. 5
Richard Krauss: Alternate Reality #1
Paul O'Brien: NYX: No Way Home #1
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: Killing Made Simple
Richard Krauss: Beware the Robopocalypse!
Richard Krauss: Rock and Roll Death Wagon #1
George Gene Gustines: Bottomless Belly Button
 

 
August 11, 2008


Human Rights Complaint Against Canadian Publisher Over Danish Cartoons Dismissed

According to wire stories that started to pop into existence last Friday, the Alberta Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint from the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities that charged the publisher of Western Standard, Ezra Levant with human rights violations for republishing the Fall 2005 Danish Muhammed caricatures. Although it was a shame the charges were brought to begin with -- Levant claims that a half-million dollars was spent by the commission investigating him -- the commission found that the cartoons were news, which I think is totally reasonable. Levant suggests that Muslim groups may appeal the decision.
 
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I Beg You To Be A Little More Observant

It's hardly news that DC Comics officials could be gigantic assholes to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, or, to use the kindest reading of newly available documents possible, that the relationship between writer Siegel and DC Comics was overheated and saturated with rigorous, curdled dysfunction. It's just that now, thanks to the Siegel Family and public disclosure laws, there's better, sadder evidence than ever before that a kind of surpassing nastiness and rage and arrogant dismissal lies at the heart of comic books, the place where children and too many grown-ups with the moral outlook of children still trick themselves into believing that's where you find Truth, Justice and the American Way.

imageComics is an industry built on exploitation. No amount of giving each other awards, or doing work of a noble sort off the books and behind the scenes, or reforming a system so that it becomes in some cases slightly less horrible -- none of it changes that basic fact. The level of discourse between DC Comics and Jerry Siegel should surprise only in that nearly every single creative professional sees in its talk of necessary abortions and unfit artists an exchange they've endured, a relationship they've suffered, a dismissal of idea or an ambition they've experienced. We are the only industry that so loves its Colonel Parkers and so distrusts its Elvis Presleys. That managers and makers have spent equal time this summer preening in the spotlight of appreciation brought by a world starved for idiosyncratic creation shows just how damaged we've become.

Comics' original sin echoes over the course of its history. It rips to the surface in a variety of nasty ways to which old men, widows and children mournfully testify. It spawns a thousand and one grinning doppelgangers carrying a bag of the oldest tricks. It rains abuse on a creative class that at times bristles, at times is grimly accepting, and at times gives birth to one or two poor, depraved souls that will fight for the imagined rightness of someone else, many someone elses, to benefit from an inspired act of creation ahead of that creator. What happened to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster isn't history, not in the way history is usually defined. It is close, and it is awful, and it can't help but make you just a little bit sad.

One could say we deserve it, only nobody deserves it.
 
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Lynn Johnston Announces August 31 As The Last Day For Long-Running FBoFW

imageAccording to a report on the Doug Wright Awards ceremony last Friday evening, newly inducted Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Famer Lynn Johnston will end the current iteration of her popular For Better or For Worse on August 31. After that strip, and the day after where client papers will run a personal good-bye from the cartoonist, the sales juggernaut will re-boot with re-runs, several sequences re-drawn to look more like Johnston's current style.

I don't think any of this stuff is new except maybe that exact date, and none of it's surprising given the current storyline's imminent Anthony and Elizabeth wedding. Johnston has gone back and forth on exactly what to do and when to do it I think for about two and a half years now (take that, Brett Favre!). Given the deadlines involved, this decision seems final and seems right. So, anyway, if any of you want to follow the strip one last time, that time is now.
 
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Colleen Doran on Insurance For Artists

If you are a comics creator or other self-employed artist that in some way doesn't have insurance, or doesn't have insurance that's completely satisfying to you, you will probably find something of interest in this lengthy post by artist Colleen Doran.
 
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Go, Read: Neal Adams’ Comic On Behalf Of Painter Dina Gottliebova Babbitt

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Go, Look: Sneddiger’s Salad Oil

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Go, Look: X-Men Double-Spreads

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Not Comics: Dugald Stewart Walker

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the Sine-Sarkozy affair leads to another unpleasant eddy of activity.

* I enjoyed this lengthy write-up of the Where Demented Wented launch party.

* not comics: I wasn't aware Zack Snyder is trying to do a Cobalt 60 film. I think they've finally found Mark Wahlberg's comics movie.

image* the writer, comics historian and longtime San Diego con fixture Mark Evanier suggests that maybe people should drop the nerd jokes about Comic-Con International and its attendees. I would settle for someone telling a funny one.

* another day, another review site. I prefer this to last week's "another day, another massive and I expect reasonably well-funded group blog."

* I have no idea what the hell people are talking about when they talk about content and vertical platforms or whatever, but I guess if you're one of those creators that shares in a property with DC Comics, an article like this is good news.

* this short piece on L'Association's disclaimer regarding putting bar codes on their books killed me.

* a new comics exhibition will open in Illinois this October -- it looks like you could arrange for it to visit your museum, if you have one. RC Harvey consulted.

* finally, Alan Moore to recommend La Muse.
 
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Happy 44th Birthday, Jim Lee!

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Quick hits
Craft
Eric Reynolds Sketchbook #72
Eric Reynolds Sketchbook #73

Exhibits/Events
Brunetti Canceled
Book Publishers at CCI

History
Booga Goes Undercover
Manga Helps Us Reflect On Hiroshima Day
Do They Still Have Advertisements In Comic Books?

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
Paris Has Manga Fever
NZ Comics Store Profiled
I Something Your Cartoon
Talking Careers in Comics
Why, Whatever Do You Mean?

Interviews/Profiles
PWCW: Tite Kubo
Inkstuds: Craig Yoe
About.com: Tite Kubo
Blogtown: Shawn Aldridge
Maine Business: Jay Piscopo
TampaBay.com: William Insignares

Not Comics
Awww...
Woodring Wide Web

Publishing
Introducing Studs Up
Greg Horn's New Gig
Six Degrees of Ms. to DC
Tiki Joe Mysteries Profiled
Rush Looking For Publisher
Marvel's Oz Project Profiled
What Kosaku Shima Says About Japan

Reviews
TL Lee: Cancer Vixen
Brian Heater: Bellen #5
Elijah Brubaker: Ropeburn
Sarah Morean: Fatal Faux Pas
Brian Heater: Swallow Me Whole
Richard Bruton: Transmetropolitan
Mel Odom: Smuggling Spirits Vol. 2
Leroy Douresseaux: Essex County Vol. 3
Patrick Hayes: Star Trek: Assignment Earth #4
Sarah Johnson: A People's History Of American Empire
 

 
August 10, 2008


CR Sunday Interview: David Glanzer

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*****

I am aware that many hardcore comics industry followers and most of the casual ones are very, very tired of hearing about 2008's Comic-Con International, now two weeks in the rear view mirror and the recipient of an enormous amount of build-up and post-game for about a solid month there. I feel your pain, and if it's too much for you right now to get into one more piece, I won't be upset if you click away. I hope you'll bookmark it, though, for later perusal -- I think it's a pretty good one.

Even as the news cycle heats up so that comics events of all kinds get processed more quickly than ever, my yearly post-con interview with CCI's David Glanzer seems doomed to remain scheduled a week or two after the show itself. One reason is that a slight delay allows me to take the temperature of other pieces spinning out of the show and ask questions about subjects that aren't part of my personal experience -- Chuck Rozanski's claim that comics retailers are losing ground at the show being a prime example this year -- and so that I can see how Glanzer answers some of the questions put to him by reporters during and just after the show and hopefully tease more out of him at this later time period.

Mostly, though, I like doing this yearly interview the same reason I like doing all the interviews that appear here: I'm curious about the issues involved. Glanzer is a bright and articulate guy with an interesting job at a fascinating and important comics institution, one that I will follow every year I continue to cover comics, so I want him on the record. Among the subjects discussed: how Comic-Con worked with certain emphases in pre-con coverage so as not to instigate further demand in a show that required advanced ticketing already sold-out, whether or not the show will consider raising costs for attendees in 2009, and how they feel about the growing specter of off-site events taking place concurrently with events at the Convention Center.

I greatly appreciate David Glanzer's time, the care with which he answered the following and the patience he displayed with some of the more difficult and/or repetitive lines of inquiry.

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Talk to me about the crush of pre-publicity for the show from your end. How was this year different from the last few in terms of pre-show publicity? How much work on your end was it for something like the Entertainment Weekly special issue, and what would that work entail?

DAVID GLANZER: I think we have a pretty good relationship with a variety of trade and magazine publishers. Though we made a concerted effort to limit pre-show advertising and tried to limit pre-show publicity, there are some things that will happen regardless.

Because we limited attendance this year we were confronted with the problem of letting people know the show was around the corner, but we tried not to hype it too much as there is nothing worse than advertising a show people can't actually attend.

In fact, one network television show was amazingly kind and asked to run a special commercial featuring Comic-Con, but we, while very grateful, asked if the spot could be tailored in such a way as to not utilize our logo or name. And they did, and I would say I think it had a better impact for their show so it worked out well.

SPURGEON: Where are you in your post-Con process? If I remember right, you guys do a lot of self-examination and meetings that go over the con just past.

GLANZER: This is true. Right now we're in the process of trying to get everything back in our offices. The week of the show we physically move to the center, so now it's trying to catch up on old emails, making sure the computers are connected correctly and things of that nature.

SPURGEON: Is there a picture of this year's show developing from Comic-Con's end?

GLANZER: I don't know that we look at it in those terms. There are always things that worked and things that didn't. This year is no exception. There is much to go over and we're in the process of discussing those issues in the next few weeks.

SPURGEON: I have a hard time believing that this year's Comic-Con has yet to make a unique impression. Can you give me any example of something that worked well this year, or any example of a specific area of concern? If you can't, when will this begin to take shape from your perspective?

GLANZER: Oh, I think it has made a unique impression. But we really do spend the entire week putting out fires, so our impression of the show may be different than it actually was. In the coming weeks as we have our debriefings we'll get a better overall picture.

SPURGEON: Is there an example of something about the show where Comic-Con's perspective on how things went might be different from maybe the conventional wisdom about how that aspect of that show turned out? Is there an insider perspective on the show to which we're not privy?

GLANZER: No doubt there is an insider's view that the public doesn't see. The week of the show, and quite honestly, a few weeks before, is spent trying to make sure the show happens as smoothly as possible. We're literally trying to put out fires here and there. I'm sure our task is similar, in a smaller way, to an amusement park; the fun is in attending and having a good time. The "behind the scenes" aspect shouldn't impose upon that fun. Granted, sometimes it does, but we really do try to prevent that from happening.

imageSPURGEON: Could you provide an example of how these views might diverge, say from a past show?

GLANZER: Well in regard to press this year, we were inundated with a large number of people wanting to register on-site, more than in past years. So while we were prepared for some on-site registration, I don't think we were as prepared as we could have been. We augmented our staff a bit to try and accommodate that.

SPURGEON: How did selling out in advance change how the show operated on the ground during the four days plus one? Did knowing ahead of time you were sold out actually relieve the pressure in a certain sense? How much demand was there for tickets from exhibitors, studios and the general populace and how did you deal with those extra demands so late in the game?

GLANZER: Knowing we were going to run out of tickets was an incredibly frustrating development for everyone. One mainstream newspaper characterized the running out of tickets as "That was good for the event's planners..." which couldn't be further from the truth.

Having a show that people cannot attend is never a good thing. And the demand from exhibitors, studios, press and professionals for additional tickets was more than any of us could have imagined.

With limited attendance, we will need to look at how badges are allocated to certain segments of our attendee base. I have no doubt this will be a major topic for discussion.

SPURGEON: How many people were at the show at any one given time, do you think?

GLANZER: With the exception of Wednesday night, there were probably about 60,000 people in the facility at any given time.

SPURGEON: What about Wednesday night?

GLANZER: We don't have official numbers yet so I really don't know about Wednesday night. The 60,000 number for the other days is based on past numbers which should be about right for this year I imagine.

SPURGEON: Speaking of Wednesday, will there be any changes to what is now an exhausting addition to the con calendar? It hardly feels like the bonus to four-day con supporters that it was once presented as being. Will you give any thought to regulating exclusives on Wednesday or in general? Is the con happy with the way Wednesday nights have developed?

GLANZER: Preview Night served an important purpose for us. It was a way to reward, and hopefully entice, people who register early. I don't know that regulating exclusives is on the schedule for discussion, but I know Wednesday has become much bigger of a night than any of us had originally imagined, and this too will be discussed in the coming weeks.

SPURGEON: It seemed that except for some of the upstairs programming areas flow was greatly improved over previous shows. Can you talk about what you might have done to improve those kinds of issues? Were the aisles wider? Was security employed at potential bottlenecks?

GLANZER: Some aisles were increased in size, and we hired even more personnel to troubleshoot line issues. This is something we began last year and then augmented it this year. Again, there is room for improvement and I think we learned some things this year that will help us deal with line issues next year. Again, something that will require a complete debriefing.

SPURGEON: Speaking of the security, they seemed different than past years. Is it true that they supplemented their normal staff with military personnel this year? Was the performance of security markedly different this year?

GLANZER: Security is always a paramount concern for us. We talk about security in only the most general of terms. It's difficult with a show of our size, even some staff aren't fully apprised of last minute changes and I'm sure the same can be said of some members of the security team. But we are trying to make it work much better and I hope this year saw some improvement.

SPURGEON: Was security supplemented by military personnel this year? I'm told that this is true. Beyond a vague wishing that things went well and improved, does the show hold security to a standard of performance? How is this ensured? Since you brought it up, is communicating with security a concern?

GLANZER: I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable discussing who or how security is hired. But my understanding is that hiring practices were not changed this year from any other year.

