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Okay this is an ad for Ikea, but it is also a fantasy for most of us. Like, a Sex in the City/Axe ad level fantasy.
Imagine being a cosplayer in your small room, and all the parts of your Axis Powers Hetalia, Slam Dunk and other costumes are just strewn about, willy nilly, making your tiny living quarters a squalid mess. LIke you do. And then Ikea comes along and magically, wonderfully, enchantingly CLEANS EVERYTHING UP and puts all your wigs, satin gowns and plastic swords in a Besta or a Kassett. Lots and lots of Kassetts. And when you come back by MAGIC you have a clean organized home! And even your girl/boyfriend approves.
Admit it, you’ve had this fantasy MORE than the one about a $50,000 shopping spree at Nordstrom’s, haven’t you?
Frank is a Singapore cosplayer who has competed in the World Cosplay Summit for his country. And he has lived the fantasy.
However, it is only a fantasy, as one of the you tube commenters put it. “And truth be told…that room will be tidy until next con.”
So so true.
In a letter to users this morning, ComiXology announced they have suffered a security breach, as stated in a letter that went out to users this morning. Unfortunately, the rush to go and change passwords led to the site getting swamped, however, I just went and did it in two seconds so I guess things are getting back to normal. The financial information was not stored on he same server luckily.
For those of you who use
dragon the same password everywhere, this is a wake up call to change all those passwords, unfortunately.
Needless to say, this is not a great thing to happen to Comixology, especially the day before SXSWi kicks off, where they have a number of announcements and events planned. It really is March Madness for them.
Dear Comics Reader,
In the course of a recent review and upgrade of our security infrastructure, we determined that an unauthorized individual accessed a database of ours that contained usernames, email addresses, and cryptographically protected passwords.
Payment account information is not stored on our servers.
Even though we store our passwords in protected form, as a precautionary measure we are requiring all users to change their passwords on the comiXology platform and recommend that you promptly change your password on any other website where you use the same or a similar password. You can reset your comiXology.com password here.
We have taken additional steps to strengthen our security procedures and systems, and we will continue to implement improvements on an ongoing basis.
Please note that we will never ask you for personal or account information in an e-mail, so exercise caution if you receive emails that ask for personal information or direct you to a site where you are asked to provide personal information.
We apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any questions, please contact us by sending an email to email@example.com
By Matt O’Keefe
Since 2008 Jeff McComsey has been immersed in all things FUBAR. The New York Times best selling zombie series has consisted of three anthology-style graphic novels and a number of individual issues. In September Jeff ran a wildly successful Kickstarter for Mother Russia, the first FUBAR graphic novel to feature one extended story. I talked to him about writing/drawing the book – and a lot more!How did FUBAR Press first come together?
FUBAR was originally just supposed to be a convention book. Something with an attention grabbing title that for a few bucks more you got a custom WWII zombie sketch in. Jorge Vega and I put together a bunch of WWII zombie stories from some of my fellow small press creators and Steve Becker put together this gonzo booth complete with replica machine gun. We sold FUBAR: European Theater of the Damned at a few shows in 2008 and I saw a response from people who bought it that I hadn’t seen before. For the first time we thought we might be on to something fun that would also sell. We kickstarted our next book FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead and managed to land it on The New York Times Best Selling Graphic Novel list! Since then we’ve just been focusing on putting out more content and having something new for fans when they come by at the next convention.
Was there a big learning curve with running a small publisher?
There definitely is but there’s also a fantastic community of other guys and girls doing the same thing who are there for questions and support. From the beginning we grew FUBAR organically being careful to not go overboard and spend outside our means. We were fortunate to come up at a time where crowd funding was just getting to be a bigger force in indie publishing. We combined that with a big convention presence and year after year we’ve been able to grow the label and publish more and more.
You ran successful Kickstarter campaigns before Mother Russia. FUBAR: American History Z raised over $17,000. Then Mother Russia raised almost 96k. Were you prepared for that level of interest?
We were ready for it but I’m still surprised by the number of backers we ended up with in the end. Kickstarter was kind enough to feature us in their “Projects We Love” e-newsletter that goes out to almost the whole Kickstarter community during our campaign. As a result we ended up with a lot of backers that normally don’t back comic projects which is awesome for us and comics on Kickstarter in general.
A page from FUBAR: Mother Russia.
How’s fulfillment going?
It’s going great. Right now I’m plugging away on MOTHER RUSSIA and making sure the stretch goal comics and other stuff is ready when the book is done and printed. So far we have the T-shirts and onesies printed as well as four out of the five stretch goal comics are printed or at the printer.
A lot of creators using Kickstarter have struggled with the added cost of stretch goals, particularly in regards to shipping. Has that been an issue for the Mother Russia?
I think because we had done a few campaigns before this one we had good figures for exactly what each reward costs in terms of shipping going into it. We designed the stretch goals to be very economic but still get us and the backers the most bang for their buck. We chose to focus on adding comics as goals because they are both affordable to print and ship. Also as someone who backs a lot of comic projects on Kickstarter I like getting extra comics :)
Mother Russia is the first FUBAR graphic novel, and a comic with four-interconnected plots is a bonus in the Kickstarter. Are longer-form stories the future of FUBAR?
We have at least one more big anthology we want to do in the near future called FUBAR: BY THE SWORD that expands our historical zombie series to include all of world history and ancient history. After that we’ve got some things cooking for stand-alone material we’re excited to get out there, too.
How will Mother Russia be released for non-backers?
If you missed the campaign you can read the first eight pages here. If you like what you see you can still pre-order MOTHER RUSSIA here.
After the exclusive kickstarter printing we want to run MOTHER RUSSIA as a three issue mini series in shops sometime in the late Summer or early Fall.
Now that you’ve built a big fan base, are there plans to further grow FUBAR brand?
Heck yeah. As I mentioned above we have FUBAR: By The Sword in the pipeline as well as both Steve Becker (FUBAR art director and MOTHER RUSSIA cover artist) and Jeff McClelland (FUBAR story editor) are working up their own stand alone projects. In addition to that FUBAR is participating in Free Comic Book Day this year. We have a stand alone one-shot called “The Ace of Spades” written by Chuck Dixon with art by Steve Becker and myself. Chuck wrote an action packed zombie spec ops story for us and I’m excited to have worked on it and that it gets to be part of FCBD 2014.
FUBAR’s FCBD 2014 offering.
In addition to making comics, you’ve also been working as a freelance illustrator. Has this Kickstarter allowed you to devote yourself to FUBAR full-time?
It has. I was just about there before the campaign but now I don’t think I could pull it all off without having that extra time to devote to this project without going full-time. Really it’s two projects. First up is finishing the book and all the extra content and then it’s fulfilment time. Both of those are heavy duty projects. I have excellent help for both of those so I like our chances :)
Do you have any interest in working for one of the big comic book companies?
Absolutely. I love what we do with FUBAR PRESS and the freedom we enjoy writing and drawing our own books but there are some ace publishers I grew up reading that I’d love to work with. Companies like Dark Horse and Oni Press are a big reason why I do what I do. I’d love to get something in the new Dark Horse Presents. That book was a HUGE influence on me in my formative reading years and It’s been a goal of mine to get something in there since they relaunched it.
Are you pursuing adaptations of FUBAR into other media?
Not at the moment. I’m not against the idea of MOTHER RUSSIA the game or MOTHER RUSSIA the movie but making MOTHER RUSSIA a hot shit comic book first is my number one priority.
What have been the biggest surprises from the FUBAR: Mother Russia Kickstarter?
The biggest surprise is how fast my basement filled up with shipping supplies and comics for this campaign. It’s getting out of control down there!
You can learn more about the series at the FUBAR Press website. Follow Jeff on his blog and on Twitter @Jeff_Mccomsey.
GoodEReader is site that often has interesting digital news, but it just posted an alarmist article called Marvel Phasing out Retail Comic Distribution to Focus on Digital, which frankly is just wacky.
Which is not to say that all the signs and leaks and rumors and gossip haven’t been pointing to Marvel significantly growing their own digital sales. This weekends SXSWi will see Marvel announcing some stuff, and there has already been a press conference scheduled for tech outlets. What the most credible rumors say is that Marvel will launch its own digital storefront—as with the expansion of it’s Marvel Unlimited program—and take a lot of that business away from Comixology. It IS a little like the early 90s purchase of Heroes World distribution so that Marvel could distribute its own comics, and that was one of the most disastrous events of comics’ most disastrous decade…but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.
The idea of Marvel ditching print sales at this point is…well, ludicrous. The writer of the piece, Michael Koslowski, seems to have misread every recent comics happening, including Marvel pulling its unprofitable RETURNABLE periodicals from bookstores. In the comments he goes on and on misreading everything, claiming that comcis shops are closing in “record numbers” and incirrrectly sating MArvel is giving away 150,000 Amazon vouchers (Comixology is doing that) and so on. The whole piece seems to be clickbait and maybe I just fell into a trap but given Marvel’s lack of a real book program and print’s still-substantial profitability superiority over digital the idea of them “phasing it out” right now is…silly.
