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What better way to celebrate the Beat’s 11th anniversary than with a preview of one of our all time favorite comics, Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt, now being reprinted in lovely English language editions from IDW and Dean Mullaney’s Euro comix imprint. This volume goes on sales today and follow’s Corto’s ravishingly romantic and lushly inked adventures in South America from the Mosquito Coast to Barbados to a deadly struggle among Jivaro head-hunters in the Peruvian Amazon.
Corto Maltese: Beyond the Windy Isle
Hugo Pratt (w & a & c)
The second of twelve volumes presenting the definitive English-language edition of Hugo Pratt’s masterpiece in the original oversized B&W format!
TPB • BW • $29.99 • 120 pages • 9.25” x 11.75” • ISBN: 978-1-63140-317-0
In honor of the Beat’s 11th anniversary ehre are two epic photos from recent social media. In the first, Congressman John Lewis presents signed copies of the March graphic novels to Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala was shot in the head in her native Pakistan for daring to want to get an education for herself and other girls. Lewis is a US civil rights icon whose story is as important now as it was 50 years ago.
In this photo, the Pope holds a copy of the Latin translation of The Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. As Pontiff’s go, this one is pretty awesome.
Comics have no boundaries!
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Continuing on from our first entry this past Friday, here is the second part of my HeroesCon interview with Michel Fiffe, creator of the self-published and much lauded action-adventure comic, COPRA.
It’s funny, the way I discovered your work actually came through a friend of mine at first, as a word of mouth sort of thing. Then I firmly jumped in when Oliver Sava starting writing about it on the A.V. Club, and you ended making a ton of these “Best of 2014″ lists, which is pretty exciting right? That sort of vindication has to be rewarding.
It’s nice, it’s nice that people like it, absolutely. Oliver’s a great supporter.
Everyone wants to make a superlative list at some point, right?
Yeah, that means a lot to me personally, and it actually translates into more readers. I think word of mouth has really worked a lot on COPRA, without any huge marketing muscle behind it. That’s been the primary thing, people are just excited about it, and that’s super flattering. To like it so much – in today’s aggressive marketplace – that they spread the word out of genuine enthusiasm… what more could you want?
That’s literally what’s happening, though the only hurdle is, of course, availability.
That’s the only hurdle right now. Bergen Street Press has been working hard for a couple of years now to get over it. We don’t want to make it super exclusive, this isn’t a super limited boutique item by any means, but it’s also not as simple as pushing a magic button for books to suddenly appear. Others have that magic button.
When you made the collections, which have obviously been a great way to pull in readers, you went with Bergen Street Press, and that’s Tucker Stone’s outfit right?
Yeah, that’s Tom Adams and Tucker Stone, they’re co-owners of the store, Bergen Street Comics and they started publishing and putting out “compendium” collections of the issues early on because I started selling out of the issues. So they met that demand, they helped me meet that initial burst of enthusiasm. I was too caught up creating the next issue. My financial model is that one issue pays for the next, there’s no room for reprints, that’s not within my budget. Bergen really helped make it more available and more accessible to people. The compendiums led to an official collection, the current “Rounds” as they’re called, which collects six issues at a time. That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to get into all the comic shops across the country.
It’s showing up in stores in Atlanta, and I even think I saw copies in the UK over Gosh Comics perhaps.
Yeah, we get a lot of orders from all over the world.
Did you just have a relationship with Tucker and Tom, is that why you went with them as the distributor and publisher and go-to guys?
I trust them and respect them, and I couldn’t happier with that specific team of players. Their point of view and their involvement with the comics industry is something I can get behind.
In regards to availability though, is digital not in the cards?
It’s not NOT in the cards, it’s just something I still have to manage and deal with. There are just so many issues with it, the platform, the way it looks, the time to get everything in order. I’m still dealing with the print issues, that’s a huge thing for me, just getting one of these out every four to six weeks. I barely have any time to do anything else BUT this issue. When it comes to digital, I want to be as hands-on as possible, and that’s a time sucker. I wouldn’t rule digital out, but at the moment it’s not a primary concern. Having said that, I don’t want to exclude anyone from reading it, I understand there’s a large portion of the readership that’s gone digital because its more convenient, but personally I haven’t related to that model. So, it’s not a priority. I don’t feel like it’s something that’s burning in me to address anytime soon.
But there is an argument you made yesterday (on a panel with Klaus Janson) about the visual of the comic as a physical object. When you go digital, you do lose that. I mean, you can put everyone of those pages, including the back cover and back matter into a digital copy, but it’s not the same.
It’s not the same, and I want to be clear that I don’t want to impose my fetish of the newsprint comic on anyone. But readers do have the option to buy the issues or NOT to buy them, and that’s the risk I take. I’m not forcing people nor am I trying to change the industry “back to the glory that it was”. I’m just doing this because it’s a model that I’m familiar with and I aesthetically like. It’s a much more intimate thing. I just don’t read that many digital comics. That’s not how I absorb this stuff. I would feel weird putting it out in the world if I’m not sure of it myself.
The comparison has been made, and COPRA has been compared very favorably to works like Cerebus, and that’s a comparison that I find to be really quite apt in that you’ve taken an analogous set of characters, like Dave Sim did with Conan the Barbarian, but by Round Three, you’ve expanded that world and its character set in a way not dissimilar from his work in “High Society”. Is that a comparison that you find interesting?
It is, mostly because Dave and I were born on the same day.
Yeah, so it just means we’re both stubborn and hard headed, and we’re gonna do what we want no matter what. But the COPRA/Cerebus thing… I imagine it’s more accurate than I’d like to think, but the main difference is that Cerebus started out as a parody. And my book…well, I personally fucking hate parody comics of that nature. I like Cerebus, but I especially mean modern indie takes on this sort of stuff. It’s low hanging fruit. You’re going to make fun of superheroes, good job, you’re wasting your precious time on earth doing that. Who cares? You’re not gonna outdo Marshal Law. I love that comic to death. There was a lot of anger behind that book, but it didn’t look down at anyone. Now, you either like superheroes or you don’t, and it’s perfectly fine to dislike it. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. I have zero interest in making fun of this stuff. From the first page of COPRA, it was serious business to me, serious business while fully realizing and basking in the absurd nature of this material.
That’s a difficult balance to achieve – seriousness without being overtly grim.
I just don’t want to wink at readers. I respect the readership too much to be winking at them – like, hey get the joke? Isn’t this DUMB? It’s like, fuck that joke, it’s a terrible joke. And I think Dave Sim wised up to it early on, because he was parodying Conan and the goofy barbarian genre, but then it took on a different identity all together.
And I feel like that’s where you’re headed too. Round 3 is stunning, and I think when it hits a collected edition, I think there’s going to be a lot of talk. I don’t know how else to put it. I don’t want to speak too highly here, but I think that’s going to be when – people already notice it, but I mean, my god, that chapter when Wir goes back home…
Yeah, that’s a favorite. I was worried about making that one too because it’s so bizarre, even within the norms of COPRA, you know?
It was so touching and so raw. It struck nerves for me. And then Gracie in Miami, and you’re working out some of your own feelings about the city and you even say as much on the back end.
Yeah. Every issue pretty much has at least one autobiographical component in it. And I find that interesting when I read older comics too, whether they meant it or not, I think it comes through. Especially for the older creators who really had no other option but to express themselves through The Brave and the Bold or something. But for me to actually write this stuff, I have to put some sort of personal experience in it. So every issue, there’s something there that’s really personal. But I also don’t want it to be too obvious, though.
