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











December 31, 2008


Celebrating The New Year: The Plunder Island Sequence From Thimble Theater

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I can't think of any better way to greet any new year than spending some time with Popeye and the Thimble Theatre Crew
 
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Celebrating The New Year: Richard Thompson Reviews 2008 In Cartoons

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one, two
 
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Celebrating The New Year: I’m Thinking Of eBaying These For $100,000 Each

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Celebrating The New Year: Random, Blurry Shelf Porn From CR Headquarters

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I wish this were close to being a quarter of it
 
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CR Holiday Interview #9: Batton Lash

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*****

imageI've said this so many times it's part of the interview that follows: Batton Lash is one of my favorite people to see at comics conventions, when he's nearly always in the company of publishing and life partner Jackie Estrada. Lash is funny, he's full of stories and he's really, really nice. I'm never sure how these things get counted, but 2009 appears to be the 30th anniversary of his Wolff & Byrd feature, which started as Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre and is now running on-line and in print under the appellation Supernatural Law.

Lash has more than proven his devotion to his strip over the years: following it into different formats, re-working old material whenever he gets the chance, hand-selling it after reaching the limits of what the direct market has to offer him. In addition to affording me the opportunity to learn more about his unique story -- which includes being born in Brooklyn, being taught at SVA during one of that school's heydays, and currently freelancing with both Archie and Bongo in addition to be one of the last standing traditional self-publishers -- I thought he'd have a measured perspective on the modern comics industry. I was happy he agreed to talk to me, and enjoyed our conversation. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: We're talking close to Christmas... Do you have any holiday traditions? Do you keep cartooning through the holidays?

BATTON LASH: The cartooning goes on all the time. I have pads all over the house. I'm always jotting down ideas. I don't know if you're aware, I'm also doing stuff for Archie and Bongo. Whenever something hits me I have to make sure I write it down right away or else I forget it. It's a 24/7 operation.

As far as holiday traditions, it's interesting that this interview is today, because it's the day we're getting our Christmas tree. We always look forward to that, because Steve Darnall -- I'm sure you know who that is -- he had his wife Meg always put together a beautiful CD of obscure novelty Christmas tunes. Jackie and I have been fortunate to be on their mailing list each year. We always trim the tree to Steve and Meg's CD. That's as close to a tried and true, ironclad tradition that we adhere to.

SPURGEON: I wondered, because I know you're a Brooklyn boy, and you're in San Diego now. That's about as far away from Brooklyn as you can get. I wondered if the holidays were different than what you had grown used to.

LASH: I'll be honest, it took a long time to adjust. This particular December has been very chilly, so it at least felt seasonal. That puts me very much in the holiday spirit. Being in San Diego doesn't bother me as much as it used to. But I never, ever get used to waking up Christmas morning and seeing guys walking their dogs wearing only shorts and no shirts.

SPURGEON: You're a School of Visual Arts grad. Are you still close to your schooling? Do you still reference back to your training, or is it one of those arrangements where you had the education once upon a time but you've since put together your own set of skills?

LASH: Funny that you should bring up SVA. I was just in New York several weeks ago. Their cartooning society was nice enough to ask me to give a lecture. I talked about my experiences of being a student there and trying to break into the industry. It didn't seem so long ago that I was in their spot, but I guess it was! By the way, the "Cartoon Allies" (that's the name of the society) were terrific. A lot of talent there. I think I got more out of talking to them than they got listening to me!

As far as what you're asking me, for the first few years after graduating SVA, I had mixed feelings. I looked back, and thought, "Did I just waste five years of my life? What's going on?" [Spurgeon laughs] But as time went on, the information I got from school, whether from class or just by osmosis, sort of settled in. Stuff that I didn't quite understand at the time, I began to "get it" by having my own experiences in the freelance world.

The thing about Visual Arts is that they've always promoted that the people in the business are your instructors. So you had freelancers teaching students. I graduated in '77, and maybe in 1984 I'm sitting in my studio and going, "Oh, I get it now. Right, right, right, right, right." I look back now and I'm very happy that I did attend the school. Plus I'm stunned by the instant bonding with the people who went to Visual Arts. It's like being in the War or something. "Visual Arts?" "Yeah, Fine Arts, one year."

SPURGEON: When I hear SVA grads talk it almost reminds me of the guys I know that graduated from military academies, as silly as that may sound. I think there's a special bond between cartoonists who share that kind of very specific academic experience.

LASH: That's a byproduct I didn't even consider when I graduated. It was nice. When I met Jackie, she knew a lot of people in the comics industry. I knew a few -- mainly from SVA. She would ask, "How do you know Kyle Baker? How do you know this person? How do you know that person?" My answer was always, "We went to Visual Arts." After a while, she says, "Let me get this straight. Did everyone in comics go to this school??" It seemed to be my reference point for a lot of people.

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SPURGEON: How long have you been on-line with Supernatural Law to the extent you are now?

LASH: Three years. We started in 2005.

SPURGEON: Has the move been beneficial for you?

LASH: I'm still in print, too.

SPURGEON: Of course. I guess what I'm getting at is that you have a substantial amount of work on-line. It is full-bore on-line publishing, not a web site with sample strips. You're still publishing in print, but you're publishing on-line, too.

LASH: It's ongoing. I put stuff up on Mondays and Thursdays. Something is up there twice a week. I'm currently doing a new story, but I went into reprint mode for a while when I was doing Archie: Freshman Year. I also had some family things to take care of on the East Coast, so that took up a lot of my time. But even with the reprints, it's new to new readers. And it's in color. I can't help but redraw certain things. Everything is a work in progress, as far as I'm concerned.

To answer your question, I think being online has been a tremendous boost. We know the situation with indies and comics stores. I think I've gone as far as I can go in the direct market. Even if Supernatural Law were the #1 TV show coast to coast, and President Obama said Wolff and Byrd are his favorite comic book characters, stores who have never carried my books still wouldn't carry them. I will never win them over. I'm grateful for my supporters and I appreciate all the retailers who do carry and promote my books, but I'm not going to get any new stores. The Web has introduced Wolff and Byrd to people who have never seen the comic because either their neighborhood stores don't carry it or they've been out of the loop or, best of all, they just pick it up from a link. Then they order the books from us. Or Jackie and I direct them to a store that does support us in their area. "This place carries Supernatural Law and they're well-stocked, so check them out."

My mantra has always been "one reader at a time." That's the way it goes. I'm very happy to do that, too. I'm still here, able to do the next installment, the next issue, the next collection. I've always been here for the long haul.

imageSPURGEON: Unlike a lot of creators for whom taking it on-line is the first major change they've embraced, Wolff & Byrd have been fairly mutable over the years. It's on-line now, I think of it as a comic book, and it also had a long run as a magazine strip.

LASH: Newspaper.

SPURGEON: Excuse me.

LASH: Wolff & Byrd started in a local weekly called The Brooklyn Paper, and was picked up by The National Law Journal. The Law Journal strips are what CBG reprinted. I have to say, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Don and Maggie Thompson told me, "Hey, we want to run this." I really appreciated the platform Don and Maggie gave me; that was a great opportunity to get my name and characters in front of the comics industry every week. Meanwhile, the Law Journal was giving me a good rate and I was getting my chops along the way. Learning on the job!

SPURGEON: You've always pursued the market that's presented itself to you. You haven't been dependent on a specific format. If there's another market tomorrow, I have a feeling you'd pursue that. You're very devoted to your strip in a consistent way.

LASH: Thank you, I appreciate that. You go where the markets are. Also, I'm from the Old School. For better or worse, people like Chester Gould and Leonard Starr and Milton Caniff, were on their strips for years and years and years, and I always liked that. They created a familiar atmosphere that gave the reader a feeling of "Welcome to the family."

I always liked my characters. I enjoy working on them. I told you about the pads around the house. All of the characters have little backstories that maybe only I would ever know, but it's fun doing that. I was chastised by someone in the industry who said I should give up Supernatural Law [Spurgeon laughs], and that everyone's tired of it. Well, everyone hasn't seen it yet. Do something new? I enjoy doing this and there's people who enjoy reading it. I don't understand the attitude of "if it isn't a blockbuster the first weekend, it sucks." It kind of irks me.

imageYou see a lot of problems in mainstream comics where people keep jumping from project to project. So you've got 20 different versions of Batman or Spider-Man. Or whatever character. There is no one vision. Like I said, there was a time, better or for worse, you'd have Stan and Jack on a long run. At least you had some traction. Sure, I have some other concepts, but everything takes so long, and as I get older it takes me even longer to do things. For now, I'm happy to concentrate on Wolff & Byrd... Mavis, too!

I'm getting to be more of a perfectionist. You mentioned the strip. I am grateful for anyone that stuck with me since the strip days, because I look at those strips now and go, "Oy vey!" I'm glad people gave me a chance! The old work makes me cringe sometimes. Now I try to take a lot more care with my artwork. Back in those days it was, "I gotta get it out, get it off my desk, there's no fooling around with the Law Journal's deadline -- get it there, end of story."

SPURGEON: You talked about something in Chris Brandt's film Independents that I thought was pretty great in that you looked at the grief that some of your fellow professionals that are more freelance-oriented go through to get assignments, keep assignments, dealing with the politics of it.

LASH: You mean the work for hire stuff.

SPURGEON: Yeah. And while you have that aspect to your career, you seemed in that footage to take some satisfaction out of being the captain of your own ship. Is that fair?

LASH: Yeah. Well, I don't know about satisfaction. No, you're right. You're right about that. I'm very fortunate I draw just well enough I can illustrate my own stories. My heart goes out to a lot of writers who can't draw. They're very frustrated. You can tell they want to do their own thing and not be beholden to work for hire stuff. If they could do their own webcomic or, back when it was really viable, their own self-published comic, they would; but they're stuck being dependent on another artist.

If I had to make a living by soliciting scripts from Marvel or DC, I would not be in the comics business. I just don't have the head for that sort of... struggle. Or office politics. I was very fortunate that with my two work-for-hire gigs, Archie and Bongo, they both approached me. Now, having said that, last year, since I know Mike Carlin very well -- SVA alumni, by the way [Spurgeon laughs] -- I approached him with two pitches. Actually, two artists told that if I ever pitched something to DC, I could attach their names to the projects because they wanted to work with me. Isn't that nice? Anyway, I thought if DC accepted the pitches, it would be a lark to work on some of their old characters. But DC passed. It wasn't a biggie. I certainly never have a yearning to get a Wolverine mini-series going or else. That's just not my thing.

SPURGEON: I liked what I read of your Archie mini-series, Freshman Year.

LASH: Oh, thanks.

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SPURGEON: How do you find a place for yourself creatively in an assignment like that? Those characters are as well worn as any characters out there... how was that experience generally?

LASH: It's fun. I always liked the Archie characters. The first time I worked with them was on the Archie/Punisher one-shot. And Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief, always liked my writing. He always wanted me to do more. But there was never enough time, and like I just told you, I don't really pursue the freelance thing as much as I should. Even when it lands in my lap.

When they came to me with the Freshman Year concept, I just took what they already had established with the Archie characters and kind of dug into my memory of what I was like as a teenager. I've totally romanticized my teenage years out of proportion. We all had miserable times, but I concentrated on the lighthearted incidents and the fun times. And I put that into Freshman Year.

I'm not sure that answers your question!

SPURGEON: I just wondered if you're writing Archie -- or by extension a lot of these kinds of characters and concepts -- where does the satisfaction come from? Do you have a vision of Archie in your head? Is it a standard of craft you want to achieve? Is it simply about trying to find that connection?

LASH: I have no pretension that I'm going to give the world the Archie they've always been waiting for. [Spurgeon laughs] It's nothing like that. Even when I do Wolff & Byrd, I think, "What's the kind of thing that I liked to read when I was a fan and went to the newsstand every Tuesday?" The mandate was Archie and the gang in their freshman year. What would I have liked to have read? So I apply that. I threw in a few autobiographical elements that made it fun for me, that after all these many years to see it in cold print, things that happened to me in high school, it's a kick to me. I'm sure if it happened to me, it happened to other people and it's happening to kids today. It's always great when someone comes up to you and says, "That thing you wrote; I felt exactly that same way." It's nice.

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SPURGEON: Do you purposefully try to keep the Wolff & Byrd stuff frozen in time? Is it a balancing act? There's character progression, but you're not focused on character progression. Does that go back to a personal preference, writing something you want to read?

LASH: What keeps me there is economics, so that when I reprint the material I don't have to worry about it being too dated. Except for a couple of details, the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Spider-Mans could be taking place today. They kind of have a timeless quality about them. So do classic comic strips if you disregard references to Tojo or whatever. People are people. Fashion changes, but human nature remains constant.

I've always tried to keep it timeless. There's never been a saga. Cerebus was a 300-issue story. Supernatural Law is not like that at all. There's no timeline. I'm from the Old School in that rule #1 is that every issue is someone's first issue. I don't want them to be turned off by an ongoing saga that they feel they can't catch up on. I want newbies to feel they can jump right into it.

SPURGEON: You placed the original strip on Court Street in Brooklyn. It was surprising to me to hear of there being a real place that it was based on, because of the overwhelmingly iconic sense of settings I get from your work. It seems very organic that way.

LASH: That's good...

SPURGEON: Oh, it's all good. One thing I thought might help you keep the strip timeless is your strong focus on the foregrounded plot as opposed to an accretion of character detail. With that tight a focus on plot, how do you guard against repetition?

LASH: I don't know. [Spurgeon laughs] I like to think I'm learning all the time. I appreciate you pointing out the thing about plot. I think the most important thing is story structure. That's what I concentrate on the most. I'm fascinated by the rhythms of a story.

SPURGEON: Is that something that comes naturally to you?

LASH: I know it sounds like bragging, so trust me when I say was a terrible student, but when I took my report card home my parents would say, "You did lousy in everything, but why did you get an A in English?" It's because I always had the best compositions in class. The teacher would tell us to write about something, and I would construct my stories as much as a sixth grader could. I was always interested in story. I'm always trying to entertain. You're doing good when a reader identifies with a character, so I work on characterization. But I put that in the back seat to make sure that the story goes from A to Z without any problems. The story structure is the most important thing.

SPURGEON: Did I see some Li'l Obama cartoons from you this year?

LASH: Yeah.

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SPURGEON: Was that a major enterprise?

LASH: No. It started as a lark. I guess I was so chagrined over Obama's policies and the shameless fawning he as getting from the press that I had a need to get a dig in. A blogger that I follow, a very funny and witty observer of politics and pop culture, Jim Treacher, got me going. I forget how I originally got a hold of him. I think I commented on one of his (non-political) postings a few months ago, and he replied to me and he said he knew who I was and knew my comics. That surprised me.

So I had this cartoon and I didn't know what to do with it. I wrote to Treacher. I knew he was throwing some darts at Obama and the media's love affair with him. I e-mailed him if he wanted to put my cartoon on his site. He was only too happy to do that. He wrote back a couple of weeks later and said, "I can't draw to save my life. But I have ideas. What if I wrote them up and you drew them." It sounded like fun. I had never worked that way before. We did a few strips, and it was a blast. I like Treacher. I've only communicated with him by e-mail, though.

SPURGEON: I remember the cartooning itself as lively.

LASH: Thanks. I did it for free, and I also had a ton of deadlines at the same time. I was forced to economize the drawing, so I really just banged it out. I tried to make the color work with it. I'm glad you liked it.

SPURGEON: You talked earlier about looking back at your old strips... do you feel you're a better artist now? How might you be a better artist?

LASH: I'm probably the least objective when it comes to looking at the artwork. Jackie will tell you that we'll go to press with something, I'll say, "Let's hurry up and get the next issue out as quickly as possible so people will forget the current one." And she'll go, "What are you talking about? It looks fine." After I sleep on it and don't look at the issue until the proofs come in, I'll say, "This doesn't look as bad as I thought!"

When you're younger, you fantasize about being Barry Windsor-Smith or John Buscema -- and I know I'm dating myself by those names here. At a certain point, you know you're never going to be those people. You won't match their draftsmanship. So you just work with what you have. I remember in SVA, when I had Will Eisner as a teacher. He was always telling me, "Pull back. You're trying to be something you're not." He said, "Look at animation. Look how open that is. Learn to economize." I've always tried to do that. If anything, I've stopped putting in useless detail. I've looked at some of my recent stuff, the web stuff. It's very open and clean looking. I think I got cleaner, let's say that. I'm still working at cleaning up.

SPURGEON: Have you enjoyed the opportunity to work in color on a regular basis?

LASH: Oh, yeah. In fact, I'm scheming to do a color print issue. I'm still 20th Century enough that I have to have a color comic book in my hands. Just what you can do with light and shadow and not rely on black is fascinating to me. Look at some of the old comics, stuff during the '50s when the printing was terrible and the separations were done by old ladies in printing shops. Even then, the way they would use color, sometimes just two colors to suggest a mood, it works beautifully. More so than today.

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SPURGEON: I noticed that some of your color has the same simplicity of many of those classic horror comics, the old Atlas comics and the like...

LASH: I look at that stuff, and it's all good. But my real bible has been those 1970s DC -- I can't call them horror comics -- mystery comics like Witching Hour and House of Mystery. I think it was Tatjana Wood. The coloring of those stories was beautiful, very moody and simple. I draw on that a lot.

SPURGEON: Is there a difference doing color for the screen and doing it for the printed page?

LASH: I haven't done it in print yet! The one story that went from web to print, I changed it to gray tones (Mavis #5). Which was another job onto itself. I haven't had a chance to bring the color to print yet. I'm working on it. Printing is getting very cheap. You have to find it. I've seen some people at conventions, self-publishers. I'd say, "Boy, you published this yourself?" It's a 32-page color comic. They say, "Yeah, we got printed in Hong Kong." It was like under two grand or something. The coloring was just fine for their purposes.

That's another thing, if I can digress, as to what I'm saying where I think the self-publishing movement -- for lack of a better term -- is going. I've noticed a lot of these younger self-publishers aren't relying on Diamond. They know they're not going to get anywhere there. They've got a whole grass-roots thing going at conventions. They go city to city. They do just fine in their region, too.

SPURGEON: Do you think that's had an effect on your art and outlook, doing so much hand-selling of your title?

LASH: Yes. And that's a double-edged sword, too. Some of the people I see at the shows I only see once a year. They buy everything that's come out since the last time they saw me. They'll go, "Okay, see you next year, and we'll get whatever you have out." I say, "You gotta support the stores!" [laughs] "The stores drop me when people don't buy the book. Please buy it at the store." And they say, "We'd rather buy it from you."

It's nice to have that connection. I've noticed that people who never bought the book that once they meet me and my effervescent personality [Spurgeon laughs], then they're willing to try Supernatural Law and purchase a copy. And I have to thank you, Tom, because you say I'm the nicest guy anyone should meet at Comic-Con. People come to my booth saying, "Tom Spurgeon says you're a nice guy. Show me how nice you are." And I give them a comic.

SPURGEON: Wow. My readers are jerks! [laughter]

LASH: Nah, they are always pleasant.

SPURGEON: That's a relief.

LASH: I wish I could do more shows. It's always nice to meet the readers. It's good to meet other cartoonists, too. When you have that personal contact, you connect. I was kidding when I said "effervescent personality," but when new readers meet me and see how sincere I am, they're willing to give the book a try. And more often than not, they like it!

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SPURGEON: It's hard to get that first bit of attention from people.

LASH: I know Supernatural Law isn't to everyone's tastes. However, I think if they tried it, they might be pleasantly surprised.

SPURGEON: Are you worried at all about the economy? Have you done anything to help weather the storm?

LASH: Maybe on a personal, household level. But as far as the comics industry goes? No. Not at all. Comics have always done well in a bad economy. I was at SPX recently, right around the time everything was hitting the fan. Everyone was concerned the economy was going to hurt the show. The house was packed. Everyone did well. It occurred to me that comics and entertainment in general always does well in bad times. You know how comics fans are. I was like this, too. I can skip that, but I want this. I won't have dessert tonight as long as I can get my new copy of that. We'll get through it. I think people are hungry to get away and escape, to spend a whole day at a convention getting comics. Comics are what the bad times need.

imageSPURGEON: Is there anything special we should mention, or should people just continue to pay attention to the site and the print releases?

LASH: We have a brand new trade out. The Soddyssey and other Tales of Supernatural Law. That is the missing volume in our trade paperback series of five books -- volume two: Wolff & Byrd issues #9-12. Of course I've gone back and drawn many things. [Spurgeon laughs] Talk about being timeless: certain things have been updated.

SPURGEON: You mean there are no more mentions of the Kaiser?

LASH: [laughs] No, things like "I have to find a phone booth" is changed to "I have to use my cell." Libraries have become very important for Exhibit A Press and their target audience is teen readers. I have to make sure everything in the stories happened within the last few years. Not "back in the day"!

SPURGEON: What do you think appeals to the librarians about your work?

LASH: A couple of librarians who don't know each other each told me they thought Supernatural Law has a good story and a lot to the story that could keep a reader hooked into the series. A lot of things go on. It is not a quick read. They said that people who were checking it out were able to get engrossed in it. They also liked that it was reader friendly: you could get up to speed pretty quick as far as who the characters are and their back story and stuff.

SPURGEON: It's an easy series to pick up on; the concept seems very clear.

LASH: Good art is important, don't get me wrong. Good art and comics go hand in hand. But -- and this may be blasphemous -- it's not as important as a good story. I've noticed that for people in the outside world, people not into comics the way we are, they are pretty indifferent to the art. Their real interest is in a story they can get engrossed in. That's what I would stress. Story over art.

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* Lash's long-time leads, I believe taken from a cover
* photo of Lash, such as it is, by Tom Spurgeon
* one of the many monsters around which a serial gets focused
* another one
* cover to the Mavis series
* cover to Freshman Year
* I just sort of like this panel
* Li'l Obama
* a limited-color panel
* that line from the client makes me laugh
* the latest trade
* [below] a classic monster

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December 30, 2008


Happy 43rd Birthday, Julie Doucet!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, Lela Dowling!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, Steve Rude!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Fabian Nicieza!

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A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
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CR Holiday Interview #8: Matt Forsythe

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*****

I'd seen Matthew Forsysthe's Ojingogo comics linked to here and there, but I didn't start paying attention to them until I got to see a whole bunch at once in the print collection of the same name, just released from Drawn and Quarterly. It's a fun book. The leads and the creatures they run into are imaginatively designed, the encounters offer a level of complexity when viewed as a series that distinguishes the overall work, and a lot of it is very funny. Forsythe is also a contributor at Drawn, the illustration and cartooning blog that I won't let myself read regularly for fear of merely replicating the consistently excellent way they draw attention to deserving and interesting artists all over the world. He was nice enough to take a few questions. I enjoyed his answers. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: Matthew, I'm not familiar with you at all beyond seeing your name up for a few awards, which is absolutely terrifying to me considering the accomplishment on display in Ojingogo. I liked your biographical cartoon [see bottom of post]. What about your life story do you think might distinguish you from most of your artist peers?

MATTHEW FORSYTHE: I guess the main thing is that I don't draw full time. Editorial illustration doesn't really get me excited -- though I do take the occasional job if it's interesting. And I don't draw comics full-time. I have a day-job that I love and I'm happy coming home in the evenings and weekends and drawing whatever and whenever I can.

SPURGEON: You mention a few places that Ojingogo is derived in part from influences that you picked up while teaching in South Korea. Can you talk about those influences a bit? Am I right to think that you also mean influences beyond comics and cartooning?

FORSYTHE: Yes, definitely. I was teaching a group of kindergarten kids and we would make up stories and tell them to each other every morning -- and they really changed the way I saw the world. I was enamored with their dream-like logic and I found it echoed in a lot of Asian pop-art. Western narratives suddenly seemed so oppressively literal. I was also learning to read Korean, too,. and I found the language to be very inspiring and very rich visually. I hope that comes across in the comic.

imageSPURGEON: Although I'm certain you must have talked about this elsewhere, can you clue me in about how Ojingogo developed? In hurling myself towards the Internet to find out more about you, what I came away with is that it was an on-line project -- perhaps even a flickr-based one -- that developed into the print one. Can you talk about how you ended up in print?

FORSYTHE: I started posting the comic on my site way back in 2004 and the feedback was immediately very positive. I was working a lot and traveling around Asia and posting about one strip a month -- which I'm told is a very poor schedule for a webcomic. But I was never trying to make a living off of it -- so it was fine for me. I self-published a couple mini-comics and did a few shows. The comic started getting noticed a bit -- award nominations and that sort of thing -- and Chris [Oliveros] from D+Q got in touch and told me he liked the comic.

I also loved designing the book for print. I'm such a big fan of Chris and Tom [Devlin]'s production work with D+Q and Tom's earlier work with Highwater Books. It was really exciting to actually make a book with these people.

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SPURGEON: Talk to me a bit about character design. I love the girl, especially the tiny feet. Is there difficulty involved in making a character that is both distinct but has cipher-like, every-person qualities like that character design has?

FORSYTHE: Most of the characters in the book came from dreams or floated up from the subconscious. But the girl is a very direct manhwa interpretation of a good friend of mine and drawn in a style that's fairly common in Korean newspaper strips and cartoon culture. I don't feel like I could draw a bunch of cute human characters like her without completely changing the tone of the comic. So basically it's her tangling with a bunch of my nightmares.

SPURGEON: It's hard for me to think of a question to ask about the creatures... the shaggy man and the dragonfly remind me of something one might see in a Miyazaki film, but I'm woefully unfamiliar with Asian fantasy and myth in a broader sense, let alone within the various, individual cultures, to know the basic sources that might be involved. Let me ask you this: Is there an attempt to have the creatures together represent a larger design? Do they fit together? Are they partial aspects of a larger whole? Or is it more directly in line with your intention that they represent individual ideas and the world you've created is generous enough to contain them all?

FORSYTHE: Miyazaki's films were a huge influence. Another common thread its that they're iconic animals in Korean folk-history. Dragonflies, fish, squid, rice, ginseng -- these things all pop up in folk tales all the time. At one point I was thinking of making comics of Korean folk tales that I was reading. These things are also symbolic in Korean life. Ginseng (Insam in Korean) is endowed with almost magical qualities in Korea, so I knew I had to have a ginseng root being consumed somewhere in the strip.

Also there's a lot of playing with scale in the book. Things get big. They get small. People often ask me about this. But this is also a common theme in Asian pop art. Godzilla, The Host -- we've seen it a thousand times and even more in Asian comics. There's a history in Asian pop-storytelling of horrific monsters growing out of innocent and natural origins; almost certainly a psychological vestige of the nuclear attacks on Japan and Korea's tragic history in the 20th century.

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SPURGEON: I do have to specifically ask after that one creature with the raincloud over its head. That's just odd and lovely-looking and I'd love to know where he came from.

FORSYTHE: I honestly don't know.

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SPURGEON: One thing I find fascinating about your work is that on the one hand I get this real sense of exploring a world, but in exploring that world you use foregrounded figures and limited or dropped backgrounds over 90 percent of the time. What led you to that approach? Because certainly from your sketchbook work and a few of the panels that are used in that fashion it's clear you could create a lush, atmospheric world in every drawing. Is it the nature of the project? Is it a desire on your project to emphasize the relationships?

FORSYTHE: That's definitely part of it. It's something I picked up from manga -- which moves a lot quicker and has panels and pages that breathe a lot more than North American comics.

Also, I'm a big fan of the stuff by Blutch or Jean Jacques Sempe -- who use the negative space on the page so liberally but elegantly. David Lynch says we fill negative space with our imagination -- and I think that happens a bit with Ojingogo.

imageSPURGEON: Do you believe your chapter to be purposeful as narratives or it more about exploration and interrelationships over story? I know that with Jim Woodring, say, I get a sense of parable and an undercurrent of meaning being expressed. Can we look at this work that same way? Is there a way you'd prefer people read it?

FORSYTHE: The comic was completely unscripted. The chapters were inserted more as beats than any sort of marker within the narrative. I definitely read heavily into some of the stuff going on in the comic -- probably the same way Woodring does. Personally I find it more satisfying to read it in pieces -- strip by strip -- the way it was created- - but obviously people can read it however they like.

SPURGEON: Am I right in thinking there's intentional sense of optimism that courses through the work? There are these encounters depicted which tend at first to be scary or problematic but are eventually rectified in a way that not only keeps people mostly from harm but seems to fit a higher purpose, some sort of goal.

FORSYTHE: The comic is definitely meant to be fun. Fun for me to create and fun to read. I was looking at my friends making mainstream North American comics -- and as you're probably aware a lot of them aren't having a lot of fun doing it. They don't always buy into the stories, so they kind of resent the work and the constant deadlines. I was working my ass off in Korea -- teaching 10 class-hours a day most of the time -- and when I got home I didn't have any energy for anything that wasn't fun.

SPURGEON: You also contribute to Drawn, the mighty web site for illustration and cartooning. Does looking at art in the way I imagine you must to be a contributor there have an effect on your work, do you think? Would your work be different if you didn't have that specific relationship to art and artists?

FORSYTHE: It's a daily dose of humility. There are so many great artists seeing the world in radically different ways. The most important thing I've learned through Drawn is that great art is not just about craft and practice -- though those things are very important. It's really just about trusting the way you see the world.

One of my favourite artists this year, Alberto Vasquez, has a very simple and restricted style. But everything he does blows my mind.

SPURGEON: I hope you'll indulge me a question about another cartoonist. I was intrigued by the fact that you were so complimentary of Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac in your year-end list despite the fact that your work as I'm familiar with it seems more fantasy-based and his is a fairly grounded and only occasional whimsical in that way family strip. As a cartoonist and as someone who interacts with cartoon art through Drawn, what is it that you think makes a great comic? What makes that one a great one?

FORSYTHE: I think the thing that gets me about Cul de Sac is its honesty. You can just feel Thompson is channeling his own experiences in an honest way through this wonderful family. I'm not saying necessarily that it's his family -- just that these characters are alive. We all know these people. I can only hope Ojingogo resonates a little bit in the same way.

SPURGEON: What are your plans for 2009? What's the next book?

FORSYTHE: I've started working on a more traditional narrative. It's inspired by my trip home from Korea through China, Mongolia, and Russia via the trans-Siberian railway. Right now I'm researching images and re-reading my old journals and starting to put stuff together. I'm also working on more Ojingogo comics.

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* all imagery from Ojingogo; that's the cover of the book up top

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December 29, 2008


A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
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CR Holiday Interview #7: Kurt Busiek

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Kurt Busiek's Marvels was the big comic at the time I went to work in comics. Launching the career of artist Alex Ross and instigating any number of still-ongoing trends, many have forgotten that Marvels came out just as Marvel Comics careened into a rough period marked by bankruptcy, overreaching business acquisitions and market setbacks. I have no idea if Marvel's current place in the entertainment firmament owes anything to the ability to look upon a Marvels as a testament to their characters' power and appeal during the tough times. I bet it didn't hurt. Kurt Busiek has since built an admirable mainstream comics-oriented writing career centered around his own creations (most memorably Astro City) and various high-profile runs
 
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December 28, 2008


Happy 48th Birthday, Jay Geldhof!

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Happy 25th Birthday, Julia Wertz!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Holiday Interview #6: Eddie Campbell

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imageI love talking to Eddie Campbell, one of the great cartoonists. I was particularly glad to talk to him in this brief space between 2008 and 2009. In 2008, First Second published the last of three Eddie Campbell books that anchored the first few seasons of their line. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard is a sweetly and gracefully told meditation on life as story, loaded with some of the most exquisite imagery of Campbell's long and distinguished career. In 2009, Top Shelf plans to release the massive Alec omnibus depicted above, placing in chronological order all of the cartoonist's wonderful autobiographical and autobiographically informed work into one place with several pages of new comics and another, smaller selection of never-printed ones. It will surely become one of the most borrowed works in many a considerable comics library. If you weren't aware, Campbell is also one of comics most interesting thinkers, and I'm happy to nudge him into some talk of formal aspects and publishing tends in the conversation that unfolds below. I enjoyed this back and forth very much, and I'm appreciative of how quickly Campbell turned the whole thing around. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: I don't think it fully registered with me before, but you have a massive collection of your autobiographical work coming out in 2009. I always thought that this was a natural for a book at some point and I look forward to it with a not insignificant smile on my face. Is there a reason this seemed attractive to you right now?

EDDIE CAMPBELL: The evolution of our medium has made this the right time. If you think back, at first we'd publish serial comics because that was what the economics permitted (all those "mini" and "maxi" series). Then we would gather the material into a book. The medium developed to the stage where a publisher could pay an author an advance to take himself away and make the whole book before showing any of it. We now find ourselves at an even more advanced stage, where several of a veteran author's books are gathered into a huge compendium. Thus Will Eisner's Life in Pictures, which collected his various books that had an autobiographical element, Gaiman's Absolute Sandman, Gilbert Hernandez' Palomar, etc.

SPURGEON: How did plans for this particular format come together?

CAMPBELL: Chris Staros at Top Shelf has been wanting to do the book for several years, since those others I just mentioned started appearing. In the meantime I've been gradually making digital scans of the pages for the French editions, knowing that all the time I was building toward using these in my own big collection. It is a lot of work after all, scanning 640 pages, especially with all the zip-a-tones, trying to avoid and eliminate moiré patterns. I'm probably now the expert on doing that stuff.

imageSPURGEON: When did new comics become a part of those plans?

CAMPBELL: The funny thing is that the way I started putting it all together isn't quite the way it's ended up. I had the six books (the King Canute Crowd, Graffiti Kitchen, How to Be an Artist, Little Italy, The Dance of Lifey Death, and After the Snooter,) arranged in a chronology that follows actual time rather than the order in which the books were drawn, and then I had a large 80-page section at the end which rounded up a lot of short pieces and some unfinished works which are still worth reading as they stand. But the more I looked at the pages I started seeing an epic sweep in which characters grow older, with a real sense of time passing. It's ironic that in the comic book medium terminality has come to be seen as a holy grail, the notion of a thing being complete in itself (as in a "novel"), when the true essence of the comic strip is the very opposite, the concept of the eternal present. The greatest daily comic strips had no end. Conceptually, allowing for no interference by extramural forces, a strip may run forever (Like Gasoline Alley). Of course nowadays that quality has been usurped by the television soap opera. Given the dumbassed nature of comic books, the highest measure of commitment to quality, or terminality, that a writer can have is the determination to show characters being killed.

But I've wandered off the point. I saw this shape within the book and I shifted a few of the essential short things into their chronological positions and threw the rest out, then I saw the chance to complete the implied sequence by adding another book that brings things up to date. So we now have an all-new 35-page book at the end titled "The Years Have Pants", which has also become the title for the whole compendium, since it fits so well. But the new book is in no way a conclusion, for it introduces a bunch of new developments that point to resolution outside of the text. I'll also mention that there are half a dozen other unpublished pages included in the compendium.

imageSPURGEON: When we talked in 2006, you compared standard comics pages to a straitjacket, which I think as a value is an undercurrent to a lot of your formally audacious work of the last few years. What was it like, then, preparing new work for the Alec omnibus using a more standard grid?

CAMPBELL: I certainly wasn't thinking of the "nine-panel grid" as a straitjacket, because an artist worth his salt can compose with infinite variety in a given space. Rather I was referring almost to the opposite result, to the way the American comic book idiom creates its own limitations while appearing to be freewheeling. I was looking at a portfolio piece recently by a young artist, and fastened upon an oddly shaped picture. It was rectangular, but the dimensions of the frame had no meaningful relation to the content, with misshapen blank areas around the figures. I asked why it was thus shaped and the reason was that this was the space left on the page after the other panels had been decided, which of course I had already judged to be the case before I started in, and I probably had to put the words in the head of this poor artist. 'Why should this image receive less consideration than the ones before it?' I demanded relentlessly. In fact, every stage of comic book composition is hampered by that same absence of thinking. Characters stand in limited ways in relation to the frame around them and in relation to other characters. There is a complicated pictorial syntax that seals everything in a rigid holding pattern, including the ways that balloons must be placed and the way pages end and begin. The box of space that each panel represents is governed by gravitational laws that only exist in comic books, and in no other idiom of art let alone real life. I'm referring specifically to the American idiom here, which is why I have no hesitation in regarding comic books as a genre of popular fiction. If you look at the old newspaper adventure strips you can see they are governed by a different set of laws.

Returning to your question, the inventive elements in my new pages have got more to do with leitmotifs and narrative patterns spread over three dozen pages. The construction is quite intricate.

SPURGEON: Was it pleasurable making those comics? Was it different than it used to be?

CAMPBELL: It was a great pleasure to draw in that style again after a layoff for a few years. I'm sure you can tell from looking at the pages that I was enjoying spending a lot of time on them. I even got the old zip-a-tones out of the mothballs and went to town with them like in the old days.

imageSPURGEON: In one of the new comics -- and I swear I won't ask too many questions about them -- you end on a hysterically funny down note about how you're glad that you got a certain kind of going out and carousing out of your system as a young man. Another one consists of a verbal beat down your wife provides you one morning about things she finds aggravating about you. These seem to me significant departures in terms of tone, the way you approach similar one-pagers in the past. Was that on purpose? Was there anything different about the way you approached these comics knowing they'd be published not alone, but with all of that early work?

CAMPBELL: The first page you mention was certainly designed to act as a balance to the activities at the beginning of the compendium, all that sleeping-bag and sofa-surfing that I once found so exciting a way to live. And the wife of my bosom has a moment that, while we're not permitted to blame all angry outbursts on "the black and white menstrual show" (as Hayley Campbell's boyfriend calls it), sometimes such outbursts are too absurd to be explained any other way. And in case it all sounds a bit middle aged, there is a grand five-page adventure with my son Callum, then nine ('Their father-son day out'), which ends with us getting arrested and then judiciously deciding to keep it a secret from his beloved mother. Every phase of life reveals its engaging peculiarities. But It is probably true that a note of frustration has crept into the work that wasn't there at the end of After the Snooter, when I was traveling the world at the time the From Hell movie came out. That was a hell of a year. I turned down invites to Portugal and Berlin and canceled one to Brazil at a very late hour. I'll probably never be invited anywhere again.

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SPURGEON: When I saw you this summer when you were a guest of Comic-Con International, you seemed to be enjoying yourself -- you smiled a lot -- but you also seemed to be working through some serious questions on vocational issues. Is it fair to suggest that you were in a reflective mood earlier this year? How did that period resolve itself?

CAMPBELL: Reflective? I think it would be more correct to say that I waver between frustration and despair, with an occasional daytrip into elation. You must have caught me on a good day. It hasn't resolved itself yet. I'm hoping the possibility of our TV show getting actually produced will refresh my brain.

SPURGEON: You mention the TV project... I think the last time you wrote about it on your site was about a month ago from the time we're having this exchange of e-mails. Am I to take you're now at a wait and see point? When should we know one way or the other if the project is going to progress further?

CAMPBELL: Waiting is what I have been doing since June 2007, with a promising event happening every couple of months. In fact I only started blogging about the subject once we had made an advance significant enough that even if the whole adventure should come to nothing, I would still have something to show for it. That is a little two and a half minute demonstration movie in which I play myself, with a computer animated Snooter bug and a guy in a specially made costume for the humanoid version. It's even got its own music. It's a well-made little piece of film, which I needed at that stage because the producers have seen what I do but up till then I had not really seen what it is that they do. We had videotaped an earlier rough version back in March which is probably the first time I had acted in front of a camera, at least since I was about ten with my dad's super-8. In fact it was a completely different set-up from the finished short movie as we rejected it and wrote a new one except for a short dream segment in the middle in which I stand in a big blank white space and briefly talk to God, represented by a big child's crayon drawing, a scene which you may recall from The Fate of the Artist. So the show as you can tell from that is going to be a mix of live action and different sorts of animation. I'm hoping we should know something within the next couple of months.

SPURGEON: On your blog, you've labeled your posts on the project "Our TV Adventure" and you're written about the experience in an admirably open and engaging way, it seems to me. Has it been a creative boon as well? Does going over some of this material for a new medium make you reconsider your work on any level?

CAMPBELL: It's adding a new level to the work rather than simply being an adaptation of what already exists. I was getting into that anyway with Fate as you may recall, in which I was missing from my own story and my part was played by a fictitious actor named Richard Siegrist. It's almost like I was already striving to re-imagine my core work into film, going so far as to set up a whole seven page sequence in Fate in photographs ("fumetti" style as we call it in English, or "fotonovelas" as they call them where "fumetti" just means comics) which is the interview scene in which Hayley Campbell plays herself. So if our most ambitious version of the TV show gets to be made, there would be some of that complexity. Campbell would be played by an actor, but real Campbell would also be in it. I've written synopses for several episodes and I'm happy with them. So let's see how far it gets before we have to change it all. You have to deal with so many other people in the TV game.

