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By Matthew Jent
The Star Wars
Script: J.W. Rinzler
Art: Mike Mayhew
Colors: Rain Beredo
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover Art: Nick Runge
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Movie Tie-In
Star Wars the film — the original film, whether you call it “Episode IV” or “A New Hope” or just “Star Wars” — is a religious text. There’s barely been a time since its 1977 release when it wasn’t being enjoyed, debated, worshipped or deconstructed. In a world of reboots, remakes and restarts, it is hard to imagine Star Wars doing anything except continue.
And yet. Star Wars was created by a mortal mind. It did not spring fully formed from the head of some god. Dark Horse’s The Star Wars is a graphic novel collection “based on the original rough-draft screenplay by George Lucas.” It takes place among the stars. It concerns an evil empire being fought by a rebel alliance. There are words herein such as “Skywalker,” “Darth Vader,” and “Jedi.”
But in place of lightsabers, we have “lazerswords.” Instead of The Force, we have “the force of others.” There is a moon-sized space station called, not the Death Star, but “The Space Fortress.” There are echoes and mirror images of familiar characters and designs, such as a familiar group of bounty hunters we encounter about halfway through the story.
It’s long been rumored that the original Star Wars screenplay had enough content for what became the entire saga, and you get a sense of that here. The plot moves at a breakneck pace, which leads to some welcome between-panel jumps that modern comics tend to overexplain. But the downside is that The Star Wars lacks the quiet character moments needed to humanize and soften the space-fantasy archetypes the characters have become. There’s no time taken for quiet character moments or smalltalk over the dejarik table, and there’s no winning smirk when Han espouses his preference for a good blaster. This is just plot, plot, plot.
Mike Mayhew’s art relies on frozen, exaggerated facial features, but it was the charisma and sass of Carrie Fisher that made Princess Leia rise above the cliché and lazy stereotype of a thinly drawn damsel-in-distress. Here, Princess Leia’s character is thinner than cheesecloth. Young hero Annikin Starkiller punches her in the face to keep her from arguing against their escape from the Empire, and a few dozen pages later she proclaims her love for him. The cast of the original Star Wars film is beloved, but they don’t get enough credit for bringing humanity and charm to a screenplay so devoid of it.
It’s not clear in this adaptation how much of the dialogue is Lucas-original, and how much is created by writer J.W. Rinzler, but someone really likes numbers and mumbo-jumbo space coordinates. Quad-tristation configurations, south axis point three-nine-four, point five-seven on the axis — it’s meaningless jargon that makes the story feel militaristic and unengaging, causing the eye to scan nearby word balloons for a familiar name or phrase as an anchor point.
Another Star Wars legend is that the Ewoks of Return of the Jedi were originally going to be Wookiees. This proves true here, but again the process feels rushed. Two-thirds of the way through the story, the Wookiees start talking in translated word balloons instead of unintelligible, roaring vowells. Did we not need to know what they were saying previously? Were they literally just yelling wordlessly? Why is it important that we know when one of them says, “No problem, boss. That hunk of lifeless metal is in big trouble”?
The only nice surprise in the narrative of The Star Wars is the late reveal that the Jedi and the Sith are not so much ancient enemies-to-the-death as much as they are rival clans, capable of working together if it suits their interests. But again, this is treated as a plot device and not a character choice. There is no follow up or second beat to this development, and with the exception of a tiny panel detail on the last page, you are left to wonder what, exactly, becomes of Sith Prince Vallorum.
Likewise the twin boys Biggs and Windy, so important to the plot earlier in the book, are put into artificially-induced comas and lugged around in metal containers when their use as plot devices are over.
The art and color by Mike Mayhew and Rain Beredo make this volume a worthy exploration of Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept designs. Mayhew’s faces are fun and expressive, and Beredo’s colors are softly lit but bold. A late-story splash of Annikin and Leia’s romantic embrace is the highlight of the volume.
The Star Wars is an ambitious and fun concept — taking the rough draft script and original designs and re-imagining a beloved franchise — that fails to rise above expectations. It’s not quite a fiasco, but its story and dialogue do a disservice to the gorgeous art between the covers.
The book’s backmatter contains design sketches and notes on the adaptation process. Regarding the diminished role of the spaceship pilots from script to comic adaptation, it says, “there is always less room on a page than you imagined.”
But should that be so? Isn’t a benefit of the comic book page that you don’t have to build sets, hire actors, or stitch costumes? An artist can draw a space armada with the same tools and time it would take to illustrate a quiet forest glen.
Of course, there are production schedules to be concerned with. Another backmatter page espouses the importance and necessity of having an entire concept art team on hand to flesh out this rough draft, then goes on to say that interior artist Mayhew started drawing issue one before any of those concept artists created a single design. This belies a troubled and rushed production process. Obviously, this collection is one of the final Dark Horse Star Wars publications before the license moves to Marvel, so the behind the scenes reasons for a rush can be presumed.
But that doesn’t make the final product any more enjoyable. It feels like a rush job, because it is one. I won’t go so far at to call it a cash grab, but I’m forced to wonder if The Star Wars is simply a decent version of a once grander plan.
Several job openings at Marvel — both in Burbank and New York.
You’ll notice that several of them are in the games division. I’ve confirmed that a couple of weeks ago there were some layoffs at Marvel Interactive due to some restructuring, including the VP of games, TQ Jefferson. The number of people who left was in the single digits and reflects a new way of working with licensing partners, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Although this seems like weird timing in light of the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy, obviously they are hiring new people who fit in with the new direction. Marvel Interactive mostly dealt with mobile games and the like including that Facebook Avengers game that people still give me gifts for even though I haven’t played it in two years. Gaming is a pretty volatile industry, as I’m sure everyone in it knows. Anyway, good luck to those job hunting, whatever the reason!
Continuing this morning’s elegiac tone, here’s a lovely remembrance of retailer Nick Post by the CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein. Postiglione, to give his full name, passed away last week, and my social media has similarly been filled with mourning someone who was by all accounts a genuinely good man:
But Nick was a lot more than a canny businessman. He was deeply invested in a commitment to community – both in his local area and beyond.
With FallCon and SpringCon, Nick helped facilitate a home for local and national creators to join together in an atmosphere that shunned big box convention values in favor of a neighborly presentation. On the Remembering Nick Facebook page, many creators comment on how Nick was the first to show belief in their ability by inviting them to exhibit at the shows. Each year the MCBA would make a significant contribution to the CBLDF as a result of their activities – always humbly arriving with a note from Nick.
There’s much more — please spare a click and read this memory of a person who made a difference in the world. In Post’s early passing I was reminded of two other retailers who died early, the Golden Apple’s Bill Liebowitz, who passed away in 2004, and helped create the entire idea of the comics shops as pop culture store; and Rory Root, who passed away in 2008 after making Comic Relief one of the most pioneering stores in the US and acting as a mentor to countless creators.
Root, Liebowitz and Post were all one of a kind and irreplaceable. (Indeed, Comic Relief sadly closed after Root’s death after a series of mismanagements.) I know comics retailers come in for some ribbing here and elsewhere, but they are the backbone of the comics industry, and these three men are the kind of people who brought a passion to their work. As Charles wrote, they didn’t just run a store, they ran a community and contributed to comics in endless ways. It wasn’t easy for any of them, but they didn’t know any other way to do it.
It is sad when we lose a “key person.” But just to get things going on an upbeat note (I promise) they should also be taken as role models, and proof that a single person can make a difference. I’ve never seen an industry as intimate and connected as comics—people are always pitching in and helping out. Even people who don’t like each other band together when its called for. So many of you reading this have made a difference yourself. And will keep on trying!
So my message for today? Keep up the good work!!!
The reaction to Robin Williams’ death has been unlike any celebrity death I can remember. We all knew Whitney was going to go, and Michael Jackson’s end was as expected as it was bizarre. With Williams there seem to be few mysteries. It was a battle, and he lost. Yet the shock of his tragic decision seems to have transcended our celebrity autopsy culture with its essential question: how can someone who gave so much, who had so much to give, have turned away from the light with such finality?
It’s a question we’ve all tried to answer at one point.
It’s also opened up a floodgate of frank talk about depression. As many have pointed out, there’s a difference between the blues—temporary depression we’ve all suffered from at one time or another—and the deep, clinical depression that killed Williams and Kurt and Plath and so many others.
Depression, and its ugly twin, substance abuse, are both hazards of the creative life. My Facebook feed has been flooded with creative people discussing their own depression, sometimes with courage, sometimes with dread. Neither is the “right” response. This is a daily battle we all face, the important part is to get through, to know you are not alone, to find the light in what seems like an endless darkness. We get by in measures that are appropriate.
Joshua Hale Fialkov has a much linked to post that expresses all this much better than I can. Fialkov’s own battle is with migraines, not depression but the battle is similar.
There is never enough. Never enough time, never enough money, never enough success, never enough praise, never enough sales. Never enough. That’s part of the life I’ve chosen. We struggle to find that thing that makes us feel satisfied, that gives us joy, but, the truth is that the joy is fleeting. The feeling of being ‘full’ only lasts for a few moments before the hunger returns.
This is the life of an artist. This is the life of anyone who aspires to be greater than they are.
This is unattainable. This is the bottom line to life, from top to bottom from the most successful man on earth to the weakest child on the playground. Nothing you ever do will be enough.
The talking is good. I had a long talk with one of my oldest friends I don’t speak with as much as I should who had dated Williams back in the day. Some of her stories were hilarious but they are hers to tell. So many people have shared stories of Williams shopping in their comics stores or book stores (the guy liked to read!), or meeting him at charity events. All the stories are of a kind man, a giving man. I dread the day when the celebrity autopsy horror stories come out…for now keeping these kind, human moments alive helps with getting through.
I’ve had a case of the blahs myself of late. Not being productive enough, things I let slide, the dog days of August, post Comic-Con let-down. Nothing I haven’t felt before—I’ve learned to be pretty resilient in my life. Like I said, we all have good days and bad days. Last night I got together with two industry colleagues and in a few hours of smart, funny talk about life and comics—moments where I never looked at my cell phone—everything was OK again. On to the next battle.
The communal mourning and questioning is part of the healing. I almost feel like the good from all the sharing has overwhelmed the sadness. Life is both beautiful and terrifying, but its beauties and terrors are best experienced knowing you are not alone in this glorious muddle. You are not alone. We are not alone.
PS: Yes I forgot Popeye in my first post about Robin Williams. Which sucks because despite it being a horrible flop, it’s a sweet, wonderful movie— written by Jules Feiffer! Wacky as hell, a glorious muddle. And a role, like so many others, that Williams was born to play.