Let’s talk about Round Four or the presumed Round Four, about what’s coming up, what’s being developed. Spoiler alert: Dutch got it at the end of the latest issue. And clearly there’s another team that’s sort of gaining up on the COPRA side of things. At least that’s what it seems like. There’s an organized group of evil doers. What can we expect in the next couple of issues; I think there are two left in this round?
I have two left. And then I’m going to have a 25th issue anniversary-sized thing, that’s going to stand apart from the narrative, the main arc. And then starting with issue 26 that starts another arc all together. I’m going to work in six issue chunks, but there are going to be main storylines in that. I think I’m going to go up to fifty issues, so 25 will be an anniversary issue, as well as the halfway point.
So there will be an endpoint that’s set in stone?
Yes, I do have an ending set, I’ve mapped it out that far. I’m so excited for it. Knowing that it’s going to end and that everything is building up towards it makes every step of the way that much more fun for me, much richer.
So what can you tell me that we can expect in just very general terms, without spoiling anything, for the next two issues? Is it going to be a battle between the team and this group of guys that are coming after them?
It’s going to be COPRA vs COPRA. That’s all I’m going to say.
You’ve got two other narratives occurring in these books, you’ve got Dieter VDO’s back cover story for Man-Head…
Which is non-canonical.
Let me ask you how that got arranged first. Are you and Dieter friends?
Oh, I’m a big fan of his work. He did a Savage Dragon story for this collection of back ups I edited. This was ages ago. Anyway, Dieter… I like spreading the word on him. I think he’s great, one of my favorite cartoonists. I wanted to have unique back matter for this current arc and he was the first person I thought of to do something. Instead of pin ups, though, I wanted a serialized narrative. Thankfully he was on board. His own weird version of COPRA? Who wouldn’t want to see that?
So what is going on between your narrative and his narrative in these orange and white pages? There’s something appearing in the sky…?
Oh, that. Well, that’s a subplot that has to do with Rax’s dimension. It’ll all make sense once you read it together, there IS a point to it; it’s not as arbitrary as it seems. I’ve been playing it quietly because if I show too much, it’ll spoil things.
When can we expect the next issue to hit?
Maybe 4 weeks, a month? After the show I’ve to get back to drawing it. I’m not really ahead, schedule-wise. As soon as the issue is done, it’s practically in the readers’ hands.
You can purchase recent issues of COPRA at Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts’ Etsy store. While Bergen Street Press is currently sold out of both collected editions of the series, you can purchase the first collection at InStockTrades.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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For me, COPRA is the one of the few superhero comics that really matter.
A few years ago, I was at a point where I had basically given up on everything produced within the arena of the “Big Two”. Sure, I enjoyed the occasional Grant Morrison comic when they would rear their head, but for the most part I had lost the exhilaration I used to get when I would read the adventures of my favorite costumed adventurers. Then, in the midst of a discussion of Jack Kirby and John Ostrander, a good friend floated along the idea that I would find great delight in reading the self-published wonder that is Michel Fiffe‘s riff on Ostrander’s biggest legacy work. What I found was a comic that embraced everything I loved about superheroes and the ideas of some of their most iconic creators, and then spun them off in wholly exciting and unpredictable directions. The jubilation that I feel whenever I crack open a new issue of COPRA is likely on par with what readers in the 70’s felt when a new Fourth World installment was released, or their counterparts in the 80’s when the aforementioned Suicide Squad and Watchmen were being unfurled upon an unsuspecting public.
COPRA reminds me of the actual potential of this side of the medium, and it’s a book that I wish everyone had their hands on. It is superhero comics at their absolute best.
While at HeroesCon, I had the opportunity to sit down with Fiffe to discuss what’s coming up in his lauded series along with other points of interest that encircle self-publishing and the day to day process of creating the issues in which he is responsible for every facet, including their mailing to subscribers. Here is Part 1 of our discussion:
When you conceived of COPRA, what was the impetus to say: “I’m going to self-publish this and do everything myself” vs. pitching it to a publisher like Image or Boom! or any other publisher that might have found a home for it?
I find the pitching process to be rather exhaustive and time consuming. I know it well, I’ve done it many times. It’s such a slow process getting a book green-lit and that’s not the nature of what I wanted to do with COPRA. It had to exist almost immediately. I don’t have a committee to answer to and that’s appealing to me. I’m not comfortable giving that power to whatever company.
And you did a lot of pitching before that you said?
Tons of pitching, tons of submissions, I’ve done pretty much everything I could think of to do to get in through the door. I’ve got some published works as a result, but nothing really satisfying, or that I really felt confident about. So, self-publishing, once I started doing that, that’s when I felt like I was creating comics on my own terms. COPRA is a natural extension of that, especially when I started giving myself a monthly schedule, mimicking the schedule of mainstream comics. For me, that’s the interesting dichotomy of it, where I’m harnessing this kind of “old-school” rigorous schedule to fit my independent needs.
But are there significant challenges you find? I know there’s promotion that would be available in a big house publisher, like if you were working with Image there’d be press releases constantly. Is bandwidth an issue?
Well, motivation is always the biggest hurdle to overcome, especially given an unrelenting schedule. I have to wake up every day and treat this like a job, because it IS my job, it is my full-time job. I have to get it done somehow, I can’t wait for the muse to strike. I have to get an issue done a month, or as close as possible. But as far as challenges in not having the marketing muscle of other companies? I’d rather stand apart from the wall of noise. How many press releases does anyone really read, anyway?
Your comics, at least in their monthly form, are only available on your Etsy page and I noticed that you share that with your significant other, I think I saw some nice craft jewelry I think?
Yeah, Kat Roberts sells all kinds of stuff, zines, handmade purses, prints. I totally piggy-backed off her store on Etsy. That was a platform I was familiar with, so when I started publishing Zegas (Fiffe’s first self-published comic) I didn’t have a place to sell it from, except conventions and maybe the occasional store that would take a risk on it. Etsy allowed me to slowly build up my readership. By the time I got to COPRA, there was a significant amount of people that were interested in the stuff I did and that made it easier for me to move forward.
Let me turn to the actual creation process of an individual issue, say you’re sitting at your desk and working on Issue 22 right now?
That’s the one that just came out.
Good, let’s use that one as an example, if you’re working on Issue 22, what is your step by step? Do you script first and then directly move into the illustration phase? Do you create thumbnails? How do you piece your typical issue together?
It always changes, but the constant thing is that I always map out the story, page by page, and then I script it loosely. Then I start penciling loosely with the first draft in mind. The real work portion of the process begins when I start refining the script while inking and sometimes hand lettering. That’s when it all starts coming together. But generally I have a very loose plan in mind per issue. It’s equal parts organic and strict. I just have to get a number of pages done every day, that’s basically my main objective.
What’s your average rate right now?
Comfortably, I’d say about two pages a day, complete with full color. And that may range, sometimes I may get three, sometimes just half of a page, it just depends. And then you also have to consider the managerial aspect of it after the book is done. I have to get it shipped out to readers and stores and that’s definitely a job in of itself.
Was there ever a page or spread or a panel layout that was really hard to crack? Was there any particular example where you just said “oh my god, what am I doing with this thing?”
Every page is like that, but I try to make it work somehow. I have to bring that blank page to life somehow. But the trick is to not think about it too much, because if I over-think it – which is my natural inclination – it kills it. You can get caught up in that and then nothing exists, there are no results. I strive for perfection, but being my own worst critic, I have to be real careful to not crush my gut instinct.