SPURGEON: You're not someone whose work of this type might spring to mind as a natural for adaptation into another medium. How much of your work has developed out of an understanding of film techniques or approaches?

CAMPBELL: Probably none at all. I have always consciously rejected filmic analogues in comics. Indeed, I would say that composing comics in the same way as film often results in faulty technique. There's an interview with Krigstein from way back (in Squa Tront or somewhere like that) where he explained how he felt that there had been a development in comic books, and I think he blamed it on Eisner, that resulted in a corruption of the integrity of the picture. By this he meant that breaking up of images into fragments, as film editors routinely do, does not have the same legibility on a printed page. In a blog post I used the finale to Krigstein's "Master Race" as an example of his solution to the problem of creating a kinetic effect without fragmenting images. All 12 or 13 of the panels of the sequence contain both the pursuer and the pursued and the relationship between them is readable in all panels. In contrast to this I remember reading the old Batman Adventures comic books to my very young son, and those books were supposed to be aimed at the youngsters. The lad had difficulty in making sense of some of the images because of the ways in which people and objects were truncated by panel borders. The artists in there really needed some lessons in clarity, and the problem most of the time was that they were thinking in filmic terms. The best comics draw their magic from other wells.

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SPURGEON: I love the double-page spreads and bigger, splashier, single-page images in Monsieur Leotard. I thought they were some of the most beautiful instances of art you've ever made. What was it about that story that led to these more transcendent moments within the wider narrative, as opposed to merely streamlining those plot points into a panel or a single page?

CAMPBELL: I wanted to recreate the nineteenth century through its particular typography. In a good cartoon strip the optical perception of the real is supplanted by an array of graphic devices (as opposed to the regular comic book style, whose currency is visceral simulation.) If you just glance at the thing you may fail to connect with it; you have to give yourself up to it. I experienced this when I came to first revise the Alec material. At first I thought, aw this all looks like just a bunch of old ink lines and half-there drawings, but once I entered into an exchange in the graphic currency, or started reading the work in other words, I found myself receiving the communicated experience afresh, without really thinking that it was my own experience. With Leotard there was a huge swathe of time and event to be covered and the big circus posters and old news banners were made to carry a lot of that responsibility. I don't think a panel or page could have performed the function. There's a lot of condensation in one of those poster-spreads.

SPURGEON: I was intrigued by the chapter where Etienne sleeps, pushing him through much of his own life story and between that and things like the way that he's a diarist and the episodes are described as such I wonder if you intended a criticism of using one's life as the fodder for art? I apologize if that sounds overly facile; I mostly wondered if you could talk about the diary-making element to the narrative and that remarkable sleeping chapter.

CAMPBELL: I've been thinking more and more about the idea of seeing your life as a story. Once you accept the challenge you must then ask whether you are writing a good story or a bad one, or whether it started well and then you lost interest and let it ramble, or whether you gave up on it altogether. It's a matter of giving your life a shape, a journey toward a goal, and adhering to that and not wasting time. Etienne did in fact lose track of the plot of his story. Some ten years passed before he regained it. I may have been influenced a little in this sequence by Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Nineteen-year-old Roy Hobbs is just about to arrive in the baseball world and take it by storm, or so the narrative style suggests, when he is suddenly shot by a lunatic. The story then jumps ahead 15 years. It was made into a great movie starring Robert Redford and directed by Barry Levinson.
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SPURGEON: It's hard not to see the circus and traveling show as precursors to modern show business or even artistic endeavor generally, the way that Arthur Kopit used the Buffalo Bill show in Indians and Robert Altman did again when filming that play. You also seem attracted in your work to first things, antecedents to things that exist in modern culture. Why the circus this time out? What is it that you saw there, that you wanted to make use of as a storyteller?

CAMPBELL: I wasn't interested in the circus for itself, which is probably obvious. The book is short on the kind of details that would suggest I'm in love with the milieu. So certainly it was all metaphorical, though there are some daffy aspects of it that appealed to me, like the wording of circus posters and some of the characters in the freak shows. Not the icky weirdness of it, mind you, more the comical aspects of it all. I saw a poster of "Pallenberg's Wonder Bears: Bruins that dance, skate, walk tight ropes and ride bicycles like humans" so naturally I had to have one of those in the book, and I called him Pallenberg. I also picked up the way that a kind of noble class in the circus realm attracts strings of adjectives to their names, so all the significant players have bi-adjectival pre-names just like the Amazing Remarkable Leotard, and in this way they are marked as superior individuals.

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SPURGEON: I'm always fascinated in how you approach your different projects visually, Eddie. Monsieur Leotard is very complex that way: there's a grid on some pages, but the margins are frequently filled, and there are sometimes up to four competing visual throughlines on a single page. What interested you about all of the marginalia and shifts in storytelling strategies on this project? Are you cognizant of these choices going in, or do they just grow organically out of doing the work?

CAMPBELL: There was a chapter in my History of Humour in my defunct Egomania magazine (a selection from this will be in the Alec Omnibus by the way) in which I examined the old marginalia in gothic illuminated manuscripts and talked about the late Michael Camille's theories about them. I came away with the idea that there are potent regions on "the page," that things tend to happen in specific quadrants of it. Camille's main idea, with regard to the old fourteenth century psalters and bibles was that God lived at the center and evil and folly was pushed to the outer edges, which is why the modern browser may be astonished to see obscenities in holy books. The page is symbolic of the universe, with everything in its place. It struck me that a page in our own time is lacking in any kind of magic or meaning as a thing in itself. So for a couple of years there I was on the lookout for a project where I could put some of my thoughts into play. Leotard came up in my discussions with my co-author Dan Best (we've done two or three other things together) and I saw that book as the one. So right from the start it has a big generous margin in which a life outside of the physical everyday one is taking place. Characters have a life-after-death there. The authors can turn up there, as well as the more prosaic kind of footnotes that normally appear in such an environment. Once I got going it became deliciously complicated.

imageSPURGEON: A lot of your recent work seems to be done in collaboration -- you worked with Hayley's photography in Fate of the Artist, you worked with an existing script to make The Black Diamond Detective Agency and you worked with Dan Best on this latest. Even the work you showed me that's forthcoming it's almost like you're working in collaboration with your older work. You have such an obviously strong voice and so much of your early work was done without anyone else contributing I wondered if you could talk to what you've gotten out of those recent collaborations, and why, if you seek them out, you seek them out.

CAMPBELL: I may have mislead you in Fate, in that my daughter posed for the seven page "fumetti" sequence but she only took the one author photo at the end. Any other photos in there are mine, though I can only think of the letter initials off the bat, and some of those were done on the scanner, including the edible cracker (what do you call them in the US?). With Black Diamond I was offered enough cash to make the job an attractive proposition, and the fact that I was given a free hand in the adaptation sweetened it. In some ways my book was a story about the story since I didn't think it was an entirely credible one. All of these projects are ones that I'm happy about and I think I was able to express my view of the world through them even if they weren't completely my own invention. Now and then I do spend time on stuff that I really shouldn't have done, but you have to get through your life as best you can and pay all the bills. On the whole though, I don't go seeking work. It all falls in my lap, but I have been saying no more often than I used to.

SPURGEON: One reason I wanted to talk to you so badly this year, Eddie, is that I think you have a very interesting take on the New York publishing world, and how they may be slowly revamping the comics industry into an adjunct of the children's book publishing business. Can you talk a bit about what's led you to think this? What can be done?

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CAMPBELL: This is something that has been bugging me for some time. The latest news to come down is that First Second Books, the publisher of my last three books, are now under the umbrella of Macmillan's Children's Group. I'm not surprised, because the book world, by which I mean the mainstream book publishers as well as the libraries and the Library Association, has been viewing "the graphic novel" as a young reader's genre for quite some time. In part I think it's because the part of a publishing house that is likely to be interested in bright illustrated narratives is the children's books department, and in part also because those publishers, and America's libraries, see the "graphic novel" as a way of grabbing a part of the literate populace that has hitherto proved elusive. Now, I have no objection to young folks having their own literature specially designed for them, though when I was a young 'un myself I would have been highly suspicious of anything that the adult world thought I should read because it was supposed to be good for me. Let's not forget that this is one of the things that drew us to comics in the first place, the very fact that they were not approved by our adults; they were our visual rock'n'roll, the things we knew that they didn't. However, let's not get bogged down on that point. The problem with this development is that comics were supposed to have grown up and become the "graphic novel," but now we are apt to find articles telling us that the "graphic novel has grown up." In other words we're back where we started. Furthermore, as an author of work that is likely to be classified as "mature" I have been finding it more and more difficult to find a publisher for a couple of projects I have been offering recently. I might have taken the hint that I have gone out of fashion except that the same publishers who rejected these proposed books were eager to secure me as the illustrator of texts by "one of our young reader's authors" (this has happened twice, which tends to suggest a pattern… and I declined both.) The upshot of it all is that I am back in an earlier position, working with Top Shelf on the Alec Omnibus and both Top Shelf and Knockabout on a book that is now finished and should be out at the end of 2009 titled The Playwright. As to what can be done about the larger shift in the business of comics, I really wouldn't care to guess. The reorientation to a younger audience is probably apt. I find that I can read fewer and fewer comics these days. They're like celery in that the effort it takes me to read them is way out of proportion to the information they can give. In my pessimistic moments I think the idea of complicated and challenging comics will recede and become commercially problematic. The market seems to want the "young readers" stuff. Was the idea of mature comics nothing but folly all along?

[Updated a couple of days later:] Tom, when I wrote the above I hadn't noticed that you'd already commented insightfully on the MacMillan news. A relevant blog post has also just come up:
Two highly compelling book-length comics that I found in the Young Adult Graphic Novels section of my local library, though I'm still not convinced they belong anywhere near there. Clyde Fans, by Seth, because there's nothing teenagers like to read more than delicately paced studies of two brothers who tried to sell electric fans to Canadian retailers midway through the last century. From Hell, because...
The post is followed by a revealing comment from a youth services librarian.

The whole issue is particularly frustrating because we had always hoped that success in the wider universe of books (i.e. outside of the comics specialty shops) would level out the playing field and give mature comics a bigger audience. This is not happening.

SPURGEON: Finally, we were on a panel this summer where you spoke eloquently about learning to write characters in a way that they may demand to be written differently once you've been around them a while. Knowing the characters helps inform you as to how they should be written. Is that true in autobiography or autobiographically-informed comics as well?

CAMPBELL: Yes, my ability to draw a character appreciates the further I get into a project. This means that the version away back at the beginning is always annoyingly unrealized and I always have to do some reworking on the early pages when I come to gather it together. With a real life representation it would be because I recall more details from the original model as I get further along. The same thing happens in movies, except the early work is never at the start of the movie. I watched Fellini's Casanova recently after first seeing it way back in the '70s. There's a point about twenty minutes to half an hour in when Donald Sutherland suddenly seems to be playing a different version of the character and it always looked odd to me (it's on the foggy bridge in what is supposed to be London, just before he meets the circus giantess). It was revealing in Sutherland's commentary that this was the first scene they shot and they hadn't quite figured out all the aspects of the character.

In conclusion, it's no big revelation to say that Ben Grimm looked much different in Fantastic Four #20 than he did in #1. Nobody gave a thought to the possibility that many of the kids would have the whole pile on view at the same time. It's a different kind of problem when you put out a 250-page book designed to weave a singular spell upon the reader. You probably want them to see contrasts between one character and another, not between one character and himself on an earlier page.

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Editor's Note: I have a note from Mark Siegel about the issue of First Second moving away from non-children's book more into children's books that I'll run and discuss when daily news returns to this stite January 5. He vociferously denies this will happen.

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* the cover from the new Alec omnibus, due 2009
* three random panels from the new Alec omnibus
* sample from one of the many memorable visual sequences in Monsieur Leotard
* one of the full-page images I liked in Monsieur Leotard
* great circus sequence within a static image from Monsieur Leotard
* a visual complex page from Monsieur Leotard
* close-up of a tiny image of partnership from Monsieur Leotard
* Campbell's recent First Second Book
* a page I very much liked from Monsieur Leotard

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December 27, 2008


Happy 86th Birthday, Stan Lee!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Chris Ware!

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A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
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CR Holiday Interview #5: Dan Nadel

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PictureBox Inc. Publisher Dan Nadel helped provide me with some of my best comics memories of 2008, among them the wonderful Gary Panter art book bearing the name of its creator, the first Goddess of War volume, a new Powr Mastrs, the always contentious Comics Comics site, Yuichi Yokoyama's Travel, and a series of pleasant convention encounters sometimes with and sometimes without Tim Hodler and Frank Santoro. With a recession expected to run all the way through 2009 and beyond, I wanted to talk to at least one boutique-sized arts comics publisher about the days ahead, and I was happy Dan agreed to talk about his consistently excellent company. There are a pair of direction-of-company announcements in the conversation presented below. I had fun doing it. -- Tom Spurgeon

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imageTOM SPURGEON: I wanted to ask you a question about your book Art Out Of Time... how did you feel about how the book was received? Do you think people read it in the spirit you wrote it? Was there any reaction to an individual or a general take on the book that surprised you?

DAN NADEL: I feel good about how it was received. I'm flattered that so many books have sprung out of it and pleased that it gives context to projects that were gestating long before AOT was released, like the Fletcher Hanks book. That said, I think the main thrust of it -- that these comics are not "weird" or "wacky" but, rather, just really great examples of comics that utilize the medium in a different way than the initial historians of comics were used to seeing, was overlooked. Paul Karasik has made a similar point: These are just plain good comics.

It's been suggested that I tried to set up a counter-canon, which is not true. I just wanted to broaden our collective vision of what comics are and can be. And I'm also not sure I fully understand what a canon is in the context of comics, or perhaps even in general right now. Regardless, I think it's far too early in the practice of the history of comics to establish a canon. There's just too much out there that hasn't been explored, and by and large the history as written has been rather conservative in aesthetic terms. I'm grateful for all the work that's been done already, though -- don't get me wrong. There is so much fertile ground thanks to a few generations of historians. But I'm looking for another, broader vision of the history, and of the relationships between artists and their larger visual context.

SPURGEON: How are plans coming together for a second volume? What's different about doing this one?

NADEL: Oh... plans are fine. Me and volume two sit on the beach and chat. This second one is focused on genre comic books, and is more about a specific kind of comics drawing and rendering based in adventure comics, Caniff, Crane, and heavy ink on the page. I'm following my interests again, and right now they are mixed up in certain kind of drawing and staging that I want to write about and showcase. Beyond that... I shouldn't say too much.

SPURGEON: You traveled a lot this year, and did a lot of shows -- or at least more than I've ever seen you attend. How was that experience? Would you repeat it? What do you think the difference was between your having a good show and a bad show? Is there a memory of one of the shows that sticks out to you that's worth sharing?

NADEL: It was OK. For me, frankly, it's all business-based. The fun I had at HeroesCon was great, but it doesn't offset the fact that it was a financial loss. And it was a lot of fun. But still. I don't enjoy shows, really. I mean, it's fun to see people and it's nice when a customer is enthusiastic, but... it's a business and that takes a toll on me. It's not an "oh I can't take it" kinda thing. It's just that all I can see is dollars and cents. The difference between a good and bad show is money. Simple as that. One could argue that the good will and visibility of a show is worth quite a bit -- but I don't think I can reach anyone new at the non-indie cons or anything other than an art book or art fair. So right now (and that could change) that bit of publicity doesn't pay for itself. This was my last year of Comic-Con for now -- it's just not worth it, financially. Memories don't really stick out, I have to say. Maybe the Chaykin panel at Comic-Con? Ha. No, I don't know. I always like traveling with Frank, I'll say that much. Anytime Frank is there, it's at least interesting.

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SPURGEON: Are you ever resentful of Comics Comics in that it seems to take up a greater proportion of time than its importance to your overall publishing efforts? Does it ever feel like a time-waster?

NADEL: No more than this interview. Just kidding. Well, Tim and Frank really do the lion's share of work on Comics Comics, so, no, it doesn't bother me. I wish I had more time for it, really. I like comics. A lot. It's a subject I feel fluent in and enjoy writing about when I have time. I don't often have the time, though.

SPURGEON: Are you planning to continue Comics Comics in much the same vein in 2009 or beyond? I seem to remember an announcement that you either were or you were considering making a move to a more standard format or away from print altogether. Where would you like to see that part of your efforts in three years, say?

NADEL: We're trying to figure out what to do with it now. The blog is popular, but no one seems to want to buy the issues. This presents a problem, huh? So, we're figuring it out. I don't think "the industry" as it were has taken the slightest notice, which makes sense, since it's a retarded format and we champion artists like Justin Green and Shaky Kane. Nevertheless, I feel like it's an important voice in the wilderness, and we'll figure out something or other. As for three years from now: I'd like to see a line of books written by me, Frank and Tim on different subjects in comics. I unabashedly want to take a bite out of the critical landscape and reshape it in our grotesque image. I want to burn down other institutions and institute a stringent rules! I want to help write the history of my generation of cartoonists. Also, I hope Tom Devlin is still annoyed by our love of Moebius in 2012. If I can achieve a certain amount of Devlin-annoyance, I'll be happy while waiting in the breadline.

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SPURGEON: What's the general state of PictureBox right now? I've heard rumors that every company other than Marvel is going under... is everything healthy, ready for 2009? Will the proportion of comics and comics art books remain the same in the seasons ahead?

NADEL: It's been a crazy year, with a ton of books in a variety of categories, and we'll see how it all pans out. It's certainly not easy street. As for comics, PictureBox won't be putting out any comics until at least the Fall. It's all art and design for the next six months. Then perhaps some comics. We're still working out the Fall. None of "my" cartoonists have any work ready to publish in book form at the moment, though I certainly hope to have a couple graphic novels out next Fall. We'll see. There might be some little zines along the way, but right now everyone is working, but have a ways to go before finishing their books. And, I really want to focus on just a handful of cartoonists.

I also need to be careful financially, in terms of over-committing. Right now I happen to have gallery and museum based books coming out in the Spring instead. And you know, PictureBox has always supposed to have been a general visual book publisher, so now things are balancing out better. These last few months have had an equal amount of general titles and comics. I'm always hoping that the comics people will follow PictureBox into the art/design stuff and, vice versa, since it's all (to my mind) the same sensibility. But I want to control everything, so that's my own little neurosis.

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SPURGEON: How worried are you about a recession hitting your publishing business? What kind of decisions are you considering or perhaps have already made in light of these hard times and their potential continuation for months and even years?

NADEL: Well, I've cut costs considerably, including moving offices and, you heard it here first, closing the store. The store was always just the front of the office, and more a lark than a real earner, so with the office move, so goes the store into oblivion. It was fun! I, like many other publishers am just playing it close to the vest right now and waiting to see how the holiday sales are.

SPURGEON: What one comic have you read and enjoyed in the last few months that might not match up with your image as a hardcore art comics publisher? What book or other piece of art outside of comics have you recently enjoyed that would fit your stereotype perfectly?

NADEL: Non-stereotypical: I really enjoyed Punisher War Journal by Fraction and Chaykin. I think Chaykin is using Photoshop as a tool in an awesome, inspiring way. I even went to the Chaykin panel at San Diego. Then I went to his table and tried to give him some PictureBox books. He declined to take them. That was awesome. First time I felt like a loser fanboy in about 20 years. Felt good, actually. In fact, I'm trying to get Fraction to interview Chaykin for Comics Comics. So, Matt, get on it!

Stereotypical: Ummmmm, I drove to Philadelphia to see the Peter Saul retrospective and it blew my mind. He is one of our greatest living painters.

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SPURGEON: How did the Gary Panter book do? I know that your distributor had some questions about how cheaply you offered it, but that it was still a risk for your company. Did it meet expectations in terms of the sales and critical reaction?

NADEL: Hah, my distributor actually wanted it that cheap -- it's the opposite -- I wanted it to be more expensive. It's done fine. It's not a blockbuster, but it's fine. As for critical response... well, I was hoping for more thoughtful essay-type reviews on it. I don't think anyone reckoned with the expansiveness of Gary's vision, or with the text in the books themselves. Here's the thing: Gary is perhaps the broadest, most diverse and most natural artist to have passed through comics. Period. I'm not sure anyone else has mastered as many visual mediums as he has. And more to the point, he's done so by explicitly making work about (a) being a man in these times, (b) America as a culture, and (c) his own (and our collective) visual history. I'm eager to see someone really dig into his work. I think I provided enough of a road map. I hope I did. So... I'm still waiting for a broader response. It might be a long wait.

SPURGEON: Without turning it into a laundry list of forthcoming projects, is there one or two that you particularly hope people don't miss? Is there one that you haven't talked about yet that you're particularly enthused to be publishing?

NADEL: Well, I'm very excited to be curating a series of exhibitions at Benjamin Trigano Gallery in L.A., including a solo show by Yuichi Yokoyama. I'm also finishing a book on and for the painter Donald Baechler and starting something for a massive group show of contemporary art at an Italian museum. And there's a Syd Mead book that I'm very excited about, and a retrospective book with John Kricfalusi. There are some other little gems as well, but you said no laundry list, so there it is

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* photo of Dan Nadel by Whit Spurgeon, from HeroesCon 2008
* Dick Briefer panel from Art Out Of Time
* Comics Comics #4
* spread from Powr Mastrs Vol. 4
* from Goddess of War Vol. 1
* from Gary Panter
* a Cold Heat poster

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December 26, 2008


If I Were In SC, I’d Go To This

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Happy 42nd Birthday, Joan Hilty!

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Happy 53rd Birthday, MD Bright!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Holiday Interview #4: Sean T. Collins On The Year In Alternative/Arts Comics

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I've had Sean T. Collins penciled in for one of the 2008 critic's mini-dialogues for a long while. I ended up drafting him into the 2007 holiday interview series when I had a cancellation, and so re-scheduled him for a repeat appearance 2009. However, when Sean mentioned he'd probably be reading fewer comics in 2009, I wanted to make sure I talked to him again sooner rather than later.

I find Collins' viewpoint valuable because of our differences. He's younger than I am, which places him on a different track in terms of what he was reading and when. He also doesn't have associations with comics stretching back into childhood, which I think gives him a view of comics much less burdened by nostalgia.

The following too-brief back and forth took place last week. I hope you'll forgive me its resemblance to a survey. I'm sure Sean and I could have gone on for 15 more questions on Alan's War or Lynda Barry's work, two things about which we seem to strongly disagree, but for this piece it seemed appropriate to hit quickly and move on. I'm also more interested in getting Sean's view than defending my own. Hopefully, a compelling picture of 2008 can be had from the breadth and variety of comics involved in our chat. For more from Collins, you can read his reviews and link-blogging at his own site, other bits of his writing on comics in occasional appearances in places like this site and Comic Book Resources, and you can check out some of his comics here.

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TOM SPURGEON: Sean, this year you reviewed three comics a week on your site, in addition to some of the other comics writing work that you do. How does processing that many comics in that relentless fashion change the way you read them? Are you more observant, more attuned to certain aspects in the art form? Is there any danger that you won't stay sharp and might become too absorbed into comics approaches to make clear distinctions?

SEAN T. COLLINS: Before I answer that, I want to paraphrase Aragorn: When it comes to relentless reviewing, Tom, you bow to no one.

SPURGEON: Well, I had to look it up, but le hannon. What about it, though? Do you read differently now?

COLLINS: I've never really thought about my thrice-weekly reviewing in terms of how it changes how I read the comics, just how I write about them. I definitely feel like writing this many reviews has made me a better critic, better at expressing my thoughts about comics -- better at cross-referencing them too, I think, so that what I'm seeing and thinking and learning in one comic proves useful when dealing with another.

I think you might be on to something by suggesting I might be more observant. The thing about doing these reviews the way I did them is that I don't really have time to kick back and read a chapter of a comic here and there over the span of a couple weeks, then sort of mush it around in my brain for a while afterwards. Though backlogging reviews did give me a little more leeway now and then, for the most part it was read it, review it, post it. From the springtime onward, in fact, most of the reviews were written on the Long Island Rail Road the day I finished that particular book. So I was really forcing myself to intensely engage with the book as I read it -- not necessarily with the goal of doing anything differently as a reader or a thinker, but with an eye towards the eventual review -- and making sure to collect my thoughts and keep them as focused as possible.

That immediacy could be a curse as well as a blessing, I suppose. Now, my whole life as a writer I've been a first-draft guy. My attitude is that if I didn't want to write exactly what I just wrote, I wouldn't have written it in the first place. But there are first-and-only drafts that you thoughtfully commit to TextEdit after mulling them over for a while, and there are first-and-only drafts that you pound out between the Jamaica and Bethpage stops on the Ronkonkoma line. Every once in a while I'll realize I left out something I really wanted to say, or could have said something better if I'd just taken a little more time to get it right. But that kind of thing is small potatoes; the biggest structural pitfall is that my initial take on comics tends to be more positive than what I might think a couple weeks down the line, so there might be a slight bias toward giving stuff a good review that could be mitigated if I were looking at things with more temporal distance and was able to judge whether or not it stuck with me.

SPURGEON: I wanted to speak to some general issues first. We both wrote critically of two essays by the writer Steven Grant where he spoke to his futility in placing more than two reprints on a Best-Of list. I don't necessarily want you to re-argue your rejection of his essay, but what do you think leads people to make such severe statements about the state of the art form?

COLLINS: Well, I chalked it up then to either not reading enough comics or simple bad taste, which I could more charitably refer to as a difference of opinion about the quality of the books that came out this year. Beyond that? I think comics punditry has a weakness for bomb-throwing, which has almost always been terrible for the credibility and quality of comics punditry. But it works! I mean, a lot of people paid attention to that column. So people are going to keep saying Hip Hop Is Dead. As for me, I'm perfectly happy to reiterate that saying there were only two best-of-worthy comics to come out this year is an unsupportable position based on what I'm seeing when I look at my bookshelf. Also, defending that position by saying 2008 wasn't as good as some other years -- agreed -- isn't any kind of defense at all.

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SPURGEON: Similarly, I think we both objected to some of the more severe criticism of the $125 price tag on Kramers Ergot Vol. 7. Do you have any sympathy at all for the opposite side of that argument? I couldn't quite ever tell what they were getting at; since it was a view shared by several people, what do you think is a source of strength in their criticism?

COLLINS: I think there were a bunch of different factors at play here. Resenting the idea of a luxury comic book. Not being able to afford it. Not liking alt-comix people like Chris Ware and Dan Clowes. Not liking post-Fort Thunder art comics. Simple ignorance as to the parameters of the project or the logistics of publishing. Good old-fashioned comics-fan reverse snobbery. Internet trollishness. A belief that the goal of all comics should be outreach to non-comics readers. Just not being much interested in this particular collection. Defining one's choices as a consumer of art in terms of good and evil. Combinations of some or all of those. I don't have much sympathy for any of them, no, at least not in terms of building them into that weird crusade against the book that developed. If you don't like it or can't afford it, don't buy it! I have no idea how that argument built up the strength it did in the face of what seems to me like basic common sense.

That said, once upon a time I complained upon Bjork's post-Matthew Barney deluge of expensive box sets and dozens of live albums and so on as a release pattern targeted to rich art gallery owners, and friends of mine had to say the exact same thing to me -- if you don't like it or can't afford it, don't buy it! It's not like Bjork won't still make plain-old albums you can buy at the regular price. So I guess we can all get in that mindset from time to time.

SPURGEON: What do you think of the criticism that popped up in Grant's pair of essays and I believe has been more strongly presented by I think Eddie Campbell that the New York publishing world isn't necessarily a friend to literary comics and that its influence could yield a pernicious outcome? Do you notice a difference in quality or approach in comics that are coming from the big publishing houses? Are you fearful that book publishers may end up with an inordinate amount of influence on future comics of this type?

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COLLINS: The New York publishing world isn't a monolith, so first of all it depends on which New York publishing house you're talking about. In 2005, Pantheon published Black Hole, Epileptic and Ice Haven. The only pernicious outcome a publishing program like that could have is crushing my soul with its awesomeness. Obviously they can't all be winners. I suppose I've seen some books that privilege slick art over story or hot-button story over art. I'd guess that if things keep up you'll see a lot more memoirs; that's certainly the case with prose, and memoir comics are an easy sell in that regard and a likely default mode for these publishers. For now, I've gotten a few review copies from big publishers where I thought that the work just didn't merit this kind of platform, but that has as much to do with the comic-fan sense that the book publishers somehow confer legitimacy in a way that Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly or Top Shelf doesn't, which is probably my fault and not anyone else's. Inferior work is inferior work no matter who puts it out. Meanwhile, I personally find First Second a totally baffling line, but not in any sort of pernicious way -- it's just that usually with one exception per release cycle, my tastes don't dovetail with theirs. I really do like the format they use, though.

imageThere's always a risk that when "major labels" get involved and start throwing money at artists without a whole lot under their belt, they can shape or stunt their growth in unproductive ways. I would have preferred David Heatley finish Overpeck than do "Race History" with his book advance, you know? But again, the vagaries and vicissitudes of publishing can steer people in funky directions no matter who's publishing them. And as I sorta alluded to just now, that's true in any medium. Sticking MGMT on a major and on the cover of Spin when they have a grand total of one album with one good song on it to their name is probably a pretty bad thing for MGMT in the long run.

imageMaybe you can already gather this, but I don't see this as a huge structural problem facing comics right now. "Please, whatever you do, New York publishers, don't pay living wages to aspiring makers of literary comics!" If only we always had such problems! If good comics can somehow survive nearly 70 years of the North American industry's domination by one genre of comic book, they can survive having to put up with American Widow in exchange for Notes for a War Story. Economically, it's not as though the book publishers are making such a huge investment in comics that if they pull back the whole thing will collapse. Artistically, as for the notion that literary comics are now more proscribed than they were before these companies got involved, when I look around MoCCA or SPX or the alt-comix area of San Diego everything is still as vibrant and wild and wide-ranging, perhaps even more than it used to be. The existence of PictureBox alone is a rejoinder to the notion that Random House is somehow crushing the life out of alternative comics.

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SPURGEON: I'd like you to discuss some of the more prominent books of the year, briefly, what your general take on them might be. First up: Bottomless Belly-Button.

COLLINS: This seemed like a really good year for Dash Shaw to me. Prior to BBB I'd only ever read his earliest stuff, like Love Eats Brains and Goddess Head -- this is leaps and bounds ahead of that, in the space of a few short years. It's much more focused, restrained, adult. The familiar canvas of the literary-novel-style family in entropy provides a solid base upon which he can play with form and symbolism all he wants without it seeming sloppy, or just like a purge of ideas. It's very sophisticated, as are the science fiction things he's done for MOME. I deal with webcomics the way substitute teachers deal with VCRs so I haven't read Body World yet, but I've only heard good things. So like I said, a good year, and who knows where he's headed from here? It's exciting. I should add that Bottomless Belly Button is a crazy ambitious book, too. Don't take Fantagraphics publishing a doorstop-sized original graphic novel by a largely unproven talent for granted. I've compared it to Blankets, but Shaw didn't have a Goodbye, Chunky Rice under his belt beforehand.

I feel like I need to read this book again to find out how much it ultimately means to me. Based on my initial read, I liked it.

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SPURGEON: Burma Chronicles?

COLLINS: [Guy] Delisle's totalitarian travelogues are right in my wheelhouse, and this is no exception, though I thought it got off to a shaky start with all that cutesy baby business.

SPURGEON:: Why wasn't that working for you?

COLLINS: I've seen a lot of "cool dad with a baby" comics already, you know? I'm not so interested in funny baby comics, at least not as much as I'm interested in comics about what life is like under a dictatorial regime. And whereas the animation material in Pyongyang and Shenzhen spoke to the peculiarities of the industry in North Korea and China, the baby material in Burma Chronicles could have just as easily taken place in Montreal.

SPURGEON: What It Is?

COLLINS: I have eclectic taste in comics and I read a lot of them, but to prevent myself from going crazy I do have one cut-off I can comfortably apply: I won't force myself to read a book whose art I find unappealing on a surface, cursory flip-through level. That would be the case here. This looks like scrapbooking to me or something, like an arts and crafts project. I have no "in" to it. I'm not crazy about Barry's cartooning either -- her characters look annoying -- so it's not like I have a lot of incentive to dig in to the collage work.

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SPURGEON: Can you clarify? Because I find her work attractive, her characters mostly endearing rather than annoying and it never occurred to me not to scan as comics this latest artistic direction. Is there someone who you feel makes better art and creates less-annoying characters that works in her same general style so that we could draw a sharper distinction, maybe?

COLLINS: It's not that I'm not scanning it as comics -- I just don't like the look of this comic. It looks like a comic made from a gingerbread house or something. Wait, no, that's probably not a good way to describe it, because a comic made from a gingerbread house would be awesome. I guess I think it's busy and cutesy and... kitschy's not the right word... I don't know. Her particular application of collage does nothing for me. That's what I meant by saying I don't have an in -- not that it's not comics, but that nothing about the aesthetic appeals to me at all. To be fair, I think I'm pretty particular about collage and what works for me and doesn't with that technique. I don't get a lot out of Souther Salazar, either, for example.

As for her characters, I'm not saying they're annoying, I'm saying they look annoying. Actually what I'm saying is that I'm annoyed by their design. I don't like their macaroni-shaped arms or their sorta curved-triangle bodies. This is weird, and I'm sort of stunned that I have this specific an opinion on something like this, but as I think about this it becomes apparent to me that I don't like shapes that involved gently curved lines meeting at a point. You know Marlys's glasses? The whole comic looks like that to me and I don't like that.

What can I say? Certain artists I just can't get into because of basic character design. Pete Bagge's characters look like boogers with limbs to me. I can't get past it.

SPURGEON: "Chechen War, Chechen Women"?

COLLINS: I think I'd prefer you to have asked about I Live Here, which I thought was a real achievement and included notable work from a lot of people, including this from Sacco. But this was very, very intense material, even just visually -- I think it's his most "high-volume" work, just in times of how the characters are drawn and placed in the frame. It's like El Greco or something.

I've gone back and forth regarding Sacco's approach to reporting, how he tends to offer only one side of the story, usually the side with the higher casualty rate. My conclusion at the moment is that suffering is suffering, and it should be exposed regardless of context. We're all capable of looking these things up online now, we can provide whatever context we feel we need to provide; the point is this person, at this moment, is suffering because of things other people chose to do at other moments. Such stories deserve an airing.

SPURGEON: You can talk about I Live Here if you want. What other work do you feel strongly about from that book?

COLLINS: I'm sure this will come as a huge surprise to you, Tom, but I was pretty floored by Phoebe Gloeckner's work there. I know I've got a Friends Of Old Phoebe membership card in my wallet and everything, but this shift to digital manipulation and dioramas and dolls -- it seems like a perfectly logical visual extension of her themes regarding childhood and abuse, but it's also really radical, and it's shocking to see it work so well.

Overall I think the book was really successful in terms of coming up with novel ways to juxtapose words and images. Mia Kirshner's collaboration with sign maker Edward Kasinje was like Sacco being covered by Ray Fenwick, for example. Using photography in a sequentially informed way... just a lot of stuff you don't see very often in comics circles, all in service of stories that need to be told, as they say. And in a grim tone that really hit me in the gut because of thoughts about the world and how it works that I'd already been having. And for what it's worth, as far as collage goes, this is much more to my taste than the Barry book.

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SPURGEON: Travel?

COLLINS: This could be my favorite book of the year, the thing I thought was really magical and connected with me on some weird, ineffable level. Masterful, utterly confident cartooning. You can describe the basic idea -- "a train ride depicted in the most dramatic way possible" -- in two seconds and everyone can get it, but to pull it off over the course of a novel-length comic? I really don't think there are many artists who could do it without it starting to seem silly or boring, but Travel is beautiful and thrilling all the way to the end. And I think it says something about our tendency to self-mythologize, which resonated with me. I loved it. It's interesting how much more it's connected with people than New Engineering did, isn't it? I bet you if they'd broken that book into two separate books focusing on the Engineering strips and the Battle strips respectively, they'd have taken off, too.

SPURGEON: What about the various Hernandez Brothers books? What was your reaction to The Education of Hopey Glass, Speak Of The Devil and Love and Rockets: New Stories?

COLLINS: I'm not even close to caught up with the post-Vol. 1 Jaime L&R stuff so I'm not going to read Hopey until I am. Speak of the Devil I never got a copy of, and here's where I admit the effect that being sent review copies by publishers can have on what I end up reading if a given book is sort of on the bubble for me or if I'm waiting to see if I get it for my birthday/Christmas before purchasing it myself. New Stories -- I love the format, Jaime's stuff is gorgeous, and Gilbert is a killer. I think Gilbert is at least as taken for granted as Chris Ware. If he were a younger artist just starting out -- a MOME person or someone making minicomics -- but the material is exactly the same as what appeared in this book, I really believe he'd be the toast of the town.

I've said that the death of the funnybook-format L&R feels like the end of an era, but this format really flatters the material, so I don't miss that old era at all.

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SPURGEON: Three Shadows?

COLLINS: This was good pretty to look at, and unpredictable. I think that's an achievement for one of these "fairy tales for grown-ups" deals, which are often just dreadful.

SPURGEON:: Nail that down a bit more for me, if you would. What about it did you think was good beyond its visual appeal and narrative uncertainties?

COLLINS: Well, I think the visual appeal and narrative uncertainties were what was good about it. I wouldn't wanna go beyond that! Like, take something like Pan's Labyrinth, which was an egregiously overrated, pat depiction of the hackneyed concept of "lost innocence" and how cruel the world can be to children. I think Three Shadows kept things strange and added stuff that was unnecessary for the purposes of getting across its central idea. Oddly, despite experiencing something similar in my real life, I didn't find I connected with that aspect of the book any way but intellectually -- it's the extraneous stuff that grabbed me. What did the bit with the giant or all that stuff with the witch doctor at the end have to do with the basic idea about the kid and death? Not a whole lot. But besides being interesting in and of themselves, I think they subtly conveyed the idea that life is going to twist and turn and move on around whatever tragedy it is you're facing. Those narrative filigrees and digressions were what made the book.

SPURGEON: Boy's Club?

COLLINS: Goddammit, this comic book is so funny. It's the only time I've ever wanted to do fan art for a comic, or do a Cold Heat Special homage to it. I guess that's because it's not just hilarious, it also really nails these characters and that world of collegiate male sloth, gluttony, and stupidity. I am proud beyond measure to have two results on the first page of "Boy's Club Matt Furie" google search results.

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SPURGEON: Powr Mastrs?

COLLINS: There's a degree to which I'm a little sore about C.F. drawing a swastika in my Bowie sketchbook, and then later giggling about it when I gave the book to Lauren Weinstein to draw in. (I see you, C.F.!) But I think that tinge of unpleasantness really works for the material, which is what fantasy would be like if whimsy were replaced by seediness. It strikes me as angry and dangerous work. Doing a plot-based genre comic, however altcomix it may be, but pushing the violence and sex as far as he has? I think he's doing something important and lasting -- I imagine the eventual collection will be a landmark. I'm consistently delighted by his imagery, too, from the costumes to the splash pages. That $18 price point per volume until then has got to be a deal breaker for a lot of people, though, no? I think PictureBox's dual role as comics publisher and art book publisher jiggers with the price points in ways I don't understand, to be fair.

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SPURGEON: Little Nothings?

COLLINS: Like the Lynda Barry stuff, this will come across more negatively than I actually feel, but while I have nothing against him, [Lewis] Trondheim doesn't do anything for me. A lot of these respectable French cartoonists don't rev my engine. I almost wonder if what I see in a lot of the big French literary comics guys is what people are worried about happening if the book publishers take over literary comics in this country -- a lot of polite comics about grown-ups.

SPURGEON:: That's an opinion I've come to understand is commonly leveled at many of the French-language books of that type, but do you make any distinction between books from earlier in the careers of an artist like Trondheim and the work he's doing now?

COLLINS: I've never been grabbed enough by Trondheim to make me want to follow his career to the point where I could draw those kinds of distinctions, so I can't really say. I guess I appreciate that these cats are so prolific and do all these different kinds of books -- children's adventures, revisionist fantasy, funny animals, autobio, etc. I just can't say that the art is enough to draw me in, and for the most part neither is the subject matter. I think that duck design is bland, and I wouldn't be all that interested in watching him storm Omaha Beach or have sex with the duck equivalent of a young Monica Vitti, let alone sit under a tree and think or talk to his cartoonist friends about their crises of confidence.