NOW that is not to say that maybe this could happen at Marvel OR DC or everywhere down the road. As we head to the someday digital everything, every publisher is wise to take stock of paper vs byte. I don’t think Disney or Warner Bros want to be in the magazine business, and both have taken all the steps they can to get out of that business except for comics. I think that either a) licensing out books or b) going digital COULD BE eventual strategies for Marvel and/or DC as the cost of 100+ person divisions to put out Fantomex comics that sell 10,000 copies becomes harder to justify.
We just aren’t there yet.
Dennis Barger Jr. of Wonderworld Comics in Detroit is known as one of the more…idiosyncratic comics retailers out there. He’s still resolutely anti-digital for instance, and holds many other opinions hat a lot of people disagree with. On his FB page he recently mentioned that he and some other retailers were planning their own retailing group, working name COBRA (Comic Book Retailer Alliance.)
My frustration with much of what is going on in comics has at least in a large part been set in motion for a reversal. When the Beatles wrote “I get by with a little help from my friends” they had no idea the level of people that would one day join forces like a modern day superhero team to form a comic book organization like no other. This group of retailers are unsurpassed in their knowledge of the industry, fortitude of character and strength of their voices. It is my pleasure and honor to team up with Randy Myers, Dominic Postiglione, Larry’s Comics, Jetpack Comics, Jesse James, Chandler Rice, Aaron Haaland and Richard Nelson to start the Comic Book Retailer Alliance. An advocacy group for the protection of the local comic shop (lcs) and the for a future in print comics for all creators. Way more information to come.
In a later post, it was suggested that more would be discussed at Diamond Retailer summit in Las Vegas in May.
As I’ve mentioned before, there have been many comic book store organizations, few of which stuck until ComicsPRO came along. In fact, I seem to recall that there was one called CBRI that some folks called “COBRA”. But there was also PACER, and BACR, and CBIA and ERCBRA and…more. I’m sure. (Google reveals little of these things.) To be a comic book retailer you must be a rugged individualist and that doesn’t always make organizing easy.
This COBRA group includes many of the “Phantom Variant” group, retailers who banded together to crate their own variant covers as a response to the shadowy “Ghost Variants” produced by a separate exclusive group of retailers…did I mention that retailers are rugged individualists?
Anyway, I asked Barger a bit more about this. While some framed this as a move against ComicsPRO—and Barger admits he and that organization don’t see eye to eye on many things—he said that perception was inaccurate. I asked him about individual issues that he felt were important to address: “Digital, actual sell through figures not just what Diamond sold us figures, stocking our stores collectively through outside channels and a few others that we have to flush out a bit more.”
Of course when he mentioned sell through, my ears perked up. Those numbers would be so, so interesting. Barger has a lot of other views on what he sees as a negative trend right now—although he also announced plans to move to a new bigger location, too so things can’t be that horrible.
Fellow proto-COBRA member Jesse James also put a statement on FB:
I would like to state that I joined COBRA to help make this industry stronger with another voice for the Publishers and Distributors to listen to. Though a media release has come out that the group is a defiance to Comicspro or opposition to that organization is far from the truth. Comicspro and its members have achieved much in its years of servitude to the industry. With their past convention in Atlanta, they continue to show their commitment to make this industry better. I look forward in working with the members of COBRA and my continued friendship with many members of Comicspro.
Not sure that was the proper use of “servitude” but ANYWAY.
ComicsPRO is better established than any other industry organization at this point. At last weekend’s annual meeting, participating entities included ctionLab Comics, Anomaly, Archie Comics, Ataboy, BCW, Black Mask Studios, Boom, CGC, Collection Drawer, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Dark Horse, DC, Diamond, Dynamite, First Second Books, Graphitti Designs, GTS Distribution, IDW, Image, Marvel, NBM/Papercutz, ONI Press, ReedPop, Titan,Top Shelf, Valiant, Viz and Zenescope—a pretty strong cross section of the industry and one that seems to be working together on many issues collectively.
That isn’t to say there isn’t room for another group with different aims, however. More to come, as usual.
It’s a booming time for more scholarly looks at comics, and Ball State doctoral candidate Christina Blanch is one of the most important figures in this movement. last year she held a MOOC (massive online open course) on Gender in Comics that drew some 7,000 participants, and she’s at it again with Social Issues Through Comic Books a six month online course that will examine “current social issues through comic books while understanding how popular culture is shaped by it’s surroundings.” Guests include Denny O’Neill, Shaenon Garrity, Scott Snyder, Gene Yang, Warren Ellis, Jonathan Hickman, Mark Waid… the list goes on. NOW how much would you pay? Well, it’s FREE. Yep.
13th Dimension is helping sponsor this SuperMOOC, and they have more details and a schedule here. The official website is here. Comics shops and Comixology will be offering discounts on course materials. This is something I’d love to sign up for although my schedule allows only time for learning about today’s weather and sometimes not that. At any rate, this sounds like an incredibly cool and informative thing. It starts NEXT WEEK, but there is still time to sign up if you are interested.
Comics reflection of and influence on social issues goes all the way back to The Yellow Kid — or Goya if that’s how you date it — and it’s also been a powerful force in superhero comics.
PS: while poking around on the SuperMOOC site, I found this column by Devin Grayson on the growing trend of calling out a lot of things which seem fairly trivial on grounds of sexism, racism ableism, and so on. It’s a very smart piece on something which is bothering a lot of people, and rather than quote it, just go read it. Grayson has always been a very smart observer (and a talented writer) and its nice to see her participating in the comics conversation again.
WARNING: nerd computer internet content to follow. If you don’t like this, walk away.
For months, I have been trying to get my Google Authorship established.
If you don’t run a website you probably just went “huhhhhhhnnn???” but as part of its ever evolving quest to supply only the highest quality results, Google last year started emphasizing “authorship” for its search results, authorship being that little picture you get next to your results and your name next to you result. Like this was a matter of LIFE OR DEATH, many web experts proclaimed. I have pretty good ranking, and I had all my settings correct or so I thought but I could never get that picture to pop up. WHY? I tried resetting all my meta settings, linked up my Google+ page—their most important criteria—and still nothing, even though I was in nearly 2000 circles, an unshabby amount. I went on Google’s webmasters forum and someone with inner knowledge of Google—you can never actually talk to someone who works at Google—walked me through everything I needed to do. STILL NOTHING.
But one thing she had suggested. My G+ profile photo was in black and white. Maybe that was the problem.
Well, I liked my black and white photo, but finally the other day I gave in and put up a color picture.
And a few hours later….
Voila. Of course, I hate this photo, but I dare not change it now.
Does this actually mean anything? Supposedly people like clicking on things with pictures, and now that my Authorship is claimed, Google is just going to love me to bits.
I posted this in hopes that, with my new found amazing ranking power, people having the same problems might find this solution. Because I live to help others. But seriously, the other thing I learned in all this: Google wants you to use Google+ and favors people who do. So join those circles and share those articles! If you’d like to Help The Beat (and who doesn’t) click on that Google+ button at the top if you would like to share a story with a nerdy audience of techies and Torsten, since that seems to be who uses G+.
BTW, Torsten has been rocking his Authorship badge for a while now. You go, Torsten! G+ I’m telling ya.
Marvel released three new #1s this week. Revivals of Moon Knight and Magneto and a new first issue of Wolverine & The X-men that is little more than a renumbering. Reading them in a single sitting, the interesting thing was observing how each title handled the issue of backstory. Marvel has a tendency to tie its titles into groups and few franchises have as much continuity baggage as the X-Men family.
The best of the three is Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. Moon Knight is a character with a lot of baggage, owing to the last few attempts to revive him. What started out as a sort of “Marvel’s answer to Batman” with multiple identities along the lines of The Shadow and a touch of mysticism to the origin that was left a bit mysterious turned into more of a magic hero and then a raving lunatic. Rather than astro turf the previous versions, Ellis decides to embrace them and construct a narrative of a man who _has_ gone insane and is trying to get his sanity back. As to what caused him to go mad, well.. that’s best read for yourself at the end of issue one. Let’s just say I had no suspension of disbelief problems.
The narrative style is… well, actually it’s kind of what Agents of SHIELD is trying for and failing at, it’s terse with a few zingers thrown in. Mostly the zingers are about Moon Knight being a little crazy and wearing white because he enjoys it when the bad guys see him coming. (The one flaw with the book is the jokes about the Bendis version and the Captain America/Spider-Man/Wolverine imaginary personalities were repeated too much. Oh, they were on target, don’t get me wrong, but the last one completely wore it out.) Moon Knight is now a bit more clinical and detached, perhaps a bit OCD. And that fits the “I know something was wrong with me and I’m trying to get better” approach. The costume change is also explained away and there’s a good reason (linked to Moon Knight’s departure from NYC) for him slightly switching attire.