You’re a real master of negative space, and I read an issue and think “damn, Fiffe really knows how to use that white”. I think that’s a rare talent, and I’m not trying to kiss ass, but when I read through recent issues it’s hard to not notice how much your craft continues to grow every single issue. I’m floored by the way you use this stuff.
Back to COPRA‘s origins, if I may, when you began to pull together your characters designs and tried to piece together the different teams…and there’s a number of different teams now I guess, you’ve got COPRA, Asesinos…
Right, it’s all splintered.
Yeah, I almost have a hard time keeping track.
I should map it out.
I would love that, if you would put a thing at the end of each issue with the full cast.
I’ve been thinking about that, actually.
That would be awesome, and I’ll take full credit if it happens. But when you were conceiving of your core cast, there are obviously analogous elements to Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.
Did you ever find it was difficult to skirt the line between your own original ideas and those aforementioned analogous elements or did you just say, I’m going to use this as a starting point and go my own way?
When I initially set out to do this comic, I put myself in the mindset of: “what if a publisher hired me to take over a title, and gave me complete freedom”, which would never happen in the current landscape. So using that fantasy to guide me, I took the Dirty Dozen-esque concept, which has been around for a while in many different forms, and I used it as a blueprint to work from. I wanted a world I could really sink my teeth into month in and month out. I wanted to make something that was serialized, that maximized the nature of the single issue, I wanted to build a place that made it easier for me to explore all my interests. The analogous aspect of it… I was reluctant at first, but I had forgotten that some of my favorite comics are analogous, too, some more blatant than the others.
Are there any examples you can cite? At least of the ones that fall favorably with you?
I mean, the Fantastic Four included a Kirby monster, Plastic Man, and Carl Burgos‘ creation as the Challengers of the Unknown… as a response to JLA. Watchmen, Marvelman, Supreme, everything Alan Moore does, basically. That’s no secret. So I moved forward citing those comics, using the current cultural momentum of irreverence to just do whatever I want. Plus, I figured no one’s going to be reading this anyway! We’re talking small press here, not many copies exist. It was liberating.
How far ahead did you map out your story?
Not that far, I did it issue by issue. I also wanted it to feel like a very immediate, raw, I wanted it to be as direct a thing as possible. So, it was really just one or two issues ahead. I mapped out twelve issues with super brief descriptions and that’s all I had to go on. I also wanted to make sure that I could fill twelve issues worth of stories. Luckily it worked out.
Look for Part 2 of our discussion on Sunday, when we discuss the possibility of digital distribution and what readers can expect in upcoming issues of COPRA.
You can purchase recent issues of COPRA at Michel Fiffe and Kat Roberts’ Etsy store, or you can order. While Bergen Street Press is currently sold out of both collected editions of the series, you can purchase the first collection at InStockTrades.
Millennial comics superstars Kate Beaton, Luke Pearson and Noelle Stevenson have just been announced as the first guests at this year’s SPX which will spotlight creators who have only worked in the 21st Century. So get ready to write either your 6000-word think piece or your series of tweets on what this all means.
This year’s SPX will be held September 19-20, with over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables, 22 programming slots and countless rollaway beds. IT’s the annual Camp Comics on the schedule and this sounds like a real watershed year.
Her humorous, quirky takes on history, literature and famous people propelled Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant! series of webcomics into a New York Times bestseller, as well as winning both the Harvey and Ignatz Awards. SPX 2015 will see the debut of Ms. Beaton’s latest compendium of comics, Step Aside Pops! A Hark! A Vagrant Collection for Drawn and Quarterly. She also just published her very first children’s book, The Princess and The Pony from Scholastic Books.
Luke Pearson‘s Hildafolk series started as a single issue comic that expanded into three volumes of Scandinavian inspired, critically acclaimed children’s books for the artistically daring publisher Nobrow. Mr. Pearson’s notoriety with the Hilda series and his other comics have led him to storyboard episodes of Adventure Time, as well as illustration assignments for such prestigious outlets as The New York Times, The New Yorker and the New Republic.
Noelle Stevenson’s hit webcomic Nimona has just been nominated for a 2015 Eisner Award for Best Digital/Web Comic, on top of having the first Nimona graphic novel released last month by Harpercollins. Ms. Stevenson was one of the primary writers of the hit series Lumberjanes from Boom! Studios, which has just been optioned for a movie. She is now writing for such Marvel titles as Thor and Runaways, as well for the Disney series Wander Over Yonder. SPX is honored to host Ms. Stevenson as guest for the first time.
Small Press Expo (SPX) is the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels, and alternative political cartoons. SPX is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that brings together more than 650 artists and publishers to meet their readers, booksellers, and distributors each year. Graphic novels, mini comics, and alternative comics will all be on display and for sale by their authors and illustrators. The expo includes a series of panel discussions and interviews with this year’s guests.
The Ignatz Award is a festival prize held every year at SPX recognizing outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning, with the winners chosen by attendees at the show.
As in previous years, profits from the SPX will go to support the SPX Graphic Novel Gift Program, which funds graphic novel purchases for public and academic libraries, as well as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), which protects the First Amendment rights of comic book readers and professionals. For more information on the CBLDF, visit their website at http://www.cbldf.org. For more information on the Small Press Expo, please visit http://www.spxpo.com.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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For the past number of years that I’ve attended SDCC, the fine folks at Cartoon Network and their brand Adult Swim have put on some rather enjoyable programming for the show. Most notably, I’ve greatly enjoyed the Children’s Hospital panels that were held in previous years, and the 2015 iteration of their lineup looks to be a good deal of fun with back-to-back panels for series like Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe along with some screening opportunities.
One million years Dungeon!!
FRIDAY, JULY 10
Cartoon Network presents a back-to-back Fandemonium Panel Extravaganza featuring Regular Show & Uncle Grandpa followed by Adventure Time & Steven Universe. Both panels are hosted by Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) the voice of Panda on Cartoon Network’s upcoming animated series We Bare Bears.
CARTOON NETWORK PRESENTS: REGULAR SHOW & UNCLE GRANDPA
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Hilton Bayfront – Indigo Ballroom
You love us! You really love us! But guess what….we love you too!!! Cartoon Network has the best fans in the world, which is why we’re hosting the most FAN-tastic, FAN-centric, FAN…uhhh…MAZING panels SDCC has ever seen! Join cast and crew of hit shows Regular Show and Uncle Grandpa as we celebrate YOU with major announcements, first looks, contests, and special appearances. The panel features Regular Showsuperstars JG Quintel (Creator, Voice of Mordecai), William Salyers (Voice of Rigby), Sean Szeles (Supervising Producer), and Sam Marin (Voice of Benson, Pops, Muscle Man), alongside Uncle Grandpa mega-talents Pete Browngardt (Creator, Voice of Uncle Grandpa), Eric Bauza (Voice of Bellybag), and Kevin Michael Richardson (Voice of Mr. Gus).
CARTOON NETWORK PRESENTS: ADVENTURE TIME & STEVEN UNIVERSE
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Hilton Bayfront – Indigo Ballroom
Comic Con is the ultimate destination for amazing fans in Finn hats and crystal gem bellybuttons, which is why Cartoon Network is celebrating YOU in a one-of-a-kind Fandemonium celebration! We’ve got BIG NEWS you’ll want to hear first, behind-the-scenes access, and special musical performances by the cast and crew from hit shows Adventure Time and Steven Universe! The panel features Adventure Time legends of OooJeremy Shada (Voice of Finn), John DiMaggio (Voice of Jake), Olivia Olson (Voice of Marceline), and Adam Muto (Co-Executive Producer), alongside Steven Universe gems Rebecca Sugar (Creator), Zach Callison (Voice of Steven), Estelle (Voice of Garnet), and Ian Jones-Quartey(Supervising Director).