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SPURGEON: Is there any book or short story that you feel was vastly misunderstood, or not even talked about to the extent it should have been? What about overpraised?

COLLINS: Ross Campbell, of Water Baby and Wet Moon, is a major talent doing bizarre and idiosyncratic work, but I'm not sure anyone outside goth circles gives him the time of day. His art style virtually guarantees that people who would get a lot out of both the laconic way he tells a story and the down-and-out characters he's chronicling aren't paying attention, but they really should.

There were two new books from Jason this year, and a new issue of Tales Designed to Thrizzle from Michael Kupperman. Look Out!! Monsters was a visually arresting and emotionally political comic that almost no one talked about. Big Questions #11 was the best one yet. All of those books were slept on to one extent or the other, at least relative to how big a deal people should have made out of them.

If I ruled the comics blogosphere I'd insist that people who know better spend less time kicking superhero books they know they're not gonna like in the teeth and more time writing reviews of books they and their readers will get something more out of than schadenfreude.

Overrated? I don't think Alan's War is best of the year material. It's a perfectly good book, but the art strikes me as stiff at times, like a particularly nuanced photoshop filter, and the aimlessness of the story doesn't quite get it over.

You know what, though? I think I got pretty lucky this year and mostly read stuff I ended up enjoying. There was the occasional let down, but one of the luxuries of writing this stuff for my personal blog is that I didn't have to read anything I didn't want to, so books I had a hunch I wasn't going to enjoy to begin with rarely if ever made the cut. Now that I mention it, that's an important thing to note: I'm primarily reviewing comics for my own enjoyment. That could be a flaw, depending on how you look at it.

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SPURGEON: Sean, how much work are you seeing on-line? What do you think of the books that Dark Horse has been releasing featuring popular on-line features? Are you still reading Achewood?

COLLINS: I don't read any comics online now that The Perry Bible Fellowship is over. I'm not a big comic strip person I guess -- it's not like I read the funnies, either. I know that this makes me a bad person, and I accept that. For serious, I'm aware that I'm missing out on a metric ton of worthwhile comics, but sometimes you just max out on stuff you have the mental energy to pursue at a given time. It's sort of like how I don't play video games, not because I don't enjoy them or because I have some sort of philosophical problem with them, but just because I have enough hobbies right now.

I was an early Achewood adopter from back when it was the toast of the Comics Journal message board, and I'm proud to say I'm responsible for its first mention in a national print publication (the Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly, LOL), but I pooped out on it years ago. Before the advent of RSS, going to the site on a daily basis was just too much for me. I keep meaning to spend a while maybe reading a month's worth of strips every day until I'm caught up, because it's not like I ever didn't love it. Webcomics are just not a format I ever cottoned to, is all.

I have the PBF book and the Achewood book that Dark Horse put out and they're both lovely objects. I'm irritated that the PBF material is going to be re-collected in a more complete volume soon, though. And they should have started collecting Achewood from the beginning for pete's sake. A crazy person like me is never just going to jump in and read a storyline from the middle of the strip.

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SPURGEON: One of the more interesting publishing news stories was the conclusion of Y the Last Man, a period of appreciation and demand which we may see replicated in the soon-to-finish 100 Bullets. Most retailers to whom I've spoken tell me that Fables is the easiest Vertigo book to sell, and all I can think is that's the only comic they do that really seems to me like a Vertigo series. Are we seeing the last Sandman-model high concept series? Are Northlanders and Scalped different kinds of books, or just different books?

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COLLINS: What's the high concept of Sandman?* I never looked at that book that way, but I'm probably missing something. It doesn't seem like one of those other one-sentence wonders you mentioned. Anyway, Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges's series aside, the basic Vertigo template is much less "grown-up fantasy/fairy-tale" than it used to be -- now it's series with cursing and titties and murder and the color brown, some set in a stylish milieu, some set in a squalid milieu, and some set in a combination of the two. In that sense, I'd say Preacher and to a certain extent 100 Bullets are the most influential series at the imprint -- more of the current Vertigo line owes itself to them than to Sandman. Personally I thought the best of this sort of series was The Exterminators.

imageSometimes I wish they'd stop going for that R-rating, HBO Original Series vibe, because when you look at their successful flagship titles over the years, yeah they've always been a mature-readers, but there's usually more to it than that. 100 Bullets has that beautiful art, Y was downright sweet a lot of the time, and Sandman even did whimsy, all of which are about as far away from Scalped as you can get. It's tough to imagine a character shaped by the persona of Tori Amos in a Vertigo book today, you know? I've read some entertaining Hellblazer comics lately, though. I guess mostly I'm curious to see where their OGN line goes. Pride of Baghdad, Incongnegro, The Quitter, The Alcoholic -- these are all pretty far away from both the Sandman and Preacher Vertigo strains. I wonder if they'll give ongoing series in that kind of vein a try, or perhaps if some of the Minx titles that didn't make it out will migrate over here.

SPURGEON: Why do you think so relatively few people paid attention to Chris Ware over the last few years?

COLLINS: He's been at an intimidating level of quality for a decade, his comics come out late in the year when people are in the throes of listmaking or afterwards when it's too late to get traction, there's inevitably some "emperor has no clothes" backlash about him that reduces the pool of people willing to give his new stuff a review, and this is just my experience talking but I think review copies might be hard to come by. Finally, this isn't a problem for me, but his comics really are about how life can defeat you, and that's not always a theme that people feel up to engaging.

imageAs soon as I get my hands on the new Acme you can bet I'll pay him some attention, though! God, Chris Ware. This guy did the Quimby stuff for his school paper. Doesn't that make you want to kill yourself?

SPURGEON: Everything makes me want to kill myself. Speaking of which, how scared do you think arts and alternatives comics makers should be about the shape of the economy? You're demographically desirable: a young married, educated, willing to spend part of your budget on comics. Do you hear anything from anyone that suggests specific weaknesses with how companies making art or alternative comics reach customers like you?

COLLINS: I think everyone should be terrified. I mean, the next time me or my friends have to look for a job in entertainment journalism and publishing in New York, we'll be up against people with Entertainment Weekly and Time on their resumes. It's awesome that with the exception of a few companies with their own unique problems, comics have thus far dodged the purges that have plagued the newspaper, magazine, and book publishing industries, but surely that can't last forever, and eventually someone with a metal hockey mask and a loincloth will encircle the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly with his minions and tell Chris Oliveros that he will be given safe passage in the Wasteland if he just walks away.

That said, if they keep publishing good comics, I'll keep getting them. I don't know what else to say beyond that. From my outsider, layman, economically ignorant vantage point, the important artcomics publishers all seem to be on pretty stable ground in terms of how they work with the bookstore market, their relationships with their communities both in the real world and online, the type of work they're interested in publishing and their ability to do so, and so forth. While we're on the subject, I'd imagine Top Shelf, who I might otherwise be more concerned about just because you don't see them in the position to purchase and open retail locations like D&Q and Fanta and PictureBox have recently, is in store for a monster sales year courtesy of their Alan "Watchmen" Moore catalog, which will soon be larger thanks to the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book.

A while back, James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem described Nine Inch Nails as "lifeline music." One of the benefits of being an industry for dedicated enthusiasts is that comics is virtually a lifeline medium. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than with alternative comics. I think that will help us weather the storm if nothing else does.

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* that's the cover to Boys Club #2 altered so that Matt Furie's characters are watching Sean T. Collins on TV. Hey, it gets boring late at night.
* cover to KE7
* cover to Black Hole
* interior art from David Heatley "Overpeck" serial
* cover to Notes For A War Story
* cover to Bottomless Belly Button
* cover to Burma Chronicles
* page from What It Is
* cover to Travel
* interior page from Three Shadows
* cover to Powr Mastrs Vol. 2
* interior page from Little Nothings
* interior page from Waterbaby
* a PBF, randomly selected
* cover art to last Y The Last Man comic book
* cover to 2008 issue of The Exterminators
* cover to The Alcoholic
* cover to ACME Novelty Library #19
* art by Matt Wiegle from one of Sean T. Collins' fine short stories in comics form

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* Editor's Note: In case anyone wondered, I always figured that the high concept of Sandman was one of the oldest ones, that we were basically getting Gaiman's first crack at "The Gods Walk Amongst Us."

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December 25, 2008


Happy 87th Birthday, John Severin!

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Happy 52nd Birthday, Steve Saffel!

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A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
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May God Bless Us Every One

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Saul Steinberg, 1976
 
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December 24, 2008


Holiday Treat #5: Denys Wortman’s Christmas Cards Received From Friends

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Holiday Treat #4: Richard Thompson On The New York Sun Santa Claus Letter

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Holiday Treat #3: A Wildwood Christmas Carol

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Holiday Treat #2: Classic Santa Stories

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Holiday Treat #1: A Few Of The Cards Received This Year

John Cei Douglass:
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*****

John Freeman:
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Fernando Garcyffffneda(?):
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Darko Macan:
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Gary Beatty:
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Andrew Farago and Shaenon Garrity
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Dean Haspiel
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Paul Karasik
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Mid-Ohio Con
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Rebecca Dart For The Inkstuds
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J. Chris Campbell
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Good Morning And Merry Christmas


 
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The Hush of Christmas Settles In…

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card found in the pages of a Jack Ziegler jokebook I purchased at a library sale back in February
 
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CR Holiday Interview #3: Tucker Stone On The Year In Mainstream Comics

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*****

imageTucker Stone came to my attention and that of many other comics fans through his weekly comics reviews at his site The Factual Opinion, particularly his regular Comics Of The Weak feature. A lit cigarette ground into the fatty neck folds holding up the swelled head of American comic books, Stone's primary goal with Comics Of The Weak seems to be to get people to laugh. A more thoughtful side to the writer begins to emerge once you read enough of his work to become inured to the nastier rattle of some of his jokes, or take in his column at the comiXology site. What I like best about Stone's work is that it seems to follow his having intensely read and confronted the work in question; he doesn't seem to be returning to set pieces in terms of the humor or the analysis. I thought it might be good to hear about the year in American mainstream comics from his point of view. -- Tom Spurgeon

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TOM SPURGEON: I know I say this in a lot of interviews, but Tucker, I know very little about you. Can you give me the over-a-friendly-lunch version of your life with a an odd-in-every-other-context emphasis on how you've interacted with comics over the years? Did you read them as a kid?

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TUCKER STONE: I lived in a lot of different places, the most interesting one being West Berlin, before my family settled in a suburb of Atlanta. That was where we moved after my dad finished his time in the military. Nobody in my family ever expressed any interest in comics beyond what was in the newspaper, and it was actually pointed out to me by my mother -- when I interviewed her for the blog -- that I didn't read comics at all when I was a little kid. I don't remember liking or watching the Batman television show, I know I hated Star Trek. I did play with Star Wars toys when I was a kid, though. My parents are heavy book nerds -- my father especially, they just inhale stuff, and they didn't ever care what I read. They just pushed me to read, and that's what we did.

Actually, that's kind of funny -- my parents wouldn't let me see the first Robocop -- they'd seen it opening weekend, decided it was too violent, but my dad bought me the "novelization" of the movie, which was just as violent and hardcore. Cocaine use, strippers and prostitutes, torture. I was nine or ten? That's pretty much the only thing I read, anyway. I'd read the crap they make you read in school, then I'd sit around reading Stephen King, anything that was really violent, that kind of stuff. I think I still think about sex in terms of the sequence in The Stand where the girl with the white streak in her hair seduces the nerdy guy. "Coffee, tea...or me?"

imageAnyway, my mom would always go to this one used bookstore, this really awful place run by this belligerent little idiot woman, and for some reason they had a bunch of comic books up front. In retrospect, I think they may have carried new titles, but I can't imagine why. My memory of that place isn't so good though, because in my head the store is the size of a Wal-Mart. There's no way it was that big, it was a family run place. For no reason whatsoever, I bought -- well, my mother bought -- an issue of Detective Comics drawn by Norm Breyfogle as well as two issues of the Detroit Justice League. I've tried to figure out when that could have been -- the Detroit League started in 1984, but that Detective issue was in 1988, and both of the comics were already back issues by then. My best guess is that I was 13? It was before high school, but not too long before high school. Why I tried them out, I don't know -- I think I'd read all the Stephen King available at that point, and I'd tried some other pop horror writers and hated them -- maybe I was just bored. I got bored a lot. It wasn't until a few years ago that a friend of mine told me that if you're always getting bored, that's because you're a boring person, and it's your own fault. That was pretty much my sole motivation for almost every decision I made until I was a lot older, so that's probably why. But I don't know.

From there, I pretty much just bought random issues of those comics for a while, and then -- for the hell of it, and because I was a piece of shit, I stole comics. I would wander over to this gas station store and steal stacks of comics off the spinner rack -- Marvel Comics Presents, a whole bunch of crap. I barely remember what they were, but you can tell if it's one of those if you look at the collection now -- they all have these marks in the middle from where I had sweat all over them from having them shoved down my pants.

I really liked reading them, but I'm at a loss to tell you why. I just liked Batman, and I liked the people in the Justice League. I don't know why. I know I already thought Superman was a prick, but I don't know why. I just thought he was a boring jerk. I liked when Wolverine would kill people, but I always wanted him to go farther.

imageAnyway, I got more out there with them -- read stuff like Doom Patrol, Animal Man -- I remember really getting into stupid crap though, like buying all the Impact Comics, or multiple issues of Lobo # 1. The thing was -- I never knew anybody else that read comics. I'd meet these people at comic stores, but I seemed to have a knack for going to comic stores that only stayed open for six months or so before going out of business. I didn't like the people who went there, I didn't like the people that worked there -- it was just these angry role-playing game people, or these misfits who were always talking about Star Wars. I had a pretty good going at the time with acting -- I'd made a lot of friends, we'd listen to Dr. Dre and the Subhumans, try to get laid...but that social aspect of comics, that was never there. I wasn't embarrassed by them -- it was just that no one ever mentioned them. Not even when the Batman movie came out. Nothing. It's like they didn't exist. All my conversations with my friends revolved around music and girls. I don't remember us caring about anything else, except for getting wasted.

Eventually, comics and all that went with it just became a distraction from driving around and being a screw up. At a certain point -- my senior year in high school, it was comics/girls/music or drugs, and I picked drugs. Then I went off to college to be a lawyer, got arrested twice, kicked out of college, and then I got arrested again. That time my parents didn't bail me out. After that, I was pretty much done -- I had to live in a halfway house in the northeast GA mountains for two years or I was going to have to go back to jail. I went to college again, but this time I just took random classes, and I ended up triple majoring in three useless fields -- religion, philosophy and theater. At some point, I had a disposable income again, and then I read in the newspaper that Dark Knight Strikes Again was coming out. I'd always liked the first one, so I went to a comic store, which was two hours away, and picked it up. Then I figured I'd catch up on Batman, then I bought some Acme Novelty Library, and boom -- I was back on board.

When I graduated in 2002, I moved to New York, and comics pretty much opened themselves up to me -- there were only two or three great comic stores in Atlanta, and I had to drive two hours to go to them unless I was visiting my parents -- whereas even the most run-down NYC store has stuff like  
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December 23, 2008


If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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posted 11:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 60th Birthday, Joost Swarte!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Holiday Interview #2: Jeet Heer On Little Orphan Annie

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*****

imageOne of the best pieces of writing about comics I read this year was Jeet Heer's introduction to the first of IDW's Little Orphan Annie collections. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone familiar with Heer's writing about comics, in particular his well-received pieces opening the Walt & Skeezix volumes from Drawn & Quarterly. I enjoyed Heer's lively dissection of factors leading into the first few years of Harold Gray's great, long-running strip so much that I thought it would be fun to ask him some questions about it. Happily, he agreed. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: Jeet, as I recall you did your dissertation on Harold Gray and Little Orphan Annie. Am I to take it that this focused on Gray as a conservative figure? Did any of that material make it into your introduction?

JEET HEER: The biographical information on Gray and his relationship to Midwestern cartooning draws on my thesis research. But Gray wasn't really a conservative in the 1920s: he was more of an general populist, hostile to loan sharks and speculators while celebrating hard working ordinary people whether their successful ("Daddy" Warbucks) or not (the poor struggling farmers, the Silos). In the 1920s, Gray even defended labour unions, having Annie launch a successful one-girl strike against a boss who mistreats her. Gray's political opinions would take on a more partisan salience in the 1930s when the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt polarized American politics into those who saw the New Deal as the salvation for the working class and those who saw it as the end of American liberty. Gray fell into the anti-FDR camp and Annie became much more explicitly right-wing. That's a big part of the thesis and won't be in the Annie books till we hit the New Deal period.

SPURGEON: One thing I don't know is how you started reading Annie. That's a tough one for a lot of people to get into because of the musical, and its general identity as a girl's strip from the Great Depression. What led to your initial reading and what piqued your interest to the point you made it an object of study?

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HEER: The first time I read Annie was the Leonard Starr version, which ran in the Toronto Star in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although I didn't particularly care for that incarnation. I saw Gray's Annie in bits in pieces in books like The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics and elsewhere but didn't read it in bulk till issue #8 of Nemo, Richard Marschall's magazine about comics. That issue had several in-depth articles on Annie and reprints a long 1920s adventure, which impressed me for its grittiness and heart. Then the Fantagraphics collections came along, which were even more impressive in that they feature year-long stories that read like novels. So I knew Annie was worth writing about, but what convinced me that it would be worth a whole thesis was looking through the Gray archives at Boston University. Unlike most cartoonists of his generation, Gray kept most of his original art and a ton of other material (letters, diaries, etc.). So here was a chance to write about an early 20th century cartoonist in a way that really looks at his life and work, without relying on the usual recycled press clippings.

SPURGEON: How did you get the gig writing the introduction to this volume? I know you have a relationship with Canadian comics creators, but this is from IDW.

HEER: I got the gig thanks to Dean Mullaney, who admired the Walt & Skeezix books I'm doing with Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros. Dean was in the early stages of planning out the ambitious Library of American Comics series, which will include Annie, Terry and the Pirates, and many other strips. I was happy to work with Dean because, like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics, he takes book design and production seriously and works hard to create the most attractive platform for presenting old comic strips. (Back in the old Eclipse days, Dean had published the first incarnation of Krazy and Ignatz, which was a formative influence on me).

SPURGEON: I know almost nothing about Dean's set up with IDW. What was it like working with them?

HEER: Well, like "Daddy" Warbucks Dean has a lot of drive and entrepreneurial energy and he's built quite a "wrecking crew" around him including Bruce Canwell (who has done great research for the Terry books and the Noel Sickles book), and Randy Scott (who does the indexing for several series). Dean does the design work himself (he's been running a design firm during his long absence from comics) and hands over each volume to IDW and the printers. The books have been selling well, so IDW has been giving Dean lots of leeway. One thing I admire about Dean is that he's put in lots of time and money on production: in the Annie books, for example, the vast majority of the strips are shot from original art, which is a rare luxury and allows us to see Gray's work as never before. I think Dean's masterpiece so far has been the Noel Sickles book, which really gives us for the first time a sense of this important artist's career.

SPURGEON: You do a wonderful job in the essay tracking how the values of Little Orphan Annie are frequently seen in values and experiences Gray had in the 30 years before he started the strip. I have two questions. Is there any personal experience that you feel Gray might have kept from informing the strip for some reason? And since he was so conscious of crafting Annie, did that include utilizing these values or did those just kind of naturally seep into the work the way they do with most cartoonists who work on something every day like that.

HEER: There might be aspects of Gray's life that didn't make it into his strip. There are rumours that he was a skirt-chaser and that's something that doesn't show up much in Annie, although you can catch hints of it here and there.

Charles Schulz once said that everything you could want to know about him could be found in Peanuts, and the characters were all reflections of his personality. I think that's true of all the great cartoonists, not just Schulz but also Frank King, George Herriman and Harold Gray (or Crumb or Ware or Seth...). Newspaper cartooning is like keeping a daily diary: even if you're writing only about the weather and shopping, bits of your personality will seep into the work.

In Gray's case, the strip reflected his flinty world view, his love of hard work, his populist spirit, and also his fear of those he thought were undermining society by their laziness and meanness. You get a very strong sense of the man in his work, which is one reason it's one of the major comic strips.

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SPURGEON: I was fascinated by your contention that John T. McCutcheon may have been the first ruminative cartoonist. Can you talk a little bit about him and that and how that might have had an impact on Annie and other strips?

HEER: McCutcheon was the leading political cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune in the first half of the 20th century, a hugely influential figure now largely forgotten. When not commenting on politics, McCutcheon did nostalgic, Mark Twain-inspired strips about being a small town boy, hanging out at the old swimming hole, etc. Many of his best strips don't really have punch-lines or gags but rather work as tone-poems, filled with yearning and sadness -- in a famous page that Gray referred to, McCutcheon paid tribute to the particular colors of an Indian summer night in the Midwest. McCutcheon pioneered a genre of cartooning that was later taken up by Clare Briggs, Frank King, Milton Caniff, Harold Gray and many others.

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SPURGEON: You also spend time tracking how The Gumps influenced Gray and Little Orphan Annie. First, I was wondering if you could talk about that a little bit, too, just how dominant an influence that way. Second, since it was strong an influence, and very popular, why does Annie stand out as a something that was influenced by it? Was Gray just cagier than some of his contemporaries? Did something about the strip strike a chord with Gray that he was maybe more apt to draw from it?

HEER: Well, like McCutcheon, Sidney Smith (creator of The Gumps) was a giant of his day whose place in history has largely been forgotten. Throughout the 1920s and later, The Gumps was one of the top strips in America , loved by millions. What set The Gumps apart from earlier strips was that, although it had a comic element, Smith also often embraced wholehearted melodrama. It was the first real soap opera strip, with the fate of characters unfolding in month long narratives. That's the primary lesson Gray took from Annie.

It's an interesting question why Gray's work continues to be remembered and indeed loved while Smith has been forgotten. I suspect the answer to the question has something to do with Gray's skill at characterization. Like Charles Dickens, Gray had a natural gift for creating characters that are vivid and lifelike. Annie and Warbucks are the best example of this: both of them are so strong and forceful and memorable. Once you read their adventures, it's hard to forget them as people. Smith had all sorts of talents, particularly in spinning out long yarns in small installments, but his characters lack some special spark. It's much harder to relate to Andy Gump than to Annie.

imageSPURGEON: I noticed you mostly avoided Dean's line of thought in his own, much shorter essay about Annie being a creature of its times -- the fact that many in the country were suffering and had lost faith. Do you not feel that's as strong as the personal stamp Gray placed on the strip? How do you see the way people responded to the work, and since it's an obvious comparison, do you think the time are similar right now and that Annie might hit the people that read it the same way?

HEER: Well, there are lots of books in this series so I don't want touch on every topic right away. In future volumes I will talk about Annie as a product of its time. Having said that, I do think there are ways that Annie transcends its period, as the best strips do. The type of values that Gray brought into the strip -- a sort of two-fisted conservatism -- still has an enormous resonance in American life. By volume three, Annie and Warbucks will be dealing with the Great Depression, trying to survive amid a collapsing economy. I hope that won't be too close to the bone of today's reality!

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SPURGEON: I was surprised by how much like prime-time 1930s Little Orphan Annie the strip was at its beginning. What do you think was the most important element that Gray worked in as the strip developed, or maybe the last thing he brought into it?

HEER: I think Gray hit on the main component of the strip -- the relationship between Annie and Warbucks -- in the very first episode. What will develop in time is his story telling skills. In the early strips, Gray was pretty lackadaisical, with one adventure seeping into another. Often Annie would just wander about for weeks without direction until Gray hit on another idea. By the early 1930s, Gray's plotting was much tighter, with each story reading like a self-contained novel with a proper beginning and end. The last major component that entered the strip was fantasy, which came in 1935 with the introduction of Punjab. Prior to that Annie as a pretty realistic strip. With Punjab, an extra dimension of magic was added to the recipe.

SPURGEON: Have you been successful in writing "half about comics, half about life" as you stated in our previous interview? What's next comics-wise?

HEER: As readers of my blog Sans Everything will know, I continue to write about politics, culture at large, and comics. Right now, I'm working on long essays about Gustave Verbeek, Roy Crane, and Herriman's Stumble Inn. With Kent Worcester, I've just edited a collection of essays titled A Comics Studies Reader, which tries to show how the study of comics has coalesced into a coherent field of studies. And of course Walt & Skeezix continues as does Krazy & Ignatz. So lots of books on comics in the future.

*****

* the first volume of the Little Orphan Annie series, where Jeet Heer's essay awaits you
* from one of the early Sundays: the irrepressible Annie
* Harold Gary and Annie issue of Nemo
* John McCutcheon's contemplative "Injun Summer"
* a quotidian moment in an early Little Orphan Annie
* Gray never shied away from the harsh realities facing many of the people he portrayed
* the Annie/Daddy Warbucks relationship is the cornerstone of the strip; Gray discovered this fairly early on
* [bottom] won't you buy this young girl's book?

*****

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*****
*****
 
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December 22, 2008


If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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posted 11:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 51st Birthday, Tony Caputo!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Holiday Interview #1: Kim Thompson

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*****

I've known Kim Thompson since 1994, when I went to work for him at Fantagraphics Books. He's among the smartest people I've ever met, and is one of the kindest. Together with his longtime publishing partner Gary Groth, Thompson has worked the last several years transforming the longtime alternative comics company he co-owns into a small but potent comics, art book and graphic novel publishing house. Having spent much of his youth in Europe, he has been one of North America's most effective advocates for translated books from the rich French-language tradition. He is also a talented editor, a fine interviewer with whom I worked at The Comics Journal and generally informed and involved when it comes to all aspects of how that company functions. If Fantagraphics were a car, Kim would be the guy in the jumpsuit and dirty fingernails constantly poking around under its hood. He was nice enough to talk to me about his company's future and recent past. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: After 30-plus years in the comics industry, how do you keep motivated? What do you find exciting about your job right now?

KIM THOMPSON: There is always some new cartoonist, or some new work by an cartoonist, on the horizon to snap me out of my depressed torpor. And we've got such a great bunch of people working for us now here in the office... that's energizing. That said, I wish I didn't have to answer this on a goddamn Monday morning.

SPURGEON: As a long-time champion of European comics, how satisfying is it for you to see this second great wave of translated European works hitting the American market?

THOMPSON: It's pretty exciting, although of course we don't know yet whether this wave will prove more durable than the last one. We've got three major, major European cartoonists planned to launch in 2009-2010 ourselves. Even if the wave crashes, at least we'll have gotten out another batch of great books that will survive on Amazon.com as used books for a few years.

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SPURGEON: Does Fantagraphics have a specific strategy for approaching European cartoonists, or does a Jason, say, just kind of move into your orbit organically the same way that any other artists does? Are there any artists or kinds of work from Europe you're interested in publishing in the future?

THOMPSON: There is still a bewilderingly huge amount of great European work that hasn't been released in English (or was released in English back during the first Eurocomics boom and has since fallen out of print). I don't know if there is a "kind" per se, but I think we need to catch back up with the masters who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, your [Jacques] Tardis and [Lorenzo] Mattottis and Loustals and Munozes and so on. NBM, First Second and Drawn & Quarterly seem to be doing a good job with the 1990s/millennial generation.

imageI'd still love to publish my favorite European kids' comics guys like [Andre] Franquin and [Maurice] Tillieux, of course, but I've long since given up on this idea as being totally unworkable in the American market. If I win the lotto and can throw $100K down the toilet just for fun, look for an announcement.

SPURGEON: Comics seem poised to take an even bigger leap into various on-line formats over the next 24 months. Is Fantagraphics interested in further working with their artists to publish them on-line in a more significant way? What kind of discussions have you had in-house about this?

THOMPSON: Man, I'm not the one to ask about on-line comics. It's low on my list of priorities, possibly foolishly so.

SPURGEON: Have you had any talks internally about the possibility of a sustained economic downturn? Have you made any moves or do you plan any moves to meet the possible challenges of rough times? Are you worried about the months ahead?

THOMPSON: Of course we're worried, but it's such terra incognita, no one knows where this is going and no one knows how specifically this might affect the comic book field. Maybe comic books will be the only entertainment people can afford and sales will surge. (Although probably not.) We're probably going to be more conservative in terms of new projects and print runs. I just turned down a project that a year or two ago we might've said yes to.

SPURGEON: Considering that there are two of you as publisher, how do you Gary and decide what to publish? Is it true there are Gary books and there are Kim books? Do you ever publish books that one or the other of you isn't enthused about?

THOMPSON: Sure. We're two different people with different tastes, and we're also self-aware enough to know that there are cartoonists one of us doesn't like that are objectively speaking fine cartoonists worthy of being published. The percentage of books that both of us aren't totally enthusiastic about is pretty small, in any event, so in most cases we're on the same page. There has never been a project one of us hated so much he tried to talk the other one out of publishing, maybe a few cases of "Jeez, really? OK, whatever."

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SPURGEON: Are there any publishing initiatives from the last 15 years that you wish could have succeeded that maybe didn't to the extent you felt they might? For instance, I thought Lewis Trondheim's The Nimrod was a near-perfect alternative comic.

THOMPSON: Yeah, although we were running out of Trondheim material that fit that format, so it likely would've ended after we finished the Approximativement serialization. In general, I'm really sorry that the alternative pamphlet format has crashed and burned, it's now basically impossible to launch a new cartoonist in that format, and a number of more established cartoonists aren't pulling in sufficient numbers to justify it. The Raisin Pie and Fuzz and Pluck numbers were unbelievably bad, for instance, and even "successes" like Uptight and Tales Designed To Thrizzle are at best marginal. And every time we think the numbers have bottomed out we find a new bottom.

The Ignatz books are barely break even but then I expected that, so I'm not exactly disappointed.

There are individual cartoonists whose books failed I'm bummed about, of course.

SPURGEON: I think your books have looked consistently great over the last five years. You've had some great designers in the past, but it seems like you now have a really solid, consistent art department in the way that Eric Reynolds had given you guys a an anchor in marketing/PR. How important is good design to what you guys have been able to achieve in recent years? What are your own tastes when it comes to design?

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THOMPSON: Nothing more sophisticated than I know what I like, and I agree that Adam Grano and Jacob Covey are doing a bang-up job. Frankly -- and our designers hate it when I say this -- I think a lot of books are sort of design-proof in terms of sales, although some benefit significantly from superior design, and some are totally saved by design. Clearly Chris Ware's design of the Krazy and Ignatz books gave those a boost, and Jacob Covey's Popeye surely moved some extra units.

That said, the standard of design for graphic novels has really peaked in the last decade, and you sort of have to have at least decent design if you want to be taken seriously. We couldn't get away with the crappy Fantagraphics/Eclipse/NBM/Last Gasp designs of the 1980s any more, that's for sure. So I'd say decent design is a necessity and great design is a bonus.

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SPURGEON: I think you're an under-appreciated editor, particularly your anthologies. Titles like Critters and Zero Zero look better in retrospect with each passing year. Why so few? Do you have another magazine in you somewhere? Do you enjoy that kind of hands-on curating process? How do you look back on each of those anthologies now?

THOMPSON: Thank you for that. I thought Critters was great for its time, although that kind of "indy" material (with the exception of Usagi Yojimbo) seems to have fallen through the cracks and no longer has any audience at all -- and it's looked askance at by "alternative" loyalists. Are any of the Critters guys other than [Stan] Sakai still actively publishing comics? I mean, what kind of a stupid industry lets a guy like Mike Kazaleh slip away into self-publishing and, basically, retirement from comics?

imageAnthologies are a lot of fun to do, and I enjoyed doing both of those, and I agree that Zero Zero was undervalued at the time, but with so many cartoonists either wanting their own comics or being graphic novel oriented there is a real dearth of high-end anthology-worthy comics: Finding cartoonists of the caliber of Max Andersson, David Cooper, Richard Sala, or Kim Deitch, to name four main Zero Zero guys, able and willing to crank out comics for an anthology is increasingly difficult. Eric and Gary do a great job with Mome, but I know they're having trouble filling it up...

I think Glenn Head is doing a great job on Hotwire, but it's a tough, tough sell. The big, fun, Weirdo-style "comics-y" anthology seems like a dinosaur somehow.

I doubt I would ever edit another anthology: I don't see any niche that needs to be filled, and the energy I used to devote to the anthologies has been diverted to other pursuits (because we're doing more international books I'm doing a lot more translating, for instance).

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SPURGEON: I seem to remember you guys published a couple of incendiary political books in 2004 that were fairly ahead of the curve about the Bush Administration, and unless I missed it you didn't have something like that on your calendar this year. Was there any reason for that? Was that just coincidence? Do you consider Fantagraphics to be a political publisher and do you want to publish more work like that in the future?

THOMPSON: Oh, I don't know that they were ahead of the curve, except within the comics industry. By 2004 you had rackfuls of anti-Bush and anti-Republican prose books, your Ivinses and Moores and Frankens, didn't you? The primary motivation of the Steve Brodner book Freedom Fries which I edited was actually more esthetic than political: when we started it was going to be a Brodner career retrospective that would also include his celebrity caricatures, but it morphed into a political book midway through.

I consider Fantagraphics to be a publisher of good comics and if the comics that are submitted to us are good political comics then great, but I'm not inclined to pursue them. To be frank, I find most of the World War 3 Illustrated type agenda comics tedious (although I thought The Bush Junta had real energy).

I think you may need nation-wide disgust with a government to see a lot of this kind of material, and we're in the Obama honeymoon stage anyway.

SPURGEON: I consider your generation of comics people comics' greatest generation in that the industry will likely have changed more from when you began to when you conclude your run than for any other group. In broad terms, is this the industry you imagined when you started out? Is there anything better about now than you imagined? What would you still like to see happen?

THOMPSON: The industry has changed far more radically, and for the better, than I ever could have imagined, in terms of the respect accorded to comics, the level of work being produced, comics' place in the market, the whole ball of wax. (You have to bear in mind that when we started cartoonists were literally wondering whether Americans would ever be willing to read comic books that ran beyond the length of an issue of Giant-Size Fantastic Four.)

The weird thing is that the idea of "graphic novels" and comics for adults has had so very little penetration into the general literate populace. Most regular people are, in my experience, still utterly stunned and confused at the very idea, New York Times Book Review reviews notwithstanding. There is a weird disconnect between the press's enthusiastic embrace and promotion of the medium and its effect on actual "mainstream" readers. You have millions of New York Times subscribers reading and presumably mostly enjoying the Jason serial, but how many of them would even think "Hey, I should go buy a book by this guy"? .001 percent?

It remains an uphill battle, and if I'd known how much of an uphill battle it would continue to be, even with all of these victories, I might have become an advertising copywriter circa 1979.

*****

* photo by Tom Spurgeon
* a Jason book with Fantagraphics
* Franquin
* The Nimrod, Lewis Trondheim's comic book
* a Krazy & Ignatz book designed by Chris Ware
* a Critters cover by Mike Kazaleh
* a Zero Zero cover
* Freedom Fries, edited by Thompson
* The Bush Junta, another political book from Fantagraphics

*****

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*****
*****
 
posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
December 21, 2008


Happy 57th Birthday, Tony Isabella!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 52nd Birthday, Bill Willingham!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
A Short Note From The Publishers

This post is designed in the hopes that either the overwhelming ennui or the rousing can-do spirit of this holiday season will catch you in the mood to briefly help us with the site by writing in.

We want your links. Are you a cartoonist, comics industry person or have a connection to an on-line expression of something related to comics? Do you know of any? If we don't have the site you're thinking of linked to here, or linked to correctly, we'd love to include it. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

imageWe want to wish you a happy birthday. Are you a prominent or semi-prominent comics person who would be willing to help me recognize comics history by wishing you a happy birthday? .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Stipulations: 1) Tom has to have heard of you, but he's heard of most people. 2) We need a birth date.

We want to know where you are (but only generally). Are you willing to share with the world of comics where you live in order that people potentially contact you, hire you, perhaps invite you to social gatherings? We'd love to include you or the people in comics you know on the Comics By Local Scene List. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Most of all, we want to know what we can do better. Anything that this site can do to better serve your needs, we want to try and make happen. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Thank you for your help, and thank you so much for your patronage. We hope you're having an excellent holiday season and we look forward to serving you throughout and into the New Year.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Please Don’t Forget The Various Comics Charities And Organizations This Year

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If in the next ten days or so you're looking for a tax-deductible avenue through to which spend some money, please don't forget the various comics-related charities and those organizations related to comics that are set up to take contributions. A school like The Center For Cartoon Studies lives and dies according to its ability to elicit support from a wide variety of patrons. Click through the image for a comic about the place and how you can help. I hope that you'll join me in opening up your final year's paycheck to possible divvying up amongst some of comics' most important entities.
 
posted 8:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Help CR Inform The World About Comics: Check Out Our General Links

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We're going to be working on our general links section for the next couple of weeks. If you have a spare moment this holiday season, please check out the following and let us know of any links or information you have that might be added to what we already have, or any correction we might want to make.

* The General Comics Links Post
* The Comics By Local Scene Post
* Books About Comics Post

We'll also be working on our birthdays section, so if you or anyone you know related to comics in some way has a birthday you think we should know about, please drop us a note. We need a birth date -- as much as it's nice to wish people a happy birthday, our primary motivation for having the birthday posts up is historical value.

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posted 6:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from December 13 to December 20, 2008:

1. The conviction of Dwight Whorley was upheld by a circuit court of appeals. Whorley was convicted of having child pornography in part due to owning cartoon imagery of children in sexual situations.

2. Word seeps out that in addition to dropping its posters/prints category, Diamond will also not list as many O/A entries up front in the catalog with the new stuff, a possible big blow to publishers large and small who depend on such listings.

3. Two more North American cartoonists lose their full-time positions.

Winners Of The Week
Fans of Hans Rickheit

Loser Of The Week
Zapiro

Quote Of The Week
"I had voluntarily left the employment of Fantagraphics Books in late September 1985 to work for Dominos Pizza. I left for financial reasons." -- Dave Olbrich. This is the first time I've ever had multiple e-mails from people demanding something be the quote of the week. It is funny, although in defense of comics generally and my former employers specifically it was a whole different comics world 25 years ago.

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Hillman Publications
 
posted 12:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
December 20, 2008


Five Link A Go Go

* go, listen: Jeet Heer with Diana Tamblyn and Ho Anderson

* go, look: B.u.L.b. site re-launches

* go, look: The Lite Stuff

* go, read: what happened to Borders

* go, read: Monte Cook loves him some Criminal
 
posted 11:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
FFF Results Post #145—Remembering 2008

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Name Five Memorable Comics-Related Things About 2008 (A Book You Read, An Experience You Had, An Event That Made You Take Notice -- Anything That Would Help You In The Future Recall This Year." This was how they responded.

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Tom Spurgeon

1. The Kurt Westergaard Assassination Plot
2. Richard Thompson's First Cul De Sac Collection Came Out
3. Jim Borgman Leaves Cincinnati Enquirer
4. Steve Gerber Passes Away
5. Marvel's Secret Invasion vs. DC's Final Crisis

*****

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Gerry Alanguilan

1. The release of two important Philippine graphic novels: Martial Law Babies by Arnold Arre, and Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo.
2. The flurry that resulted from the appearance of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the pages of Secret Invasion and the cries of "GMA is a Skrull!" that followed. The news even reached Malacanang (our local White House) but issued no comment. Leinil Francis Yu clarified GMA's appearance by saying in no way was GMA portrayed as a Skrull.
3. Komikon 2008: The 4th Philippine Comics Convention as finally grown too big for it's venue.
4. The opening of at least three Philippine comics specialty shops and the closing of none.
5. The collapse of Sterling Paper's comic book line under comics veteran Carlo J. Caparas after a much touted, much publicized launch in 2007 that saw the "Return of Komiks" to the newsstand. Five titles ran for at the very least eight issues each, distributed nationwide, before disappearing without fanfare.