Do we hold them to a standard of performance? Of course we do, and we do so with anyone we pay to provide a service to us and our attendees.

I didn't mean to imply communicating with security is a concern. My comment was simply to illustrate that sometimes I, myself, am unaware of a room change or a line change and the same could be true for security. With their bright red shirts they are oftentimes the first people attendees go to for directions or information. If some program changes elude me from time to time, I would imagine the same might be true for some members of the security team.

SPURGEON: Talk to me about your relationship with the City of San Diego right now. There seems to be a lot of noise out there that it's somehow lacking: that you're impatiently waiting on promises to be kept for 2013 and beyond, and/or that you might not get the respect in terms of dollars spent you think you deserve. Is either perception true? How would you describe your relationship now that you've had another successful year?

GLANZER: I think our relationship with the city is a good one. I certainly hope it is. We have been in San Diego since our beginning and we hope to stay. We have tried to be a good neighbor and, quite honestly, I think we've gone out of our way to make that point.

When we extended our contract a couple of years back, we did so knowing we were, at some point, going to have to forgo growth. This wasn't an easy choice for us as we had been approached by other cities wanting our business. We heard very loudly that our attendee base didn't want us to leave San Diego and we didn't want to leave either. At about this time we learned that the convention center was hoping to expand its facility. This was great news for us.

We are still hoping the expansion will occur. We haven't seen movement on that, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening, we just aren't privy to any insider information on that at this point.

In regard to dollars spent; the city has figures based on an economic impact study that shows Comic-Con spending at roughly $40,000,000. I'm not sure of their formulation, but our own survey, showed that attendee spending alone (this does not include our own expenditures for center rental etc., or exhibitor expenditures) topped $60,000,000. And that was just for attendee lodging, food, and purchases. Again, that figure does not include exhibitor expenditures, movie studio expenditure, or our own expenditures in putting on the show.

SPURGEON: Since this is likely to be an item of contention, can you tell me how your survey was generated? If this was something you did, or supervised, or caused to be done, why on earth wouldn't you include things like your own expenditures in putting on the show?

GLANZER: Ours was not an economic impact study. Ours was a survey, conducted by an outside organization that we hired. We survey our attendees, from time to time, to gather information to help us better run the show. And among the questions last time was money spent and where.

SPURGEON: Let's talk about the decision you'll be making in the next couple of years to extend past 2012 with San Diego... or not. First of all, when do you expect to make that decision? Second, what factors are you looking at in terms of movement between now and then? What would constitute enough progress in terms of the show's space needs for you to re-up with San Diego? Is there any make or break factor that hasn't been discussed openly?

GLANZER: Typically we negotiate our contracts about two years out. This last time we were asked to sign for a four year deal I think because someone was challenging our dates for 2011 or 2012. So I would assume right around 2010 we'll be looking to see where things are with the city. If the expansion is underway, I think the decision would be a simple one. If there is no expansion underway, then we'd have to look at all options once again.

SPURGEON: When was the last time you heard from the Anaheim or Las Vegas city/convention officials? When do you expect to hear from them again, or do you?

GLANZER: I don't mean to be coy or evasive, but any discussions or negotiations wouldn't be served well by discussing them in public. This is not to say that there are discussions going on, but I would hate for anyone, whether it be the City of San Diego, or any other city to think there are discussions going on and they were not a part of them. Again, I don't expect much movement will happen before 2010.

SPURGEON: Is operating within a morass of rumors and speculation a bad thing in and of itself? Does Comic-Con feel the effect of operating with so many people thinking you might leave, for instance?

GLANZER: Well, to be honest we don't want to move. I mean I think you and a few other journalists who give me a ring and ask, point blank, "are you leaving" get the correct answer. No, we're here until 2012. Do we want to move? No.

We have tried to limit attendance this year and while it might have worked on some levels, I think it was problematic on other levels.

Let me be very clear about this; we want to stay in San Diego. We were even willing to forego growth to do so, so I think our dedication is well documented. We just need to be sure that any decisions made about the future of the event take into consideration the attendees of our event and the costs associated with it.

Inflation alone will increase costs of doing business in San Diego, we expect that, but limited attendance and limited exhibitors means we're going to soon be flat in income.

That isn't a prospect any business is happy about.

SPURGEON: How much does the convention worry about a continued recession and the impact of high oil prices on the ability of exhibitors and attendees to come to the show in the next couple of years?

GLANZER: We're all very concerned. I spoke with one family who had come to Comic-Con from Minnesota. This was their yearly vacation. The woman I spoke with -- mother of two -- said they typically had three trips a year; two very small three-day weekend trips and one big vacation. They opted out of the two smaller trips and made Comic-Con their annual trip.

We certainly are concerned.

SPURGEON: Is the convention planning at all for 1) this run of fantasy movies that love Comic-Con as a place to promote to cycle out, which admittedly seems less likely than it might have a few years back, or, 2) for changes in the way that the big media companies use Comic-Con that might not be as generous as they are right now as they get used to what works and what doesn't at the show? In other words, is the Con ready if suddenly there's not the same crush of interest from Hollywood?

GLANZER: I think we need to be prepared for anything. We have a team that is really very practical.

In terms of generosity, we are both lucky and grateful for the presentations by major studios at our show. And while some companies spend a lot of money while in San Diego, it isn't always with us. I think the city and local businesses do very well with large off-site displays, parking lot buyouts, parties, street teams hired to promote a project, actors dressed in costume and carrying signs and things of that nature. The revenue generated is a plus for the local economy. Of course we don't charge for program presentations or panel time, so in most cases the revenue generated from companies are limited to the cost of booth space. I will say, however, that this year we did try to tap into that revenue stream a bit by making additional onsite signage available.

I should also point out that when we decided to convert Hall H into a 6500-seat meeting room, we consciously gave up the revenue that would be generated by selling that space as exhibit space. It made more sense for us to try to accommodate our attendees as best as possible. Obviously if there were no longer a need for that space as a meeting space I would imagine we would make it available to exhibitors.

But it's obvious that many attendees enjoy these presentations and certainly for their sake I wouldn't want to see it end anytime soon.

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SPURGEON: Have you been in contact with IDW given Ted Adams' statement they might not be back?

GLANZER: I hope you don't mind if I take a pass on this question. I don't think it would be good to discuss specifics of individuals or companies. But I can certainly speak in generalities.

SPURGEON: What do you say to the general notion that the convention simply doesn't work for a lot of publishers, that the costs outweigh the benefits. Before Marvel became a movie studio it wasn't showing, and several smaller publishers have stopped attending -- Alternative and AdHouse spring to mind, although AdHouse may return, and I think PictureBox might be out after this year. How much is this a concern for you, a slow squeeze of these quality publishers?

GLANZER: Well I think to say that Marvel wasn't at Comic-Con until they became a movie studio isn't remembering the long history of Comic-Con and Marvel.

Of course we would love to accommodate everyone who would like to exhibit at the show. This isn't always the case. Sometimes there isn't enough floor space; sometimes an exhibitor makes the decision to sit out a year. The reasons for an exhibitor not exhibiting can be many fold. If it is a decision based on costs outweighing benefits, that's a difficult one to argue.

I would ask first, what is the goal of attending the show? Is it to have the biggest presence possible? Is it to sell product? Is it to market to the public? Is it to interact with press? There are any number of scenarios that I can see being worked out if a company is not meeting their needs. But, in this economy, I also understand that sometimes hard money costs are a factor. And that is something we, too, have to deal with. But I would hope any exhibitor who has issues with the show knows they can contact us and, perhaps, together we can come up with a scenario that works best for everyone.

SPURGEON: Are you telling me there's no special, specific concern for 1) comics publishers and 2) quality comics publishers leaving the show? Are you in effect saying there's little difference between the issues facing those exhibitors or your concern for them and, say, the issues facing and your concern for a company offering a computer program or selling t-shirts? As much as your answer on Marvel cites their history at the show, many folks to whom I've spoken believe that Marvel wouldn't exhibit right now if it weren't for the changes in their profile brought about by the increased role of movies at the company -- that as a comics publisher, they might not do the show. Does the departure of publishing companies indicate that no scenario is possible for them?

GLANZER: I am not saying there is no special concern for those companies. What I was trying to say is that each company, publishers, and retailers included, may have different reasons for attending the show.

A imagine the reason for a retailer to be at the show will differ from a publisher who has no retail outlet. It doesn't mean one is more important than the other, it simply means they might have a different criteria by which they must judge the success of their presence at the show.

In 2006 we had 155 booths dedicated to comics (Golden/Silver/New Comics), in 2008 we had 173 booths. In regard publishers, in 2006 we had 363 booths that were taken by publishers and in 2008 that number increased to 403 booths. And we still have publishers and retailers that are on our wait list for space.

Yes, they are very important to us, and as I mentioned earlier, I wish we had the space to accommodate all of those who would like to exhibit at the show.

In reference to Marvel, I don't doubt that people you have spoken with have an opinion of why Marvel is back at the show. Based on our long business history, I just don't agree with that opinion.

SPURGEON: Chuck Rozanski asserts in one of his convention reports that the show may have lost its traditional role as a place for high-end comics collectors to shop, and may be slowly losing the dealers in general. First, is his characterization that the number of comics sellers has declined in the past few years true? Second, is the con making this an area of special concern, and what can they do to reach out to this traditional area of exhibitors at the show?

GLANZER: Well as I mentioned earlier, our retailer exhibitor space continues to grow, so, I would disagree with that characterization. In regard to high-end buyers, well I imagine the economy may have a factor in that, or it may simply be one exhibitors product over another. Last year one exhibitor sold a very high-end comic, and this year sold one or more in the $3000 to $5000 range, so I'm not sure if that characterization is entirely accurate either.

SPURGEON: Exhibitors tell me you're raising prices. Can you characterize the extent of that raise, perhaps in terms of percentage points? What led you to that decision?

GLANZER: The standard price for a booth at Comic-Con will be $2,200 this year, an increase of about 9.25 percent.

However, if an exhibitor chose to sign up at the show, they would have received a $600 discount, so the amount would have been $1,600.

I would also point out that most booths are taken up on site and very few exhibitors ever pay the final price. We are usually sold out months in advance of the show and, obviously, months before the last price point.

We also offer multi-show discounts for those exhibitors who choose to exhibit at WonderCon and Comic-Con.

In the past we could count on a large segment of the exhibitor base purchasing their booths closer to the show. This is really no longer the case. The decision to raise exhibitor prices wasn't an easy one, but because of the prospect of limited attendance and limited exhibitors, the decision was made to move forward with this scenario.

SPURGEON: Will prices rise for attendees as well? And if not, why not, considering the massive demand? When will you know what the prices will be for 2009?

GLANZER: There are no plans to raise prices for attendees in 2009. While I can see an argument for raising prices as a way to decrease attendance, we need to keep in mind that exhibitors at our show count on attendees. Whether they are retailers, publishers, independent or small press, all rely on traffic flow to meet their needs. So if we can continue to meet their needs in this regard, and at the same time meet our budgetary requirements, I think we'll be okay.

This is not to suggest that we will never raise attendee prices, but for now I think we can operate with the steps we've taken so far so that attendee prices for 2009 should mirror 2008.

SPURGEON: I have to admit, that's a little baffling to me given your issues with limited attendance. Are you suggesting that demand is soft enough that raising prices, say, 10 percent, would risk a severe attendance drop even considering how demand outstrips available tickets? How can you negotiate with city officials or, really, anyone else from a position that you are "flat in income" when you're offering your tickets at a price that seems obviously lower than market demand?

GLANZER: I think, given the current state of the economy, asking a kid to shell out more money to attend Comic-Con may not be the wisest decision, especially if we can meet our budgetary needs without having to do so. Again, this does not mean we will never raise prices, I just don't think we needed to do it this year.

imageSPURGEON: You have a massive number of press on hand now. You've always admirably been really loose with your press policy. Will there be any refinement of that policy? Will you consider steps such as publications showing past coverage for past years of attendance?

GLANZER: We actually started being a little stricter with press beginning the year before last. While we still consider online press our mainstream press, and welcome nearly 3000 members of the media. We will have discussions in the next few weeks of how best to limit press without inhibiting reporting.

Requirements for press access are listed on our website. While we have made no formal decisions as of yet, I imagine, because of capacity concerns at the center, that we will only have pre-registered press next year, and will probably have to limit the number of badges issued to press guests.

SPURGEON: A number of press folks complained about the fact that the press pass does not grant special access to areas of coverage. Now in past years, this always seemed to come from comics people that couldn't attend their favorite TV show panel, but I'm hearing it from people that actually cover the area they're trying to get into. Are you considering reform of the press access situation? Is closed circuit viewing possible in the next few years? Pooled coverage? A separate press track for access? How do you ensure that press will be able to cover the events you're presenting to them?

GLANZER: I think pooled coverage is an excellent idea and while it might work for some I don't know that it would work for all.

Closed circuit viewing is certainly an idea, and one we've discussed. It is, however, still logistically a challenge, not to mention the potential cost involved. As we are completely out of space at the center, it really is a challenge.

I might add that with so many hours of programming I think it is impossible for one reporter to catch all it is they want to report. I know one major newspaper sent a team of reporters this year for that very reason, which is something many online sites have been doing for some time.

I should point out in the case of Hollywood programming; our press list is made available to each studio before the show. It is they who pick who it is they want covering their program and give special access. We have nothing to do with that.

SPURGEON: While we're on the subject, it seems as if there's an enormous amount of complaining about the ability of attendees to access panels. Now, if we consider that part of the risk/reward system of the show, could there be something done so that people don't stand in line and then not get into an event? Have you considered an advanced ticket system? How will you work on this growing area of dissatisfaction in future years?