CARTOON NETWORK SCREENINGS
THURSDAY, JULY 9
CARTOON NETWORK PRESENTS: ADVENTURE TIME ROYAL BALL
8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
It’s the 2nd annual Adventure Time Royal Ball! Last year Cartoon Network filled a ballroom with the most righteous of warriors and the fairest in all the Land of Ooo, and this year we are returning with more fan-favorites, another first-look Adventure Time episode, and a very special world premiere screening of the newest Cartoon Network hit series We Bare Bears! Don’t forget to dress up in your most inspired outfit for the royal procession and your chance to win righteous prizes! Now come one, come all (until we reach capacity!) for a night of mathematical magic!
FRIDAY, JULY 10
CARTOON NETWORK PRESENTS: CLARENCE & FRIENDS PAJAMA PARTY
8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Clarence throws the best parties and you’re invited! We ran out of pizza poppers, but we’re making up for it with Spencer Rothbell (Head of Story and Voice of Clarence), awesome episodes of your favorite Cartoon Network shows and super cool pwizes! But hey, hey, guess what, there’s more! Clarence invited his new friends Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear, and they’re going to show an episode of their brand new show, We Bare Bears, for everyone to see for the very first time! HOW COOL IS THAT?! So put on your favorite pajamas and maaayyyybe you’ll get a swing at our myyystewy piñata!
CARTOON NETWORK SIGNINGS
FRIDAY, JULY 10
2:00 p.m. Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa & Clarence
Autograph Alley (AA04)
4:00 p.m. Adventure Time & Steven Universe
Autograph Alley (AA04)
SATURDAY, JULY 11
1:00 p.m. We Bare Bears
Cartoon Network Booth #3735
After yesterday’s gloom parade over the economics of comics, and the small number of people who seem to be making a good wage from making them, writer Kieron Gillen delivered another set of metrics that was far more cheerful. He wrote it in response to a website’s concern trolling over sales of The Wicked + The Divine—a much loved series which Gillen writes and Image publishes—falling to the dangerous level of 22,519 copies, a level so low that the writer wondered if this was the end of the book…before admitting that it probably wasn’t.
As Gillen points out, numbers for a creator owned Image book are a lot different than for a Marvel or DC book, where such a number would be in the danger zone. Actually, that number would indicate that Gillen and his collaborator Jamie McKelvie could possibly buy me a beer at some point.
I’ll give you some really basic rule of thumbs for indie comic commentary:
Anything selling stably over 10k in single issues is a cause for celebration and joy. The creators are almost certainly extremely happy.
If you’re selling over (ooh) 12k, you’re probably making more than either of the big two would pay you, unless you’re one of the very biggest names.
If you’re selling anything near 20k, you probably have to buy drinks for your friends.
And in a real way, if Phonogram settled around 6k back in 2006, I suspect Jamie and I would have settled into doing it for another 40 or 50 issues.
There’s all manner of exceptions to the above, but if you look at the charts and bear that in mind, you’ll be closer to how the industry looks at those numbers.
None of the above includes digital sales.
As he goes on to enumerate, if you’re not including sales of TRADE PAPERBACK COLLECTIONS in the indie equation you are missing a huge income source:
None of the above include trades. You throw trades in, and you change everything entirely. A cursory look at hit indie comic numbers reveals that their trades sell much more than Marvel/DC main universe trades, with a few exceptions (There’s a reason why Matt and David’s Hawkeye was such a big thing, and it wasn’t its monthly sales). Let’s bold another sentence.
You cannot do an industry commentary column on indie books without including the impact of trades.
Jim Zub wrote a lot about all this a while ago,
and updated it
with numbers similar to Gillen’s. At the breakeven-ish point for an Image comics (let’s say ~5000 copes) the creative team gets 25% of the profits, which on a $3.99 would be about a buck, the ballpark I’ve often heard for Image books. it’s only that, a ballpark, but it does give you some idea. A book selling $10k a month is making money.
And how many Image books are selling that? Well, ICv2’s numbers just came out so let’s take a look!
|WALKING DEAD #141 (MR)
|SAGA #28 (MR)
|INJECTION #1 (MR)
|WYTCHES #6 (MR)
|DESCENDER #3 (MR)
|MYTHIC #1 [*]
|OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA #9 (MR)
|CHRONONAUTS #3 (MR)
|JUPITERS CIRCLE #2 (MR)
|EAST OF WEST #19
|FADE OUT #6 (MR)
|WICKED & DIVINE #10 (MR)
|SONS OF THE DEVIL #1 (MR) [*]
|BLACK SCIENCE #14 (MR)
|SPAWN #252 (MR)
|TREES #9 (MR)
|RUNLOVEKILL #2 (MR)
|MANTLE #1 (MR)
|ODYC #5 (MR)
|DEADLY CLASS #13 (MR)
|MATERIAL #1 (MR)
|NAILBITER #12 (MR)
|VALHALLA MAD #1
Answer: 27. Okay now you know who can buy you a drink!
On a more serious note, most of the books in the above list sell for $2.99 or $3.50, so there is less to split between writer and artist, letters, colorists and designers have to be paid, etc etc. And also, the ICV2 estimates are just that…estimates, and consistently about 10% low, although there can be other discrepancies, so you shouldn’t take any of these numebrs as gospel, especially the trade sales—total sales are VERY different from the ICv2 numbers, which don’t take bookstores, some online sales, digital, library, book fair or many other numbers into account.
And were still not talking an insane amount of money. Let’s say a book sells 10,000 copies and makes $7500 for the creators. That’s $90,000 a year to be split among the team, so you need another income course for a vacation or retirement.
But still, you CAN make money making comics!!! I suppose I shouldn’t encourage people after yesterday’s dismal reality check; but I think my being in a band analogy stands. It’s better to have made comics or music than never to have tried at all. Most people in every creative endeavor are never going to reach the highest highs, and comics are no exception.
What is concerning is, as I’ve often pointed out, the comics bottom line is a lot lower than in other vocations. There was a pretty lively Twitter conversation yesterday about my piece and especially David Harper’s survey; I’m not sure I have the storify skills to capture it but it came down to people accepting low rates because they are so eager to get into comics and undercutting other creators.
And also, there’s a fairly narrow window in which to make decent money when you do get there. Scott Snyder may make more from Wytches than he does from Batman, but Image is only one publisher, and as hot as they are, they can’t publish everything. (Although we’ll see after this year’s Image Expo.) Image is the best game in town but it has finite resources. Marvel and DC offer good page rates—although Marvel lowered theirs for all but their top creators last year—but the competition is fierce, the politics are daunting and getting established takes a lot of hard work.
Nobody promised you fame and fortune when you got out of cartooning school, but you should have some path forward that doesn’t involve only three publishers or sleeping three hours a night.We need more options, more competition among publishers, and more safety for creators to make decisions that improve their page rates.
More on that later but in the meantime, what do YOU think?
By: Heidi MacDonald
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A page of Brian Churilla’s art for Big Trouble in Little China #10.
