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§ What it says. Artist Tommy Castillo, best known for his Batman work, is in danger of losing his sight:
Sammy Castillo here. As many of you may know, the World almost lost my husband, Tommy Castillo, in October of 2014. His ongoing battle with Diabetes took a horrible turn for the worse nearly killing him. While on the outside and to everyone it may seem like Tommy is doing better, in fact, things aren’t progressing very well. Because of this recent down turn in his health, the Diabetes is now attacking Tommy’s eyesight -which is an artist’s worst fear. To put it plainly, the diabetes is destroying the small blood vessels in the back of Tommy’s eyes causing them to bleed. Without surgery this will cause Tommy to go blind within a year- maybe less. Each surgery is $ 4,000 per eye. The doctor told us that he will need AT LEAST two treatments in each eye plus perscriptions and recovery time.
We, cartoonists, illustrators, writers, editors, distributors, translators, critics and workers in the comic book industry, alongside people of conscience from countries all over the world, re-affirm our February 2014 call for the Angoulême International Comics Festival to drop all ties with the Israeli company Sodastream. Furthermore, we urge the Angoulême Festival, and all festivals, conventions, and celebrations of comics and cartooning art in which we participate, to reject any partnership, funding, or co-operation with any Israeli company or institution that does not explicitly promote freedom and justice for Palestinians, as well as equal rights and equality for Israeli Jews and Palestinians, including the Israeli government and its local consulates, so long as Israel continues to deny Palestinians their rights.
There was a live protest at last year’s fest, and I expect there will be more about it this year. Zainab Akhtar has more context.
§ Egmont’s US branch is shutting down. Although a powerhouse publisher in Europe, including a lot of Disney licenses, their kids/YA line just never caught on in the US:
The U.S. division of Egmont, which published children’s titles in the elementary, middle grade and teen categories, was established in 2008. Now, the division’s spring 2015 list (distributed by Random House) will mark its last, and its office will close on January 31. Egmont USA’s six staffers’ final day in the office will be January 30. Rob McMenemy, CEO of Egmont Publishing International, said the U.S. business, ultimately, “does not fit” with the company’s strategy, as it has not been able to become a market leader in the States. He added that Egmont was “hoping to succeed with selling the business, unfortunately this has turned out not to be possible.”
Diamond Book Distributors, the trade book distribution side of Diamond Comics Distributors, reports sales in 2014 were “slightly” down, blaming the decline on the loss of a major publisher client. Adjusting for that loss, sales were up in all channels with DBD citing continuing international growth and plans to focus on college bookstores in 2015. Dark Horse switched distribution from DBD to Random House Publisher Services at the beginning of 2014 and the loss was felt “across the board,” at the distributor said DBD v-p Kuo-Yu Liang. “We came close to making up the loss of Dark Horse,” he said. DBD distributes titles from about 50 publishers as well as pop culture merchandise. Despite the decline, Liang said the pop culture market was strong in 2014 and DBD’s core business, “is great. Graphic novels are growing, toys and other merchandise also did well.”
§ And Dreamworks Animation is shutting down one of its main studios, PDI/DreamWorks, and laying off 500 people. They’ll scale back to two films a year and undergo other belt tightening. You’ll recall that the studio has been trying to sell itself off, but several potential deals, including one with Hasbro, have gone bust. There are almost certainly some cartooning crossover folks who are caught up in this, and that will cause ripples as well. In the link above there are some offers from Pixar and Blizzard for potential employment. Good luck to everyone who is caught up in this very sad event.
§ Torsten covered the new “Is Comic-Con leaving San Diego???” drama quite well, but while I was digging around I recalled that the first time I wrote about the planned convention center expansion was 2010. Yikes. This is the Second Avenue Subway of the west. I get the feeling that the Chargers situation is more of a factor this time around—they have the oldest stadium in the NFL and it’s pretty decrepit, and they could also move to LA, although unlike Comic-Con, the Chargers threaten it directly and constantly. So the city of San Diego needs both a new stadium and more room for Mrs. Fields cookie kiosks. I suppose that Anaheim could make a great play for Comic-Con but as Mark Evanier points out, there are actually fewer hotel rooms in Anaheim in the summer than in San Diego.
The CCI folks seem to have been making wider use of the entire area around the convention center, and have stated that the expansion isn’t necessarily as essential right now. I suppose a move to Anaheim for a while would function in the same way a dog shakes off water…a lot of stuff would go flying away and normal functions could resume. But while it’s fun to imagine such things—or somewhat fun in the case of LA—the city of San Diego wants the con of San Diego IN San Diego, and I suspect a deal will be hammered out.
Sometime around 2010, I had a thought “comics are a collage medium — they’re collages that you can read.” Everything I’ve done since then has been extrapolating from that idea in different ways. With Doctors, I started with clips from different sources, mostly old romance comics. The first page I drew was the diver page. I clipped that diver from an old romance comic. I loved how stiff the drawing of the diver was. It was a dynamic, splash moment but it was so frozen. That’s the kind of drawings I like, like Pete Morisi and coloring book drawings. I’d alter old advertisements or general flat, clip-art like images, and add my own panels drawn in a baseline style, to connect, say, a drawing from an old romance comic of a couple on a bridge to, like, an Adidas ad for a pair of shoes.
Both football fans and friends, Evans and Pratt made very public and very charitable bet: If the Patriots win, Pratt will don a Patriots jersey and make an appearance at Christopher’s Haven, a non-profit organization that provides support housing for families whose children are receiving outpatient pediatric cancer treatments in Boston. If the Seahawks win, Evans will show up to Seattle Children’s Hospital as Captain America, brandishing a 12th Man flag.
§ Infographics are a sneaky way to get people to pay attention to some utilitarian product, in this case blinds, but this one from Terry’s Blind on superhero lairs is really thoughtful and imaginative.
For our second blog post of 2015, we’re looking back at a great article from Katie Kuszmar in The Oral History Review (OHR), “From Boat to Throat: How Oral Histories Immerse Students in Ecoliteracy and Community Building” (OHR, 41.2.) In the article, Katie discussed a research trip she and her students used to record the oral histories of local fishing practices and to learn about sustainable fishing and consumption. We followed up with her over email to see what we could learn from high school oral historians, and what she has been up to since the article came out. Enjoy the article, and check out her current work at Narrability.com.
In the article, you mentioned that your students’ youthful curiosity, or lack of inhibition, helped them get answers to tough questions. Can you think of particular moments where this made a difference? Were there any difficulties you didn’t expect, working with high school oral historians?