The Bat office continues to break the mold! FINALLY a Bat book drawn by Ben Templesmith!
People in my comic book circle have been suggesting this as a no brainer for about five years. His creepy, moody work is tailor made for Gotham.
It’s a horror book natch, called Gotham by Midnight, featuring a bunch of DC’s supernatural characters, written by Ray Fawkes. So Templesmith on The Spectre? You con’t even need a cerebral cortex to know this is a great idea!
Enter the Midnight Shift, Gotham City Police Department’s answer to The X-Files — and the team called in to handle cases outside the depth of the Caped Crusader. Led by Detective Jim Corrigan, they debut in DC Comics’ all-new supernatural/horror adventure book, Gotham by Midnight, on sale Nov. 26.
Spearheaded by a horror comic superteam of writer Ray Fawkes (Constantine, Batman Eternal) and artist Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Ten Grand), Gotham by Midnight spins off from the pages of Batman Eternal but operates independently of that title. And while Bats will be around, because this is set in Gotham, after all, his main function in the book is to liaise with Corrigan.
In this Blastr exclusive, we caught up with Fawkes to discuss the world of Gotham by Midnight, the supernatural sickness that plagues the city, and Fawkes’ own connection to the horror genre. And make certain to check out our exclusive peek at the first cover of GBM, along with Templesmith’s character sketches for the book.
More with Writer Fawkes in the link.
About Comics is a boutique publisher that specializes in bringing back unjustly obscure comics in affordable editions. They’ve just released HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle. Originally published in 1990 via Marvel’s Epic line, it was a non-superheroic variant of Crossfire by the same team, basically behind the scenes tales of Hollywood, seen through the adventures of a team of private eyes consisting of a stuntman, an aspiring actress and a stand up comic. Like Crossfire, it has that slightly elegiac air of people who believe Hollywood’s legend and lore a little too much, told as only a couple of insiders could tell it.
Evanier has written a post about the history of the book, with his usual gift for telling detail, including this little budget of forgotten comics history, as in dealing with assigning editor Archie Goodwin:
He went on to explain that the folks at Marvel in charge of such things were looking for something that might snag young women aged 16-24 who, research told them, were not attracted to the current Marvel line. The company was working out a deal to put a small comics display near the section of many bookstores and newsstands that sold Harlequin Romances and other (allegedly) female-directed publications. The problem, he said, was that Marvel really didn’t have the right product to put on it.
“Give me something set in Hollywood with adventure and soap opera overtones,” Archie requested. He mentioned the newspaper strip, On Stage, which he loved and which he’d written for a time. “Something like that,” he said, and he suggested I try to get the word “Hollywood” into the title.
So yeah, a little visionary planning there, even trying to tap into the bookstore market, which had just been pioneered by Maus, Watchmen and Dark Knight. I believe around the same time, DC also had the idea to try to put out things that appealed to women; I’d had a meeting with then editor Mark Waid inviting me to pitch anything I wanted, but writing comics isn’t my actual skill, so that never happened. Still it was interesting.
Johanna has a review of Hollywood Superstars. If you aren’t a fan of Spiegle’s sturdy, inky storytelling you should be. Here’s fa few pages and a preview, provided by About Comics.
by Nicholas Eskey
This year, as part of Dynamite Entertainment’s 10th anniversary, the comic publisher will be rolling out with “Chaos!” line of titles, including a rebirth of the cult classic Purgatori. The first issues goes on sale next month. Through the magic of the interweb, I had a chance to interview Aaron Gillespie, writer for Dynamite’s take on the series, and ask him a few questions regarding the demonic femme fatal:
Eskey: Purgatori was originally published with Chaos! Comics. Did you ever get a chance to read any of her appearances/story when she was with them?
Aaron: I grew up in an extremely small town in southern Iowa so my reading list was limited to whatever I could find at the nearby Wal-Mart or drug store. Neither of those places carried Purgatori.
Chaos comics started right about the time I began going to conventions so I was able to find the books there. They were unlike anything I was reading up to that point. They scratched an itch that other comics couldn’t. Purgatori was exactly what this angsty teenage outcast needed. I read Evil Ernie as well, but Purgatori was the book I really gravitated to.
Eskey: Was Purgatori something that was assigned to you, or did you request to take her on?
Aaron: A bit of both. Dynamite approached me with their plans on revamping the Chaos line and asked if I’d be interested in pitching a Purgatori series. I had a good knowledge base of the character and instantly knew what I wanted to bring to a new Purgatori series. I’m happy they agreed with my direction and gave me the book.
Eskey: Dynamite obtained Purgatori in 2011, and in 2012 it was announced that she would be receiving a new series. Over these two last years, what were some of the undertakings that had to be done to finally make the new series a reality?
Aaron: I’m not really sure about the backstage stuff. All I know is that someone at Dynamite had the brilliant idea to bring Tim Seeley in to write a mini that would kick off the solo books. Tim is one of the best writers in the industry and a die-hard Chaos fan. His Chaos! miniseries is so great that it’s a little intimidating following him.
My involvement really got going after that.
Eskey: The character Purgatori has a long and detailed story. Are we to expect a remodeled version of them, or are we going to see new storylines and characters introduced?
Aaron: I’m using characters and plot elements from the original series, but twisting them to keep them fresh. I strive to maintain the definitive Chaos style that makes those original books so unique while bringing in a more modern sensibility. Once Purgatori pushes through the struggle of the first arc, we’re going to see all kinds of new characters and new challenges for the vampire goddess. Until then, we get the pleasure of seeing old favorites such as Lucifer and Cremator.
Eskey: Seeing as the character Purgatori was originally written by Brian Pulido, what were some of the challenges you personally faced with her?
Aaron: A challenge was to make a new audience care about someone so ethically bankrupt. Let’s face it, Purgatori’s moral compass isn’t just broken, it’s obliterated. Longtime fans of the book know what makes Purgatori great and will follow her to hell and back no matter what horrors she unleashes. But I wanted to make sure newcomers would get a chance to develop a love for her delightful brand of evil as well.
Because of that, the book starts by showing Purgatori on a more human level. It’s through her struggle that readers will see the tenacity and singular focus that makes Purgatori such an appealing character.
Eskey: She is very… red. And wears little to nothing. And let’s face it, she’s kind of hot. Was she a fun character to work with, or a very distracting one? And what are some of the things that come with writing a very feminized, yet kick-butt character?
Aaron: To be honest, I rarely think of Purgatori in terms of masculine/feminine. Sometimes it’s necessary in order to fulfill story requirements, but mostly I just keep her motivation in mind and that dictates her actions.
As far as her look? She’s not quite as red in the first few issues, but she’s every bit as hot. She will see a costume change halfway through the first arc that is a nod to some of the original Purgatori artwork so hopefully that will be a nice little Easter egg for long time fans.
Eskey: After working with the character, what are your personal feelings about the character Purgatori and her storyline?
Aaron: I love the strong foundation of oppression and betrayal in Purgatori’s back-story. It sets up her character traits so perfectly. We can see how she became the power hungry narcissist she is.
I talked a bit about the challenges of writing such a selfish evildoer. But here’s a secret…it’s also a lot of fun. I don’t have to worry about different motivations and internal struggle. I get to focus on a character that is only interested in gaining more power and using whomever she needs to in her rise to the top.
Eskey: Purgatori deals with alot of satanic and vampire references. Looking at some of your other works, they deal with alot of sci-fi. How was this kind of change up for you?
Aaron: When I plot a Purgatori story I know that I have big shoes to fill. I make sure each issue has a high sexy factor and meets a strict gore quota.
Seriously though, the nature of a character dictates the references and plot points you’ll find within the story. That goes for everything from a sci-fi story to a vampire action thriller. With Purgatori, I know there are certain notes I need to hit, but really it’s just about creating compelling stories. Once I have that story in mind I can start to throw in genre trappings if I need to.
Eskey: What do you hope to show/accomplish with this comic?
Aaron: I just want to create cool comics that provide that same take-no-prisoners attitude of the original Chaos line. There was a lot of crazy in the original Purgatori book and I want to celebrate that.
Those familiar or new to Purgatori, pick up a copy at your local comic book store, this year September 17th.
Remember that Boom! Studios conspiracy book we were teasing last week? The cpinsorators have been revealed: Writer Justin Jordan and artist Ariela Kristantina (Death of Wolverine) will unveil DEEP STATE in NOvember. According to pr,
it’s about John Harrow, a man who works for the U.S. government to ensure the nation’s secrets stay that way—secret. In the first story arc, Harrow recruits a new partner to help him control the fallout after a secret about the 1969 moon landing gets out. And no, it’s not the popular conspiracy theory that some believe the moon landing was faked and created on a sound stage. Rather, it’s something far more sinister and this main cover image by Matt Taylor should tease it a little better.
So yearn a a little moon landing cover-up a little ancient astronauts, a little this ‘n’ that. Deep State is one of the three books Jordan teased prior to Comic-Con, so two down one to go?
Deep State #1 Main Cover by Matt Taylor
Is the Beat obsessed with The View liking comics? Why, yes, because it represents the farthest encroachment of comics culture into the fortress of coffee klatch culture. Of course with Whoopi Goldberg on board, it’s not that hard as she’s the ultimate undercover nerd mole. A longtime comics fan, if she’s not awkwardly plugging Lady Thor, she’s showing off Vamplets, including plush toys and Action Labs comics, as the above photo, supplied by Action Labs, reveals. The incident took place on August 6th during the “Whoopi’s favorite things” segment, as she called Vamplets “A little creepy, but so fun and sweet”. Artwork from the Vamplets’ graphic album, “The Nightmare Nursery: Volume one”, was also featured.
Now if we can just get Jenny McCarthy to speculate on who should play Aquaman.
Vamplets was created by Gayle Middleton, who was also behind Hasbro’s redesigns of My little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop. The series centers around teenager Destiny Harper who is transported to Gloomvania where she must fight the cute invasion of the l’il Vamplets.
The Nightmare Nursery: Volume One is adapted by writer Dave Dwonch and artists Amanda Coronado and Bill Blankenship.
Artist Karl Kerschl teased a single panel of GOTHAM ACADEMY, the upcoming Batfamily book written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and drawn by Kerschl, with colors by Romain Gaschet. The book is something of a “sister” book to the new Batgirl and presents a more “shojo” approach to the Batman universe with the story of some students at Gotham’s number one prep school and their fantastic/Gotham tinged adventures. It’s a book aimed at a younger audience, and why not as the “academy melodrama” is a hallowed tradition of storytelling?
Fletch subsequently tweeted that they couldn’t show any more but Batgirl writer Cameron Stewart averred that the two books are set in the same universe, in spirit anyway.