Being in comics is great, it’s a golden era, new readers, yadda yadda. But this golden era is mostly the product of people slaving away at drawing boards and computers for long hours and a meagre living. And now here are some numbers to prove it. David Harper, formerly of Multiversity, has just launched his own site, called Sktchd and he’s continuing the valuable longform pieces that were the best part of the old site. Recently he sent out a survey for artists to explain who they are and what they do and 186 of them responded. You’ll want to read the whole thing as it has some metrics on gender, income, publishers and much more. (David lives in Alaska and they have free time there, I guess.) Broken down with a ton of charts and graphs it’s a non-statistically valid snapshot, but the numbers are sobering. Let’s just get to the bottom line here., since that’s what you came for.
Forget getting rich though. Can artists even make enough to get by off their art? Mostly, the answer is no, they can’t. Almost 60 percent of artists who responded shared they can’t make a living off their work. What that means is many artists live interesting double lives. While many mentioned that they did freelance illustration, animation, advertising work, storyboards or other art related jobs to supplement their income, there were others who worked in factories, as bartenders, or even in one special case, lived off earnings as a figure drawing model and a tarot card reader.
Others bring in income from alternative sources, including working in a shared income household with a spouse and leveraging Patreon and other crowd-sourcing outfits to help them get by. Artists may not be making the big bucks, but they are a resilient and resourceful group.
There’s much more to chew on, including satisfaction with publishers, with DC?Vertigo getting high marks and Boom and Dynamite getting low marks, formats, art methods and so much more. Like I said read the whole thing, quote it, make it a part of your life.
In a subsequent post, Harper goes even further into the maw of the cyclone and breaks things down by gender. And it looks bad.
While this seems to make the case that cis men are generally paid more for comics than non cis males, Harper points out that more women, trans and non-binary creators just started their careers, and more work outside the relatively lucrative field of monthly floppies:
When you take the data for the comics creators work on and cross-reference it with the variables based around money, that’s when you see an additional correlation. More than half of floppy artists make enough money for that to be their only job. It’s the only format where that is the case, with over 80 percent of webcomic creators being unable to make a living off their work. Additionally, the majority of graphic novel and webcomic artists who responded make less than $12,000 a year off their work, and as a whole make less money than those who work on floppy comics.
As shown above, while men work more frequently in floppies, women, trans*, non-binary and agender artists most often work in graphic novels and webcomics, per the survey. Because of that additional correlation, the question becomes a chicken and the egg one: were the non cis male artists who responded more poorly compensated because of their gender or because of the format they work in?
Or perhaps because most floppy decision makers are cis males?
Lest ye despair at all this, it’s worth pointing out that the fast growing field of kids and YA graphic novels is dominated by women—and there are a few trans creators doing well there too. This is far from being a universal money spout, but it’s an alternative.
I’ve written here a few times about how page rates in comics have not gone up except for the tippity top guys, and a few other recent posts have driven that home. Janelle Asselin recently pointed out that today’s page rates are about where they were in a 1978 creators bill of rights. Thats unadjusted for inflation.
Adjusted for inflation, those rates today would be:
It’s not an overstatement to say that these rates, adjusted for inflation, dwarf most creators’ rates today. There are maybe a few very, very top level creators who make similar or higher rates, but primarily only writers and artists working at top-tier publishers. In fact, there are a lot of creators in comics today who don’t even make as much as the 1978 rates quoted without adjusting for inflation. And there are a lot of creators in comics who can’t afford to make comics full time because they don’t make enough doing so.
At Special Edition a few days ago, Alex De Campi put together some numbers on page rates:
These rates are, shockingly, about where they were when I edited comics 15 years ago. The 1978 document called for a lettering rate of $40 a page, so there one thing that has become significantly devalued with time.
Finally, here’s another much linked to piece, from artist Brian Churilla, creator of Hellbreak and The Secret History of DB Cooper and currently Boom’s Big Trouble in Little China comic. Sounds like a guy who works steadily and makes a living at it, right? Not so fast. Basically Churilla backs up Harpers stats on living well below a “middle class” level, as if that even existed any more. Even more dismal is his time breakdown:
So. Here’s the schedule I keep:
7:00am – Wake up, feed the kids and get them ready for school.
8:30 – Take the kids to school
9:00-9:30am – Start work
12:30pm Pick up kid #1
3:30pm: Pick up kid #2
4:00-9:00pm – Family time.
Yep. That’s four hours of sleep per day, best-case scenario. Weekends too. Due to the sleep deprivation, I feel like absolute garbage all the time. Depression, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, weight gain, compromised cognitive abilities, even hallucinations – I suffer from all of these.
40% of the artists in Harper’s survey report not even taking a day off a week. Not quite as awful as that manga-ka schedule we posted a few years ago where the poor guy had a total of three hours free time a week. But not that much better.
What does this all mean? I’m writing this on my own five-hours-of-sleep-a-night schedule, so I’m probably too brain befogged to figure it out. Clearly a lot of the success of some publishers is predicated on paying low rates; we all know that even if we don’t like saying it aloud. And younger creators seem willing to takes these rates in hopes of graduating to the comics 6% that makes a wage that allows for things like insurance, vacations and saving for retirement. I know that the happy face of the convention or small press show often masks a fraught life of financial stress.
Some of this is tied up in the increasing feudalism of society, with the few at the top becoming patrons for the peons slaving away at their Manga Studio or the local Wal-Mart. It’s harder to make a living at ANYTHING creative now. But comics have a low level economy to begin with.
I think a lot of people are going to drop out over the next few years, if you define dropping out as not trying to make a living at comics, while maybe making the occasional tumblr post. As comics become an accepted outlet of individual self-expression, it’s a lot like being in a band. You do it for a while while you’re young, but eventually you quit to concentrate on the kids and the mortgage. And that’s okay, because it’s the game of life.
But in the larger picture, an industry where an artist makes 33% of what the living wage was 37 years ago, maybe isn’t the healthiest place to be. And that’s something we all need to do something about.
The new trailer for The Peanuts Movie has arrived, and it’s a 2015 release that hasn’t gotten a lot of notice, but based on what we see below, this might be an animated year-end surprise (though I’m not sure “Baba O’Riley” was the best music choice here).
Commemorating the 65th anniversary of Charles M. Schulz‘ seminal creation, here’s the synopsis for the new outing for Charlie Brown, Snoopy and company:
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved “Peanuts” gang make their big-screen debut, like they’ve never been seen before, in state of the art 3D animation. Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle – and flying ace – embarks upon his greatest mission as he takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis The Red Baron, while his best pal, Charlie Brown, begins his own epic quest. From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.
The Peanuts Movie hits theaters on November 6, 2015.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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It’s been a good couple of weeks for Noelle Stevenson.
Just two weeks after the announcement that her collaborative Boom! Studios comic Lumberjanes was getting a live-action adaptation, now comes word that her Eisner winning solo venture, Nimona, is going to be an animated feature.
In a report from THR, FOX Animation has picked up the rights for the graphic novel which is set in a Medieval future, where a young shape-shifter teams with a disgraced knight to overthrow the corrupt regime of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. Nimona was a webcomic that Stevenson began in 2012 while she was still a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, it was released as a graphic novel this past May by HarperCollins.
Marc Haimes will pen the script, while the project will be directed by Patrick Osborne, who directed the Oscar winning Disney short, Feast, an utterly fabulous bit of whimsy that means Stevenson’s beloved creation should be i great hands.
Congrats Noelle! Talk about well-deserved success for one of the industry’s continually rising talents!
By Melanie Burke
Images courtesy of Ed Luce
In anticipation of the launch of his first project in comics, Wuvable Oaf, The Beat took a minute to talk with Ed Luce about making the switch from fine art, wrestlers as superheroes and the importance of diverse narratives.