One particular moment was at the end of the trip. Our final interview was with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch public relations coordinator, who was kind enough to arrange the fisheries historian interviews and offered to be one of the interviewees as well. When we finally interviewed the coordinator, the most burning question the students had was whether or not Seafood Watch worked directly with fishermen. The students didn’t like her answer. She let us know that fishermen are welcome to approach Seafood Watch and that Seafood Watch is interested in fishermen, but they didn’t work directly with fishermen in setting the standards for their sustainable seafood guidelines. The students seemed to think that taking sides with fishermen was the way to react. When we left the interview they were conflicted. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a well-respected organization for young people in the area. The aquarium itself is full of nostalgic memories for most students in the region who visit the aquarium frequently on field trips or on vacation. How could such a beloved establishment not consider fishermen voices, for whom the students had just built a newfound respect? It was a big learning moment about bureaucracy, research, empathetic listening, and the usefulness of oral history.
After the interview, when the students cooled off, we discussed how the dynamics in an interview can change when personal conflicts arise. The narrator may even change her story and tone because of the interviewer’s biases. We explored several essential questions that I would now use for discussion before interviews were to occur, for I was learning too. Some questions that we considered were: When you don’t agree with your narrator, how do you ask questions that will keep the communication safe and open?
Oral history has power in this way: voices can illuminate the issues without the need for strong editorializing.
How do you set aside your own beliefs from the narrator, and why is this important when collecting oral history? In other words, how do you take the ego out of it?
The students were given a learning opportunity from which I hoped we all could gain insight. We discussed how if you can capture in your interview the narrator’s perspective (even if different than your own or other narrators for that matter), then the audience will be able to see discrepancies in the narratives and gather the evidence they need to engage with the issues. Hearing that Seafood Watch doesn’t work with fishermen might potentially help an audience to ask questions on a larger public scale. Considering oral history’s usefulness in engaging the public, inspiring advocacy, and questioning bureaucracy might be a powerful way for students to engage in the process without worrying about trying to prove their narrators wrong or telling the audience what to think. Oral history has power in this way: voices can illuminate the issues without the need for strong editorializing. This narrative power can be studied beforehand with samples of oral history, as it can also be a great way for students to reflect metacognitively on what they have participated in and how they might want to extend their learning experiences into the real world. Voice of Witness (VOW) contends that students who engage in oral history are “history makers.” What a powerful way to learn!
How did this project start? Did you start with wanting to do oral history with your students, or were you more interested in exploring sustainability and fall into oral history as a method?
Being a fisherwoman myself and just having started commercial fishing with my husband who is a fishmonger, I found my two worlds of fishing and teaching oral history colliding. Even after teaching English for ten years because of my love of storytelling, I have long been interested in creating experiential learning opportunities for students concerning where food comes from and sustainable food hubs.
Through a series of uncanny events connecting fishing and oral history, the project seemed to fall into place. I first attended an oral history for educators training through a collaborative pilot program created by VOW and Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO). After the training, I mentored ten seniors at my school to produce oral history Senior Service Learning Projects that ended in a public performance at a local art museum’s performance space. VOW was integral in my first year’s experience with oral history education. I still work with VOW and sit on their Education Advisory Board, which helps me to continue my engagement in oral history education.
In the same year as the pilot program with VOW, I attended the annual California Association of Teachers of English conference in which the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Voices of the Bay (VOB) program coordinator offered a training. The training offered curriculum strategies in marine ecology, fishing, economics, and basic oral history skill-building. To record interviews, NOAA would help arrange interviews with local fishermen in classrooms or at nearby harbors. The interviews would eventually go into a national archive called Voices from the Fisheries.
The trainer for VOB and I knew many of the same fishermen and mongers up and down the central and north (Pacific) coast. I arranged a meeting between the two educational directors of VOW and VOB, who were both eager to meet each other, as they both were just firing up their educational programs in oral history education. The meeting was very fruitful for all of us, as we brainstormed new ways to approach interdisciplinary oral history opportunities. As such, I was able to synthesize curriculum from both programs in preparing my students for the immersion trip, considering sustainability as an interdependent learning opportunity in environmental, social, and economic content. When I created the trip I didn’t have a term for what the outcome would be, except that I had hoped they would become aware more aware of sustainable seafood and how to promote its values. Ecoliteracy was a term that came to fruition after the projects were completed, but I think it can be extremely valuable as a goal in interdisciplinary oral history education.
I believe oral history education can help to shape our students into compassionate critical thinkers, and may even inspire them to continue to interview and listen empathetically to solve problems in their personal, educational, and professional futures.
What pointers can you give to other educators interested in using oral history to engage their students?
With all the material out there, I feel that educators have ample access to help prepare for projects. In the scheme of these projects, I would advise scheduling time for thoughtful processing or metacognitive reflection. All too often, it is easy to focus on the preparation, conducting and capturing the interviews, and then getting something tangible done with it. Perhaps, it is embedded in the education world of outcome-based assessment: getting results and evidence that learning is happening. With high school students, the experience of interviewing is an extremely valuable learning tool that could easily get overlooked when we are focusing on a project
For example, on an immersion trip to El Salvador with my high school students, we were given an opportunity to interview the daughter of the sole survivor of El Mozote, an infamous massacre that happened at the climax of the civil war. The narrator insisted on telling us her and her mother’s story, despite the fact that she had just gotten chemotherapy the day prior. She said that her storytelling was therapeutic for her and helped her feel that her mother, who had passed away, and all those victims of the massacre would not die in vain. This was such heavy content for her and for us as her audience. We all needed to talk, be quiet about it, cry about it, and reflect on the value of the witnessing. In the end, it wasn’t the deliverable that would be the focus of the learning, it was the actual experience. From it, compassion was built in the students, not just for El Salvadorian victims and survivors, but on a broader scale for all people who face civil strife and persecution. After such an experience, statistics were not just numbers anymore, they had a human face. This, to date, for me has been the most valuable part of oral history education: the transformation that can occur during the experience of an interview, as opposed to the product produced from it. For educators, it is vital to facilitate a pointed and thoughtful discussion with the interviewer to hone in on the learning and realize the transformation, if there is one. The discussion about the experience is essential in understanding the value of the oral history interviewing.
Do you have plans to do similar projects in the future?