Shalvey’s art does a good job of setting the mood, alternating between pulp crime and some hints of horror where appropriate. Most importantly, he can sell that white suit and mask without it looking absurd. It might have looked off in the preview images, but it’s very natural in the context of the story.
What we have here is an honest to goodness, set the table with an mini-adventure and introduce the concept type of one and done #1 issue. Moon Knight helps out the NYPD with a little problem and we get a look at the new setup. The _why_ of the new setup is revealed in the final pages and I’m not sure exactly where things are going in issue #2, but I’m buying into the premise and curious for it.
Very good setup for a series and has enough there to bring in fans of the previous incarnations without upsetting them too much if they have a favorite version. That’s a bit of a juggling act. The only lingering concern I have is that this book was developed under the protective cloud of Steve Wacker (much like Daredevil, Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Hawkeye — books that have, for the most part, done their own thing in their own corners of the Marvel universe). You hope the book’s individual voice stays put going forward.
Recommended. Highly recommended if “street level + weird goings on in the background” sounds appealing.
Magneto is a character with a LOT of baggage, and like Moon Knight, a few different incarnations. This is the current quasi-outlaw version of Magneto. There’s a passing mention of his new partially de-powered state from Avengers Vs. X-Men that could be explained a bit more fully… except that whole big superhero crossover thing would seriously compromise the tone of the book. Much like Moon Knight #1, Magneto #1 is about establishing the status quo for the series.
In this case, we’re in some serious anti-hero territory. Magneto was conceived as a mutant terrorist and so he continues to be in this series. His cause of the day is to hunt down people who have been killing mutants or funding those who seek to wipe out mutants and kill them. Now, depending on your point of view, this is either a series of assassinations or righteous executions. And in the mind of Magneto, there’s more than a little Simon Wiesenthal tracking down Nazis going on here. And having a station full of police standing between him and his target doesn’t give him much by way of second thoughts, since Magneto feels he’s the one who needs to be meting out the justice.
Which is to say, we’ve got a book with it’s own twisted and complicated morality.
The writing on this is by Cullen Bunn, who’s probably still best known for The Sixth Gun. The art is by Gabriel Hernendez Walta.
The art reminded me a bit of a darker version of Steve Dillon on Punisher. Which suits the vengence + internal monologue nature of this issue.
As for the actual plot, Magneto is taking his angel of vengeance act on national tour while contemplating his existence and runs into a bit more than he was expecting to. Likely a conspiracy. Magneto as a Parker novel, perhaps.
This is a book that knows what it wants to be and excelled in setting it’s own town. Well executed, too. Still, the mutant anti-hero thing isn’t exactly new. There are plenty of echoes of Wolverine and X-Force here, though a bit more philosophically drawn out. Very good at what it wants to be, though.
Mildly Recommended to Recommended; If you’re an X-Fan, Highly Recommended – in one issue, this book has established it’s identity better than some of the primary X-books.
Speaking of which, there’s also Wolverine & the X-Men #1. I may not be the right person to be reviewing this book, since it doesn’t feel like a number one issue, so much as a new writer saying “hi, I’m here to continue.” I didn’t read the previous volume, so I really felt lost reading this book.
This wasn’t so much Wolverine & the X-Men as Quentin Quire and some New Mutants with Wolverine & the X-Men in the background, although I gather this is what the previous volume ended up being about? It seemed mis-named to me. The issue attempts to set the table by checking in on some characters, but the backstory mostly isn’t there. Quire is apparently reformed and going to be Phoenix someday (not a clue what they were talking about). Wolverine and Fantomas are fighting… in an interdimensional prison I’m not familiar with… and there’s a child that means something to Fantomas that was not explained. Beast is in space. Storm is fretting.
I think this must’ve been what if felt like in 2000 if you saw the X-Men movie in the theaters and tried to pick up current issue of Uncanny X-Men. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Cards on the table, I’ve read 3 volumes of All-New X-Men and 2 volumes of Uncanny X-Men, but not Battle of the Atom. If I need to read Battle of the Atom to know what’s going on in this issue, then it’s not really a jumping on point.
Jason Latour is the writer. Mahmud Asrar is the artist.
Avoid like the plague if you haven’t been already reading Wolverine & The X-Men. If you’ve been reading it the whole time, you might like this. I really don’t know. This felt to me like the next issue, not a first issue.
Walt Simonson’s new book from IDW is coming out this summer and the pitch is as simple as it is irresistible. It’s called Ragnarök, and it is Simonson’s take on the original Norse Mythology. Considering what he did with this raw material in his beloved run on Thor, this should be a treat.
And here’s a preview of a pencilled page from FB.
Kelly Angel is the writer and artist of Anything About Nothing, a webcomic which describes itself better than I ever could. But I shall describe it anyway! A collection of strips, longer-form comics, illustrations and worries about her cats, Anything About Nothing is one of the biggest and most popular web series on Tapastic. Down to earth and silly, her comics are charming, hilarious, and thoroughly idiosyncratic things.
To find out more about how she got into comics, what motivates her to make them, and her thoughts on cats (and quick warning – halfway through this I do ask a ridiculously sincere question about the importance of cats), she kindly answered some of my questions for The Beat. Answers which you can read below! Hurray!
Steve: What was the first moment where you decided to start Anything About Nothing? What were your ambitions for the series as you started out?
Kelly: I just wanted to draw comics. I’d been playing around with comics for a little while and people seemed to like them so I decided to put them together under a name. I suppose it’s a little self indulgent; I mostly make comics because they’re fun. Of course I want people to read them too though and hopefully enjoy what they read.
Steve: How do you decide on what comics go up? Do you draft out several jokes or ideas and then filter through them, or?
Kelly: Most of the time I don’t really plan the comic strips, I get an idea in my head and then make a comic out of it fairly soon if I like that idea. Sometimes I sketch out a few comics and then come back to them a little later, or leave them if I don’t like them anymore. I should start writing down/sketching out more of the ideas that come into my head because I forget a lot of them. Saying that though, when I do put my ideas on paper my ideas down I’ll sometimes come to look at them at a later date and they don’t make any sense. I’ve written a note on my phone from a couple of weeks ago that says ‘Science comics. Why does this fish have 13 legs? It’s beautiful’. I’m not sure what that means anymore.
If a comic keeps my attention focused on it long enough to finish it and it still makes me laugh I’ll post it. Otherwise it’ll be left on the pile of shame in a constant state of incompleteness. I wonder sometimes what people will do with the shame piles when I am dead and what they’ll think when they see them…
Steve: You write very naturally about, it seems, anything that comes to mind. Is it difficult to keep a creative momentum when there are no limitations on what you can write about?
Kelly: Yes and no. On the one hand you have a lot of freedom to play about with lots of different ideas and themes so there’s this endless supply of source material. On the other hand having too much can be a bad thing, especially if you’re easily distracted. It’s kind of like Netflix where you can spend an hour looking for something to watch (because Breaking Bad finished) and you end up with nothing because you’re spoilt for choice.
Steve: You are the star of many of your own comics, and you’ve managed to build up a pretty firm comic persona for the comic version of Kelly Angel. What was that particular process like? How do you decide what parts of yourself to share and which bits to exaggerate, and so on?
Kelly: The comic me is pretty much real life me (I think), if slightly exaggerated. I’m not sure what the process was, it was sort of a natural progression to what it is now I suppose. People I know in real life read my comics so I try to keep them as true to life as possible (I want to avoid people saying things like ‘you never said that’ or ‘that didn’t happen’ or ‘THIS IS ALL LIES’ and then they spit on my face and we all cry). If there’s a comic with me in it, it’s most likely something that actually happened. Really, I’m not a very funny person, things just happen around me and I document them.
Steve: Cats also feature a lot in your comics. What is it about cats which are just so amazing? They rule the internet now
Kelly: People keep telling me there are a lot of cats, I’m starting to suspect there may be some truth to that yet there’s a small voice in the back of my mind saying ‘but is there ever enough?. They’re just really funny creatures; they have a lot of quirks. They’re also fun to draw.
Steve: Actually, I do have a question about this. A lot of cartoonists who write about the everyday seem to hone in on their pets as a source of comedy. I think it might be because you never know what a cat is thinking or planning, so they’re always unpredictable and one second away from doing something creative and new. Do you think that having pets serves as a good way to keep on your toes and constantly be able to think of something new? [I AM OVERTHINKING MY QUESTIONS]
Kelly: They’re relatable, which I think if you have slice of life as your genre is really important. If your dog or cat or budgie does something that makes you laugh there’s a good chance someone else has laughed at theirs for the same reason at one point. Them doing something unpredicted too can be really funny (cats especially like to have mood swings).