Melanie Burke: Wuvable Oaf is your first comic project, but you’re an established artist already with international shows. What made you decide to get into comics versus continuing to do fine art?
Ed Luce: Well, it was an entirely practical thing on my part, but also influenced by moving to San Francisco. San Francisco [is] a great comics town. The practical side was I moved into a small studio apartment. I couldn’t do the giant paintings I was doing or the larger painting series I used to do a lot of. My bedroom suddenly became a small tiny closet without the studio.Comics are something that don’t need a lot of materials or a lot of room so when I was reduced to a table top I kind of shifted to that. I started to work in an art store and a lot of comic artists would come in. Half a block from my house is Isotope Comics Lounge which was a huge influence on me early on, definitely, which sort of precipitated the shift.My paintings were already really cartoony to begin with, especially the last couple series, so it just felt like a natural move but as the story goes I was asked to contribute some designs for a paper-doll themed show at the Trunk Space, which is a gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, and one of the designs I created just kind out of the blue was this character called Wuvable Oaf.
Burke: Part of the blurb about Wuvable Oaf includes this idea that it’s an ex-wrestler meeting Sex and the City.
Luce: Yeah, that may seem awkward at first glance but that was written by Jacq Cohen, the PR person for Fantagraphics. She is a devout fan. She has a real close read of things, she has her own perspective on it. Some people may hedge at the Sex and the City comparison–I’ve never actually watched that show–but for her to see something like that in it, I appreciate the comparison because then you drop the wrestler into that reference and it gets blown apart. We didn’t even talk about the wrestling thing, which is my version of superheroes. I’m a lifelong wrestling fan and I feel like in some ways they are the superheroes of the real world, or, you know, the reality world, maybe not real world. I was interested in imprinting the wrestling influence on the comic because that’s something that I’ve watched since I was a kid.
Burke: What was it like having to add in the writing component? Did you have any prior experience?
Luce: I didn’t and that was definitely an intimidating part. I kind of made my own [comics] that will never see the light of day when I was 13 or 14, a type of superhero comic, but again it just never occurred to me to do any kind of writing. I was very much focused on studio practice. When I did finally come to the table to make a comic the drawing part came naturally but actually having to kind of weave together a story line was a bit of a challenge. And I think that you can see [that weaving] in the Fantagraphics book. I kind of weave together several sub plots. I didn’t want to write the same character doing the same thing over and over again. I ended up working in a large cast of secondary characters…One of the things that’s been exciting and a little intimidating for me with this book coming out, these are my first real comics and I didn’t think anybody would see them. I’m interested and I’m very attuned to the feedback and the response I’m getting from the writing so far.
Burke: Are you surprised at all by the popularity of the narratives that you’re putting out?
Luce: At a very basic level, definitely. When I compose the story and wrote the story I really thought it’s a valentine to sort of San Francisco’s Bear, Gay community definitely and I thought “Well, I’ll try and make it open for other people,” having had this experience making fine art exclusively for one audience. But I never dreamed that it would kind of expand at least to the level that Fantagraphics would want to put it out. And I think that is a testament to trying to keep it open ended, not compromising the queer themes but trying to write them and approach them in a way that’s a little bit more universal and not explicit.To have people pick it up and be able to relate to and adopt this character that, I think, is very queer, his perspective is very queer, it’s really, it’s heartening to me. I think, too, the body type. I hate to bring up this term because it’s already been brought up and beaten to death, the whole “dad-bod” thing. I think straight guys embracing this different body type and not feeling the pressure to necessarily conform to Hollywood standards of what masculinity is is a good thing. I think that’s an important thing, I think it’s an empowering thing and I think the response that I’ve been getting outside of the gay community from straight guys is based on that, but also based on some of the music themes. And then women are into all of it which has been really exciting for me to see.
Burke: You’re about to, essentially, tour internationally with Wuvable Oaf. What are you most looking forward to?
Luce: I’m interested to see people’s response to it. It’s interesting to have it all together in one volume. People have been waiting off in the wings, maybe kind of familiar with the character, maybe having picked up an issue or two, but this is the really comprehensive and it’s everything. Even the hard to find stuff, the stuff I’ve let go out of print. I’m interested in seeing how that expands the audience because there are stories in there that are specific to the music world, specific to cat lovers,some of the raunchier material is collected in the back of the book as well, so I’m just curious and excited to see who’s gonna come from out of the woodwork.
Burke: What one thing do you hope readers take away from the book? Is there one overall message that you had?
Luce: Yeah, it’s not the most issues oriented comic, let me put it that way. I think sometimes when people think of queer comics there’s often an issue in it that is important and is speaking not just to the gay community, the queer community, or the LGBT community, but to our standing within the broader culture. Especially within the last tempestuous years of equal rights and the politics surrounding marriage equality. My book just has this perspective of “Well, hurry up and catch up with me already.” It’s not what I call, necessarily, a flag waving comic, which, I think, are really important. I think they’re especially important for young people. They need the comic that has the big coming out moment and the big “This is who I am” identity based storyline. Mine is sort of like “Okay, well what happens next?” And for me the recurring theme that I think gets brought up and, I touched upon this earlier, is body issues. I think body issues are something that doesn’t get talked about a lot, especially in the gay male community. There is a lot of body fascism out there—this pressure to look a certain way and act a certain way. And this comic is really just about embracing yourself and kind of taking a look in the mirror, loving yourself, loving what you see, owning it and going with it.
Wuvable Oaf will be published by Fantagraphics on June 7th.
Yesterday, the tumblr of incredibly talented cartoonist Sam Hiti presented a post called Rest in Pages Sam Hiti which suggested that he had passed away. Immediately social media flooded with reports that he was in fact alive and podcaster Charlie La Greca was on the phone with him.
Hiti is, in fact, still alive, but as the post may indicate, not going through the best of times. and has perhaps decided to put his comics career aside…for keeps.
David Zissuo has a much linked to post asking for compassion at this time. It seems Hiti has undergone a bunch of setbacks, including ill health following an accident, and perhaps for a moment ot two it all seemed too much.
Comics is a cancerous profession.
An overwhelming amount of people struggle with comics and it spreads them really fucking thin. A lot of people will come off jaded, ignorant, or morose, if not completely alone. It shows. It’s contagious. Its demand and time consumption won’t flow when the effects of production on personal lives destroy motivation and productivity. Especially when publishers try to get you to work at wholesale prices without the benefits you need to keep yourself healthy, support a family, and insure that if something happens to you, you have something there for you and your family to fall back on.
I don’t want to be pessimistic or “realistic” about comics. Comics at its best is one of the most nurturing communities I’ve known. But, as a career, judging from the people I know who struggle from depression and have expressed suicidal thoughts, it has the ability to have the creator running breathless with hooks digging deep into their backs.
I don’t know that comics is any worse as a creative profession than writing or art in general….but I DO know that the rewards are generally smaller. I don’t know if its possible to run a financial analysis of various creative professions but I can guarantee that even the highest highs of comics don’t come close to the highs of writing, fine art, music, acting and so on. There are several cartoonists who make very comfortable livings from comics, don’t get me wrong, but no one is buying an island…at least they haven’t since the early Image days.
Anyway, I don’t know Hiti’s specific situation but it seems similar enough to others to at least guess that maybe buying something from his store would be a help even if to just clear away memories of something he wants to move past.
