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1. Monthly etymology gleanings for July 2014

By Anatoly Liberman


Since I’ll be out of town at the end of July, I was not sure I would be able to write these “gleanings.” But the questions have been many, and I could answer some of them ahead of time.

Autumn: its etymology

Our correspondent wonders whether the Latin word from which English, via French, has autumn, could be identified with the name of the Egyptian god Autun. The Romans derived the word autumnus, which was both an adjective (“autumnal”) and a noun (“autumn”), from augere “to increase.” This verb’s perfect participle is auctus “rich (“autumn as a rich season”). The Roman derivation, though not implausible, looks like a tribute to folk etymology. A more serious conjecture allies autumn to the Germanic root aud-, as in Gothic aud-ags “blessed” (in the related languages, also “rich”). But, more probably, Latin autumnus goes back to Etruscan. The main argument for the Etruscan origin is the resemblance of autumnus to Vertumnus, the name of a seasonal deity (or so it seems), about whom little is known besides the tale of his seduction, in the shape of an old woman, of Pomona, as told by Ovid. Vertumnus, or Vortumnus, may be a Latinized form of an Etruscan name. A definite conclusion about autumnus is hardly possible, even though some sources, while tracing this word to Etruscan, add “without doubt.” The Egyptian Autun was a creation god and the god of the setting sun, so that his connection with autumn is remote at best. Nor do we have any evidence that Autun had a cult in Ancient Rome. Everything is so uncertain here that the origin of autumnus must needs remain unknown. In my opinion, the Egyptian hypothesis holds out little promise.

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt "Floris" (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

Vertumnus seducing Pomona in the shape of an old woman. (Pomona by Frans de Vriendt “Floris” (Konstnär, 1518-1570) Antwerpen, Belgien, Hallwyl Museum, Photo by Jens Mohr, via Wikimedia Commons)

The origin of so long

I received an interesting letter from Mr. Paul Nance. He writes about so long:

“It seems the kind of expression that should have derived from some fuller social nicety, such as I regret that it will be so long before we meet again or the like, but no one has proposed a clear antecedent. An oddity is its sudden appearance in the early nineteenth century; there are only a handful of sightings before Walt Whitman’s use of it in a poem (including the title) in the 1860-1861 edition of Leaves of Grass. I can, by the way, offer an antedating to the OED citations: so, good bye, so long in the story ‘Cruise of a Guinean Man’. Knickerbocker: New York (Monthly Magazine 5, February 1835, p. 105; available on Google Books). Given the lack of a fuller antecedent, suggestions as to its origin all propose a borrowing from another language. Does this seem reasonable to you?”

Mr. Nance was kind enough to append two articles (by Alan S. Kaye and Joachim Grzega) on so long, both of which I had in my folders but have not reread since 2004 and 2005, when I found and copied them. Grzega’s contribution is especially detailed. My database contains only one more tiny comment on so long by Frank Penny: “About twenty years ago I was informed that it [the expression so long] is allied to Samuel Pepys’s expression so home, and should be written so along or so ’long, meaning that the person using the expression must go his way” (Notes and Queries, Series 12, vol. IX, 1921, p. 419). The group so home does turn up in the Diary more than once, but no citation I could find looks like a formula. Perhaps Stephen Goranson will ferret it out. In any case, so long looks like an Americanism, and it is unlikely that such a popular phrase should have remained dormant in texts for almost two centuries.

Be that as it may, I agree with Mr. Nance that a formula of this type probably arose in civil conversation. The numerous attempts to find a foreign source for it carry little conviction. Norwegian does have an almost identical phrase, but, since its antecedents are unknown, it may have been borrowed from English. I suspect (a favorite turn of speech by old etymologists) that so long is indeed a curtailed version of a once more comprehensible parting formula, unless it belongs with the likes of for auld lang sine. It may have been brought to the New World from England or Scotland and later abbreviated and reinterpreted.

“Heavy rain” in languages other than English

Once I wrote a post titled “When it rains, it does not necessarily pour.” There I mentioned many German and Swedish idioms like it is raining cats and dogs, and, rather than recycling that text, will refer our old correspondent Mr. John Larsson to it.

Ukraine and Baltic place names

The comment on this matter was welcome. In my response, I preferred not to talk about the things alien to me, but I wondered whether the Latvian place name could be of Slavic origin. That is why I said cautiously: “If this is a native Latvian word…” The question, as I understand, remains unanswered, but the suggestion is tempting. And yes, of course, Serb/Croat Krajna is an exact counterpart of Ukraina, only without a prefix. In Russian, stress falls on i; in Ukrainian, I think, the first a is stressed. The same holds for the derived adjectives: ukrainskii ~ ukrainskii. Pushkin said ukrainskaia (feminine).

Slough, sloo, and the rest

Many thanks to those who informed me about their pronunciation of slough “mire.” It was new to me that the surname Slough is pronounced differently in England and the United States. I also received a question about the history of slew. The past tense of slay (Old Engl. slahan) was sloh (with a long vowel), and this form developed like scoh “shoe,” though the verb vacillated between the 6th and the 7th class. The fact that slew and shoe have such dissimilar written forms is due to the vagaries of English spelling. One can think of too, who, you, group, fruit, cruise, rheum, truth, and true, which have the same vowel as slew. In addition, consider Bruin and ruin, which look deceptively like fruit, and add manoeuver for good measure. A mild spelling reform looks like a good idea, doesn’t it?

The pronunciation of February

In one of the letters I received, the writer expresses her indignation that some people insist on sounding the first r in February. Everybody, she asserts, says Febyooary. In such matters, everybody is a dangerous word (as we will also see from the next item). All of us tend to think that what we say is the only correct norm. Words with the succession r…r tend to lose one of them. Yet library is more often pronounced with both, and Drury, brewery, and prurient have withstood the tendency. February has changed its form many times. Thus, long ago feverer (from Old French) became feverel (possibly under the influence of averel “April”). In the older language of New England, January and February turned into Janry and Febry. However powerful the phonetic forces may have been in affecting the pronunciation of February, of great importance was also the fact that the names of the months often occur in enumeration. Without the first r, January and February rhyme. A similar situation is well-known from the etymology of some numerals. Although the pronunciation Febyooary is equally common on both sides of the Atlantic and is recognized as standard throughout the English-speaking world, not “everybody” has accepted it. The consonant b in February is due to the Latinization of the French etymon (late Latin februarius).

Who versus whom

Discussion of these pronouns lost all interest long ago, because the confusion of who and whom and the defeat of whom in American English go back to old days. Yet I am not sure that what I said about the educated norm is “nonsense.” Who will marry our son? Whom will our son marry? Is it “nonsense” to distinguish them, and should (or only can) it be who in both cases? Despite the rebuke, I believe that even in Modern American English the woman who we visited won’t suffer if who is replaced with whom. But, unlike my opponent, I admit that tastes differ.

Wrap

Another question I received was about the origin of the verb wrap. This is a rather long story, and I decided to devote a special post to it in the foreseeable future.

PS. I notice that of the two questions asked by our correspondent last month only copacetic attracted some attention (read Stephen Goranson’s response). But what about hubba hubba?

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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2. On the 95th anniversary of the Chicago Race Riots

By Elaine Lewinnek


On 27 July 1919, a black boy swam across an invisible line in the water. “By common consent and custom,” an imaginary line extending out across Lake Michigan from Chicago’s 29th Street separated the area where blacks were permitted to swim from where whites swam. Seventeen-year-old Eugene Williams crossed that line. He may have strayed across it by accident or may have challenged it on purpose. We do not know his motives because the whites on the beach reacted by throwing stones and Eugene Williams drowned. Police at the beach arrested black bystanders, infuriating other blacks so much that one black man shot at the police, who returned fire, shooting into the crowd of blacks. The violence spread from there. Over the next week, in the middle of that hot summer of 1919, 38 people died, 537 were hospitalized, and approximately 1,000 were left homeless. White and black Chicagoans fought over access to beaches, parks, streetcars, and especially residential space. The burning of houses, during this riot, inflamed passions almost as much as the killing of people. It took a rainstorm and the state militia to end the violence in July 1919, which nevertheless simmered just below the surface, erupting in smaller clashes between blacks and whites throughout the next four decades, especially every May, during Chicago’s traditional moving season.

ChicagoRaceRiot_1919_wagon

Family leaving damaged home after 1919 Chicago race riot by Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Negro in Chicago: The Negro in Chicago; a study of race relations and a race riot (1922). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The 1910s were the first decade of the Great Migration, a decade when 70,000 blacks had moved to Chicago, more than doubling the existing black population. This was also a decade when the lines of Chicago’s residential apartheid were hardening. Historically, Chicago’s blacks found homes in industrial suburbs such as Maywood and Chicago Heights, domestic service hubs such as Evanston and Glencoe, rustic owner-built suburbs such as Robbins and Dixmoor, and some recently-annexed suburban space such as Morgan Park and Lilydale. Increasingly, though, blacks were confined to a narrow four-block strip around State Street on Chicago’s South Side known as the Black Belt. Half of Chicago’s blacks lived there in 1900, while 90% of Chicago’s blacks lived there by 1930.

The Black Belt was a crowded space where two or three families often squeezed into one-room apartments, landlords neglected to repair rotting floors or hinge-less doors, schools eventually ran on shifts so that each child was educated for only half a day, and the police tolerated gamblers and brothels. It was so unhealthy that Richard Wright called it “our death sentence without a trial.” Blacks who tried to move beyond the Black Belt were met with vandalism, arson, and bomb-throwers, including 24 bombs thrown in the first half of 1919 alone.

Earlier, some Chicago neighborhoods had welcomed black homeowners, but after the First World War there was an increasingly widespread belief that blacks hurt property values. Chicago realtor L. M. Smith and his Kenwood and Hyde Park Property Owners Association spread the notion that any black moving into a neighborhood was akin to a thief, robbing that street of its property values. By the 1920s, Chicago Realtors prohibited members from introducing any new racial group into a neighborhood and encouraged the spread of restrictive covenants, legally barring blacks while also consolidating ideas of whiteness. As late as 1945, two Chicago sociologists reported that, while “English, German, Scotch, Irish, and Scandinavian have little adverse effect on property values[,] Northern Italians are considered less desirable, followed by Bohemians and Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks, and Russian Jews of the Lower class. Southern Italians, along with Negroes and Mexicans, are at the bottom of the scale.” As historians of race recognize, many European immigrants were considered not quite white before 1950. Those immigrants eventually joined the alliance of groups considered white partly because realtors, mortgage lenders, and housing economists established a bright line between the property values of “whites” and those of blacks.