Another thing is animals don’t have to do much to be funny or charming and it’s really hard to make one unlikable. If an animal acts like a person it’s entertaining. I wear a hat, no one bats an eyelid. Put a tiny hat on a snake and people go crazy. And rightly so. You can’t really go wrong with animals.
They’re always close to us too so there’s that constant source of material available.
Steve: What made you decide to bring Anything About Nothing to Tapastic?
Kelly: I got an email a while ago inviting me to put my comics on there. I looked around and it seemed pretty cool. I also recognised a few comics too I’d seen before too like Fisheye Placebo and DaneMen. I think I made a good choice.
Tapastic interests me, in that they promote their community experience as a reason for creators to work with them. How have you found Tapastic as a community?
They’re really great (and everywhere too – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr as well as the forum on the main site). There are a lot of cool people there and it’s always great to be around others with the same interests as you. When you live in an area where there is literally nothing going on with anything creative, let alone comics, the internet is really important. Having a place where people discuss comics, get advice on things, get involved with projects and similar things, is almost vital, even if you just lurk. I lurk.
Steve: Do you find that as you develop a following, and repeat commenters, that their feedback influences the way you make your comics?
Kelly: Definitely, I think it’s hard not to. If I make something that gets a lot of positive feedback I’ll look at it and try to figure out why, similarly if I make something that no one seems to like. There are times where a joke could get lost from my head to paper and I won’t know unless someone else says something.
It’s always nice when you recognise commenters, it’s like people are coming back so I must be doing something right.
Steve: As a cartoonist, which other creators inspire your work? Do you read a lot of webcomics yourself, or do you find that hinders your ability to think of unique new jokes?
Kelly: One of my favourite artists is David Shrigley. He has this blend of crude drawings, accompanied by random humour that’s a hard combination to pull of right and he manages to do it really well (and sometimes gets these really profound, clever messages across too). Kate Beaton has a beautiful mind; I have cried laughing while reading her comics. I really like Gemma Correll’s work, it’s cute and she plays on puns a lot which I approve of greatly. Hyperbole and a half is really fantastic and completely hilarious. I could probably make a list a mile long of amazing people who make amazing things.
I love webcomics. The internet is such a fantastic tool for comics, there’s such a massive variety of styles and themes and from so many different types of people. On the one hand you can have this visually stunning high fantasy epic adventure and on the other you can have simple stick figures making math jokes and they’re both equally valuable forms of entertainment.
There have been occasions where I have had an idea to make a comic and I’ll come across a really similar idea done by someone else. Then I have to leave it and move onto something else. It’s near impossible to come up with something completely unique I think; someone will always be able to make a link to something you make with another comic or a line from a movie/TV show. Sometimes it can be frustrating but it’s unavoidable.
Steve: You’ve collected together a substantial number of comics for Anything About Nothing. Do you have any plan to publish in print at all?
Kelly: That would be cool. A few people have been asking about a book so it very possibly will happen, probably this year some time. Then I can be that person that joins random conversations saying, ‘Ha ha, yeah that was a great episode anyway have you seen my book?’ and it will be all my friends and family members’ birthday presents forever.
Steve: Lastly – you say that you’re in Yorkshire, at the moment, studying your degree. Have you managed to foster a healthy dislike for everybody south of Barnsley, yet?
Kelly: I’m in Lancashire. I’ll have to reserve judgement on everyone from Barnsley for now. I finished my degree in fine art a few years ago, which makes me a little sad because I miss being a poor student and having lots of time to paint and draw people. Sometimes naked people. Now I have to try and be an adult, I don’t like that.
Thank you to Kelly for her time! You can find her on Twitter here, and, of course, over on Anything About Nothing. Many thanks to Tapastic for setting up the interview!
Upon first impression of Fumio Obata’s new graphic novel, Just So Happens, I was struck with a lot of similar impressions that arose whilst reading a related, albeit a hastily associated work, Glyn Dillon’s Nao of Brown. Sure, both recount stories about a Japanese woman who now call London home and likewise are authored by men who have a history of working in animation, but these correlations are as redundant as clumping their narratives into the category of ‘graphic novels’, or even as mere examples of international comics. Where Just So Happens splits from its resemblance to The Nao of Brown is in how it emerges as an end product that investigates cultural identity within globalization in a way that fruitfully hones its roots in not only Japan but also as largely influenced by European visual history. Yumiko takes the lead in the story and upon returning home for her father’s abrupt funeral, finds herself immersed in a confrontation of personal cultural difference, manifesting in reality as well as in the mystic esthetics of Noh theatre. Just So Happens is a unique graphic undertaking in the concept of transcultural works. Obata visually and thematically blends Japanese and European visual culture to compose a tale that is dynamic in its hybridity, and thereby conceives a poignant graphic narrative that exposes cultural identity as a process of constant change.
Obata’s style has appropriately been described as a melting pot of manga elements and the ligne-claire method characteristic of Bande Dessinee cartoonists. This designation rings true in regards to the luminous, illustrative skill that Obata delivers in the pages of Just So Happens. Page after page is remarkably filled with expressive simplicity and detail in his characters, consistently matched with that of his backgrounds. Obata’s equal attention to every element of the page’s content is wholly evident—it’s often the intricate, surreal landscapes of Japanese mountains that are the most captivating in their delicacy. Even the mishmash of his characters’ soft outline uniformity with the rich washes in their backdrop work synchronously in creating scenes that induce a dreamlike, Murakami-esque imagery, regardless of whether the portrayed place is in Japan, London, or the in-between fantasy world in Yumiko’s mind. Obata’s aesthetic influence is seemingly more grounded in the craft of Franco-Belgian comics, and while it permeates throughout the work, it is Obata’s subtle, figurative infusion of classical Noh theater that creates an interplay amidst these two styles, splicing together the nostalgic and historical implications of these nation-specific art forms.
From the get go, Yumiko’s struggle to negotiate her Japanese heritage and current British inhabitancy is an almost too recognizable conflict—the works of Gene Yang and Adrian Tomine have similarly delved into examining inner struggles of cosmopolitan identity. Yuminko doesn’t stand out right away as an exceptional character to express this dilemma. At first, she represents a hodgepodge of the stereotypes of assimilation: the icy, emotionally-guarded Japanese woman dating a British man, repelled at the sight of other Japanese people passing by. The adamant rejection of her culture is clear to almost everyone but herself. What drew me in to Obata’s handling of Yumiko’s character was how he addressed her national dismissal without being too overtly affectional. Yumiko’s subconcious friction unravels within her mind, enacted by a mirror of her stoic psyche, the stone-faced Noh performer.
Yumiko’s first interaction with Noh theater is captured in a flashback as she comes across a performance during a summer stroll. The Noh performer thus becomes a reoccurring phantom and is rendered in some of the book’s lushest brushstrokes, its enduring image absorbs Yumiko’s subconscious along with the pages it penetrates. The Noh performer and Obata’s adaptation of its dramatic makeup is saturated in the core of Just So Happens, revealing the work as a versed reinterpretation of both Japanese and European imagery. Obata’s choice coloring echoes the naturalistic pigments of Noh masks, hence capturing the distinctive Noh quality of the profound beauty that exists in the transcendental world, including the mournful elegance involved in the sadness over death. Yumiko’s own detached remorse is reflected in her disorientation with the ambiguous effect of the Noh mask, and as the story carries on, she discovers the expressionless face is not based in a cold indifference, instead the mask embodies a paradox of concealment and revelation. The Noh theater is traditionally based in the stage as a complex metaphysical realm, where the spectators and actors create meaning through joint effort. Yumiko ultimately appeases her inner-torment by surpassing her inactive role as bystander, in both Japan and London, by willingly engaging a fundamental aesthetic rule of Noh, the hana (flower), in which a perfect balance of performance and reception is achieved.
“And during the process al the natural traits are simplified. Thus turning…’self’ becomes an obstacle…”
The turning point of the book is Yumiko’s crucial confrontation with the Noh specter, as she enters the spirit world that Noh is aimed to represent. It is here she settles the inner crisis of her own private struggle, unmasking the cultural chaos latent within, in an operatic climax as the pavilion’s pillars crumbles away. This controlled frenzy is rendered spectacularly, equivalently simulating a visualization of the space in Noh drama. The panels where Yumiko envisions this imaginary space are the most spectacular twinkles in the otherwise calm color washes, notably the flaming, bold use of reds, blacks, and white when Yumiko finally lets emotion pierce her disconnected psyche.