After such positive experiences with oral history education, I wanted a chance to actively be an oral historian who captures narratives in issues of sustainable food sources. I have transitioned from teaching to running my own business called Narrability with the mission to build sustainability through community narratives. I just completed a small project, in which I collected oral histories of local fishermen called: “Long Live the King: Storytelling the Value of Salmon Fishing in the Monterey Bay.” Housed on the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP) website, the project highlights some of the realities connected to the MBSTP local hatchery net pen program that augments the natural Chinook salmon runs from rivers in the Sacramento area to be released into the Monterey Bay. Because of drought, dams, overfishing, and urbanization, the Chinook fishery in the central coast area has been deeply affected, and the need for a net pen program seems strong. In the Monterey Bay, there have been many challenges in implementing the Chinook net pen program due to the unfortunate bureaucracy of a discouraging port commission out of the Santa Cruz harbor. Because of the challenges, the oral histories that I collected help to illustrate that regional Chinook salmon fishing builds environmental stewardship, family bonding, community building, and provides a healthy protein source.
Through Narrability, I have also been working on developing a large oral history program with a group of organic farming, wholesale, and certification pioneers. As many organic pioneers face retirement, the need for their history to be recorded is growing. Irene Reti sparked this realization in her project through University of California, Santa Cruz: Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History Series on Organic Farming & Sustainable Agriculture on California’s Central Coast. Through collaboration with some of the major players in organics, we aim to build a comprehensive national collection of the history of organics for the public domain.
Is there anything you couldn’t address in the article that you’d like to share here?
I know being a teacher can be time crunched, and once interviews are recorded, students and teachers want to do something tactile with the interviews (podcasts/narratives/documentaries). I encourage educators to implement time to reflect on the process. I wished I would have done more reflective processing in this manner: to interview as a class; to discuss the experience of interviewing and the feelings elicited before, during and after an interview; to authentically analyze how the interviews went, including considering narrator dynamics. In many cases, the skills learned and personal growth is not the most tangible outcome. Despite this, I believe oral history education can help to shape our students into compassionate critical thinkers, and may even inspire them to continue to interview and listen empathetically to solve problems in their personal, educational, and professional futures. This might not be something we can grade or present as a deliverable, it might be a long-term effect that grows with a students’ life long learning.
Image Credit: Front entrance of the Aquarium. Photo by Amadscientist. CC by SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The field of anaesthesia is a subtle discipline, when properly applied the patient falls gently asleep, miraculously waking-up with one less kidney or even a whole new nose. Today, anaesthesiologists have perfected measuring the depth and risk of anaesthesia, but these breakthroughs were hard-won. The history of anaesthesia is resplendent with pus and cadavers, each new development moved one step closer to the art of the modern anaesthesiologist, who can send you to oblivion and float you safely back. This timeline marks some of the most macabre and downright bizarre events in its long history.
Heading image: Junker-type inhaler for anaesthesia, London, England, 1867-1 Wellcome L0058160. Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Meet Utricularia. It’s a bladderwort, an aquatic carnivorous plant, and one of the fastest things on the planet. It can catch its prey in a millisecond, accelerating it up to 600g.
Once caught inside the prey suffocates and digestive enzymes break down the unfortunate creature for its nutrients. Anything small enough to be pulled in won’t know their mistake until it’s too late. But as lethal as the trap is, it did seem to have some flaws. The traps don’t just catch animals, they catch anything that gets sucked in, so often that’s algae and pollen too.
A team at the University of Vienna led by Marianne Koller-Peroutka and Wolfram Adlassnig closely examined Utricularia and found the plants were not very efficient killers. Studying over 2000 traps showed that only about 10% of the objects sucked in were animals. Animals are great if you want nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, but half of the catch was algae and a third pollen.
What was more puzzling was that not all the algae entered with an animal. If a bladder is left for a long while, it will trigger anyway. No animal is needed; algae, pollen, and fungi will enter. Is this a sign that the plant is desperate for a meal, and hoping an animal is passing? Koller-Peroutka and Adlassnig found that the traps catching algae and pollen grew larger and had more biomass. Examining the bladders under a microscope showed that algae caught in the traps died and decayed. This was more evidence that it’s happy to eat other plants too. It seems that it’s not just animals that Utricularia is hunting.
Koller-Peroutka and Adlassnig say this is why Utricularia is able to live in places with comparatively few animals. Nitrogen from animals and other elements from plants mean it is happy with a balanced diet. It can grow more and bigger traps, and use these for catching animals or plants or both.
Fortunately even the big traps only catch tiny animals, so if someone has bought you one for Christmas you can leave it on the dinner table without losing your turkey and trimmings in a millisecond.
The headline reads: “Border State Governor Issues Dire Warning about Flood of Undocumented Immigrants.” And here’s the gist of the story: In a letter to national officials, the governor of a border state sounded another alarm about unchecked immigration across a porous boundary with a neighboring country. In the message, one of several from border state officials, the governor acknowledged that his/her nation had once welcomed immigrants from its neighbor, but recent events taught how unwise that policy was. He/she insisted that many of the newcomers to his/her state were armed and dangerous criminals. Even those who came to work threatened to overwhelm the state’s resources and destabilize the social order.
Indeed, unlike earlier immigrants from the neighboring nation who had adapted to their new homeland and its traditions, more recent arrivals resisted assimilation. Instead, they continued to speak in their native tongue and maintain attachments to their former nation, sometimes carrying their old flag in public demonstrations. Worse still, the governor admitted that his/her nation seemed unwilling to “arrest” the flow of these undocumented aliens. Yet, unless the “incursions” were halted, the “daring strangers,” who are “gradually outnumbering and displacing us,” would turn us into “strangers in our own land.”
Today’s headline? It could be. The governor’s fears certainly ring familiar. Indeed, the warning sounds a lot like ones issued by Governor Rick Perry of Texas or Jan Brewer of Arizona. But this particular alarm emanated from California. That might make Pete Wilson the author of this message. Back in the 1990s, he was very vocal about the dangers that illegal immigration posed to his state and the United States. As governor, Wilson championed the “Save Our State” ballot initiative that cut illegal aliens from access to state benefits such as subsidized health care and public education. He campaigned on behalf of the initiative (Proposition 187) and made it a centerpiece of his 1994 re-election campaign.
Wilson, however, was not the source of the letter cited above. In fact, this warning dates back to 1845, almost 150 years before Proposition 187 appeared on the scene. Its author was Pio Pico, governor of the still Mexican state of California.
The unsanctioned immigrants about whom Pico worried were from the United States. Pico had reason to be concerned, especially as he reflected on events in Texas. There, the Mexican government had opted to encourage immigration from the United States. Beginning in the 1820s and continuing into the 1830s, Americans, primarily from the southern United States, poured into Texas.