The lines established in 1919 have lingered. As late as 1990, among Chicago’s suburban blacks, almost half of them lived in the same fourteen suburbs that blacks had lived in before 1920: they had not gained access to newer spaces. It was black neighborhoods that suffered disproportionately from urban renewal and the construction of tall-tower public housing in the twentieth century, further reinforcing the overlaps between race and space in Chicago. Many whites inherit property whose value has increased because of the racist real-estate policies founded after the violence of 1919. Recently, Ta-Nehisi Coates has recently used the history of Chicago’s property market to publicize “The Case for Reparations,” after generations of denying blacks access to homeowner equity.

It is worth remembering the events of 95 years ago, when Eugene Williams and 37 other people died, as Chicagoans clashed in the streets over emerging ideas of racialized property values.

Elaine Lewinnek is a professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and the author of The Working Man’s Reward: Chicago’s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl.

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3. Humanitarian protection for unaccompanied children from Central America

By Jennifer Moore


We are approaching World Humanitarian Day, an occasion to honor the talents, struggles, and sacrifices of tens of thousands of humanitarian workers serving around the world in situations of armed conflict, political repression, and natural disaster. The nineteenth of August is also a day to recognize the tens of millions of human beings living and dying in situations of violence and displacement in West Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and every corner of the globe.

The notion of humanitarianism is linked to humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict or jus in bello, which strives to lessen the brutality of war, guided by the customary principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality, and humanity. But humanitarian workers animate these humanitarian principles on the ground in situations of human catastrophe that span the continuum of human and natural causation and overwhelm our capacity to categorize human suffering.

Today, humanitarian workers are active in every country in the world: from International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Nigeria helping displaced persons from communities attacked by Boko Haram insurgents; to UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff in Jordan and Lebanon assisting refugees from the civil war in Syria and Iraq; to Catholic Charities volunteers and staff in Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States sheltering women and children fleeing gang violence, human trafficking, and entrenched poverty in Central America.

US/Mexico border fence near Campo, California, USA. © PatrickPoendl via iStockphoto.

US/Mexico border fence near Campo, California, USA. © PatrickPoendl via iStockphoto.

Humanitarian emergencies, whether defined in military, political, economic or environmental terms, have certain basic commonalities: life and livelihood are threatened; communities and families are fractured; farms and food stores are destroyed; and people are forced to move — from village to village, from rural to urban area, from city to countryside, or from one country or continent to another.

Humanitarian workers who engage with communities in crisis are not limited to one legal toolkit. Rather, they stand on a common ground shared by humanitarian law, human rights law, and refugee law. Their life-affirming interventions remind us that all these frameworks are animated by the same fundamental concern for people in trouble. Whether we look to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the principle of protecting the civilian population; to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its norms of family unity and child welfare; to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its prohibition against the forced return or refoulement of individuals to threatened persecution; or to the enhanced protections accorded unaccompanied children in the United States under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, the essential rules are remarkably similar. Victims and survivors of war, repression, and other forms of violence are worthy of legal and social protection. It is humanitarian workers who strive to ensure that survivors of violence enjoy the safety, shelter, legal status, and economic opportunities that they require and deserve.

For the unaccompanied children from Central America seeking refuge in the United States, humanitarian protection signifies that they should have the opportunity to integrate into US communities, to have access to social services, to reunify with their families, and to be represented by legal counsel as they pursue valid claims to asylum and other humanitarian forms of relief from deportation. When the US Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, it was in recognition of our humanitarian obligations under international refugee law. As a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the United States pledged not to penalize refugees for their lack of legal status, but rather to protect them from deportation to threatened persecution. These humanitarian obligations preexist, animate, and complement specific provisions of federal law, including those that facilitate the granting of T visas to trafficking victims, humanitarian parole to individuals in emergency situations, and asylum to refugees. When new emergencies arise, our Congress, our executive, and our courts fashion the appropriate remedies, not out of grace, but to ensure that as a nation we fulfill our obligations to people in peril.

As an American looking forward to World Humanitarian Day, I am thinking about the nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children from Central America apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection agency over the past 10 months; the 200 Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan women and children who have stayed at the Project Oak Tree shelter in the border city of Las Cruces, New Mexico this month; and the over 400 children and families detained within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in the small town of Artesia, New Mexico this very week. These kids and their families are survivors of poverty, targets of human trafficking, victims of gang brutality, and refugees from persecution. They have much in common with the displaced children of Northern Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq. Like their counterparts working with refugees and displaced persons throughout the world, the shelter volunteers, community residents, county social workers, immigration attorneys, and federal Homeland Security personnel who help unaccompanied children from Central America in the United States are all humanitarian workers. But so are our elected officials and legislators. And so are we. How will we honor World Humanitarian Day?

Jennifer Moore is on the faculty of the University of New Mexico School of Law. She is the author of Humanitarian Law in Action within Africa (Oxford University Press 2012). Read her previous blog posts.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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4. Education and crime over the life cycle

By Giulio Fella and Giovanni Gallipoli


Crime is a hot issue on the policy agenda in the United States. Despite a significant fall in crime levels during the 1990s, the costs to taxpayers have soared together with the prison population. The US prison population has doubled since the early 1980s and currently stands at over 2 million inmates. According to the latest World Prison Population List (ICPS, 2013), the prison population rate in 2012 stood at 716 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, against about 480 in the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation – the two OECD countries with the next highest rates – and against a European average of 154. The rise in the prison population is not just a phenomenon in the United States. Over the last twenty years, prison population rates have grown by over 20% in almost all countries in the European Union and by at least 40% in one half of them. The pattern appears remarkably similar in other regions, with a growth of 50% in Australia, 38% in New Zealand and about 6% worldwide.

In many countries – such as the United States and Canada – this fast-paced growth has occurred against a backdrop of stable or decreasing crime rates and is mostly due to mandatory and longer prison sentencing for non-violent offenders. But how much does prison actually cost? And who goes to jail?

The average annual cost per prison inmate in the United States was close to 30,000 dollars in 2008. Costs are even higher in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. Punishment is an expensive business. These figures have prompted a shift of interest, among both academics and policymakers, from tougher sentencing to other forms of intervention. Prison populations overwhelmingly consist of individuals with poor education and even poorer job prospects. Over 70% of US inmates in 1997 did not have a high school degree. In an influential paper, Lochner and Moretti (2004) establish a sizable negative effect of education, in particular of high school graduation, on crime. There is also a growing body of evidence on the positive effect of education subsidies on school completion rates. In light of this evidence, and given the monetary and human costs of crime, it is crucial to quantify the relative benefits of policies promoting incarceration vis-à-vis alternatives such as boosting educational attainment, and in particular high school graduation.

When it comes to reducing crime, prevention may be more efficient than punishment. Resources devoted to running jails could profitably be employed in productive activities if the same crime reduction could be achieved through prevention.

iStock_000012526327Small

Establishing which policies are more efficient requires a framework that accounts for individuals’ responses to alternative policies and can compare their costs and benefits. In other words, one needs a model of education and crime choices that allows for realistic heterogeneity in individuals’ labor market opportunities and propensity to engage in property crime. Crucially, this analysis must be empirically relevant and account for several features of the data, in particular for the crime response to changes in enrollment rates and the enrollment response to graduation subsidies.

The findings from this type of exercise are fairly clear and robust. For the same crime reduction, subsidizing high school graduation entails large output and efficiency gains that are absent in the case of tougher sentences. By improving the education composition of the labor force, education subsidies increase the differential between labor market and illegal returns for the average worker and reduce crime rates. The increase in average productivity is also reflected in higher aggregate output. The responses in crime rate and output are large. A subsidy equivalent to about 9% of average labor earnings during each of the last two years of high school induces almost a 10% drop in the property crime rate and a significant increase in aggregate output. The associated welfare gain for the average worker is even larger, as education subsidies weaken the link between family background and lifetime outcomes. In fact, one can show that the welfare gains are twice as large as the output gains. This compares to negligible output and welfare gains in the case of increased punishment. These results survive a variety of robustness checks and alternative assumptions about individual differences in crime propensity and labor market opportunities.

To sum up, the main message is that, although interventions which improve lifetime outcomes may take time to deliver results, given enough time they appear to be a superior way to reduce crime. We hope this research will advance the debate on the relative benefits of alternative policies.

Giulio Fella is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University, United Kingdom. Giovanni Gallipoli is an Associate Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics (University of British Columbia) in Canada. They are the co-authors of the paper ‘Education and Crime over the Life Cycle‘ in the Review of Economic Studies.

Review of Economic Studies aims to encourage research in theoretical and applied economics, especially by young economists. It is widely recognised as one of the core top-five economics journal, with a reputation for publishing path-breaking papers, and is essential reading for economists.

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Image credit: Prison, © rook76, via iStock Photo.

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5. The month that changed the world: Thursday, 30 July 1914

July 1914 was the month that changed the world. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and just five weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war. But how did it all happen? Historian Gordon Martel, author of The Month That Changed The World: July 1914, is blogging regularly for us over the next few weeks, giving us a week-by-week and day-by-day account of the events that led up to the First World War.

By Gordon Martel


As the day began a diplomatic solution to the crisis appeared to be within sight at last. The German chancellor had insisted that Austria agree to negotiate directly with Russia. While Germany was prepared to fulfill the obligations of its alliance with Austria, it would decline ‘to be drawn wantonly into a world conflagration by Vienna’. Bethmann Hollweg was also promising to support Sir Edward Grey’s proposed conference to mediate the dispute. He told the Austrians that their political prestige and military honour could be satisfied by an occupation of Belgrade. They could enhance their status in the Balkans while strengthening themselves against the Russians through the humiliation of Serbia.

But a third initiative, the direct line of communication between the Kaiser and the Tsar, was running aground. Attempting to reassure Wilhelm, Nicholas explained that the military measures now being undertaken had been decided upon five days ago – and only as a defence against Austria’s preparations. ‘I hope from all my heart that these measures won’t in any way interfere with your part as mediator which I greatly value.’

Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, 1909-1917. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire, 1909-1917. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Wilhelm erupted. He was shocked to discover first thing on Thursday morning that the ‘military measures which have now come into force were decided five days ago’. He would no longer put any pressure on Austria: ‘I cannot agree to any more mediation’; the Tsar, while requesting mediation, ‘has at the same time secretly mobilized behind my back’.

The German ambassador in Vienna presented Bethmann’s directive to a ‘pale and silent’ Berchtold over breakfast. Austria, with guarantees of Serbia’s good behaviour in the future as part of the mediation proposal, could attain its aims ‘without unleashing a world war’. To refuse mediation completely ‘was out of the question’.

Berchtold did as he was told. He explained to the Russians that his apparent rejection of mediation talks was an unfortunate misunderstanding and that he was now prepared to discuss ‘amicably and confidentially’ all questions directly affecting their relations. He warned, however, that he would not yield on any of points in the note to Serbia.

At noon, Russia announced that it was initiating a partial mobilization. But the Austrian ambassador assured Vienna that this was a bluff: Sazonov dreaded war ‘as much as his Imperial Master’ and was attempting ‘to deprive us of the fruits of our Serbian campaign without going to Serbia’s aid if possible’.

In Berlin, the chief of the German general staff began to panic. A few hours after the Russian announcement he pleaded with the Austrians to mobilize fully against Russia and to announce this in a public proclamation. The only way to preserve Austria-Hungary was to endure a European war. ‘Germany is with you unconditionally’. Moltke promised that a German mobilization would immediately follow Austria’s.

In St. Petersburg the war minister and the chief of the general staff tried to persuade Nicholas over the telephone that partial mobilization was a mistake. The Tsar refused to budge. When Sazonov met with the Tsar at Peterhof at 3 p.m. he argued that general mobilization was essential; war was almost inevitable because the Germans were resolved to bring it about. They could easily have made the Austrians see reason if they had desired peace. The Tsar gave way. At 5 p.m. the official decree announcing general mobilization was issued.

In Paris the French cabinet was also deciding to take military steps. They agreed that – for the sake of public opinion – they must take care that ‘the Germans put themselves in the wrong’. They would try to avoid the appearance of mobilizing while consenting to at least some of the requests being made by the army. Covering troops could take up their positions along the German frontier from Luxembourg to the Vosges mountains, but were not to approach closer than 10 kilometres. No train transport was to be used, no reservists were to be called up, no horses or vehicles were to be requisitioned. Joffre, the chief of the general staff, was displeased. These measures would make it difficult to execute the offensive thrust of his war plan. Nevertheless, the orders went out at 4.55 p.m.

In London Grey bluntly rejected Bethmann’s neutrality proposal of the day before: ‘that we should bind ourselves to neutrality on such terms cannot for a moment be entertained’. Germany was asking Britain to stand by while French colonies were taken and France was beaten in exchange for Germany’s promise to refrain from taking French territory in Europe. Such a proposal was unacceptable ‘for France could be so crushed as to lose her position as a Great Power, and become subordinate to German policy’. On the other hand, if the current crisis passed and the peace of Europe preserved, Grey promised to endeavour to promote an arrangement by which Germany could be assured ‘that no hostile or aggressive policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately’.

Shortly before midnight a telegram from King George arrived at Potsdam. Responding to an earlier telegram from the Kaiser’s brother, the King assured him that the British government was doing its utmost to persuade Russia and France to suspend further military preparations. This seemed possible ‘if Austria will consent to be satisfied with [the] occupation of Belgrade and neighbouring Servian territory as a hostage for [the] satisfactory settlement of her demands’. He urged the Kaiser to use his great influence at Vienna to induce Austria to accept this proposal and prove that Germany and Britain were working together to prevent a catastrophe.

The Kaiser ordered his brother to drive into Berlin immediately to inform Bethmann Hollweg of the news. Heinrich delivered the message to the chancellor at 1.15 a.m. and had returned to Potsdam by 2.20. Wilhelm planned to answer the King on Friday morning. The Kaiser noted, happily, that the suggestions made by the King were the same as those he had proposed to Vienna that evening.

Surely a peaceful resolution was at hand?

Gordon Martel is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of War, he is also joint editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History series. His new book is The Month That Changed The World: July 1914.

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6. FLIP 2014

       The Brazilian literary festival, Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty, runs today through 3 August.
       Always a good line-up -- including what they're billing as their first Russian visitor (Vladimir Sorokin -- or, as it apparently is in Portuguese, Vladímir Sorókin). And I like how some of the local talent only goes, footballer-like, by a single name (Claudius, Hubert, Jaguar, Reinaldo).

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7. Utter 2014

       Yeah, I'm not really sure about that name, but this initiative of the Singapore Writers Festival, Utter 2014, sounds reasonably interesting.
       As they explain:

Utter is a special SWF initiative which showcases the best of Singapore writing and celebrates its potential to be adapted into different media and across languages, giving audiences fresh perspectives and a deeper understanding of our home-grown authors.
       In this case it involves four works that have been adapted into short films, which are being screened today, as well as 3 and 6 August.
       Personally, I like writing best as ... writing, and figure if you have to sell an audience on it by presenting it in cinematic form something has gone slightly/terribly wrong. On the other hand ... alternate interpretations in alternate media ... sure, why not ?
       See also Genevieve Sarah Loh on the Best of Singapore literature - onscreen at Today.

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8. The Kills review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Richard House's The Kills.
       Man Booker-longlisted last year in the UK, it is now coming out in the US; I'm curious how it will do. House does have his American connections, and the novel(s) feature many American characters and much of it deals with aspects of the American occupation of Iraq. But do US readers want to be reminded of the tremendous amount that was lost there ? (In terms of: lives, souls, cash, idealism, principles, credibility.)
       Interesting, too, that, after initially being released in a digital version in the UK -- 'digitally augmented' with a variety of video clips -- the US publishers have chosen to focus on The Kills-as-literary/printed-text (i.e. are pretty much ignoring the digital frills and not pointing readers towards them -- though they are available online).

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9. SDCC 14: Neil Druckmann… For a Comic Book Writer, He Makes One Hell of a Video Game

By David Nieves

Few stories have truly transcended the bounds of their original media in meaningful ways. Sure movies have become games and vice versa, even we comic book faithful are no stranger to our favorite stories becoming cannon for Hollywood. The catch is few of these attempts ever delivered something that can truly be called an experience, or at least one we’d like to remember. In order for a multiple form story to thrive there has to be a unifying vision. Someone who can traverse the minefield of different studios or individuals trying to take something and change it beyond something fans can recognize, all in the name of mass consumption.

Dark Horse Comics figured out that being successful in bringing a story over from another part of the entertainment industry really only requires one thing, the person who knows it best. In short just call Naughty Dog creative lead Neil Druckmann and let him do anything he wants with whomever he pleases.

SDCC Friday, I got some one-on-one time with one of the best storytelling minds in any medium. We talked a bit about his initial story that would spawn one of the best games of all time, The Last of Us. Along the way he told us about his deeply rooted passion for comic books and revealed a new book coming this Fall. Of course we found time to rave about his collaborator on arguably one of Dark Horse’s best books The Last of Us: American Dreams, Faith Erin Hicks.

His new book, A Second Chance at Sarah will be in comic book stores this Fall through Dark Horse Comics. It’s an occult story involving time paradoxes, regret, and sacrificing for what you love most.

You can hear the full interview below.

After talking with Druckmann, it’s hard not to buy into his magnanimous amounts of  love for the comic book industry. Dude’s got legit comic cred, even before ever writing for Dark Horse.

Don’t count out The Last of Us as being done yet, according to Druckmann himself from our interview it was apparent there’s at least one more story to tell. Of course you can find The Last of Us Remastered out now for PlayStation 4, and the absolutely necessary The Last of Us: American Dreams can be found in comic shops and digitally through Dark Horse Comics.

Featured Image: Naughty Dog Twitter

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10. SDCC 14: Jeff Smith Spotlight, the Head of Comic’s Cool Table

By David Nieves
If you’re a lifer, comics have always been the cool thing. Certain people personify what’s “out there” and distinct about comics more so than any other industry; and at the very top of that list is Bone creator Jeff Smith. On SDCC Saturday afternoon, moderated by his friend Tom Spurgeon(The Comics Reporter), Jeff talked about all things Jeff Smith during his spotlight panel.

Opening with the news from Scholastic, Bone vol 1 will see a special Scholastic Anniversary edition of the book with colors and an eight page poem about the Rat Creatures alongside a whole bunch of pinups from Scholastic artists like Kate Beaton. Scholastic is set to release it in the Spring of next year.

You could tell by Jeff’s laid back demeanor and rocking back and forth in his seat that Tom held the opening talk with Jeff as if they were just having lunch together looking over comic books.  Jeff enlightened his buddy, along with the room 9 audience in attendance, about off-the-wall character design, getting older in comics, and meeting a larger age ranges of fans.

Jeff praised about the Rasl sculpture that was at his booth. A group of art students 3D built it for him, they took the little hints in the darkness of the engines to build something that resembles a Tesla Coil and an alternating engine. Seeing the final piece astonished Smith because he himself never knew what the inside of the engines never looked like because they were always draped in shadows, only showing hints of what was inside.

Smith was asked if SDCC was a better place to present your projects than when he started? “it’s a very different landscape then when I came into it. In 1991 there was only two kinds of comics; the mainstream Marvel and DC, then there were the alternative comics,” Smith explained. He defended the extravaganza known as Comic-Con for its potential to attract new readers.

His latest work, TUKI, is out first digitally with a print version available shortly after. What’s great about the print version is that it’s still read horizontally true to its digital roots. Unlike other digital to print books that have to crop pages in awkward ways. Jeff took the simple notion of keeping things the way they were meant to read.

One question he hears a lot was asked during this panel. Other company owned characters he’d like to do?
DC Comics said he could come do the second half of Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil whenever he wants but has no plans to do so in the near future. Unless he gets, “really bored or really broke.” The Rocket Raccoon 1 cover was also shown and he chalked that one up to it simply being, “up his alley.”

A fan asked Jeff, “when did he decide to make Bone more epic?
According to the cartoonist, the moment happened organically when he decided to turn the jokes it was based on into story. Particularly the stories he liked such as the works of Tolkien. It was a time where he couldn’t hide behind the Donald Duck style comics purely laced with jokes and running gags. In his words, “he had to come out.”