Where Just So Happens falters as a whole is the ellipses-heavy, facile text. My main complaint is the choice in font—the chunky lettering clashes compared to his gesturely brushwork style, and I wish he didn’t fill so many balloons with onomatopoeia since there are some points where he colors in sound effects to create their own background of flying letters and marks. Without diving too deep into the long-debated argument over whether or not the text and image need to work congruously in order to be an effective piece, I solidly accept the weakness of Obata’s dialogue alongside the splendor in his art. I don’t believe Obata intended the story to be taken too seriously, and if anything the simplistic, conversational dialogue is interspersed nicely within his larger panels, allowing the flowing nature of his art to slow down the reader’s eye, to take in his backgrounds in a contemplative course of time.
Set for release stateside later this month by Jonathan Cape with a French translation coming in April, Just So Happens is a memorable addition the growing indie graphic novel body. Fumio Obata accomplishes a compelling graphic narrative that rebuffs the unsatisfactory national/international binary that classifies comics as belonging to a single visual framework, demonstrating the rich and diverse international heritage emerging from unrecognized creators. The incorporation of the strong bandes desinees visual style and the Noh theater aesthetics is an understated and intelligent choice for choreographing a vibrant display of emotional composition. The graphic novel’s simplistic narrative is the backbone to the engrossingly dreamy landscapes and Obata swings the pendulum from reality to dream masterfully, allowing his stylistic magic to spew from the page.
For more information on Fumio Obata and Just So Happens, check out his charismatic and engaging blog.
I don’t even watch basketball, but while passing TVs of late I noticed some guy playing basketball who seemed to be wearing a sinister mask that made him look like Doctor Doom’s henchman. Turns out it’s Lebron James, who broke his nose a few weeks ago and has been wearing a protective device since then. It does kind of look like a Green Lantern type thing, but it doesn’t look very comfortable.
Despite his discomfort, Lebron was able to score 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats the other night. (For non sports fans, that is quite a few points.)
Lebron is not unaware of the comics connection with his mask, telling the AP that he was going to “wear a mask like Bane, or some other comic book character. I’ve been talking to Marvel Comics for the last couple of days, and DC Comics, to try to come up with one of the greatest masks of all time.”
I don’t know how long he’ll have to wear the mask, but time may be running out, so Greg Land jumped right on it and tweeted his design:
If Lebron, one of the most popular athletes in the world, DOES show up i a superhero themed mask, I think it will be the ultimate “Milk Council” moment for comics. I’ve long said we don’t need a Milk Council any more, but there it is.
What comics artist would you like to see design the mask for Lebron? Personally, I’d go with Eichiiro Oda or Renee French…something like that.
§ I bet you thought the Michael George murder case was over. The former comics shop owner was tried twice for killing his wife in 1990, and convicted in 2011 after years of legal proceedings. But one little shard of the past may have just been revealed: a dusty bullet found behind a water heater in an unused room in the commercial space that was the murder scene back in ’90. Creepy, isn’t it? George’s defense attorney has been granted a motion to have the bullet tested for fingerprints and any other evidence, just in case it provides new light on the case..
§ Augie DeBlieck has some interesting commentary n Eric Stephenson’s ComicsPRO speech.
He went on to point out that the biggest problem with the Direct Market is its continued reliance on The Big Two, who now operate at the whim of their much larger corporate masters, putting the Direct Market in a bad position. In the world of computer programming, we refer to this as the bus factor: The bus factor is the total number of key developers who would need to be incapacitated (for example, by getting hit by a bus/truck) to send the project into such disarray that it would not be able to proceed.
§ What is Paul Levitz going to be doing as a Boom Studios board member? Vaneta Rogers went and asked him:
But I’ve been doing a lot of teaching, as you know, a fair amount of writing — the part of my brain that hasn’t been fully occupied is the part that’s used to solving business problems. So I’ve been looking, over the last couple of years, as my non-competes became looser, at what kind of opportunities there might be to use those skill sets. I’ve done a little bit of consulting work, but not directly related to comics. Once the contracts made it possible, I wanted to see if there was anything useful I could do that way in comics. I told a number of my friends, “I’m available if there’s a consulting project, or a board seat in your structure. I’m open to having conversations.” And the conversations with Ross led to doing a consulting project for them, and to the offer of the board seat.
§ You know the Federal Reserve as the mysterious organization that somehow controls our monetary supply. But they also make educational comic books! And you can read them online for free! One of them has had perhaps MILLIONS of copies distributed over the years (it is printed in batches of 250,000, just like our money.).
Of the five comics Steinberg wrote himself, three were updates of the Fed’s longest-running titles, while two, The Story of the Federal Reserve System and The Story of Monetary Policy were new additions to the Fed’s extensive comics catalog.
§ I guess there was a mini-kerfuffle the other day wherein Newsarama Editor Lucas Siegel complained anonymously about a comics company not wanting Newsie to cover their comics. Okay, whatever floats your boat. The Outhouse, as usual, has the best coverage.
Is that what it has come to?
§ Speaking of Newsarama, here’s a fine piece by Jim McLauchlin that looks at the monetary aspects of he convention boom, such as charging for autographs and the money to be made from sketches:
They’ve grown so much that artists can make way more money being artists at conventions than in the pages of a Marvel or DC book. Look no further than beloved longtime comic artist George Pérez.
“I can earn more in a single weekend of convetioneering than I would in an entire month drawing comics,” Pérez says. “And I get a pretty high rate drawing comics.”
§ I don’t always do Kickstarter listings but here’s a really good one: help Robin McConnell and Brandon Graham hit the road to record a series of live Inkstuds podcasts. They’ve made goal but are adding on a trip to New York to gab it up.
§ Here is a depressing piece about how just having a bestselling book doesn’t mean you’re going to have money to live on. All of my cartoonist friends on Facebook shared this link so you do the math there.
§ Retailer Duncan McGeary (he owns Pegasus Books in Bend, Oregon, formerly owned by Mike Richardson) is now an author, with the release of Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves. I’m pretty much fascinated by the tale of the Donner Party, and adding werewolves makes it just a wee bit scarier than what really happened.
§ Ulises Farinas has given up writing comics reviews and delivers an exit manifesto:
The reason i read other reviews, is because critical thinking should operate from a certain standpoint. We all gotta be speaking the same language, understanding how a story works, characterization, that kinda shit. And when i go and read other reviews, it quickly becomes clear that IT JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN. There are no ten commandments. There’s no one talking about story, why Batman is doing something Batman-ish. Just because we all understand the archetype doesn’t mean you get to get away with brooding for 172 pages cause THATS JUST HOW HE IS. Do you know how many superhero comics have basically just skipped any kind of character development? How many comics have basically abandoned any kind of narrative structure and called it ‘serialization’ and ‘decompression?’
I really enjoyed Ulises’s reviews because they were the kind of stuff people say late in the bar but never put in writing, and I guess there’s a reason for that. Anyway I guess he can get back to drawing his most excellent comics now.
§ Finally, Johnny Ryan illustrates a sad trip to Corey Feldman’s house for a horrible party.
Naoki Urasawa is probably the greatest living genre cartoonist. Sorry ya’ll but it’s all true. Combining dense, suspenseful plotlines with thrilling, heart stopping artwork that never sacrifices character, he’s just the master. He’s even won an Eisner Award.Works in English, all published by Viz include MONSTER, PLUTO and 20th CENTURY BOYS. And now, MASTER KEATON, an early (pre-Monster) work from 1988 about a heroic insurance investigator who goes around using his archaeological skills to solve mysteries. SOLD. The series was co-written by Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki.
Viz is bringing it out in its deluxe Signature editions starting in December – each volume will includes an 18 page color section. If you’re a Urasawa fan, you’ve already cleared a space on the shelf for it. Unfortunately, Urasawa-sensei is notoriously digital averse (he needs to go hang out with Mark Millar, methinks) so the only legal English versions of his work are the Viz print editions.
MASTER KEATON was a popular anime series and has been adapted into film and a sequel is currently being publsihed in Japan, so this makes bringing it to US readers even more of a natural.
I’m so darned exciting I’m including the entire PR:
VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, has announced it has acquired the North American publishing rights for Naoki Urasawa’s post–Cold War suspense thriller, MASTER KEATON. The 12-volume manga (graphic novel) series has never before been available in English and is scheduled to launch in print in December under the VIZ Signature imprint.
MASTER KEATON was created and drawn by the award-winning manga artist Naoki Urasawa, story coproduced with Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki. MASTER KEATON will be rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and carry an MSRP of $19.99 U.S. / $22.99 CAN. Each paperback volume will receive a deluxe treatment, including 18 pages of full-color artwork. In addition to publishing MASTER KEATON in North America, VIZ Media will also release it in print in the United Kingdom and Australia.
The riveting detective drama introduces Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, an archeology professor and part-time insurance investigator known for his successful and unorthodox methods of investigation. The son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman, educated in archaeology at Oxford and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth. The manga series was originally published in Japan between 1988 and 1994 in Big Comic Original magazine and also inspired a popular 39-episode anime adaptation.