By the mid-1830s, they outnumbered Tejanos (people with Mexican roots) by almost ten to one. Demanding provincial autonomy, the Americans clashed with Mexican authorities determined to enforce the rule of the national government. In 1836, a rebellion commenced, and Texans won their war of secession. Nine years later, the United States annexed Texas. And now, claimed Pico, many officials of the United States government openly coveted California, their expansionist designs abetted by American immigrants to California.
In retrospect, the policy of promoting American immigration into northern Mexico looks as dangerous as Pico deemed it and as counterintuitive as it has seemed to subsequent generations. Why invite Americans in if a chief goal was to keep the United States out? Still, the policy did not appear so paradoxical at the time. There were, in fact, encouraging precedents. Spain had attempted something similar in the Louisiana Territory in the 1790s, though the territory’s transfer back to France and then to the United States had aborted that experiment. More enduring was what the British had done in Upper Canada (now Ontario). Americans who crossed that border proved themselves amenable to a shift in loyalties, which showed how tenuous national attachments remained in these years. From this, others could draw lessons: the keys to gaining and holding the affection of American transplants was to protect them from Indians, provide them with land on generous terms, require little from them in the way of taxes, and interfere minimally in their private pursuits.
For a variety of reasons, Mexico had trouble abiding by these guidelines, and, in response, Americans did not abide by Mexican rules. In Texas, American immigrants destabilized Mexican rule. In California, as Pico feared, the “daring strangers” overwhelmed the Mexican population, though the brunt of the American rush did not commence until after the discovery of gold in 1848. By then, Mexico had already lost its war with the United States and ceded California. Very soon, men like Pio Pico found themselves strangers in their own land.
Featured image credit: “Map of USA highlighting West”. CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
They've announced that The Lowland (by Jhumpa Lahiri) has won the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.
It's not under review at the complete review, but you can get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
They've now tallied the 2014 sales in France and while the official GFK/Livres Hebdo figures aren't freely accessible online they do offer a bit of a summary.
Valérie Trierweiler's tell-all topped the list as bestselling title, with 603,300 copies sold.
The three E.L.James titles all made the top ten, while Guillaume Musso's Central Park came in third (with 556,600 copies sold) and his Demain came in fifth.
Good to see: fiction dominated, with 39 of the top 50 bestselling titles.
Meanwhile, Livres Hebdo editor in chief Christine Ferrand explained:
Les lecteurs ont plébiscité en 2014 les feel good books
They've announced that Tess Lewis' translation of Maja Haderlap's Engel des Vergessens, 'Angel of Oblivion' has won this year's Austrian Cultural Forum New York Translation Prize -- apparently beating out translations of works by Josef Winkler, Clemens Setz, Friederike Mayröcker, Christoph Ransmayr, Walter Kappacher, Raoul Schrott, and others (quite the impressive list).
See also, for example, the information about the book at New Books in German.
The award ceremony -- which author Maja Haderlap will be present for -- is 24 March.
Ever since the relaunch of the publisher, Valiant Entertainment has always been up to something new. This morning, fresh previews of ongoing series from the publisher were scattered across the internet.
Unity is in the middle of a great story-arc featuring a cast of characters called The United. The team of villains have been expertly hand crafted by author Matt Kindt to go up against the current Unity roster. After taking a break around the big Armor Hunters storyline and getting the chance to pick up the pieces, it’s been excellent to get some added characterization with these heroes. The addition of Faith is a strong new aspect that will likely to add something new to the team dynamic. Excluding on-again off-again Unity member X-O Manowar, this comic now has a direct male to female split in the cast.
Written by MATT KINDT
Art by CAFU
Cover by LEWIS LAROSA (NOV141693)
Handbook Variant by FRANCIS PORTELA (NOV141694)
Variant Cover by RYAN LEE (NOV141695)
A world on fire! Unity vs. The United!
A dark secret at the heart of the Unity team has led the world to the brink of global war. Only Unity and their international counterparts, The United, can broker a peace…but that might not work, seeing as how they’re trying to kill each other. All hope lies with Unity’s newest team member, who may not be able to shoulder the weight of the world!
$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | On sale JANUARY 28
Next up, Valiant shared a few pages of Quantum and Woody Must Die! The title is a four-issue mini-series written by author James Asmus with art from Superior Foes of Spider-Man alumni Steve Lieber. The comic continues it’s irreverent tone with this solicitation text also provided by the publisher, where it seems that Quantum and Woody are trying to beat Sex Criminals at their own game.
QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4)
Written by JAMES ASMUS
Art by STEVE LIEBER
Cover by MIKE HAWTHORNE (NOV141684)
Variant Cover by JOHNNIE CHRISTMAS (NOV141685)
Variant Cover by CHIP ZDARSKY (NOV141686)
They came. They saw. They pissed off a whole lotta folks. And now a team of mystery vigilantes has singled out the world’s worst superhero team for complete and utter destruction. Their first target: their minds! But who are these all-new enemies? Are Quantum and Woody hitting it off with a sexy duo of cat burglars? And, dear god, what have they done to the goat? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Sex Criminals isn’t the only comic that can quote Queen, comics fans – here come Quantum and Woody! (Or so they think! [Trippy, right?!])
$3.99 | 32 pgs. | T+ | On sale JANUARY 28
X-O Manowar is in the middle of a brand new arc focusing on The Armorines as the title makes way for the upcoming Dead Hand story-arc. The creative team has been in constant stride on this comic with Robert Venditti writing the narrative, and Diego Bernard on pencils. In the solicitation text, something new is teased regarding a fail-safe melded into place by a mysterious figure.
X-O MANOWAR #32
Written by ROBERT VENDITTI
Art by DIEGO BERNARD
Interlocking A & B Covers by RAUL ALLEN (NOV141696/NOV141697)
Variant Cover by RYAN LEE (NOV141698)
The bleeding-edge commando unit codenamed: ARMORINES has finally undermined the X-O Manowar armor and the man inside it – Aric of Dacia, one of the most feared men alive. But who are these hardened men and women, and just who orchestrated their lethal combination of technology and cunning? The new generation of ARMORINES are more than just mercenaries…and the figure pulling their strings is about to activate a fail-safe that will leave the world reeling.
We reported on this topic just a few weeks back, but now according to Variety, Bryan Singer has settled on his three younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm for the 1980’s set X-Men: Apocalypse.
Playing Cyclops will be Tye Sheridan, who blew my socks off in Mud and the recent David Gordon Green film Joe.