GLANZER: In the past we have implemented ticketing for some events. However we have to be aware of, and never want to be in a situation where people begin selling their tickets to a panel or program. We would then be faced with a scalper issue that already seems to be rearing its ugly head in other areas. I'm not sure if there is a clear answer, but we'll surely be discussing it in the coming weeks.

SPURGEON: Since you've brought it up, how bad was the scalper situation and what might the con do about it?

GLANZER: I think all of us thought it was really bad. No one wants to see that type of thing go on, especially when some people were selling counterfeits. This is an area we will be discussing in the coming weeks.

SPURGEON: Now that a number of professionals in different industries are attending, there seems to be more of a discussion of the laxity of the professional designation. One longtime comics professional once looked at the professional registration line, decided they didn't qualify, and walked to the front of the line. Will there be any changes to that way of folks attending the show?

GLANZER: No doubt professional registration will see some changes next year. What those changes are is unclear at the moment, but there were a number of issues that need to be addressed, and we are committed to trying to find those solutions.

SPURGEON: Might there be a processing fee added, for instance?

GLANZER: I don't think we ever want to overburden professionals, many of whom give of their time and expertise on panels and programs, with making it more difficult for them to attend. But something does have to be done, and it's one of the areas that I know will be discussed.

SPURGEON: A new area of concern for some this year is that the traffic flow of the show is such that by placing, say, artists and illustrators and the comics/small press at different ends of the show, that instead of encouraging a flow you're actually having people not even making the attempt to cross the big media areas. Is there any thought to gathering all of the publishing into one area?

GLANZER: We have configured the floor in a variety of different ways over the years. This seems to be working out best, though best doesn't necessarily mean perfect. I might point out that each exhibit hall has doors to the lobby. Those not wanting to wade through the media areas can walk to the lobby and avoid the lines and enter another hall from there which a lot of people seem to be doing.

SPURGEON: As someone who likes comics of all types, I reject outright the notion that the only exhibitors from non-comics media should be those that reflect some sort of fantasy element in what they're exhibiting. That being said, how do you answer the concern from people that things like The Office doesn't have a place at the show? And how do you make those decisions as a show what to allow to exhibit and not exhibit?

GLANZER: I think it was in 1970 that we screened Orson Welles' Othello. I would imagine if we held a screening or a panel on that film today we would meet the same sort of objections.

While I am not comparing Othello to The Office, many people feel that we shouldn't allow any panel, guest or exhibitor that doesn't have a direct tie to comics. And while I appreciate that point of view, I would have hated to turn someone away like Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Frank Capra or any other geniuses in their field because they didn't have a comics tie in.

Again, people forget that while comics are at our core, we have always been about film and literature as well. As comics audience have embraced games and toys, so have we.

The Office panel -- which was well attended -- was to feature writers and producers -- and one star -- of that show, and is a great example of good writing, and good storytelling.

I have no doubt in ten years that it will be looked upon as a classic of good television. If we were to use the litmus test that fantasy or comics need to be at the foundation for any guest or presentation, then we would have missed Capra, and would never have screened Othello.

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SPURGEON: How does the Con feel about the growing number of social events and meet-ups that take place during show hours off site?

GLANZER: Events that happen off site during show hours aren't a bad thing. Sometimes that can make for better movement in the hall if an off-site event occurs during our busiest time. We usually like to be aware of those things as sometimes they may conflict with a special program or event we may have. But in general, we would love to work with people on exploring off-site activities for attendees.

SPURGEON: There was a lot of discussion among indy/alt types that they're at a specific disadvantage because the success of the show keeps a natural audience for their work out. In other words, the people that want to buzz down from LA and shop for t-shirts and get Robert Williams' autograph aren't the plan six months ahead crowd. One solution that's been floated is the possibility of doing an alt-show in conjunction with Comic-Con, the way that film festivals sometimes crop up outside of other film festivals. Would the con object to this happening for alt-comics, or maybe other industries that wanted to set up shop near the big show?

GLANZER: I think some of those Indy and alternative creators can benefit from the sheer number of people at the event. Hopefully their work will be visible to an audience that might not normally be aware of their work.

Were we to separate them, then their audience would be limited. Granted it would be a dedicated audience, but the opportunity to attract a new audience, I feel, would be diminished considerably.

No one wishes more than I, that people could just come down from Los Angeles, or even locally, and walk right up and buy a badge to the show. But whether it was the traffic accident of three years ago that blocked the major freeway between LA and San Diego, the major traffic accident on that same freeway this year, or limited ticket sales. I think most people realize that coming to the show has to be planned out a bit. And I think that's been true for a couple of years now.

Having said that, we do make ticket giveaways available to local radio stations in San Diego and Los Angeles the week before and the week of the show. While it certainly doesn't take the place of just being able to walk up to the show, we hope that at least those who are die hard attendees but haven't purchased a pass, can still have a chance to attend last minute.

SPURGEON: Unlike previous years when Comic-Con was the last convention on the calendar, you still have the Alternative Press Expo (APE) to go this year. What are your hopes for APE, particularly now that you're in the Fall season where the big alt-show SPX has traditionally ruled the roost? Where would you like for APE to be this year, and where would you like to see it in five years?

GLANZER: I don't think there is much crossover in attendance with APE and SPX, so I don't think attendance will be affected by that. I would like to see a successful show for APE which means good crowds and good sales for exhibitors. In five years I would love to see even more Indy exhibitors at the show, enough so that we could take the entire Concourse center. Not because we would make more money because it would actually cost us more to rent the entire facility than we could ever recoup in exhibitor or attendee sales, but that's okay. APE will never make a profit and it isn't supposed to. It's good for the industry and having more people able to exhibit means more people making comics and, hopefully more people being exposed to them, and that's always a good thing.

SPURGEON: Finally, David, what did you enjoy seeing or doing at the show?

GLANZER: Sadly I didn't have a chance to see much of anything at the show this year. Though I enjoyed running into the giant Brian from Family Guy walking through the lobby. I actually ran, yes I said ran, to have my photo taken with him.

One thing I did do, for the first time in years, was manage to venture out at night to spend a few moments at a party where I accepted an award on behalf of Comic-Con that the party organizers were very kind in presenting.

And I stopped by another party; a glitzy Hollywood gathering, on my way back to the hotel. Or at least I'm told it was glitzy. I couldn't get in. [laughs]

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* photos by me, 2007-2008: convention center, Ralph Bakshi, Darwyn Cooke, Joe Casey and Steven T. Seagle, Black Manta, the 2008 Ba/Moon Eisner array at the Image Booth
* please note that Comic-Con is an advertiser on this site

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I Basically Don’t Know Anybody: Please Help Me ID The SLG Crew From CCI

I'm certain either all or all but one of these photos were of folks at the SLG booth during San Diego Con 2008, people I either don't know or can't remember. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you know any of the following folks' names. Updated: Thank you!

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329 = Chris Reilly
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331 = Ian Smith
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334 = Tyson Smith
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336 = Andy Ristaino
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337 = Ethan Nicolle's brother
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339 = Ethan Nicolle
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341 = Karl Krumpholz
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Five Link A Go Go

* go, read: Jack Kamen discussion thread at TCJ

* go, read: finding TCJ in a dumpster discussion thread at TCJ

* go, read: Typhon anthology discussion thread at TCJ

* go, read: Dark Horse Warren archives discussion thread at TCJ

* go, read: Watchmen 300K print run discussion thread at TCJ
 
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FFF Results Post #130—Eurofaves

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Characters From European Comics (Names Only, Please)." Here are the results.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Richard
2. Captain Archibald Haddock
3. Rabbi Abraham
4. M. Jean
5. Gaston Lagaffe

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Paul Pope

Corto Maltese
Rasputin
Le Petit Christian
The Metabaron
Valentina

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Dave Knott

Laureline
Lapinot
Adele Blanc-Sec
Freddy Lombard
Torpedo

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George Xydas

1. Obelix
2. Mike Blueberry
3. Snowy
4. Iznogoud
5. Mortimer

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Brandon Graham

Stel
Jill Bioskop
Alack Sinner
Honey (Miel)
Obelix

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Scott Dunbier

Heros
Snowy
V
Luca Torelli
Ranxerox

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Ferdinand the vampire
2. Miracleman
3. D.R. & Quinch
4. Tiramola
5. Kador

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Andrei Molotiu

Rahan
Sylvio
Supermatou
Hercule
Okada

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Uriel A. Duran

1) Othon von Salza
2) Obelix
3) Lt. Mike Steve Blueberry
4) Judge Death
5) Evelyn Crow

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Michael Dooley

Abe Doplelaple
Adele Blanc-Sec
Barney
Mona Street
Valentina

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Frank Santoro

Atan
Diabolik
Squeek the mouse
Snowy
Alack Sinner

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John McCorkle

XIII
Thorgal
Largo Winch
Jessica Blandy
Percevan

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Eric Reynolds

tony bolinga
the cabbie
cowboy henk
blueberry
marjane satrapi

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Eric Knisley

1. Thomson and Thompson
2. Arzach
3. Ranxerox
4. Squeak the Mouse
5. Calculus Cat

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Mark Coale

1. Johnny Bates
2. Dan Dare
3. Tintin
4. Diabolik
5. Corto Maltese

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Marc Arsenault

1. Nikopol
2. Laureline
3. Valentina
4. Corto Maltese
5. The Ape

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Alex Cox

1. Sardine
2. Slaine
3. Snufkin
4. Jerry Cornelius
5. Luke, Lucky

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Happy 53rd Birthday, Eddie Campbell!

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First Thought Of The Day

My favorite made-up bar game of the year is The Re-Make Game. You have to name a re-make then re-make it with a better idea, using at least the same star and director. As in:

"The shouldn't have re-made The Longest Yard. They should have re-made Fast Break."
 
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August 9, 2008


Your 2008 Doug Wright Awards Winners

Winners of the 2008 Doug Wright Awards were announced Friday evening during a ceremony in Toronto. Lynn Johnston was guest of honor and was inducted into Giants of the North, the Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame. The winners were:

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Best Book: Anne Marie Fleming, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam

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Best Emerging Talent: Jeff Lemire, Tales from the Farm and Ghost Stories

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Pigskin Peters Award: Julie Morstad, Milk Teeth

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Next Week In Comics-Related Events

August 9

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August 15

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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from August 2 to August 8, 2008:

1. The Sine/Sarkozy row gets weirder.

2. Attempt to get Ron Perelman to pay back some of the money he cost folks in pumping and pimping Marvel in the early to mid-1990s for cash ends up with a 1/5 of what was sought settlement.

3. Jack Kamen, one of the great remaining artists from the mid-Century EC stable of talent, passes away.

Winners Of The Week
Your 2008 Doug Wright Award winners.

Losers Of The Week
Anyone that was waiting for more money in that Perelman lawsuit settlement. A big chunk of the 1/5 settlement goes to administrative costs and lawyer fees, even.

Quote Of The Week
"Gerard, you are full of shit." -- Joe Simon

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Mason Adams on Post-Doonesbury Hiatus at the Roanoke Times (8/8/08)
* Steven Stwalley On Runes of Ragnan (8/7/08)
* Dan Shahin on East Vs. West in Bookscan Numbers (8/7/08)
* Dustin Harbin on Mark Millar/Tony Harris Appearance at Heroes in Charlotte 8/17 (PR) (8/7/08)
* John Vest On Comics Being Too Darn Expensive... Or Not (8/7/08)
* Craig Johnson on IDW Potentially Leaving Comic-Con International (8/6/08)
* Matthew Dube on Frank Stack Art Being Exhibited (8/6/08)
* Johnny Ryan on My Obit-Writing Skills (8/6/08)
* Wayne Spencer on Adding Orlando to the Local Scene List (8/6/08)
* Alan David Doane on Wondering Why I Think KE 7 Will Be a Monster Hit (8/5/08)
* Frank Santoro on the Comics Pamphlet (8/5/08)
* Jason Michelitch on Steve Rude Painting Evan Dorkin (8/5/08)
* Sean T. Collins on Watchmen Movie Hype (8/4/08)
* Josh Lambert on Watchmen Movie Hype (8/4/08)
* Kirk Warren on His Daily Contests in Celebration of One-Year Anniversary of Blogging (8/4/08)
 
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Happy 47th Birthday, Ted Stearn!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Josh Neufeld!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Rick Leonardi!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Bob McLeod!

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Posy Simmonds!

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August 8, 2008


Five For Friday #130—Eurofaves

Five For Friday #130 -- Name Five Of Your Favorite Characters From European Comics (Names Only, Please)

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1. Richard
2. Captain Archibald Haddock
3. Rabbi Abraham
4. M. Jean
5. Gaston Lagaffe

This Subject Is Now Closed.

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Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Michael Silberkleit, 1932-2008

Archie Comic Publications has disseminated a press release announcing the passing of their chairman and co-publisher, Michael Silberkleit, on August 5th. He died in New York City from complications arising from cancer. He was 76 years old.

imageSilberkleit was the son of Archie co-founder Louis Silberkleit and began working at the company at 16 years old. He was born in New York City and attended the Fieldsteon School and Albright College. He majored in history. The press release claims he studied law at some point, but doesn't indicate where it would have been while he was working at Archie.

Silberkleit spent much of his time at Archie as the primary business partner of Richard Goldwater, son of the other co-founder, John Goldwater. Both came up through the company's various department, starting out as errand boys and gofers.

In perhaps the most dramatic period in Archie's history, the pair took the company public and then private again. The early 1970s decision to take Archie public was according to Silberkleit designed to fund an effort to offer Archie Restaurant franchises during a period in which American business was fascinated by the franchising model. Silberkleit served as treasurer and as a director during the public phase of the company's history. "Several outside people felt that Archie Enterprises was ripe for a hostile takeover," Silberkleit told interviewer Rik Offenberger. "They started buying stock on the open market, attempting to gain control. Tender offers were made. Richard and I decided to buy back all of the stock. We made a tender offer higher than what was made and the shareholders voted to accept ours. We then bought back all of the stock of Archie held by the public and took the company private."