Nice to see DC moving forward with a book that has a fresh take on a hallowed canon.
Actor Robin Williams was found dead in his house this morning, a suspected suicide.
For a little while there, WIlliams was the biggest movie star on the planet. Just listing his prominent roles is exhausting. From Mork from Ork to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Birdcage, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Hook, Aladdin, Toys, Jumanji, What Dreams May Come, Insomnia, Happy Feet, and most recently, the Night at the Museum movies.
It’s a film legacy that’s unsurpassed.
At his height, Williams was simply the funniest man alive, a non stop barrage of improv and free association that was the Sistine Chapel of rapid fire humor. It was an act inspired by his idol, Jonathan Winters.
One of his most famous roles, of course was the Genie in Aladdin, a voice which took advantage of his singing and fast paced pop culture references. The animation itself was a reflection of his persona, and one of the most memorable Disney characters of the 90s.
Williams was a comics fan, long before it became fashionable, known to go to shops in the Bay Area with his kids. For years there was some talk of his appearing in a straight out comic book movie, but it never happened.
I know this seems like second guessing, but I sensed a sadness in him whenever I saw him on TV in recent years. It struck me that someone who was happiest at such a manic level would have a hard time adjusting to the gradual, inevitable slowing down that is the human lot. It’s a lot that isn’t innately sad or tragic. But some people handle it better than others. Williams’ drug use and depression was an open secret for year as well. I’m sure we’ll hear more about all that, and rehab and what might have been. He left behind a family and a wife, and I hope their privacy can be a little respected.
There’s always hope. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Call if you need help.
A Little Teen Boat and a little Matt Furie (Boy’s club) and you have the new Boom! Box series Teen Dog but webcomicker Jake Lawrence of Time Cowboy note.
It’s got teens. it’s got dogs. It’s got legs.
TEEN DOG #1 Retailer Incentive Cover (1 in 15) by Jen Lee
Award-winning publisher BOOM! Studios is excited to announce the September debut of TEEN DOG, the newest title to join the publisher’s imprint, BOOM! Box, where comics are kept weird and made for the love of it! Created, written, and illustrated by emerging web cartoonist Jake Lawrence, TEEN DOG is the cool guy you always wanted to be in high school, à la Michael J. Fox and Ferris Bueller, except he’s a dog in a rad denim vest. Each issue contains short vignettes featuring Teen Dog, his best friend Mariella, Thug Pug, Sara the star quarterback, and many more. Teen angst and whimsical adventures collide in this new series that combines the feel of John Hughes movies with ‘90s Nickelodeon cartoons.
“Teen Dog. TEEN. DOG. Need we say more?” said BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. “Our new BOOM! Box imprint is becoming a home for some of our favorite cartoonists and storytellers, many of whom are coming over to print for the first time. Jake, like many of our other BOOM! Box creators, has built up his audience on Tumblr. We’re continuing to carve out a place where quirky, silly, and just outrageously fun and experimental comics can thrive in print.”
Skateboards, football games, prom…your teenage years have got nothin’ on the raddest dude that’s ever graced a denim vest. Written and illustrated by Jake Lawrence (Time Cowboy), join Teen Dog and his best friend Mariella as they tackle typical teen life with a manic twist. Growing up is an adventure, and you might as well rock it!
TEEN DOG #1 arrives in comic shops on September 10th with a cover price of $3.99 under Diamond order code JUL140989. A variant cover by Jen Lee will be available in limited quantities. Not sure where to find your nearest comic retailer? Use comicshoplocator.com orfindacomicshop.com to find one! It’s also available for order directly from boom-studios.com.
by John Jackson Miller
The comics industry in North America moved into positive territory for 2014 with a record-setting month of July, according to Comichron’s analysis of data released by Diamond Comic Distributors
. Click to see the sales estimates for comics ordered in July 2014.
A much larger number of new comic book and graphic novel releases for the month helped July’s sales to set a number ofrecords for the Diamond Exclusive Era, which began in April 1997:
Highest dollar value for orders of the Top 300 comics: $30.62 million. This beat out the record set in September 2013.
Highest combined dollar value for orders of the Top 300 comics and Top 300 Graphic Novels: $39.27 milllion. This also beat out a record set in September 2013.
Highest dollar value for all comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines: $53.63 million. This clobbered the previous record, set in October 2013, by more than $3 million.
Highest sales for the 300th-place comic book in a five-week month: 6,620 copies. This also beat the record set in October 2013.
Highest average price of comics offered in the Top 300: $3.79. This beat the previous record high by seven cents.
And we don’t keep detailed records on this, but it really is remarkable how many new comic releases are coming from the middle-tier publishers. Image had 66 new comics this month, IDW 48, Dynamite 40, Dark Horse 39, Boom 29; it all contributed to a month where the 300th place book this July would have ranked 250th just five years ago and 192nd 10 years ago. The middle-to-lower tier titles are simply stronger relative to times past, and there are more of them.
And Titan Entertainment broke into the Top 100 this month now that it’s offering the Doctor Whocomics, with titles in 59th and 67th places. So there are more players vying for the top spots, too.
The aggregate change statistics:
TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2014: 8.09 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +17%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +32%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +21%
YEAR TO DATE: 46.48 million copies, -5% vs. 2013, +10% vs. 2009, +10% vs. 2004, +4 vs. 1999
ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2014 versus one year ago this month: +14.73%
YEAR TO DATE: -3.16%
TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2014: $30.62 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +27%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +72%
Versus 15 years ago this month: +79%
YEAR TO DATE: $175.39 million, -1% vs. 2013, +21% vs. 2009, +45% vs. 2004, +54% vs. 1999
ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2014 versus one year ago this month: +19.23%
YEAR TO DATE: +1.76%
TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2014: $8.64 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +9%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +18%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +56%
Versus 15 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +61%
YEAR TO DATE: $51.04 million, -6% vs. 2013
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
July 2014 versus one year ago this month: +4.84%
YEAR TO DATE: +3.25%
TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2014: $39.27 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +14%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +14%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +53%
Versus 15 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +91%
YEAR TO DATE: $156.5 million, -5% vs. 2013
ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK SALES
July 2014 versus one year ago this month: +14.52%
YEAR TO DATE: +2.22%
OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
July 2014: approximately $53.63 million (subject to revision)
Versus 1 year ago this month: +15%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +29%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +92%
YEAR TO DATE: $207.85 million, unchanged vs. 2013
New comic books released: 530
New graphic novels released: 312
New magazines released: 49
All new releases: 891
The average comic book in the Top 300 cost $3.79, and the average comic book ordered did, too. The average comic book in the Top 25 also cost $3.79, possibly the first time all three of those figures have been equal. The median and most common price for comics offered was $3.99. Click to see comics prices across time.
Rocket Raccoon #1
was the lead title on the comics list, and as discussed here on Friday, its reported sales of nearly 294,000 copies was boosted by at least 100,000 copies because of a sale to a single account, the subscription club Loot Crate
. (Read more about the firm and its
.) The company bought the comics non-returnably just as any other Direct Market account; in essence, it is somewhat like one of the other new-comics-by-mail services whose sales already are accounted for by Diamond’s charts — with a significant exception: since the service only bought the one issue, the second issue’s sales will reflect only the comics shops’ sales.
Regardless, even if the Loot Crate contribution is half the title’s orders, it would only account for a little over 1% of the market’s sales this month.
img class=”alignright” src=”http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-p7WMhKdXR0A/U-kGAaRTe_I/AAAAAAAADJ8/K1oQPPIFvbk/s1600/archie-1800-1396984186-15979.jpg” alt=”http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?q=life+with+archie+36&pubid=&PubRng=?AffID=874007P01″ width=”238″ height=”320″ border=”0″ />
Life with Archie #36
hit the charts at 27th place with orders of more than 57,000 copies — as did the magazine-format version of the issue, which made it into 297th place with orders of more than 6,000 copies. While Diamond keeps a separate tally for magazines, the magazine format Life with Archie
was been appearing in Diamond’s comics section all along, so there’s no change there.
Batman Eternal no longer has the returnable asterisk in July’s report; reported sales on the title increased, perhaps partially as a reflection of the sales no longer being reduced for returnability.
A few notes about some changes to the charts as they come from Diamond. First, once again, only the Top 300 was released to the media; I have confirmed with Diamond that the several months during the past year in which the Top 400 were released was an error, and not a change in policy. Diamond has released just the Top 300 for nearly 20 years, and that will continue to be the policy — with the addition of a few items outside 300th place that appear in the Top 50 Small Publisher lists each month.
There is a case to be made for going out to 400th place when so many titles are coming out; only 14 publishers appeared in the Top 300 this month, just one more than the record low. My projections are that the Top 300 now captures 92% of all comics Diamond sells, while the Top 400 captures 97%, so it is a bit more than a marginal addition. But clearly the Top 300 still does capture the vast majority of comics sales (and far more than the Top 300 graphic novel list does). Comichron will continue to print any items after 300th place that Diamond sends, but will just the Top 300s for cross-time comparisons no matter what is released.
Next, for several years readers have asked why Comichron has listed Dynamite titles as coming from Dynamic Forces. Dynamite is an imprint of Dynamic Forces, which has had a presence in the charts for more than a decade; when the Dynamite line was started, Diamond continued to refer to the company as Dynamic Forces in its market share reports and counted the sales of Dynamite as belonging to Dynamic Forces, just as Vertigo’s share belongs to DC. Comichron likewise ignores imprint distinctions in its listings, so we continued to use “Dynamic Forces.”
In recent times, however — perhaps because the Dynamite line now represents most of Dynamic Forces’ product moving through Diamond — Diamond has gone back and forth between calling the publisher Dynamic Forces and Dynamite Entertainment in its market share listings in its spreadsheets released to the press. (It was listed as Dynamic Forces in the file as recently as June.) But whatever the name might be in the internal record-keeping (and I imagine that it’s all still one account under the original name), Diamond has regularly been changing the name to Dynamite in tables in its press releases accompanying the sales charts. So we’re doing it as well, starting with July. Offerings under the Dynamic Forces label rarely make the Top 300 in these days of so many new comics releases, so it makes sense to do it at this point.
But we will probably not make the change retroactive, as there’s a lot to update — and again, further back we get into a time when it’s more Dynamic Forces-labeled material than Dynamite making the charts.
John Jackson Miller has tracked the comics industry for more than 20 years, including a decade editing the industry’s retail trade magazine; he is the author of several guides to comics, as well as more than a hundred comic books for various franchises. He is the author of the New York Timesbestseller Star Wars: Kenobi and the upcoming hardcover Star Wars: A New Dawn. Visit his fiction site at http://www.farawaypress.com. And be sure to follow Comichron on Twitter and Facebook!