*****

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Colin Panetta

* discovered the work of Brendan McCarthy
* first issue of RASL come out
* I added a few webcomics to my RSS reader
* the first issue of my own comic, Dead Man Holiday came out
* some brushes with superhero comics (not very important to me, but culturally they make very effective time markers): People wouldn't shut up about Iron Man and then got even louder when Dark Knight came out, I bought and pretty much enjoyed two issues of Uncanny X-Men in December

*****

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Charles Brownstein

1) Neil Gaiman announces Gordon Lee win at NYCC, mere hours after the judge's order came through.
2) CBLDF signs on as special consultant for the defense of manga collector Christopher Handley six months later.
3) Rory Root dies. At the memorial, more people are standing on the sidewalk outside Comic Relief talking one fashion of business or another than are inside the sweltering heat of the store listening to tribute speeches. I think he'd have approved.
4) Clearing the bookshelf to make way for the embarrassment of riches that have recently come out. RASL, DC's Jack Kirby program, Beanworld, Creepy Archives, Echo, Berlin, and Bottomless Belly Button are just a few of the books that made me really excited about comics this year. 2008 had more stuff I wanted to read than any other year in recent memory.
5) Coming back from SPX with a big hardcover collection of Ron Rege's collected mini-comics and a new hardcover from Nate Powell sure seemed like the end of one small press era and the opening of the next one. Jeff Mason's recent Facebook photos from SPXs when we all looked so much younger sure seemed to underscore that point.

*****

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Aaron White

1. Meeting Jaime Hernandez. My fiance's old roommate always tried to copy Maggie's hairstyle, so Jaime drew me a sketch of Maggie brushing her hair.
2. Meeting Kevin Huizenga.
3. Meeting Sammy Harkham.
4. Meeting Rick Trembles.
5. Meeting Tom Spurgeon.

*****

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Justin Colussy-Estes

1) Publishing contraction (Random House's shakeup alone affects Del Ray Manga and Pantheon, Tokyopop crashes, and layoffs at several smaller comics publishers -- all of which pales compared to the devastation felt in editorial cartooning)
2) Yen publishes Yen+, giving the Viz manga anthologies a run for their money.
3) Comic strip collections explode beyond all output in the previous decade (I bought The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For and the Gary Gianni/Mark Schultz Prince Valiant volume on the same day, and those weren't even the most notable strip collections released that month!), while the comics pages shrink a little more (when did For Better or For Worse finally peter out? And Opus, just to name two huge strips...)
4) That Emmanuel Guibert YouTube video demonstrating how he drew Alan's War. I could (and did) send that link to anybody I knew and they thought it was cool.
5) This is more local, but it ties into a national story: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decides not to run Doonesbury's post-election Obama strips (and, to bring this full circle: they may have changed their minds, but I wouldn't know because my wife finally gave up on her newspaper subscription).

*****

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Sean Kleefeld

1. I stopped buying Marvel comics entirely for the first time in 25 years. (March)
2. I inherited my father's comic book collection when he cleaned out his basement. (April)
3. Jack Kirby Collector #50 (April)
4. I switched to reading legal online comics exclusively and stopped buying printed comics altogether. (June)
5. Wowio got bought by Platinum and went immediately to pot. (July)

*****

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Josh Blair

1. Jim Borgman leaves the Cincinnati Enquirer. (I grew up seven miles from Cincinnati in Northern Kentucky and Jim Borgman was the only political cartoonist I really knew until I moved out of the region when I was 22. I didn't realize how good I had it political cartoonist wise and that not every newspaper had such a great cartoonist.)
2. $125 for a comic? Kramer's Ergot 7.
3. Dark Knight grosses a kajillion dollars.
4. Iron Man was a much more entertaining, but not necessarily better, movie.
5. Presidential comics

*****

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Fred Hembeck

1. Meeting Jules Feiffer for the first time at a Children's Book Expo held at a local school my daughter once attended, and having him sign my nearly 40-year-old copy of The Great Comic Book Heroes while I stammered out a few heartfelt compliments.
2. Actually finding myself looking forward to a movie based on a comic book character -- Iron Man -- and then actually liking it. A lot. (Of films released on July 18th, 2008, I'm always gonna prefer Mamma Mia to The Dark Knight -- guess that's just the kinda guy I am these days...)
3. After being aware of him since about 1967 -- and he of me since around 1977 -- I finally met Mark Evanier face to face not once, but twice, at a pair of NYC comicons where he was promoting his fine Kirby book.
4. Got to read Blake Bell's fascinating book about my favorite cartoonist, Steve Ditko, Strange and Stranger.
5. And speaking of books -- Not a dream!! Not a hoax!! Not an imaginary story!! -- MY very own book, "The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus" was published!! (And if I was allowed a sixth entry, howsabout being interviewed--twice, thanks to a mysterious recording malfunction--regarding said volume by noted journalist, Tom Spurgeon? But I only get five, right? So let's just forget I mentioned it...)

*****

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Russ Maheras

1.) This summer I met Krista Hanley, daughter of the late, great fan artist (and friend) Alan "Jim" Hanley, who died in a motor vehicle accident on Christmas Eve in 1980. Krista was only an infant the last time I saw her 30 years ago, just before I shipped off to Air Force basic training.
2.) The nice folks at IDW asked me to write the introduction to Volume 5 of the Eisner Award-winning reprint book series, Terry and the Pirates. It features Milton Caniff's 1943-1944 Terry strips, and was just published a couple of weeks ago.
3.) In another long-awaited Caniff-related event, Volume 1 of the Steve Canyon television show DVD was just released, featuring the first 12 episodes of the rare, long-lost (and top-notch) 1958-1959 series.
4.) Blake Bell's long-awaited book about Steve Ditko, Strange and Stranger, was published.
5.) Dave Stevens passed away.

*****

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Torsten Adair

1. Returning to the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, where I had worked nine years, for a book event for American Widow, by Alissa Torres and Sungyoon Choi. As I approached Mrs. Torres, she recognized me. She reminded me that when she first started thinking about writing a book about her experiences, she had come to my store, asked for advice, and I had recommended to her the best books to use.
2. Leaving the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest Barnes & Noble stores for a job at the home office helping maintain the product database. Just as I had godfathered the Graphic Novel section at the store, making it one of the best in the country, so do I now godfather the graphic novel bibliographic data which feeds BN.com and store systems.
3. Understanding why the sub-prime bubble burst, having learned about speculation from various comics implosions and Neil Gaiman's essay on Tulipomania.
4. Volunteering at the NYC HQ of the Obama campaign, enjoying the various tie-in comics, freebasing the zeitgeist of the Election, and realizing that a comicbook fan will soon be President.
5. Attending my first Anime convention (New York Anime Festival), enjoying the sheer joy and wonderment of the other attendees, and realizing that anime and manga subculture is more similar to the science fiction and fantasy subcultures than it is to comics subculture.

*****

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Denis St. John

1. graduating from The Center for Cartoon Studies/giving graduation speech
2. teaching comics to my first high school class
3. seeing classmate Chuck Forsman winning 2 ignatz
4. seeing classmate Joe Lambert in The Best American Comics 2008
5. self publishing Monsters & Girls: Amelia

(I know this is a completely self involved list, but 2008 was personally the biggest year for me ever, in terms of comics)

*****

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Paul Pope

1.) Jeff Smith starts publishing RASL, which, for what it's worth, I believe is the best new comic book series to appear from a North American talent this year. Incidentally, I remember him first telling me the basic plot outline for this story as long ago as November 2001. Which goes to show you, you sometimes must wait long and act fast. Like a panther.

2.) I delivered the first big batch of Battling Boy pages to my editor at First Second for review and the signed copies of the THB contract were all accounted for. Personally, this is significant because it means most of the new comics material I will be releasing in English for the next four or five years will be through First Second -- and that these will be appearing as original graphic novels in soft/hardcover format-- and not initially as comic books or webcomics.

3.) 2008 found me regularly writing/drawing comic book feature editorial for mainstream magazines such as Wired, GQ, and VMAN. How this is significant for me personally is probably obvious, but what is objectively significant about this is that placement in such newsstand magazines allows for new comics to reach an audience much larger -- and much less attenuated to comics -- than an audience for many of the so called "mainstream" comic book periodicals-- and in a much less trumpeted, less obvious manner. We've seen this already emerge as a trend, with artists like Chris Ware doing features for New York Times Magazine and Nest, and others in places like The New Yorker. When you add reprints in the overseas magazine editions, the audience for this material can reach well into healthy six-digit numbers.

4.) 2008 was a stellar year for high-end comic book reprints of classic material -- such as Marvel's Omnibuses, IDW's Noel Sickles book and the Terry reprints, Evanier's Kirby book, FB's Fletcher Hanks collection, etc. I would add the VIZ edition of Kazuo Umezu's Cat-Eyed Boy to this list as well, my
favorite book(s) of 2008. Virtually everything comics-related I purchased in 2008 (with the exception of 100 Bullets, RASL, All-Star Superman, and a handful of comics book periodicals here and there) was in soft or hardcover format.

5.) Looking back on it, with the exception of when overseas, I don't think I stepped into a comic book shop once during the entire year and any con appearances I did were strictly that -- roll in, sign, get out. There is no malice in this on my part, it's just a fact. I didn't realize it until I starting thinking about it in relation to your 5 for Friday topic, but I now do all my regular shopping for comics online.

*****

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Jean-Paul Jennequin

1. Launching a French-language site on LGBT comics called LGBT BD. Alright, so I'm biased.
2. The death of Raymond Macherot
3. For Better or for Worse concluding. I even dreamt I was going to Lawrence's shop to buy flowers for Elizabeth's wedding.
4. Attending Periscopages, a comic festival in Rennes specializing in the indie scene. Great exhibitions of the works of Benoit Jacques, Nylso, Vincent Fortemps and the Misma small-press label.
5. All the hullaballoo about the (yeuch!) comic version of Saint-Exupery's Little Prince by Joann Sfar

*****

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Andrew Mansell

1. The utterly amazing line-up of Indy creators at HeroesCon
2. Moderating a monthly comics Discussion group in Charlotte (thanks to Heroes)
3. Fantagraphics (after Eclipse) completing the publication of the entire run of weekend Krazy Kats
4. Finally -- the complete Scorchy Smith
5. Kramers Ergot #7

(I had to narrow it down from 15 -- what an outstanding year!!)

*****

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Scott Dunbier

1) Dave Stevens passes away.
2) Record breaking prices of original comic art, especially by Wally Wood, Bilal and Herge.
3) The continuing trend of wonderful art books and serious archival collections being published.
4) The effect the Watchmen movie trailer had on sales of the book.
5) Scott Dunbier starting at IDW -- certainly an event that will hold great meaning for me.

*****

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Michael Dooley

1. Happily, adding graphic novels to the curricula of the Graphic Design History classes I'm teaching.
2. Pleasurably, engaging in an intelligent, lively discussion about A Small Killing at an L.A. Graphic Novel Book Club meeting.
3. Sadly, writing a Will Elder tribute for the AIGA/Voice site on the occasion of his death.
4. Joyfully, interviewing Rian Hughes and Paul Buhle for AIGA/Voice.
5. Gratefully, gaining the ability to rave about Breakdowns, my favorite comics book, to people without worrying I might need to let them borrow my 1977 edition.

*****

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James Langdell

1. Having a manhattan and grilled oysters on my first visit to the Farley Bar, surrounded by framed Phil Frank originals
2. Watching For Better Or For Worse zig-zagging to a conclusion and restart
3. Talking with Jeff "Museum of Lost Wonder" Hoke at the APE show about his visits to Manly P. Hall's library (and looking over a drafts of Hoke's next pamphlet
4. Staring inches away from the zip-a-tone layering on Tezuka originals at the Asian Art Museum
5. Being surprised by the offer of the loan of a Jason book by a coworker who I didn't know was into comics at that level

*****

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Jamie S. Rich

1. Laying Madman Atomic Comics #9 end to end and seeing the single continuous panel
2. My pal Joelle Jones redesigning the X-Women for the hell of it.
3. Realizing that Secret Invasion and Final Crisis were the exact same book, full of sleeper agents spreading like a virus and working on the premise that "evil wins" (albeit, the victories come at separate points in the story).
4. Losing Dave Stevens, as well as many other wonderful people.
5. Comics folks taking a chance, getting political, and talking about the world, including the community effort of www.comicsindustryforobama.com

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1 - Steve Gerber Died
2 - Iron Man Was Actually Quite Good
3 - Dave Sim Returns With Two New Projects
4 - Original Graphic Novels Take A Beating In The Market
5 - Realbuzz Studios Inc. Dissolves Much To The Relief Of Buzz Dixon

*****

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Mark Brodersen

1. Exploring the Comic Art Museum in San Francisco
2. Getting my official Alcatraz comic book from the National Park Services after the tour
3. Persepolis collected edition and seeing the animated movie
4. Iron Man movie
5. The Ten-Cent Plague

*****

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Michael Grabowski

1. Seeing three pretty good superhero movies this year, including one that wasn't comics-based.
2. Buying several new Dave Sim comics.
3. Getting a "shut up and leave me alone" form letter from Dave Sim.
4. Buying Willie & Joe on a whim at a great discount and still suffering buyer's remorse.
5. Being very glad I bought it after all once I read most of vol. 1 over a weekend much later.

*****

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Jamie Coville

1. My first time going to San Diego Comic con and finally meeting many comic pros face to face.
2. The spring/summer of good comic book movies. Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy 2, Wanted, & Batman.
3. The death of Rory Root.
4. Dave Sim doing comics again, going online to various message boards and then his withdrawal.
5. The 10-Cent Plague.

*****

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Uriel A. Duran

1) Fatalysia #3 debuting at the SPX
2) Jerry Siegel's heirs getting a share of the copyright of Superman
3) Dumm Comics
4) Love and Rockets: New Stories #1
5) United Feature Syndicate offering all of its strips online for free.

*****

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Michael Aushenker

1) The experience of writing the new Gumby's Gang Starring Pokey for WildCard Ink, which entailed working with my terrific editors -- Mel Smith, Paul Birch and Bob Burden -- my super-talented artist pal Rafael Navarro, and iconic characters Gumby, Pokey and Prickle
2) Witnessing my entire childhood go mainstream and global, best captured by the downright surreal experience of driving around my city and seeing the Invincible Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Bat-Man and the Joker looming large on billboards, buses, and the sides of buildings all over Los Angeles
3) Meeting Method Man, one of my favorite rap stars of all time, at Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood, where he was signing copies of his Method Man graphic novel
4) Being introduced to the comics of Kazuo Umezo (via The Drifting Classroom)
5) Being introduced to Rutu Modan (in person at SD Comic-Con)

*****

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Christopher Duffy

1. Steve Gerber died.
2. Bottomless Bellybutton published
3. Big, big Kramer's Ergot
4. I met Lynda Barry!
5. Mike Carlin turned 50

*****

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John Vest

1. Steve Gerber's death
2. Love & Rockets going to an annual book format
3. The return of '80s indie creations (Journey in Many Happy Returns, American Flagg Definitive Collection with new story, Beanworld Christmas Comic)
4. New Steve Ditko comics (Avenging Mind and Ditko, Etc.)
5. Attending HeroesCon 2008 events and seeing several favorite creators in person (including Jaime Hernandez and Roy Thomas)

*****

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Eric Knisley

1. 24 Hour Comics Day. I made one -- my best decision all year.
2. Helping Andy and Vanessa move Chapel Hill Comics to their new digs (and the resulting party).
3. Gus and his Gang: outstanding!
4. Joining the Triangle Drink'n'Draw group. And then drinking and drawing a lot.
5. Sitting out most of the Cons this year.

*****

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Grant Goggans

1. We lost Steve Gerber.
2. Garry Trudeau called the election early.
3. Tank Girl joined the lineup of Judge Dredd Megazine.
4. Vertical started Black Jack reprints.
5. Love & Rockets moved to the annual format.

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) The Watchmen explosion.
2) Major shifts in the world of comics-coverage medias (the erosion of Wizard, Imaginova's acquisition of Newsarama, ComicMix troubles, Comic Foundry and Write Now ending, etc.)
3) The ends of For Better or For Worse and Opus
4) DC Editorial's mishandling of Grant Morrison's superhero storytelling (Countdown to Final Crisis, "Batman R.I.P." and Final Crisis)
5) Troubles in manga publishing (Tokyopop cancelling popular books, bookstore ordering slashed)

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. I covered Comic Con International in San Diego for comicbookresources.com
2. Matt Wiegle made a collection of my comics called Murder and we sold it at MoCCA
3. Kramers Ergot 7 came out and I hope I get it for Christmas
4. Grant Morrison wrote Final Crisis and "Batman R.I.P." and I really enjoyed them
5. I reviewed three comics a week all year long at my blog

*****

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Will Pfeifer

1. The ending of All-Star Superman #11, with Morrison and Quitely finishing a perfect issue with a breathtaking tribute to Siegel and Shuster.
2. My run on Catwoman coming to an end. Damn!
3. That collection of Howard Chaykin's American Flagg! finally arriving in stores
4. The death of Dave Stevens. It goes without saying, but too young.
5. The death of Will Elder. Much older, but still a big, big loss.

*****

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Matthew Wave

1. The death of Muriel Kubert
2. Where the Demented Wented -- and the attendant desire for the collecting of the rest of Hayes' comic book work
3. The North American ascendance of the great and psychotic Kazuo Umezu -- and the attendant desire for more
4. The Secret Six get an ongoing series -- so you better enjoy it while it lasts.
5. The demise of the Minx imprint

*****

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Frank Santoro

1. Heroes Con hotel bar when the Dub Show girls sat down
2. Bodyworld starting last January
3. Glamourpuss
4. Speak of The Devil last issues (spring/summer feeling, ah)
5. Kramers Tour

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. My final issues of The Batman Strikes were published, including one issue that featured a character based on my daughter.
2. I appeared on my first Wizard World panel
3. I read -- and re-read -- and thoroughly enjoyed The Umbrella Academy, my favorite book of the year
4. Iron Man.
5. The Dark Knight.

*****

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Marc Bryant

1. RIP Steve Gerber
2. I cut my comics pull list (singles) to the least amount of titles in over 20 years. At it's height, I purchased around 15 titles a month.
3. The success of the Dark Knight and Iron Man films
4. I began work on The Card Cheat with constant collaborator Mal Jones.
5. Foolkiller, Omega the Unknown and Howard the Duck were all published with no visible input from Steve Gerber.

*****

Thanks to all that participated. The feature will return in January.

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posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Dean Haspiel’s Snow Dope

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Look: Two By Richard Thompson

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

I'm still quite certain that the beginning of the end of Western Civilization is right there to be discovered in the people who don't return their shopping carts.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Saturday Distraction: That Spain Video


 
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Whorley Conviction Upheld In Virginia

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the conviction of Dwight Whorley, convicted to 20 years in prison in 2005 in part because of possessing cartoon imagery featuring under-aged girls forced to have sex. The conviction also encompassed charges related to digital photographs of actual children and lurid text descriptions. The presiding judge cited the 2003 Protect Act.
 
posted 12:10 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Macmillan Folds First Second Into Children’s Publishing Group

I totally missed this week's announcement that Macmillan was starting a Macmillan Children's Publishing Group to consolidate their multiple children's book companies under more streamlined management. First Second was included on the list of companies found here:

macchildrensline.doc

imageOn the one hand, these companies loosely holding multiple publishers and imprints under a big, general umbrella is a practice that has come under a lot of fire has book publishing has been revealed as vulnerable and strained in the weakened economy. Macmillan is not alone in making such a move, or at least considering same. As First Second's Mark Siegel is apparently going to continue to report to Simon Boughton at Roaring Brook Press, also moving under the new structure, it doesn't seem as if there will be immediate changes as to how the graphic novels publisher functions.

On the other hand, First Second being so casually designated a Children's Publisher might alarm some people who saw it as an imprint with books for kids, for all-ages, and for adults. A line of thinking popular right now may start to look more relevant with this news: an idea whereby traditional book publishing is in the immediate future going to be less interested in arts comics than they are a new kind of kids book and will apply pressure to see that the latter starts to happen rather than the former. Although I'd love to hear from a First Second person if this is a totally unfair example, I feel compelled to note that the only new graphic novel ostensibly for adults (as opposed to kids or all-ages) in the recent First Second catalog is The Photographer, from Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert.
 
posted 7:50 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Final Five (Saturday) #145—2008 In Review, Through Your Experiences

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Final Five (Saturday) #145 -- Name Five Memorable Comics-Related Things About 2008 (A Book You Read, An Experience You Had, An Event That Made You Take Notice -- Anything That Would Help You In The Future Recall This Year

*****

1. The Kurt Westergaard Assassination Plot
2. Richard Thompson's First Cul De Sac Collection Came Out
3. Jim Borgman Leaves Cincinnati Enquirer
4. Steve Gerber Passes Away
5. Marvel's Secret Invasion vs. DC's Final Crisis

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

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response before tomorrow. Play fair. Results finally posted on the 21st.
 
posted 7:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

* I hadn't realized there was more Mister X material being released, most of which I'm guessing is out as we speak. I guess it's good to have that material in one place, although the comics themselves seem to have been available for pretty cheap over the years.

image* here's a post about AdHouse's ambitious-sounding plans for 2009. Chris Pitzer admitted to me that if their eyes end up being bigger than their stomachs as the ongoing recession deepens and spreads they can always cut back, but it's full speed ahead for now.

* it's unclear to me whether Del Rey's acquisition of something called Ninja Girls is such a big deal it gets play in the slow-down that is the immediate holiday season or if it's only getting play because of the slow-down of the immediate holiday season. There it is, though.

* I've received an e-mail I've been unable to confirm suggesting that the long-running hardware retailing comic Mister Oswald is no more. The strip is best known for the long run it enjoyed by initial creator Russell Johnson from 1927 to 1989, and the limited nature of its subject matter -- something much more common in the late twenties than the late eighties.

* I wanted to make note of these lead-up comics IDW is doing for the forthcoming Star Trek movie. Has anyone done exactly something like that before? It seems that in the old days, you went to the comics to supplement an experience you had with a movie you probably wouldn't get to have again until three years later when it might or might not show up on TV. Now the room for a supplementary experience is in that period of quivering anticipation before the movie comes out.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Ed Hall’s Blog

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posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Maddie Blaustein, 1960-2008

imageAccording to a pair of industry acknowledgments, voice actress Madeleine Blaustein recently died in her sleep on December 11 after a short illness. She was 48.

Born in Long Island, Blaustein worked at both Marvel and DC Comics, starting as an assistant editor at Marvel during the 1980s. She wrote several comics for various lines at each company, including the licensed TSR books and comics for the Milestone imprint. She drew the series Power Pachyderms for Marvel, was employed as a creative director for the now-defunct Weekly World News, and held a number of anime and videogame voice credits.

Becoming Maddie Blaustein after entering her professional life as Adam Blaustein provided inspiration to members of the transgender community, especially as it overlapped with the entertainment industries where she worked. Blaustein wrote a transgendered comics character for Milestone named Deathwish who was similarly well-received. As one might be able to tell from the comments thread that is this article's first link, Blaustein was an extremely well-liked and memorable member of the creative communities in which she worked.
 
posted 7:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Some Of Your Thoughts About DCD Curtailing The Employment Of O/As

A few of you wrote in about the likely possibility according to their recent announcements that Diamond is taking a much tougher stance towards "Offered Again" solicitations, whereby companies supplying the distributor can list their existing product as new material in that part of the catalog as opposed to seeing it only offered through the backlist avenues. I saw this as particularly damaging to small publishers that may only have a few items, where listing them in numerous O/A selections was a way to keep a more constant presence on shelves -- in other words, I saw it as one of those things that was dysfunctional (retailers shouldn't be swayed by catalog placement for items of need, but they are) but a largely accepted way of taking care of that unfortunate tendency. Your responses covered that issue and more.

*****

Simon Jones, Icarus Publishing:

Regarding Diamond's toughened stance on O/A items (which was actually part of the same solicitation notice that revealed Diamond's intention to drop the entire posters/prints category), I'd like to point out that since the last major solicitation policy change a couple years ago, O/A items have also had to meet the $600 minimum purchase order requirement, i.e. if total orders did not surpass $600, no purchase order would be issued. Diamond reserves the right to reject products which it is certain would not meet that threshhold.

So there is a possibility this may not be a new policy change, but a hightened determination to enforce existing terms. As a publisher who resolicits products with regular frequency, we ourselves would only know for sure when we see our own listings in February Previews.

*****

Dan Vado, SLG:

I just saw your post about the Diamond restriction on offered again books being cut back or eliminated. While I have not gotten any kind of confirmation on this on my own (it may yet be coming or, as I suspect, probably initially being targeted at publishers who do not list new products every month).

Beyond hurting publishers, in particulat smaller publishers like myself, this will also hurt retailers in a couple of ways. One, of course, the constant reminder about books and new opportunities to sell titles to their customers. The second though is in the discuont range. Books which are ordered through offered agains are not subject to the reorder fee. One of the reasons I so aggressively relist our most current or best sellers is to give retailers an opportunity to maximize their profits.

Seeing it from the Diamond end, though, the offered again titles have been generating smaller and smaller numbers so I can understand the need to cut back on them. I do wonder, though, whether this policy will extend to Diamond Select Toys as they seem to offer almost their entire catalog every month. I would think that the O/A in the toy section probably accounts for more wasted space in the Previews than all of the comic book listings do.

My two cents, worth exactly that.

Or less even.

*****

Bill Williams, Lone Star Press:

I put out a trade paperback of the first of the PANTHEON material by Bill Willingham a few weeks ago and we ran a few ads and people seemed to like the work. If anything, I expected a reorder from Diamond some time in the future as the small bit of overstock trickled out. So, I was surprised to see the unsold books remaindered out in their discounted weekly section in the Diamond Daily.

Instead, they have decided that a product that earns them 18% is not worth stocking. (The 18% number comes from Diamond paying me 40% of retail and charging the stores 58% of retail.)

Since the trade will cease to be available through the DM, I listed it on AMAZON.com. Here's the book.

I suppose the only chance I have to get my first PANTHEON book listed again is to have that listing next to the one for the next trade.

*****

Dustin Harbin, Heroes Aren't Hard To Find:

Someone like Brian Hibbs will know better than I will, but as far as I know the "O/A" thing is just a relisting in the print catalog, with a new item code. The way that Diamond runs its databases, the original item code remains in effect.

As a retailer, it's always been slightly confusing -- every time I try to train an employee how to order for the store, they end up unintentionally re-ordering old stuff because of the new listings. I would say that only one percent of the time does such a listing actually prod me into ordering something I might not have otherwise. Getting rid of this policy won't reduce the number of items a vendor can list with Diamond, just how prominently they can relist old items. For my money, Previews solicitations mean less and less to me in terms of convincing me or not to order items -- the web just does everything better than print in terms of selling books, anyway.

As a disclaimer, I'm not a publisher, and am likely missing any number of vectors to this issue because of that.

*****
*****
 
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What You Can Buy Me For X-Mas

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Actually, I have everything I need in the world and I certainly have way too much original art. Still, my eyes opened widely when I saw that Joey Anuff is offering an original Harvey Kurtzman Esquire piece for sale on eBay, and I couldn't figure out a better headline.

You can read how Anuff acquired his Kurtzman material in an explanation posted here.
 
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If I Were In Denver, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: The JLA Is Freezing

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People Keep E-Mailing Me This Picture

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and I'm grateful
 
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Go, Look: Cicero Sapp Sample At Steven Stwalley’s Crumbling Paper

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist and current Association of American Editorial Cartoonists President Ted Rall rips into the recent Time list of best editorial cartoons of the year. That was a really uninspired, outright lousy list, and while some of Rall's comparisons are poorly selected -- the selections didn't have the energy or fresh perspective of 16-year-old bloggers -- his general point is well-taken. It was like a Best Comics of The Year list with two random issues of Guardians of the Galaxy making the cut.

image* there's a brief round-up of holiday-related comics issues at MTV's Splash Page, notable for drawing attention to a Frank Quitely-drawn cover of DC characters playing Santa.

* an 11-year case between the owners of the Asterix characters and a European communications services provider over the name "Mobilix" has ended with the communications company getting the win.

* missed it: a lot of webcomics business news, much to my embarrassment. The one thing I can catch up on here before the blog shifts to original content interviews until the New Year is the announcement by the ComicSpace team of a new ad service, Webcomics World.

* apparently there's a new Eustace Tilley contest.

* finally, kudos to Heidi MacDonald for taking on a Reed-run convention for inviting a male non-creator and not very many non-male creators to its forthcoming New York Con. That's never easy. The dearth of non-female creators within certain realms of the North American comics industry seems to me one of those problems that's almost impossible to define as a problem and then fix because the standards are slippery and mandating solutions is problematic in a bottom-line business where middle management frequently takes the blame. It might be more useful for the company leadership to own the issue, and to recast the problem as a lost opportunity: no more "comics is at fault for not better supporting women and minority artists" and instead "comics is leaving money on the table because they don't fully exploit the talent available to them." In the case of creators working at big comics companies, I'll repeat my call that a modified Rooney Rule be adopted where companies volunteer over a lengthy period of time (three years, five years) to include at least one non-white and/or female candidate for every job hire process or pitch, with no strings attached beyond being allowed to pitch or interview. People getting in the habit of being considered for those jobs and gigs and other people getting in the habit of considering a wider array of people for those jobs and gigs has been great for one of the all-time white dude bastions of professional sports. Even when a football team has been dead set on Whitey McWhiterson as their next coach, they have frequently come away from the process impressed with one of the candidates in a way that puts them on the minds of those executives and has them telling their friends about the talented person. I think this might be translatable in a way that has value to comics. In the end, the meritocracy aspect of these companies will kick in and trump the bad habits aspects of those companies, or at least work against it in a much more significant manner.
 
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Happy 41st Birthday, Rantz Hoseley!

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Happy 55th Birthday, Mack White!

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Happy 59th Birthday, James Van Hise!

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Quick hits
Craft
Your Guide To Holiday Hot-Tubbing

Exhibits/Events
Graphic Novels From Europe Panel Recording

History
This Site Says It All

Industry
KE7 A Book To Bail Out Your X-Mas List

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Arvid Nelson
Inkstuds: Rutu Modan
Panel Borders: Justin Hall
Rob Clough on Kevin Huizenga
Big Shiny Robot: Fabian Nicieza
Blog@Newsarama: Rantz Hoseley

Reviews
Alison Lang: Drop-In
Sean T. Collins: Capacity
Starred Review Of KE7 At PW
Steve Duin: Brush With Passion
Charles Hatfield: Goddess of War Vol. 1
Don MacPherson: Dark Reign: New Nation #1
 

 
December 19, 2008


Another Cartoonist Loses Staff Position

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This time it's Thomas "TAB" Boldt, cartoonist for the Sun Media papers in Canada -- specifically the Calgary Sun. Unlike some of the recent staff position cuts, Boldt had been in his current job for less than a decade, although I think from looking at the cartoonist's picture and guessing at his age he may have been working in the field before that -- I'm terribly, terribly unfamiliar with most Canadian newspaper cartoonists. Not that noting the relative length of time Boldt's had his current position compared to some other eliminated job makes it any less a potentially miserable day for Boldt, or any more alarming in terms of the continued losses in North American newspaper for these kinds of positions. Three other cartoonists working for the chain were retained.
 
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Jay Tomio Selects Best Of 2008

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I'm unfamiliar with the writer Jay Tomio, but my ignorance has never stopped anyone from posting a selection of best comics for 2008. Works discussed include:

* Omega the Unknown, Jonathan Letham and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Hornschemeier and Gary Panter (Marvel)
*Elephantmen: Wounded Animals, Ladronn and Moritat and Chris Bachalo and Others (Richard Starkings)
*Pax Romana, Jonathan Hickman (Image)
*Madame Xanadu, Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley (DC/Vertigo)
*Green Lantern, Geoff Johns and Others (DC Comics)
*All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
*The Escapists, Brian K. Vaughan and Others (Dark Horse)
*Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Josh Cotter (AdHouse)

Mentioned In Passing: Fables, Scalped, Glamourpuss, RASL, Echo, Jonah Hex #33, Superman/Batman #51-52
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Andrew Hickey’s Best Of 2008

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Andrew Hickey engaged the best of the year in comics at the same time he was looking at the year in music. His choices:

* All Star Superman #10, Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant
* Judenhaas, Dave Sim
* The Amazing Fantastic Mr Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best
* Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight, Chris Onstad
* 5 Sandman: Dream Hunters, Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

Honorable Mention: Comic Book Comics, Batman, Final Crisis and Glamourpuss
 
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Bram Meehan’s Top Ten For 2008

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The graphic designer and comics maker Bram Meehan has posted a top ten list for 2008 to the Raised By Squirrels site, which may be much easier to access on his personal blog. His choices are:

1. The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
2. Cul de Sac, Richard Thompson
3. Diesel Sweeties, Richard Stevens
4. Hark A Vagrant, Kate Beaton
5. Astonishing X-Men, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
6. Immortal Iron Fist, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction and David Aja
7. Scalped: Casino Boogie, Various
8. The Martian Confederacy, Jason McNamara and Paige Braddock
9. Helen Killer, Andrew Kreisberg and Matthew JLD Rice
10. Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front/Willie and Joe: The WWII Years, Todd DePastino

Honorable Mention: Black Summer, Criminal, Elephantmen, Fantastic Four, Doonesbury's B.D. storyline, B.P.R.D., Hellboy, The Secret History of The Authority: Hawksmoor, All-Star Superman, Invincible Iron Man, Comic Book Comics, Girls With Slingshots Vol. 1, Girls With Slinghots, Patsy Walker Hellcat #1, Gutsville, Guerillas, 100 Bullets.
 
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Tim Martin’s Best Comics Of 2008

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I nearly missed this article by Tim Martin in the Independent on the best comics of the year. Comics he discusses include:

* adaptations of world literature from Self Made Hero
* Amor y Cohetes, Los Bros Hernandez
* Beyond Palomar, Gilbert Hernandez
* City People Will Eisner
* Comics and Sequential Art, Will Eisner
* Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi
* Ex Machina, Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris
* Ghost Stories, Jeff Lemire
* Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories, Various
* Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, Will Eisner
* Iron Man 1963-1964, Various
* Nemi II, Lise Myhre
* New York, Will Eisner
* Perla la Loca, Jaime Hernandez
* Sleepwalk, Adrian Tomine
* Strontium Dog book series from 2000AD
* Tales From The Farm, Jeff Lemire
* The Boys, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson
* The Definitive Incredible Hulk, Various
* The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, Various
* the Manga Shakespeare series from Self Made Hero
* Watching the Watchmen, Dave Gibbons
* Whys and Wherefores, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Mike Carey’s Best Comics Of 2008

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The comics and prose writer Mike Carey participated in the Forbidden Planet International blog's round-up of various top lists in various art forms from various creators. His choices, not strictly limited by publication date, were:

* Things Just Get Away From You, Walt Holcombe
* Jessica Farm Vol. 1, Josh Simmons
* Tongue of the Dead, David Baillie
 
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Brian Nicholson’s Best Of 2008

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Brian Nicholson joins those posting short articles about the best comics of 2008. The list of books he discusses (endorsements vary) includes:

* Where Demented Wented, Rory Hayes
* What It Is, Lynda Barry
* Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, Various
* Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw
* Bodyworld, Dash Shaw
* Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga
* Fight Or Run, Kevin Huizenga
* Or Else #5, Kevin Huizenga
* All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
* Omega The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Paul Hornschemeier and Gary Panter
* Casanova, Matt Fraction and Fabio Moon
* Core of Caligula, CF
* Gary Panter, Gary Panter
* Jimbo, Gary Panter
* Artbooks by Shary Boyle and Ben Jones
* Heavy Liquid, Paul Pope
* Scud The Disposable Assassin, Rob Schrab
 
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JHU Bloggers’ Top Fives For 2008

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Vito Delsante is a comics writer and a longtime, well-connected employee of Jim Hanley's Universe in New York City. He posted a top five on Thursday. They are:

* ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Self-Published)
* Giant Size Astonishing X-Men #1, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (Marvel Comics)
* Criminal #4-7, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
* Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite TPB, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse)
* Superman #676, Vito Delsante and Julian Lopez (DC Comics)

Honorable Mention: Lobster Johnson: Iron Prometheus

*****

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Caleb Munroe is another writer and employee of the New York City comics retailing institution. He posted his list almost two weeks ago. His choices are:

* All Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics)
* Black Summer, Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryps (Avatar)
* The Remnant, Caleb Munroe and an Army of Other Creators (BOOM!)
* Scalped, Jason Aaron and Various (DC/Vertigo)
* Skim, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood Books)
 
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NPR’s Best Superhero Comics Of 2008

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Laurel Maury of NPR has another list up of best comics for 2008, this one focusing solely on superhero titles. The list includes:

* Joker, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (DC)
* The Death Of Captain America, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting and Mike Perkins (Marvel)
* Runaways: Dead End Kids, Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan (Marvel)
* Black Summer, Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp (Avatar)
* Superman And The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC)
 
posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Eisner Submissions Are Go

I totally missed this the moment it was announced, but the 2009 Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards are open to submission now. Publishers or those creators that are standing in for publishers doing so should start assembling work to send in for submission during the juried award process. Five pieces may be nominated for each category, and items can be nominated for more than one category. Each imprint or line or other way of putting a different name on the same corporate structure can have its own set of submissions. Those submitting should also send a cover letter saying what is being submitted and in what categories.

From the letter as far as those categories:
Categories include best single issue, best short story, best continuing comic book series (at least two issues must have been published in 2008), best limited comic book series (at least half of the series must have been published in 2008), best new series, best publication for kids, best publication for teens, best humor publication, best anthology, best digital comic, best graphic album—new material, best graphic album—reprint, best reality-based work, best archival collection, best U.S. edition of foreign material, best writer, best writer/artist, best penciler/inker (individual or team), best painter (interior art), best lettering, best coloring, best comics-related book, best comics journalism periodical or website, and best publication design. The judges may add, delete, or combine categories at their discretion. The cover letter should include both a mailing address and an e-mail address.
Creators should only submit when:
(a) their publisher is no longer in business; (b) their publisher is unlikely to have participated in the nomination process; or (c) they have severed connections with the publisher or have similar reasons for believing that their publisher is unlikely to consider nominating them or their work.
Submissions go to Eisner Awards, Attn: Jackie Estrada, Eisner Awards Administrator, 8340 Allison Ave., La Mesa, CA 91941. The deadline of March 13. URLs and other relevant information for the best digital comic category may be e-mailed to jackie@comic-con.org.

Nominees will be announced in April and the awards will be held July 24. More information here.
 
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Go, Look: Mall Santa Advisory

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Go, Read: A Cynicalman Christmas

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Go, Look: Walt Kelly At Christmas

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Go, Look: Disney Christmas Cards

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* mega-giant distributor Diamond has released the list of next year's Free Comics that will be distributed by shops participating in Free Comic Book Day. I guess you can sort of "read" the titles listed: DC is getting behind its Green Lantern event series, Marvel is supporting the Wolverine movie, D&Q is releasing a Nancy/Melvin the Monster two-fer and Fantagraphics is going with Los Bros. And so on.

image* curator of things lost to the collective closets of forgotten America Devlin Thompson writes in over my amazement that there was ever a comic starring characters named Foodini and Pinhead with a web site devoted to the marionettes turned licensing stars and this story: "On my first vacation trip with my future wife in the fall of 1995, I went into an ancient mom-and-pop store in Gatlinburg, and found a dusty, forgotten rack of greeting cards that included a batch of 45-year-old Foodini birthday cards. I bought them all, of course, to add to my collection of 'beloved childhood memories that I am at least 20 years too young to actually have.'"

* deleting bookmarks one: looking over a collection of links I may not have used, I notice I never linked to this extended Neil Gaiman statement on the Christopher Handley trial. He makes the point as strongly as anyone can: the CBLDF fights this and many other fights not as an endorsement of anyone's relationship to art or personal conduct, and not in spite of some personal judgment against anyone's relationship to art of personal conduct. They take cases based on bad law, many of which bring with them an element of prosecutorial bullying or malfeasance. And the implications of this law and this case are very bad indeed. I also skipped this funny rant for some strange reason. Ditto this agitation by a world congress.

* deleting bookmarks two: one of the underappreciated aspects of the late Forrest Ackerman's is that to little kids living all over the country who saw Ackerman's kitschy house or his junk-filled, fun magazines, this was a guy who got to live in the place we all wanted to visit. The possibility you could make a life of your hobbies never seemed more real than holding those magazines or seeing one of those TV appearances. Maybe I'm projecting, but I flashed back on that stuff when I heard the news he passed away. My gut feeling is that it was somehow strangely important that way.