Goldwater passed away in Fall 2007.

imageOther accomplishments credited to the lengthy Silberkleit era at the company include the licensing of the characters to Spire Christian Comics, managing new characters such as Josie and the Pussycats, licensing its superhero characters to DC in the early 1990s and then ending that agreement when sales did not meet the company's expectations, the Archie Meets the Punisher project, TV shows for the Archie characters both cartoon and live-action, a film for the Josie property, licensed comics offering such as the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book and a title featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a generally conservative take on maintaining the Archie characters' iconic, all-American status.

Archie's release notes that Silberkleit also served as chairman of the Comics Association of America, a volunteer auxiliary policeman for the Scarsdale Police force and enjoyed restoring vintage sports cars.

Michael Silberkleit is surived by his wife, three daughters, a son and two grandchildren. A memorial is planned for Sunday; donations can be made to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
 
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What Robert E. Howard I’ll Be Reading

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I'm going to get The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume Two: Grim Lands and The Coming Of Conan The Cimmerian, both from Del Rey. Lots of praise in general for the new Del Rey editions. I'm mentioning this here because as many people that wrote in to answer wrote to ask me to post what I'd be reading because they always wanted to read some Howard, too. Thanks to everyone that replied, including award-winning Conan comics writer Kurt Busiek.
 
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Ron Perelman Settles $471 Million 1990s Marvel Case for $80 Million

The financier Ron Perelman has apparently settled an almost half-billion dollar suit for an amount just over $80 million, almost a third of which will go to legal fees. This isn't an unexpected outcome, and in fact, I thought this had been settled in similar fashion like six years ago after initially having been overturned and then re-trenched at a later hearing. Perelman was accused of diverting the proceeds earned by his controversial goosing of Marvel stock and bizarre entertainment empire building strategy -- basically overpaying in spectacular fashion for a series of interlocking hobby properties -- into other businesses he owned, and the lawsuit was one of the first parts of the legal back and forth that dominated Marvel's corporate operations in the late 1990s. Hopefully this will end any and all hangovers from the era where Perelman and a few others treated Marvel like a character in a late-period Tom Sutton comic.
 
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I Think This Guarantees The 2012 Mascot Will Be Way Better Than Izzy

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Pizzazz Covers

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Go, Look: Three By Richard Thompson

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Go, Look: Rufus & Flook Vs. Moses Maggot

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the critic Johanna Draper Carlson reminds us that there's only one week left to vote in this year's Harvey Awards.

image* the cartoonist Frank Santoro shows off some Steve Rude ink-roughs he bought at San Diego, and suggests that Rude might want to do a whole comic that way at some point in the future.

* this may be the creepiest photo ever or the most adorable. Okay, it's really not creepy at all, but I just sat here for seven minutes trying to figure out an Alexandre Dumas joke and it wasn't happening.

* here's some flickr postings of Calvin and Jobs from I think Mad. My friend Mark did this joke in high school with Roy Hobbs, the protagonist of the Robert Redford film (and Malamud book) The Natural.

* this article explores the connection between Rene Goscinny and the recently passed-away Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It's a family connection, and sort of interesting, even if the final line of "we would like to imagine this meeting" may make you want to punch someone in the face.

* if you ever want to see what the newer, non-plaque Eisner Awards look like, the cartoonist Nick Abadzis has a good photo in a short blog posting about his unexpected but welcome win.

* finally, I found this article on the funeral of Fujio Akatsuka interesting, if only that I can't imagine too many cartoonists, if any, living in the US that would garner a similar reaction.
 
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Happy 75th Birthday, Alley Oop!

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Happy 84th Birthday, Gene Deitch!

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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Go See Nicole Hollander
Celebrating Homer Davenport Days

History
Remembering Jack Kamen
The Marvel World of Icarus
Seriously, Weren't Black Tom and Juggernaut a Couple?

Interviews/Profiles
Savage Critics: Ed Laroche
Comics Worth Reading: Tania del Rio

Publishing
Continental Lauches Two Features

Reviews
Kevin Church: Various
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Dick Hyacinth: Fatal Faux Pas
Greg McElhatton: Emiko Superstar
Chris Allen: Batman: Jekyll and Hyde
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Gotham Knights #3
Sean T. Collins: Tales Designed To Thrizzle #4
Chris Allen: Wolverine: The Death of Wolverine
Johanna Draper Carlson: How To Make Webcomics
Greg McElhatton: Toto: The Wonderful Adventure Vol. 1
 

 
August 7, 2008


Jack Kamen, 1920-2008

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Jack Kamen, one of the foundational artists in the great EC stable in the 1950s, a formidable drawing talent with an eye for beautiful women, and an illustrator that found work in both Golden Age comics books and commercial art, died on August 5 of causes related to cancer. He was 88 years old.

Kamen was born in Brooklyn, New York and studied with various working painters and sculptors, in the Art Students League and at the Grand Central School of Art. He paid for his schooling through of variety of arts-related job, including decorating mannequins. He found his first art assignments in the pulp magazine industry, and was establishing himself in that field when he entered the Army in 1942.

imageAfter the War, Kamen began drawing comics for a variety of late Golden Age publishers, including Avon, Fox, Harvey, Fiction House and Superior.

Kamen moved to EC Comics in 1950 through a combination of personal connections and a growing reputation for good girl art, and soon settled into an exclusive arrangement with the publisher. He would go on to draw a wide variety of stories in EC's array of genre offerings. Kamen was a particularly talented and admirably understated cover artist, mastering both the kind of all-American girls that drew the attention of young readers and putting them into the sorts of implied, dangerous situations that compelled those readers to make a purchase. Scripts that flattered Kamen's ability to draw female characters were created and sent his way; they frequently featured women in domestic battles or going off the deep end. Kame would quickly become one of the company's most valuable commercial assets.

The artist described his working situation at EC in a 2002 interview with Ken Smith. "Al [Feldstein] lived one station stop on Long Island railroad from me. For many years, what he would do is bring the script home and we would discuss it. I never even saw Bill [Gaines]. I would pencil it and and give him the pencils. He would take it back into the city and get them lettered. And he'd have another script for me to do. That was it. It was always a rotation. I'd be going to Al's house and reading the script or getting my work back to ink. Only on very special occasions would I have to go into the office. That's where I caught out everybody else. Because to go in, you lose a day. I never lost a day. I was getting the top rate that they were paying in the field and the editor was a good pal of mine. You can't have anything better than that!"

imageAccording to his own testimony and those of EC historians, Kamen was an instigator of the company's post-Code short-lived "picto-fiction" efforts. The picto-fiction comics were more magazine-styled publications by which EC planned to sidestep new content restrictions becoming crystallized into the Comics Code Authority. Kamen contributed some of his most memorable work to the Psychoanalysis title. That work was initially targeted for comic strip syndication, and was submitted to King Features and United Features among others before settling back into comic book form at EC.

At about the same time as EC's massive across-the-line reduction following the failure of those latter-period comics, Kamen solidified a long-simmering move into advertising. His client list would grow to include Vicks Cough Drops, Carvel Ice Cream, Playtex, Pan American and RCA. The amount of money he was paid for a variety of tasks from thumbnails to full comics inserts effectively priced him out of continuing to work for Mad. Kamen would eventually do paintings for several clients such as Mack Trucks and Smith-Corona; some of those assignments he landed with an agent and others he landed without.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kamen was a beneficiary of the rediscovery of the EC comics and their being brought back into the spotlight of pop culture. He contributed art to the comics within the Stephen King movie Creepshow and the cover to Berni Wrightson's comic book adaptation. In his last decade, Kamen began to speak about his early comics experience, attention he received with a combination of enthusiasm and, it seems, being genuinely flattered by the interest. In addition to the talk with Smith, he interviewed with the comics historian Mark Evanier at the 2000 Comic-Con International, where the convention gave him an Inkpot Award. Perhaps because of his long career in commercial illustration, Kamen was surprisingly candid about his time in comics and contributions to the form, noting for instance that his illustrative impulses sometimes worked against the flow of the stories on which he worked. To Smith in 2002:
"Now my rendering... this is why I admitted it that [Johnny] Craig said that Jack Kamen was an unfavorite artist of the others because they found him wooden. Actually, that's a legitimate criticism and I wouldn't fight it because this was my recipe for speed. Admittedly, maybe attitude was bad, but I didn't consider that kind of thing important. I didn't consider comics important. Back of my mind always was the artist and the illustrator. Some panels that were unique and very good I was considering illustration and art. But in running along the regular script idea of what the story was, I always took the easy way out."
In more recent years, the illustrator taught art in the tradition in which he considered himself a part and was a noteworthy presence in profiles of his son, Dean, the inventor of the Segway and dozens of related medical patents. In fact, the pair worked together on many of the younger Kamen's early projects, the father doing presentational illustrations for the son. Another son, Bart, is a distinguished oncologist, and I believe from indications of her help with a past project or two Kamen may also be survived by a daughter. A one-time member of Long Island's thriving illustration and cartooning community, Kamen became a resident of New Hampshire in 1982. On the eve of his 80th birthday, he described painting an eight-foot mural for a book project. He told Ken Smith, "You're looking at a very happy man."

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Watchmen Tops Bookscan GN List

As expected because it was a big enough shift to lead to reprints and multiple reports of scarcity, DC's perennial turned suddenly super-hot book Watchmen has used the boost of its movie trailer release to vault to the top of the comics-related Bookscan charts, the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com reports. I suppose there's something to be said for books from US publishers hitting 10 of 20 slots rather than their usual two or three, but given the successful Batman movie and Watchmen trailer as drivers and the fact that the dominant manga series (all but one charting) are pretty far along in their runs, I don't necessarily see it as a sign of category strength as much as a sign how dominant manga really is. Plus: it's sort of gross.
 
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Not Comics: Pauline Baynes, RIP

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oh, that map; via
 
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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Jenni Rope Videos




 
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Go, Look: Motorcycle Mike

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posted 7:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Edward Hopper’s Etchings

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posted 7:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* Clickwheel re-launches and emphasizes their 2000 AD offerings. At least I think it's a re-launch. Man, do I suck at covering digital comics.

* these photos from a 1974 comics convention are totally bad-ass, plus: there's a mystery. If I were Joe or Frank Hardy, my first step would be to lift some fingerprints. Seriously, have you ever watched their TV show? It's available on Netflix through the Watch Now option. Those guys were always lifting fingerprints.

* Salim Hamdan, comics critic. Granted the cartoon's about him. This comments thread could get interesting.

image* speaking of comments threads, the Comics Comics gang has sort of set up camp in Jog's week-in-comics post to discuss Howard Chaykin's Punisher War Journal work.

* the great Eddie Campbell makes Tucker Stone's heart go pitter-pat, pitter-pat

* people still love many things about comics.

* the writer Chris Mautner returns to his own dedicated games and comics site with a strip interview two-fer: Richard Thompson and Darrin Bell. As many of you may have noticed, I'm fond of Richard Thompson's work, and Bell was the cartoonist that I think gained most during Doonesbury's recent hiatus.

* comics creator portraiture battle: Charlie Chu at SDCC in a nice flickr set v. Seth Kushner, in advance of his book. Okay, they're not really fighting.

* the first time through I wrote "comics creature" instead of "comics creator." Deep issues = funny.

* the writer Kelly Sue DeConnick pens a short essay about her love for women + mythology in comics form, and reveals that her mental clutter is better organized than my important personal papers.

* Joe Chips reaches on-line cartoon #365.

* Mort Todd notes a comics-related outcome to the Bruce Ivins anthrax case.

* finally, former DC/Vertigo editor Casey Seijas is heading up the comics/movie coverage at MTV's Splash Page. I like it when people in comics get the gigs concerning comics as opposed to it going to the guy at the company that reads a lot of comic books.
 
posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 2nd Birthday, Chemistry Set!

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Happy 51st Birthday, Paul Dini!

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posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Photos From Blab! Exhibit
Jeff Lester's Geeky SDCC
Matt Maxwell: What's Wrong/Right With SDCC

Interviews/Profiles
io9: Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Comics Waiting Room: Gene Ha
Good Comics For Kids: Josh Alves
Comics Waiting Room: Colleen Doran
The Sardinian Connection: Melinda Gebbie 01
The Sardinian Connection: Melinda Gebbie 02
Comics Waiting Room: Jeff Lemire, Colleen Coover, Emily Warren

Not Comics
Law Professors Consider SD Hyatt Boycott

Publishing
Stan Lee Manga Now Available

Reviews
Don MacPherson: Various
Geoff Hoppe: Final Crisis #3
Beth Davies-Stofka: Meanwhile...
Leroy Douresseaux: Gimmick! Vol. 2
Sabrina Fritz, Snow Wildsmith: Coraline
Leroy Douresseaux: Strange and Stranger
Ed Sizemore: Kiichi and the Magic Books Vol. 2
 

 
August 6, 2008


This Isn’t A Library: New And Notable Releases To The Comics Direct Market

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*****

Here are the 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 works listed here -- 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 causing my retailer to make a Mr. Yuck face at me.

*****

FEB080103 CREEPY ARCHIVES HC $49.95
I don't think I'd buy this, but I want to see it.

JUN080295 ARMY @ LOVE THE ART OF WAR #1 (OF 6) (MR) $2.99
Rick Veitch has to make one of these series every few years from now on to keep ahead of the absurdities of the real world. Barely ahead.

JUN080270 AUTHORITY #1 $2.99
Are they seriously re-launching the core Wildstorm titles again? I wish DC had purchased Atlas/Seaboard from Jim Lee so I could own seven #1 issues of Ironjaw.