“We’re thrilled to debut a deluxe edition of the Eisner Award-winning Naoki Urasawa’s MASTER KEATON series this December,” says Amy Yu, Editor. “Tales of intrigue and espionage are presented with the highly detailed artwork and masterful attention to plot development for which Urasawa is internationally renowned. Fans current and new won’t want to miss the tense action and the heady chase for truth in MASTER KEATON!”
Naoki Urasawa’s career as a manga artist spans more than twenty years and has firmly established him as one of the true manga masters of Japan. The acclaimed creator won a 2011 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia for his series, 20th CENTURY BOYS (also published by VIZ Media). Born in Tokyo in 1960, Urasawa debuted with Beta! in 1983 and hasn’t stopped his impressive output since. Well-versed in a variety of genres, Urasawa’s oeuvre encompasses a multitude of different subjects, such as a romantic comedy (Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl), a suspenseful human drama about a former mercenary (Pineapple Farm; story by Kazuya Kudo), a captivating psychological suspense story (Naoki Urasawa’s Monster), a sci-fi adventure manga (NAOKI URASAWA’S 20th CENTURY BOYS), and a modern reinterpretation of the work of the God of Manga, Osamu Tezuka in Pluto: UrAsawa × Tezuka. Many of his books have also spawned popular animated and live-action TV movies, and 2008 saw the theatrical release of the first of three live-action Japanese films based on NAOKI URASAWA’S 20th CENTURY BOYS.
No stranger to accolades and awards, Urasawa is a three-time recipient of the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award, a two-time recipient of the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize, and has received the Kodansha Manga Award. Urasawa has also become involved in the world of academia, and in 2008 accepted a guest teaching post at Nagoya Zokei University, where he teaches courses in, of course, manga.
Jen Sorenson has become the first woman to win the Herblock Prize, awarded each year to an editorial cartoonist “to encourage editorial cartooning as an essential tool for preserving the rights of the American people through freedom of speech and the right of expression.” Along with the praise, it offers a $15,000 prize. Sorenson’s Slowpoke Comics have been delivering pointed laughs for over a decade. She was a runner-up last year and won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2013, so you could kind of call this long-expected.
Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press was the finalist.
I’ve seen it noted widely that Sorenson is the third “alt cartoonist” in a row to win, following Matt Bors and Dan Perkins (aka Tom Tomorrow) last year, but in this day and age, with Sorenson and Tomorrow’s long-established careers and online comics the current delivery method, I’m not sure what is really so “alternative” about them.
The prize was judged by Perkins, Tony Auth and Sara Duke of the Library of Congress, and they said of Sorenson “Jen Sorensen’s strong portfolio addresses issues that were important to Herblock, such as gun control, racism, income inequality, healthcare, and sexism. Her style allows her to incorporate information which backs up the arguments she presents. Her art is engaging and her humor is sharp and on target.”
Michael Cavna caught up with the winner:
“Winning the Herblock is one of the finest moments in a political cartoonist’s life,” Sorensen tells The Post. “Being the first woman to win the prize makes it an extra-special thrill.
“I’m so grateful that this generous award exists for our profession.”
Sorenson is a super nice and talented creator; I’m pleased as can be to see her win this award.
Josei Manga superstar Moyoco Anno is comif to this year’s TCAF. WOOT! It’s her second US convention—she appeared at New York Comic Con in 2012—and the fact she’s back for more is pretty exciting. (Melinda Beasi interviewed her for the Beat here.)
Deb Aoki has all the reasons you should be aware of Anno’s amazing work, but especially notable is the just published Insufficient Direction, which offers a humorous view of Anno’s marriage to fellow manga-ka, Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Hideaki Anno. Vertical has a preview of it here, and like all of Anno’s work it’s blunt and biting, depicting Hideki as a roly poly man child and Moyoco as a screaming child. Yep, sounds like a marriage of two titanic talents all right.
TCAF is rapidly becoming the #2 North American show for those who love comics—in my heart it’s tied with San Diego as the best time of the year.
The Wrap has all the background on that beef between director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley, who both won Oscars for 12 Years a Slave the other night but somehow managed to forget to thank one another. It seems McQueen wanted a screenwriting credit, Ridley declined and bad blood flowed, with even Brad Pitt unable to secure a truce. All the shade throwing stayed quiet during the Oscar campaign however, and it worked! Even if in the group shot above Ridley in the back does look like the axe murderer who wasn’t invited to the party.
As you may have recalled, Ridley is actually one those big comics fans in Hollywood and spent a while writing comics for Wildstorm, including a run on the Authority, the mini-series Razor’s Edge: Warblade, and The American Way. The latter is a book that really deserves to be on more comics reading lists—an 8 issue mini-series drawn by Georges Jeanty and Karl Story that has similar themes to Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier about the cold war and superheroes, but treats them with a much harsher view. The book follows the government’s development of the Civil Defense Corps, a pr-driven team of superheroes introduced in the early 60s, and the turmoil that stem from the first African-American member in the Civil Rights era. A lot of comics mini-series have tried to be “the Next Watchmen” and The American Way is one of the few series that takes that tired “What if superheroes really existed???” idea and gives it a take based on the real world and not the imagined one.
Sadly, like many of Wildstorm’s adventurous comics of the Aughts, The American Way is not available in print (although you can find back issues pretty easily.) However, as DC’s Hank Kanalz reminded us on twitter yesterday, you can buy it all digitally.
AND finally, Zack Smith has an excellent
interview with Ridley about comics and diversity. Well worth reading. Ridley doesn’t rule out a return to comics, although he’s very busy launching a film he wrote and directed, All Is By My Side, and a TV pilot, and more so don’t expect him back in comics any time soon.
So I loved The American Way; I still own it, and if I could find a way to go back and do it…writing graphic novels is a serious business. The people who work on those books are serious, and the fans are serious. So I don’t want to be this guy who just air-drops in and it’s, “I got some award in some other space, let me come in and do graphic novels.” I’ve seen some people do that and it hasn’t worked out so well.
I would love to go back do it when I have the space, especially if I was able to work with an editor like Ben Abernathy, who helped me out and made me look good, who saved me from myself often – that’s a great editor, not just someone who goes, “Oh, John writes movies! Let’s get him to do this and this and this, and it has to be out by this date, so it needs to be done now.”
Few stories here have been as entertaining to cover from a financial skullduggery aspect as the saga of Platinum Studios, a long running con game of a company that cheated a bunch of creators out of their creations while coasting on the success of the first Men in Black film, which it had published in comics form. Founded in 1997, it developed a ton of comics for years without publishing anything while hoping for salvation from the Cowboys and Aliens. I wrote a long history of the company’s bizarre penny stock antics here but the short version is that this business plan never works:
Step 1: buy any comics IP lying around in hopes of making a movie
Step 2: ??
Step 3: Profit!
Anyway, the epicenter—if you call a dozen messages a month an epicenter—of all things Platinum these days is the stock message board, where someone glommed on to the fact that a stock holding company KCG Holdings (NYSE: KCG), a subsidiary ofKCG America, LLC, is buying a lot of stock in the company, a lot meaning 27 million shares. KCG itself is a well established stock trading company of some kind, although just last year it had to make a $12 million settlement for playing a little too fast and loose with money at one point. A fitting partner for Platinum then!
KCG’s interest was revealed in a February 14th filing, as apparently the SEC requires a company to report when they have purchased more than 5% of another company.
Does this mean anything? Is there even anything left of Platinum to take over? Once it claimed to own 5000 properties, but few of them had much of a fanbase, to put it mildly. Since the board drama of a year ago—Platinum’s new president tried to oust owner Scott Mitchell Rosenberg only to have Rosenberg fire him and an investor’s meeting turn into a disaster—the only news of the company was a sale of its storage units last summer. The penny stock was last worth a penny in 2011, it hasn’t tweeted since September 2012, or made any SEC filings since about the same time.
And what of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, the legendary mastermind behind Platinum, Cowboys and Aliens and a plethora of shell companies to keep everything tucked away? He seems to have dropped out of sight as far as Platinum goes, although he’s been backing some stuff on Kickstarter according to his Facebook page.
Rosenberg also published Malibu Comics, which, as we’ve been often told by Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso, will never ever be revived at Marvel despite Marvel having bought the company back in 1994 (20 years ago!!!). No one knows exactly why this is, as an NDA is involved, although there is some speculation by informed parties if you scroll down in this post. I’m guessing it has something to do with Rosenberg.