[Reprinted with permission from Comichron.com]
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Blog: PW -The Beat
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For years, comics’ professionals have been hiding a well-kept Batman secret. Batman has been listed as being created by Bob Kane for decades, but the secret creator of the other half of Batman has been in hiding, signing bad deals and contracts, and being lost to the general public. Despite the immense popularity of Batman, only a fraction of people that enjoy the character have any clue as to who created the hero. Bob Kane has been listed as the sole creator of Batman in almost every piece of media that fans have devoured since his initial appearance in May 1939. Marc Tyler Nobleman has led a crusade to make it known that Batman was created by both Bob Kane and Bill Finger. He did so via a meticulously researched all-ages illustrated book entitled Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. We caught up with Nobleman for an interview on the secret origins of the creation of Batman.
How do you think Bill Finger would react to the resurgence of different media finally coming together and seeing his contributions to Batman?
Humbly and gratefully.
What do you find interesting about the men and women who have created various superheroes?
With respect to the three I have written about (Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bill Finger), I find it especially interesting is how these young men were building modern myths from unassuming apartments and (at least in Finger’s case) seemingly without a sense of their cultural significance. Finger’s creative influence could not be more disproportionate to the recognition he got for it in his lifetime. In other words, staggering influence, almost no credit for it.
Is there any information on Finger’s exact contribution to some of the other DC heroes and villains such as Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Wildcat?
He wrote the first stories to feature both.
Have you studied the reactions of younger fans when they read the book? What are their reactions like?
Because I have the privilege of speaking in schools around the world (including Tanzania, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates), I regularly experience the reactions of fans both young and young-at-heart. It has been immensely gratifying to see how impassioned kids can be over what they perceive as an injustice to Bill Finger. Here’s one of my favorite projects in response to the book – kids pretending to be Bill’s only child Fred and writing a letter as Fred to Bob Kane: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2013/11/letters-from-bill-fingers-son-to-bob.html. There are some profound thoughts in there.
Did you find any conflicting reports on the research of Finger based on a ‘he-said, she-said’ basis?
Other than the absurd amount of Batman aspects Kane originally took credit for but later attributed to Finger, no.
How did the collaboration with industry veteran Ty Templeton come about?
Having been a longtime fan, I emailed him to ask if he’d be interested. He said yes with more than a passing knowledge of Finger’s tragic career, and I loved that he was already passionate about the subject. My publisher (obviously) also liked Ty, so we were on.
Have there been any talks about adapting this story into a different medium?
Yes, daily – in my head. And quite often after I speak, someone in the audience will say “This HAS to be a movie.” I have had a few talks with film people. So far nothing has gotten past the exploratory phase but I am confident one day it will. I just hope I am involved!
Aside from the obvious accreditation being taken away from Finger, are you satisfied with the nature of comic books nowadays being more creator-driven among fans of the industry?
On one level yes, but I continue to hear stories of contemporary creators who have felt exploited by comics’ publishers. Certainly the Internet and the explosion of proactive fandom have done much good in the way of acknowledging the talent no matter what the publishers do or don’t do.
For more information, take a look at Marc’s blog. Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is on sale now. Kendall Whitehouse shot the featured photograph seen at the top of the page.
Wizard World just released its Q2 SEC filings, reporting income up sharply on an increased slate of shows. You’ll recall that Wizard World is a public company having gone “penny stock” a few years ago. The PR cites “higher quality events, including better organization, more programming, and an exciting list of celebrities and artists to an increasing fan base, ” as aiding the growth as well as doubling their number of events from two to four—and increasing admission prices. Wizard ran four shows in the first six months of 2013 and 8 in the comparable period in 2014. Convention revenue was $7,110,940 for the quarter and $12,284,138 for the first six months, on costs of $4,348,167 and $7,608,194 for a gross margin of $2,762,773 and $4,675,944 respectively. After operating expenses, net income for Q2 was $759,842 and $1,452,044 for the first six months, both vs a seven figure loss in 2013.
While I’ll leave it to an actual financial expert to look at the stock part of the filing, I did notice this:
We expect to produce sixteen (16) live events during the year ending December 31, 2014. To date, we have operated profitable live events in Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, Columbus, Portland, Nashville, Austin, and St. Louis, but we have operated at a deficit in other events. In order for us to operate a successful event, we must produce an event that is relevant to the public in order to drive admissions, booth sales, sponsorship, and advertising. In order for the Company to grow the digital business, we must attract unique users and drive traffic to our online site. To date, we have exhausted considerable resources developing our media platform, but we have yet to earn a profit from the platform.
This suggests that the Sacramento, Louisville, Minneapolis, Atlanta and San Antonio Wizard worlds were not profitable. The San Antonio stop, at least, won’t be back in 2015, I’m told—it’s listed as TBD on the Wizard Site. To Atalnta stop is listed, although they’ll take another crack at Minneapolis, Louisville and Sacramento.
Clearly, running shows as long as Wizard has, they’ve learned a ting or two, and the business can be lucrative…but a new territory is a crapshhoot, and their ambitious expansion program will probably be fine tuned as good markets are recognized.
The stock was up a tad on the news, but it generally fluctuates in a small range list most penny stocks.
Wizard World, Inc
. (OTCBB: WIZD) (the “Company”), a leading provider of Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across the world, today announced that the Company has released its second quarter 2014 financial results in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended June 30, 2014 (“Q2 2014”).
The Company hosted four comic cons in Q2 2014: St. Louis, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Philadelphia, bringing fans together with their favorite celebrities, artists, exhibitors in a pop culture and multimedia experience. Convention revenue for period ended June 30, 2014 was $7,110,940,
an increase of $4,209,524 (or 145%) from $2,901,416 reported in the comparable period in 2013. Convention revenue for the six months ended June 30, 2014 was $12,284,138, an increase of $7,589,246 (or 162%) from $4,694,892 reported in the comparable period in 2013. The significant increase in revenue in 2014 is primarily accredited to the Company’s team’s dedication to delivering higher quality events, including better organization, more programming, and an exciting list of celebrities and artists to an increasing fan base, which all translates to higher revenue growth.
The Company ran eight events during the first six months ended June 30, 2014, as compared to four events during the comparable period in 2013. Average revenue generated per event in 2014 was $1,535,517 as compared to $1,173,723 during 2013.
Operating expenses were $2,002,931
in Q2 2014, as compared to $859,536 the same period in 2013, which was the result of increases in staffing and employment costs due to the increased number and size of the events. Operating expenses for the six months ended June 30, 2014, was $3,223,900, as compared to $1,550,043 reported in the comparable period in 2013.
Income from operations was $759,842
in Q2 2014, an increase of 358% from $(293,666) reported in the comparable period in 2013. Income from operations for the six months ended June 30, 2014, was $1,452,044 as compared to $(167,574) reported in the comparable period in 2013. The increase is primarily attributable to running more and larger events with similar fixed costs.
$759,703 or income per share of $0.01 for the three months ended June 30, 2014, as compared to $(3,183,533) or loss per share of $0.09, in the comparable period in 2013. Net income for the six months ended June 30, 2014, was $1,451,744 or income per share of $0.03, as compared to $(2,079,357) or loss per share of $(0.06), reported in the comparable period in 2013. Income in 2014 was primarily generated from convention revenue and stronger profit margin versus the loss in 2013 which was non-cash generated from a loss on the fair value of the Company’s derivative liabilities, and by year end of 2013 the Company successfully extinguished all derivative instruments.
At June 30, 2014, the Company had working capital of $4,030,802 and as of August 8, 2014, there were 51,341,524 shares of common stock issued and outstanding.
“We are excited to have successfully completed eight of our 2014 events to date, as our team is now preparing for our flagship event in Chicago which is expected to bring tens of thousands of fans to meet over 50 celebrities including the reunion of the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation, more than 315 artists and more than 300 exhibitors,
” said John Macaluso, CEO of Wizard World, Inc. “We are thrilled to have already topped our 2013 revenue and we believe we will continue to exceed our expectations for the remainder of the year, increasing shareholder value and organically building our shareholder base with the ultimate shareholders, our fans.”
The Company will continue its 2014 tour next in Chicago, August 21-24. Seven additional shows are scheduled in 2014, bringing the yearly total to 16 conventions. To find a Wizard World Comic Con in a city near you, go to: http://www.wizardworld.com/
The Company encourages shareholders to not rely on this press release and to refer to the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for full disclosure relating to the second quarter financial report, filed on August 11, 2014, which can be found on www.sec.gov
One’s an atheist who lives on Red Bull and whiskey. One’s a Mormon who never drinks. But Warren Ellis and Mike Allred have teamed up onThe Spirit of BACARDÍ a 20 page comics about Emilio Bacardí, son of founder Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, and his doings in Cuba in the 1800s. When I first saw those Bacardi ads full of drama and intrigue I thought it was like those John Jameson ads, a little exaggeration, but no, it turns out there really was some adventure and freedom fighting involved. Which you can learn all about in this comic.
Corporate branding. You never know what it will turn up.
This will be the last By Its Cover for a few months, so I thought I’d do something special. Today we’re going to look at the Image Expo teaser images shown at SDCC 2014.
To be clear, these aren’t necessarily covers. In theory, they’re teaser images intended to get people interested in each series, though half of the teasers look like they just used the first issue’s cover art.
When Torsten Adair suggested the topic, I was initially hesitant. I made a conscious decision to focus on the best covers each week – partly in hopes of inspiring people to create more visually diverse covers – but these Image Expo images range from great to distinctly not-great. Though it’s possible for us to learn just as much (or more) from seeing people’s failures as their successes.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I almost feel like the column you are about to read needs a warning. I was going easy on the covers before; we’re about to go critical.
Methodology: I purposely avoided reading the descriptions of each book until after I’d looked at the corresponding teaser image. I then showed the images to a couple of friends who also knew nothing about the books, to see if their impressions differed. What follows are the results.
I’ve decided to go through these in reverse order from how the books were announced, because I wanted to start off with an example of perfection. Sleek and stylish, this teaser doesn’t say much, but in a tantalizing way that makes me want to know more.
The way the syringe icon doubles as a pill is perfect. The texture inside the icon wasn’t really necessary, but it works regardless. Futura is one of those sturdy, timeless fonts that’s ridiculously overused, yet never gets old. And like any proper teaser, it tells me the month and year it’s coming out.
That said, based on my own experience, I’m betting there are a lot of non-designers out there who consider this image boring. But I’m not sure that can be helped.