JUN080189 TOR #4 (OF 6) $2.99
Joe Kubert!

APR082198 JACK STAFF #18 $3.50
I really enjoy this comic, and would buy it for pleasurable consumption if I lived near a comic book shop.

MAY082217 SWORD #10 (MR) $2.99
I know that many of you out there are secret Luna Brothers fans like I am. I still want the giant sperm things from the last series to show up, but this one is getting more and more crazy-stupid with every issue.

APR082334 CRIMINAL 2 #4 (MR) $3.50
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips!

JUN080183 FINAL CRISIS #1 DIRECTORS CUT SPECIAL $4.99
MAY080145 FINAL CRISIS #3 (OF 7) $3.99

Every time I see the term "directors cut" applied to a comic book, I pray for Darkseid to show up and kill the entire world, so this works out great.

JUN082379 PATSY WALKER HELLCAT #2 (OF 5) $2.99
The first issue of this looked really pretty. Because my "local" store doesn't carry it, I'm officially four hours from being able to buy a copy on the stands.

APR084062 COMICS COMICS #4 (RES) $2.95
Maybe the pick of the week, the latest issue of the Picturebox Inc. comics review and funnybook culture tabloid.

*****

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, albeit a while back and probably drunk, 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, I blame the lack of support I received as press during Comic-Con International.

*****
*****
 
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Sine Cites Web Site Death Threat In Increasingly Publicized Sarkozy Row

Pretty much it's all in the headline on this one: the cartoonist Sine has apparently filed a complaint with the police against a Jewish Defence League web site that he believes constitutes a death threat.

The general controversy -- which has blown up again in the past day or so after the New York Times picked it up for English-language wire service dissemination -- is about a column the 79-year-old cartoonist (full name: Maurice Sinet) wrote for Charlie Hebdo about the son of President Nicolas Sarkozy being engaged to the daughter of Jewish retail-chain owners. Many thought the column anti-Semitic. Sine was asked to apologize, which led him to give maybe the quote of the decade by responding, "I'd rather cut my balls off." He was fired, and legal action on that front is forthcoming. And so it goes.
 
posted 8:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Marvel Profits Go Up, Shares Go Down; Publishing Experiences Slight Decline

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I think this Forbes article does the best job of puzzling out what happened with Marvel's stock yesterday, after a report released at the start of the week about the company's second quarter that was positive in various aspect but apparently failed to match certain expected levels while exceeding others. I like how at one point they admit they have no idea where a certain piece of information is coming from.

Comics-related sites like ICv2.com have focused on the small decline in publishing, a traditional company strength. "We were just too completely awesome last year" seems to be the general explanation offered by the entertainment company, although the ICv2.com story tosses in all the official reasons provided. Taken as a group, a list of reasons a company gives in a stock or financial report almost always sounds hilarious to me. In the 1990s every Marvel stock report always had a grim sentence about the future of the free market in China. I have to admit they usually sound slightly unconvincing as well.

If like me you're frustrated by figures and estimates that occasionally flummox financial writers, you can always take a trip down memory line and go to John Jackson Miller's site and look at Marvel sales in 1959!
 
posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Beckett/Bushmiller Letters

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why this may be of special interest to readers of this site explained at the link
 
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Warren Ellis: Print Is Not Dead

I was pleased to read this short and sensible post from the writer Warren Ellis, concerning an assumption made on his behalf that because he was criticizing print science fiction magazines this was somehow an indictment against all of print. Ellis points out that he's able to make a decent living from print, and that despite its many, obvious problems the Direct Market designed to move print product has allowed that product to keep a certain level of sales potency and legitimacy. There's an unfortunate tendency in comics to advocate for the embrace of new ways of doing things through a same-time scrambling away from the old, so it's nice to read someone as influential and as forward-thinking as Ellis taking what I think is a much smarter and ultimately more fruitful position.
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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posted 7:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Tim Lane On-Line

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web site

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blog

*****

these are both pretty great

*****
*****
 
posted 7:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* poster artist and cartoonist Vittorio Fiorucci, 1932-2008.

* this note at DailyCartoonist.com about a theory that newspapers no longer provide social currency cracks me up not because I believe it's true -- I have some problems with its assumptions -- but because I'm hoping it kicks off a trend of ridding paper of all its traditional roles. I want an article about how people no longer use newspapers to start fires in their home fireplace and an article on how people refuse to gut and clean a fish on a newspaper. Gang up on newspapers!

image* not comics: the comics business and news analysis site ICv2.com has a nice, short and I think not totally a piece of marketing disguised as news piece up about Titan's Watchmen-related books being released in anticipation of the movie. Although they're not comics as such, they're likely to be attractive to a lot of retailers that primarily carry comics because of the original comic's sterling sales pedigree in those stores, and the fact that there aren't sequels or an ongoing series to push along with the trade if you do business that way. Also, since the first Titan book is going to be released in October with the rest coming in January, perhaps retailers and buyers in all facets of the printed materials world will get a chance to gauge demand.

* the San Francisco Chronicle talks to Axel Alonso about the X-Men moving to San Francisco. I'm old enough to remember that Daredevil once "lived" there, so I'm crossing my fingers this means a re-boot for Angar the Screamer.

* finally, it's always a little confusing to me why people get worked up in any way about the fact that Sammy Harkham's next book will cost $125. The way I see it, Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 is just an expensive book. If you don't want it, don't buy it. They're not gouging people; they're taking a risk that there will be an audience for the book and paying a huge printing bill and taking on the additional expense of hand-selling some of the copies and storing it. No one gets rich making a lavishly produced art comic. No one pays a big printing bill to make some obtuse point about the value of art comics.

Me, I'm getting one. I don't even think it's that expensive. After the Amazon.com discount, the over-sized KE will cost about as much as 26 issues of the Trinity mini-series, or two and a half Hellboy t-shirts, or half a Disney figurine, or the run of Wolverine: Origins to date. I would rather have KE Vol. 7 than any of those things, even twice the number of those things. If you look at the over-sized anthology as an art book instead of a comic book, a ton of material in that realm is in that same general price range, if not going for a lot more. Times are tough, I agree, and likely getting tougher, and maybe there will come a time when no one can even think of buying a book like this one. Maybe that time will be November of this year. This may make KE7 an even bigger risk than usual for Buenaventura Press, but I figure it's their risk. My only risk is spending that much money and coming away disappointed, and that's a risk I'm willing to take.
 
posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Balmy Benny

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posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: The Walk

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posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Don’t Forget The Doug Wrights Friday

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posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Event Photos From Page 45

History
Remembering Beano

Industry
Grant For Comics
Frazz Wins in ABQ
Science Cartoon Contest Profiled
PC's Ten Best Unsung Webcomics

Interviews/Profiles
FPI Blog: Bryan Talbot

Not Comics
Atom Cafe Profiled
Sean Tevis Profiled
Peter Sanderson Liked Dark Knight
Counting All The People Who Arrived On The Shortbus? Sure.

Reviews
Katherine Farmar: Aqualeung
Katherine Farmar: Chute de Velo
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: First Class #14
Johnny Bacardi: Strange and Stranger
Charles Hatfield: The Fate of the Artist
Chris Allen: The Compleat Next Men Vol. 1
Sean T. Collins: Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: Black Diamond: Get In The Car and Go
 

 
August 5, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

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* the cartoonist and esteemed anthology editor Sammy Harkham reveals his cover for sure to be monster hit Kramer's Ergot #7, due in November.

* not that I expected a different answer from those nice folks at this late date, but the moving of the Prince of Persia movie from 2009 to 2010 has done nothing to change First Second's plans to have their graphic novel version of the property out in early September.

* it looks like Cartoon Books has reprinted their Rose and Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails efforts, and has them available at their store.

* DC has gone back to press on 300,000 copies of Watchmen based on renewed interest due to the forthcoming film adaptation, due next March. Early estimates had them going with another 200K or 250K, so the bigger number is what's particularly newsworthy about that article.

image* a few CR readers noted that Amazon.com announced in an e-mail that Gilbert Hernandez's Fantagraphics book The Troublemakers has moved from an August release date to January 2009. According to Eric Reynolds at Fantagraphics, Gilbert is juggling a lot of projects and The Troublemakers "was the book that had to give amongst all his various projects."

* file this one under reprint projects I thought we'd never see: Dark Horse is adding Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery to its archival program. Speaking of which, it looks like the publisher will continue its archival work on the Herbie comics through at least a second hardcover, out by the end of the year.

* I wasn't aware that Valiant Entertainment was continuing its collection of popular titles from its 1990s library, this time with an Archer & Armstrong volume. With hundreds of thousands of these issues in print and it now being a dead title, I have to imagine the individual issues making up this new book can be found for pretty cheap; then again, I'm not sure that matters to people that want their books in a format featuring a spine.

* this thread at TCJ.com reminds us that a second translated volume of Martin Kellerman's Rocky strips will hit in November.

image* Marvel is going to do one of its weird insta-collections of early issues of the Kick-Ass mini-series. This kind of thing always seems like a bad idea to me in terms of anything other than short-term profit, but it's not like anyone's objecting to short-term profit. From the humongous reservoirs of individual issues I've seen in three of three comic book shops I've visited recently, I'm surprised to hear that the title has sold out.

* Brett Warnock caught this, which is good because I sure didn't: Indigo Kelleigh launched a new on-line strip in late July called The Adventures of Ellie Connelly.

* Chuck Dixon and Mike S. Miller have been announced as the creative team on the Dabel Brothers Wheel of Time adaptation.

* not comics: Patrick McDonnell has another children's book due September 1.

* Jiro Taniguchi's Harukana Machi-e, a major award winner in Japan in 1999 and in Europe in 2003, will be released into English by Fanfare/Ponent Mon in 2009 as A Distant Neighborhood. I think this is more reminder than announcement, but come on: Jiro Taniguchi.

* Fabrice Giger talks to Newsarama about the Humanoids/DDP deal, and the expected, initial battery of projects: I Am Legion, The Zombies Who Ate the World, Redhand, Olympus, Metal and more volumes of The Metabarons and The Technopriests.

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* above is the cover for the next Or Else, by Kevin Huizenga.

* Tokyopop has dropped Shutterbox.

* Paul Pope puts a new cover on Heavy Liquid.

* finally, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba are reuniting for a second Umbrella Academy series, the first issue of which will hit comic book shops in November. The first series recently won the Best Limited Series Eisner at the 2008 ceremony, and reportedly sold very well.
 
posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Fujio Akatsuka, 1935-2008

Fujio Akatsuka, creator of several gag-driven manga and a past winner of the Shogakukan Manga Award, died of complications arising from pneumonia on Saturday in a Tokyo hospital. He was 72 years old.

Akatsuka was born in Manchuria to a military police officer and his wife. He would moved to Tokyo at the age of 19, taking a job in a chemical factory while he honed his craft as a cartoonist. He would move into the famous Tokiwa-so apartment building.

imageHis debut series was Arashi wo Koete in 1956, his Nama-chan was his first hit in 1958, and Osomatsu-kun became a major hit for Shonen Sunday starting in 1962, solidifying his reputation as one of the masters of Japanese gag humor. Winning the Shogakukan Manga Award in the mid-'60s only further solidified his reputation. He would go on to create the series Mooretsu Atarou, Tensai Bakabon and Himitsu no Akko-chan. The last of those three is remembered as an early, important work in the popular "magical girl" genre. Several of his works were adapted for television, including all of those listed in this paragraph.

He was the Literary Giant Award from the Japan Cartoonists Association in 1997. He later gained notoriety in 2000 by creating manga in braille for the bling.

In recent years, Akatsuka suffered from a number of ailment, including cancer (1998) and a cerebral hemorrhage (2002).

He was preceded in death by his wife Machiko, and is survived by a daughter. Fans remembered the artist and his creations at the museum created to honor his work.

I would have to think that's one of the animated versions of a character from Tensai Bakabon.
 
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Franklin Turns 40

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posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Where To Spot Kaz

Ben Schwartz writes in with the following amusement:
A clip of Kaz, King Punkarocka himself, at a 1977 Ramones show has been spotted. It's on the "It's Alive 1974-1996" Ramones dvd compilation of live shows. Kaz is in the front row of a 06/11/77 gig at CBGB's during the song "Beat on the Brat." This comes just after Kaz graduated high school, while he worked a factory job in New Jersey. Kaz agrees, it's him, in a Rod Stewart haircut and sleeveless white tee.
I think spotting cartoonists on film and in video should replace the old endeavor where superhero fans would spot comic books in TV and movies.
 
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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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Go, Read: Danders’ Search For Love

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Go, Look: Arnold The Isshurian

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thanks, Christopher Breach
 
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Go, Bid: Jeffrey Brown Does Warhammer Strip For David Pirkola Auction

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posted 7:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* online bookselling giant Amazon.com has purchased my favorite comic shop, the Internet service AbeBooks.com.

image* Alley Oop marks its 75th anniversary this week. A storyline in the current version celebrates that milestone.

* are people allowed to challenge what I write? Because I'm not sure I approve.

* not comics: Paul Di Filippo write in to note that the first web cartoon based on David Rees' work is now up. I didn't even know something like this was in the works. Speaking of Di Filippo, he reviewed Strange and Stranger for the Barnes and Noble site.

* the New York Times has a gossipy, quote-laden summary of L'Affaire Sarkozy/Sine.

* I agree with the sentiment of Sean T. Collins' mini-essay on the fourth estate's apparent attitude towards last month's Comic-Con International, and with most of his specific statements as well.

* this is very cute.

* finally, J. Caleb Mozzocco talks at length about Paul Pope's process designing the Batman he would use in his Batman Year 100, as describe in that work's latest trade edition.
 
posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 55th Birthday, Steve Mitchell!