Hiti is also enormously, talented, did I mention that? I wish him the best in moving through whatever it is he’s experiencing and finding joy in his life again.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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During this year’s C2E2, Comics Beat was #blessed to be able to sit down for a quick roundtable interview with Brad Neely, Daniel Weidenfeld, and Dave Newberg – the driving force behind Adult Swim’s hit show China, IL. What happened next was mostly laughing, carefully edited to read like a real conversation.
CB: Okay so China, IL! What can we expect from the rest of the third season?
Weidenfeld: Well, we have an episode coming up where the mayor bans eating anchovies on pizza in town – you can only eat pepperoni. It sort of becomes our take on the idea of a “gay gene.” We’re showing that now because of everything going on in Indiana. The pizza laws.
Neely: And at the end of the season we have an hour-long musical, kind of in the style of a Disney musical like Lion King, with thirteen original songs by me. We’ve got Cat Power singing, Rosa Salazar, Evan Peters, so we’re real excited about that. Otherwise we’ve got three or four other episodes in there.
CB: You’ve got an extensive cast of voice talent this season. How hard was it to round up all these people? There’s Hulk Hogan, Danny Trejo, Christian Slater, etc. Did you have to come to these people, or did they seek you out?
Neely: Yeah, no one comes to us, haha. We have to go to them. We just aren’t shy about asking, all they can do is say no. There’s an equally long list of people that we have asked that were either busy or thought we were disgusting. We’re very lucky to have these folks.
Weidenfeld: Yeah, Christian Slater has a monologue, and he just kills it, it’s so funny. He was so great, and such a pro, just amazing to record. We did it over the phone in like 15 minutes – it was perfect. And Danny Trejo was the same. We’re just really lucky to have all these talents that bring their own voices and their own style of comedy to keep it varied.
Neely: We have Donald Glover this season, which has been great. We like to think that he came over from Community and moved on to regular college. Stayed in school.
CB: What was it like to get Hulk Hogan onboard as the Dean?
Weidenfeld: Once we got Hulk Hogan, we re-wrote everything because we knew we now had America’s dad as the Dean. The father of masculinity. So everything changed for the better, for us. He’s very fun.
Neely: He recorded for an hour, how many 5-Hour Energy’s did he drink?
Weidenfeld: He brought three and slammed them all. But when you think about how big he is, the ratio kind of works out. He’s something else.
CB: I know in previous seasons the show is sort of done piece by piece and brought together at the end. Are you approaching the production differently this season?
Neely: Well, there’s a plan always. But you know, you have to stay on your toes to adapt to whatever is the funniest or working the most. We bring in every actor individually, we don’t record in an ensemble – to facilitate greater dexterity in editing. But we encourage the actors to read the lines in their own words, and improvise after we get what’s on the page.
Weidenfeld: Brad writes every episode, so we tend to write them a little long, so it’d be really hard to bring everyone into a room and have them all feeding off that energy. It’d be a lot harder to cut as a result. And with Brad doing three of the main voices on the show, we always have the luxury of re-recording. It’s incredible to have that flexibility, especially on an animated show. If we have to cut something, we can salvage lines that are important for story.
Neely: Yeah, we fix things by changing my characters’ stuff, because we don’t want to have to call somebody back in, especially after they’ve done something that’s great, and we’ll work around that and re-work my lines.
CB: Are there limits placed upon you by the network? Do you find that you have more or less creative space either way?
Neely: Strangely – you wouldn’t suspect this of a network with the reputation Adult Swim has – but they insist on us making sense on a emotional and character level. The story has to have an appropriate escalation and resolution. They’re pros about holding us accountable to those standards. They’re very involved when it comes to that.
Weidenfeld: Sometimes they’ll have a very specific thought of something they wants us to do, and we’ll have a conversation about it. There’s a real back and forth respect. We always try to meet in the middle in some capacity.
Neely: It’s a healthy working relationship. They don’t hold back when they think something isn’t working, or could be more forceful.
Weidenfeld: We can say shit now five times per episode. Never a fuck though. They don’t give fucks. Or dicksucker… or cocksucker.
Neely: But we can have an extended pause in between those two words.
CB: So do these episodes start with a joke, or does the joke come together after?
Neely: Every episode starts differently. Some of them just come from a nugget of, “I want to talk about Listerine strips,” or, “Don’t you hate it when you have to order food from a counter?” Sometimes we start with, “Alright, we need to see Frank in this kind of situation.” So we try to keep it balanced where there’s half that come from big stupid ideas and half that come from real deal emotional necessity.
Weidenfeld: But the main thing that has to happen in any given episode, is there has to be one big visual funny that Brad sees.
China, IL airs Sundays at 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Adult Swim.
By Harper W. Harris
The first book in The Chronicles of Claudette, Giants Beware! was quite well received; in fact, it earned the creators several awards, including the Cybils Award for Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels. The book, and its new follow up, Dragons Beware!, follow the courageous and battle hungry Claudette, her brother and culinary prodigy Gaston, and Marie the princess with a penchant for negotiation in their medieval adventures. The first graphic novel in the series left readers hungry for more sword slinging action, clever humor, and fun character building, and the wait is finally over! With Dragons Beware! hitting shelves today, we figured this was a great time to sit down with the series creators Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre to discuss creating the sequel, their backgrounds in animation, and the future of Claudette and her pals.
You both have backgrounds in animated TV series and films…how did you come to writing and illustrating this comic series respectively?
RAFAEL: We’ve been friends for a very long time and we always wanted to collaborate on something. I’ve been on the art side of animation and Jorge on the writing side. I had these characters bouncing around in my head and in my sketchbook, and a rough outline of a story. I brought that to Jorge, and he developed it, and thus a graphic novel series and a great collaboration was born.
Have you been fans of comics since childhood, or was it something you only came to later?
RR: I’ve been a comics fan my whole life! Starting with Disney comics, moving on to Mexican wrestler comics, and finally superhero comics, particularly Kirby. I discovered Underground and Alternative comics in the early 80s and sort of left superheroes behind.
JORGE: I loved comics as a kid. I remember writing a letter to Dick Giordano (the editor of DC comics in the 1980s), in which I asked him if I needed to be able to draw to get into the comic book industry. He wrote me back: “No.”
What inspired the stories and characters in the first book, Giants Beware?
RR: I wanted to make kids comics that told a big story and were sort of cinematic in tone. Bone was a huge inspiration, of course.
JA: When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me Greek myths during the painfully long twenty hour Spring break drive from Ohio to Florida. I think some of that mythology seeps its way into the stories we tell.
Was it a challenge to figure out what the story for this second book should be?
RR/JA: Yes and no. We always knew – even when we were working on GIANTS BEWARE, that the second book (if we were ever lucky enough to get a second book, which thanks to First Second, we were!) was going to be about facing off against a dragon to get a powerful sword made by Claudette’s father, Augustine. And we knew the evil wizard part of the equation. But it was a big challenge for us to figure out how much wizard, how much dragon, and how much sword to have in the story.
Have you had plans for where these characters would go after writing Giants Beware!, or did the story in Dragons Beware! find its inspiration later?
RR/JA: We had a rough outline of like 5 or 6 books when we worked on the original pitch of the story, which became Giants Beware!. But as we finished GB, we fell in love with Claudette, Gaston, and Marie, and it just takes more time to develop characters you love. And we found out there were other things about this world, which we had created, that we wanted to explore. If we get to tell more of these stories, eventually, everything we had in mind will get out there.
One of the best things about the series, and Dragons Beware! especially, is its rich cast of unique characters. Which of the kids do you each find yourself most identifying with?