The last question was about how Smith transitioned Bone from college comic strip to real comic book. He had opportunities to bring bone to publishers but it would have required him changing or eliminating things like the Rat Creatures and selling his copyright. Before that time he’d never been inside a comic book store and during his first time inside one, saw that there were people self-publishing their own comics. It gave him the epiphany to create his own company and all the stories he’s done in his career.

With that the panel came to an end. You can listen to the full spotlight below (note: delay at beginning starts at 0:09) full of all Smith’s quips and insights about the industry. You can find Rasl, Tuki, and all things Bone on his website Boneville.com

 

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11. SDCC ’14: Image Dares to Give Us an All-Artist Panel (It Was Great)

by Zachary Clemente

Sometimes, it’s the smaller details that stand out most. Sure, Image Comics is pushing for changes in the comics industry and has really been an a great example of how different publication platforms bolster the climate for making comics. Sure, they’re making new programs for retailers to make it easier to manage Image’s extensive line of new comics when shelf-space is at a premium. But the fact that they put together an all-artist panel composed of a 4:3 women-to-men participants speaks volumes.

imageinnoThe features artists were Chris Burhman (Nameless), Becky Cloonan (Southern Cross), Gabriel Hardman (Invisible Republic), Sloane Leong (From Under Mountains), Amy Reeder (Rocket Girl), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Declan Shalvey (Injection).

Image Comics’ David Brothers started off with some questions about process and approach.. Burnham, working on Nameless with previous collaborator Grant Morrison found himself being stretched as he develops a working method of “strange geometry” and “super tangents” where he makes bizarre choices in representing perspective on a page. Hardman, asked about his process of storytelling, enjoys utilizing the available poetry to the limited amount of panels he’s able to use.

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Leong, collaborating with artist Marian Churchland (co-writing From Under Mountains with Claire Gibson) discussed the division of labor on the book. All of the internal art is her, while she and Churchland will work together on the covers. She then went on to touch on coloring in comics, a role she is often in.

Color depends on the art, too many comics have color because someone says “we need a color product.” – Sloane Leong

Reeder, when asked about her approach to coloring her own art on Rocket Girl, finds that her palette is very wide a single page can contain a wide variety. She draws from different influences when coloring the two time periods that are portrayed in the book, which create very different palettes.

Cloonan, who has previously self-publishers comics with her own writing and art, drawn for scripts will now be writing for Andy Belanger on their newly-announced Southern Cross. She went into the differences of roles, but ultimately iterated that it comes down to the sorts of challenges her working style will have to adapt to not being in charge of the visual narrative of the book. She will be doing all the covers however (which I am thrilled for) so it’s clear she and Belanger have a collaborative working relationship.

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Burnham and Hardman, two of the most technically-minded artist I’ve heard talk, discussed the different approaches to leading the readers’ eyes along the narrative of the page in an intuitive way – even though they approach with vastly different techniques. Burnham bounces the eye with dynamic movement, often breaking borders and panels out into a more fluid visual, mimicking the cadence of the story, while Hardman typically uses a static page layout, moving the eye panel to panel instead of using crazy compositions.

The panel was then opened up to the Q&A from the audience. A couple of younger fans asked about how the Image platform functions and what sort of work best fits with the publisher and it seemed that all the panelists were excited to discuss the ins and outs of the company’s breadth of published work and how the submission and ownership process works. Brothers, moderating, summed it up best.

We work for the creators [...] we want to do what you want to do. – David Brothers

One of the most interesting questions for the panelists was one about using photo-reference. All of the panelists had different approaches to it, some seeing it as a stage in their process, others seeing it as a sometimes-useful tool; a couple reluctantly seeing as almost “cheating.” Many credited photo reference as extremely useful for figuring out how cloth would drape and hand motion is captured – finding that portraying credible subtle movement as something worth succeeded at even through photo reference. As the topic was bounced about, critiquing the use, Shalvey had a good take on the process.

There’s a difference between reference informing the drawing and reference dictating the drawing. – Declan Shalvey

In the end, the panelists essentially agreed that reference can be a supremely useful tool, but when too heavily depended on, you just end up drawing a photo, not a panel. Additionally, the point that the drawn characters need to be viewed as “actors” and basing them directly off of photo-realistic reference undercuts the credibility of the visual acting and artistic ability.

RocketGirl_06

Lastly, an interesting question was their feeling on how people read their comics digitally, since many readers, such as ComiXology allow panel-by-panel reading. The resounded response was no – they don’t care at all. Most suggested that people are going to read they want to read and they just have to make the work speak best to all readers, digital or print.

Thanks for joining us for our Image Comics coverage! We’ll hopefully be right back at it in October for New York Comic-Con in October.

<3 – The Beat Staff.

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12. The State of Conventions in 2014 (AKA – The Annual Gripes Turn Up)

SDCC-logoIt seems like every time SDCC rolls around, there’s a referendum on the state of comic conventions in the mainstream media and in the comics media.  Sure enough, Comic Con ’14 rolls around and the same old song repeats.  Let’s break the state of things down into the two components that get most of the dander up.

#1: A consumer convention is different from a trade show.

This year it was the New York Times that issued an article that didn’t really have a clue that there are two different type of conventions.  It’s always somebody.  I don’t think enough of it to link to it, but I’ll link to one of the responses here at The Beat.  Before I go over the differences between the two, let me drop some credentialing on you.  I’ve produced interactive exhibits for trade show booths.  In the medical industry.  Where they think nothing of spending $250K-$500K on trade show booth materials and staffing.  Oh, they’ll use the booth and elements of the booth at multiple shows, but that’s there to illustrate the vast difference  in budgets involved (although the TV and movie folks spend a bit more on their marketing than the publishers).

Convention centers usually have a little bit of government oversight.  Not always, but usually.  They’ll be partially funded with an eye on “economic impact.”  How is this measured?  Hotels around the convention center, bars and restaurants around the convention center.  Taxis.  Car rentals.  Bonus points for things that can have a tourist tax on them.  As I understand it, part of the problem with WonderCon and San Francisco is that the “economic impact” doesn’t hold a candle to a medical show or a tech show.  Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.

With a trade show, most people are staying in the hotels near the convention center or in a designated corridor of business class hotels.  There will be all kinds of after hours activities.  Multiple restaurants/bars/clubs rented out for the evening with open bar.  20-50 person steak dinners for extended sales pitches.  Most of those people not getting their meal bought for them will have a decent expense account and go to the GOOD (read: expensive) restaurants either around the convention center or in that business class hotel district.

SDCC is unusual in that it does have tradeshow levels of private events.  I’m not sure if the head count invited to those private events is the same (and the venue gets paid by head count), but they have them.  It completely misses out on the expensive meals, though.  That said, I’ve often wondered if the inflated hotel prices have really been taken into account in the SDCC economic impact studies.

Now, if we step away from SDCC and just talk about conventions in general.  A regional convention, where the bulk of attendees aren’t staying overnight, loses out on all of the above.  Maybe a slight a hotel room bump and some casual dining dollars.  A national show – one where you have a lot of attendees flying in – is going to get a hotel bump (but possibly more action for the tourist hotels, which may not be valued as much) and a casual dining bump, but not the big dining dollars.

The per attendee dollars spend in the community can’t touch a trade show.  Period.   If the show is big enough, it can even out, but consumer shows are more of a “fill in the open dates”  scheduling item in the greater scheme of things.

Don’t kid yourself, though.  SDCC is big enough, Anaheim and Las Vegas were drooling over getting that kind of attendence in town.  Nothing wrong with full planes, hotels and taxis.

Wonder Con, though, that’s another story.  No steak dinners.  Barcon might not be at a hotel bar.  You’ll have more people staying in different neighborhoods.  Lots of locals.  It’s just not going to track.  Should there be a Wonder Con in SF?  Absolutely.  Do they have a fight with Moscone over economic impact?  Yeah, that’s probably legit from an oversight perspective.  It would be nice if the tech industry leaned on some politicians for that.  Locals can be served too, not just out of towners.

#2 The new <insert here> is ruining conventions

Comic conventions, by and large, are pop culture conventions.  There, I said it.  There have always been celebrity autographs at all the shows I’ve ever been at.  I remember the Chicago Comicon, under the original management, would have huge crowds for the Babylon 5 and Kevin Smith panels.  I was even part of that with a “Mystery Babylon Theater 5000″ panel (before the pirated the idea at SDCC, thank you very much).  This is not a new thing, so much as it’s been more fully integrated.  It’s also part of conventions opening up to a wider audience.  Sorry, the audience is less focused than it used to be and commerce patterns have changed.

The person shouting the loudest about the changes this year seemed to be Chuck Rozanski of Mile High, who’s gotten a lot of PR by declaring he wasn’t bringing his retail booth(s) back to SDCC.  Rozanski is taking the position that he’s lost too much business to the publishers selling convention exclusives at their own booth.  He’s not the only one making complaints.  I’ve seen some complaints on the social channels that cosplayers are taking up space that could be occupied by comics fans who might buy something.

These are old trends that get brought up every year like they’re new things.  One of the consequences of comic shows being more of a pop culture convention is that you have a wider demographic.  Wizard World Chicago morphed into an autograph show where pretty much all the comics activities were in Artist’s Alley.  Some cosplayers come to convention for the comics and just enjoy dressing up.  Some come for the anime or movies and like dressing up.  And yes, some of the cosplayers are just there to dress up.  So what?  I know people who like to wear bow ties, too.  There’s also a growing trend of conventions as primarily a social experience.  You go to meet friends you see at conventions and to meet new people with common interests.  This seems particularly big on the anime side of the aisle.

There’s also been a looooooong developing story on the changing face of commerce at conventions.  It seems like the comics portion of shows is moving towards the direction of high end/rare back issues and hot books or deep discounts.  And perhaps a slice of “things to get signed by convention guests.”  Back issues are now something of an online shopping item.  And Rozanski ought to know about that.

To be honest, the Chicago shows – particularly Wizard – turned into such a deep discount flea market at one point that I started getting an attitude about paying $5 for tpbs.  I mean, a couple places were selling them for $4.  That’s the nature of the beast and I expect you really can’t pull that off at a national show.   (And we all have a friend who only goes to a convention the last day of the show to see what kind of fire sale prices he can get, right?)