* deleting bookmarks three: I must have never used this one about a manga- and anime-obsessed child-killer because it's so depressing. Actually, I think I may have been waiting to see if the connections were over-sensationalized. I guess this one sort of balances it out, but there's still a dead child.

image* deleting bookmarks four: I'm not certain why I bookmarked this site, but comics versions of junk movies and TV shows that in no way require comics versions always crack me up.

* deleting bookmarks five: I don't think I ran a whole lot of linkage to Broccoli Books folding; I'm not sure that I saw it as a "worsening economy" story given how precarious a lot of the non-major manga companies have been for a while.

* finally, a bunch of you were nice enough to use my recent writing on general industry questions to pen essays of your own. David Welsh and Matt Blind offered up really comprehensive responses that should be read in that order. Professor Fury and Sean Kleefeld look at the issue of issue of $3.99 Marvel comic books. Kiel Phegley wrote in to suggest I should add Terry Moore and his Echo to my list of traditional self-publishers; I imagine I should add Dave Sim with Glamourpuss. Nat Gertler, Stephen Weiner, Kyle Garret, Joe Field and Todd Allen all answer different questions via letters to this site. I appreciate them all, and anyone else that attempted the same.
 
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Happy 56th Birthday, Peter B. Gillis!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Dave Scroggy!

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Quick hits
Craft
On Jason Overby's Style

History
John Vest Says Don't Forget This Fine Crumb X-Mas Cover

Industry
BOOM! and Tony Shenton Working Together

Interviews/Profiles
Pulse: Abby Denson
Comic Riffs: Darrin Bell
Newsarama: Larry Marder
The Londoner: Diana Tamblyn
Editor & Publisher: Rob Tornoe
ComicsCareer.com: Alex Grecian

Not Comics
Princess Marigold and the Magic Spell
Download The New KAL-Designed Boardgame

Publishing
Nocturnal Conspiracies Previewed
Go, Bookmark: The Official Schoolgirl Milky Crisis Blog

Reviews
Bill Randall: KE7
Rob Clough: Various
Rob Clough: Various
Richard Krauss: Badger
Sandy Bilus: The Lagoon
John Mitchell: Gus and his Gang
Matthew J. Brady: Fables Vol. 11
Rob Clough: Essex County Vol. 3
Don MacPherson: Zombies Calling
Richard Krauss: The Envelope Licker
S Malik: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
Richard Bruton: Anthropomorphism In Action Vol. 4
Cathy Resmer: The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For
Bart Croonenborghs: An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2
 

 
December 18, 2008


“I Lied To Them. It Was Wrong.”

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Dave Olbrich has posted a confession about his conduct in the war of territory that ended in the dissolution of the Jack Kirby Awards back in the late 1980s. I'm not sure I can do justice to place this in exact context without causing more dissonance than clarity, but I thought it fairly fascinating reading. The Kirby Awards essentially split into the Eisner and Harvey Awards -- although even just saying I'm not sure there isn't a more detailed and nuanced way of stating that outcome.
 
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ANC’s Jacob Zuma Sues Zapiro

In a move that surprises no one except perhaps for the timing of it, African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma has sued the popular South African cartoonist Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro for a September cartoon showing him raping that country's judicial system. Zuma had earlier been acquitted of rape charges, which combined with the severity of the imagery made the cartoon an items of great controversy when it came out. In fact, the negative reaction to it on Zuma's behalf was considered a political victory for the oft-criticized and occasionally unpopular party leader. According to the piece, the complaint was drawn up a week after the cartoon's publication. Zuma is suing for an amount just over $700K.
 
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Tim Callahan’s Best Collections 2008

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Timothy Callahan at Comic Book Resources has released a list of Best Collected Editions for the calendar year 2008. His list includes, in order:

20. Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home, by Robin Furth and Peter David and Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
19. The Starman Omnibus Vol. 1, James Robinson and Tony Harris
18. Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
17. Jack Kirby's The Demon, Jack Kirby
16. Fishtown, Kevin Colden
15. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Joshua Cotter
14. Speak of the Devil, Gilbert Hernandez
13. Elektra by Frank Miller Omnibus, Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz
12. Justice League International Vol. 1, Keith Giffen and JM Dematteis and Kevin Maguire
11. Jack Kirby's O.M.A.C.: One Man Army Corps, Jack Kirby
10. Hellboy Library Vol. 1, Mike Mignola and John Byrne
9. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles
8. Howard Chaykin's American Flagg! Vol. 1, Howard Chaykin
7. Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
6. Punisher by Garth Ennis Omnibus, by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, and Various
5. Local, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
4. Absolute Ronin, Frank Miller
3. Omega the Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple
2. Absolute Sandman Vol. 4, Neil Gaiman and Various
1. Marvel Boy, Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Previews O/A Frequency Being Cut?

imageAs expected for several weeks now, it looks like Diamond will make some moves in reaction to the oncoming rough economic year expected nation- and world-wide in 2009. Self-publisher Rick Veitch seems to have unearthed official word that Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. plans to curtail its past policy to carry offered again or O/A books. In place was a longstanding policy where publishers could have available for store to order and carry older material, just designated as offered again. Someone steeped in DM history would have to tell me if this policy was official and intentional in a "we intend this to be the place where and the manner in which publishers offer their backlist material" way or if it's just something that kind of developed over the years as a few publishers and then several more goosed a system to ensure the most orders. Either way it developed, it was a boon to those publishers, and taking it away will almost certainly hurt them. It could also hurt the fabric of comic stores by driving them away, even in subtle fashion, from high-selling perennials.
 
posted 7:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Robert Boyd’s Best Books Of 2008

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Robert Boyd was employed for many years by the comics industry, including stints at at least five publishers. His list includes books that were not published in 2008 but were read by Boyd during this year. It includes:

* 110 Percent, Tony Consiglio
* Against Pain, Ron Rege
* Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
* American Flagg! Vol. 1, Howard Chaykin
* Blue Pills, Frederik Peeters
* B.P.R.D. Vol. 7, John Arcudi and Guy Davis and Mike Mignola
* Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, Art Spiegelman
* Burma Chronicles, Guy Deslisle
* Classic Screwball Strips: Happy Hooligan, Frederick Burr Opper
* Curses, Kevin Huizenga
* Explainers, Jules Feiffer
* Gary Panter, Gary Panter
* Glacial Period, Nicholas de Crecy
* Jamilti and Other Stories, Rutu Modan
* Journey Vol. 1, William Messner-Loebs
* Love & Rockets: New Stories #1, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez
* Moomin Vol. 3, Tove Jansson
* Nat Turner, Kyle Baker
* Nocturnal Conspiracies, David B.
* The Freak Brothers Omnibus, Gilbert Shelton and Dave Sheridan and Paul Mavrides
* The Complete Little Orphan Annie Col. 1, Harold Gray
* The Complete Terry & The Pirates Vol. 3, Milton Caniff
* The Complete Terry & The Pirates Vol. 4, Milton Caniff
* The Nancy Book, Joe Brainard
* Zot! The Complete Black-and-White Stories 1987-1991, Scott McCloud
 
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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #10

* one article of two today at comics business and news analysis site ICv2.com indicates the shape of the bookstore market from Tokyopop's point of view. In a nutshell: things don't look good.

* the other article of two today at comics business and news analysis site ICv2.com notes that comic stores have yet to feel the brunt of the current economic down spiral. I'm hearing potential 20 to 25 percent losses over the last couple of months in some shops.

* not exactly comics: this article by Jack Shafer says that job losses in the field of journalism were coming whether or not there was a recession, and we shouldn't overstate the importance of losing a bunch of redundant jobs just because those people have a vehicle for complaining loud and long. I think he's largely right, particularly about the relative lack of innovation in order to deal with the problems facing papers. I think the coverage of editorial cartoonists losing their jobs might be subject to that criticism, but I think the line most editorial cartoonist advocates take is that editorial cartoonists may be suffering not just because of a collapsing industry but that the nature of its rapid collapse is causing editorial cartoonists to lose job it would be smarter for them to retain. Also, it's interesting that local news is taking steps to increase the efficiency of its workers through improvements in technology, the lack of which is something I felt left newspapers awfully, awfully vulnerable to collapse.
 
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The Christmas At The Ford Rotunda Covers Are The Best Christmas Covers

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* It's not worth it at this point to name names, but I spent most of the first half-hour of my day whining about the full appropriation of a cartoon into another site, to the point that the site administrator quickly discovered and subsequently removed the offending post. So if you see that around, that's what that is. I'm glad for the outcome. This kind of thing happens more than you'd think, which is odd in that there are clear exceptions involving criticism (here's how this comic works), history (look at these comics from XXX years ago), news (strip causes controversy) and even sampling (check out these 100 strips of which this is one), to the point where it's usually super-obvious when someone crosses the line. There's so much not-actively protected material out there as well.

image* this MySpace.com exclusive Chris Onstad Christmas piece made me laugh.

* apparently, First Second's Mark Siegel always wanted to be a comic book publisher, which this article makes sound like the greatest job ever.

* a Carla and Lance Hoffman update at PW-sponsored comics culture site The Beat.

* if I'm reading the piece correctly, they're spending some money on renovating the comics-related murals in Brussels. I like the fact that there is public comics-related art in a big ol' city like that, much more than I enjoy Peanuts statues or whatever. It's like seeing the banners in San Diego during the big con, which is always nice, only much more impressive and all the time.

* someone out there wants your scans of old British small press comics.

* finally, the writer Kiel Phegley brought to my attention this mini back-and-forth between John Byrne and Tom Brevoort. It would be interesting to see if Byrne could find purchase at Marvel now in any capacity. Byrne has refined his style in a way that I don't think most older creators of Byrne's generation that are still out there working have refined theirs, in a way that I don't think most mainstream comics readers particularly appreciate. It's sort of like if some syndicated editor had suggested the gag-era Floyd Gottfredson take over Steve Canyon.
 
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Go, Look: Godless and Penniless

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Go, Look: A Great Plastic Man Story

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Go, Look: Sample Strip From Bub, He’s Always To Blame At Crumbling Paper

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Go, Bookmark: David Hahn Sketchblog

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Quick hits
One Week Away: Christmas In Comics
Thomas Nast Santa
Dennis, You Scamp
Santa Claus Funnies
Foodini and Pinhead?
I Really Want This Now
Comics Is An Art Form
Best Santa Image Ever
Little Lulu Chimney Gag
Hooray For Jingle Dingle
What's With All The Hats?
That Little She-Hulk Is Cute
Impaled Reindeer Still Alive
It Was A More Innocent Time
A Jack Kirby Page With Santa
Santa And The Snowball Patrol
Have A Very Broody Christmas
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Christmas With The Super-Heroes
Christmas With The Super-Heroes
Creepy Wolverine Christmas Image
Dream For Them, Nightmare For You
Superhero Christmas Cover Cavalcade
Looking Like That, He Has To Be Charming
Many Fans' First Comics Christmas Memory
What Are Those Things In The Bellhop Caps?
What A Real-Life Kirby Santa Might Look Like
For Christmas I Want To Be Archie's Fingertips
The Cover That Traumatized Four-Year-Old Me
Forgotten Supporting Characters For $800, Alex
Why Can't We Still Have Comic Books This Attractive?
 

 
December 17, 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 tomorrow I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and as a result, my retailer might eat my leftover birthday cake.

*****

AUG084052 WELCOME TO DINGBURG GN VOL 01 A ZIPPY COLLECTION $18.99
One day Zippy will be gone and we will all miss it a lot.

OCT084157 QUEST FOR MISSING GIRL (MR) $25.00
The surprise of the week -- at least if you barely pay attention to what's coming out, like me -- has to be this huge Jiro Taniguchi volume. Oh, I'd just love to see it.

AUG084286 ASTERIX OMNIBUS HC VOL 02 $27.95
So I'm guessing this is a repackaging of multiple Asterix albums like the ones they're doing with Tintin?

OCT080011 BEANWORLD HOLIDAY SPECIAL ONE SHOT $3.50
OCT082434 THOR GOD SIZED #1 $3.99
SEP084368 NAOKI URASAWAS MONSTER TP VOL 18 $9.99
There are a few respectable mainstream comics series with issues out this week like Walking Dead and Uncanny X-Men, but I'd more likely be drawn to Larry Marder's return to comic book comics and the new Matt Fraction-written mini-series starring Marvel's Thunder God. Similarly, I'm sure there are new volumes from manga series I read out this week, but my eyes feel on a new Monster.

OCT080223 HELLBLAZER #250 (NOTE PRICE) $3.99
250. Wow.

*****

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 a bit high, 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 comic, it's because no one sees your comic but you and that's because you passed away as a child and this comic that only exists when you look at it is the way you're trying to tell yourself to move onto the next life.

*****
*****
 
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E&P On Editorial Cartoonist Job Losses: Not As Bad Recently, Worse Historically?

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This brief up at Editor & Publisher gives a couple of different figure on staffed editorial cartoonist positions than what one usually hears on the subject. They still have 80 or so people holding these jobs in a masthead somewhere -- as opposed to a figure down as low as 60 that was bandied about this summer. They also cite someone giving a 300-person figure for the mid 1980s, which I'm not sure I've ever heard before, either (I've heard various thins, as high as 160 but not higher that I can recall). I guess the main point is that an 18 percent job loss is still ahead of journalism in general, and that ain't exactly a healthy field right now.

Here's an interview with one of those former staffed-position cartoonists, Richard Crowson, who used to be with the Wichita Eagle until being let go in I think late summer/early Fall.
 
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RC Baker’s Top Comics of 2008 List

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RC Baker has an article up with Village Voice detailing picks for the best of the calendar year 2008. It includes comics, art books and comics-related publications. Picks include:

* A People's History Of American Empire, Mike Konopacki and Howard Zinn (Metropolitan)
* Bat-Manga!, Chip Kidd (Pantheon)
* Berlin: City of Smoke, Jason Lutes (D&Q)
* Capacity, Theo Ellsworth (Secret Acres)
* Dope Menace, Stephen J. Gertz (Feral House)
* Garfied Minus Garfield, Jim Davis and Dan Walsh, (Ballantine)
* Get Your War On, David Rees (Soft Skull)
* Heavy Liquid, Paul Pope (Vertigo)
* Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric, Barry Feinstein and Bob Dylan (Simon and Schuster)
* I Live Here, Various (Pantheon)
* Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier (Abrams)
* Most Outrageous, Bob Levin (Fantagraphics)
* Nat Turner, Kyle Baker (Abrams)
* Watching the Watchmen, Dave Gibbons (Titan)
* Where Demented Wented, Rory Hayes (Fantagraphics)
 
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On Cartooning In The 21st Century

A lot of the value of this essay would seem to me specific to the British comics market. Plus I would disagree with some of the off-hand criticisms -- I feel a well-done editorial cartoon can be just as valuable as a graphic novel on the same subject matter. Still, the sense that media industries such as comics do not promote a realistic self-image in terms of the rewards involved seems to me a dead-on remark. I know that there are still many, many cartoonists and especially wannabe cartoonists that have an extremely distorted view of what certain rewards are actually like, such as believing that a collection of a comic strip will mean the creator is making Jim Davis money now. We could save a lot of people a lot of grief by being more forthright about this subject.
 
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If I Were In LA, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: HT Webster Panels

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I love the look and feel of Webster's world, plus he's quite easy to collect in old books
 
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Go, Look: Jeremy Eaton On Drugs

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Go, Look: Warren Kremer’s Hot Stuff

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the current chief executive of National Lampoon, which was built on and retains the name of one of the better comics-featuring magazines of the last half-century but has since become better known as a comedic film brand name, faces charges of attempting to manipulate stock values. (thanks, Robert Boyd)

image* here are two reports on the New York stop of the KE7 tour... that second link is stuffed with a lot of great photos. I particularly like the one where they show the custom pillowcases someone made in which to carry copies around. I opened my own copy of the over-sized volume yesterday, and I enjoyed the heck out of my flip through its pages. I look forward to a full read. I later saw one of my brothers sitting on the floor reading it and the book's gigantic size made him look as if he were only three feet tall. When your brain chooses to process the person reading it rather than the book as a different-than-usual size, that's worthy of note.

* don't forget the charity auction being held on behalf of the Fabers and the Hoffmans.

* people keep sending me this, so it must be making the rounds and I apologize to whomever had it first. It's a caustic rejoinder to a renewed comics snobs argument that is sort of burbling along out there somewhere, I'm guessing because of the new Blog@Newsarama team being much more inclined as a group to favor mainstream US comics than the old team was. I enjoyed the piece, although I have to say I'm at a point in my life where I just don't care to have those arguments over again. Even the uglier part of that dialogue, with its accusation that people recommend in inauthentic fashion certain comics because they feel they must, just doesn't interest me all that much.

* this post made me laugh.

* not comics: a good friend of mine passed along a link to this article about the recent blows felt by the publishing industry. There's a quote at the bottom of the page that compares what's going on to the general decline of American industry in the face of industrial technology changes at the beginning of the 20th Century that crosses the line into the slightly humorous, if only gallows-humorous. It's interesting that with publishing like a lot of industries you're hearing perfect storm analogies -- which seems to foist blame onto some unstoppable combination of economic downturn and paradigm-shifting encroachment of new technologies. Lot of perfect storms out there these days.

* again with the not comics: news that the Detroit paper is dropping home delivery strikes me as slightly insane, and pretty indicative of the strain for the most profits possible that has made so many media industries vulnerable to this latest economic downturn. My personal experience is that 30 years ago I always got the paper left to me inside my door by some paperboy or papergirl making toy or date money or contributing to the family bottom line. This became an adult in a truck heaving it towards my door from his cab -- sometimes making it there, sometimes not, sometimes skipping delivery altogether. I was always assured this was the best financial deal for newspapers. Not to get all Grandpa Simpson and all, but eliminating the option altogether does seem the logical next step.

* finally, a lot of you had the same reaction I did when links to this artist's site popped up on some general culture blogs yesterday: "That guy must have read that one Gilbert Hernandez story with all the statues underwater."
 
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Happy 54th Birthday, Beau Smith!

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Happy 54th Birthday, Michael Cherkas!

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Happy 56th Birthday, Ronn Sutton!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Matt Hollingsworth!

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Quick hits
Interviews/Profiles
Newsarama: Derf
CBR: Brian K. Vaughan
Pop Candy: Dash Shaw
Charente Libre: Philippe Dupuy, Charles Berberian

Not Comics
Dean Haspiel Drinks

Publishing
Is Yet Another Wolverine Title Redundant?

Reviews
Greg Burgas: Various
Chris Mautner: Alan's War
Steve Duin: Burma Chronicles
Arthur Smid: Powr Mastrs Vol. 2
Sandy Bilus: Essex County Vol. 3
Richard Bruton: Derek The Sheep
Robert Stanley Martin: The Lagoon
Don MacPherson: Phonogram Vol. 2 #1
Sean T. Collins: American Splendor: The Life And Times Of Harvey Pekar
Andrew Wheeler: An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2
 

 
December 16, 2008


Personal Milestone: I Had No Idea What The #1 Comic Book For November Was

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It was something called Ultimatum #1, which is apparently an events-driven mini-series set in Marvel's Ultimate Universe. The initial sales and analysis article at the ICv2.com site notes the absence of most top-selling series from the stands in November and has only posted its supplementary Top 300 actual comics sales list, which means they have a graphic novel and another analysis post yet to roll out. It's interesting to note that both mainstream companies feel so comfortable with haphazard publication schedules in this day and age. One has to guess that it benefits these companies more to have that kind of flexibility in their publishing routines than they feel they'd gain over time by making everything run a lot more tightly in terms of not stacking titles, and having stuff out on a consistent, dependable basis.
 
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Jeff Smith’s Top Books For 2008

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Jeff Smith has his top books for 2008 list posted here. It has two books I don't think I've seen on anyone else's lists.

* Slow Storm, Danica Novgorodoff (First Second)
* Hamlet, Neil Babra (Spark Publishing)
* Echo, Terry Moore (Abstract Studios)
* Too Cool to be Forgotten, Alex Robinson (Top Shelf)
* Amulet, Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic/Graphix)
* The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers, Sarnath Banerjee (Penguin Global)
 
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Returns Led To Devil’s Due Layoffs

From The Beat I see that popular columnist Rich Johnston got Josh Blaylock of Devil's Due on the record about layoffs at his company: apparently, heavy returns in November caused the personnel adjustment. I'm not sure there's too much more to say about that. That's what happened, they're confident the adjustments at the company will improve the bottom line, and now we have something for which to be on the watch concerning other companies.
 
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Wim Lockefeer’s Best Books Of 2008

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One of the Forbidden Planet International Blog crew, Wim Lockefeer, presents the dozen books making up his best of the year list:

* Paul Goes Fishing, Michel Rabagliati (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel (DC/Vertigo)
* Slaapkoppen, Randall C (Oogachtend)
* Bienvenue A Boboland Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian (Fluide Glacial)
* Goodbye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
* Le Promeneur, Jiro Taniguchi and Masayuki Kusumi (Casterman)
* Local, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (Oni)
* Coeurs D'acier: Hearts Of Steel, Yves Chaland (Champaka)
* The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)
* Chickenhare: Fire In The Hole, Chris Grine (Dark Horse)
* La Sainte Trinite, Franck Bourgeron (Futuropolis)
* Wormdye, Eamon Espey (Secret Acres)

Lockefeer names Wormdye his book of the year.
 
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Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

I thought this was worth giving its own edition of the column: Fantagraphics will apparently be publishing a Hans Rickheit work called The Squirrel Machine. Rickheit is a vastly under-seen talent.
 
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I Love Going To The Comic Book Shop

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All About Comics, Phoenix, December 13. About $42 all told. I tend to only buy superhero comics when I go to comic book shops. When I lived in Seattle, the clerk at my store of choice noted this, assumed I was a true believer to the exclusion of other types of comics, and consistently talked shit about the patrons buying Tom Hart and Paul Pope and Megan Kelso comics the second they left the store.
 
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Cartoonists And Hipster Ilk Terrify LA Neighborhood Of Atwater Village

Okay, not really. But I like that this picture of Josh Simmons and Anders Nilsen in the LA Times gets saddled with this negative context. I got it from here.
 
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It’s Refrigerator Perry’s Birthday, Too

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Richard Thompson celebrates Beethoven's 238th. Charles Schulz must have done two to three dozen strips on this subject, for obvious reasons.
 
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Go, Look: Monday’s Dustin Harbin

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Go Watch: James Kochalka Interview


 
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I’ll Steal This From Dirk Straight Up

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from Dirk Deppey, some of Al Hirschfeld's illustrations for SJ Perelman's Westward Ha!
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I had fun reading comics-savvy parent Noah Berlatsky's very funny dissection of a comic ostensibly for little kids.

image* this post from Craig Thompson about drawing on the plane leads one to this site and a Little Nemo tribute book I hadn't heard of before. Or I'd forgotten. Does anyone know if it's any good?

* the critic Domingos Isabelinho may be tough on some of the comics you like and think are good, but he's always a thrill to read on the comics he likes and thinks are good. Here he is on the great Yoshiharu Tsuge.

* surely the great question of our time.

* not comics: one of the more interesting thing about the newspaper death spiral is that there's been no easy consensus on exactly what it is blogs do, let alone how to make use of them. A recently-announced deal seems to portray one prominent blog as an elite content generator. However, this article seems to see blogs as avenues for access that largely stand on the content generated by traditional media sources. I actually see them as evolving creatures within their various contexts, which is one of the reasons the relative lack of original news content generation in blog covering comics never bothered me: I figure it comes with time.

* also not comics: it looks like they poured a lot of money into this commercial for Hugh Jackman's trainer.

* finally, whoever bet that Larry Marder was playing a huge practical joke on everyone by talking about returning to Beanwold now has to deal with photographic evidence to the contrary.
 
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Happy 40th Birthday, Ariel Bordeaux!

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Happy 40th Birthday, Marshall Pryor!

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Mr. Pryor will spend today's birthday as he's spent the last several: pushing children down at the local shopping mall
 
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Quick hits
Craft
On The Eternalness Of Superheroes

Exhibits/Events
Video From Fanta Store Event

History
On Grendel

Industry
Promotions At Archie
Matt Maxwell On 2008
CWR On State Of Industry

Interviews/Profiles
20Q: Zak Sally
BBC News: Laura Howell
Daily Cross Hatch: Mike Dawson 01
Daily Cross Hatch: Mike Dawson 02
Washington Post Magazine: Andre Campbell

Not Comics
Things Are Bad When This Is News
Aubrey Beardsley Art Sells For A Lot

Publishing
Marc Mason On Diversity

Reviews
Steve Duin: Jin & Jam #1
Greg Oleksiuk: Little Things
Zak Edwards: Young Liars #10
John Mitchell: Gus And His Gang
Sandy Bilus: Nocturnal Conspiracies
Joe Infunari: The Sands Of Sarasvati
Johanna Draper Carlson: Moresukine
Nina Stone: Justice League of America #27
Richard Bruton: Stickleback: England's Glory
Paul O'Brien: Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2
Leroy Douresseaux: Princess Ai The Prism Of Midnight Dawn Vol. 1
 

 
December 15, 2008


Another Cartoonist Loses His Position

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This time it's Rob Tornoe at the web site network Politicker.com. According to Tornoe, the layoffs at the multiple-site company came from the owners reducing their network of state-specific sites from 17 to 5. Tornoe will be doing freelance cartoons once a week for the remaining such sites, so he'll still be working for his former full-time employer. Tornoe also does cartoons for the Press (Atlantic City, NJ) and syndicates those cartoons to other New Jersey newspapers, and told CR he will be keeping that gig. He will continue to blog cartooning news and event coverage here. We wish him luck in finding new opportunities.
 
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Gerard Lauzier, 1932-2008

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Gerard Lauzier, the 1993 winner of the Grand Prix at Angouleme, passed away on Saturday, December 6 in Paris after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

Lauzier was an important talent in the 1970s whose career in comics was actually relatively brief. He also worked as a playwright, screenwriter and a film director. If I had to compare him to an American cartoonist, it would be to Jules Feiffer. Both created works of tremendous sophistication about life, sex, and morals; both featured acidic takes on contemporary society; and both had success writing for live theatre and film as well as in comics.

imageLauzier emerged into comics from the world of commercial illustration with the publication of Lili Fatale, a political/erotic/adventure comic for adults that was serialized in Pilote. At the same time, he was producing Tranches de vie ("Slices of Life") for that same magazine, the series for which he would become best known.

Nonetheless, within about six years his career as a cartoonist was winding down. By the early-1980s Lauzier was largely done with comics. In 1980 he wrote his first play, Le Garcon d'appartement (directed by the well-known French actor Daniel Auteuil) and his book La course du rat was adapted to the screen by Francois Leterrier as Je vais craquer. The next year he wrote the screenplay for Psi, a farce.

imageIn 1982 he became a filmmaker, writing and directing the comedy T'empeches tout le monde de dormer. Over the next two decades he would direct six films in all. The best known of these, in North America, would be Mon pere, ce heros (1991) starring Gerard Depardieu, which was remade in the United States under the name My Father, The Hero three years later, with Depardieu reprising his role.

In 1992, Lauzier returned to comics, publishing his last major work: Portrait de l'artiste. The next year he was awarded the Grand Prize at the Angouleme Festival. In 1999 he wrote the screenplay for Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar, the first of the contemporary live-action Asterix films starring Depardieu and Christian Clavier as the titular heroes.

For me personally, Lauzier only became an important cartoonist recently. I was far too young to be reading his material in Pilote in the 1970s, and because he left comics so soon, he was not the type of artist whose work you'd be constantly reminded of. My appreciation for him likely stems from the exhibition at Angouleme a few years ago that drew connections between the Pilote generation of the 1970s and the Poisson Pilote generation of the 2000s, where his comics were placed in dialogue with those of Riad Sattouf. Reading his pages there, I was struck by the fact that I had missed out on a major talent, and I picked up his Tranches de vie work.

Lauzier did not have a particularly long career in comics, but the fact that he was awarded the Grand Prize at Angouleme is an indicator of how well respected he was within the field. He is probably best known for the sophistication of his writing, but his drawings were really no less accomplished. If any of his work has been translated into English, I'm unaware of it.
 
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Your 2008 Prix Artemisia Nominees

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If I'm reading the article at ActuaBD.com correctly, the nominees for this year's award given a female creator by the women in BD advocacy group l'Association Artemisia were announced during a meeting at Les centres Leclerc. They are:

* Scrooge, by Estelle Meyrand (Delcourt)
* Esthetique et filatures, by Tanxxx and Lisa Mandel (Kster)
* Lettres d'Agathe, by Nathalie Ferlut (Delcourt)
* Marzi, by Marzena Sowa and Sylvain Savoia (Dupuis)
* Frances, by Joanna Hellgren (Cambourakis)
* Tamara Drewe, by Posy Simmonds (Denoel Graphic)
* Zeste, by Celine Wagner (Des ronds dans l'O)
* Bons, mauvais, grands et petits joueurs, by Anne Rouquette (Lito)

Analysis at the article seems to cite the mix of small publishers and large publishers, the emergence of younger cartoonists and the appearance of autobiographical work on the list. The award, which I think will be the group's second, will be given out on January 9.
 
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Johnny Bacardi’s Top Ten For 2008

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Johnny Bacardi is a long-time on-line reviewer and contributor to multiple comics-related offerings. His list was presented in alphabetical order.

* Aqua Leung, Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury (Image)
* B.P.R.D.: 1946, Mike Mignola and Josh Dysart and Paul Azaceta (Dark Horse)
* Criminal Vol. 2, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
* Freddie and Me, Mike Dawson (Bloomsbury)
* Hellboy: The Crooked Man, Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
* Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin, Joe Casey and Eric Canete (Marvel)
* Love & Rockets: New Stories, Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts, Dan Brereton (Image)
* Omega The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Faryl Dalrymple (Marvel)
* Scalped, Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera and Davide Furno (DC/Vertigo)
 
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Dan Goldman’s Best Of The Year 2008

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Via an interview with the indispensable Forbidden Planet blog:

* Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Josh Cotter (AdHouse)
* The Cream of Tank Girl, Jamie Hewlett (Titan)
* Freddie and Me, Mike Dawson (Bloomsbury)

Dan Goldman is the webcomics cartoonist behind Kelly and the artist behind 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail, due early 2009.
 
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If I Were Anywhere Close, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Joanna Hellgren

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Go, Look: Frazetta Draws Tarzan

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Not Comics: Airbrush Art Book

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I always forget how much non-comics stuff PictureBox has been doing...
 
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Go, Look: Club Batman Blog

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please don't ask me to justify this
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this is the kind of post that usually gets me a sternly-worded e-mail from someone that knows that industry, but this seems to be saying that Hachette has bought out the 40 percent stake in Asterix owned by Albert Uderzo and the 20 percent stake controlled by Anne Goscinny to take full control of that worldwide icon. I think. Doesn't sound like anyone is surprised by the move.

* the prominent comics blogger Heidi MacDonald brings word of firings at Tokyopop.

image* I enjoyed reading Frank Santoro's Kramers Ergot tour diary early this morning, as well as Chris Butcher's report on the Toronto stop. Am I just really tired, or does anyone else think that this group photo of Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 cartoonists makes it look like they're getting ready to do a couple hours of comedic improv?

* if they ever ask you why the comics industry is Onion-knockoff proof, remember the Harvey Pekar Jazz Opera. I mean, I'm sure it's really good, but the idea and the title sound like something somebody made up.

* not comics: Pia Zadora yes, Dark Knight no.

* finally, I'm not sure that comparing President-Elect Obama's treatment by cartoonists to that afforded Richard Nixon makes any sense: Nixon was a well-known figure and already reviled in certain quarters based on his record; I can't think of a candidate that was already disliked like that going in except maybe Roosevelt. But shocker of shockers, cartoonists taking a second look realize they can draw the new guy after all.
 
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Happy 55th Birthday, JM Dematteis!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Zep!

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Happy 43rd Birthday, Ted Slampyak!

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Happy 48th Birthday, Philippe Dupuy!

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Quick hits
History
On the Weird War Tales Covers
Jack Cole Would Have Been 94 Yesterday

Interviews/Profiles
KFAI: Various Twin Cities Cartoonists

Not Comics
Speedy Recovery, Greg McElhatton
Christmas Recipes Of Comics Creators

Publishing
She's Not Facing Anyone
Let's All Chat About Raping Supergirl
Attempting Cold Dissection Of Final Crisis

Reviews
Jog: Shirtlifter #3
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Don MacPherson: JLA #27
Chris Mautner: Tiny Tyrant
Paul O'Brien: Phonogram #1
Koppy McFad: Final Crisis #5
Leroy Douresseaux: Black Sun
Hervé St-Louis: Tamara Drewe
Jeff Lester: Punisher: War Zone
Charles Hatfield: Burma Chronicles
Sandy Bilus: Nocturnal Conspiracies
Johanna Draper Carlson: Gimmick Vol. 1
Koppy McFad: Ambush Bug: Year None #5
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Jamilti and Other Stories
Richard Krauss: Epic Tales of the Mundane #5
Robert Stanley Martin: The Moth Or The Flame
Johanna Draper Carlson: We Were There Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 1

 

 
December 14, 2008


Ten Questions For Which I Have No Answer, Or At Least Not One I Like

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By Tom Spurgeon

In no particular order, here's what I'll be thinking on over the holiday season, hoping that I'll be better able to provide some sort of answers in the New Year.

image1. Why Don't Alternative Comic Books Sell Better In Comics Shops?
The general answer may be obvious on the surface of it: they don't appeal to as many people as other kinds of comics, and today's versions don't appeal to as many people as those being published a while back did. There are even competing arguments as to the specifics: not enough big-name alternative titles anymore vs. not enough titles overall to provide a tipping point that would inspire regular customer visits. There's a construction of logic that bothers me, though. Fifteen years ago it was conventional wisdom and strongly supported in anecdotal fashion that comic books ranging in popularity from Eightball to Artbabe sold the vast majority of their issues in a tiny, tiny handful of stores. Since then we seem to have seen a significant proliferation of stores like those stores. Why hasn't there been a corresponding surge in alternative comics sales?

image2. Why On Earth Does Marvel Think $3.99 Comic Books Is A Good Idea?
I haven't talked to a single Direct Market retailer that thinks Marvel will have any $2.99 books left by Labor Day 2009. Granted, I don't talk to a ton of retailers on a regular basis, but I'm guessing from the level of agreement in my small sample that this is a strongly held opinion and at least a very real likelihood. While the company's desire for a $3.99 comic book to better take advantage of hardcore fans and to ameliorate against lost print ad revenue -- have you looked at the preponderance of house ads in a standard Marvel comic recently? -- seems easy to figure out, the danger involved in jacking up the price 33 percent as we slip deeper into a recession seems very real. The severity of this leap might be compounded to terms of mainstream comics because few mainstream comic book readers buy one comic book; they buy several at a time. If someone is a $40 a week shopper, and is lucky to remain so in tough economic times, they've just gone from being able to buy 13 comics to being able to buy ten. I can't think of any change like that for any kind of entertainment, ever.

image3. Why Has DC's Final Crisis Been So Cocked Up?
The discussion as to why DC Comics let their Final Crisis comic book event be executed as if it lurched out the door, clutched its chest, set itself on fire and then rolled around in broken glass seems to have devolved into bizarre Internet parodies of reasonable positions: angry jeremiads about the utter stupidity and ineptness of the current DC brain trust vs. self-styled realists lecturing in acidic tones to why none of this matters in the long run unless you're a big nerd that cares about stupid things. What's missing is a cold dissection as to the why and how of this happening. It seems obvious from the outside looking in that there were sales left on the table and momentum potentially lost due to the haphazard scheduling and creative dissonance. It's a summer event series that may conclude its run in the lousiest-selling time of the year, from the company that focused so much on this one series it had other series whose issue numbers riffed on its arrival.

4. Why Have Sales Gone Up On The Lower Part Of The Top 300?
The comics at the bottom of the sales estimates have apparently gone up even as the top of the charts remains locked into a successful top ten to twenty followed by a slightly steep slide into the second-rung performers paradigm. I've seen plenty of people note the bottom-chart success, and some stick their chest out about it, but I have yet to see a convincing explanation for it. If you're going to ask me to believe that it just means that market is healthier than previous thought, I want to know why it is right now in that specific way when it wasn't before.

image5. Why Is It That People Still Don't Seem To Get The CBLDF?
A significant portion of the comics industry and the culture that surrounds that industry spent much of the 1990s making sure people knew they didn't find Mike Diana's work valuable even if they were supporting him. A slightly different cross-section spent much of the 2000s explaining why Gordon Lee was a bad retailer who either deserved what happened to him or was damn lucky he was being helped out. Now some people seem to be focusing on the nature of the material Christopher Handey had in his possession and his reasons for having it. Only a small portion of the CBLDF's supporters seem to have remained consistent in their belief that the Fund is about law, not people. Why is this? Are comics fans fundamentally conservative? Are they conditioned to think in terms of good guys and bad guys? Does the Fund rely too much on emphasizing the sympathetic victim and the personal appeal of its most ardent supporters in a way that gives rise to a gag reflex? I honestly don't know.

6. Why Is No One Alarmed That DC/Marvel Dominate Market Share?
I don't think the dominance of the bigger mainstream comics companies in the Direct Market surprises anyone, but as there was a moral component to arguments against this the first time it happened I'm surprise there isn't at least a bit more noise about it now. It also seems slightly unhealthy, and there seems to be a risk in that the bigger companies haven't always paid attention to anything outside of their specific, short-term self-interest.

image7. Whatever Happened to Traditional Self-Publishing?
The last I looked, the only person still following the traditional self-publishing model and having any success at it is Jeff Smith, with RASL. I'm probably forgetting one or two people, but the general notion remains the same. A fallacy of the 1990s wave of self-publishing was the insistence by some that anyone could do it if they just tried hard enough, an assertion that ignored how much a certain kind of artistic temperament, support system and level of productivity contributed to the most successful one-creator, one-title efforts. Still, it seems like a viable way to build a business, and given the way that younger creators seem to know more about more facets of the business than previous generations, it's amazing to me there aren't at least a handful of creators steering their own ships. Are the market barriers just too difficult now? Does the Image option satisfy this role for most creators?

image8. Why Is The Fact That A Few People Are Making That Kind Of Money On Webcomics Not A Bigger Story?
If you've been to a webcomics panel recently, a lot of the discussion seems to revolve around making money off of one's efforts on-line. Clearly, the vast majority of people still don't. Many people never will. But a handful of those involved in this aspect of comics reportedly see middle class revenues roll in by creating enough attention through their free offerings to drive business to merchandising, licensing and even publishing. I'm not suggesting that this needs to be copied, as I don't know that it's a model that can be replicated. I just wonder why it isn't discussed in more matter-of-fact fashion. People either seem bored by this notion as if it were inevitable or stunned by it as if it's totally not believable.

image9. How Many Staffed Editorial Cartoonist Positions Will There Be Ten Years From Now?
After a few years where it seemed like there would be a profession-wide digging-in to help counter the slow decline of staffed editorial cartoonists, those same elements seem caught flat-footed by the freefall in those jobs driven by the collapsing newspaper industry. Suddenly, a general insistence that cartoonists are popular and that newspapers that dump them are stupid doesn't seem to be enough to stem the tidal wave of firings. Could there be fewer than 20 such cartoonists with those kinds of jobs when the newspaper industry shifts into a new role – if they're able to make it through the transition period? While some cartoonists seem more likely to keep their positions than others, there isn't a single individual firing that would shock the majority of observers.

image10. What Is The Big Picture Future Of Translated Manga?
I haven't seen anyone describe in even general terms a future for translated manga beyond some folks making assurances it will continue and be really, really successful and other people writing semi-snotty articles and message board posts that the opportunity for traction from bigger licenses seems to be on the wane. I'd love to see someone address the future for this kind of publishing in more direct fashion that didn't seem like a snow job, and be allowed to do so without people proclaiming that this means they hate those kinds of comics or that they'll eventually be shown up for betting against that field. I mean, I assume the future is at least different from the present, right?
 
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December 13, 2008


If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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Five Link A Go Go

* go, watch: Dame Darcy in Golden Shoes

* go, watch: Fly Tales

* go, watch: Enki Bilal Mix

* go, watch: weird Francois Schuiten video

* go, watch: Kampung Boy Cartoon In English
 
posted 11:40 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Thirty Ways To Die Of Electrocution

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thanks, Jeffrey Meyer
 
posted 11:05 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
First Thought Of The Day

I love you, Mr. Mailman, but you're not endearing yourself to me with the fake attempted delivery notice.
 
posted 11:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Next Few Weeks In Comics Events

December 14
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December 15
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December 17
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December 18
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December 23
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December 24
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from December 6 to December 12:

1. Tribune Co. files bankruptcy. Media company loaded with debt becomes poster child of problems facing newspapers. Company owns ten dailies and one of the traditional comic strip syndicates.