Tooth & Clawl? Tooth &…Crawl? Crawl? Clawl?
It took me two minutes looking over this image before I realized it said “Tooth & Claw 1.” I can understand putting the “1″ in there so that the ampersand is centered (and it’s a great ampersand, by the way), but the number’s similarity to the lowercase “l” hurts the title’s readability. Plus, what do you do with Tooth & Claw 2 and beyond? Since all other numbers are wider than “1,” the ampersand will either no longer be centered, or the title is going to look cramped.
Also, the lowercase “l” looks weird with the upper serif coming off the wrong side like that.
But the title treatment isn’t the only problem. My friends and I all found this cover to be visually boring, and I couldn’t figure out why. I’m a fan of Busiek’s writing, so I want to like this. The image is well drawn and well composed. I dig symmetrical compositions. And it’s an image of a warthog doing magic! So why does it make me want to scroll away quickly to something more visually pleasant?
The problem is the colors. Instead of being used to create depth, they’re flattening the image out. The old staple of warm-and-cold contrast is being used for the background, but the gradient meets in the center as a dull gray. The blue orb sits in the cold area of the gradient, where there is the least contrast, and likewise all the brownish red elements sit in the warm area of the gradient.
The warthog, who should be the focus of the piece, is colored entirely in very desaturated colors that push the focus to the less gray background elements. Even the glowing light in the character’s hands is gray, instead of a vibrant white. The glowing objects around the character are separated from the light blue background with a strange warm gray glow that flattens them out, making it look like the character is sitting (well, floating) in front of a painted wall instead of summoning light. From a distance, the image balances out to dull gray and brown.
A better approach? Glowing objects are hard to convey against light backgrounds. A lightsaber doesn’t look as good in front of a white or pastel wall as it does behind dark colors. If the warthog was floating in front of a black background, everything lit only by the green objects emanating from the character’s hands, that would be one dramatic image.
(Yes, I realize Jordie Bellaire just won an Eisner for Best Coloring. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.)
Whoa, look at that title logo. That’s crazy. I never would’ve attempted something so wild and chaotic, and that’s why I love it.
I also love the expressiveness of the painting, and the color palette is solid. I don’t quite get the light blue circle (sun? moon? something else?) that’s overlapping his face, but since they’ve already consciously broken all the rules with the rest of the composition, I feel like I should just go with it.
My first guess as to the story was “a western set in space?,” and the description pretty much confirmed it, so it’s a success there too. All it’s missing as far as teasers go is a date. It doesn’t count if you hid it in those seemingly random dots, guys.
The image of the kid behind the moon works really well when I’ve seen it cropped down on other sites, but otherwise the composition is a little awkward. I kind of want the kid’s eye line to be pointing to the title and credits, rather than just under them and over to whatever is to the right of the image.
There are a few different approaches that I think might work a little better. I don’t think the typeface used for the title works very well spaced out like that. A taller typeface would probably work better, like the one used for the creator’s names. But there’s so much space for a title at the top of the image, you could go even taller.
Or, the image could be cropped in so that the moon is centered horizontally, and the title and creator names could be centered within the moon. Or, the image could be cropped in so that part of the left side of the moon is cut off (the kid being places on the left side of the rule of thirds), and the title and creator names placed small in the upper right corner (not overlapping the moon).
I’m not sure if I’m making sense, so here are examples.
Am I the only one who hadn’t heard of the constellation the Southern Cross? Maybe that just shows how ignorant I am of astronomy, I don’t know. I initially thought the dots in the “O” were an attempt at making it look like a moon, until I saw the symbol in the Image logo, and still didn’t realize it was a constellation. Make fun of me if you want.
So my first thought looking at this teaser is that the story takes place in the south, and is about some sort of angel or winged main character who is transporting a ghostly corpse a la Hellboy. After I was informed about the constellation, I still figured it was the same story, only set in the southern hemisphere.
The story description tells me I couldn’t be more wrong. It doesn’t even take place on earth! It’s about a tanker flight heading to Titan called the Southern Cross, and what I took to be wings are probably the frame around a window. The corpse might be hitching a ride, as I thought before, or it might be trying to strangle the character.
It’s well drawn, but isn’t quite getting across the concept. It’s described as “The Shining on a haunted spaceship,” but I got neither a spaceship nor The Shining from this. The look of internal peace and calmness on the character’s face does not convey a horror vibe.
In terms of type, it’s kind of distracting to me how “SOUTHERN” is in very clean Futura, while “CROSS” is in Futura that’s been roughed up to look hand-drawn. They should either both look hand-drawn, or both look clean. Or maybe the hand-drawn word should look more hand-written (instead of a roughed up geometric font), but it might be tougher to get that to work. I also kind of want to see the Image logo moved up below the logo and resized to the same height as the “01,” to balance out the top half of the image.
A collage like this could’ve completely fallen apart, but I think it works. I immediately get that this is two locations combined into a single image, rather than two people finding a cave filled with ships flying away from a tiny planet. I think the ships flying overhead behind them helps a great deal in terms of that.
The only thing I’m not sure of is the stream. Is it lava? It looks like they’re standing in it, so I assume not. Is it just water colored red because artistic license? It’s the one element that isn’t really working for me, because I don’t really like how it flows behind the ships.
It’s not an elegant cover, but it does a perfect job of getting across the concept, assuming that concept is “Planet Of The Apes meets The Wild Angels.”
A critic who likes to be cruel for the sake of comedy might say: “Intersect is about a boy with a wolf for an arm who encounters Alice Cooper,” but I like to think I’m above that.
I like the texture of the painting, but the composition isn’t working for me. Then again, it perfectly matches the book description, which opted for text with a lot of flavor that doesn’t actually tell me anything.
Please tell me this is going to be a really tall comic.
This image certainly has a lot of energy, though it seems strange to have this exciting lightning bolt! and exciting title! and then this person just standing there looking bored. Normally I like contrasts, but his boredom in the face of excitement makes me feel like I’m going to be bored.
I don’t understand why those decorative flourishes are only on the right side of the page, unless they did it just to drive people like me crazy.
Let’s talk about the logo first. I get that the looseness of the letters is meant to convey that this is going to be wacky, but it really just looks sloppy. While it conveys madness, it doesn’t really convey god-ness. If the word “Valhalla” had been written in that font used for the rest of the text, and then “Mad” was in a zany comedy font, the logo itself would have a visually interesting contrast that better communicates the story.
The teaser would then be improved by having the rest of the text in a plain font, except maybe the year (which could mirror the logo’s “Valhalla text.”
Also, y’know what would be better than text telling us its a story about “three lovable gods just here to have a good time?” A silhouette of three godly-looking people laughing and holding mugs. You could even build that silhouette into the logo Final Fantasy-style, and it’d be perfect.
I like the decorative shapes being used here. The knives are a nice touch, if they represent that one character wants to backstab or is the enemy of the other. If that’s not what the knives are communicating, then I would’ve left them out.
The title text needs work. Serif fonts like that work well for small text, but they make for extremely plain logo text, even when hand-traced to give it an indie look. As much excitement as the illustration tries to convey, the plain non-logo title undermines it.
The red shape behind the title looks nice, except the hatch lines inside it don’t quite fit with the fully filled in colors in the backgrounds of the three main shapes. Instead of looking artsy, it looks like “I was filling this in with a marker, but got impatient and gave up.”
The placement of the Image logo looks like an afterthought, or a “I don’t know where to put this now, I’ll just wedge it in here.” A better place for it might be centered in the shape created by the overlapping red and light blue, or centered below the feet of the central character.
My first impression of this image was that it was two people sitting on the nose of a runaway bike as it was popping a wheelie. It seemed pretty clear to me what direction they were moving, from the speedlines behind the back tire, and their relation to the horizon.
After staring at it for awhile, I realized a few things. What I thought were speedlines was actually the reflection of the bike on a shiny black surface. In fact, they’re not moving at all – the guy’s legs are firmly planted on the ground, not on the foot pegs, and the background image represents a completely different view angle. The only thing I’m still confused on is why there are bits of krackle to the left of the front tire if they’re not moving.
In short: this cover isn’t working. Even if the intent was to confuse, my question is “why?” It doesn’t make the cover more interesting to look at, it just makes me want to look at an illustration that makes visual sense.
If you removed the bike and left just the strip of background, with the logo filling the black space below, I would love this image. If you removed the strip of background, moved the bike up a little so it’s more clear that there’s a reflection under then, and moved the logo to the upper left, I would call this a strong image. As is, it’s not working.
See you in a few months.
Kate Willaert is a graphic designer for Shirts.com. You can find her her art on Tumblr and her thoughts @KateWillaert. Notice any spelling errors? Leave a comment below.
Is consolidation still cool? A number of big deals have collapsed in recent days, whether it’s just the dog days of summer or something else in the air.
Most notably, Rupert Murdoch suddenly cooled on acquiring Time Warner, when it turned out Warners head Jeff Bewkes—and more importantly, Fox stockholder—weren’t so eager to canoodle. The sudden retreat was said to be uncharacteristic of Murdoch, however, who usually gets his company:
The announcement stunned long-time watchers of Mr Murdoch, who rarely gives up without a fight and typically wins the day. The abruptness of the withdrawal was all the more surprising, given that the offer that had been rejected was an opening gambit and a drawn-out takeover tussle looked to be in prospect. “He completely misread the situation,” says one long-time observer of both companies. “He premised his approach on the idea that Jeff Bewkes [Time Warner’s chief executive] wanted to sell and would do so on any terms.”
Over at the mobile carrier ranch, Sprint’s longed-for takeover of T-Mobile also got the kibosh thanks to watchful feds, who decided four big phone companies is better than three
Regulatory concerns seem to hint at the fact that the government essentially did not want to approve a merger of this kind. In fact, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said keeping four large carriers was “good for American consumers.” “Sprint now has an opportunity to focus their efforts on robust competition,” Wheeler said in a statement. Along with other regulators, Wheeler has been public about his skepticism on a merger between the two carriers.
And even old school publishers had the urge to merge, as Hachette and Ingram were planning to split up book company Perseus—Hachette would get the publishing end, and Ingram, the immense book wholesaler, would get the distribution business. But that deal, too, faded away
when the three way just didn’t work out:
A letter sent to Perseus employees Thursday afternoon, from Perseus CEO David Steinberger, said that despite much effort from all three parties “we could not reach an agreement on everything necessary to close the transaction.” Representatives from both Hachette and Ingram confirmed that the deal was off, but would not offer further comment. The deal was originally set to be completed at the end of July but, last week, notices were sent to Perseus employees explaining that the parties were not able to finalize the transaction by the end of the month. Despite the delay, employees were told the deal was still expected to be finalized by the end of August.