With the more diverse crowd, you have increased opportunities to sell stuffed animals, t-shirts and novelties to people who aren’t there strictly for comics.  Nothing wrong with that, either.

Ever notice that nobody complains that the bootleg video booths aren’t nearly as prevalent as they used to be?

Is the complaint about the publisher booth having exclusives and diverting dolloars valid?  That’s a complicated question.

  • Are attendees spending money there instead of at retailer booths?
  • Are the exclusive item lines so long attendees  don’t have time for retail shopping?
  • Since it’s not weird somebody would buy a convention exclusive instead of a back issue they could order online, is this an argument about who should be the one selling the convention exclusive?  (Comics should be the textbook case study of “channel conflict.”)
  • Are the consumers spending more time in Artist’s Alley instead?

Yes, Artist’s Alley and the retail section are in conflict.  If I’m buying something and the person is in Artist’s Alley, unless the retailer has a pretty big discount, I’m buying it from the artist every time.  Supporting the artist directly is a full-on trend these days.  See Kickstarter.  See Patreon.

Do the publisher’s exclusives detract from Artist’s Alley sales?  I’m not sure.  I know a few people who swear by shows like Wizards put on because they don’t have much by way of publisher’s booths, so the comics fans at the show can go straight back to Artist’s Alley.  Sometimes they mention not having to compete with the exclusives, more often just that Artist’s Alley is where the comics part of the show is at.

As these conventions get bigger, more vendors want to get in and the price for the booths keeps going up.

But you know what else is absolutely true?  The booth prices are getting more expensive for the publishers, too.  And comics is not exactly a high margin business.

The demographics of the attendees are getting broader.  Exhibition costs are going up.  Buying patterns are changing.  Direct to consumer sales anger is flaring up again.  Alas, very few things in this world stay exactly the same.  This seems like a few different heads all coming to a head and it’s been a few years in the making.  Whether this extends down to the next layer of conventions – your NYCC, Emerald City and Wonder Con — remains to be seen.

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13. San Diego police seek information in vicious beating of cosplayer

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With Comic-Con winding up there has been a smattering of word on Tumblr and Reddit about a young female cosplayer dressed as Rgoer Rabbit being attacked and left bleeding by the side of the road. The story has been reported on Tumblr and Reddit, and after speaking with the girl’s parents, I have ascertained that it is unfortunately true. The SDPD is currently investigating the crime. I have removed the names from this, but if you have any more information, please do not contact the family directly. Call the San Diego Police Department at (619) 531-2000. I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE FAMILY. Several people have already spoken with them and with their daughter in the hospital they do not need any more distress fielding phone calls.

According to the girl’s mother, her injuries are severe, and indicate a vicious beating. Here is the account of what occurred from Tumblr:

IF YOU WENT TO SAN DIEGO COMIC CON OR KNOW ANYONE WHO HAS, PLEASE READ.

One of my dearest friends was found on the side of the road, unconscious and bloody. She was wearing this cosplay on the day it happened. She was last seen with friends when she ran off after a disagreement. Please, please, please, if you have ANY information or saw her anywhere, contact her mother. The full information is down below. This isn’t okay and it’s sickening to know that this happened at a place people truly can enjoy themselves. Please spread the word.

 ”I just received a call from the San Diego Police Department and my daughter REDACTED aka REDACTED was found on the side of the road covered in blood with no ID unconscious. They are unsure what happened to her. My husband is on his way to the police station and then the hospital. If you have any information on what happened to her please send me a facebook message or call me at REDACTED. Thank you in advance”. -REDACTED

Obviously this crime is going to be added to the current discussion of all the issues regarding Comic-Con, harassment, cosplay, crowds and more. It’s a stark and heartbreaking reminder that even if Comic-Con is a wonderful fantasy world brought to life, there are real life predators out there. Have fun but play safe and sane. My heart goes out to this girl, who was an experienced cosplayed who had recently been to Anime Expo, and her family. Her mother says it was her dream to go to Comic-Con. Let’s hope that her attackers are caught and when she’s recovered she can come back in style as a heroine.

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14. Evangeline Lilly: Acting was a detour on her way to becoming a writer

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Photo by Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

By Hannah Lodge

Evangeline Lilly has made a name for herself by starring in classic portrayals of good vs. evil. Whether she’s eluding the Man in Black as Kate in Lost, fighting Orcs in The Hobbit Trilogy, or taking on new roles – such as Hope Pym in Marvel’s upcoming movie, Ant-Man – Lilly’s work is part of large legacies followed by devoted fan bases.

Lilly, who was a self-described loner in high school with a penchant for listening to Beethoven and writing, has an affinity for this fan base. “These are my kind of people, and they get me,” she said. “They don’t want me to be some kind of boring pin-up, girl-next-door type. They like the more eccentric, strange side of me.”

And so this year Lilly attended San Diego Comic Con in hopes of sharing more of that darker, eccentric side, by telling her own story: The Squickerwonkers. A children’s story that Lilly describes as a “graphic novel for beginners” with a chilling band of marionette puppets and the little girl who becomes a part of their world, The Squickerwonkers moves away from the stories of good vs. evil that Lilly’s characters are often associated with.

“It’s your actions that come to define who you are and can create negative consequences in your life, but that doesn’t make you innately unlovable,” she said. “Because all of the characters in these books have vices and do things that are naughty, but they’re all really loveable.”

Lilly wrote the first draft of the story when she was only 14 years old, and through collaboration with Illustrator Johnny Fraser-Allen, whose design credits include The Hobbit Trilogy and Tintin, was finally able to realize her dream of becoming a published author. Lilly said that the heart of the story has remained the same all of these years, but that through Fraser-Allen’s artistic vision, she was finally able to realize what her story should look like – and 40 re-writes later, has come up with the final version, which will be published by Titan Books in November.

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“The thing I had always known about the Squickerwonkers was that they were human, but not human,” she said. “So when he [Fraser-Allen] painted me a picture of marionette puppets on that stage, I went ‘Oh my god. That’s it. That’s exactly it. They’re human, but they’re not human.’”

In her personal time, Lilly does her fair share of both writing and reading. She connects with her fans by holding virtual book discussions over Facebook and Twitter. Over time the same core set of fans tends to show up, many of whom Lilly recognizes – and in a way the discussions have evolved into her very first book club, in electronic form.

“I was a very reluctant social media person. I thought it was something that disconnected people more than connected them,” she said. “I got very frustrated being in the public eye for so many years and not ever being able to actually speak directly to my fans, always having a second party be in the middle of that communication. So nine times out of ten I would read something or see an image of myself and think: but that’s not me. I felt frustrated at being generally misrepresented. So I finally decided OK, well, this is a way I can have direct access to the people who are interested in my work. And I can say this is who I am, so at least if I’m going to be perceived by the public, I can have some sort of control over that perception.”

Lilly said she recognizes that moving into literature can be an uphill battle, pushing against the notion that The Squickerwonkers is the product of a vanity project. But for Lilly, being a famous actress was never a goal; rather, an unexpected detour on her path to being a writer. In fact, Lilly said that her rise to stardom was exactly what she expected – and that she had very low expectations.

“It actually was everything I thought it would be, and I thought it would be pretty hellish. So that’s disappointing,” she said. “I never dreamed about being a movie star. I never dreamed about that kind of life, and never envied it. When I’d be at the grocery store and line up, I’d see tabloids and think: those poor people, what a miserable life… Acting is a fantastic creative outlet for me, and it’s a way of telling stories, which is what I’m really passionate about. I just happened to get a great opportunity to do it for a good amount of money, and at the time I was one of the brokest people I knew… And for me me this has been a sort of roundabout way to get to my dream, which is writing.”

And now that she’s pouring her passion into her own writing project, Lilly said she has an easier time looking at movie scripts through a less critical lens.

“By the end of Lost, I used to throw scripts across the room when no one was looking,” she said. “Now that I’ve started writing my own stories, I’ve surprisingly let up a lot when it comes to the acting side of things. Where now instead of being obsessive about it being a good story, I just want to go and have fun.”

Lilly said The Squickerwonkers will be a series of books, with the next releases each focusing on one character from the Squicker-world and how his or her vice led to the character’s demise. Lilly also plans to personally put out an interactive edition of the book, complete with voice acting from actor Sylvestor McCoy, known for his roles in The Hobbit Trilogy and Doctor Who.

In spite of her recently-announced role in the Marvel movie Ant-Man, Lilly said she’s reaching a point in her life where acting will likely become a smaller part of her world than writing.

“In a week, I’ll be 35. So the reality of being a female actress who is nearing 40 means there will be less and less work available, and that suits me just fine,” she said . “I hope that it’ll be more 25/75.”

Lilly’s still readily available to snag her dream role, though, which she said would be a part in a Wes Anderson film.

“He is right up my alley. He is quirky and strange but beautifully and incredibly aesthetic,” she said. “I would kill to do a Wes Anderson film.”

The Squickerwonkers is available online and in stores November 18.

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15. SDCC ’14: Fashioning a Response to Cosplay Harassment

cosplay-not-consentComic-Con hit TMZ after America’s Next Top Model winner and media personality Adrianne Curry, dressed as Catwoman, chased down and whip-punched a man who thrust his hands down the tights of another model dressed as Tigra. As horrible as Sunday’s attack was, could this incident help us deal with such harassment more effectively?

Curry’s superheroic response to the sexual attack on her friend Alicia Marie underscores the importance of taking sexual harassment at comic conventions seriously. Comic conventions have experienced exponential growth in recent years, filling not only convention venues but downtown city streets into volatile vectors for sexually inappropriate behavior. And contrary to the stereotype-ridden TMZ video, dorky fanboys are not necessarily the only culprits – downtown San Diego has become a five-day Festival, with the Red Hour striking anew each time you walk out the Convention Center doors.

How to deal with the problem of harassment within and without Comic-Con was attracting the attention of multiple media outlets even before the attack on Alicia Marie — in fact, after I scheduled this post for publication on The Beat, even Perez Hilton found the Adrianne Curry incident to be a source of moral outrage. Over the next couple posts I want to add a legal perspective, since this happens to be an area in which I have clocked a few villains of my own, albeit with words instead of a whip.