2. Judge in Australia rules that dirty pictures of the Simpsons are actionable pornography.

3. Details of iPhone comics initiative with uClick announced and discussed.

Winner Of The Week
Posy Simmonds

Loser Of The Week
People that like sweating and being cramped.

Quote Of The Week
"As you know, Kent, it's tough time right now for newspapers..." -- Perry White

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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December 12, 2008


If I Were In Seattle, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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posted 11:50 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Charles Boucher on Dame Darcy at Countermedia (PR) (12/10/08)
* John Vest On Eros Comix (12/10/08)
 
posted 11:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 47th Birthday, Philippe Francq!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 43rd Birthday, Kyle Baker!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 40th Birthday, Joseph Michael Linsner!

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posted 11:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Friday Distraction: Cool Previews

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Incognito, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
this looks super-pretty, and that teams' previous efforts have been a lot of fun; I have these, but I can never tell if I'm allowed to run them or if I'm getting them to look at, so please go through the link to take a peek

*****

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My Mommy Is In America And She Met Buffalo Bill, Jean Regnaud and Emile Bravo
Bart Beaty reviewed the French-language edition here

*****

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Post-It Note Show Preview, Giant Robot
this looks like a lot of fun; show opens December 13
 
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Leon Lazarus, 1919/20-2008

imageThe writer Leon Lazarus, who scripted a number of comic book stories from the years 1947 until the middle 1960s, died in West Caldwell, New Jersey, late last month. He was either 88 or 89 years old -- his official obituary says 89.

Lazarus was born in New York City. He served during World War II as a radar instructor for the Army Air Corps in Italy. Upon return to America, Lazarus began his career as a writer of comics in 1947 at Martin Goodman's comic book company. He first worked for Editor Stan Lee and then for editor Al Jaffee as an assistant on the teen/humor books.

He also worked for Goodman's Magazine Management line on a number of publications, including a great deal of editing.

Two of Lazarus' public credits were "Wes Wilson, Worry-Wart" in 1961's Unknown Worlds #6 and the superhero story "When Attuma Strikes" in 1965's Tales to Astonish #64. Most of his works was believe to be uncredited; Fred Hembeck wrote CR to say that he always thought the Lazarus credit on the Tales To Astonish story was a pseudonym for someone else. A daughter posting to The Comics Treadmill board in 2004 said that her father did about 1500 comic book stories during this period.

He was the brother of Harry Lazarus, who built a fairly extensive comic book bibliography in the 1950s. Another brother Sid was an artist who worked for Fawcett, Holyoke and Quality in the 1940s before moving into magazine illustration.

He is survived by a wife, two daughters and four grandchildren.
 
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Go, Read: Kim Thompson On Bart Beaty’s Review Of The New Spirou

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posted 7:38 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Man Sentenced For Robbery Related To Shooting Of Retailer David Pirkola

James Muriel-Neal Thompson was sentenced to seven to 30 years in prison for armed robbery in relation to the attempted robbery and assault that led to the shooting of comics retailer David Pirkola last April. Pirkola, who spent a long time in critical condition, did not attend the sentencing. The young man apologized to Pirkola and his family as part of his statement. Part of the sentencing agreement includes a pledge for the man to aid in prosecution of the other two men involved, one set for trial and the other at large.
 
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John Martz’ Best Books Of 2008

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John Martz of Drawn! has released a list of top comics and art books for the year. Like the Drawn! site itself, there are works on here that make you go, "Holy crap, that's out?"

* Wacky Packages, Topps and Art Spiegelman
* Bigfoot: I Not Dead, Graham Roumieu
* Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, Chip Kidd
* Ojingogo, Matt Forsythe
* Albert & The Others, Guy Delisle
* St. Trinian's: The Entire Appalling Business, Ronald Searle
* Secret Weapon: 30 Hand-Painted Spam Postcards, Linzie Hunter
* As I See, Boris Artzybasheff
* Hall of Best Knowledge, Ray Fenwick
* Art of the Modern Movie Poster: International Postwar Style and Design, Judith Salavetz and Spencer Drate and Sam Sarowitz and Dave Kehr
* What It Is, Lynda Barry
* Sir Reginald's Logbook, Matt Hammill
 
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Matt Forsythe’s Best Books For 2008

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Matt Forsythe, a talented cartoonist and one of the contributors to the Drawn! blog, has released a best-of list for 2008. His list includes a couple of volumes that came out in previous years that he read this year, so if you're using it for research you'll need to double-check. If you're using it to find good books to read, you should have no problems.

* Cul de Sac, Richard Thompson
* The Sea Serpent and Me, Catia Chien and Dashka Slater
* My Brain is Hanging Upside Down, David Heatley
* ABC3D, Marion Battelle
* The Nicholas series, Rene Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe
* Bagel's Lucky Hat, Hector Mumbly
* Tekkonkinkreet, Taiyo Matsumoto
* The Fart Party, Julia Wertz
 
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The Washington Post’s Best Of 2008

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Here's a short list of best comics of the year that appeared on the Washington Post web site.

* The Alcoholic, By Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel (DC/Vertigo)
* Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
* Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight, Volume Two: No Future for You, Brian K. Vaughan and Georges Jeanty and Joss Whedon (Dark Horse)
* The Complete K Chronicles, Keith Knight (Dark Horse)
* Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC)
* Y: The Last Man #60, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (DC/Vertigo)
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Your 2008 Political Cartoon Society (UK) Cartoonist Of The Year Winner

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Cartoonist/blogger Rob Tornoe picks up on Morten Morland winning the Political Cartoon Society's Cartoonist Of The Year award on Wednesday night in London. The award is juried, and deals with the entire year's worth of work. Morland's appears every Sunday in The Times. Tornoe also points to Morland's reaction here. Steve Bell won for best single cartoon. The organization's web site is here.
 
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Shannon Smith’s Best Of 2008

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Shannon Smith, who majors in coverage of mini-comics with a minor in webcomics, has posted an extensive list of favorites from 2008. Among the books and efforts cited:

* 26 Robots, J. Chris Campbell
* American Elf, James Kochalka
* Atom Bomb Bikini, Rob Ullman
* Anders Loves Maria, Rene Engstrom
* Bird Doggin', Brad McGinty
* Burning Building Comix, Jeff Zwirek
* Candy or Medicine, Various
* Demons of Sherwood, Robert Tinnell and Bo Hampton
* Good Minnesotan
* Mallard
* Not My Small Diary #14
* Paper Pusher, Brad McGinty
* Rashy Rabbit #4, Josh Latta
* Shitbeams on the Loose
* The Deadbeat, Jeremy Massie
* The Dharblog Dustin Harbin
 
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Time Names Top 10 Editorial Cartoons

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Time has a list of top ten editorial cartoons for 2008 up with a bunch of other lists, not including a comics list as they'd done in years past. Although they're not fully credited unless their copyright information includes their full name, cartoonists with work on the list are Gary Varvel, Bob Gorrell, Chip Bok, RJ Matson, Nate Beeler, Heng Kim Song, Walt Handelsman, Rob Rogers and Chris Jurek.
 
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If I Were In Chicago, I’d Go To This

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Go, Look: Josh Simmons Art Sale

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Not Comics: San Diego Minus The Con

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Peggy Burns has posted pictures of a "workation" in San Diego related to the book business portion of Drawn and Quarterly's vast panoply of sales avenues. It's interesting if you're someone who only hits SD in the summer when the convention is on. I can testify to the old-school cool of the Hotel Del Coronado (even as touristy as it gets), the funky vibe of that library, and the perennial appeal of In-n-Out if you don't have one nearby.
 
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OTBP: Kuti 10

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Go, Look: Visiting San Diablo

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Go, Look: Reed Crandall’s Edgar Rice Burroughs Portfolio From Witzend

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* here's some great news that I failed to post yesterday: progress on the long road back for Carla and Lance Hoffman, victims of a flash fire in southern California. Carla is a well-liked comics retail employee and blogger about comics. Benefit auction updates here. (thanks, Lea Hernandez)

image* holiday gift-giving alert: Criterion has just put on sale a number of prints related to some of their DVD and DVD set packaging art, including work from Darwyn Cooke (that's his art pictured here) and Jaime Hernandez. I'm not sure why that strikes me as something I should post, but I'm going with my initial impulse.

* while I'm at it, Spike of Templar, Arizona wrote me and asked me to direct people to this sale. I don't do a ton of that, so please don't start writing in, but I can hardly blow off the self-publishing web cartoonist and aid the big DVD maker on the same day without feeling guilty.

* the writer James Vance weighs in on Steven Grant versus a bunch of bloggers, including me.

* did I forget to mention that the Reed Elsevier has taken the magazine publishing unit Reed Business off the market due to the troubled economy meaning they won't get what they feel is a fair price for it? I think I have that right. Among the magazines published by Reed Business is comics-savvy Publishers Weekly.

* this is... um...

* the prominent comics blogger Dick Hyacinth writes about the various Top 10 lists being made, including an analysis of major articles and blog posts about such lists that have shown up in recent days.

* finally, here's a note from Gary Dunaier: "Here's a fun piece of trivia -- the site of the 2009 MoCCA Art Festival (the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Avenue and East 25th Street) is just a couple of blocks away from 387 Park Avenue South, where Marvel Comics had their offices in the 1980s." I've only received a few e-mails from folks about the the Festival moving from the Puck Building, and they were all positive.
 
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Happy 85th Birthday, Morrie Turner!

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Happy 88th Birthday, Fred Kida!

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Happy 55th Birthday, Mark Landman!

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Happy 33rd Birthday, Pat Lewis!

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Quick hits
History
On Millennium #8

Interviews/Profiles
The Link: Dave Lapp

Publishing
Bone Is Really Popular
MAD Names Palin Top Idiot

Reviews
Chris Randle: KE7
Paul O'Brien: Various
Johnny Bacardi: Various
Patrick Godfrey: Various
Hervé St-Louis: Tiny Life
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Various
Paul O'Brien: X-Infernus #1
Greg McElhatton: Alan's War
KC Carlson: Marvel Chronicle
Paul O'Brien: Haunted Tank #1
Leroy Douresseaux: Monster Vol. 18
Greg McElhatton: Thunderbolts #126
Leroy Douresseaux: Passionate Theory
Zak Edwards: The Wonderful World Of Oz #1
Zak Edwards: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #45
 

 
December 11, 2008


A Dreary Response To Steven Grant

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The writer Steven Grant has posted a response to general criticism, including mine, of his "Permanent Damage" column last week where he declared that "2008 was one dreary year for comics" and that his best-of list was "two items long, and both were reprints."

I'm not certain I should post a response because 1) back-and-forth Internet arguments tend to be really boring, and 2) Grant kicks off the column by asserting that his column "ruffled feathers" as opposed to people just disagreeing with it. He then surprisingly just sort of mocks something I said, which makes me think he's not really engaging with the arguments but assuming a defensive crouch.

But I'm going to write this anyway, because I respect Grant, and his opinions are usually interesting. And the notion of really good comics is always worth talking about.

A lot of what gets argued by Grant is sort of beside the point. I can't find anyone that accuses him of not liking a lot of comics that came out in 2008, as he seems to assert. If they did, they were wrong. He openly states that in the original article. Even if there were a few people that misspoke, I think most people were pretty clearly engaging his call-out on the particular dreariness of 2008 and his inability in making a best-of list for the year.

Grant's digression into whether or not reprints should be something with which critics should engage in coming to terms with 2008 is compelling, but seems to me beside the point because Grant himself said he was including reprints. That doesn't make it right -- and we can all write long essays over whether or not you should include new comics, new and old comics, or some standard in between (like Tucker Stone's readily available standard) when making these lists -- but you can't really blame people responding to an article to adopt the standards of that article!

imageGrant's also I think right in saying that some of the choices on best-of lists are dubious and wouldn't be on mine or what I think of as a Best-Of. I even agree with him on the promising but not great example he selects. You can have all sorts of disagreements about all sorts of lists, even on the best books. Grant declares that Alice In Sunderland was last year's clear best work. I don't agree. Neither did Dirk Deppey, for example -- his choice was The Arrival. So what? It's another side issue. The issue brought up in the original article isn't whether some people make bad choices, or whether people properly back what you feel is the best choice. We're talking about whether 2008 was dominated by dreariness and what to make of Grant's proclamation that he only thought two works -- including reprints -- could be on a best-of list.

As for the celebrity argument, the notion that part of this dreariness is that more cartoonists and comics authors should be celebrities -- or have the force and perks of their public personae -- with Mark Millar being the example selected, well, I just disagree with that argument. Strongly. To suggest that I'm retreating to the old saw of wanting comics to remain obscure because I like it that way, or that I somehow don't think cartoonists deserve to be famous is cheap emotionalism. I think cartoonists should be the most famous people of all -- B. Kliban rules, that's what I'd like. I would be perfectly happy if Mark Millar were on TMZ.net every single day for punching people out in bars. But he isn't. I don't see this as a shortcoming, and I don't see it not happening as specific to comics.

imageAt one point many cartoonists were quite relatively famous. But comics doesn't fill that role now. Most playwrights and authors of similar cultural saturation enjoy the same level of semi-obscurity. So do most radio personalities. So do the vast majority of actors and filmmakers, especially if you leave the coasts, including most of the best ones. Those that do have a public image of some sort, say John Hodgman, are less well-known than we think and almost certainly not known for their published work. Sure, it would be terrific if more people recognized cartoonists as the giant walking piles of awesomeness many of them are, if Matt Groening were better known than Tom Hanks instead of making a rare appearance here and there on The Daily Show. But I don't think it's realistic. I don't think it matters. People loving Groening's work to the point they crap their pants upon being introduced to him seems to me more important than the fact he probably requires an introduction. The one makes me happier than the other makes me feel dreary. That Matt Groening is known and rewarded for Homer Simpson makes me happier than his not being equally rewarded and known for Akbar & Jeff makes me feel dreary. Mark Millar getting to see his projects made into movies and be rewarded for them makes me happier than his not being a bigger name makes me feel dreary. Seeing Jerry Scott's lovely home (a long time ago) made me happier than going to lunch and not having people say "Holy shit! It's Jerry Scott!" made me feel dreary.

I'm tickled when I see Frank Miller's name being used as a selling point -- good for him -- and I'd take 1000 more, but I don't think this is going to happen to a ton of people, and I don't think that it hasn't happened is anything to worry about. Besides, no cartoonist deserves to be famous in 2008 because none of them made list-worthy work this year. Right? The whole thing seems sort of silly.

Anyway, I think once you get past what is mostly clever, reasonable argumentation on side issues, Grant's original opinion that 2008 was dreary and that there are only two items he could put on a best-of list remains uninformed, and as a general position from which to argue about the state of things, untenable.

It's uninformed because Grant doesn't seem to have read enough comics to have made such a sweeping statement. No one has to read all of the comics, but if you're going to make sweeping statements, it might help to read a significant number of the comics involved and bring them up in your analysis. If you can't, you might want to excuse yourself from making such an argument or do us all the favor of qualifying it. It boggles the mind that Grant seems to be encountering for the first time two staggering archival works from 2008 -- Bill Mauldin's and Jules Feiffer's -- after feeling confident enough to throw 2008 under the bus. Personally, I feel the two reprints he put on his TCJ list must be stupendous if discovering those works didn't double the number of things he puts on that list. (We don't know; he doesn't say.) But even if they don't, I can't imagine any reasonable standard by which they shouldn't have at least been considered.

imageGrant at one point asks for this year's Alice In Sunderland as if it's some sort of trump card. Now, I don't agree with the choice, but to use his standards, "literate, ambitious, gorgeous, fascinating" I think a few works fit. But if I were to say one of those works was Tony Fitzpatrick's The Wonder: Portraits Of A Remembered City -- a major, major series finally completed that mixes imagery with poetry rather than prose and is organized by memory rather than a more simple plot progression, all in service of a walk through the Chicago experienced by the author's dead father -- I'm guessing there's a good chance Grant hasn't read it and maybe hasn't heard of it. If you think it's unfair to bring up Fitzpatrick, one of Grant's pantheon-level works is "Joe Sacco's books on Palestine and the Balkans," but I don't get any sense he's read Sacco's work from this year. That's a problem with making sweeping statements; you're judged by the ambition of the sweep.

That's not to say that Grant will celebrate The Wonder or "Chechen War, Chechen Women" on their artistic merits, or agree that The Wonder is comics at all -- heck, Fitzpatrick doesn't think it's comics, either. Maybe Grant really would not think much of anything that came out if it were presented to him. Again, I suspect that Steven Grant really isn't a Domingos Isabelinho or even a Gary Groth when it comes to the severity of the strictures they place on greatness, but I could be wrong. If I am, good for him. People with super-high standards are a treasure. But it's about process: the ability to defend a position doesn't mean the position is justified; it just means you can defend a position. Once you're playing defense, you're in a different mind-set. That may be okay with one or two examples that hadn't occurred, but I don't think it works when dozens of arguable points are involved. I just don't think Grant made the good-faith effort that should have been required to give thumbs down to an entire year.

imageHis general argument is also untenable, in two basic ways. The first is that just because Grant believes a "Best-of" list is a proclamation declaring work that makes it into the pantheon doesn't mean that everyone else sees those exercises the same way, or should, or that people are going to find convincing conclusions based on that belief. The second is that Grant introduces standards that don't make 2008 dreary, they make every year dreary! I would have a hard time selecting any year with multiple new works better or even on the same playing field as Krazy Kat, Kurtzman's EC war comics and Palomar, for pity's sake. I challenge Grant -- I'll run it here if he doesn't want to waste the column inches -- to give us five recent years in which making a Best-Of according to his standards was achievable. If he can do this, and I have my doubts, then we can see if a 2008 list compared to those lists is so lacking as to make its dreariness evident.

I apologize for arguing this out in tedious fashion. I tend towards over-talking when I'm writing quickly. I just think Grant's very wrong, and I think he didn't bring the goods for me or anyone else to consider the substance of his arguments seriously, and that's wrong, too. To see 2008 as dreary seems to me as dangerous as seeing it as the best year ever. With comics headed into tough times economically and into difficult waters as an art form, it might be good for those of us paying close attention to trade less frequently in sweeping statements and try to engage the art form and industry with greater clarity, more sustained scrutiny and an eye towards all the ways it's big enough to hold different truths than the ones we latch onto in snap-to fashion. It's not that comics isn't dreary, it is! It's that comics is never just dreary. And it certainly wasn't more so this year.
 
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Go, Read: Massive Process Article On Making Tom The Dancing Bug Strip

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Missed It: MoCCA Arts Festival 2009 Sets Dates, Moves From Puck Building

According to a week-old e-mail I pretty much ignored, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art has announced the dates and location for the 2009 Arts Festival. The 2009 MoCCA Fest will be on June 6-7, which is indeed Belmont weekend for all of you out there that double upon on your art comics festivals and horse racing. Surprisingly, it's at a new location: the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington and 25th Street. It sounds like the decision was made on the basis of the new space being much bigger than the space available at the Puck Building, where the show had been since its inception. This should take you to a map that shows you the location of the new space relevant to the old one.
 
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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Helsinki, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist and toy magnate Todd McFarlane has confirmed layoffs at the company designed to shepherd at least the latter into consistent profitability.

image* Brian Duffy was given a full page in an Iowan weekly to do whatever he wanted after being fired from his longtime position at the Des Moines Register. He's a lot classier than I would have been, that's for sure.

* here's a profile of Buenaventura Press. And here's one of Matt Fraction.

* I haven't caught up with the new Blog@Newsarama team, but I find it quite impressive that one of their number seems to be posting from a Usenet Group in 1996. (sorry, Matt.)

* finally, some not comics: Editor & Publisher discusses an intercepted memo from a future of newspapers in-house discussion being held at the Washington Post. I can't imagine there's anything new here and if you're cynical or hopeful about where newspapers eventually settle after this current freefall you're going to find stuff to set you off. But it's encouraging that newspapers are asking these sorts of questions rather than simply the ones that begin with them running around the office with their arms flailing above their heads and end with someone being shitcanned. Plus, I really liked that lady when she was in the Talking Heads.
 
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Happy 51st Birthday, Peter Bagge!

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Quick hits
Craft
David Horsey's Early Influence 01
David Horsey's Early Influence 02

Exhibits/Events
Report From Jim Hanley's Noir Signing

History
On L&R #37

Industry
Howard Hardiman's Best of 2008

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: Larry Marder
Top Drawer: Ed Piskor
Top Drawer: Chris Cilla
Top Drawer: Scott Teplin
FPI Blog: Zeina Abirached
Top Drawer: Hans Rickheit
Top Drawer: John Broadley
Top Drawer: Frederic Fleury
Bugpowder: Karrie Fransman
Top Drawer: John Hankiewicz
Blog@Newsarama: Dan DiDio
AudioShocker.com: Ross Campbell

Not Comics
Marvel Names Studio COO

Publishing
Tucker Stone On Making Lists

Reviews
Jog: Final Crisis #5
Brian Heater: Skitzy
Bill Randall: Achewood
Rob Martin: Popeye Vol. 3
Chris Mautner: Tamara Drewe
John Mitchell: Abandoned Cars
Don MacPherson: Hardy Boys #14
John Mitchell: Bourbon Island 1730
Johanna Draper Carlson: Optical Allusions
John Mitchell: Best American Comics 2008
 

 
December 10, 2008


Bundled, Tossed, Untied and Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Heidi MacDonald at PW has the publishing news basics on uclick's plans to offer thousands of comics titles to the iPhone by early 2010. Also discussed is the possibility for original work done for that format, what they're selling right now on that original wave of offerings previously announced (a rough figure of "thousands" per week on the top performers) and the fact that none of the comics can be the least bit naughty. It's a foundational article and a must-read.

* at the bottom of this piece on a NYC event comes the good news that D&Q has scheduled its Bob Sikoryak short-story collection Masterpiece Comics for September 2009.

image* Paul Karasik wrote in a lo-o-o-o-ong time ago to say that he has the last Fletcher Hanks story on his list, this "Whirlwind Carter" story from an issue of Daring Mystery. You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!, the all-new, all-different second Fletcher Hanks book and follow-up to I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets is due Summer 2009.

* the next issue of the increasingly vital anthology MOME will feature a 32-page Lilli Carre story that's related to her recently published The Lagoon. I agree with Fantagraphics that she's a talent to watch.

* I got bored one day and started googling the line-up to Top Shelf's forthcoming 400-page collection and translation of alt-manga from AX. I found more information on about seven of them: Akino Kondo, Minami Shinbo, Shinichi Abe, Namie Fujieda, Mitsuhiko Yoshida, Kazuichi Hanawa and Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

* it's been a long while since I posted one of these, which means my dedicated folder for links to publishing news is full of embarrassments. I totally missed this announcement from late last summer that the Charlie Hebdo people are expanding their brand into a line of books. Also skipped was an announcement that Dark Horse expanded their Robert E. Howard comics line to include characters other than Conan. There still aren't any new Hugo Pratt publishing projects in the works that I know about, but it's always interesting to read about another popular master who hasn't really gained traction in the modern graphic novel market. Still haven't seen anything on this new Eric Drooker book of postcards, let alone the book itself. This book from the Immonens snuck up on me, too, but at least I'm certain it either exists or is just about to. Also, Rick Veitch has plans for a massive limited edition of his Brat Pack for Spring '09. And has anyone out there seen this?

image* the compulsively enjoyable Andi Watson is working on a folio of images for the Parisien shop La comete de Carthage.

* I'm only a few weeks late in linking to the cover imagery from the next three books coming out from Blank Slate.

* every so often someone is nice enough to send me this link to an apparently forthcoming Ben Katchor book. I seem to recall that this is book that's not all comics that's been promised for a while, and has recently moved from a late 2008 delivery date to a late 2009 delivery date. If anyone has better information, please let me know!

* here's another comics project that I bookmarked about which I haven't heard a lick.

* finally, in the kind of press release one hopes isn't going to completely dry up in the months ahead, Abrams Comics Arts has announced they've The TOON Treasury of Funny Comic Books For Kids, from Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. That book will feature old comic book short stories from kids comics superstars like Basil Wolverton and Carl Barks.
 
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The PSU Vanguard’s Ten Best For 2008

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The newspaper for the Portland State University community has released a comics component to their end-of-the-year list-making bonanza:

1. Ganges Vol. 2, Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)
2. Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (D&Q)
3. Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Self-Published; Distributed Through D&Q -- I hope I have that right)
4. Tokyo Zombie, Yusaku Hanakuma (Last Gasp)
5. MOME Vol. 12, Various Authors (Fantagraphics)
6. What It Is, Lynda Barry (D&Q)
7. The Education of Hopey Glass, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
8. 5, Various (Self-Published)
9. Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
10. Slow Wave, Jesse Reklaw (Dark Horse)

I'm including it here because a) it's a good list even though 5 was a 2007 book, b) I think I was one of three people that read comics other than those by Matt Groening on my college campus and the only one that didn't hide it like it was a heroin habit, so it's still a novelty to me to see coverage like this, c) it's a good list.
 
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Alan David Doane’s Best Of 2008

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Alan David Doane of Comic Book Galaxy has his Best Of 2008 list up:

Graphic Novel Of The Year: The Education of Hopey Glass, Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
Story Of The Year: "Freaks," Superior Showcase #3, Laura Park (Adhouse Books)
Manga Of The Year: Good-Bye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly)
Debut Of The Year: Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane (Fantagraphics)
Re-Issue Of The Year: Ghost World: The Special Edition, Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics)
Adventure Comic Of The Year: The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell and Dan Best (First Second)
Comic Art Book Of The Year: Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, Blake Bell (Fantagraphics Books); Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier (Harry N. Abrams)
Surprise Of The Year: Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
Floppy Of The Year: Look Out!! Monsters, Geoff Grogan (LOM)
Other 2008 Titles Of Note: Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert and Alan Cope (First Second); Criminal, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon); What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly); All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC Comics); Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman (Pantheon); Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics Books); Mome, Various (Fantagraphics Books); The Complete Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books); Where Demented Wented: The Art and Comics of Rory Hayes edited, Dan Nadel (Fantagraphics Books); Burma Chronicles, Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly); ACME Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Drawn and Quarterly).
 
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Not Comics: It’s Donnelly Rhodes’ World…

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... and we all just get to watch him act in it. The secret through-line connecting Soap to Battlestar Galactica offers up one of a half-dozen fun performances to watch on Da Vinci's Inquest, the little-seen (in the US) crime and politics television show from Chris Haddock now starting to show up on Hulu.com. It would have been my dad's favorite TV show and Rhodes' Leo Shannon would have been his favorite character. If you're a crime comics writer looking for a new source of material to ape, you could do far worse. Plus, you can stare at the gorgeous Vancouver, B.C. exteriors the way I used to stare at Cynthia Gibb on Fame. Trust me: the people on Da Vinci's Inquest shut doors and sit down when they walk into rooms like no ensemble before them.
 
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Another Reason Comics May Have Hope In These Economic Times: Investment

I was watching Hurricane Katrina footage in a restaurant once upon a time -- not live, but not so long after the fact that it didn't draw everyone's attention to the bar television. A regular remarked to one of the waitstaff that if something like that happened nearby he wouldn't stick it out, but he wouldn't be the first one to the shelter, either. He was loud and funny, and he talked in a manner that I could never replicate in prose, but the gist of what he was saying is that you have to have more pride in the basic structure of your life than to show up at the food kitchen the Monday after you lose your job. You don't want to get to the shelter so early you're helping set up the cots. You don't want to live a fragile existence.

I see signs of toughness in elements of the comics industry, particularly in comparison to other media industries right now. Things may get bad, they may get outright horrible, but relative to the apocalyptic upheaval experienced by book publishing recently and the newspaper industry over the last several months, I think we can safely say that comics -- stupid, inbred, lectured-to, looked down-upon comics -- wasn't first in line. I think that's a source of hope, for at least as long as it lasts, and I think a significant contributor that comes from a compulsive addiction to making comics. Comics may have a problem spreading their investment back into the industry into elements of infrastructure and even the talent involved, but there's plenty of energy and devotion going into comics.

As much as DC and Marvel have turned into vehicles for pushing wealth up the production line and into the hands of corporate beneficiaries, and as much as we're all going to take a hard look at especially DC's publication schedule once the usual winter slow-down moves into Spring, for now it seems safe to say that even those companies are invested in the business of making comics far ahead of what might minimize the cost-exposure portion of a cost benefit analysis. As many books as companies like that make that on the surface look like losers, most are still profitable on some basic level. And that's above and beyond the benefits that accrue to having a place to develop talent, to give future potential licensed properties a creative workout, to allow your star superhero writer a place to do work that's more personal to him so you keep him well within your sights, and so on.

In other words -- and I apologize for using some basic economic stuff that's in the air as I fully realize no one wants to hear it from me -- it seems to me that unlike other media industries, comics has yet to be streamlined to serve a perception that some profit margin needs to be hit that it has no business trying to hit. Although you never know, mainstream comics seems to have a long way to go before it has an apocalyptic couple of days that freaks everybody out. If nothing else, you could say that a mainstream comics company that had to make some cuts in order to make themselves leaner for the days ahead would likely be cutting fat.

There's little to no fat at the vast majority of the smaller companies, but I think they're similarly invested in comics and that could be a strength in the months ahead. Here's one thing that kills me. As opposed to leasing fancy office real estate and bitching when the artists whose rights you've assumed aren't grateful enough for the paid work you allowed them to provide you, companies like D&Q and Fantagraphics used some their new-found health from shifting more heavily to bookstore sales to open up comic shops through which they can attract new customers and have a place to throw events. Isn't that nice? Isn't that admirable on some basic level? Not save the whales admirable, but showing up for work with a big smile on your face admirable.

SLG has just joined that group of publisher-retailers; PictureBox I believe joined them a while back. Top Shelf is the most aggressive sales entity at conventions. Just about every publisher of a certain size has an active network through which to sell on-line, even if that's just an Amazon.com account or a "shop" linked into a web site. What connects them all is a relative fury with which they make comics. IDW, for example, seems to have basically the exact opposite strategy of Top Shelf when it comes to conventions but for the same reason: under their model, not going to conventions may help them make more comics. It's never been a good industry to be a limited-item publisher (La Mano, Typocrat) or to publish one-offs within a related, not-comics framework (Virgin), and although the lottery they're hoping to win is only one ticket away, it's not been that great of an industry for those guys whose publishing models depends not on making comics in a significant way but selling them made or unmade to a movie studio (let them buy an ad).

I believe that a strength for comics in the months ahead is, well, comics. As an industry, comics has its peccadilloes and horror stories, but it seems to be really good at making comics. It does so with reasonable efficiency and in ways that largely make sense, with a force and fullness that can be altered and shaped without automatic risk of something being snuffed out or radically changed. I don't see any announcements in the near-future that the entire Vertigo line, say, is going to be turned over to Jay Leno. Comics have to be out there if they have a chance of improving in relative cultural value in a way that will allow them to surf the wave that's been drowning other media. If some companies will fail, we're healthier for every other comics company that might be able to pick up the fallen publishers' best books. If some comics and initiatives are to be cut within certain business, the companies that have books left after cutting some of them will be in a better position than those companies that cut into the heart of what they do and it's immediately less viable to do them.

I suspect that when people in the comics industry stop making comics, it's going to be because something finally let them know they couldn't anymore, not because someone suggested it was strategic for them not to. That's not a bad position to be in, moving forward.
 
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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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Go, Look: Damien Jay At Partyka

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OTBP: Memory Mind 2009

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OTBP: Second Issue of Laura Park’s Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream

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Go, Look: New Anders Nilsen Previewed

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* it appears the Kramers Ergot Vol. 7 signing at Drawn and Quarterly's store originally scheduled for yesterday has been moved to this evening.

image* the writer Sean T. Collins writes about autobiographical comics author Denny Eichhorn, whose Real Stuff was an anchor of 1990s alternative comic books and is now largely forgotten. I don't know that I really believe that Eichhorn's adventures stand out in bold relief against a backdrop of whiny, weak-willed and weepy autobiographical cartoonists, partly because I think the size and extent of that particular backdrop is hugely overstated (Eichhorn's peers include Joe Sacco, Mary Fleener and Harvey Pekar) and partly because Denny's life stories would stand out no matter where you put them. The important thing to me is that simply taken on their own merits there were a lot of really good Eichhorn-written comics done, with artists like JR Williams, Carel Moiseiwitsch and Carol Swain offering up some of their best work. Any collection or the individual comics themselves would be well worth tracking down.

* this is awesome.

* speaking of forgotten works from the 1990s, Frank Santoro found a copy of perhaps the very best Eros Comix book of all time, Spank, and posts both a cover and a terrifying-looking page. If the Internet has ruined one thing about comics, it ruined the market for demented sex comics that offered up as much dementia as sex.

* I remember reading this comic. My life is odd.

image* here's a nice report about the great Gene Colan's appearance at the Cartoon Art Museum, and here are a couple of photos of his accepting the Sparky Award. I love Colan's glasses.

* missed it: your 2008 Webcomics Idol Winner. I don't know anything about that contest, to be perfectly honest.

* finally, the writer Dick Hyacinth shares his list of books he'll consider for Best of 2008; between his list and the books suggested in the comments thread, you'll have a solid list of newer works to read.

Update: Sean Collins wrote in about the comparison to weak and whiny autobio cartoonists to say: "That's not really what I was thinking of -- I was thinking more of the very recent generation of people like Vanessa Davis or Gabrielle Bell, who don't even do whining -- it's just like 'here's something that happened.'"
 
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Happy 88th Birthday, Dan Spiegle!

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Happy 49th Birthday, Chas Troug!

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Quick hits
Industry
Matt Blind's On-Line Manga Sales Figures

Interviews/Profiles
CBR: CB Cebulski
Newsarama: Gary Frank
Newsarama: Jim McCann
Newsarama: Paul Jenkins
Universal Blog: Mark Tatuli
Newsarama: Bill Willingham
Newsarama: John Paul Leon
Newsarama: Greg Sadowski
Rutland Herald: Tim Newcomb
comics212: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Newsarama: Ken Marcus, Justin Bleep

Not Comics
Silver City Shout-Out, Baby
This Should Make My Brother Whit Very Happy

Publishing
Dan Dare To Dynamite
Geoff Johns To Leave JSA

Reviews
Shannon Smith: Various
Nina Stone: Nana Vol. 13
Pulse: Stephanie Gladden
Don MacPherson: Various
Shannon Smith: Blurred Vision
Bill Randall: Red Eye, Black Eye
Abhay Khosla: Secret Invasion #8
Richard Bruton: Aetheric Mechanics
Allan Holtz: Alex Raymond: His Life And Art
 

 
December 9, 2008


Tuesday Distraction: The Famous Santa Advertisements of Haddon Sundbloom

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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 tomorrow I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and as a result, my retailer might put me in for a lump of coal.

*****

AUG080040 HERBIE ARCHIVES HC VOL 02 $49.95
Part of me believes that the industry just needs to hang on through troubled economic times long enough for all three volumes of this series to be published.

OCT080033 BPRD WAR ON FROGS #2 $2.99
AUG080114 FINAL CRISIS #5 (OF 7) $3.99
JUL082203 INVINCIBLE #56 $2.99
OCT082249 PHONOGRAM 2 #1 (OF 7) SINGLES CLUB $3.50
These are your standard-sized comic books of interest this week, minus an issue or two that fit better elsewhere. The Final Crisis should be the most "dark before the dawn" chapter of them all.

SEP082387 ASTONISHING X-MEN GHOST BOXES #2 (OF 2) $3.99
It looks like Marvel is offering almost twice as many books at $3.99 this week as they're offering at $2.99. While I'm confident there are enough awesome comics out there that are worth twice their price tag, I'm not immune to wondering if it's a good idea to head into a period of worldwide economic trauma with a 33 percent boost in price point for something presented as disposable, serial entertainment. It would stop me from buying such comics on an impulse basis the five or six times a year I'm in a shop, or cause me to buy fewer. Granted, the people running Marvels are multi-millionaires and I am certainly not, so maybe I'm not the best backseat driver.

AUG084225 NOCTURNAL CONSPIRACIES NINETEEN DREAMS GN $14.95
This book is beautiful-looking, and fun to read besides.

OCT084120 NICOLAS GN $9.95
I've been dying to see this vignette-filled book by Pascal Gerard to the point I let out a low moan when I realized it was already out and I haven't seen it yet. I'm actually going to put the cover image at the bottom of this post so you'll know to look out for it.

OCT084393 SULK GN VOL 02 DEADLY AWESOME (MR) $10.00
Jeffrey Brown's one-man anthology, reasonably priced and looking like a lot of fun.

JUL080156 CAMELOT 3000 HC DELUXE EDITION $34.99
The most '80s comic of them all. Seriously -- I imagine Cynthia Sikes playing multiple roles. I'm pretty certain you can buy all 12 issues of the comic book and a pizza for $34.99, but I imagine there are many people out there that want the fanciness of this edition. By the way: no one loves the Internet as much as I do.

JUL084037 BUCK ROGERS IN 25TH CENTURY DAILIES HC VOL 01 1929 1931 $39.99
I have no idea what the pedigree of this project is like, but I surely want to see it and look forward to hitting a comic shop next week to maybe see if I can find one.

OCT082440 PUNISHER WAR ZONE #1 (OF 6) $3.99
I'd make a joke here about all the people who loved the movie hitting shops to pick up this comic, but I'm not sure there were even enough people watching the movie for a joke to register.

*****

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 a bit high, 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 comic, it's because it just felt wrong.

*****

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*****
*****
 
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Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

* the matter of freedoms afforded a Tunisian man accused of plotting the assassination of Muhammed caricaturist Kurt Westergaard gets explained here. Basically, it's become an issue of "tolerated residence," how much freedom you allow someone within your country that you can't send to his native country because of beliefs he'll be maltreated there.

* speaking of Westergaard, he's apparently provided illustrations to a book called Groft Sagt ("Rough Talk"), collecting Lars Hedegaard's newspaper columns, many of which are apparently extremely critical of Islam. While this is the kind of thing that could certainly lead to some sort of horrible reprisal, it being that kind of world and all, I'm always just a tiny bit suspicious when those kind of news reports accompany something along the lines of a book release.
 
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Your 2009 Grand Prix de la Critique BD Winner: Posy Simmonds’ Tamara Drewe

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Posy Simmonds' lovely and humorous Tamara Drewe has won the big French-language comics industry critics' prize, the Grand Prix de la Critique Bande Dessinee given out by the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinee. I'm not exactly sure of the process there; the articles I'm seeing tell me the prize is drawn from books published between November 2007 and October 2008, and that the ACBD has 81 members.

I was thinking the other day that Simmonds would make a fine choice for Angouleme's big prize, as her two last books were super-classy, accessible, and I think quite good; she fulfills the evolution of the art form part of that prize's qualifications through her use of hybrid strategies; and she offers a profile that hasn't been seen in festival Grand Prix winners for about ten years while continuing their recent tradition of honoring popular contemporary authors. Granted, I have no idea on what basis these things are voted, so I'm just projecting.
 
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Judge Declares Simpsons Real People?

Okay, maybe not, but it sounds like he said that we can't qualify them in terms of their not being people based solely on their being yellow cartoon creatures with four fingers. Such was part of a tortured-sounding finding that found an Australia man convicted of holding and accessing child pornography based on having a filthy Simpsons cartoon parody on his computer. An ongoing issue in litigation and legislation related to pornography is whether artistic depictions of something can or should be deliberated over as if the fictional constructs are real. This is a notion that should have obvious ramifications in comics stretching back through any number of current artists to things like R. Crumb's 1969 satire "Joe Blow."
 