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posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
On Caricature
Steve Rude Paints
Evan Dorkin: That Stevens Kid
Evan Dorkin: Rejected Gag Theatre
Evan Dorkin: The Door-to-Door Craziac

Exhibits/Events
Caption Pics
Larry Marder Takes Photos
Next Schulz Exhibit on Beethoven
Lynda Barry Was CCI's Most Inspirational

History
The Worst Cartoon?
Brad 'n' Josh Re-Posted
Leo Baxendale in Telegraph
A Rick Veitch Road Not Taken
A Rich Tommaso Road Yet To Be Taken

Industry
Random Manga Facts
Gay Character Killed In Every Universe

Interviews/Profiles
No, He Isn't

Not Comics
Nice Bag
Jeff Parker Liked Dark Knight
Yeah, Whatever Happened to This?

Publishing
Filmography

Reviews
Nina Stone: Various
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Paul O'Brien: Vicious Circle
Brian Heater: The Alcoholic
Craig Fischer: Blurred Vision #1
Greg McElhatton: I Kill Giants #1
Paul O'Brien: X-Men: Odd Men Out
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: Origins #7
Greg McElhatton: Manhunter #31-32
 

 
August 4, 2008


Will an Increase in Global Shipping Costs Hinder the Asian Printing Option?

The New York Times notes that the cost of shipping containers on a container ship has gone from $3000 to $8000 in the last ten years, a trend that if it continues one can imagine having a drastic effect on the option of printing expensive comics and comics-related book overseas. Comics publications do miss out on a double-dipping factor cited in the article, where materials are shipped overseas to a location in Asia and then shipped back to Western markets after being assembled.

I realize this is more of a depressing, random thought than a proper story.
 
posted 8:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Slug Appropriate Bob Dylan Quote Here

imageI don't have much to say about the Watchmen movie trailer or the massive surge in sales for the graphic novels engendered by interest in the movie. My non-comics reading friends tell me the movie looks like it might be cool, but only when I ask them. It's a hell of a plot to try and explain to people and not sound completely nuts, if you haven't tried yet. I also have to say I'm very much not looking forward to incremental moves in the film's marketing campaign being covered as actual comics industry news. Still, it's probably worth noting that this should put the nail in the coffin of some odd, lingering conventional wisdom that movie-related success of varying kinds can't have a significant impact on related trade sales. It's not 100 percent guaranteed, and exactly how it works isn't always clear -- is there, for example, a severe decline on perennials following a movie's release as some retailers claim is true? -- but it seems to me there have been enough units moved related to films going back ten years across multiple publishers and now in various ways (trailers, theater release, DVD) for it to be a recognized factor for comics publishing sales success the same way it is for other forms of print publishing.

I would also like to express the sincere hope that DC and Time Warner won't push the "best graphic novel ever" avenue for promoting the film and the trade. They don't need it. I'm not sure such a claim does anything other than give those suspicious of hype something to push back against and, eventually, give people that don't like the resulting movie or the book a reason not to explore the medium for something they might like better. Besides, it's rude and unnecessarily confrontational. Plenty of smart, passionate readers of comics, many that believe Watchmen is a laudable, exemplary work, simply don't think it's the best graphic novel ever -- or necessarily even in the top 100. I think Watchmen's a great book and I'm not even sure it was a top five comic during the period it was serialized.* Heck, someone could easily make a compelling argument there was a better Alan Moore work in 1986 ("Pictopia," with Don Simpson). It was ridiculous enough when Time Warner pushed their Death of Superman DVD by claiming the comic of same was the best-selling of all time when a) they don't release figures and b) a lot of European albums likely bury the best guess at a number. Making this sort of boast based on an unquantifiable standard for the sake of a promotional scheme that probably won't work anyway except to build resentment, that just seems stupid.

* off the top of my head: Hernandez, Hernandez, Spiegelman, Taniguchi/Sekikawa, Mattotti/Kramsky, Al-Ali, Watterson, Barry, Groening, Tezuka, Oliphant and Crumb were all in the midst of laudable work during this period
 
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On The AAEC’s Pro-Cartoonist Rhetoric

I'm all for encouraging statements like this one about the role of the editorial cartoonist in today's newspaper landscape, both as it traditionally exists and as it may exist in the future. I agree with the sentiments behind the statement. I also think there's some truth to be found in the way that many editorial cartoonists have added blogging and animation to their repertoires that indicates just how little newspapers have demanded of many of their newsroom denizens that are just now feeling the heat from the changing news landscape, a heat that's been a familiar, warm sensation to cartoonists for a decade or so now. I think cartoonists are ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing the likely future of newspapers, and deserve extra consideration job to job for their displayed ability to expand and change their roles. I'm even sympathetic to the notion that a great editorial cartoonist has value that's hard to quantify and this should factor in as to whether or not they're let go as well.

Still, I think if if I were a cartoonist at a paper and not a big name member of my field -- and maybe even if I were -- what I'd really want right now from my peers isn't exhortations and assertions and ways to save all of journalism but some practical models and numbers and/or testimony that at least qualify the value the best cartoonists have for their home publications. I would want fewer debates on the wisdom of syndication and more testimony from advertisers that they buy into the Washington Post because of Tom Toles, or that Nick Anderson's cartoons are X percentage of Y number of hits at his publisher's web site. Because right now, all that freshly worded arguments for a change in conventional wisdom seem to be providing is a sense of novelty when a cartoonist that meets those standards is fired just like the last dozen that didn't blog, or animate, or do local cartoons only. The new editorial cartoonists have talked in terms of proactive information for several months now. It's time to break out that information.
 
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A Couple Of Thoughts On The Supposed Death Of The Traditional Comic Book

Newsarama has a lengthy summary of the panel at Comic-Con International speaking to the decline of the traditional serial comic book.

imageThe one specific takeaway is a number provided by Image's representative in terms of what breaks even: 3500 for black and white comics; 4600 for color comics. This is interesting because companies almost never provide numbers like this so as to not limit their ability to spin sales figures. A widely-traveled number that slipped out of one of the mainstream companies in the late 1990s was always vociferously denied as an accurate representation of minimum profitability, particularly when that company's numbers routinely slipped below that number. Also, back then, publishing a comic book that wasn't profitable frequently led to charges that said company was sustaining losses in order to seize market share and/or drive smaller publishers from the stands. In the movie option and licensing world of the modern comic book, publishing below any conceivable profit point can be a way of life.

The rest of the panel I'm not sure adds to our understanding of that specific format's decline, although it's worth a read to catch up on the basics. Two factors that seem to impede conversations of this type are 1) an inability to process the strengths and weaknesses of on-line serialization in terms of its emerging role in achieving many of the low-cost access point benefits that traditional comic books used to boast of exclusively, and 2) an inability to process all of these market strategies as those that serve niche audiences, instead of suggesting a made-up dichotomy where one way reaches the masses and one doesn't. Once we pitch the notion that there's any post-1947 comics delivery model that has the favor of a supposed mainstream, we will no longer entertain with a straight face calls to dump a model just because one can loudly assert it fails to hit with that imaginary audience.

imageMy hunch is that comics is ill-suited to maximize its traditional comic book opportunities because it involves the kind of not-glamorous, not-always-fun, basic strategic reforms the industry prefers to punch past with follow-the-money hits or ignore by pointing out that x-amount of money is being made when we don't do anything at all. No one likes to think about what used to be automatic; those that do tend to be those with an interest, however slight, in watching the old ways crumble and fall. It's a lot more fun to announce new product lines at San Diego than it is to announce ways to support them in reaching their intended audience. It's more exciting to drop a 632-page graphic novel or announce a limited series featuring creators with a certain sales pedigree than to talk seriously about reforming the month-to-month release schedule in a way that would help the best retailers help their best customers make the most of their trips to the comic shop.

It's also hard not to want to look away. There are obvious structural impediments in terms of the costs of each unit making a joke of the low-entry point advantage and Diamond's egalitarian, see-what-sticks nature crowding the playing field with unsustainable garbage. There exist cultural impediments in terms of a hardcore audience that can be goosed into buying by-themselves unsatisfying traditional comic books at a price point that subverts that entry point advantage and limits the ability of the market to expand to new readers. One can even point to historical impediments in terms of non-mainstream companies not having the kind of chance in the marketplace that has since encouraged them to place a lot of their efforts into arenas where they're not treated with a mix of loathing and contempt. It's tough out there, and getting tougher.

Yet many serial comics still sell at a major profit, and the money made in that area makes viable the basic mainstream comics model -- and with it the industry part of the American comics industry. What I'd suggest for right now is a re-orientation towards that market that sees the millions made there as an opportunity for a sustainable future market, maybe one that doesn't make total sense but a market to be sustained and nourished and encouraged, a market with unique advantages for developing a diverse and passionate readership. I'd further encourage we no longer see any way of buying comics in terms of its worst and most out-sized behavior, and certainly not as a point on an unstoppable historical arc to whose inevitable outcome the industry must acclimate itself in dour -- or gleeful -- fashion. Remember, if front-running and loping towards the most amenable and convenient and supposedly mainstream solution and grimly accepting the inevitable were the answer for comics every time out, the American comic book industry would have gone away nearly 50 years ago, and with it a lot of great and valuable and entertaining art. We may not be able to solve the many problems facing the comic book right away, but we can certainly improve the quality and frequency of our attention to the matter. If it goes down, let it go down fighting.

*****

two entertaining serial comic book series; one is a hit, the other was not

*****
*****
 
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TCAF Asks You To Save The Date

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During July's Comic-Con International just past Peter Birkemoe and Chris Butcher from the every-other-year Toronto Comic Arts Festival were passing out save-the-date cards for their convention's 2009 show. The dates to save? May 9th and 10th, which puts them in what I think is a pretty empty May and sounds to me at least like a pretty good weekend to spend in Toronto. The Festival announced as early as possible and has since re-emphasized the dates in the hopes of attracting United States cartoonists who 1) aren't used to traveling to Canada and may find that more formidable than going to a US convention, and 2) want to plan as far ahead as possible for the oncoming shortages in flights and discounted air travel with which the airlines are going to gift us when this final burst of summer travel slots is expected to shrink drastically this Fall and beyond, in part as a reaction to increased fuel costs.

TCAF joins Heroes Con and the Stumptown Comics Fest as a part of a growing wave of independently-run regional conventions to crop up in the last decade or so that are now pretty much as a group entering that phase when they either begin to gain traction or kind fall to the wayside. Bookmark that original link for talent announcements and the like.
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Man Drawing Salon

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Go, Look: Chris Ware’s Powerless

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Go, Look: MAD’s Election 2008

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* if you only read one thing today: Jeet Heer interviews the important comics scholarship publishing figure Seetha Srinivasan about the work the University of Mississippi Press did in this area under her watch.

* Mark Evanier charges into the room for his annual kicking of the small dog that is the insistence of the awesomeness that automatically awaits Comic-Con International if only they'd move to Anaheim, LA or Las Vegas. One retailer recalls the 1987 Comic-Con.

image* the cut-off date for retail orders on the Hero Initiative's cool-looking Gene Colan Tomb of Dracula poster, to help the distinguished artist out of some medical-related financial rough waters, is this Thursday. If nothing else, you should follow the link to go look at it.

* comic book legend Joe Simon disagrees with Gerard Jones. Speaking of cartoonists from the Golden Age of American Cartooning, this discovery of Will Eisner newspaper printing plates is pretty cool.

* Circuit City sells magazines?

* Jamie Coville wrote in with links to a truckload of CCI panels and the Eisner Awards: How Not to Break Into Comics, The Future of the Comic Pamphlet, Golden Age/Silver Age of Comics Panel, That's 70s (Comics) Panel, Jim Warren spotlight, Colleen Doran's Resources for Creators Panel, The Black Panel, The World of Steve Ditko, Fan vs Pro Trivia Panel, The Eisner Awards Ceremony.

* it looks like the Comics Journal recorded one, too: The World of Graphic Novels.

* I believe I already posted a link to this massive interview with Alan Moore, but if I didn't, it's worth taking a look. So is this roundtable about Watchmen featuring Moore and Dave Gibbons that ran in Fantasy Advertiser a couple of decades ago.

* what the hell?

* not comics but a chance to see a great cartoonist at work: a Steve Brodner video about John McCain.

* finally, one of the weirder things about reading last week's coverage of July's Comic-Con International is the rebirth of the notion that comics = heroic fantasy, arrived at through a backhanded construction: namely, that examples of visual media intersecting with fantasy and superheroes are okay to have at Comic-Con but non-comics expressive works that don't have a hero or some sort of fantastic element to them aren't welcome. What's up with that?
 
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Happy 32nd Birthday, K. Thor Jensen!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Robert Pope!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Charlie Adlard!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Franco Saudelli!

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Happy 58th Birthday, Mike Gold!

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Happy 66th Birthday, Rick Norwood!