Taking on the role of Jean Grey is Sophie Turner, who you’ll probably know as Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.
And finally, Alexandra Shipp will be the new Storm. She’s the name that’s probably the least familiar to audiences, but she recently played the late singer Aaliyah in a Lifetime biopic.
They’ll be joining a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Oscar Isaac. There’s still no word on whether or not Hugh Jackman will return as Wolverine for this film, though the next James Mangold-directed Wolverine sequel is still set for 2017. If he does return, I’ll be curious to see how they handle the Wolverine-Jean relationship, given the big age gap presented now.
All the same, this is an exciting development. X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters on May 27, 2016.
REYN #1 does quite a bit of world-building for a first issue, in fact the very first page has an astonishing amount of information contained in several narration boxes. The scene opens in a place known as the Barrens: a cracked, dry wasteland bereft of life, save a few leafless tree skeletons. Through the dust clouds emerge an armored rider whom the narration calls a Warden. Described as beings of legend who protected the lands of Fate following something called the Great Cataclysm, it seems at least one of the Warden warriors has now returned.
The nameless Warden soon comes to the aid of a local farmer, rescuing him from the attack of a giant bug who has burrowed up from under the farmlands. While the art has a overall has an interesting look to it — the character’s faces in particular have a bit of a medieval woodcut style to them — the perspectives in this scene and a few others seem a tad confused. My favorite moment of the book happens after this fight, when the Warden drops to his knees & raises his sword in tribute to Aurora Morningstar, aka the Mistress of Light whose will he serves. Far from solemn, the Warden asks if he could just have a bit of a break before she “haunts” him again.
While that moment plays against high fantasy expectations, the next scene reverts from this bit of freshness and sees the hero seduced by the buxom farmers daughter — on orders from her father. It would have been better had she come for a roll in the hay of her own accord. Later, the Warden comes across a group of slaves being led to the Menica mines to work off sentences for crimes of desertion and vagrancy. Among them we see a cloaked figure whose appearance is half salamander, half ninja turtle, who escapes the notice of the Warden. He races to tell his brother M’thall, busy playing Jabba the Hutt with a slave girl, of the Warden’s appearance. M’thall disbelieves, saying the Wardens disappeared thousands of years ago.
Soon the Warden arrives in the town of Ledwain and we meet a woman named Seph. At this point the tale switches to her narration which makes a nice change from the male dominated story-line. She identifies the Warden as Reyn, and explains that she is a healer from a long line of ancient people known as the followers of Tek. While too often women in fantasy narratives turn out to be healers, this healer also possesses Susan Storm-like energy fields and handily saves herself from an onslaught of soldiers who brand her a heretic. The book draws to a close as Reyn and Seph team up to take on the remaining regiment.
Reyn #1 is something of an uneven start to the series, but fantasy fans will likely be intrigued by the world introduced and the potential in the pairing of Seph and Reyn.
Some details on the logistics of the new venue for this year’s MoCCA Festival have been announced. The show itself is moving to Center 548 on West 22nd Street, and programming will be held two blocks away at the Highline Hotel on 20th and 10th Avenue, a converted 1865 building that was once Clement Clarke Moore’s (Twas the night before Christmas) 17th century apple orchard. Programming will take place in the Rusack Room and the Matthews Room.
From the map it looks pretty close, certainly no father than any of the CAB/BCGF venues, which were also separate in days past.
It’s confirmed that Bill Kartalopoulos will be handling the programming again, great news as he is a great programmer whose panels have significantly enhanced our knowledge of comics past and present.
In addition, this year’s program will be sponsored by PrintNinja and be included with a membership. (Last year the program was a separate $5 fee.) 6000 copies are expected to be distributed and advertising opportunities are still available.
All in all, it sounds like the savings from moving from the historic and expensive Lexington Armory and other moves are being passed along to the attendee and that’s awesome.
CBS has found the lead of their first superhero adaptation since The Flash debuted in 1990.
Melissa Benoist, who appeared most recently in the indie hit Whiplash, has been tapped for the role of Kara Zor-El in Supergirl, making her the third live action version of the character, following Helen Slater (Supergirl) and Laura Vandervoort (Smallville).
The hour-long drama, which does not yet have a series order, centers on a 24 year old version of Kara. After growing up with the Danvers family, who taught her to be careful in the use of her powers, she’s faced with an unexpected disaster that forces her to use those abilities in public. Kara begins to help the people of her city and thus is given the name “Supergirl”.
The pilot episode will be written by Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Arrow) and Ali Adler (The New Normal).
Benoist is also known for her role on the Fox series Glee, the same series that brought Grant Gustin (star of the current iteration of The Flash) to prominence.
Supergirl finally gets CBS into the superhero game, as ABC (Agents of S.H.I.E..L.D., Agent Carter), NBC (Constantine), and FOX (Gotham) have all already debuted their comics-based series.
A Jimmy Olsen casting announcement, a character known to be a major part of Supergirl, will be announced imminently.
It’s possible you missed it last year, but New York Comic-Con has a secondary convention, starting last year in early Summer, called Special Edition. Touted as the comics-only convention for New York (and greater) fans, initial response was mixed. It was announced late, but the guest lineup was strong. It fell on Father’s Day weekend, but the tickets weren’t expensive. It seemed like people were optimistic about the first iteration of the event. Unfortunately, attendance wasn’t exactly what you’d call great. Saturday was acceptable according to a number of exhibitors I talked to but Sunday was completely dead, maybe 200-300 attendees over the full day. I saw many exhibitors pack up early to beat the traffic home – not a heartening sight. I wasn’t sure if they’d continue the event, but hey – with ReedPop’s bankroll, why not?
I’m all for having a comics-only event during this time of year in Manhattan, where a lot of people are aching for one. NYCC itself can be such a mass of people, events, and spectacle that it’s difficult to enjoy the event if you don’t really want to see the strata of what’s offered. I look forward to seeing how Pier 94, their new location, works and eagerly await a hopefully well-curated guest list. Thankfully, Special Edition has a 2 week gap from both Father’s Day and Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC; which many creators focused their time to attend as an established comics-centric East Coast show.
NYC: Special Edition is June 6-7 at Pier 94 in New York City.
All that said, this is a very sound venue! It’s large, airy, natural light, near the water so negative ions. I don’t remember the panel room, but this is definitely a more affordable but still spacious venue for a show that is still finding its legs. I think it’s a way better place to build the show up from than the pricey and challenging Javits.