So yeah, all that struggle for…nothing. It seems the sad, crazy story of Platinum may finally have faded away to dust.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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One of the real breakout comics of 2013 was Bandette, from the husband and wife team Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin. A digital comic that is creator-owned and sold by Monkeybrain for only 99¢, the tale of young Parisian cat-thief Bandette and her team of accessories has been a hit both creatively and commercially. Awarded the Eisner Award for best digital comic, while nominated in three other categories, Bandette is a great example of the digital first/print second phenomenon in comics, with the first five issues released in hardback form by Dark Horse last November. Coover and Tobin, both of whom have long and esteemed resumes in comics where very kind to submit to an interview from me, to catch up on how things have gone for them and the title since the big Eisner win at Comic-Con in San Diego.
Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin, with Allison Baker of Monkeybrain
BRUCE: I got to speak with you guys in San Diego the day before the Eisners. How did it feel to win for Bandette, and has the award changed how people perceive you and your work? Did it have a noticeable effect on Bandette sales?
PAUL: It felt strange to win an Eisner. There was a moment after the announcement when I just froze in confusion, and then I apparently teleported up onto the stage, and it really wasn’t until I was looking at Colleen that I understood we had won. Luckily, even while still on stage I was able to reflect how wonderful, and how rare, it is to be holding an Eisner in my hands, and watching my wife accept an Eisner as well. And it’s definitely heightened awareness (and sales) of my other works, and of course Bandette itself. It’s just great that of the four nominations, we won the first one announced, because that allowed us to be truly happy for our friends when they won. Our friend Chris Samnee winning best artist over Colleen? No problem, because we already have an Eisner on the table!
COLLEEN: The euphoria really was heady. The only drawback, if it can be called a drawback, is that since winning the award, I’ve felt an added sense of responsibility about making Bandette even more awesome. It’s like, “Okay, you’ve given us this thing and we like it, here’s your reward. Now what else have you got?” I should say that this sort of inner dialog is all part of the necessary balance between swagger and self-doubt every creative professional must have in order to keep motivated.
BRUCE. You guys are such a great example of the digital first-print second phenomenon with the release of the Bandette hardcover in November. How has that experience been? Are you happy with the reception of the hardcover, critically and commercially?
PAUL: Definitely happy. We chose Dark Horse because they’d done such a fantastic job on the Bucko hardcover by our friends Erika Moen and Jeff Parker, and they did an equally great job with Bandette. We wanted to make sure it looked like something that belonged on a shelf, or on display.
COLLEEN: Yeah, also, Dark Horse made it really clear that they wanted to be the print publisher for Bandette, and that they would work with us to make sure that it not only looked great, but came in at an affordable price point. I don’t know what the sales numbers are, but we hear from people every week who have picked up Bandette and love it!
BRUCE. While I’m sure there is no way to know with certainly, but what is your impression of the hardcover purchasers? Are they primarily the same audience as the digital purchasers, but now looking to own a tangible artifact? Or is it a whole new audience that was not interested in the comics as digital purchases?
PAUL: Both. We’ve had plenty of readers contact us and say that they loved the digital comic so much that they were thrilled to have a hardcover, and then there were others who wrote to say how happy they were to have the hardcover, because reading comics digitally either didn’t appeal to them or that they just didn’t have access. I think it was the right way to go for us; it’s not even a “best of both worlds” situation, because it’s “both worlds” straight up.
BRUCE: What have you guys learned from the hardcover experience so far? Is there anything you might do differently next time?
COLLEEN: Fortunately, Dark Horse has so much experience publishing good-looking books, all we had to do was sit back and make approvals. They were even able to accommodate a totally last-minute change I wanted to make to the frontispiece when I suddenly got the idea to put in a “This book belongs to…” bookplate.
PAUL: Really… we were quite happy. Sometimes the best thing to do is to relinquish a bit of control and let things happen. Of course, you can guide the process, and we certainly did that, because it still needs to feel like it’s “yours” at every step of the process.
BRUCE: Top Shelf just announced a program by which purchasers of select print titles can also get the digital version for a heavily discounted price. Is that something you might offer, or would it be too complicated with two different publishers, Monkeybrain and Dark Horse?
PAUL: Individual issues of Bandette are already only 99 cents, so I think that’s pretty cheap!
COLLEEN: And yeah, it would be difficult contractually, since Monkeybrain holds exclusive digital rights and Dark Horse has the print rights. I do think it’s a very good business model to include ebooks with the sale of print titles.
BRUCE: Are there plans for a paperback version? Do you have a longer term plan to release print versions for every 5 individual Bandettes? Are you contracted to return to Dark Horse for future print releases or can you make new partnerships on a book by book basis?
PAUL: We’ve talked about a paperback version, but it’s not something we think it heavily needed. We worked really hard to produce not only a great looking hardcover, but to keep the price VERY low, so it’s a 144 page hardcover for only $14.99, so a paperback isn’t a pressing need. There will be more hardcovers up-coming, but I’m not sure exactly how many issues will be in each one. Storylines will help determine that.
BRUCE: What kinds of things did you specifically do to keep costs down? Do you have advice for other creators looking to convert digital properties to print?
COLLEEN: That’s all secret Dark Horse economic jujitsu at work: Paper stock, book size, number of colors used to print certain pages– every little bit you can save without making it look like you’ve held something back adds up.
BRUCE: The hardcover is beautifully printed, and the colors especially pop out from the page. Has the experience of seeing Bandette in print changed anything in your approach to the digital production? Are you still wedded to the three panel page layout that you’ve done so far with Bandette?
PAUL: We love the three tier approach to comics, at least for this project, because it’s not only handy for digital, but also an homage to the comics we’re emulating to a certain degree… Tintin, for instance. And, it has such a clarity that I think it lends itself well to the stories.
COLLEEN: It ain’t broke, so I’m not looking to fix anything!
BRUCE: I really enjoyed Colleen’s work on Batman ’66. How did it feel to work with Jeff Parker as writer after having done so much work with Paul? Did you enjoy the experience of creating art for the Guided View style of digital comic, as you previously told me it would not work with Bandette? Did it change your mind on that?
PAUL: This question is not about me, and is therefore invalid.
COLLEEN: I’ve worked more with Parker than with anyone other than Paul, back when we were doing stuff for X-Men: First Class, so it was a very familiar place to be. We work together in a totally different way from the way Paul and I work: Paul will present me with a complete script, and then he steps back and I draw it. With Parker, we’ll spend time hanging around in the studio, talking about old comics, and ideas for the story he’s going to write for me come out of that. When Jeff found out he was getting the Batman ’66 job, we spent hours reminiscing about watching the TV show when we were kids in the 70s. A lot of the stories he’s written springboard directly off those conversations.
As for the enhanced view, Jonathan Case, who was the first artist on Batman ’66, and is also in our studio, did a lot of the legwork on figuring out how to make it happen without driving himself crazy, and I picked up some tips from him. For starters, we both drew our stories digitally, so that the little changes that happen in each panel match up precisely. The kicker is that no matter what additional “action” we put in the story for the digital product, there has to be a final printable version that makes sense when they publish the story in the comic. It’s a real storytelling challenge, and it was a ton of fun!
BRUCE: In San Diego you told me that a Pixar version of Bandette would be a dream come true. Have had any more thoughts or approaches to put Bandette in other media? I believe there are Bandette T-shirts for sale, but merchandise could be a way to further monetize your digital property, I imagine?
PAUL: So far we’ve done very little on the merchandising front, mostly because we haven’t had time to set everything up, but we do have some thoughts about Bandette in other media. I guess, for right now, we’re just trying to really get our own feet on the ground and establish Bandette, before we start looking to expand.
COLLEEN: Yeah, I set up some tees and mugs and phone cases on Café Press and on Zazzle, which is about the bare minimum of effort you can make to provide mech. Merchandizing is a lot of work, and requires monetary investment, so we’re going to wait and see what opportunities come up from people who do that sort of thing for a living, rather than try to do it ourselves. I’m still very open to Pixar doing a Bandette film. Or really, any other studio.
BRUCE: I know Paul has the new Prometheus comic scheduled for release in June. I would assume Dark Horse is kind of feeling the heat in regards to licensed properties now that Star Wars is no longer theirs. How has the experience been so far? It must take quite a change of mental pace to go imaginatively from Bandette‘s whimsical Paris to the rather grim planet LV-223! And that is not a cross-over I would want to see! ;)
PAUL: It’s going to be later than June, because we want to match some things up, but… yeah, it’s been a blast. I’m working with three other local writers on the project, each with our own book. There’s me on the lead title, Prometheus, and then Chris Roberson on Aliens, and Josh Williamson on Predator, and Chris Sebela on Aliens vs. Predator. It’s great because we’re all local, and all friends, so we can get together a lot, talk about the project and eat cake. As far as the change of mental pace between projects, I’m really all over as a general rule. I just finished an Adventure Time series, a Plants vs. Zombies project, a whole bunch of writing for Angry Birds, and of course Bandette, and that’s all fairly light-hearted material. At the same time, I’m working on my Colder horror series, and Prometheus, and the Witcher comics for Dark Horse… all much darker. My upcoming novels are much the same: you’ll see some humor titles, and then some darker material. I actually find it easier to work in several areas. It keeps my brain bouncing, moving from one project to the next, so that I don’t grow stale and predictable.