Before we do, however, I want to address a thought that may have popped into the minds of some readers, namely, the notion that women such as Currie and Alicia Marie are themselves somehow asking for it. I actually witnessed a vivid expression of this mindset when a cosplaying woman outside the Con tried to fend off a guy’s come-on by handing him a business card and promoting her own work. The guy responded by  contending that there was no other way for a man to take the way she dressed than as a sign that she was looking to get laid.

This exchange stood in stark contrast to the professional discussion I’d just had with a longtime of the annual Comic-Con Masquerade, the amazing Broadway actress and theme-park entertainment designer Diane Duncan. Last Friday when we were walking through the convention chatting about cosplay she stopped to point out what she thought was a standout example of excellent craft, a woman dressed as Poison Ivy whose costume exhibited a number of characteristics that would have done well for her had she worn it for the Masquerade competition instead. The costume had a sensual vibe, yes, but that was an extension of the workmanship — whether the cosplayer’s aim in such artful attention to detail was self-expression, marketing a product, promoting her own business or a combination of all three, baiting men for sex was not the point.

As it turns out, the cosplayer was none other than Adrianne Curry, and as I read up on her and other models who cosplay I found myself in rather familiar territory. In advising on ethics and other legal matters in the fashion industry, it’s all too common to run across men who view what women wear as a sign of sexual availability, as opposed to a form of stylized expression that for many women in modeling, marketing, retail and design is an integral part of their professional identity.

The intrinsic connection between cosplay and fashion got me thinking about another connection they share: namely, unfortunate loopholes in current sexual harassment law. Although we often use the phrase “sexual harassment” when speaking of unwanted advances to cosplayers and fashion models alike, from a legal perspective the term typically refers to sexually inappropriate behavior in certain employment contexts. For example, because models are typically independent contractors, not employees, they are often not protected by sexual harassment laws, and a similar principle applies to comic convention cosplayers who are not there in the course of employment — regardless of how egregiously inappropriate the behavior may be, it technically is not a violation of sexual harassment law, nor would it fall under the purview of a typical harassment policy.

Within the fashion industry, this lacuna is being addressed primarily in two ways: through legal reform and private action. New York, for example, recently enacted a law that extends the protections in child labor laws to underage models, and efforts are ongoing to give volunteers and independent contractors new legal protections when sexually harassed. At the same time, the campaign against harassment within the industry is giving rise to new standards and practices that go beyond the limits of sexual harassment law while taking advantage of more general protections that other laws already provide.

We’re seeing a similar strategy evolve among cosplayers in regard to private action, most prominently in the work of Geeks for Consent, whose signs could be found throughout the convention center this year. I was glad to meet the group’s intrepid director, Rochelle Keyhan, briefly during Comic-Con, and have considerable regard for its efforts to call attention to this important issue. However, it’s also clear that a sharp divide persists between those calling for a more rigorous sexual harassment policy and Comic-Con itself, which has taken the position that a sufficient policy already exists. Awareness, as they say, has been raised, but the ideal provisions of a convention harassment policy remain a matter of dispute.

In my next post, we’ll take a deeper look at the Geeks for Consent campaign, the Adrianne Curry incident and existing law to see whether we can devise a new policy that will address the concerns of all sides in the ongoing debate. Meanwhile, if you have any opinions or experiences pertinent to this important discussion, please feel to leave them in the comments thread or shoot me an email at jeff.trexler@gmail.com.

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16. SDCC ’14: Cover Story: The Art of the Cover – panel recap

By Matthew Jent

Oh, gang. What a fun panel.

Moderated by legend-in-his-own-time Mark Evanier, “Cover Story: The Art of the Cover” took five artists, gave them five of their own covers apiece, and had them talk about them. The covers had been chosen ahead of time, without the artists’ knowledge, and Mark hoped at least one of the choices would be a cover the artist didn’t like.

“Even if we take some potshots at your covers — it’s coming from a place of affection. Even Rembrandt had a worst painting.”

The Cover Story panel: Evanier, Conner, Staples, Brooks, Lee, Sakai.

The Cover Story panel: Evanier, Conner, Staples, Brooks, Lee, Sakai.

We’d be here foreverlong if we went cover-by-cover, so let’s just hit some highlights.

Amanda Conner.

“Jack Kirby hated doing covers,” Mark explained. “He never knew when to do them. Before the comic, he didn’t know what the most exciting scene would be. During the comic, he didn’t want to interrupt his flow. When he was done, he wasn’t emotionally invested in that issue anymore.”

“I agree with Jack,” Amanda said. “I prefer sequential storytelling. I like Norman Rockwell — when you can look at a piece of art and tell lots of things are going on in it.”

Barbie42

Barbie #42. Marvel Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay — this was before I got into storytelling. Boy, they made me make her way too skinny.”

JSA Classified #4, DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

JSA Classified #4. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Y’know — geez, lookit her boobs! I wanted to pull a moment of time out to focus on the cover, a moment that happens in between panels. So you don’t see this in the book, but it still moves the story along. Paul Mounts colored it — I put the stars in the background, but he did the burst. If I trust him and leave the background blank, he goes in and does a nice design.”

This cover gave Mark the opportunity to tell a Wally Wood/Power Girl anecdote, with Amanda’s encouragement: “Wally said, ‘I’m going to make her boobs larger every issue until somebody stops me. I think they just took him off the book instead.”

Zatanna #12. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

Zatanna #12. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay, I don’t always do big boobs, guys. This is another example of moments in time you don’t see often. Zatanna lives in San Francisco now, and I wondered, what does she do every morning, before she goes to fight things that want to destroy the universe? Probably the same things I do: get a cup of coffee, and a muffin, and read her iPad. Except, on the Golden Gate Bridge. My favorite thing is showing well-known superheroes doing an everyday thing that you and I do.”

Fiona Staples.

“Last night were the Eisner Awards, aka the Fiona Staples Show,” said Mark, by way of introduction. “The best thing about the Eisners is that whoop from the audience when they agree, yeah, that’s the one that deserves it.”

Done to Death #1. IDW. Art by Fiona Staples.

Done to Death #1. Markosia Publishing. Art by Fiona Staples.

“This was my first issue of my first comic. It was an oil painting, before I did everything digitally. They cropped it, but — that would have been my call. It’s an awkward place to cut off the image, at a joint, at the neck.”

Saga #18. Image Comics. Art by Fiona Staples.

Saga #18. Image Comics. Art by Fiona Staples.

“For Saga, the cover is part of the entire package. We don’t give away much story on our Saga covers. I usually do the cover before he scripts it — Brian told me, put Lying Cat on this one and make it dark. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen, so I gave Lying Cat a bloody mouth, like she’d taken a bite out of one of our heroes.”

Mark Brooks.

“For the last few years, I’ve been pretty exclusively a cover artist. It’s not really storytelling — I’m trying to sell the book. The cover has to be done the month before Previews hits — if we’re lucky, we have a short paragraph of what happens on the inside. The beauty of designing a character as a cover artist — I don’t have to worry about the interior artist who has to draw every angle of that character for 22 pages.”

Amazing Fantasy #1. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Amazing Fantasy #1. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“My first for Marvel, ten years ago. It was introducing a new Spider-Girl. I really stunk at foreshortening, so her leg looks really weird. Joe Quesada designed the character, but I put in the pouches around her wrist — I still don’t know what purpose they would serve.” (An audience member shouts out — chaptstick!)

Cable/Deadpool #14. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Cable/Deadpool #14. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“One of the few times Cable got one up on Deadpool. But to keep them in frame, I had to have him hold the gun by the trigger and almost let it fall down, over Deadpool’s head. To this day, I think it looks very weird.”

Mark Evanier chimed in that, in earlier days, Marvel would have rejected this one because the figures obscured the title.

“That’s different now,” Brooks said. “I can pretty much cover up the entire title, as long as it’s with the main character of the book.”

Deadpool #30. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

Deadpool #30. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“In the original solicit, Deadpool was dressed like Jimi Hendrix. Marvel found out Hendrix’s estate is very litigious. I had to go in and take out the striped shirt, take off the wig, and flip it so he wasn’t playing left-handed.”

Jae Lee.

“I always think I enjoy covers, but I always regret doing them. I’m not a fan of showing these out of sequence, because I’m afraid the same re-used images are going to crop up. I won’t have a lot to say about these because they were all done in a mad rush to get into the solicitations.”

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was done for solicitation. It was an Ozymandias book, but the cover features the Comedian. Where this fight was happening, they were surrounded by falling action figures. I hadn’t finished it, so I cropped it and said, is this good enough for now? I said I would come back and finish it later. But I never finished it.”

Batman/Superman #8. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

Batman/Superman #8. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was tough. It’s my second time drawing a car. I’ve been doing this 22 years and managed never to draw a car. I don’t know how to draw cars, so it has to be mangled. I don’t know how artists draw those things. The tires — I don’t know how you guys do it.”

“Also, Power Girl was much bigger than Superman, so we had to reduce her digitally. But then her head looked too big, so we had to reduce he head separately. It became a kind of Frankenstein project. I have a hard time looking at it.”

Amanda chimed in by saying she has no problem with cars, but hates drawing mangled wreckage.

“Oh, we should trade off,” Jae said.

Stan Sakai.

“I hate doing covers. I hate it with a passion. I have been doing covers with the same character for the past 30 years, so it’s difficult to think of a different situation for that character. The covers are done months ahead of time, and my writer, who is me, often has no idea what is going to happen in the interiors.”

Usagi Yojimbo #46. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #46. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“This was a commission — a guy commissioned me to do a kite festival. So it was four connected pages. We used it for two consecutive covers. The colorist is Tom Bluth, who is my colorist of choice. In Tom’s case, it’s always — do what you want, Tom. I give him very little direction. I’m surprised sometimes by his choices, but it’s always better than I would color things.”

Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters #1. Eclipse. Art by Stan Sakai.

Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters #1. Eclipse. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Strictly a job for the money.”

“That’s funny,” Evanier added, “I worked for Eclipse  — I don’t remember there being any money.”

Usagi Yojimbo #101. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

Usagi Yojimbo #101. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“In Usagi, there’s always a little skull when somebody dies, and a guy always writes in saying how many skulls I had in that issue. So for this cover I drew as many skulls as I could. But then the guy didn’t write in, and I was disappointed. There was no logo, but Usagi is iconic now — when people see Usagi, they know it’s a Usagi cover.”

Donald Duck Adventures #32. Walt Disney Publications. Art by Stan Sakai.