Is the consolidation era over? No way. Comcast is still set to acquire Time Warner Cable, perhaps training TWC’s employees so they aren’t idiots
along the way. And some feel the street thinks mergers are the only way to grow the sputtering economy
“The corporate sector has been kind of out of it in creating any sort of growth,” Savita Subramanian, an equities strategist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said. “So maybe this is the first salvo in a corporate-spending-driven economic recovery.”
So far this year, $2.2 trillion in deals has been announced globally, according to data from Thomson Reuters. That total represents a 67 percent increase from the same period last year, and it is setting up 2014 to be a robust year for deal makers.
To this consumer, healthy competition is better for the economy than mega-corps trading money, but what do I know. Things may have calmed down for the next two minutes but don’t be too surprised if more big and small consolidation is still on the way.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Recorded at Publishers Weekly, it’s More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.
In this week’s podcast Heidi interviews comics creator, Tumblr personality and podcaster Mike Dawson, creator of Freddie & Me and Troop 142 about his trials as a mid-career creator, his recent Tumblr musings on the subject and the unexpected comics blogosphere notoriety that followed.
Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes
Okay I stand corrected. When I saw the double digit rises in sales for July 2014 vs July 2013 I assumed it had to be because it was a five month vs four month, But according to John Jackson Miller it was five vs five making July 2014 the biggest month in the Diamond Exclusive Era with $53.6 million in sales. BUt this is due mostly to having the highest amount of product—including variants etc— ever in the Diamond era.
July in recent years has tended to be a month where things really get going for comics; sales did indeed, reaching their highest dollar value in the Diamond Exclusive Era which began in 1997. Comics shops in North America ordered more than $53.6 million in comics, graphic novels, and magazines, topping $50 million for the second time and besting October’s previous Diamond-Era record of $50.3 million.
It was a five-week month against a five-week month, so that factor is not in play; what it was was a month in which a lot of new comics shipped. Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 530 new comic books in July, which is the highest figure seen since Diamond began releasing those statistics one year ago. The release of 312 graphic novels was also the highest seen in a year — and when one of those books is Walking Dead Vol. 21, it’s likely to be a decent July. The result was a month with the largest year-over-year change since last September: comics and graphic novel sales were up 14.52% over a year ago. The seven-month total has now topped $300 million, and is ahead 2.22% year-to-year.
I eagerly await Miller’s in depth analysis of the month!
As expected, although still shockingly, Rocket Raccoon #1 by Skottie Young was the #1 comics periodical for July, according to Diamond’s just released stats. As reported earlier, RR #1 sold some 300,000 copies—100,000 of them through a single order from bulk seller Loot Crate. Even so, 200,000 copies is a high water mark for a character viewed as a minor oddity a few months ago. As usual, and perhaps comfortingly, Batman #33 took the second spot, but Harley Quinn #8 was also in the top 10, another sign of the audience diversity that is beginning to take hold.
Marvel won the month with a 35.09% dollar market share and a 38.39% unit market share to DC’s 28.18% dollar share and 31.32% unit share. Archie edged out Boom for #7, perhaps due to the death of Archie orders.
The month was up sharply in month to month and year to year, but July was a five Wednesday month so the stats aren’t that significant. 2014 is still generally flat against 2013, but that was a huge year for sales so the industry is still in a pretty good place.
The Walking Dead’s newest trade, Volume 21: All Out War Part 2, led graphic novels, with the new Avatar the Last Airbender YA gn from Dark Horse and even Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds also making an appearance.
TOP COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS
|DARK HORSE COMICS
|OTHER NON-TOP 10
NEW TITLES SHIPPED
||GRAPHIC NOVELS SHIPPED
|DARK HORSE COMICS
|OTHER NON-TOP 10
COMPARATIVE SALES STATISTICS
|JULY 2014 VS. JUNE 2014
|JULY 2014 VS. JULY 2013
|YEAR-TO-DATE 2014 VS. YEAR-TO-DATE 2013
TOP 10 COMIC BOOKS
||ROCKET RACCOON #1
||AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4
||ORIGINAL SIN #5
||SPIDER-MAN 2099 #1
||ORIGINAL SIN #6
||JUSTICE LEAGUE #32
||THE LEGENDARY STAR-LORD #1
||HARLEY QUINN #8
TOP 10 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS
||THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 21: ALL-OUT WAR PART 2 (MR)
||AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER VOL. 8: RIFT PART 2 TP
||DEADLY CLASS VOLUME 1: REAGAN YOUTH TP (MR)
||SAGA VOLUME 1 TP (MR)
||BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY: SECONDS GN
||DEADPOOL VOLUME 5: THE WEDDING OF DEADPOOL TP
||SAGA VOLUME 3 TP (MR)
||STAR WARS: THE LUCAS DRAFT TP
||BATMAN VOLUME 1: THE COURT OF OWLS TP
||LAZARUS VOLUME 2: LIFT TP (MR)
TOP 10 BOOKS
||THE OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE VOLUME 44 SC
||THE OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE VOLUME 44 HC
||STAR WARS: GOODNIGHT, DARTH VADER HC
||THE SAKAI PROJECT: 30 YEARS OF USAGI YOJIMBO HC
||WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S THE JEDI DOTH RETURN HC
||MIKE MIGNOLA’S HELLBOY ARTIST’S EDITION
||STERANKO’S NICK FURY, AGENT OF SHIELD ARTIST’S EDITION
||GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: AN ORIGIN STORY YR HC
||FRANK MILLER: THE ART OF SIN CITY TP
||THE SHADOW DOUBLE NOVEL ANNUAL VOLUME 1 SC
TOP 10 TOYS
||ARKHAM ASYLUM: THE JOKER/HARLEY QUINN/BATMAN/|
THE SCARECROW ACTION FIGURE 4-PACK
||MARVEL SELECT: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER:|
THE FALCON ACTION FIGURE
||POWER RANGERS LEGACY DRAGONZORD
||DC COMICS: BATGIRL “NEW 52″ ARTFX+ STATUE
||DC COMICS SUPER VILLAINS: ARMORED LEX LUTHOR DELUXE FIGURE
||MARVEL: SPIDER-WOMAN BISHOUJO STATUE
||DC COMICS: NEW 52 POWERGIRL & HUNTRESS ACTION FIGURE 2-PACK
||DC COMICS: NEW 52 EARTH-2 WONDER WOMAN ACTION FIGURE
||TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURLES MINI-FIGURES SERIES 1
||DC COMICS COVER GIRLS: POISON IVY STATUE
[Editor's note: just to finish things up, we know what it's like in the trenches for us regular folks, but what is Comic-Can like for a celebrity? For the second time, actor James Urbaniak was gracious enough to pen a Comic-Con diary for us, cracking the door a bit on the glamour and glitz of life in the green room. Probably best known as the voice of Dr. Venture on the Venture Bros, Urbaniak has appeared in everything from American Splendor to The Boxtrolls. He can currently be heard on his podcast, Getting on with James Urbaniak. These are his con adventures.]
Dream: I am in a room full of food. Mike Tyson talks to Sponge Bob. Nearby, Leonard Maltin eats a sandwich.
Oh wait, it’s not a dream, I’m in the Adult Swim green room at Comic-Con. This is the room at the Hilton Bayfront where anyone on an Adult Swim panel hangs out before or afterward. Mike Tyson (who stars in an upcoming Adult Swim animated series) is talking to Sponge Bob (well, Tom Kenny) and Leonard Maltin is floating about. It’s not a dream, but it does feel deeply symbolic. Of what, I have no idea.I ask Leonard Maltin if he knew Pauline Kael. He explains that he never met her but talked to her once over the phone.
Maltin is moderating a panel with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Also on the Maltin panel is Jack McBrayer, whom my girlfriend Sara Pocock had noticed peripherally in an elevator earlier that morning when we’d checked into the hotel. She was adjusting a wedgie at the time (she tweeted about this so I’m okay to bring it up). Later in the green room she officially met him and mentioned that the three of us had earlier shared an elevator while she shimmied to adjust herself and he replied with the same artless Southern enthusiasm as 30 Rock’s Kenneth “Oh yeah, I remember! You were dancin’ in your blue jeans! This is my first time here. It’s craaazy!”
We took the train from LA early that Friday morning. At the platform there was guy in a Flash t-shirt, a guy in Superman t-shirt, guy in a Star Wars t-shirt and a boy in a Magneto helmet. While boarding I heard a guy say “Should I change into my Sailor Moon suit on the train?” I think he was joking. Near the food car, three middle-aged people dressed as Power Rangers asked me to take their picture.
Back in the green room, Maltin is telling a story about his Bullwinkle watch. I say hello to Dan Harmon. My colleague from the Thrilling Adventure Hour, ubiquitous voice actor John DiMaggio is now conferring with Tom Kenny about Mike Tyson. (BTW DiMaggio’s mother and my father both taught special ed in the same school in the 70s but that’s another story.) I meet Robert Smigel. Rob Corddry is there. Travis from “Clueless” walks by. “Oh my God,” says my girlfriend. “It’s Travis from Clueless.”
I am there for the Venture Bros panel. Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick enter the room, dandified as usual. Jackson in seersucker, Doc in one of the personally tailored suits that fit his narrow frame like a second striped skin.
“Hello boys!” I exclaim. I ask Doc how his train ride was. He takes the train from New York to San Diego (he doesn’t fly; ear issues.)
It’s a classic Venture Brothers panel. The boys go off on peripheral tangents and lightly chastise anyone who wants details about the upcoming season. (Jackson does allow himself to reveal some of the season’s upcoming guest stars. Google it.)
They show a video of Jarvis Cocker referencing the Venture Brothers in a Pulp concert. After the clip I tell a story about how a drunk guy in a bar once mistook me for Jarvis Cocker. For some reason the context of a Venture Brothers panel this highly amusing anecdote doesn’t land so I bring it up about three more times during the course of the hour. Pointless tangents are a hallmark of our panels.
After the panel Sara and I make our way to the Convention Center past the zlpline and the giant half a Homer Simpson head that protrudes from the lawn between the hotel and the center (promoting FXX’s “Every Simpsons Ever.”) And here it is, the Center, “the floor,” the belly of the beast. We pass beneath the banner reading “Welcome to Comic-Con International” in not-quite-Comic-Sans. The last time I was here, two years ago, I saw a group of Venture Bros cosplayers as soon as I walked in. History repeats itself. There, as if waiting for me, are the Monarch, Dr. the Mrs. Monarch, Dr. Venture, Pete White and Dr. Henry Killinger. Someone gently admonishes me to get out of the way of their photographer. This dark irony is not lost on one of the players who says “He’s on the show!” I take my own photo of them.