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New York Magazine’s Best GNs Of 2009

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Dan Kois of New York, a magazine that has provided several previews of prominent graphic novels as part of their coverage over the last several months, has named his best of 2008:

* Disappearance Diary, Hideo Azuma (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
* Bottomless Belly Button, Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics)
* Nat Turner, Kyle Baker (Abrams)
* Slow Storm, Danica Novgorodoff (First Second)
* Strange Embrace, David Hine (Image)
* Wonton Soup, James Stokoe (Oni)
* Travel, Yuichi Yokoyama (PictureBox)
* Metronome, Veronique Tanaka (NBM)
* Fables: The Good Prince, Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
* Paul Goes Fishing, Michel Rabagliatti (Drawn & Quarterly)
* The Country Nurse, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)
* Water Baby, Ross Campbell (Minx)

Since Kois' pleasantly idiosyncratic list is presented as a Top Ten, Travel and Metronome are combined into one entry and Paul Goes Fishing and The Country Nurse are combined into another. Also, I think that may be a numbered list, so I've maintained that order here the I can given I'm splitting the combined entries. You should really click through the link and see the handsome slide show.
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
And They Will All Live Like Cartoonists: The US Economy And Comics, Post #9

* here's a first and perhaps alarming sign that things may change at one of comics' major players: distributing mega-giant Diamond will no longer carry posters and prints except in rare circumstances, and promises to be more selective generally. On the positive side, I've long been for Diamond being more selective, although I have to admit I'm not sure I'm always confident with how such a plan would be executed.

* the prominent comics blogger Heidi MacDonald is hearing that not-comics but certainly comic shop-supplying business McFarlane Toys may be laying off some folks, and that MTV's Splash Page editorial team lost Casey Seijas as a full-time employees. I hate to bring it up, but as reluctant as companies have traditionally been to fire people before the holidays, does this mean that come the new year there's going to be giant purges?

* the comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com notes a drop in graphic novel unit sales during the Thanksgiving portion of the Holiday Shopping season, although they're really careful to stress that there's a lot of information yet to be gleaned that could have a big impact on what those numbers mean. Like if last year the unit sales were from the flood of Naruto books out and this year there's more than a usual amount of Absolute Watchmen books being sold, that's different than a measured decline in sales across the various price points.

* both the Miami Herald and the Rocky Mountain News are up for sale.

* the mainstream comics studio and Image hub Top Cow vows to keep their comics at $2.99 through the next calendar year. While it might be easy for some to scoff at such a move as either so clearly in their best interest there's no choice to be made there or to make a crack about their particular desire to buy those comics, I think it's nice to see any company greeting tough times by making a gesture towards consumers rather than clambering after relief in terms of wounded profit margins. Also, $3.99 comic books sounds horrifying to me, and a grand excuse for a lot of those consumers to drop books.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Bryan Talbot’s Three Best For 2008

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In a nice, short interview with Forbidden Planet's must-bookmark comics blog, cartoonist Bryan Talbot selects three books for 2008:

* Britten & Brulightly, Hannah Berry (Jonathan Cape)
* Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan (D&Q)
* Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds (Jonathan Cape)
 
posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
More On Tribune Co. Bankruptcy Filing

The follow-up stories on yesterday's bankruptcy filing by Tribune Co. seem to follow the pattern established here. It's alarming, it's due to a number of factors including how massively leveraged even the profitable businesses at the company have become, and that it seems like a logical step for ownership to take.

Here's a list of Tribune Co. holdings. The Cubs and Wrigley field are not including in the filing, apparently, but it's worth noting that in addition to the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and comics-offering syndicate Tribune Media Services the company holds a half-dozen other newspapers.
 
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Go, Bookmark: Dharbin Re-Launches

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Go, Look: Horse Feathers

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Go, Look: Hot Ink Show Photos

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Go, Look: KE7 Previewed At Vulture Blog

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posted 6:44 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the cartoonist Patrick McDonnell talks about his strips encouraging the First Family-elect to adopt a shelter animal as the White House dog, a perfect fit of cartoonist and public position. I just took my family's shelter dogs into the vet for their three-year rabies shots, and as far as I could tell they were just as attentive, affectionate and handsome as the purebreeds in the waiting room.

image* I told you this was going to happen. Rob Tornoe reports on Clark Kent being let go by a financially strained Daily Planet.

* not comics: an entertainment reporter lists comics that shouldn't be made into movies. I think all comics should be made into movies if people want to make them into movies. Why not?

* the New York Times collects comics quotations. The one comics quotation that worked its way into my regular speech at one time in my life was a paraphrase of something Jaime Hernandez had Maggie Chascarillo say in Death of Speedy: "I haven't been scared of anything since the 9th grade." Reid Fleming's "78 Cents or I'll piss on your flowers" would have been up there, too, but I was confronted with more situations to comment on scary things than the opportunity to threaten old ladies. There should be a place for comics industry quotations, too, such as "It's not enough anymore to kick ass; we must now kill ass." That one still cracks me up.

* things I didn't know and might still not know because it's, well, wikipedia: B. Kliban's widow married Bill Bixby?

* I would imagine that this decision by the Pulitzer committee to include submissions from web-only news outlets could conceivably have an impact on a few cartoonists, but I'm unable to come up with a name or two that directly applies.
 
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Go, Look: Five By Richard Thompson

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posted 6:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Quick hits
Craft
Are They At A Strip Club?

Publishing
Obama-616 Is Dumb
Star Trek Comics on iPhone
Udon Going Into Webcomics
Analysis of Marvel Event Titles

Reviews
Matt Stroud: KE7
Sean T. Collins: KE6
Jog: Powr Mastrs Vol. 2
Paul O'Brien: X-Infernus #1
Zak Edwards: Transhuman #4
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Batman #682
Greg McElhatton: Teen Titans #65
Hervé St-Louis: Haunted Tank #1
Abhay Khosla: Secret Invasion #8
Leroy Douresseaux: Gimmick! Vol. 4
Johanna Draper Carlson: Sabrina #101
Patrick Berube: The Walking Dead Vol. 4
Greg McElhatton: Usagi Yojimbo #114-115
Chris Mautner: The Villa Of The Mysteries #1
Koppy McFad: Justice Society of America #21
Leroy Douresseaux: Yumekui Kenbun Nightmare Inspector Vol. 5
 

 
December 8, 2008


Tribune Co. Files For Bankruptcy

imageAs expected/feared for a long while in media circles and seen as imminent this morning, Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy today in Delaware. Among the holdings of the major company are newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and the syndicate Tribune Media Services. Strips syndicated by TMS included Dick Tracy, Shoe and Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! The cause is widely believed to be a massive amount of debt taken on when the company was purchased, the loss of advertising suffered by all media companies as circulations decline and services either end or switch to on-line facilitation, and the current credit crisis. I have no idea what this means from the Tribune holdings down the line, but I suspect it's a big enough name and a drastic enough move to shine a further spotlight on the troubles of media companies right now.
 
posted 11:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Another Reason Comics May Have Hope In These Economic Times: The Lifers

By Tom Spurgeon:

The recent retirement of Copenhagen retailer Soren Pederson of Fantask, one of the every first comics shops, underscores the fact that so much of the North American comics industry is currently facilitated by men and women with a life-long commitment to the field, many of whom are in the prime of their professional careers. Comics' direct market is anchored by a number of stores with 20-30 years in their present locations and with the same owner. The fanzine generation has given us figureheads at companies big (DC Comics and Paul Levitz), companies small (Fantagraphics co-owner Gary Groth), and important industry movements (self-publisher Dave Sim). The folks in that group may have an even longer life in comics than similar figures in film and prose since many were making publications of some sort since their early teens. Comics folks in general tend to see their comics reading and their professional lives as part of the same continuity, which means that even among those that don't have a more invested experience working in the industry at age 15 will feel as if they long ago made the commitment to doing so.

It's not always easy to speak of comics in terms of vocational issues, and it may be more difficult when speaking of non-creators than artists and writers. When it comes to the North American comics industry there are a lot more t-shirts than ties, a lot more Keepers of the Flame than holder of MBAs, and a lot more personal loans than revolving lines of credit. It's not always to comics' benefit that so many of its professionals come from fandom of one kind or another. There are times when it can be argued comics suffer from a restrictive worldview, or that the industry wastes time fighting battles that were first waged via mimeograph machine, or that there are limits to the personal and professional skill sets involved as comics moves into areas of art, business and literature that were unforeseen in 1970. One might say that the success of certain folks within the industry is better measured in how far they've moved away from a bedroom bookshelf made of bricks and boards and stuffed with Lin Carter, Jean-Michel Jarre and a spare copy of Empire of the Petal Throne, not how close they remain. I get it, and in many cases and at many times I agree.

For right now, though, I think there's a certain comfort to be had in so many comics lifers holding so many key positions not just as creators but in all of those places of support, background and business. People that spend 30 years publishing, editing, and selling comic books either largely or solely under their own supervision are going to be that much more reluctant to lose their present job to go and join so many others trying to find something else to do. And because so many of them are small business owners or operate fiefdoms under a certain amount of limited supervision, that decision is more frequently theirs than with many working folks. I'm convinced that some art industries are suffering more quickly and with a much more furious panic for having lost this kind of devoted, independent owner. That doesn't means that times aren't tough and aren't going to get tougher and aren't going to result in closings and departures out the wazoo, just that conceivably a person that owns their own business and is doing something they love is going to be happier than a conglomerate in it for the money if they're just being able to pay the bills for a while. Something similar is true of the other comics industries, too. -- I can't think of any independent comics companies that had they been book publishing imprints instead wouldn't have been in danger of closing shop during last week's book publishing purge. As for newspapers, let me put it to you like this: I don't think Brian Duffy would have lost his job in a pre-Gannett 1984.

As much as they're second-guessed, and rightfully so, a lot of industry veterans have by definition been around long enough to have some idea what they're doing. A lot of people on the shared island of North American Comics long ago fell prey to the giant spider in the cave, or fell off a cliff, or drowned in the lagoon, if you know what I mean. Most of the comics industry veterans out there survived two if not three previous and likely to be smaller recessions with their businesses intact, and are familiar with the occasional period of industry self-immolation that may look and feel like a recession. A decision that comes from age, affection and conservatism to keep certain sales avenues alive looks better when newer sales arenas correct themselves or wither altogether. If reduced revenues place a greater premium on interpersonal relationships and knowing one's customers individual by individual, veteran businesspeople may have a leg up on others there as well. Investment money eventually goes away, but a stuffed rolodex rarely does. Johnny Carson once told an up and coming comedian that once in show business a performer ends up using “everything you've ever known.” I think that's true of all entertainment industries. If the apocalypse is on its way, that's a pretty grizzled, skilled, devoted group on the point, able to break more than its share of storms.
 
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STLToday’d Top Comics For 2008 List

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I can't tell who wrote it, it's of near-Grantian brevity, one of the selections is a book about comics rather than a comic (Kirby: King of Comics) and another selection is I believe a 2007 book (Laika), but I still like this little list of Best of 2008 from STLToday. Must be the holidays.

* Abandoned Cars, Tim Lane
* Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman
* The Explainers, Jules Feiffer
* Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier
* Laika, Nick Abadzis
 
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Go, Bookmark: Ali’s House Site

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I'm not so good with publishing news. To be frank, it's hard for me to walk the line between promotion and news, and I frequently fail when it comes to finding a hook that makes a story interesting outside of "here it is and here it comes."

Finding hooks isn't a problem with King Features' impending launch of Ali's House from creators Marguerite Dabaie and Tom Hart. That hit me as worth noting for a few reasons. The first is that I was afraid with newspapers cutting staff and features all around the country, and with additional credit problems apparently due to hit some papers in 2008, that the syndicates might not launch anything for a while. That's right: it's so bad right now that a syndicate launching a feature is almost news in and of itself. The second is that Tom Hart is one of the under-appreciated creators from the second alt-comics wave that hit in the early to middle 1990s, so I'm always interested in what he's up to. The third is that I wanted to make a point over the next five years to check in on King Features, as I believe the syndicate's comics offerings are now all the way in the hands of Brendan Burford. The fourth is that if I didn't write about the strip now, I likely wouldn't hear about it again until it was six months into its launch.

Click through the image for the still-developing site.
 
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Dustin Harbin’s Best Books of 2008

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Long-time retail employee, cartoonist and convention organizer kicks in with a Best Books of 2008 list:

1. Gus And His Gang, Christophe Blain
2. Bottomless Bellybutton, Dash Shaw
3. Skyscrapers of the Midwest, Josh Cotter
4. Popeye Vol. 3, EC Segar
5. Crickets #2, Sammy Harkham
6. Little Nothings, Lewis Trondheim
7. Ganges #2, Kevin Huizenga
8. Ordinary Victories Vol. 2, Manu Larcenet
9. Kramer's Ergot Vol. 7, Various
10. What It Is, Lynda Barry

I'm not going to set aside a post for every list, but I'm going to do a lot of them, and I liked this one for its #1 that is far from conventional wisdom on the year just past.
 
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Brian Duffy On Recent Register Firing

Rob Tornoe found a video interview with editorial cartoonist Brian Duffy, recently released from employment by the Des Moines Register in the latest of a set of nationwide blows against the full-time staffed cartoonist position. The way he was let go is fascinating and awful and sad.
 
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Forrest J. Ackerman, 1916-2008

imageForrest Ackerman, an architect of modern fandom and an influential figure in genre magazine publishing, horror films, and memorabilia collecting, died on December 4 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92 years old. Ackerman was heavily involved in early Los Angeles science fiction fan organization and their publications, becoming a prolific writer and even an agent for many writer working in that genre. In holding his massive collection of genre film props and costumes, Ackerman's home was a longtime informal pop culture museum of the first order, and a staple of newspaper feature stories and even occasional television coverage. His Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, still the model in many ways for web site and magazine devoted to fan activities as seen through the eyes and appetites of the fan, was a pillar of the widespread 1960s rediscovery of the art and entertainment of the 1930s, the first such wave of American nostalgia with a heavy film and television component. A prolific author, Ackerman created the character Vampirella for Warren Publishing in 1969.

You should read the solid LA Times obituary for Ackerman and this atypically detached, but I think more interesting for it Mark Evanier obituary. Ackerman always struck me as a powerful symbol for a certain sort of fandom, a signal to generations of kids in a less thoroughly juvenile time that you could live in your hobbies and have your life be about that rather than some other sort of more respectable job.

Ackerman was reportedly in some stage of poor health for several years. He was preceded in death by his wife, Windayne.
 
posted 6:55 am PST | Permalink
 

 
ComiXology Launches iPhone/iPod App

I'm not sure I have anything to add to the announcement that comics magazine ComiXology has launched an application for the iPhone/iPod, I'm frequently confused by the press I get from anything that's related to downloads to phones and related items, and I'm kind of at a remove as it's not something I'd use. Still, this review looks fairly comprehensive and I suppose any comics coverage entity coming out with a forward-thinking initiative that's not "I'm quitting" is worth noting.
 
posted 6:48 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Watch: Pat Moriarty Art Show



this gets fairly adorable a bit in, so stick with it
 
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Go, Look: Jeremy Eaton Art Sale

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Go, Read: Secret Invasion Commentary

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it's cute and everything, but I wanted to post it to remind myself of a strain of commentary out there about the series that all the action happened in the related titles
 
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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* if you haven't seen this widely-disseminated plea from cartoonists Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden asking for help identifying a Nancy strip they want to use in a book, please do right now.

image* also, if you haven't looked at Nat Gertler's gallery of Christmas-related Peanuts books, that's a fun way to spend a few minutes. I like that cartoon. Even his dog is mocking Charlie Brown.

* the auctions to benefit Carla Hoffman and her husband Lance have apparently begun.

* did I forget to post a link to Douglas Wolk's X-Mas gift suggestions for the New York Times? Heck, I may have even missed posting a link to this glowing profile of Alison Bechdel, also from last week's Times.

* reviewer and comics consumer advocate Johanna Draper Carlson notes that Tokyopop is essentially openly bribing people to vote for them in the Nickelodeon comics awards, which probably shouldn't be funny but it's sort of hilarious.

* you don't see too many pieces that gather together a group of alt-comics cartoonists in order to discuss them and include the category Jewish as well as young and female.

* the great Domingos Isabelinho holds forth on the (putrid) state of comics criticism.

* finally, a bit of the not comics: there's probably some sort of pundit-style lesson I should explain to you regarding the meaning of the new Punisher movie tanking, which the linked-to article notes did worse than Howard The Duck box-office wise. The problem is that I don't know what lesson might be. This is one of Marvel's pre-existing deals, before they got into making their own movies, so I guess it really doesn't hurt their bottom line. Further, I imagine it could be spun as "Marvel knows best how to do Marvel movies." I'm told the movie isn't very good, I don't remember any affection for the character after the first one that made me think people wanted to see another film (except maybe for lead Thomas Jane, who turned it down), and Christmas is an odd time for a movie like that to come out, anyway.
 
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Happy 46th Birthday, Erik Larsen!

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Happy 41st Birthday, David Lasky!

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Quick hits
Exhibits/Events
Crumb Exhibit Reviewed
Bill Mauldin Exhibit Report
Gene Colan Presentation Report
Bookaroo Children's Literature Festival Report

History
More Scott Edelman Marvel Imagery

Industry
Holiday Comics Suggestions

Interviews/Profiles
FPI Blog: Mike Mignola
Guardian: Ralph Steadman
Centre Daily News: Gene Yang
Express-Times: Jimmy Palmiotti
Sardinian Connection: Ladronn 01
Sardinian Connection: Ladronn 02
Good Comics For Kids: Bryce Coleman

Publishing
The End of Secret Invasion
Digital Manga Site Re-Launches
Why Does Newsarama Need A Blog?
On That Special Limited Edition Of From Hell

Reviews
Jog: Various
Jog: Batman #682
Paul O'Brien: Various
Tucker Stone: Various
Jog: Criminal Vol. 2 #7
Deb Aoki: Yokaiden Vol. 1
Greg McElhatton: Alan's War
Niels Strandskov: Alan's War
Paul O'Brien: Haunted Tank #1
Alan Bisbort: Burma Chronicles
Richard Krauss: Ochre Ellipse #2
Don MacPherson: Capt'n Eli Vol. 1
Johanna Draper Carlson: Nana Vols. 12-14
Robert Stanley Martin: Swamp Thing Vol. 2
Johanna Draper Carlson: Salt Water Taffy Vol. 2
Steve Duin: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
 

 
December 7, 2008


CR Sunday Feature: Why There’s Hope

By Tom Spurgeon

Part of the problem with discussing the current recession is that no one really knows what's going to happen next. Until we know, all opinion seems valid. It's hard to have a public conversation about the economy when one person is making comparisons to the early 1980s and the next is making comparisons to the first ten minutes of Mad Max. The only way we're going to know for sure if we're in the midst of a few months of skyrocketing unemployment figures or at the beginning of 36 months straight of same is to live through the next three years and see. Even then we may not know the full extent of what happened. Everyone experiences economic hardship differently, too. Some people have been in distress since the mid-1990s, some families of my acquaintance haven't recovered from the early 1980s, and thousands of people were laid off just last week.

In an age where punditry has supplanted reportage as the glamor occupation of journalism, it's easy to forget how much a dialogue will change when it's rooted in real-world actions rather than the asserted inevitability of same. It may not be as much fun to talk about the future of the syndicated comic strip on the Internet as it was in the late 1990s when the field was wide open, but United Media posting its archives and King Features launching an on-line newspaper partnering program allow for a conversation with greater connection to the reality of the situation over one that traffics in fanciful possibility. We can now discuss the future of editorial cartooning knowing that a Jim Borgman can leave a Cincinnati Enquirer. And so on.

So given that some economic distress is ongoing, that it's likely more could be on the way, and that the exact shape of the road yet taken is going to be decided by the twists and turns and tire ruts of a car that has yet to drive over that stretch of landscape, I'd like to concentrate on the present. More specifically, I'd like to focus on those elements of the present that give me hope for comics in the days ahead, no matter what happens. It's not that I believe hope is so necessary that it must be manufactured. I just think that operating from a position of possibility rather than one of helplessness and despair better reflects where comics is right now. In other words, I don't value hope as much as I find there are things that, like it or not, make me feel that way. I hope you'll allow me to think out loud about them over the next few days.

The first and most important reason why I'm hopeful for comics in a deepening recession is that comics is as great and valuable and deserving of attention as any popular art form out there right now, and better than most of them.

It's absolutely true that if the current economic crisis deepens and widens to a certain point, no one will care about new comic books, comic strips or editorial cartoons. But I think it's also true that if the economic crisis deepens to a certain point, no one will care about new movies, TV shows, movie or prose, either. As a group, the best comics are as vital, compelling, entertaining and on those terms as outright necessary as the cream of the crop in any other popular art form. Too many folks out there seem to be suggesting, many I think without realizing it, that comics are somehow a more frivolous purchase through time or money than the other media that share its functions as art and entertainment. That's simply not true. Further, I believe that to be a view that hearkens back to the fundamental self-loathing that many older comics fans and pros in particular still carry around like a faded FOOM membership card stuck in the back pocket of a pair of Oshkosh B'Gosh jeans. It's time the world of comics let go of its peculiar brand of shrugged-shoulder self-hatred. Comics needs self-criticism and self-esteem, the courage to say what's wrong and the clarity to see what's right. Things look like they might become bad enough without a self-fulfilling prophecy muscling its way into the conversation.

As much as any current art form matters, comics matter. They matter to you, they matter to me, they matter to the artists that enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction of creating them and they matter to readers to whom they bring the thrill and challenge of art and the comfort and joy of entertainment. We should never act as if comics are a second citizen of the arts industries or as if there's something wrong with asking for fair value in return for what the best comics offer. Comics has had a better decade than the other art forms, and on merit alone should be the last one on which people give up.

Instead of trying to construct some sort of outside-in reality to match a quicksilver conception of how an art form should operate in tough times, including the ridiculous notion of "now it's time to make necessary art," let's take our lead from the art itself and continue to reform an industry, good times or bad, so that it better values those works and in ethical fashion offers an opportunity for their creators to be rewarded. Let's not spend too much time worrying if hard times end up in a bunch of crappy, uninspired market share boosters having a tougher time of hanging in there; let us refocus that energy into insistence that the greatest works deserve twice the audience they have whether people are buying them indiscriminately or saving up left over change to do so.

It's not always easy to look at comics this way, but right now it may be necessary.

I like the writer and comics pundit Steven Grant very much, but I disagree strongly with nearly every single aspect of his recent essay where he declares that comics are soaked with dreariness. It was poorly observed and poorly argued. You can find dreary comics if you want -- they're always around. I submit that the difference between now and years past is that there's more standing in bold relief to that dreariness, not the dreariness itself. It's up to each of us to decide where to place emphasis. I reject in theory and in application Grant's asserted measure for comics of whether or not Mark Millar has become a household name. It's a ridiculous notion, clearly. I can't recall who wrote Frost/Nixon, and I saw it on stage in New York; I don't know the name of the guy who wrote Forrest Gump, either. Instead of a measure that might have an effect on one person making dubious art outside of comics, why don't we consider a standard that might encourage more comics from the best creators and those that aspire to make work like them. Is it more important that Mark Millar has failed to achieve cultural significance almost no one gets or that a Joe Sacco has started being paid enough to make work that's satisfying and rewarding and personally meaningful to him -- and excellent besides? (Sacco's work, incidentally, fails to use Watchmen as a touchstone.)

Further, I reject Grant's notion that there are reasonably only two comics that make a best-of list when I'm as mean a critic as they come and there are comics in the 21-25 position on my rough best-of list that could conceivably crack my top five from just about any year preceding 2003. I refuse to accept Grant's assertion that people are locked into making franchises and trying to hit the big time when the top writing talents at Marvel and DC almost all have personal projects they'd cut their pinky fingers off to see succeed (i.e., Brubaker's Criminal, Fraction's Casanova...) and one of the three biggest stars of book publishing's entry into comics is a Iranian-born woman living in France doing autobio comics. If you don't care for Naruto, you can take comfort in the fact that the same aspect of comics has given us several volumes of Cromartie High School and all of Ode to Kirihito; if you don't like Jeff Kinney's children's book hybrids, there's Brian Selznick and Shaun Tan to consider. There are more self-publishers of value diligently making more personal projects on-line than the entirety of Grant's generation made in paper form of a dozen years of the Dave Sim-led phase of that movement -- with greater, more complete control. Up to a half dozen fine young cartoonists made major book debuts this year. One of the two best strips to launch since Calvin and Hobbes had its first collection. A David B. book shows up at my office and there's so much good work coming out I didn't even know about it in advance. In general, I have no idea what the hell Steven Grant is talking about.

Don't let anyone suggest differently. Comics is an art form worth rallying around. I for one feel more positive and confident that a case on its behalf in good times or bad can be made without blinking, without qualifiers and without apology. If we go down with the rest of the ships in the stormy waters ahead, we're going down with the best looking sails and competitive rigging. If for whatever reason comics doesn't survive the dark days, I'm always going to celebrate the fact that it deserved to. In the meantime, it's on that basis I'll fight for its continued viability and hope you'll join me in doing the same.
 
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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In RI, I’d Go To This

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FFF Results Post #144—Meta

On Friday, CR readers were asked to "Suggest Five Future Five For Friday Topics." This was how they responded.

*****

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Tom Spurgeon

1. Name Your Five Favorite Marvel or DC Comics Single Issues, Nothing From The Same Series Twice
2. Name Five Comics Conversations You Never Need To Have Again
3. Make Five Confessions Related To Comics That Don't Necessarily Portray You In A Flattering Light
4. Name Five Items That Only Exist In Comics You'd Bid For Were They To Magically Appear On eBay
5. Name Five Of Your Favorite Magic Users From Comics

*****

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Stergios Botzakis

1. Favorite character with double initials
2. Favorite sidekick
3. Item in continuity that should never be undone
4. Best fictional location
5. Best fictional scientific finding/happening/thing

*****

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James C. Langdell

1. Five Favorite Exclamations from Comics (either signature lines or one offs)
2. Five Dream Incidents in Comics (only one may be rarebit inspired)
3. Five of Your Dream Incidents Related to Comics (not counting the one where you're crushed under falling long boxes)
4. Five Memorable Entryways in Comics (doors, portals, gateways, mouseholes)
5. Five Musical Selections That Are a Great Soundtrack for Reading a Specific Comic Story (not counting "Shrimp Boats", which is great with everything)

*****

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Don MacPherson

1) Name your five favorite bearded comics characters.
2) Name your five favorite bald comics characters.
3) Name your five favorite comics gods (divine characters, not creative legends).
4) Name five comics series that bore terrible titles.
5) Name five comics creators -- not writers or artists -- who have a profound impact on the medium today.

*****

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Buzz Dixon

1 - Name 5 Comics That Should Have Ended With Issue #__
2 - Name 5 Iconic Characters That Would Be Improved By _____
3 - Name Your 5 Favorite Serious Funny Animals
4 - Name 5 Comic Book/Comic Strip/Manga Families You'd Like To Belong To
5 - Reverse The Polarities On 5 Heroes & Villains (i.e., what if Batman were the villain and the Joker the hero?)

*****

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Evan Dorkin

1. 5 comic shops you won't go back to and why
2. 5 comic-related names you'd think about giving to your child (but wouldn't, right? Right?)
3. 5 favorite hats or pieces of headgear worn by a comic character
4. 4 publishers you wish would start up again and 1 you wish would close shop for good. Or 3 and 2. Whatever.
5. 5 cartoonists you'd hire to do interior design in your house, bonus for what room(s) you'd have them do

*****

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Rob Clough

1. Name five characters you'd like to drop acid with.
2. Name five artists whose work you discovered at a small press show like SPX, APE or MOCCA.
3. Create a basketball starting lineup using five different comics characters--they don't actually have to play basketball.
4. Name 5 comics characters that you wish had been your parent.
5. List your five favorite interviews you've read with a cartoonist.

*****

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David Welsh

1. Name five work-for-hire creators you'd like to see do independent, non-genre work.
2. Name five comics you'd pay for again if it meant erasing the memory of ever having read them in the first place.
3. Name five comic properties that should be adapted into Broadway musicals.
4. Name five comic properties that could be adapted into Oscar-bait motion pictures.
5. Name five comics characters you would cross the street to avoid, were they real.

*****

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Rick Lowell

1) Name five fictional comic locations that you would visit if given the chance.
2) Name five writer/artist combinations who have never worked together before that you would like to see collaborate.
3) Name five comics that you have bought just for the covers.
4) Name five vehicles or machines from comics that you would like to drive or ride in.
5) Name five weapons from comics that you would not wish to fall into enemy hands.

*****

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Michael Aushenker

* Name the five best characters ever created by Steve Ditko
* Name five discontinued comic book publishers that you wish were still around.
* Name five canceled or indefinitely postponed comic book series that you wish were still around
* Name the five comic book characters you will not miss if they disappeared tomorrow
* Name the five best characters with a military ranking (Captain, General, Admiral, etc.)

*****

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Christopher Duffy

* Name five potential reprint projects so great that you can't believe haven't been published or planned yet.
* Name five comics pets you'd like to own.
* Name five regular anthology comics (past or present) that you think are fun, important, or just unappreciated.
* Name five things the comic books of the 40s could teach the comic books of today.
* Describe five comics-related gifts you've received, and what was cool (or not) about them.

*****

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Douglas Wolk

1. Quote Five of Your Favorite Lines of Dialogue from Comics From Memory (No Checking!)
2. Name Five Comics You're the Only Person You Know Who Liked
3. Name Five Defunct Series You Wish Were Still Ongoing
4. Name Five Great Comics You've Found in a Bargain Bin
5. Name Five of the Funniest Comics You've Ever Read

*****

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Marc Sobel

1. Five Dream Artist/Writer matchups
2. Five Favorite Covers
3. Five Favorite Issue #5s (i.e. Animal Man #5)
4. Gary Larson Week -- Five Favorite Far Sides
5. Five Things That Could Cheer Up Chris Ware

*****

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Russell Lissau

1. Five comic book plot lines you wish never existed
2. Five characters who you wish had their own books but don't have them right now
3. Five characters you'd invite to a dinner party
4. Five characters you wish had better costumes
5. Five creators who deserve more work/recognition

*****

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Nat Gertler

1. Name five creative team/title matchups that never happened, but should've.
2. Name five things in Marvel Universe history you'd fix if you lived in the Marvel Universe with a time machine.
3. Name five things you'd fix in the comics industry history if you had a time machine in the real world.
4. Five comic characters you'd want as your best friend.
5. Five words you first encountered in comics.

*****

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Dave Knott

* Recommend five intelligently written books about comics.
* Name five real-life personalities who have made unexpected cameos in comics.
* Name five events from comics-related history for which you wish you could have been a fly on the wall.
* Name five creators who have left comics for other media or otherwise retired and you would like to return to the fold.
* Name five creators who have entered comics from other media and you would like to go back where they came from.

*****

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Mark Coale

1. Name Five Convention Stereotypes You Wish You Never Had to See Again
2. Name Your Five Favorite Characters that Work in the Media
3. Name Five Fictional Buildings in which You'd Like to Live
4. Name Five Books You'd Like to Own that You've Never Seen in Person
5. Name Five Creators That You'd Like to See Write an Episode of Dr Who

*****

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Douglas Mullins

1. Name Five Great Musical Performances from Comics
2. Name Five Great Art Exhibitions from Comics
3. Name Five Great Dance Scenes from Comics
4. Name Five Great Chefs/Meals from Comics
5. Name Five Great Poets from Comics

*****

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Matthew Craig

1. Who Are Comics' Five Greatest Internationalists?
2. Which Five Comics Characters Would You Erase From History?
3. Who Were The First Comics Characters You Could Draw From Memory?
4. Ronin, Ronin, Ronin: Name Five Great Comic Book Wanderers.
5. Name Five Comics We'll All Still Be Reading in 2020.

*****

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Richard Pachter

1. Five artists you liked when you were a kid but don't like as much (or at all) now
2. Five artists who were doing good comics work at least ten years ago but aren't doing any comics work now
3. Five series or stories that would be ideal for animated TV series adaptation
4. Five favorite Superman artists
5. Five favorite Superman writers

*****

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Sean T. Collins

1. Name five critics/writers about comics whose work you enjoy.
2. Name your five favorite masks in comics. Not the whole costume, just the mask.
3. Suggest five awesome online comic art image galleries. Provide links.
4. Suggest five awesome online comic-related posts, essays, articles, or reviews. Provide links.
5. Name five comics creators who seem like comics characters, as well as the creator and/or comic whose work he or she seems to come from. (No autobio allowed.)

*****
*****
 
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Happy 41st Birthday, Jason Lutes!

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Happy 45th Birthday, Katsuya Terada!

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First Thought Of The Day

Bad Boys 2 + Rocky 6 = Die Hard 4.
 
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December 6, 2008


Next Week In Comics-Related Events

December 7
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December 9
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December 11
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December 13
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CR Week In Review

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The top comics-related news stories from November 29 to December 5:

1. Massive mid-week cuts at book publishers and media companies reach as far as Persepolis procurer Anjali Singh.

2. Indonesian officials seek to block web site containing Muhammed sex cartoons.

3. The Des Moines Register eliminates Brian Duffy's position in widespread cuts at Gannett, making the newspaper of JN Darling, the newspaper that brags about running an editorial on the front page, without a cartoonist.

Winner Of The Week
Emile Bravo

Losers Of The Week
Fans of Comic Foundry

Quote Of The Week
"Personally, I am spending all my gift money only in comic shops this year and in the supermarket." -- Jimmy Palmiotti

this week's imagery comes from pioneering comic book house Quality
 
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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 London, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Concord, I’d Go To this

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If I Were Nearby, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In London, I’d Go To This

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Your Say, Our Platform: LOC Highlights

* Rich Watson on 2009 Glyph Awards Call For Submissions And Judges (PR) (12/1/08)
* Ryan Cecil Smith On Black Jack As A Character (11/29/08)
* Mark Coale On ComicsPro Coming Out Against Selling Stuff Ahead Of Street Dates (11/29/08)
* Vernon Wiley on Final Crisis #2-4 For a Buck Apiece (11/29/08)
* Stefan Dinter on Anna-Marie Jung Appearance 12-05-08 (PR) (11/29/08)
 
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Happy 42nd Birthday, Leonard Kirk!

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Happy 79th Birthday, Frank Springer!

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Happy 41st Birthday, Claire Wendling!

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Happy 43rd Birthday, Paul Jenkins!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Robin Riggs!

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December 5, 2008


Five For Friday #144—Meta

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Five For Friday #144 -- Suggest Five Future Five For Friday Topics

*****

1. Name Your Five Favorite Marvel or DC Comics Single Issues, Nothing From The Same Series Twice
2. Name Five Comics Conversations You Never Need To Have Again
3. Make Five Confessions Related To Comics That Don't Necessarily Portray You In A Flattering Light
4. Name Five Items That Only Exist In Comics You'd Bid For Were They To Magically Appear On eBay
5. Name Five Of Your Favorite Magic Users From Comics

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

*****

Five For Friday is a reader response feature. To play, send a response while it's still Friday. Play fair. Responses up Sunday morning.
 
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Editor Anjali Singh Among HMH Firings

A second look at this week's news of massive job cuts in the publishing and media worlds yields reports that Anjali Singh was one of those let go by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Singh has been one of the most important editors in all of comics the last decade and her being let go is about as big as it gets where comics publishing overlaps with book publishing.

It was Singh that while an editor at Pantheon acquired the internationally successful Persepolis books (since combined into one volume), one of the key works in North American book publishing's interest in comics. She was also responsible for acquiring Epileptic, The Rabbi's Cat and La Perdida. She had taken over the Best American Comics series upon moving to HMH in 2006. At HMH, Singh was responsible for Blue Pills, HMH's English-language edition of Frederik Peeters' award-winning volume. Another book she discussed in press for Blue Pills called Tina's Mouth is I believe a comics/prose hybrid that has not yet been released.
 
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Friday Distraction: A Flame Expelled

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You Know Who Wouldn’t Keep His Job In The Current Newspaper Market?

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"This guy."
 
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Apocalyptic Week In Book Publishing

Here's the best summary of firings and related moves in the book publishing world as that industry presses to adjust to new economic realities. Giant media companies made cuts, too. (I heard Splash Page survived the MTV cuts, if anyone wondered.) As with most of these things, the fact of an adjustment isn't all that scary to those not directly affected. Given what we know about a rapidly evolving media landscape, adjustments may have been overdue. It's the scrambling nature of these changes, their potential severity and reactionary quality, that should for the present pique our interest and shape our concern.
 
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Go, Watch: Stuff Of Life Promotion


 
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NPR’s Best Graphic Novels of 2008

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From Laurel Maury:

* Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert (First Second)
* Goodbye, Yoshihiro Tatsumi (D&Q)
* Heavy Liquid, Paul Pope (DC/Vertigo)
* Local, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly (Oni)
* Skyscrapers Of The Midwest, Josh Cotter (AdHouse)
 
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Go, Look: Crumb At Pointdironie.com

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Missed It: Your 2008 Nickelodeon Magazine Comics Award Nominees

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I completely missed these but saw them mentioned in a Marvel press release. You can vote in the December issue of the magazine or on-line; voting ends December 31.

Favorite Graphic Novel
* The Arrival, Shaun Tan
* Baby Mouse, Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
* Bone, Jeff Smith
* Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney
* The Invention Of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
* Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto

Favorite Comic Series
* Archie
* Batman
* Simpsons
* Spider-Man
* Star Wars

Cutest Comic Character
* Bartleby
* Manny
* Snoopy
* Super Diaper Baby

Favorite Comic Strip
* Calvin and Hobbes
* FoxTrot
* Garfield
* Mutts
* Peanuts

Best Hair In Comics
* Calvin
* Kakashi Hatake
* Storm
* Veronica

Favorite Manga Series
* Best of Pokemon Adventures
* Fruits Basket
* Kingdom Hearts II
* Naruto
* One Piece

Grossest Thing In Comics
* Captain Underpants's Underpants
* The Cheese
* Venom's Tongue
* Wolverine's Back Hair

Favorite Fantasy Graphic Novel
* Amulet
* Bone
* Redwall The Graphic Novel
* Warriors
* W.I.T.C.H.
 
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If I Were In NYC, I’d Go To This

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

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If I Were In Philly, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Austria, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In San Jose, I’d Go To This

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I Would Buy This Every Month

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Go, Look: Fred Guardineer Is Magic

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that Zatara story in particular is astounding-looking
 
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Go, Look: Star Pirate

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What You Get For X-Mas In Heaven

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* the comics industry news and analysis site ICv2.com has a short piece up on the end of Twomorrows' Write Now, Editor Danny Fingeroth's how-to magazine for writing comics and related media. The last issue is out in February.

image* I thought this was the best, most thoughtful piece on David Heatley's My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down since the Comics Comics cage match from several weeks ago. Okay, actually it's a good, thoughtful piece and the first review of the book I've read since the Comics Comics thing.

* speaking of reviews, Dick Hyacinth takes a look at the first few days of the new Blog@Newsarama team.

* this may be the funniest thing I've ever read on the comics submissions process because he manages to give good advice and not back away from kidney punching the deep hubris that many people bring to allowing the syndicates the honor of making them as rich as Jim Davis.

* the writer Matt Fraction has re-launched his web site. I expect a lot of comics web site changes in 2009 to reflect changes in the Internet over the last 15-18 months or so.

* while I'm sitting here in my undershirt eating donuts and watching Laff-A-Lympics re-runs, David Welsh and his readers are saving the comics industry through his preventative medicine giveaway. Click through to read prescriptions for what ails comics from Rob McMonigal, Kent Falconer, Teg, Eoin Marron, Francene Lewis, Nava Ruggero, Matthew J. Brady, Judah Alt, Laethiel Mazake, Keath Patterson, Michael Jewell, Avery Dame, Lauren C, Matthew, ahavah22 and winner Jamie Coville. No truth to the rumor that the mainstream comics world sent the wrong message to America by appearing before the Precious Curmudgeon committee having separately arrived in West Virginia in the Invisible Jet, the Fantasticar and Archie's Jalopy.

image* this made me grin. Hopefully he'll do Franny and Zooey with the Wonder Twins next.

* finally, if you were going to a comic book wedding and had to be seated next to one of the superhero couples, wouldn't you and your spouse want to sit next to Speedy and whomever he was dating, in part because he used to be a heroin addict? He's like the only DC superhero with an interesting aspect to his life that isn't related to beating people up. He would be really popular. I suppose other superheros have jobs and pre-superhero careers, but they're all vocations that are death for small talk like "rich dude" or "scientist" or "princess." Robotman would be good to sit next to, too, because there's an 80 percent chance somebody's date would get drunk and immediately start asking him super-embarrassing questions. Plus the name would keep cracking you up. Also, is it my imagination or is this the most underrated of the superhero songs? You have that guy coming in with the second lyric in a manner that's just bursting with sparkles, and then you have that sing-along low-singing part that concludes it. Namor's my favorite superhero for the first 10 seconds because he shows up for fistfights in his Speedo. Also, I don't think enough has been made of Thundra as a subliminal sexual icon for comics-reading boys born 1967-1973. She was like Valkyrie's sister that kept getting kicked out of school that you once saw drinking Mickey's Big Mouths out by the garage and you heard put out, even though you weren't quite sure what "putting out" meant. (I still don't.)
 