Donald Duck Adventures #32. Walt Disney Publications. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Aw, I hate working for Disney. They kept saying ‘do it on model,’ but they didn’t give me any models! I must have drawn this duck’s head 7 times. The problem was, I was following the European design, which I prefer, and it’s a little different there.”

Evanier closed the panel by thanking everyone for participating, and saying he hoped panels like these remind folks that there’s always a story and a person behind the design choices of covers.

“These panels remind people — someone actually designed that. It gives people an appreciation for the art of the cover.”

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17. How much do you know about early Hollywood’s leading ladies?

By Sarah Rahman


Clara Bow, whose birthday falls on 29 July, was the “it” girl of her time, making fifty-two films between 1922 and 1930. “Of all the lovely young ladies I’ve met in Hollywood, Clara Bow has ‘It,’” noted novelist Elinor Glyn. According to her entry in American National Biography, “With Cupid’s bow lips, a hoydenish red bob, and nervous, speedy movement, Bow became a national rage, America’s flapper. At the end of 1927 she was making $250,000 a year.”

Clara_Bow_1920

Clara Bow by Paramount Photos. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In recognition of the numerous leading ladies of the early days of Hollywood, the American National Biography team has put together a quiz to test your knowledge of early Hollywood and its stars. Film buff or not, the experiences of these iconic actresses may surprise you.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Sarah Rahman is a Digital Product Marketing Intern at Oxford University Press. She is currently a rising junior pursuing a degree in English literature at Hamilton College.

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18. Memory and the Great War

In honor of the 100th anniversary of World War I, we’re sharing an excerpt of Sir Hew Strachan’s The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. Get a sense of what it was like to live through this historic event and how its global effects still impact the world today.

The Great War haunted the last century; it haunts us still. It continues to inspire imaginative endeavour of the highest order. It invites pilgrimage and commemoration surrounded by palpable sadness. Almost a hundred years after the war, ‘The Last Post’, intoned every evening at the Menin Gate in Ypres, still summons tears. We wish it all had not happened.

We associate the war with the loss of youth, of innocence, of ideals. We are inclined to think that the world was a better and happier place before 1914. If the last century has been one of disjunction and endless surprise rather than of the mounting predictability many expected at the next-to-last fin-de-siècle, the Great War was the greatest surprise of all. The war stands, by most historical accounts, as the portal of entry to a century of doubt and agony, to our dissatisfaction.

Its extremes of emotion, both the initial jubilation and subsequent despair, are seen as a preface to the politics of extremism that took hold in Europe in the aftermath; its mechanized killing is regarded as a necessary prelude to the even greater ferocity of the Second World War and to the Holocaust; its assault on the values of the Enlightenment is seen as a nexus between indeterminacy in the sciences and the aesthetics of irony. Monty Python might never have lived had it not been for the Great War. The war unleashed a floodtide of forces that we have been unable ever since to stem. ‘Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!’ How in the world, Mr Kipling, are we to forget?

fig_11.1 LoC_ LC-USZ62-68359 3b15821r

Figure 11.1 from the Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War. Used with permissions from Oxford University Press.

The enthusiasm surrounding the outbreak of war many described as a social and spiritual experience beyond compare. Engagement was the hallmark of the day. ‘We have,’ wrote Rupert Brooke, ‘come into our heritage.’ The literate classes, and by then they were the literate masses—teachers, students, artists, writers, poets, historians, and indeed workers, of the mind as well as the fist—volunteered en masse. School benches and church pews emptied. Those past the age of military service enrolled in the effort on the home front.

Words, literary words, visible on the page, flowed as they had never flowed before, in the trenches, at home, and across the seven seas. The Berlin critic Julius Bab estimated that in August 1914 50,000 German poems were being penned a day. Thomas Mann conjured up a vision of his nation’s poetic soul bursting into flame. Before the wireless, before the television, this was the great literary war. Everyone wrote about it, and for it.

Not surprisingly, the Great War turned immediately into a war of cultures. To Britain and France, Germany represented the assault, by definition barbaric, on history and law. Brutality was Germany’s essence. To Germany, Britain represented a commercial spirit, and France an emphasis on outward form, that were loathsome to a nation of heroes. Treachery was Albion’s name. Hypocrisy was Marianne’s fame.

But the war was also an expression of social values. The intense involvement of the educated classes led to a form of warfare, certainly on the western front, characterized by the determination and ideals of those classes. Trench warfare was not merely a military necessity; it was a social manifestation. It was to be, in a sense, the great moral achievement of the European middle classes. It represented their resolve, commitment, perseverance, responsibility, grit—those features and values the middle classes cherished most.

And here for dear dead brothers we are weeping.
Mourning the withered rose of chivalry,
Yet, their work done, the dead are sleeping, sleeping
Unconscious of the long lean years to be.

Those lines from the Wykehamist, the journal of Winchester College, of July 1917 evoked both the passing of an age and the crisis of a culture.

‘The bourgeoisie is essentially an effort,’ insisted the French bourgeois René Johannet. The Great War was essentially an effort too. The American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald would call the war on the western front ‘a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high-explosive love.’ Fitzgerald’s ‘lovely safe world’ was one of empire, imperial ideas, and imperial dreams. It was a world of confidence, of religion, and of history. It was a world of connections. History was a synonym for progress.

Sir Hew Strachan is a professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford, Commonwealth War Graves Commissioner, and a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum. He also serves on the British, Scottish, and French national committees advising on the centenary of the First World War. He is the editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War.

We’re giving away ten copies of The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. Learn more and enter for a chance to win. For even more exclusive content, visit the US ‘World War I: Commemorating the Centennial’ page or UK ‘First World War Centenary’ page to discover specially commissioned contributions from our expert authors, free resources from our world-class products, book lists, and exclusive archival materials that provide depth, perspective, and insight into the Great War.

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19. SDCC ’14: Middle Grade Extravaganza – panel recap

By Matthew Jent

This Sunday morning panel was moderated by David Mariotte of San Diego’s own Mysterious Galaxy, a bookstore that specializes in “Martians, Murder, Magic & Mayhem.”

“Middle Grade Extravaganza” focused on the books and series for a pre-Young Adult audience, and the panelists were a mix of prose authors and graphic novelists, including Rachel Renee Russell, New York Times-bestselling author of the Dork Diaries series; EJ Altbacker, author of the Shark Wars series; “that scoundrel” Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series (whose greatest regret is that he has “but one life to give for Gondor”); Paul Pope, author/illustrator of the Eisner award-winning Battling Boy; P. Craig Russell, illustrator of the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, as well as a number of comics adaptations of timeless operas; the “ever mysterious” and sunglasses-clad Pseudonymous Bosch, author of the Secret Series and the upcoming Bad Magic; and Mr. 50-million-copies-and-counting Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot.

The Middle Grade panel at attention, with Paul Pope slouching in the middle.

The Middle Grade panel at attention, with Paul Pope slouching in the middle.

While it wasn’t a packed room, it was impossible to squeeze into the front rows — the fans here for this panel wanted to make sure they had a seat close to the authors.

David led off the panel by asking, “What is it about series that works so well with middle-grade readers?”

Paul Pope responded by paraphrasing Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics assertion that the space between panels allows readers’ imaginations to fill in the gaps, allowing for a richer experience. “Episodic fiction does something similar,” he said. “You get to fill in the gaps yourself. And it’s a tradition — even the Iliad was told in episodes. ‘Come back tomorrow night, at the campire.’”

Many of the panelists said it went back to their own experiences as middle grade-age readers and wanting to spend more time with favorite characters. “I wanted to read more about Harriet the Spy,” said Rachel Renee Russell. “You want to stay with those characters.”

Asked how they keep their stories accessible for tween-age readers, Brandon Mull said it comes down to writing good scenes. “I create a chain of good scenes,” he said, with “a main characters you can relate to. But a good story is a good story.”

During the audience Q&A, a young fan asked Paul Pope how he came up with the idea for Battling Boy. Pope said he wanted to make comics for an underserved audience. “I have nephews who were your age,” he said, “and they thought it was cool I was making comics, but they can’t see most of it. It’s geared toward adults. And I’ve done work for Adventure Time or Disney, but — when I was young, I read old Fantastic Fours or X-Men, but there just aren’t that many comic books now written for people of your age group. I wanted to write the best superhero for people your age, so they don’t have to keep going back to Batman, who is 75 years old, and Spider-Man, who is middle-aged.”

Another young fan asked Dav Pilkey if he’d had a mean principal himself when he was young, and if that helped inspire his book.

“My teachers and principals were very abusive, sometimes physically,” Pilkey said. “It did not help me. I remember telling me mother — not about the physical abuse, but the emotional, psychological abuse — and my mother told me, everything happens for a reason. Maybe something good will come out of this. I don’t think she had this in mind.”

Pope added that “One of the joys have writing to a young audience is, you retain your innocence. I’m writing to myself as a younger person in a lot of way.”

Pseudonymous Bosch, who wore sunglasses throughout the panel, added that, “It helps if your own maturity level stays where it was when you were 12.” He then took an “unselfie” of the audience, asking them all to cover their faces as he took their picture.

Rachel said that her Dork Diaries were inspired by her own children, who had struggled socially as kids, but who had grown into successful artists in their own right. She introduced her daughter Nicky in the audience, and who had taken over the illustrations for the Dork Diaries with the second book.

The Q&A unfortunately ended while there was still a line of young fans waiting to talk to the authors, but the panel headed off for a group signing that would hopefully allow for some one-on-one interaction. There’s often talk around the comics industry about whether comics have left younger fans behind, but at this panel it was clear that kids were still excited about comics and illustrated prose.

The key is — as it has always been — respecting the intelligence and imaginations of your audience, regardless of their age, and creating art that raises interesting questions.

“A hundred years ago, a good sci-fi writer might image we’ll have cars,” Brandon said. “But a great sci-fi writer will imagine we’ll have traffic jams.”

 

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20. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 5: Chuck Palahnuik

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part five of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews award-winning author Chuck Palahnuik about his decision to write the sequel to his hit ‘Fight Club’ in comic book form, and the comics professionals who helped it happen. This has been San Diego Comic-Con 2014 from Publishers Weekly’s More To Come!