Sara and I begin the gritty work of walking the floor. We stop by the tables of various artist friends. Mike Mitchell, Drew Friedman, Shannon Wheeler (illustrator of Mark Russell’s “God is Disappointed in You,” for which I recorded the audiobook) and the legendarily eccentric Tony Millionaire, who is wearing someone else’s nametag. “Using a pseudonym?” I ask him. He removes the tag as if he hadn’t noticed, crosses out the incorrect name and then, in a very slow and careful hand, writes “TONY MILLIONAIRE.” Good thing I said something.
Cosplayers abound. Of particular note are a very convincing Drogo and Daenerys. They are uncanny physical matches. “That Drogo could really pull off Brock Sampson,” I think to myself.
Sara runs into an old friend named Zoe from the CalArts animation program who tags along. After a couple of hours on the floor, we are ready to recharge at the bar at the Hilton (the Odysea). Sitting on the deck looking overlooking the bay, we observe a helicopter land on a yacht. This over-the-top metaphor for the corporatization of Comic-Con is a bit on the nose but we’ll take it. More rounds are bought. Our LA friends David and Augusta Avallone show up. Jackson Publick makes his way over.The aforementioned Mark Russell joins us and I meet the author of my audiobook for the first time.
I have a panel for the Thrilling Adventure Hour that evening (the LA-based old time radio-style comedy show/podcast has a crossover performance with Welcome to Night Vale the next night). This panel is a bit less randomly freewheeling than the Venture Bros panel and I keep irrelevant anecdotes to a minimum.
Panel done, it’s back to the Odysea where a Disney party and a fan-organized Venture Bros costume party are happening simultaneously. I spy a group photo about to be taken of a couple dozen Venture Bros cosplayers and I jog over and slide into a crouching position in the foreground right before the click. It’s about 10 pm and Sara and I are both hungry and tired. We tell friends at the bar that we are going to our room to order some dinner from room service and will be back. In the room, we both fall asleep while waiting for the food. While eating dinner, Sara sleepily says “You know…we don’t have to go to a party tonight.” We conk out and are asleep by 11:30 pm. Day One is over. I dream of Leonard Maltin.
Up the next morning for a Venture Bros signing. Jackson and Doc are always in great form at these one-on-one interactions with fans. Of the three of us, Doc has the most impressive signature.
After the signing, Sara and I wander Artists Alley. We meet the delightful Paul Guinan, creator of the fictional Victorian robot Boilerplate. We chat with my old friend Todd Stashwick, actor and co-creator of the online comic “Devil Inside.” (We played a pair of pervy bad guy friends on an episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” many years ago.) Making our way outside, we go to the nearby Disney Infinity Pop Up Shop where Sara’s old CalArts classmate, “Gravity Falls” creator Alex Hirsch is signing posters. I get two for my 8-year-old boy/girl twins; it’s their favorite show.
We ping-pong back to the Odysea where Rob Corddry and his wife Sandra are at the bar. Corddry and I get into a deep discussion about novelty records (Weird Al had the #1 song that week).
That evening I play a Western robot space outlaw in the Thrilling Adventure / Night Vale show. Mingling afterwards in the lobby, I spot David Rees and Ken Plume (for whom I will be participating in various DragonCon events next month). Afterwards, Sara and I go to a carnival-like Adult Swim party in the PetCo parking lot across from the Convention Center. There’s a fun house (one room features a large reclining man dressed like a baby) and a “Meatwad Dome,” a large domed tent-like structure where you lie on the floor and a psychedelic planetarium show hosted by Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s Meatwad is projected on the ceiling. The word is overused but one can only call it trippy. This party in a parking lot also features free t-shirts, free ice cream and free warm beer (they ran out of ice). We run into a ton of people. This is the parking lot to be in tonight.
We stagger across the street to the Hilton (holding a “Black Jesus” candle that a hipster Santa offered me in the funhouse). The aforementioned Todd Stashwick, artist Denis Calero and our friend the writer Deric Hughes have a floating party every year they call Slam Con and, since all roads lead to the Hilton this year, that’s where they’re at. But the Odysea is closing and the guests are dispersing. The road of excess leads to the palace of sleep.
I have another Venture Brothers signing on Day Three at the Entertainment Earth booth (manufacturer of Venture Bros action figures and shot glasses). A small curtain has been set up in front of our booth table and Jackson, Doc and I are formally revealed when the signing begins. When the signing is finished, the curtain closes. Jackson laughs at the absurdity. I, an old theatre actor, feel warmly at home.
The rest of the day is spent browsing the floor. We make a couple of purchases at the Fantagraphics table and head back to pack for the train back to LA. Our driver to the train station says she’s been shuttling people back and forth between the Center and the train station all weekend but she’s never been to the Con herself. Had Jackson Publick not offered me the role of Dr. Venture in the Venture Brothers one evening in a New York bar over ten years ago, it’s likely I may never have made it here either. As the train brings us back home, I bid goodbye to the weird, waking dream. Somewhere Leonard Maltin smiles.
[Follow James Urbaniak on Tumblr and Twitter.]
Dominic Postiglione, better known as Nick Post, owner of Source Comics and Games and one of the main forces behind Minnesota’s Midwest Comic Book Association and their two shows, passed away last week, and his Facebook page has many touching remembrances. Postiglione was a tireless supporter of comics, and affected many with his enthusiasm and friendship. I only met him a few times but after even a brief interaction, his kindness and love of comics shone through. According to his obituary he’s survived by a son, his parents, and three siblings. A memorial service will be held this Tuesday, 8/12 at 11 AM at the Cornerstone Bible Church, 735 East 10th St., Hastings.
IN addition, memorial t-shirts are being sold to those who wish to remember him. More details on the FB page.
The comics community needs more people like Nick Post; his loss will be felt. My sincere condolences to his many, many friends.
Happy Monday, people. Hope you enjoyed that Supermoon.
§ I have several excellent candidates for the new indie chart analyst here, including some writers I wasn’t previously aware of, so I’ll be sifting through those this week. In the meantime, Chris Rice…paging Chris Rice…
§ I promise I will do a San Diego wrap-up piece even if no one cares about it. Hopefully tomorrow.
§ Those three pages of “Pearls Before Swine” art that included work by Bill Watterson (along with creator Stephan Pastis) went up for auction on behalf of Team Cul de Sac at Heritage and the three strips sold for a total of $74.040 to three separate collectors who wish to remain anonymous. The money is going to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The strips were displayed at Heroescon a few months ago and they were very cool; I’m sure the folks who bought them are very pleased with their purchase.
§ Not a Buzzfeed piece! Not an Upworthy piece! Graphic novels: a misunderstood medium! It seems one woman in Massacusetts, Boston U. lecturer Laura Jimenez, thinks folks just don’t get how much information is in those graphic novels!
To create these pointers, she surveyed “expert” graphic novel readers, including “the guys who hang out in gaming shops and can talk about every issue of Aquaman,” she said in a recent BU News article. The strategies she developed from those conversations all involve ways of extracting information from the page that go beyond merely comprehending the words. Jimenez’s experienced readers would approach a novel by first skimming the whole thing to absorb its overall aesthetics. Then they’d turn back to the first page, where they would “study the background, setting, and time period”; then they’d consider the characters, and examine the colors to “determine the mood of the book.” Only then would they settle in to read it.
§ In all the excitement over those gazillion WB movie dates, folks seem to have forgotten that Guillermo del Toro is chugging along on his “Justice League Dark” project, and so far, no one has told him to stop! It’s not known if Constantine will show up, esp. with his own V show coming along, but according to Del Toro, the cast may include “Etrigan the Demon, Deadman, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Constantine, The Floronic Man, and many, many others.” If WB makes a movie with The Floronic Man in it, all will be forgiven.
§ This piece by Dave Itzkoff for the NYT from last week about the creators of Rocket Racoon contains some VERY interesting information about Marvel’s “settlement” or whatever you want to call it, with Bill Mantlo, who, you will recall, is in a hospital due to brain trauma he suffered many years ago. His brother Mike explains that this agreement was not Marvel’s idea:
Michael Mantlo, whose brother created Rocket Raccoon with the artist and author Keith Giffen in 1976, said he was grateful that Marvel had arranged the “Guardians of the Galaxy” screening for Bill. But he did not know a movie was planned until comics fans contacted him on Facebook a few years ago.
Michael said he had then contacted Marvel executives and told them, “If you’re making a film with Rocket Raccoon, you need to talk to me about the use of that character.”
“The negotiation started at that point,” he said, “and we managed to secure a very nice contract for Bill.”
I’ve been hearing of late that lawyering up and making a good, discrete case for yourself is the way to get some of that equity, which for the movies, anyway, seems to be enough for a few nice dinners. On the other hand, someone at San Diego — I honestly forget who— told me about how a character they created was used in Arrow, and the check was two figures. Which is just how it worked out. YOu gotta know when to hold em, and know when to fold em.
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How do we solve the problem of cosplayer harassment? Is it even a problem at all, or are we simply dealing with a few isolated incidents?
Let’s take a look.
Sexual harassment has become a high-profile issue from university campuses to Silicon Valley boardrooms, and now the comics community is dealing with this distressingly persistent concern. But even as we identify what the cosplayer harassment has in common with the harassment of women in other industries, we also face the same questions as to whether there is really a problem to solve.
In this post, I want to build on my previous installment in this series by addressing these questions directly — and in so doing, take more substantive steps toward assessing the agenda for reform. First up: what is a sexual harassment policy, anyway?
Design for LARPing
As we noted last time, sexual harassment law applies in rather limited contexts. For our purposes, since we’re dealing primarily with people who are not employees of Comic-Con International, the harassment policy for attendees does not serve the common purpose of avoiding liability under federal and state sexual discrimination law by showing that a policy is in place.
Still, the fact that SDCC has a harassment policy covering non-employees points to a role that such policies often play. Harassment policies serve several functions, and their effectiveness as a means of protecting people from unwanted behavior can actually be enhanced by understanding how their prohibitions, training and reporting fit with an organization’s more general goals.
One important aspect of harassment policies stood out at the latest San Diego Comic-Con, which featured two distinct approaches to promoting protection from harassment. Comic-Con International itself – a nonprofit exempt from federal taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code – included its anti-harassment policy in the official Comic-Con program and also posted in select public areas. More ubiquitous were signs associated with Geeks for Consent, including Cosplay [does not equal] Consent signs posted throughout the Convention Center as well as an alternative harassment policy posted in women’s rest rooms. Especially interesting from a legal perspective: the alternative policy used the official San Diego Comic-Con logo and header, giving the impression that the policy was that of Comic-Con International: San Diego.