ON SALE NOW: RIGHT OF BOOM by Benjamin E. Schwartz
With New Year’s resolutions being set there is a global
determination to rearrange priorities.
Gym memberships are being filled out, diet goals are imposed, and many
are seeking to amend battered bank accounts. With all of these personal boosts
of morale happening in cities across the nation it begs the question how will
our nation face
The Harry Potter Facebook page recently posted a mysterious picture earlier this week. It showed the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London logo, captioned with “New Secrets will be Revealed! Announcement on 26th January.” The Pottermore Facebook page followed a day later posting a similar image, bearing the same logo over the picture of a wand, and the caption “Engorgio!” As many Potter fans know, “Engorgio” is a spell used to enlarge or expand things in the Harry Potter books. Fans now wait in anticipation to see what new surprises Leavesden’s expansion has in store. We will post updates on this breaking news here, on Leaky! Stay tuned!
Recently, the HPA (Harry Potter Alliance) made us proud to be Harry Potter fans. The Harry Potter Alliance launched a campaign in October 2010, with the help of John Green, advocating against the use of sweatshop labor, specifically child slavery. The HPA were particularly focused on persuading Warner Bros. to stop producing Harry Potter chocolate and other candies, that were supplied to Warner Bros. by a company who received the grade of an “F” from Free 2 Work, an anti-slavery organization. This supplier provided Warner Bros. Harry Potter branded candy for Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and other Harry Potter shops. In alliance with Free 2 Work and Walk Free, the HPA petitioned the Warner Bros. to be open about the groups’ findings, and change their ways. The HPA made Howler videos, had plans to hang a Dark Mark above Warner Bros. Studios, and got in contact with J.K. Rowling’s lawyer, who made inquiries. Warner Bros. sent HPA founder, Andrew Slack, and HPA’s Harry Potter Global Franchise Development president, Joshua Berger, a letter stating that “By the end of 2015, and sooner when possible, all Harry Potter chocolate products sold at Warner Bros. outlets and through our licensed partners will be 100-percent UTZ or Fair Trade certified.” The Washington Post reports:
Chocolate and candy play an important role in the “Harry Potter” books. After he leaves his abusive aunt and uncle to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry is boggled by the abundance of sweets his peers have access to; chocolate is a symbol of how Hogwarts will be the first place that really nourishes Harry’s body and his mind. And chocolate is big real-world business in the “Harry Potter” empire: You can buy Chocolate Frogs, one of the series’ signature sweets. Slack said. ” ‘Harry Potter,’ more and more, is becoming a classic, and one that children are growing up on, with all seven books having been written. It’s part of the culture. It represents righteousness, nobility, love, so much beauty and a place of safety that people go to, and moral authority. If the ‘Harry Potter’ brand were to move something like fair trade, it would be making a statement that not only is the ‘Harry Potter’ brand a cut above the rest but that [other franchises] have to catch up to it.” Warner Bros. thanking the Harry Potter Alliance for “your partnership throughout our discussions on this important issue,” and Slack and Walk Free both emphasizing their praise for the company. Like Warner Bros., the Harry Potter Alliance wants to keep J.K. Rowling’s creation in good standing. And like the alliance, Walk Free has an interest in finding new ways to spread messages about social justice and inequality. “In some ways, the flexibility of what the Harry Potter Alliance is doing is very useful,” he [Henry Jenkins, a professor of communication, journalism, cinematic arts and education at the University of Southern California] suggested. “It can form new kinds of alliances, it can again evolve over time as the cultural references change.
[Editor’s note: The release this week of March Book Two by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell has already made headlines with its story of the fight for civil rights in the 60s, and the covers to both volumes have become iconic in their own right. The message of the courage to fight for equality for all in the face of violent opposition is as relevant and needed today as it was 50 years ago. But powerful images to cover powerful times don’t always spring up fully formed. Here Powell and Top Shelf designer Chris Ross with an in-depth breakdown of how they created these covers and combined imagery to capture both history and ideals.]
NATE: March was originally a single, massive volume, so the initial front and back covers were intended to house the entire narrative: the front introduced the basic visual theme of opposition, with two elements facing off against each other, though a contingent of riot-ready white supremacist police were prominently featured across the bottom. After some discussion with Chris Ross, Andrew Aydin, and Congressman Lewis, we all agreed that we should shift some of that focus to the folks on the front lines, and away from Jim Crow police forces. Around that time, we decided to release the saga as a trilogy, so Chris and I jumped in to further develop the oppositional themes, but playing with different angles and approaches to the cover’s division.
NATE: The marching feet motif, like the book’s title, are rooted in one of Congressman Lewis’ favorite Martin Luther King quotes, “There is no sound more powerful than the marching feet of a determined people.” We experimented with a lot of other design elements, but in the end kept coming back to that unshakable image.
CHRIS: I think we also had to be very conscious of being white males metaphorically designing the “skin” of a graphic novel about the civil rights movement. For example, there’s a common trope in graphic design, especially featuring marginalized people, of representing characters as body parts, “cut off” by the edges and removed from any context. Women are reduced to legs, breasts, or butts. Black men are reduced to chests and backs. Lots of folks believe that that’s not coincidental, and doing that carries a unique meaning when we represent the race and the body. So in the context of marching feet, it’s important to add depth and see whole bodies in the background, while also showing faces where we can, conveying an accurate and diverse range of these folks’ unique experiences and emotional states. It gives context to the movement and The Movement.
NATE: Once we settled on the lunch counter setting and I’d rendered it, a few more essential steps unfolded; importantly, there were a few re-draws of young John Lewis’ face to more perfectly capture his likeness, but several compositional changes occurred (eliminating the crowd of white heckers in the background, making the “Counter Closed” sign more legible, and adding condiment bottles to the counter, which really tied the whole room together, as The Dude might put it).
CHRIS: The type treatment began as Nate’s hand-rendered type, but the book “read” as a Nate Powell Book (alongside the fantastic Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole). This isn’t a problem because a Nate Powell Book is important and beautiful (as is Nate Powell), but March is in a different category and should have its own identity. So, we made a type treatment that was drawn from the interstate highway system, alongside some key fonts that I completely ripped off serve as homage to Eric Skillman [designer of Alec: The Years Have Pants and the Criterion Collection], whose spirit I tried to summon. Skillman is such a talented designer. So then I played with the type until it looked like the logotype March has always existed.
NATE: Chris had an incredible vision of the books as objects, as documents of that era whose contents had also survived the struggle. He brilliantly envisioned Book One as a second-hand textbook one might find in a segregated rural African-American school, like the one young John Lewis attended; the volume would bear the marks of excessive taping and binding, spine and corner wear… and the signed-and-numbered hardcover itself would include mid-century library card inserts and stamps.