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Quick hits
Craft
Exhibits/Events
Triumph The Insult Comic Dog at CCI

History
On Rory Hayes
On Rory Hayes 02
I Can't Tell If This Is Offensive Or Funny

Industry
Support Transitioning Comics Creator on Ebay

Interviews/Profiles
TCJ: Creig Flessel
du9: Dave Cooper
Newsday: Bunny Hoest
Collectors Times: Mark Waid
The Cartoon Lounge: Emily Flake

Not Comics
Upbeat Review of Dark Knight
Watchmen Motion Comic Actually Motion Picture
Howard Chaykin Not Impressed By Comics Bloggers

Publishing
Best Secret Invasion Spin-Off

Reviews
Steve Duin: The Explainers
Richard Krauss: Big Game Theory
Richard Krauss: Rufus the Black Cat
Don MacPherson: newuniversal 1959 #1
Jeffrey Morgan: The Comics Journal #291
George Gene Gustines: Bottomless Belly Button
ADD: The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
Kevin Church: Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes
 

 
August 3, 2008


CR Sunday Preview: “Last Gig in Shnagrlig,” by Gilbert Shelton and Pic

One of the surviving masters of the underground comix era, Gilbert Shelton is frequently acknowledged as one of the great living cartoonists and a key figure in the late 20th Century re-invigoration of comics for adults. He is best known as the creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Wonder Wart-Hog and Fat Freddy's Cat. One of the anchors of the Austin, Texas underground publishing scene and as such one of the connecting forces between college humor publications and underground comix, Shelton also enjoyed time in the once-influential automotive cartooning world and in the making of poster art for rock acts in San Francisco during that scene's explosive late 1960s. His fingerprints can be found on nearly ever humor comic done in the last four decades.

imageIn contrast to the transgressive comics made by many of his peers, Shelton's best works deal in satirical comedy that initially comes across as more manic than biting, using time-honored tools of exaggeration and masking to inject their corrosive message near the heart of their targets where a more blunt assault might be recognized as such earlier on and resisted as such. He's one of those cartoonists you can enjoy when you have no idea what's being talked about, for his gifts with character design and story construction. His admirable career includes his being a co-founder of Rip Off Press, the long-running publisher for his work in North America. The Freak Brothers are currently celebrating their 40th year and are due for yet another major rediscovery, perhaps in comics form, perhaps in a film adaptation, maybe in both.

Shelton's latest, "Last Gig in Shnagrlig," will debut over the next three issues of Fantagraphics' MOME anthology, the forthcoming #13 through #15. In the 48-page comic done in collaboration with the French cartoonist Pic, Shelton's current creative partner on the "Not Quite Dead" characters, the US government plans a takeover of a third-world country in order to plunder its natural resources. Unfortunately, things have gone so poorly in Iraq that they need to have a reason to invade this new locale, and so they set forth to manufacture one. They decide to send in the world's worst rock band to destabilize matters to the point that the military has to sweep in and set things right, hoovering up the country's assets behind them. Then, as they say, hilarity ensues.

MOME Co-Editor Eric Reynolds says he's not only happy to work with a great cartoonist, but that he believes Shelton is particularly under-read by today's generation of cartoonists, some of whom publish in the Fantagraphics anthology, as well as by that magazine's perceived audience.

Please click here for a sneak at four pages from the first installment.
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In The UK, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, watch: Mike Luckovich speech

* go, watch: Ralph Bakshi video

* go, read: Dan Barry does Crime Does Not Pay

* go, read: classic Jack Kamen

* go, read: The Eerie World of Don Orehek
 
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FFF Results Post #129—Mangafaves

On Friday afternoon, participating CR readers were asked to "Name Five Of Your Favorite Characters From Manga (And No Hint Of Where They're From)." Here are the results.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Freddie
2. Yotsuba Koiwai
3. Suppaman
4. Ogami Itto
5. Kirihito Osanai

*****

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Jason Michelitch

1. Mr. Yotsua
2. Noboru Yamaguchi
3. Gon
4. Nyazilla
5. Hanae Ichinose

*****

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Jamil Thomas

1. Black
2. Peco
3. L
4. Tetsuo
5. No. 5

*****

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Dan Morris

Dr. Tenma
Son Goku
Roronoa Zoro
Kei Kurono
Kaneda

*****

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Kat Kan

1. Kiri
2. Kazuma Azuma
3. Yotsuba Koiwai
4. Mai
5. Mechazawa

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. Jang-Gun
2. Hachirota Hoshino
3. Ogami Itto
4. Shotaro Kaneda
5. Marco Owen

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1 - Yotsuba
2 - Kaolla Su
3 - Ryoko
4 - Washu
5 - Nausicaa

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. Yotsuba Koiwai
2. Black Jack
3. L
4. Medama-oyaji/Eyeball Father
5. Cat-Eyed Boy

*****

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Uriel Duran

1) Tetsuwan Atom
2) Kid Son Goku
3) Minnie May Hopkins
4) Tetsuo Shima
5) Ai Amano

*****

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Bill Randall

1. Kyoko
2. Barubora
3. the kid who grows shrooms on his dirty laundry
4. Karim Kemal
5. Dr. Toilet

*****

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Jamie S. Rich

1. Mr. Yotsuya
2. Urd
3. Utena
4. Kairi Okayasu
5. Inspector Lunge

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. Death
2. The Dead Boy Detectives
3. Timmy
4. Sea Princess Azuri
5. Timothy McAllister

*****

thanks, Jason Michelitch

*****
*****
 
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Happy 54th Birthday, Gianfranco Goria!

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Happy 59th Birthday, Reed Waller!

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Marc Weidenbaum!

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First Thought Of The Day

I'm not the biggest Star Trek fan in the world, but I enjoy fan-made Star Trek TV shows enough to know I would totally read the Marvel and DC Comics comic book equivalent.
 
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August 2, 2008


CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from July 26 to August 1, 2008:
1. Comic-Con International 2008 finishes up in San Diego, selling out for all four days of the show.

2. Abrams announces new comics imprint.

3. Former comics retailer Ronald Castree loses appeal in Lesley Molseed murder.

Winners Of The Week
Your Eisner Award Winners

Loser Of The Week
Ronald Castree

Quote Of The Week
"I think we're likely not to be at San Diego next year." -- Ted Adams

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
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If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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Happy 44th Birthday, Danny Hellman!

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August 1, 2008


Five For Friday #129—Mangafaves

Five For Friday #129 -- Name Five Of Your Favorite Characters From Manga (And No Hint Of Where They're From)

*****

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1. Freddie
2. Yotsuba Koiwai
3. Suppaman
4. Ogami Itto
5. Kirihito Osanai

This category is now closed. Thanks to those that played.

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Reactions To IDW Potentially Ending Their Comic-Con Exhibition Streak

What follows is a bunch of reactions from comics industry professionals and observers regarding IDW President Ted Adams' declaration that his popular company will likely not be back at the show in 2009. In addition to those observations made below, a few folks like Colleen Doran talked about the piece through their own Internet vehicles.

imageOne notion that's in the responses that seemed to loom larger than I would have guessed is the idea that IDW will by not exhibiting suffer in terms of its relationship to various fans that count on a favorite publisher's presence or will take their absence as a sign the company is doing poorly. That doesn't mean that notion is a correct one. I would personally reject the underlying logic, in that I think people tend get mad on behalf of fans more than fans get mad at this kind of thing. Further, I believe Adams 100 percent when he says that he believes getting the books out serves their fans better than ensuring a personal encounter, and I think a lot of readers will follow him there as much as they care to make that sort of appraisal in the first place. Additionally, there are certainly those in what follows sympathetic to the idea of not exhibiting, folks that predict IDW doesn't lose a thing by not going. Still, I was surprised by the number of people that suggested that outcome, and if enough people mention it, it's definitely something to consider.

My thanks to those that sent me a link or a response, and to Ted Adams and his people for setting up the original interview. I received many more e-mails from folks that appreciated the piece as well as Adams' candor in talking through his current quandary.

*****

Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics: Well, I can completely understand where he's coming from. I know the fatigue that comes from the show, how much more exhausting it is than just the five or six days you're down there working. I skipped my first Comic-Con this year in decades and for weeks leading up to it I worried about what I would miss. What professional opportunities would be missed? What I would miss as a fan? But of course the world keeps turning.

imageI feel very strongly myself that sometimes the amount of effort and money expended on cons like Comicon and BEA is fairly absurd and might be simply better spent elsewhere. But no one wants to blink, including us. If everyone in publishing agreed to take a year off of a Comicon or BEA and simply not hold it, would the industry suffer? I doubt it. So I admire Ted's take on it.

We don't have any plans to not attend, and it really is an amazing show in most respects, but when you really sit down and add up all of the expenses of time and money at the end of the show, it's absurd. We spend so much money to potentially make a very little bit of money when it's all said and done.

*****

Joe Greiner, CCI Attendee: Ted is right Comic-Con is a marketing expense. And with all expenses care should be taken on how to reduce them. I think their booth was horrible. Lots of wasted space, little if any exclusives, no early copies of upcoming books. Everytime I walked by their booth the staffers were either talking amongst themselves or with their artists with no acknowledgement of the conventioners.

Top Cow and Image, whom I consider to be equal to IDW in size, used their space more effectively, had very good fan interaction, and had simple cost effective booth designs.

The IDW booth had a feel of "had-to be here" as opposed to "we want-to be here."

*****

imageJennifer de Guzman, SLG: I agree when Ted Adams said, "Looking at Comic-Con as anything other than marketing cost is kind of a bad way to look at it," but for us, retailing at Comic-Con is marketing. We're using product to sell more product, keeping existing readers happy and finding new ones, more so than we would if we were just there to promote stuff without selling it as well. I know a lot of our readers would find it disappointing, too. A lot of people don't have comics stores that keep our books in stock, so they look forward to coming to Comic-Con to buy comics and meet artists. Besides, if we didn't sell product at Comic-Con, there would be no way we could support being there.

At the same time, I understand what Adams is saying. Preparing for Comic-Con takes a lot of planning and late nights. We have to get extra people to help out in the retail space. We have to shut down the office for a week and work long hours at the convention.

We're thinking about making our booth a little smaller next year, especially considering that the rates are going to go up, but that's still up to debate. In fact, it's scheduled for discussion when Dan comes back from a much-needed vacation. Even if we do decide to make our space smaller, and as much as we complain about how it's not worth it, I just can't see taking Comic-Con out of the rotation.

*****

imageChip Mosher, BOOM!: San Diego Comic-Con has been a huge supporter of BOOM! since the beginning. That said, our costs in doing the show go up every year, though we did see a 30% increase in sales this year. I can certainly sympathize with our friends over at IDW. Every publisher has to look at the signal to noise ratio of the show and make the decision for themselves whether attending makes sense for them. BOOM! will be attending next year.

*****

Andy Khouri, News Editor, CBR: You're right, this is pretty interesting. What struck me most about Adams' remarks was that IDW is happy to attend trade shows and the Transformers-centric cons, but is in effect dissing their "pure" comic book fans by cutting off that convention access to the publisher.

This posture is likely inadvertent as Adams seems like a very pragmatic fellow, but despite what you and I and other industry insiders may understand about IDW's business model and how much or how little Comic-Con affects their bottom line, those who are simply fans of their books will perceive an IDW absence in their own way -- probably negatively. Like, "Oh, IDW's not at Comic-Con, I guess they're hurting for money like Marvel was a few years back" or something along those lines. As Ted Adams said, Comic-Con is largely a marketing exercise, and making sure fans know you're healthy and rocking it out in San Diego is the most important component of that exercise, surely?

*****

Larry Young, AiT/Planet Lar: Well, of course, I don't have anything salient on Ted's decisions; I don't have access to any of the internal information he has... but I can tell you there are few folks in comics smarter than he is. He's just a canny, and yet pleasant guy, and I'm sure that whatever moves he makes are going to be the right ones for his company. Anything I might have to say about IDW's plans would be just from the standpoint of a big fan of their books.

I can say I sympathize about the logistical challenges that a shop like IDW has to face in putting together their presence. With the increased awareness and attentions from the "real world," our little niche market is obviously not a niche market anymore. Rich Starkings of Comicraft and I were reminiscing at the show about the time, only ten years ago, when not only were comics in bags taped to the support pylons considered a viable way of merchandising your wares, but that you could actually see other vendors down the floor. Now, of course, it's hard to see the guys across the aisle from you! And of course the recent influx of the Hollywood attentions makes some people a little wary if not outright jaded.

imageBut for us here at AiT, we see that there are still some folks who just flat-out love comics; the form, the rich history, the storytelling, the variety of art, everything. And it's these long-time fans of the medium who are infusing energy to the folks just discovering the form, whether they're new comics fans because of the Spider-man movies or Hollywood producers searching for IP. So, we're lucky to be at the level we're at; a ten-year old company with a broad spectrum of in-print books that doesn't have to compete for attention against... well, you know... the Owlship from Watchmen or the full-size Iron Monger costume or what-have-you. For us, San Diego is still an awesome place to do business; judging from the success of our panel, there are still people who enjoy quality comics and personal stories as well as the latest slugfest or big-budget summer blockbuster motion picture. As a fan, for me, that's the best bit about San Diego: that there's room for everyone to sit at the pop culture table.

Obviously, the comics industry is going through a major change. It's always been in a state of flux, if you ask me; it's the nature of a deadline-driven business. But like any industry going through growing pains to reach the next level of expansion, there are going to be people comfortable with that change and people that are going to be less comfortable. And of course, in these days where gas is five bucks a gallon, and what my dad would call "these uncertain economic times," comics is an industry with tight margins. So companies are going to have to make difficult decisions about where and when they invest their time and energy and marketing budgets. Giving up a San Diego presence might free up capital for new books or other more less-traditional experiments... I'm sure we'll continue to see moves by comics companies that, to the outside observer, may seem dire or otherwise not make much sense. But of course that's the move that's best made for the industry in general or that company in particular.

On the last night of the show when my good friend, the Pittsburgh retailer Pat Donley, asked me if I was ready to go home, I told him with high energy and complete honesty that I could do *another* five days! I mean, sure, I missed my young son, and sleeping in my own bed, but dang if San Diego doesn't get me all fired up and full of enthusiasm. I mean, who in their right mind would ever get tired of people coming up and thanking you for doing what you do? Me, I'm real grateful San Diego offers us all the opportunity to all get together in one place and celebrate the things we love.

*****

imageChris Oliveros, Drawn & Quarterly: Yes, San Diego keeps on getting better for Drawn & Quarterly each year and we think the people organizing it are doing a great job. We plan to return next year for our 20th anniversary and hope to return for many years after that.