Reconciling the two approaches is an issue that we’ll address as this series proceeds – for now, I want to highlight the key element that links them. Whatever one’s chosen strategy, developing a harassment policy is properly understood as a design project, except instead of a well-composed picture or convincing costume we’re creating a social environment. Where both SDCC and Geeks for Consent harmonize is in using harassment policy to provide constructive social cues – and as we have already seen in a few conventions that are substantially smaller than San Diego Comic-Con, it’s possible for a policy to be a widely accepted means of reinforcing the convention’s identity as a safe space for the entire geek community.
The mutual goal of designing a safe space for our community brings with it a number of shared strategies, not least of which is a subtle shift in language from the off-site debate. Critique tends to give way to more positive rhetoric, with shared recognition of a problem and a shared commitment to preventing it. SDCC policies in the program and postings don’t dismiss reports of harassment as a minor aberration, while talk of rape culture or sexist indifference morphs into a policy so closely identified with Comic-Con that it appears to have come from Comic-Con International Itself.
Since my articles are primarily concerned with this common goal, we’re going to try to set aside judgmental language. Such rhetoric can be useful for making an important point, but it can also get in the way of building a consensus toward putting values into practice. If at times the result sounds a tad domo arigato, Mr. Roboto, well, that’s kind of the point. Instead of questioning others’ motives or integrity, we’ll focus instead on the ideas and influences that shape the convention environment, especially but not exclusively from the perspectives of law and identity design.
Before we do, though, a quick caveat. Please note that my language choices reflect the fact that debate has largely been framed in male/female terms – I’m not making any judgments here about gender identity or sexual preference.
What the Lawyer Saw
Now that we’ve established a few ground rules, let’s move on to one of the most substantial obstacles to strengthening a convention’s harassment policy: the belief that harassment is not actually a major problem. Such a response to complaints about harassment can reflect a range of influences, but for our purposes there are two in particular that I want to address: the perception of reported incidents as mere isolated anomalies and the concern that harassment complaints inappropriately conflate benign flirting with inappropriate sexual aggressiveness.
To a certain degree, such reactions to the anti-harassment campaign reflect legitimate issues. For example, at the present time complaints against harassment in comic conventions are largely anecdotal – disturbing, yes, as anyone can testify who has read the Geeks for Consent site or watched the essential Scenes from the Small Press DVD featuring Colleen Doran, but to my (correctable, please!) knowledge not quantified and analyzed in multiple peer-reviewed studies. What’s more, complaints against harassment have indeed gone beyond aggressive touching to being hit on in a variety of ways, including verbal approaches that from a guy’s perspective may seem benign. To acknowledge these issues is not to concede that harassment is an illusory matter; to the contrary, it’s essential to developing an accurate response.
The evidence vs. anecdote problem is admittedly challenging. Even in the context of educational or workplace settings accurate and comprehensive data can be difficult to obtain; reporting harassment is risky behavior, bringing with it the risk of social stigma and retaliation. That said, requiring an irrefutable academic study before admitting that there’s a problem may be a counterproductive way to frame the issue. In addition to facing the reality of multiple reports within our midst, there is also the potential for reports of harassment to harm an organization precisely because of their rhetorical power. As the Catholic Church learned while quibbling about ages of consent and relative percentages of abuse, when you allow persuasive stories to multiply without a clear response an organization can be defined by offensive acts.
What’s more, certain acts bring with them a risk of substantial loss even if the behavior is not strictly speaking prohibited by statutes governing sexual harassment. Consider the events that got the most attention at the close of the latest SDCC: the pedestrian hit by a car during the Zombie Walk; the underage girl found injured in the Marriott fountain; the sexual assault on the model friend of Adrianne Lima. These events share several relevant characteristics: they all involve evident violations of the law; they don’t appear to show signs of substantial oversight by Comic-Con staff or contractors; and they all took place outside the Convention Center in areas associated with the event.
With regard to security within the Convention Center, complaints have already been made about the sufficiency of training, which, from the standpoint of someone looking to file a lawsuit is a routine point of attack. Still, the security exists, and SDCC has been taking demonstrable measures to buttress security staffing within the Convention Center as the event continues to grow. The space outside – well, that’s where things get a bit squirrely. If you look carefully at the SDCC program and trace other connections, a picture soon emerges of an event that is scaling up and out of control, escaping its traditional confines to encompass a substantial area that appears to have far less convention oversight.
At which point a lightbulb appears above the head of every entrepreneurial plaintiff’s attorney: negligence.
Once Upon a Contract
If the human toll and potential damage to corporate identity aren’t convincing, the risk of a viable lawsuit claiming a failure to exercise due care has spurred any number of organizations to strengthen their anti-harassment policies. The circumstances at the center of a lawsuit need not be an accident – an organization could be sued for a perceived failure to take appropriate action to protect attendees from sexual assault or battery, two concepts to which we will be returning later in our series.
This points to another core trait of harassment policies: they’re not just rules, they’re legal arguments, and central to making even the most technical legal provisions work is to understand how these rules work together to tell a convincing story. Effective policies and patterns of enforcement function like a splash page, a comic book or series of storyboards – they grab the viewer’s attention and convey a memorable narrative. Judges, jurors, journalists, attendees, sponsors, policy makers – an organization is telling this story to multiple audiences, and the best policies and enforcement practices can persuade them all.
As is typical in law, the story-telling aspect of a harassment policy can both help and harm. There’s a traditional belief in legal circles that silence is the most effective response – if you don’t say anything substantive, no one can use your words against you. In the world of sexual harassment, that’s one reason you often hear organizations assert that harassment is a minor issue even as they’re trying to deal with widely publicized incidents: in addition to a group’s natural tendency not to view itself in terms of sexual wrongdoing, the standard advice from many lawyers is that you should not increase the risk of liability by admitting that a problem exists.
To be clear, I’m not saying that a lawsuit would necessarily win against SDCC or any other comic convention. What’s certain is that as news spreads of comic conventions’ growth into a more than half-billion dollar enterprise, there are attorneys now looking for ways to tap the till.
Hey Baby Hey Baby Hey
The issues of an event’s scale and the extent of harassment are also pertinent to understanding why verbal flirting can be perceived as harassment.
To take this out of the realm of the abstract definition, let’s take a quick look at the experience of a female cosplayer whose mode of dress is interpreted as a sign of sexual availability or romantic interest. Guy 1 approaches and asks her out for a drink. She says no and the guy walks away. Although in the workplace this could still be the predicate for an actionable harassment claim, at a convention this sort of behavior is entirely legal as well as within the scope of even the most restrictive existing anti-harassment policy.
However, stay with our cosplayer throughout the day and over time a telling pattern emerges. Guy 2 approaches and asks her out for a drink. She says no and the guy walks away. Guy 3, same thing. Guy 4, Guy 5, Guy 6, Guy 7 — what to each guy seems to be an innocuous flirtation is to the woman a series of pings sending the signal that she is seen primarily in terms of her sexual or romantic availability. Her job may not be at stake, but there is a clear social quid pro quo – if she does not opt into interactions that at least from the outset define her in sexual or romantic terms, people with shared interests walk away.
What’s more, it’s important to note that for a growing number of cosplayers their professional futures may indeed be at stake. Cosplay is for many people a serious business – for example, it can be a gateway to valuable connections as a commercial make-up artist or costume designer, as evidenced by the prominent role played by the Costume Designers Guild at thematically-related panels and the annual competitive Masquerade. In addition, cosplayers such as Adrianne Curry use their garb as an means of furthering their careers as fashion models and media hosts, and as noted in my last post, I personally saw how a cosplaying woman’s attempt to market her own comic met with a guy’s insistence that her real agenda must be to get in his pants.
How Not to Pick Up Geeks
So what does this mean for sexual harassment policies? Should photos be banned if there hasn’t been a sexually-neutral request for a full-body pose? Should conventions simply prohibit all forms of expressing interest in an attendee without an express, unambiguous statement of being open to an advance?
A convention is a veritable multiverse of expectations, and for some people the possibility of finding a likeminded partner is a significant plus – in this respect conferences can play a role similar to that of a college or university, which has to find a way to accommodate students’ interest in both professional training and social connections. Accommodating this social function while respecting the desire not to be objectified or viewed primarily in terms of one’s relationship potential is not impossible – in fact, these goals can go hand in hand.
The key is to remember that the ultimate aim of a harassment policy is not so much to punish or ban undesirable behavior as it is to cultivate an ethic of respect. The sense of empathy is key to establishing a valued corporate identity, and it’s also a vital part of a persuasive legal narrative. Conversely, prohibitions that convey a lack of empathy by impinging on behavior that is consistent with a community’s identity, goals or standards tend not to be respected themselves. The same is true of a laundry list of sanctimonious thou-shalt-nots — the sad truth is that far more people take anti-harassment training than take it seriously.
A more effective strategy is to integrate an anti-harassment policy within a group’s defining ethos, and the how-to spirit of the geek community offers a rather useful hook: artlessly macking on a cosplayer tends not to work. Now, I’m coming at this as a (happily married!) legal professional who is, as they say, only in it for science, but based on conversations I’ve had with a number of people struggling with this sort of attention it appears that the most effective way of making an impression is not to open with an overt advance. Instead, it’s far more helpful to express genuine interest in the person as a person, whether that means asking how they constructed a particular design or how they’re doing in a hectic day. Not only does initiating a substantive conversation show regard for the individual as something more than an object of sexual or romantic interest, but it seems to buffer the signal strength in a world of “hey baby” noise.
From a design perspective, a policy that fosters an environment conducive to such interactions would likely enhance as opposed to constrain an event’s social value. It’s equally important to remember that we’re developing a new set of social norms to buttress those that may have been more effective in a smaller social environment, where group cohesion and the prospect of repeat interactions could discourage abusive behavior that now seems to grown out of hand. In this wider context taking steps to steer people away from behavior that can be seen as objectifying does not identify the event as a gathering of potential harassers — instead, the convention openly pursues the positive goal of fostering a community of common interests and mutual respect.
Next we’ll take a deeper look at existing and proposed harassment policies to get a better idea of how they could improve. For now, here’s a little more about this post’s main Easter egg. If you happen to have studied ethics or philosophy and the advice above seems somewhat familiar, your spider sense was justifiably tingling. I just gave flirting advice based on the core ethical principle of German idealist Immanuel Kant: the categorical imperative, which calls us not to treat people merely as a means to an end, but to respect them as human beings.
Who says a humanities Ph.D. isn’t practical?