CHRIS: Thanks Tualatin Elementary School librarians! But that is sort of an emerging trope—books as objects from other time periods and existing as living objects. I think it works when the designer and artist and author consider that the cover is not only going to communicate something to the reader, but that it will live a life exclusively with the reader. That’s a nice way of saying patina works in interesting ways and meanings on a cover, but it really does detract, in my opinion, when it’s an interior design choice. It makes me wonder how these books with interior patinas will affect readability in ten–twenty years. I’m guilty of thinking and designing like that myself. I think it seems like an easy tool in the toolchest, and I have to remember these books will last (and should be built to last) a long time. They live, as any teacher or librarian will tell you.
NATE: Likewise, Book Two’s cover is a survivor of that fateful bus burning along the Freedom Ride in Alabama, bearing the scorch marks and reconstructive tape necessary to keep it together as the Movement itself was threatened to be derailed.
CHRIS: The tape was originally the tape I was going to use on The Underwater Welder cover, but decided to go with a fabric texture with Welder and remembered the tape when we were noodling on March.
NATE: We knew almost immediately what I wanted to be represented on the cover of Book Two, so it came together with very minimal sketching, but also opened up a series of conversations among the creative team. Congressman Lewis wanted to make sure that, even as a young man amidst the center of the Freedom Ride, he wasn’t exploiting the power of that burning bus’s image for the cover. Rep. Lewis had actually left the Freedom Ride for a couple of days to interview for activist work abroad, and as he was about to rejoin the Riders he discovered his bus had been attacked.
CHRIS: It’s such a dramatic rendering.
NATE: It was a powerful moment for reflection: that these experiences and their suffering were, part of a collective journey for liberation, but that can never undermine the fact that they were specific, real acts of terrorism inflicting deep trauma, injury, and death. To young John Lewis’ friends, neighbors, heroes, and to himself. It was a call to be mindful of ownership over these experiences. At the same time, he (and we) measured his own mandate to “tell the whole story,” to “make it plain.” At our consensus, I drew an alternate top for the Book Two cover depicting demonstrators at the March On Washington moving across the National Mall. After careful consideration, Congressman Lewis concluded that the original cover spoke more powerfully to the whole truth of the Movement and its struggle.
CHRIS: That alternative cover is really interesting, and it plays against the angles that we had set up, the angles of action. If we were going that way, we’d have to reconsider the dutch angle and the directions of movement above and below the title.
NATE: Color and angles have played an important role in reflecting both the books’ individual contents and their placement in the narrative arc: Book One is largely the yellow of caution and instruction, urging slow, careful movements before the saga intensifies. Book Two is mostly the blue-and-grey of the previous century’s American Civil War, but carrying the gold/green/red palette of the first book forward as well. I will only briefly mention that the cover of Book Three may use the color scheme of the Alabama state flag, and the previously separated opposing elements have now been pushed into the same picture plane. The volumes begin with flat, ninety-degree compositions, but shift in design and camera placement as the Movement intensifies, echoing a literal escalation of angles across the covers.
CHRIS: I remember one of the color guides we were thinking about was really blue and yellow (the second from the left above), like Boy Scout blue and yellow, and it made the cover vibrate, but not really in a way that was communicating what we wanted to communicate.
NATE: Just as we aimed for consistency and progression of theme on the front covers and total package, Chris Ross presented the idea of creating a triptych out of the saga’s back covers. One of us brought up the idea of Theodore Parker’s quote, adapted and immortalized by Dr. King, that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”, and we didn’t have to look long to find a perfect physical arc in the Edmund Pettus Bridge itself.
CHRIS: I wanted that as an art piece—a consistent narrative arc through time and this project. Standalone. Thematically linked through history that these conflicts get played out over longer time periods than humans live, and that through hard work and sacrifice, it gets incrementally better…we hope.
NATE: As I remember, I drew the Book One back cover waaaaay back in late 2011, when March was a single volume. I could see it very clearly in my mind’s eye, and just did one quick watercolor sketch before turning in the finished piece. Once we decided to make it a trilogy the next summer, we started looking ahead in content to pull out physical arcs and arches that might apply to our concept. I knew that Book Two would end with the bombing of 16th Street Baptist in Birmingham and wanted the blown-out window to be on the back cover as an eternal echo of the book itself, but it wasn’t until I started gathering more reference, much closer to the book’s end, that I realized the arch already continued in the blown-out window’s design.
CHRIS: We also chose to crop the image on the back so that it displayed four missing panels—representing the four girls killed in the bombing. Then those missing panels become rays of sunshine.
CHRIS: We find these coincidental things in our “discovery” of a cover, and it’s like they’re always already there. It’s also why I like designing covers FAR in advance of their release: not just for marketing reasons, but so that the creators can live with it for a long time, to become intimate with the cover, to feel like that cover has always existed. In fact, the book cover for March: Book Two was finished a few days after we finished the cover for Book One. Right now, we’re narrowing down the cover for Book Three.
NATE: On that note, I remembered the Birmingham window from my initial reading of Walking with the Wind, its Christ’s face blown out by the explosion—but I had to check in with Andrew and the Congressman halfway through drawing Book Two, in which the face of Christ is also blown out by a brick at First Baptist in Montgomery in 1961. It was eerie and disturbing to confirm both of these events, and from a writing perspective, the kind of thing you just can’t make up. So there it was. There they both were.
CHRIS: I didn’t know that—and that both these representations become something a bit more profound, a bit more representative of the movement. Kindness in the face (literally) of violent oppression.
NATE: We have elements in place to continue the overarching composition for Book Three—that’s being worked on right now (it’s sitting next to me at the desk!), but nothing to show yet. Back to the drawing table… gotta get these color sketches for the next cover done pronto!
CHRIS: That’s really the fun, terrifying, crazy, beautiful part: finding the engine of meaning and narrative in this story and doing some very Deep Thinking about what this engine looks like, how the elements that aesthetically speak to you play with Rep. Lewis’, Andrew’s, and Nate’s story. And represent them in meaningful ways. And hope that they always appear to have always existed.
The annual GLAAD media awards, recognizing ” fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives” in the media came out yesterday, and five comics were nominated.
Hawkeye, written by Matt Fraction
Lumberjanes, written by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis
Memetic, written by James Tynion IV
Rat Queens, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan
As I note every year when I announce these nominees, GLAAD tends to focus on mainstream comics, so none of the great indies addressing these issues made the ist, But you know, this is still a great list. Congrats to the nominees!