*****

Sean T. Collins, TCJ/CBR: I think this is particularly notable because, as you pointed out, IDW proved they know how to successfully work the show with their Darwyn Cooke/Parker announcement, arguably the most widely disseminated comics-related announcement of the whole con!

I suppose they're stuck between a rock and a hard place in that they have the output rate of a minimajor but, I'm guessing, not nearly that level of staffing -- that's why coming to the con puts such a dent in their man-hours. And without being inside the company it's tough for me to evaluate how bad that really is for them.

That being said, pulling out of the Con strikes me as short-sighted. I wouldn't cite Marvel's early-'00s model of "a few guys behind a card table," or Dynamite's current model of not showing up at all, or Wizard's old model of the same for that matter, as paths to follow. Frankly, San Diego is the comics industry showcase, and though it's possible that this is simply comics-media-bubble thinking, I believe there are costs in terms of not being in front of media eyes and fan eyes and just hopping aboard the general buzz bandwagon that you pay for not being there. I also can't help but feel that if Drawn & Quarterly can travel from Montreal and make a go of it, a San Diego-based company that has the Transformers and GI Joe licenses shouldn't have any problem making this con financially feasible, and that before they drop the show altogether they should take a much closer look at how they're doing it and what they could be doing differently.

[Editor's Note: I was the one who brought up Marvel's card-table presence, not Ted Adams]

*****

Chris Pitzer, AdHouse: First off, I'm not sure if everyone knows Ted Adams' background, but I consider him one of the smartest business-minded people working within comics today. He has worked at Eclipse, Wildstorm, Todd McFarlane Productions, and has a Masters in Business from Notre Dame. So, when he is questioning whether SDCC makes business sense for IDW, it's not a knee-jerk reaction to a good/bad show. He is actually thinking about this from a strategic angle, which your interview showed. Heck, just do a search on how IDW has grown over the years, and you have to figure he's made some good decisions. (disclaimer: Ted is also a friend of mine since our days at Eclipse way back when.)

I found the announcement rather surprising since I had been emailing Ted during most of the show, congratulating him on what I thought were good moves on their part. Things like the Cooke press conference, their bigger/better booth design, and their location made an impression on me as I viewed the show through the internet.

In regards to my decision last year to give up exhibiting at SDCC and Ted's questioning whether to exhibit or not, it's mostly an apples/oranges comparison. (Off the top of my head, the only apples/apples I can think of is that we both had great shows when we did exhibit.)

imageThe obvious apples/oranges: Ted runs a business. I run what some could consider a "hobby." As a one-man small press operation, AdHouse could be considered just above vanity or self-publishing. So, when I voiced my future exhibiting concerns last year, it was mostly because of that. The planning/shipping/printing/exhibiting/operating tends to take it's toll. Without the help of my brother, creators and friends I could not have done what we did in 2007.

The other difference is the West Coast vs. East Coast thing. Because of the expense of getting out there, I've followed the "every other year" approach to SDCC. This "seemed" to work out, but one of the things I noticed was that we seemed to get bumped down the que to which Ted refers. In 2007, I had hoped to be placed near the Fanta/TopShelf/LastGasp-land. Instead I got placed in the Indy Pavillion-land. Which I guess was OK, but when one exhibitor was surprised to find me there, and then commented that attendees were asking him where AdHouse was, it did put a concern in my head. In hindsight, I should have probably joined a like-publisher collective, to help ensure location. (I'll disclaimer this thought with my appreciation of the amount of work the organizers do put into the show. They do a fantastic job, and my location woes should not be considered a slight to them.)

And one other: expense. Yes, I know that we all can't expect to make money every single year we exhibit at SDCC. But I would hope to at least take the sting out of the cost of exhibiting with the help of a new hot book that might debut near the time of the show. As a small presser, more times than not, I don't know for certain what we'll have out a year in the future. Back in 2007, I didn't really have anything planned for 2008. (The one thing I did have planned, the Skyscrapers of the Midwest collection, wasn't much of an option since the creator told me that the show had taken its toll on him, so he didn't have plans to return any time in the near future.)

But you know what? I found myself itching to exhibit in 2009. Watching the show from back East, seeing the huge lines for James Jean, winning an Eisner award, it all made me contact James to see if he thought we could possibly get PR3 out by then. However, after talking it over, he's not all that interested in exhibiting at the show, and I'm not certain about our schedules. So I cooled my jets.

I do want to go (attend), though. There is that one problem where my wife will never be able to get that week off in July, do to office seniority. So, unless the Con moves the week, or we get creative in how we get out there, the chances of my getting there seem slim. Like I mentioned to you in another email, I'd like to go out and treat it as a working vacation, so that I can skip the show when it gets too crazy.

I could go on and on about this thing we call SDCC, but looking back, I think I've already taken up enough space. I wish the show well in the future hurdles they encounter, and hope I get to make it back at some point.

*****

Chris Staros, Top Shelf: While Comic-Con definitely seemed more 'Hollywood' than ever this year, it's still the most important comics event of the year -- a place where every aspect of the comics world is under one roof, at one time, and everything that needs to be done with the public and press (and behind the scenes) can be done. This year we were able to have a few thousand comics fans meet all of our cartoonists face-to-face, sample their work, and generally remind the public and press that we're here and doing interesting things.

imageWe also were able to meet with key comics retailers and have sit down meetings with the key buyers for Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Waterstones (UK) -- which is something I couldn't even pull off at the Book Expo America. And, of course, there's the Hollywood angle -- which only exists at San Diego -- where you can introduce your creators and graphic novels to the studios and producers that might be interested in animation or live action development of the stories.

And even though I arrive stressed out from the massive orchestration involved, and return completely drained, it's an amazing event that I can't ever see us not wanting to participate in. The press value alone can help kickstart books into a much wider appeal. This was true for From Hell, Blankets, Owly, and Lost Girls in years past -- and this year it was true for the likes of Alex Robinson's Too Cool To Be Forgotten and Jeff Lemire's conclusion of the Essex County Trilogy, The Country Nurse.

*****

Hervé St-Louis, Comic Book Bin: It's funny that IDW is considering dropping the SD con. I posted an article two days ago about how I really did not like my experience at their booth. I thought that they were not there for the fans who flew or drove in from far away to meet them. I discussed this with other people during the convention after writing my article (It was written way back last Friday) and I got similar response from them about IDW.

If you ask me, a company like IDW that thinks it can escape its responsibility to meet with fans, is not doing the right thing. San Diego, is not about selling a few books or tuning a clear profit. It's about giving back to the community that supports you all year round, by being there for them and not being annoyed by their presence.

The attitude that IDW should not meet with fans or even have a booth next year, strikes me as a product based approach and a lack of understanding that soft people skills are as important as making sure books are shipped on time.

It tells me a lot about a publisher that thinks it's above it's responsibility -- and it is a responsibility to meet the people that support them. My impression about their lack of care for fans is only reinforced by the public musing of their publisher.

*****

Rick Marshall, ComicMix: First off, my frame of reference for conventions and convention history is relatively small compared to people like yourself who've been attending them long before I began covering the comics industry -- so I can't claim to have the sort of long-term familiarity with the changing face of conventions that you and other reporters can draw upon. However, I can tell you what I've seen from the news side the last few years and how the efforts of publishers like IDW are being received by the outlets they're hoping to reach.

I think Adams has a great point about publishers' announcements drowning in the flood of news coming out of San Diego -- and how he wants to rethink the decision to "go big" on Comic-Con. It always amazes me that any publishers feel they should save major announcements for San Diego, as I think that 90 percent of those announcements would be viewed as much bigger events if they occurred at any other time throughout the year, or during smaller shows like Heroes Con, Emerald City or, as much as I hate to say it, any of the Wizard World shows. While you're a bit more likely to get some mainstream attention for the announcements you make during Comic-Con, that's a big gamble you're taking with your most important projects, and more often than not, I feel like publishers tend to waste their "best stuff" at Comic-Con just because they're trying to compete for attention with the movie studios and television networks. And nine times out of ten, that's not a fight they're going to win.

Adams also seems to recognize the fact that, with Comic-Con as big as it is (and with the type of programming it now provides), the mainstream news outlets with the big news teams will always put the movie/tv side of the show first and the comics second, while at the same time, the smaller, more comics-focused outlets and their news teams end up having to choose between covering the movie/tv news and publishing news -- creating a situation in which publishers' announcements and mass media news often become mutually exclusive content for comics-focused news outlets. In this environment, publishers already have the odds of receiving coverage against them going into the show -- yet for some reason, they keep betting their biggest announcements against the spread.

However, I really respect Adams' resistance to faulting news outlets for making these types of decisions and acknowledging that it's really a free market system at work. If comics news websites didn't receive so much more traffic for movie news than they did for publishing news, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Comics sites would focus on the publishing news, movie sites would focus on movies news, and so on...

In the end, I think the best option for publishers is something hinted at by yourself and Adams in the interview. For publishers, the time for reorganizing your presence at a show like Comic-Con to focus on your creators and the projects connected with them, as well as rethinking the way you approach announcements, is way past due. Comic-Con International is a unique beast, and instead of treating it like a bigger version of all the other conventions (as most publishers seem to do), I think publishers would be wise to start recognizing it as something altogether different from any other event in the comics industry and rethink their strategy accordingly. It seems like Adams is doing exactly that -- and I'm glad to see it. The more thought publishers put into their Comic-Con presence, the better of a job we (as comics-focused media outlets) will be able to do in covering it.

*****

Craig Johnson, Editor-In-Chief, ComicsVillage.com; Group Editor, Markosia: The big disadvantages with SDCC Ted identifies are the opportunity cost (i.e. the manpower cost) and the financial cost of the show. As for the latter, I don't think that's a huge deal: as SDCC is a trade show, all costs of attending should be written off against tax. Unless of course the US tax system is different to the UK in this regard, which is a definite possibility.

Regarding opportunity cost, I think Ted should address why SDCC requires so much, and Wondercon so little -- and see if he can leverage the Wondercon setup into a SDCC template. If it's just that SDCC has to be "bigger! better!! louder!!!" to get attention, then he may have to go the route we have to take: in that SDCC is pretty much irrelevant in terms of marketing comics, and absolutely not worth the effort. You make far bigger impact- at a far lower opportunity cost -- if you cover a half-dozen smaller conventions -- being a bigger fish in a smaller pond -- instead of doing SDCC.

For example, the Bristol Expo in the UK each May has been running ten years, and is growing in attendance each year -- with a very savvy, intelligent and knowledgeable audience of fans. The cost to IDW of a booth and a panel would be miniscule compared to SDCC, yet the impact this would have on promoting their books (especially as they have the Doctor Who and Transformers licenses) is immense.

So I would actively encourage Ted to think outside the box -- everyone does SDCC because everyone else does, but if you make the active decision to wind down your expenditure there, can you get more bang for your buck elsewhere? Absolutely, I would say!

*****
*****
 
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Go, Read: Sean Kleefeld on Wowio

imageThe writer Sean Kleefeld takes a smart, concise look at the new Wowio re-launch and notes changes between this iteration -- under the ownership of controversial not-a-comics publisher Platinum -- and the last. What he sees is 1) a bizarre melange of price points that suggest 99 cents on every paid download goes to the publisher and that some of the newer titles available from the site are going to be priced the same as print, and 2) a few prominent clients not making the trip from one version to another, such as the titles offered by Checker Publishing. If I'm reading him correctly, he's also seeing one or two thing available for a fee that may have come directly from fee offerings elsewhere, which is sort of odd. I'm not sure this ends well.
 
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Danish Organizations Plan To Appeal Case Vs. Muhammed Caricature Papers

A story that seems to be exactly as described: the seven Danish Muslim organization that unsuccessfully sought legal action against the newspapers and individual responsible for the 2005 Muhammed caricatures, caricatures that led to a series of international protests and economic reprisals, plan to appeal to first the Danish supreme court and then to European courts specializing in human rights. I'm not sure there's much more to say about this case than that, although it indicates some weakness in a political spin put on the events in the last 12 months: that it's long been a dead issue in Denmark.
 
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Collective Memory: CCI 2008

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Olympia, I’d Go To This

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OTBP: Comics Comics #4

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Go, Look: Gill: The Submission

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Go, Look: Dork Tower Site Re-Launch

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* former Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart lost a re-election bid in this week's Republican primary despite the national attention his crude campaign comic book received.

* here's something I missed: an almost-$80K grant to Syracuse University to assist in the upkeep of their vital cartoon holdings, one of the long-standing repositories of comics out there.

image* there's always a surprising feature or two if you only take a close look at the wires once a week: I didn't think I'd find a piece on Kin Hubbard and Abe Martin this morning, that's for sure.

* go, read:
a virtual symposium on Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics.

* people seem so excited about, or at least interested in, Ballantine doing a Garfield Minus Garfield that they keep e-mailing me the links, so I suppose it can't wait until the next publishing news round-up. People seem surprised that Davis would allow this, but it seems like a pretty obvious choice to me and perfectly within Davis' mostly easy-going approach to his strip's success. What it isn't is a crass, financial-based decision as some have suggested, which given the size of Davis' operation even these days and what this could add to the bottom line if it were the biggest hit imaginable is still almost too laughable an idea to be engaged.

* the writer Jim Washburn compares Bill Mauldin's cartoons to media darling of the moment Generation Kill.

* my nightmares have been exactly like this since last weekend.

* finally, this interview with the Hernandez Brothers may be the sunniest talk with three cartoonists ever. It kills me you can buy the entire first volume of Love and Rockets for $85. Basically you can get the greatest comic series of all time for about half the total cost of a DC Comics weekly limited series. That's just awesome.
 
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Happy 77th Birthday, Tom Wilson!

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