BRUCE: Do you have a philosophy or even rule of thumb that you use to guide what projects you take on, specifically in the realm of balancing personal/independent projects with more commercial properties? Does the success of Bandette allow you more freedom in pursuing your projects?
COLLEEN: Last spring, right as I was finishing up Bandette #5, I had two short projects I had committed to previously come due. Once those were done, I was going to get right back to Bandette, but then the Batman ’66 gig came available. Any other project, I would have turned down, but the Batman TV show was just too big a part of my early life to pass on that opportunity. As a result, there was rather a long wait for Bandette #6. Now, I’m focusing entirely on Bandette. No other projects are being considered.
BRUCE: And one more question, with Bandette #6 out, when can we expect #7? Are you guys hoping to maintain a consistent schedule of issues in 2014? And the Urchin stories have been so fun, with #9 now available from the Monkeybrain site. Any artist names of future Urchin stories you want to tease your readers with?
COLLEEN: Bandette #7 is about a week from being colored and finished now, at the end of February, and then it takes several weeks for Comixology to get it ready to go live. As for our schedule, we will continue to put out issues as quickly as I can draw them!
Urchin artists of the future include but are not limited to: Sheli Hay, Ron Chan, Dylan Meconis, Ron Randall, Cat Farris, Emi Lenox, Steve Lieber, and Juan Ferreyra.
Bruce: Thanks very much!
Oh yeah, the other major news coming out of ComicsPRO, was the return of Paul Levitz, former publisher and president at DC Comics. Levitz stepped down as President a couple of years ago, although remaining on as a writer, but evidently his contract is over and instead of just sticking it out at his typewriter, he’s back at Boom Studios, joining their board of directors. What will he do there? According to the ABC story, “assist and consult with the publisher on various ideas, topics and pursuits” which is about as incredibly vague as you can get. Still, given that Levitz’s knowledge of the comics industry is second to none, do you really need to know more?
Levitz will continue with his writing, teaching and possibly scripting for DC.
Speaking of Levitz, he’ll be reading from his upcoming book on Will Eisner as part of Will Eisner Week, tonight at Parsons in NYC.
Archie Comics continues its march to diversity, naming playwright/screenwriter/comics scripter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to the post of Chief Creative officer. Aguirre-Sacasa’s hire was announced in this NY Times profile.
The lone-time Archie fan—whose credits include many Marvel titles and script doctor on the Spider-man musical—has been scripting some major Archie series for a while, including the modest-selling Archie-Glee crossover and he big hit Afterlife with Archie. As COO he’s continues writing and also oversee Archie’s media expansion, and advising on both the main Archie line and the rebranded Red Circle superhero imprint. He’s also writing a new Sabrina series for them.
Archie is the long forgotten “number three” comics publisher in terms of “newsstand” and perhaps a credible contender for number one in terms of mainstream recognition—pretty much everyone in America has heard of Archie Comics or read one as a kid. Bringing someone as savvy as Aguirre-Sacasa in the move the line forward is a smart move.
TO WIT, his first announced project is an Archie mini-series by Lena Dunham, controversial it girl of confused millennials. As we pointed out a year ago, Dunham is on record as reading comics, and so this isn’t much of a stretch, As it happens, she’s ALSO an Archie fan.
“I was an avid Archie collector as a child — conventions, first editions that l kept in plastic sleeves, the whole shebang. It has so much cultural significance but also so much personal significance, and to get to play with these beloved characters is a wild creative opportunity,” said Dunham, in a statement.
Dunham’s four part Archie series will be out in 2015. And as we said when we first mentioned Dunham’s interest in comics, this should settle that “girls don’t read comics” thing for ALL TIMES. And as Dan Parent’s illustration above of the Archie gals in a Girls-like setting shows, Greenpoint can’t be that far from Riverdale. The big question — with they be wearing pants any of the time?
Marvel is planning some big digital announcements at SXSWi, it interactve conference taking place at the end of the week, it seems, and to kick things offer they’re making all the comics in their Marvel Unlimited app available for 99¢ for the next two weeks. You can also download 12 of the comics for free. This is an introductory subscription offer—similar to those you get for the Franklin Mint series of Presidential Chia Pets, for instance—in subsequent months you’ll be billed at the going rate for Marvel Unlimited.
This seems to be a shot across the bows at Marvel emphasizing its own digital comics portal, as the expense of ComiXology, as may have been hinting at for a year or so.
It’s also a year since Comixology offering a bunch of free Marvel comics during SXSWi crashed the Copmixlogy site. So is history repeating itself a bit?
Marvel Unlimited is their all-you-can-eat digital buffet—it costs $99 for a year, or $9.99 a month but, Netflix style, offers “back issue’ comics only not current on sale comics.
Marvel will have two panels at SXSWi — expect some news at both.
Marvel: Your Universe
Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Marvel: the House of Ideas
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Toshiro is a new graphic novel from Dark Horse by writer Jai Nitz (Dream Thief) and artist Janusz Pawlak. According to Nitz, it’s a mash-up of “Victorian steampunk, alternate history, Lovecraftian monsters, and the magic of Tezuka’s Astro Boy.” The story involved a mechano-samurai named Toshiro who travels back to a Victorian clockwork world, fighting Lovecraftian terrors.
The book comes out in June, but to give it a bit of promo, the Nitz/Pawlak team has re-imagined The beat Herself as a victorian sufragette in this exclusive piece.
I can’t say for certain that had I been born 110 years ago that I would have been marching for the vote, access to reproductive care and other basic rights that women didn’t have in 1914.
But I’m pretty sure I would have.
So consider this my new profile pic!
Yesterday Mark Millar took to CBR to reveal that he kinda missed the boat on that whole digital thing, when he refused to allow his books to have day and date digital release for 2 and a half years. He did it, he said at the time, because he wanted to support comics retailers and didn’t want to hurt physical sales of the book. This was kind of a smart move, because you may recall that digital comics used to make a lot of comics folks crap their pants, but interestingly that attitude ended about 3 years ago when the day and date New 52 was a huuuuge hit. Anyway, Millar explained his findings:
I never expected people to go entirely digital because the comic-reading experience is such a unique one. Flipping pages and stacking on a shelf feels very different from downloading whereas music and films look and taste almost identical in either format. My great concern, and I still can’t believe it didn’t turn out to be a problem, is that twenty, ten or even five percent of the traditional print readership didn’t disappear when day-and-date digital became the norm for comic-book publishers and a very sizable number of people started reading online. Those digital readers had to come from somewhere and my fear was a very simple combination of micro and macro-economics where I suspected even a modest ten percent switchover from print to digital would mean all those comic-stores hanging on by their fingernails (and in Nov 2011 that felt like rather a lot of them) would be dealt the same deathblow as so many record stores, suddenly switching from a small profit and into a loss.
Well, he was wrong! By withholding digital copies he was just penalizing people who didn’t live near a comics shop and wanted to read Jupiter’s Children, Kick-Ass and so on.
Luckily, he’s changed his mind just in time for STARLIGHT, his new comic with Goran Parlov, which goes on sale on Wednesday. They seem to be doing the old Moebius thing but you know what, that always works.
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Agents of SHIELD—or as we call it here, that’s So Coulson—is returning from an Olympics break tonight, and it’s kind of do or die, and the producers know it. Launched with tremendous fanfare the program has managed to present a dull bunch of twerps having adventures registering on the adventure scale somewhere below the typical episode of Cupcake Wars.
But all that is changing! Bill Paxton is being added as a
interesting character tough as nails SHIELD veteran, and next week we get Jaime Alexander as Sif and Deathlok is lurking as well because, to the surprise of many, AoS is set in the Marvel Universe! I had NO IDEA. Cool concept.
The producers chatted with CBR and Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon explains why the delay:
Tancharoen: There were times when we wanted to say, “Just wait for the back half!” It was always part of the plan to lay down a foundation and then bear its fruits in the back half. We’re happy that people are responding to it positively. We’re happy that people are enjoying the plan. It seems like it’s working.
Whedon: There were many reasons that we built the season that way — as I’ve said before, out of respect for the films and not wanting to overload a universe that has taken its time with big movie franchises with a bunch of heroes and people with powers. But we did try to plant the seeds and weave a web that’s not all coming together. We’re happy that people are responding well to something that we’ve been waiting to happen for a while. We’re über excited about the stuff that’s coming up. We think it’s only going to get better.
I stopped watching AoS a while ago because it was so bo-ring. Will Paxton playing a Frank Miller character liven things up? We shall see.