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Happy 84th Birthday, Sam Glanzman!

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Quick hits
Reviews From The Webcomic Overlook
Larry Cruz: Fite!
Larry Cruz: Pibgorn
Larry Cruz: Evil Inc.
Larry Cruz: VG Cats
Larry Cruz: Lowroad
Larry Cruz: Butterfly
Larry Cruz: Fanboys
Larry Cruz: Erfworld
Larry Cruz: Acid Keg
Larry Cruz: Pinky TA
Larry Cruz: Cow-Man
Larry Cruz: Marry Me
Larry Cruz: Year One
Larry Cruz: Pug Davis
Larry Cruz: Achewood
Larry Cruz: Last Blood
Larry Cruz: Fey Winds
Larry Cruz: Zebra Girl
Larry Cruz: High Moon
Larry Cruz: Megatokyo
Larry Cruz: Silly Daddy
Larry Cruz: Kawaii Not
Larry Cruz: Lil Formers
Larry Cruz: Lackadaisy
Larry Cruz: Sam & Max
Larry Cruz: Sarah Zero
Larry Cruz: Menage a 3
Larry Cruz: Jump Leads
Larry Cruz: Better Days
Larry Cruz: Applegeeks
Larry Cruz: Horribleville
Larry Cruz: Alpha Shade
Larry Cruz: Subnormality
Larry Cruz: 8-Bit Theater
Larry Cruz: Shortpacked!
Larry Cruz: Sore Thumbs
Larry Cruz: The Dreamer
Larry Cruz: Nothing Better
Larry Cruz: Sugary Serials
Larry Cruz: Dumm Comics
Larry Cruz: Sequential Art
Larry Cruz: No Pink Ponies
Larry Cruz: Thinkin' Lincoln
Larry Cruz: Wickedpowered
Larry Cruz: Scary Go Round
Larry Cruz: Penny and Aggie
Larry Cruz: What Birds Know
Larry Cruz: Savage Chickens
Larry Cruz: Cheshire Crossing
Larry Cruz: Gunnerkrigg Court
Larry Cruz: The Zombie Hunters
Larry Cruz: Irregular Webcomic!
Larry Cruz: The Order of the Stick
Larry Cruz: Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi
Larry Cruz: Joe Loves Crappy Movies
Larry Cruz: The Perry Bible Fellowship
Larry Cruz: Meet the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats
Larry Cruz: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja
Larry Cruz: Nedroid's Bad Comics Challenge
Larry Cruz: The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo
 

 
December 4, 2008


Your Danish Cartoons Hangover Update

imageI think a lot of people will enjoy the transcript of this address by Manjula Padmanabhan for the way it engages a number of issues in cartooning, such as the perceived relative dearth of women cartoonists out there and what that might mean, but I thought she brought up an interesting notion the relates to the Danish Cartoons. While a lot of analysis, including much of my own, has discussed the original publication of the Muhammed caricatures in Jyllands-Posten terms of whether or not it was a proper act of journalists, Padmanabhan looks at the very same elements in terms of what cartoonists should or should not do -- or do best and not do well at all, if you prefer.
 
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End Of Bone Color Volumes In Sight

imageJohanna Draper Carlson and RJ Carter note the publication of the final Scholastic color Bone volume, Crown of Horns, in early 2009. That partnership has been to my mind an unqualified success, putting millions of Jeff Smith comics into the hands of a staggering accumulation of readers, a number of whom missed out on it the first time around. It also allowed for a color version of the entire project that's allowed those who were there for the initial publication to see it with new eyes. That its success hasn't been matched by a similar project merely indicates that there aren't a lot of series like Smith's out there; it shouldn't have significant bearing on our appraisal of people getting an opportunity to read and enjoy that book.

Jeff and Vijaya Iyer recently returned from India, close enough after the violence that erupted there recently that friends and fans were worried about their safety. Fortunately, that took place after they had left the country. It sounds like they had an amazing time; I quite liked these photos, and I'm intrigued by India as a market for comics. It's also worth a reminder that what I believe to be Smith's only US store signing for the next several months will be held this Saturday in California. Flying Colors won the right to that signing through a bid on it that benefited the CBLDF.
 
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Go, Bookmark: NBM’s New Blog

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I'm of the camp that believes blogs should be appraised based on what they're doing in their sixth, eighteenth and fifty-second week as opposed to how they come on during the launch period, but that shouldn't stop you from bookmarking NBM's blog right this very moment and it doesn't stop me from being really happy it's arrived! Johanna Draper Carlson describes its features here.
 
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Another Cartoonist Loses Staff Position

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A site called The Iowa Independent reports that cartoonist Brian Duffy is among the staffers cut by the Des Moines Register in a brutal cost-cutting purge being conducted by the Gannett group. This is depressing on a a lot of levels. First, the Register is a model newspaper: a Pulitzer-winning anchor to a sizable American community. Second, the Register has a fine tradition newspaper cartooning, including work from Ding and Frank Miller (not that one). Third, editorial cartoons were a selling-point for the paper, as the Register frequently boasted that it ran its cartoons on the front page. Fourth, Duffy seemed to have been a significant part of the paper's on-line presence, including a video profile (it will play like it or not, at the Register's Duffy page) that talks about that front-page thing.

So that's bad news, and I don't think it's out of place to say that editorial cartooning is suffering through a period of hard-to-define freefall that could conceivably end with as few as a dozen people in these kinds of jobs.
 
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Forget This Year’s CR X-Mas Gift Guide; Here’s The Only Present Anyone Needs

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the greatest comic strip character *and* the greatest comic strip commercial endorsement; give one to the Florrie in your life
 
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Go, Look: Retailer Retirement Party

I enjoyed this report and accompanying photo array about the retirement of one of the world's first modern comics stores, Fantask in Copenhagen. I loved being able to buy comics at Ross Grocery Store and I love being able to buy them at Barnes & Noble, but the comic book store is very important to comics in terms of its ability to carry way more books than any other outlet can and to communicate the weight of the art form and the culture that surrounds it. Neither of these things is guaranteed, but the extent they do occur constitutes a great strength of the art form. I sleep a little bit better at night knowing that at least one part of comics' unclear future is in the hands of a lot of folks who are experienced, savvy and in it for life, and it's nice to be reminded of that.
 
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If I Were In Pittsburgh, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In SF, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In Portland, I’d Go To This

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If I Were In London, I’d Go See This

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Go, Look: Vincent Maillie’s Blog

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Go, Look: Sturgeon River Previewed

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from the Umbra team; link from Abhay Khosla
 
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Go, Look: Hal Foster’s Tarzan

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Go, Look: Frappe The Snowman

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* I totally missed this one. Apparently, Congolese authorities have appropriated a nearly two-decade old comics museum to turn it into a hospital. That's like one of those stories where every noun is interesting.

image* another bit of French-language industry news: I guess Lire named Joann Sfar's adaptation of Antoine de Saint Exupery's Le Petit Prince as its #1 comic of the year. That's a project I've only read a tiny bit about but I guess is semi-controversial in some way, perhaps for the nature of the adaptation or maybe the clash of a strong tradition for comics colliding with a particularly formidable example of a visually lively -- yet still not a comic -- young persons' book. Anyway, I think it's that honor that led to this Pascal Ory interview with Sfar that's probably worth translating via computer or stumbling through if you have a little schoolboy French. It seems pretty funny and smart to me for this kind of thing: "J'adore la France pour son regard irresponsable sur la politique mondiale."

* the cartoonist Elijah Brubaker has his Reich series available for sale here, and could apparently use your patronage.

* I have no idea where this Tom Kaczynski cartoon came from or what it's doing there, but I like it. I don't remember where I first got this link, either, but animated Dave Cooper? Sign me up.

* here's a list of demands for the emergence of digital alternatives to print comics reading. I have a much shorter list of demands: Yesterday.

* not comics: do you ever see actor or celebrities on TV that you would have sworn died years ago and find out they've been around the whole time? I did that once with Julia Child, and I've just done it again with John Heard. How could I not notice John Heard was alive? He's like in 14 things a year. And I'm pretty good with character actors. One of a very few episodes of Lost I've seen Matthew Fox's character's father showed up and I knew it was Hawk the Slayer. You know? But I really thought Heard was dead. I guess every time I saw him I just assumed it was in a rerun or an actor that looked like him. Or I've just pierced the masquerade that is our shared, perceived reality. I'm hoping it's the former.

image* I don't agree with this analysis of Saul Steinberg's cartoons, but I appreciate its contrariness and challenge to conventional wisdom.

* here's an analysis of Marvel's Spider-Man back-to-being-single revamp one year in. Acknowledging the sales bump the group of titles has enjoyed, the author seems to be making the point that the most severe change wasn't necessary to facilitate the vast majority of this latest round of stories, and the memory of that status quo has become one of those eventual plot outcomes that the act of putting it off to the side haunts a series rather than liberates it. That sequence on the subway is cute.

* I completely missed this nice catch-up with Bill Leak, the well-liked Australian editorial cartoonist who suffered a sudden and what could have been tragic head injury a while back, but has since recovered.

* a couple of art-comics interviews worth your time. Here's a Pulse interview with the remarkable Kevin Huizenga. Any interview with Huizenga is a must-read, and this one has the added bonus of showing up in an odd place with its own very identifiable interviewing idiosyncrasies. It's sort of like Steven Millhauser popping up on a random episode of The Wayne Brady Show. Second, here's an interview with two-thirds of the Comics Comics team, Tim Hodler and Frank Santoro, both of whom I like very much and both of whose opinions on comics I value very highly. The sound on my computer isn't working, but I believe this may be the actual video footage of Hodler and Santoro being interviewed.

* finally, did I forget to make fun of this title? That's like a parody of a funnybook title.
 
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Happy 48th Birthday, Geof Isherwood!

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Happy 57th Birthday, Regis Loisel!

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Quick hits
Reviews From ComicsTalk, Part Two
Erg: Starslip Crisis
Smuga: Joy Of Tech
Matt Summers: Jack
Smuga: Sparkneedle
Matt Trepal: Narbonic
Alan Knight: Dewclaw
Justin Pierce: Kid Radd
Wednesday White: girly
Larry Cruz: Octopus Pie
Larry Cruz: FreakAngels
John Lynch: Femme Noir
Kelly J. Cooper: Dicebox
Larry Cruz: SugarShock!
Brian Daniel: Errant Story
Matt Trepal: Small Stories
Matt Trepal: Skinny Panda
Frank Cormier: Stuff Sucks
Larry Cruz: Dresden Codak
Apis Teicher: Wahoo Morris
Matt Trepal: Sabrina Online
Kim Smuga-Otto: Red String
Andrew Bonia: Shortpacked!
Larry Cruz: Templar, Arizona
Andrew Bonia: Spamusement
Justin Pierce: Dinosaur Comics
Justin Pierce: Return to Sender
Andrew Bonia: When I Am King
Philip Sandifer: Scary Go Round
Stickler and Hat-Trick: Filibuster
Wednesday White: Sore Thumbs
Justin Pierce: Pokey the Penguin
Smuga: Piled Higher and Deeper
Stickler and Hat-Trick: Help Desk
Kellly J. Cooper: Sluggy Freelance
 

 
December 3, 2008


I Still Totally Live By This Rule

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posted 11:00 am PST | Permalink
 

 
The Bravest Cartoonist In The World

I'm not saying that drawing cartoons for your Indonesian blog featuring the Prophet Muhammed in sexual situations is the best use for such bravery, but I can imagine no more provocative act in cartooning right now.
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Go, Read: Eric Devericks Moves On

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One of the interesting thing about the economic is that a lot of people have seen it coming in a way that's allowed them to adjust. It's not hard to imagine that an apparently (although not confirmed) better-than-expected Black Friday shopping day this year was the result of retailers discounting in an aggressive fashion that drove more business. A current hot topic in e-mails I'm getting is just how much the big mainstream companies are adjusting their 2009 publishing schedules to better reflect current financial realities.

This profile of departing Seattle Times cartoonist Eric Devericks is all sorts of melancholy, but it also notes how the cartoonist has adjusted to getting a new job and broadening his artistic output during the last days of his old one because he was slated to be let go much earlier this year. As a result, the final outcome suggested here is still sad but doesn't have that despairing quality that some staff cartoonist departures manage, where you get the picture of a bewildered guy shrugging his shoulders and maybe trying to make a go of it from his syndication income.

Another thing I'd suggest taking notice of in the piece is that the Times seems to have let Devericks go because of major shifts in advertising revenue available to the paper. It's important, I think, to keep an eye on that issue as the primary one in a lot of those positions being eliminated. It's easy to qualify an editorial cartoonist's journalistic value, but much, much more difficult to quantify their ability to add to the bottom line.

Eric Devericks' last day is December 12.
 
posted 7:15 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Not Comics: Gaming Market Giant WOTC Enjoys Round Of Pre-Holiday Layoffs

I'm not sure why I found this fascinating, because I know none of the names, but I did. It may be that the bewilderment is so familiar. Also, it reminded me of the mid-1990s when Marvel laid people like right at the holiday, right before the Christmas party maybe, even. Heidi MacDonald would remember.
 
posted 7:12 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Again With The President-Elect Obama Is Too Awesome To Draw Complaint

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This interview with Mike Luckovich at The Huffington Post isn't exactly groundbreaking, but it's worth noting for the reappearance of the common complaint you always get with new heads of state and that we seem to be getting about twice as frequently with President-Elect Obama: he's difficult to draw in a funny manner. Even if I hadn't seen this before every single time there's an election, I don't think it's a bad thing if the president plays more the role of someone around whom comedy happens rather than the source of everything funny and sad. Besides, as anyone who's ever attended a fraternity skits night or a Christmas party at the office knows, when someone nails someone that's difficult to parody it's like 18 billion times funnier than skewering someone with more out-sized, buffoonish traits.

What's fascinating here in comics terms, though, is that Luckovich admits that if he grew to dislike President Obama he'd likely draw him differently, and even includes a sketch of what that might look like.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Your School Library Journal Best Picks Of Adult GNs For High School Students

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School Library Journal named eight comics works on its recent list of 30 books for adults that will appeal to high school students and help them bridge the gap between juvenile and and adult reading. Those books are:

* Bourbon Island 1730, Lewis Trondheim and Olivier "Appollo" Appollodorus (First Second)
* What It Is, Lynda Barry (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography, Andrew Helfer and Steve Buccellato and Joe Staton (Hill and Wang)
* Me and the Devil Blues, Akira Hiramoto (Del Rey)
* Incognegro, Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece (DC/Vertigo)
* Cairo, G. Willow Wilson and MK Perker (DC/Vertigo)
* The Museum Vaults: Excerpts From The Journal Of An Expert, Marc-Antoine Mathieu (NBM)
* A People's History Of The American Empire, Howard Zinn and Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle (Henry Holt)

The SLJ list is compiled by a committee made up of librarian that work with that age group in various settings throughout North America.
 
posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
DDP Reports Departure Of Its CEO

It looks like the restructuring of Chicago-based published Devil's Due Publishing announced yesterday with the departure of two editors and a marketing professional could continue for a while yet. The comics business news and analysis site ICv2.com reports that the company's CEO, PJ Bickett, left December 1 and his duties are being fulfilled on an interim basis by that company's president, Josh Blaylock. That same article mentions that Blaylock has left the creative services firm Kunoichi, Inc. to focus on duties at DDP.
 
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If I Were In Toronto, I’d Go To This

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

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Go, Look: Jeremy Eaton Galleries

Commissions:
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*****

Op-Ed Art:
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Go, Look: Paul Sloboda Web Site

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Go, Look: Kenneth Smith

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OTBP: Core of Caligula

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posted 6:45 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* giant newspaper comics strip industry player Universal Press Syndicate has launched a blog featuring content from comics editor John Glynn. As the inner workings of strip syndication have been shrouded with mystery since they became a viable business decades and decades ago, any insight as to what goes on there or how the people there think is going to be very welcome.

image* the great mainstream comics artist Gene Colan's health has improved to the point where he's able to do a signing at Lee's Comics this Saturday, which is great news. He's a very nice man and of course was the massive talent behind one of the five most recognizable and compelling big-company art styles of the last 50 years.

* this is naughty but made me laugh.

* not comics: those of you in southern California might want to take note of this upcoming benefit film showing for Carla and Lance Hoffman. The better Star Trek movies offer villains played by actors that in some manner match the charisma of the featured captain, the best being this scenery-chewing battle between Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner.

* my original idea for Comics Reporter was a site devoted to comics and comics-related incidents that recall the film Cooley High. Unfortunately, this would have been my only post, as someone suggests via the posting of some lyrics that "It's Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" when it comes to the recently-announced end for Comic Foundry magazine.

* not comics: Alvin Buenaventura goes to a Liquid Liquid show.

* the retailer and old-school comics blogger Mike Sterling applies for comics reviewer sainthood by pointing out the good sequences from Heroes For Hope.

* not comics: when you see the page views for various newspaper sites, it's hard not to think that those big-name brands have some sort of viability in an on-line future increasingly dominated by familiar names, and that it's the infrastructure that has to adjust. I guess the worrisome thing is that all of these sites are as viable as they are only because the man hours spent on them far, far exceed the profits gleaned.

* finally, the prominent comics blogger Alan Gardner has been tracking an interesting story about how the talented cartoonist Ed Hall has lost a client newspaper due to the controversial nature of one of the cartoons with which he supplied them. In the latest entry, he notes why losing a paper like this is so maddening: you might lose papers for budgetary reasons no matter how your cartoons played there. One of the underplayed elements of cartoons losing traction in newspaper via the decline in staffed editorial cartoonist positions is that freelancers are treated much differently than a staffed cartoonist in a way that can make it much, much more difficult for that cartoonist. In other words, 50 years ago a cartoonist with Hall's talent would likely have had little problem finding a lifetime's worth of work with a single newspaper; these days he has to scramble to keep a viable client list.
 
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Happy 32nd Birthday, Brandon Graham!

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Happy 47th Birthday, Don Simpson!

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Happy 49th Birthday, Mike Saenz!

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Happy 56th Birthday, John Warner!

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Happy 37th Birthday, Pia Guerra!

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Quick hits
Reviews From ComicsTalk, Part One
Justin: Lizard
Stellas: Zortic
Smuga: Sinfest
Chris Daily: Bite Me!
Chris Daily: Cat and Girl
Matt Trepal: Ctrl+Alt+Del
Matt Trepal: American Elf
Xaviar Xerexes: Dark Red
Apis Teicher: Alpha Shade
Justin Unrau: Cow & Buffalo
Michael Whitney: Achewood
John Lynch: Beaver & Steve
Frank Cormier: Nowhere Girl
Apis Teicher: Cox and Forkum
Michael Whitney: Little Gamers
Wednesday White: The Last Kiss
Michael Whitney: A Softer World
Shaenon Garrity: Boy Meets Boy
Kelly J. Cooper: Demonology 101
Sahsha Andrade: Diesel Sweeties
Xaviar Xerexes: Eversummer Eve
Stickler and Hat-Trick: Ornery Boy
Michael Whitney: Get Your War On
Kelly J. Cooper: The Journal Comic
Andrew Leal: Will Eisner's John Law
Shaenon Garrity: Count Your Sheep
Gilead Pellaeon: Press Start To Play
Stickler and Hat-Trick: Penny Arcade
Michael Whitney: Gods of Arr-Kelaan
Kelly J. Cooper: The Wandering Ones
Sahsha Adrade: Picture Story Theatre
Justin Pierce: Polymer City Chronicles
Matt Summers: The Order of the Stick
Wednesday White: The Devil's Panties
Xaviar Xerexes: Will Eisner's John Law
Stickler and Hat-Trick: Charlie Red Eye
Wednesday White: Questionable Content
Smuga: Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire
Kelly J. Cooper: Checkerboard Nightmare
Michael Whitney: Boy on a Stick and Slither
Wednesday White: General Protection Fault
Kelly J. Cooper: Apocamon: The Final Judgement
Jack Unrau: The Immortal: Aggro-Moxie at its Finest
Xaviar Xerexes: The Abominable Charles Christopher
Shaenon Garrity: Anne Frank Conquers The Moon Nazis
 

 
December 2, 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 tomorrow I would likely pick up the following and look them over, and as a result, Seth Green will yell at me.

*****

AUG080026 CREEPY ARCHIVES HC VOL 02 $49.95
I'm sort of dying to see these; I haven't even looked at them on-line yet.

AUG080189 SPIRIT TP VOL 01 $19.99
This is the Cooke/Bone version, not a reasonably cheap Eisner collection for the movie like I thought. I quite liked these comics, though.

SEP082234 GODLAND TP VOL 04 AMPLIFIED NOW $14.99
AUG082248 CHARLATAN BALL #5 $2.50
MAY082222 YOUNGBLOOD #6 $2.99
It's Joe Casey, with the belle of the ball being the latest Godland trade. At least I think that's the latest.

AUG082241 MICE TEMPLAR HC VOL 01 THE PROPHECY $29.99
I stopped paying attention to this a while back, so I'm sort of surprised to hear there's enough for a HC collection.

OCT080216 ARMY @ LOVE THE ART OF WAR #5 (OF 6) (MR) $2.99
JUL082191 ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #10 $2.99
SEP082257 SWORD #13 (MR) $2.99
AUG082428 CRIMINAL 2 #7 (MR) $3.50
The non-Joe Casey choices for decent serial reading fare this week.

OCT084301 GLACIAL PERIOD GN 3RD PTG (OCT063583) (MR) $14.95
A third printing is great news for this fun but sometimes obtuse book. I liked it.

JUL083595 METH COLAN & OTHER THEOLOGIANS SC SGN ED (MR) $22.99
Another offering to benefit the veteran comics artist Gene Colan, described here.

OCT088029 PRESIDENTIAL MATERIAL BARACK OBAMA 2ND PTG (PP #844) $3.99
IDW gets a second, post-election printing on their pre-election comic book. It's nice to see the home company profiting from this rather than some shoddy-looking knock-off.

OCT080032 HELLBOY WILD HUNT #1 (OF 8) $2.99
These series are usually shorter, right?

OCT083970 BOYS CLUB #2 (MR) $4.95
More hilarity smelling of stale pizza chunks in the couch and dried pee on the bathroom floor.

OCT084123 SHIRTLIFTER #3 (A) $10.95
I always find Steve MacIsaac's work to be interesting -- not the patronizing kind of interesting, either, but the real kind.

OCT082430 MARVELS EYE OF CAMERA #1 (OF 6) $3.99
Kurt Busiek's sequel to his 1990s-defining Marvels and therefore I would guess a pretty big deal that may not get treated as such due to the nature of the market right now. I think this exact iteration of a Marvels sequel has been rumored or planned for about five years now, and before that there was the criminal/cop perspective idea that became one of Busiek's Astro City series.

SEP082358 SECRET INVASION #8 (OF 8) SI $3.99
I talked to someone on the phone that compared this best-selling but not-all-that-well-reviewed latest Marvel epic is going to lead to poor sales for the next Marvel crossover the way that big comedians have a movie that no one like that does really well but in doing so weakens the sales for the next one. It sounded smart when he said it.

*****

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

To find your local comic book store, check this list; and for one I can personally recommend because I've shopped there, albeit a while back and probably a bit high, 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 comic, it's because I no longer feel close to you the way I once did.

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

 
Your 2008 Prix RTL/Tam-Tam Winners

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Emile Bravo's Spirou : Le journal d'un ingenu has won this year's Prix RTL, according to a mostly rhapsodic article at ActuaBD.com. That's an interesting prize because it's backed by and named for a massive media company that will provide a significant measure publicity to the winner.

I'm having a hard time parsing some of the prose in Didier Pasamonik's article, and I'm confused by something in the comments section that suggests a correction or two, but I believe the piece indicates that Bravo was late to the RTL ceremony because he was at the Salon du Livre de la Presse Jeunesse de Seinse-Saint-Denis accepting the Prix Tam-Tam for the best young person's album for his collaboration with Jean Regnaud, Ma maman est en Americque, elle a recontre Buffalo Bill. One thing that's a bit more clear in the article is that Pasamonik expresses a level of excitement over the combined wins and what they mean to Bravo's career, as well as the importance of the creative context from which he comes.

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posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Blog@Newsarama Sets New Team

Following the departure of the vast bulk of its writers at the end of November in a move announced late last week, the comics news site Newsarama has pushed its blog site Blog@Newsarama through to the other side, back up and running at what seems like full speed with a new group of writers. Various howdy-theres and goodbye-for-nows can be found in individual posts Sunday and Monday if you want to scroll back that far.

The new point man seems to be Troy Brownfield. New members of the core team announced by Brownfield are J. Caleb Mozzocco, Michael C. Lorah, Lucas Siegel, Sarah Jaffe, Corey Henson, The Rev. OJ Flow, Vaneta Rogers, Barbara Hallock, Russ Burlingame, David Pepose, Jim Palmiotti, Troy Hickman, Dirk Manning and the ActionFigureInsider.com team. Company representatives that will contribute are Paul Levitz (DC Comics), Scott Allie (Dark Horse Comics), Chris Ryall (IDW Publishing), Chris Staros (Top Shelf), Christian Beranek (Kingdom Comics), Scott Licinia (Fangoria), Raven Gregory (Zenescope) and David Marks (Avatar).

As mentioned here last week, Matt Maxwell is keeping his Strangeways: The Thirsty serialization at Blog@Newsarama for now, and Jeff Trexler should be staying on board as well. The departing writers are expected to launch a comics-coverage effort in early 2009.
 
posted 7:07 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Comic Foundry To Cease Publication

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Comic Foundry, the Eisner Award-nominated magazine best known for its emphasis on print and its personality- and features-driven approach to coverage, will end publication after a final issue, a fifth, early in 2009. Founder Tim Leong announced the decision on the magazine's web site, citing the time and resources required by other elements of his career as the basis for his decision.

Part of Leong's announcement was shared in a letter sent to contributors that I believe was sent the evening preceding this morning's announcement. That e-mail included a similarly-themed statement of gratitude from Senior Editor Laura Hudson. The public statement said that in addition to the final issue, the magazine will be represented at New York Comic-Con, the arts festival run by MoCCA and perhaps San Diego's Comic-Con International.

I'm saddened by the news, and wish Tim, Laura and their magazine's contributors the best of luck in all future projects.

the publication's third issue
 
posted 7:05 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Devil’s Due Lays Off Three Employees

Comic Book Resources reports that Chicago-based Devil's Due Publishing has laid off Marketing Manager Brian Warmoth and editors Cody DeMatteeis and Mike O'Sullivan. The company's president Joshua Blaylock cites general economic factors in the article, a piece that also notes the company lost its signature GI Joe license to IDW Publishing earlier this year.

A couple of things that are odd about the story is that 1) it's hard to imagine that the general economic climate could so quickly and decisively wound a company unless that company were already hurting, and 2) CBR learned of a third firing a few hours after posting the information on the first two complete with an interview with Blaylock. You'd think Blaylock would have mentioned that. Maybe it had just happened.
 
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Go, Look: World War I Cartoons

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Go, Look: Classic Les Barton

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Go, Look: Hannes Bok

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OTBP: An Awesome Book

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* this article on E&P summarizes reaction to a Theo Moudakis cartoon on the automobile industry that ran in the Toronto Star. This is an underrated underlying cause to the decline of the editorial cartoon -- the traction afforded the objections of actors and agents portrayed in such cartoons not so much on the basis of accuracy but on more vaguely-defined, asserted values like being properly supportive or fairness as a principle of equal acquiescence to any and all self-defined realities.

image* here's a really long, fun interview with Lynda Barry in two parts. Barry is a phenomenal talker, so the longer the interview, the better. I would watch a reality show that did nothing but follow Barry around while she talked and lectured, and the only TV for which I currently make time is White Shadow re-runs.

* the comics retail employee and industry issues writer Chris Butcher has joined the Tor.com group blog.

* the LA Times' Hero Complex blog is running a three-part interview with Neil Gaiman on the 20th anniversary of his Sandman comic. The first part is here; the second part here; the third part goes up tomorrow. On the one hand, it's hard to see why this has to be broken into three parts, but on the other, it's Neil Gaiman talking about comics. Come on! Who doesn't love that? It's kind of amazing to see Sandman discussed not just as a publishing event from a certain number of years ago but as a creature of that time operating within a publishing context that no longer exists. One issue that comes up that I'd never thought about is that Sandman really crystallized the strategy of a writer working with different artists on different stories within a larger series. Another is that the series presents a certain model for success within the comics industry that feels a bit like it may have run its course, or at the very least is winding down.

* I thought this a nice primer on digital comics formats, from Sean Kleefeld.

* one thing to remember about comics' desire to become like other entertainment industries is that other entertainment industries can be totally depressing. If you think this is too far removed from comics because of the performance aspect, let me assure you that if you pay attention to book publishing, you see shit like this all the time. Fortunately, I'm smoking hot, but I know not everyone can be.

image* the cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley has released the final cover image for the fifth volume in his popular Scott Pilgrim series. I like the forthright way O'Malley makes these announcements. It's really easy to cross the line into aggressive hucksterism, and O'Malley never seems to come close.

* mainstream comics publishing giant Marvel announces more on-line first efforts. The writer of the post to which I'm linking notes that these aren't the kind of comics that will convert the comic shop devotee into an on-line consumer, but I would imagine that's a good thing.

* finally, here's a great mini-essay by Mark Evanier on the proto-comics store Cherokee Book Shop. One of Evanier's anecdotes suggests that the buying and selling of old comics may have started from a single person walking into Cherokee and declaring that they wanted to buy the things, steamrolling into newspaper articles of the kind with which we're all still familiar and other people deciding they wanted the same. It also cursorily describes a real-life collection of the kind that Wimbledon Green might hunt. I know that a lot of younger comics readers probably look at articles like this with a raised eyebrow bordering on contempt, and indeed my own adult life reading comics has almost nothing to do with hard-core comics collecting. But for anyone that grew up before a widely-established Direct Market, say those of us over 35, comics collecting was for a time just about the only avenue for comics reading beyond the funnies page in a local paper and the 15-20 titles available for a week or so from a couple of nearby spinner racks. The same way film buffs that came of age before widespread availability of the VCR look at midnight cinema shows and underlining movies in the TV guide so they could get up in the middle of the night and watch them, so do certain comics readers regard musty old book shops and pawn shops and the treasures contained therein.
 
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Happy 37th Birthday, John Hankiewicz!

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Happy 84th Birthday, Jack Davis!

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Happy 76th Birthday, Sergio Bonelli!

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Quick hits
Craft
Cameos
Revamping Irma Vep
Article Swears It's Still 1988
Lea Hernandez's Scarlet Witch

Exhibits/Events
Go See Julie Larson
KGB Bar Event Video
More Fanta APE Photos
Kathmandu Convention Report
Audio On Comics and Social Conflict Panel

History
On Stuck Rubber Baby
Remembering Charles Schulz
Celebrating Sparky's Birthday
That Superheroes As Myths Thing

Industry
I Hate Your Cartoon
I Hate Your Cartoon
Artist As Entrepreneur Links
Promoting Your Comic Shop
Manga Phenomenon Hits Leeds
Comics To Kids Sales Up In UK
Sucky Comic Shop Web Designs

Interviews/Profiles
Top Drawer: Ed Piskor
Fear.net: Bryan Talbot
Newarama: Ed Brubaker
iReport.com: Felix Ronda
Video Profile Of Chris Britt
ActuaBD.com: Jason Lutes
Lubbock Online: Dirk West
Boston.com: Joseph Lambert
HeavyInk: Sgt. Richard Meyer

Not Comics
That Is One Happy-Looking Baby
Don't Forget Frank Miller on TCM 12-10
David Lasky Likes The White Album Again
More From Eddie Campbell's Foray Into TV

Publishing
New Crumb From Cornelius
Great-Looking Whores Of Mensa Cover
Apparently, Folks Are Switching To Trades

Reviews
Jog: Batman #681
Michael Re: Various
Chris Mautner: Various
David P. Welsh: Yokaiden
Johanna Draper Carlson: Various
Chris Mautner: Unpopular Culture
Rizal Johan: Strange and Stranger
Sean T. Collins: The Seven Crystal Balls
Shaun A. Noordin: Kyo Kara Maoh! Vol. 1
Leroy Douresseaux: St. Dragon Girl Vol. 1
Koppy McFad: Vixen: Return of the Lion #2
Leroy Douresseaux: Astonishing X-Men #15
Leroy Douresseaux: Tail Of The Moon Vol. 14
Jaffa Aharonov: Amor y Cohetes, Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 1
 

 
December 1, 2008


Whatever Happened To This Guy?



I mean Chris Aubry, not Johnny Cash or Bert
 
posted 4:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
Missed It: Your 2008 Lucca Winners

The Lucca Festival, the European comics festival with perhaps the closest relationship to American mainstream comics and their practitioners ended their 2008 version by giving out its festival awards. The translations are a guess based on a C- in one semester of Greek and Latin Derivatives. Sean Phillips caught this.

image* Miglior Storia Lunga (Best Long Story): Rughe, Paco Roca
* Miglior Storia Breve (Best Short Story): "L'appuntamento," Koren Shadmi
* Miglior Storia Seriale (Best Serialized Story: Criminal, Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips
* Miglior Disegnatore (Best Artist): Massimo Carnevale
* Miglior Sceneggiatore (Best Writer, Career): Diego Cajelli
* Miglior Autore Unico (Best Writer, Single Work): Marco Corona
* Premio Stefano Beani per la Miglior Iniziativa Editoriale (The Stefano Beani Award For Best Editorial Initiative): Torpedo (Edizioni BD)
* Maestro del Fumetto (Master Of Comics): Vittorio Giardino
* Menzione Speciale (Special Mention): The EC Comics Reprints from 001 Edizioni

The list as released by the festival can be found here.
 
posted 7:25 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Get This Free And Very Charming Book

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I can't personally vouch for this offer as I'm getting it kind of third-hand, but I've certainly asked for one and what do you have to lose? That was a good strip.
 
posted 7:20 am PST | Permalink
 

 
‘Tis The Season To Be Generous

Here are three different comics community-related targets for your kind hearts this holiday season, if you're so inclined. I hope you'll join me in considering a small donation to or purchase from all three of the following:

* a fund to aid blogger and comics retail employee Carla Hoffman and her husband Lance has now been set up. Details here. Carla and Lance were caught by a fire while moving from home to car during recent infernos in southern California. They are expected to recover, but are I believe still in the hospital and certainly lost all of their worldly goods.

* the underground comics legend S. Clay Wilson, who is on the road to recovery after suffering a severe brain injury and almost dying in the streets of San Francisco, now has a fund set up on his behalf through a former publisher. Details here. As a long-time, self-employed artist, Wilson's medical bills and ability to make ends meet will likely provide additional challenges in addition to the medical ones he faces.

* illustrator Rich Faber's wife Traci has been diagnosed with cancer, and Faber wants to sell some of his art in order to better afford the coming onslaught of expenses. Details here.
 
posted 7:10 am PST | Permalink
 

 
Your Black Friday Shopping List Adds

Last Friday we posted this site's Black Friday Shopping Guide. At the end of the post, we asked for suggestions of anything good we might have missed. Here are your responses.

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An Illustrated Life, Danny Gregory
A book about life as lived through sketching and sketchbooks, including contributions from R. Crumb and Chris Ware.

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The Rabbi's Cat Series, Joann Sfar
My mom hasn't read these, but Douglas Wolk's mother sure liked 'em.

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The Book Of Leviathan, Peter Blegvad
Speaking of Wolk, the longtime comics reviewer and critic says this is his go-to book in terms of having given it to a lot of folks at one time or another. There's a new paperback version out.

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Ditko, Etc., Steve Ditko
The great mainstream comics artist's first new book in years. I didn't even know this was out yet.

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The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Roy Thomas and Sebastian Fiumara
One of the quieter efforts in Marvel's broad move onto bookstore shelves; the collection of a six-issue mini-series begun late last year.

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A Print From Todd Klein
The above -- obscured to the image can't be knocked off for piracy purposes, I'm guessing -- is "Comic Book Dreams," the third of three reasonably recent prints done by letterer Todd Klein. This time the collaborator is Alex Ross; previous collaborators on prints that will have new editions available were Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

These will be sorted into the main 2008 post ASAP.

thanks to Kelly Kilmer, Douglas Wolk, John Vest and John Burgess

 
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Go, Read: Sand Dunes & Sonic Boom

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Go, Look: Donnegan’s Daffy Chair

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Go, Look: The Fourth Dimension Is A Many Splattered Thing

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Go, Look: Mac Raboy Gallery

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Random Comics News Story Round-Up

* these are the 10 comics that made Shaenon Garrity cry. Good list. She's right about that Peppermint Patty strip being no-qualifiers devastating. I cry all the time at everything so my list would be like 300 comics moments long and half of them would make no sense, so I'm happy Garrity did this. Biggest surprise? No Anders Nilsen.

image* there really need to be more comics-style reports on comics events, like this Jim Medway piece on Comica.

* so apparently Batman isn't dead, but DC Comics reaps the PR benefits of the possibility. It sounds like a win-win if you like Batman, but there's something stomachache-inducing about the whole enterprise, the thought that this is an empty exercise in hype that is so far removed from the comics themselves and beyond that the character that it doesn't matter one damn bit except to take another couple of kidney shots at the soft mid-section of serial comics' stand-alone viability.

* on the other hand, here's an article that's genuinely excited about the possibilities of a new comics serial run, James Robinson as writer on DC's Justice League comic, and the subject seems to reduce the writer to an 11-year-old enthusing at you while their parents get the dinner part of a dinner party ready.

* just to officially make this "Vaguely Unfair To DC Day," I really hate titles like this. What does this mean? This is off-putting to me and I'm a giant dork with an obsessive personality and a beat back the alien invasion by challenging their emperor to a special superhero trivia episode of Jeopardy skill set.

* here's a lengthy and photo-filled report on a recent Seth/Chris Ware appearance in Waterloo.

* I wasn't aware that Sara Varon does children's books -- or I was aware and just forgot.

image* I haven't had a chance to listen to it, but I'm told the artist Frank Santoro is in rare form in this Inkstuds interview. Discussed here.

* finally, here's an entertaining essay by Abhay Khosla on a certain level of fan outrage that the latest iteration of Blue Beetle was canceled. I agree with a lot of what Abhay says, and I'm sympathetic in particular to his reading of the title's storylines as not exactly what the rhetoric around the title promises, but to be fair I'm not sure that he dives all that deeply into some of the more interesting ideas brought up by the series' writer John Rogers in a pair of short essays/statements of his own, like the notion that as 125,000 $3 things being sold in a calendar year with potential licensing and secondary publishing spin-offs somehow isn't worth doing under the current system, that system might be worth re-examining. If like me you're still trying to figure out the nature of the sense of brokenness that emanates from serial comics publishing, this is a good one to dive into. There's also a compelling back and forth between Khosla and Rogers in that post's comments section.
 
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Happy 33rd Birthday, Matt Fraction!

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Quick hits
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Cartoonist Opens Gallery In Liberia

Interviews/Profiles
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Not Comics
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Basic Black Friday Figures
Kobayashi Yoshinori May Be Nuts
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Publishing
Udon Launches Kids Line
I Sort Of Like This Cover
JCM: Dan DiDio Is Hilarious
Boys Of Steel Project Profiled
Steve Bissette Wants Your Bookshelf Photos

Reviews
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Tim O'Neil: Batman #681
Shawn Hoke: So... Buttons
Tom Crippen: The Eternals
Jillian Steinhauer: Fishtown
Matthew Brady: Ex Machina
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Bat-Mania!
Gary Tyrrell: Freakangels Vol. 1
Jog: The Manga Guide To Statistics
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Mesmo Delivery
Domingos Isabelinho: Sudor Sudaca
Paul O'Brien: Wolverine: Origins #30
Sean T. Collins: New Construction #2
J. Caleb Mozzocco: Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!
Paul O'Brien: Secret Invasion: X-Men #4
Andrew Hickey: The Great Outdoor Fight
Brian Heater: The Man Who Loved Breasts
Greg McElhatton: Book of Boy Trouble Vol. 2
Bill Sherman: Graphic Classics: Ambrose Bierce
Greg McElhatton: MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 1
 

 
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