Yesterday’s announcement of Milestone 2.0 was broken in the Washington Post, but principles Reggie Hudlin and Denys Cowan did a more extensive interview talking about what they have planned. Talking with Albert Ching at CBR they noted “We’re Not in the Nostalgia Business”, which is a pretty good platform to build from. While the details are still sketchy, they confirmed that they have some projects in the works with DC, among other publishers, although there was a long legal tangle to unravel.
“We’re working with DC on stuff,” Cowan said to CBR. “We’re currently speaking to a number of different publishers about a number of different projects that they want to do with us. DC’s an important partner for us. We’re exploring everything that’s being put in front of us. It’s been a very busy, exciting time. Hearing people’s enthusiasm about Milestone has been very encouraging to us.”
“Obviously Milestone and DC have a great history together,” Hudlin added. “We’re going to be doing more projects together. but we’re going to be doing business with a lot of different companies. Other publishers, other media companies.”
Other than the “Static Shock” live-action series, the details of exactly what the new Milestone is working on remain to be revealed. But Hudlin said there are “several other deals in motion” and more news will be coming “pretty soon,” as the revived company looks to structure itself based on “maximum flexibility for maximum creativity.”
The return of Static Shock, a particularly sturdy character who has remained entertaining through many guises, is a great example of why comics—and the whole vast construct of Superhero Media that has taken over theaters and TVs—will benefit from a company that has a fresh and different viewpoint, with new characters the reflect the world as it is. And Hudlin and Cowan get that.
“We’re not just going to be a legacy company,” Hudlin said. “Yes, there were some fantastic creations made, and we’re going to certainly revive those characters. But we’re not just going to revive them. We’re going to make them relevant for this generation.”
“We’re not in the nostalgia business,” Cowan added. “We feel, if anyone wants to read those books, those books exist. You can go out and find those books and read them. If you love those characters as they were then, those characters exist as they were then. But in order to reintroduce them, there’s going to be some necessary adjustments made to these iconic characters.”
Derek Dingle, always an integral part of the Milestone company but the least known to the comics publis, discussed another aspect with the Washington Post:
This “also becomes an opportunity to mine some [new] talent,” Dingle tells Comic Riffs. “We’re going to find a new group of creators who are knowledgeable and grew up with digital [formats]. It is part of their DNA in terms of what connects them from a digital standpoint, from a social-media standpoint, and I think there are all these tools out there to get our stories told, and to promote our characters, that [are] going to make it a very exciting era for Milestone.”
If Milestone 2.0 is looking to tap into the pool of black creators out there, I think it’s safe to say that this will be the secret weapon of the line. There are so many talented and eager people who are looking to get their stories out. Comics need fresh voices and viewpoints. Milestone is important because, just to put it simply, there aren’t enough black creators getting work at major companies. Two years ago I wrote a piece called “Why aren’t there more black writers in the comics industry?” and the situation has improved incrementally, if at all, since then. As I’m overly fond of saying, the way to be inclusive is to include people, and it makes us a better industry. We all need these heroes.
From the comfort of a desk, looking at a computer screen or the printed page of a newspaper, it is very easy to ignore the fact that thousands of tons of insecticide are sprayed annually.
Consider the problem of the fall armyworm in Mexico. As scientists and crop advisors, we’ve worked for the past two decades trying to curb its impact on corn yield. We’ve tested dozens of chemicals to gain some control over this pest on different crops.
A couple of years ago, we were comparing information on the number of insecticide applications needed to battle this worm during a break of a technical meeting. Anecdotal information from other parts of the country got into the conversation. Some colleagues reported that the fall armyworm wasn’t the worst pest in a particular region of Mexico and it was easy to control with a couple of insecticide applications. Others mentioned that up to six sprays were necessary in other parts of the country. Wait a second, I said, that is completely ridiculous and tremendously expensive to use so much insecticide in maize production.
At that point we decided to contact more professionals throughout Mexico and put together a geographical and seasonal ‘map’ of the occurrence of corn pests and the insecticides used in their control. Our report was compiled doing simple arithmetic and the findings really surprised us: a conservative estimate of 3,000 tons of insecticidal active ingredient are used against just the fall armyworm every year in Mexico. No wonder our country has the highest use of pesticide per hectare of arable land in North America.
Mexican farmers are stuck on what has been called ‘the pesticide treadmill.’ The first insecticide application sometimes occurs at the time that maize seed is put in the ground, then a second one follows a couple of weeks later, then another, and another; this process usually involves the harshest insecticides, or those that are highly toxic for the grower and the environment, because they are the cheapest. A way of curtailing these initial applications can be achieved by genetically-modified (GM) maize that produces its own very specific and safe insecticide. Not spraying against pests in the first few weeks of maize development allows the beneficial fauna (lacewings, ladybird beetles, spiders, wasps, etc.) to build their populations and control maize pests; simply put, it enables the use of biological control. The combination of GM crops and natural enemies is an essential part of an integrated pest management program — a successful strategy employed all over the world to control pests, reducing the use of insecticides, and helping farmers to obtain more from their crop land.
We have good farmers in Mexico, a great diversity of natural enemies of the fall armyworm and other maize pests, and growers that are familiar with the benefits of using integrated pest management in other crop systems. Now we need modern technology to fortify such a program in Mexican maize.
Mexican scientists have developed GM maize to respond to some of the most pressing production needs in the country, such as lack of water. Maize hybrids developed by Mexican research institutions may be useful in local environments (e.g., tolerant to drought and cold conditions). These local genetically-engineered maize varieties go through the same regulatory process as corporate developers.
At present, maize pest control with synthetic insecticides has been pretty much the only option for Mexican growers. They use pesticides because controlling pests is necessary for obtaining a decent yield, not because they are forced to spray them by chemical corporations or for being part of a government program. This constitutes an urgent situation that demands solutions. There are a few methods to prevent most of these applications, genetic engineering being one of them. Other countries have reduced their pesticide use by 40% due to the acceptance of GM crops. Mexico, the birthplace of maize, only produces 70% of the maize it consumes because growers face so many environmental and pest control challenges, with heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides. Accepting the technology of GM crops, and educating farmers on better management practices, is key for Mexico to jump off the pesticide treadmill.
Image Credit: Maize diversity. Photo by Xochiquetzal Fonseca/CIMMYT. CC BY SA NC ND 2.0 via Flickr.