Download this episode direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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21. By Its Cover (07.09.14 – 07.16.14)

by-its-cover-E

A computer crash that I still haven’t been able to get fixed has resulted in my not being as thorough this time around as I would’ve liked. I hope you’ll let me know if there were any really good indie or GN covers I missed.

DC3301-88795

DETECTIVE COMICS #33

This is a fantastic composition. Shape of the gun and position of the figures inside already does a solid job of leading the eye from upper left to lower right, but the shifting color also helps. My one nitpick would be that the bullets at the lower left establish a ground plane that makes it seem like the gun is being fired into the ground, which I don’t think was the intent.

 

SECAVN2014005-DC11-54253

SECRET AVENGERS #5

This is an interesting contrast of fun and quirk (the goat, and the videogame-esque composition) and dark (the blood and chalk outline). I like the exclamation point and question mark, but I’m not sure I follow what the other face balloons are trying to express (if they’re expressing anything?).

 

RAI-003-COVER-B-CRAIN-adfe5

RAI #3

This is a nice image, but after issue one had so many different covers of just the main character, I find myself automatically assuming I’m looking at another variant before spotting the issue number. This cover is also a great example of demonstrating flow (good and bad). The top sword does a good job of leading our eye to the logo, but then the bottom sword leads us from the logo off to whatever cover is sitting to the left of this book (and it doesn’t help that the bottom sword is brighter than the top one). One of the challenges of creating a well-designed illustration is try to figure out a way to keep the viewer’s eye bouncing around within in the image.

 

ANXFACT2014011-DC11-c1730

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #11

I’ve been loving all the All-New X-Factor covers, so I’m going to be a little more critical of this one. After the previous issue had several characters shown full-figure, I think it would’ve been good to keep changing it up. In particular, this image would be a lot more powerful if it was a close-up that only showed the gun and the character’s head (with the words “You have five minutes to comply.”) I feel like going full-figure not only removes the impact, but the pose of the villain has a very campy ’60s Batman tone (and the Dutch angle doesn’t help). Unless that was the intent?

 

STK643414

GRAYSON #1

Look at this, its a DC cover with a centered logo! They even went above and beyond and centered it vertically as well as horizontally! I’m not sure the magenta and yellow really fits the character, but I like the illustration and logo placement. Though I think the cover would’ve balanced out better if the position of the barcode and 75 Years logo were reversed (see sloppy mock-up).

 

LastFall-01-pr-1-57af3

THE LAST FALL #1

This is a really nice image, but there are a few things holding it back. The thin strokes of the logo are so thing that it kind of hurts readability. The logo also has some major kerning issues, and the shape of that “S” looks really awkward. The logo is also placed kind of strangely, in that the logo has been designed flush left but has been placed on the right. I also kind of wanted to see the logo interact with or relate to the image on the cover in some way.

TLF-2

Here’s a sloppy mock-up of how I might’ve approached it. The bar of flat color helps to frame the volcano, and placing the bar behind the character creates a more dynamic sense of depth. Having the logo contained within the bar also helps lead our eye from the logo to the figure (via the gun on the figure’s back), and then to the volcano the figure is looking at. This likely isn’t the only solution, but it’s the first one I went to.

For the font, I went with trusty Univers Thin Ultra Condensed, which has a very epic feel. It’s the font used for the logo of Aliens, the first edition of the Dark Knight Returns TPB, and the credits at the bottom of so many movie posters.


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.

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22. Final Installment of "Goblet of Fire" on Pottermore Available to Ravenclaws 7/30, Open to All 7/31

The final installment of "Goblet of Fire" will be posted on Pottermore on July 31st, in honor of Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling's birthdays. However, for Ravenclaws, who won the latest House Cup, the final installment will be available twenty-four hours early on July 30th.

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23. Nazi(-era) Krimis

       A pretty good idea for an anthology: Nazi-era crime fiction -- Krimis, as they're called in German. A French anthology, presented and translated by Vincent Platini, came out a few months ago: Krimi. Une anthologie du récit policier sous le Troisième Reich; see the Anacharsis publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       There are also (French) interviews with Platini at BibliObs -- where he notes there were no grand Nazi-heroes in these works: "Il n'y a pas eu de Supernazi" -- and Le Figaro. And John J. Gaynard's Books weblog has a(n English) overview, which helpfully lists the anthologized pieces.
       Like Soviet crime fiction, Nazi-era (1933-1945) stuff is woefully overlooked; an English-language anthology would surely be of some inetrest, no ?

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24. SEA Write Award shortlist

       The 2014 SEA Write Award is for short-stories (prized genres are rotated, year by year), and they've announced the Thai shortlist: as Kaona Pongpipat reports in the Bangkok Post, SEA Write short stories selected.
       Recall that at Asymptote Mui Poopoksakul recently surveyed (a sliver) of the Thai short story scene -- and one of the discussed titles is Uthis Haemamool's shortlisted one, its title translated as 'Base, Basic' by Poopoksakul, and 'Commonly Vicious' by the Bangkok Post.
       Of course, whether any of this makes it into English is ... well, more a closed than open question ..... Read the rest of this post

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25. The month that changed the world: Wednesday, 29 July 1914

July 1914 was the month that changed the world. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and just five weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war. But how did it all happen? Historian Gordon Martel, author of The Month That Changed The World: July 1914, is blogging regularly for us over the next few weeks, giving us a week-by-week and day-by-day account of the events that led up to the First World War.

By Gordon Martel


Before the sun rose on Wednesday morning a new hope for a negotiated settlement of the crisis was initiated. The Kaiser, acting on the advice of his chancellor, wrote directly to the Tsar. He hoped that Nicholas would agree with him that they shared a common interest in punishing all of those ‘morally responsible’ for the dastardly murder of the Archduke, and he promised to exert his influence to induce Austria to deal directly with Russia in order to arrive at an understanding.

At 1 a.m. Nicholas appealed to Wilhelm for his assistance: ‘An ignoble war has been declared on a weak country.’ The indignation that this had caused in Russia was enormous and he anticipated that he would soon be overwhelmed by the pressure being brought to bear upon him, forcing him to take ‘extreme measures’ that would lead to war. To avoid this terrible calamity, he begged Wilhelm, in the name of their old friendship, ‘to do what you can to stop your allies from going too far.’

The question of the day on Wednesday was whether Austria-Hungary and Russia might undertake direct discussions to settle the crisis before further military steps turned a local Austro-Serbian war into a general European one.

The New York Times, 29 July 1914. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times, 29 July 1914. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The German general staff summarized its view of the situation: the crime of Sarajevo had led Austria to resort to extreme measures ‘in order to burn with a glowing iron a cancer that has constantly threatened to poison the body of Europe’. The quarrel would have been limited to Austria and Serbia had not Russia begun making military preparations. Now, if the Austrians advanced into Serbia, they would face not only the Serbian army but the vastly superior strength of Russia. Thus, they could not contemplate fighting Serbia without securing themselves against an attack by Russia. This would force them to mobilize the other half of their army – at which point a collision between Austria and Russia would become inevitable. This would force Germany to mobilize, which would lead Russia and France to do the same – ‘and the mutual butchery of the civilized nations of Europe would begin’.

In other words, unless a negotiated settlement could be reached quickly, war seemed inevitable.

Berchtold pleaded with Berlin that only ‘plain speech’ would restrain the Russians, i.e. only the threat of a German attack would stop them from taking military action against Austria. And there were signs that Russia was wary of war. The Austrian ambassador reported that Sazonov was desperate to avoid a conflict and was ‘clinging to straws in the hope of escaping from the present situation’. Sazonov promised that if they were to negotiate on the basis of Sir Edward Grey’s proposal, Austria’s legitimate demands would be recognized and fully satisfied.

At the same time, Sazonov was pleading for British support: the only way to prevent war now was for Britain to warn the Triple Alliance that it would join its entente partners if war were to break out.

But Grey refused to make any promises. When he met with the French ambassador later that afternoon, he warned him not to assume that Britain would again stand by France as it had in 1905. Then it had appeared that Germany was attempting to crush France; now, ‘the dispute between Austria and Serbia was not one in which we felt called to take a hand’. Earlier that day the British cabinet had decided not to decide; Grey was to inform both sides that Britain was unable to make any promises.

At 4 p.m. the German general staff received intelligence that Belgium was calling up reservists, raising the numbers of the Belgian army from 50,000 to 100,000, equipping its fortifications and reinforcing defences along the frontier. Forty minutes later a meeting at the Neue Palais in Potsdam, the Kaiser and his advisers decided to compose an ultimatum to present to Belgium: either agree to adopt an attitude of ‘benevolent neutrality’ towards Germany in a European war or face dire consequences.

Simultaneously, Bethmann Hollweg decided to launch a bold new initiative. He proposed to the British ambassador that Britain agree to remain neutral in the event of war in exchange for a German promise not to seize any French territory in Europe when it ended. He understood that Britain would not allow France to be crushed, but this was not Germany’s aim. When asked whether his proposal applied to French colonies as well, the chancellor replied that he was unable to give a similar undertaking concerning them. Belgium’s integrity would be respected when the war ended –as long as it had not sided against Germany.

Yet another German initiative was taken in St Petersburg. At 7 p.m. the German ambassador transmitted a warning from the chancellor that if Russia continued with its military preparations Germany would be compelled to mobilize, in which case it would take the offensive. Sazonov replied that this removed any doubts he may have had concerning the real cause of Austria’s intransigence.

The Russians found this confusing, as they had just received another telegram from the Kaiser containing a plea that he should not permit Russian military measures to jeopardize German efforts to promote a direct understanding between Russia and Austria. It was agreed that the Tsar should wire Berlin immediately to ask for an explanation of the apparent discrepancy. At 8.20 p.m. the wire asking for clarification was sent. Trusting in his cousin’s ‘wisdom and friendship’, Tsar Nicholas suggested that the ‘Austro-Serbian problem’ be handed over to the Hague conference.

A message announcing a general mobilization in Russia had been drafted and ready to be sent out by 9 p.m. Then, just minutes before it was to be sent out, a personal messenger from the Tsar arrived, instructing that it the general mobilization be cancelled and a partial one re-instituted. The Tsar wanted to hear how the Kaiser would respond to his latest telegram before proceeding. ‘Everything possible must be done to save the peace. I will not become responsible for a monstrous slaughter’.

Gordon Martel is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of War, he is also joint editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History series. His new book is The Month That Changed The World: July 1914.

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