JA: I wish I could say I identified with brave Claudette. But I probably have some of the neurotic, perfectionist, worrier characteristics of Gaston mixed with the naive, curious optimism of Marie.
RR: Same here, Gaston. For more or less the same reasons. I’m definitively not impulsive, like Claudette.
How did the two of you come to work on this series together?
JA: We met in college at Ohio State University. We bonded in a video making class, in which a poorly written script of mine was selected to be directed by a more experienced student, Rafael. After that, we always wanted to work together again.
RR: Jorge’s one of my best and oldest friends: he was even in my wedding! It’s a real pleasure to be able to work with him on this series.
What was your writing process on Dragons Beware? Did it change from how you worked on Giants Beware?
JA: Rafael and I work on the story together, passing ideas, paragraphs, outlines back and forth and talking a lot until we’re happy with the story. That part did not change between books. But when I was writing the script for Giants Beware, I didn’t fully realize how quickly a page of script could expand into pages and pages of artwork. Rafael and I had to make a lot of tough cuts along the way just to keep the book from exploding into twice its final size. I was better at knowing the relationship between words and art when we did the second book (though, I’m still learning). The hard part was trying to give Claudette, Gaston, and Marie new character journeys. And we tried hard not to repeat ourselves.
Are the three main characters inspired by anyone in particular, in their personalities or designs?
RR: As far as the designs go, I wanted characters whose silhouettes were clear and quickly identifiable. Claudette has the big head and crazy, spiky hair, Gaston has the cue ball head with huge ears, and Marie has the triple hair bun and puffy skirt. Hopefully they’re successful designs that way.
What made you choose the heroes’ particular talents–negotiating for Marie and cooking for Gaston in particular?
JA: Rafael originally drew Gaston as a scaredy cat. And when we were working on first book, I think I was watching a lot of TOP CHEF and so we added that to his character because it seemed like fun and interesting. As for Marie, we both liked the idea of taking the princess archetype and giving it a fresh take.
What are the challenges of writing a family book?
JA/RR: We don’t see it any more or less challenging than writing for a different age group. We’re basically writing for each other. We’re trying to entertain and make each other laugh. The only limitation, if you can even call it that, is that we don’t have our characters curse and we go easy on the blood.
Jorge, how has your writing for children’s television informed your graphic novel writing?
JA: Writing for TV probably informs the structure of our books (which is related to your next question about pacing). We think of our stories in terms of Three Acts, and we like the story the to be in a certain place in a certain act. Overall, writing for me is all related – whether I’m writing for TV or graphic novels. It’s all about structure and characters.
The pacing in Dragons Beware has a very cinematic sense of editing; do you each take inspiration in style more from animation or comic books?
RR: I’ve been working as a storyboard artist for over twenty years, so it’s inevitable that my comic book work would reflect that. That being said, there’s only so much overlap between the two forms. You’re missing that element of time, obviously, but there are effective ways to control the pacing in comics.
JA: We’re both heavily influenced by films and filmmaking so the structure of our books probably resembles a three act film. In fact, when we were plotting the first book, I was reading a screenplay writing book called Save the Cat. Reading books about writing is an excellent way to avoid ever having to write. But I’ve learned to read those books with a grain of salt. I take what’s useful to me.
I hear there are rumblings of a third book in the Chronicles of Claudette series…what can you tell us about what’s coming for our heroes?
JA/RR: Yes! The script is done and Rafael is drawing like crazy. We can tell you that there are monsters in the third book. Funny, vile, awful, silly monsters. Better beware!
Dragons Beware!, published by First Second, hits stores near you today!
Photo by Abigail Huller, via Oakland Museum of California
Do you still work the same way you did 25 years ago, drawing by hand at a table?
Yes. I was just at an antiquarian book fair, and I picked up this catalog for a cartooning correspondence course from 1921. There was a photo of all the tools you need to use for cartooning in 1921, and it could be a photo of my drawing board: T-square, a watercolor brush, some ink, a pen, an eraser and a pencil. I do the coloring on a computer, but for the drawing I need to not have any screens around me at all.
Ben Sisario chats to the artist about Eightball
And also, more tantalizingly, Patience, which turns out to be a full on SF story that “Energized” the artist.
Your new book, “Patience,” is a time-travel story, a very common comic-book trope. How did you come to that theme?
At a certain point I realized that the time-travel story, as many times as it’s been done, is an archetype that can go off in any direction. I didn’t want it to be about science of time travel. It’s more about the psychological aspect of what that would mean. I feel like a lot of my work is about time travel in other ways, about memory and living multiple lives at the same time.
“Patience” is sort of about chasing after a relationship to make it perfect. That’s a poignant topic regardless of the sci-fi aspect.
It had a lot to it, which is why is why I made it as long as it is. One of the main rules I have for working is that as soon as it becomes boring I either get rid of what I have and start over, or go in a completely new direction. And I have to say this one was never boring. It was really energizing to work on from start to finish, even though it was five years.
Poster above is by Giselle Sarmiento.
SVA—the School of Visual Arts— holds a yearly mini comic-con for its senior class Fresh Meat.
SVA has been a hotbed of cartooning since it was founded back in 1947 by Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth and Silas H. Rhodes. Notable comics alums are literally too numerous to begin to mention, but range from Kyle Baker to Dash Shaw to Raina Telgemeier. And the next one may be at this show.
And here are the deets:
Fresh Meat is the School of Visual Arts’ annual in-house comics fair, where our talented artists exhibit and sell their own self-published works.
This event is free and open to the public.
WHEN: Friday, May 1st from 6:00PM-9:00PM
WHERE: SVA Student Center, 217 East 23rd Street
(Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
Organized by Cartoon Allies, a student-run organization at SVA, Fresh Meat has been the annual highlight of SVA cartoonists and illustrators for more than a decade, providing students with the opportunity to exhibit their self-published works and to transform the student lounge into a bustling marketplace of unique comics.
This event began in 2001 as the SVA Comics Festival, first organized by Raina Telgemeier, who was our ambitious student body president and is now a New York Times bestselling cartoonist (Smile, Drama). This first event featured such exhibitors as Dash Shaw (BodyWorld) and Tintin Pantoja (Who is AC?), and has since hosted other notable alumni such as Jess Fink (Chester 5000, We Can Fix It!), Liz Baillie (Freewheel), David McGuire (Gastrophobia), Edwin Huang (Skullkickers), Allison Strejlau (Regular Show), Laura Knetzger (Bug Boys), Gus Storms (EGOs), and Molly Ostertag (Strong Female Protagonist). Fresh Meat continues to be the premier event to meet the rising talent in the next generation of cartoonists.
The Beat has been reporting over the last few weeks on Ty Templeton’s severe heart attack and I’m pleased to report that he’s home and recovering. In Templeton fashion, he made a comic out of it, but he also revealed the severity of his health issues—he was brought back to life three times and wasn’t expected to survive.
My wife updated the internet about what was going on, so folks knew what was happening, but she kept how bad it was a secret so my kids didn’t know how the real details of it all until I was out of danger. It seems the staff didn’t expect me to survive more than a day or two, and I ended up earning the nickname “Miracle Man” from some of the doctors there when I woke up from the medially induced coma a little earlier than they saw coming. That’s kind of cool. My first professional inking job was in the back of a Miracleman comic from Eclipse, back in the day, so it seems only fitting.
Recovery is slower than I expected. I have to nap every time I climb a set of stairs, and drawing still isn’t back up to speed (hence the stolen panels in the above Bun Toon), but never fear, I’m getting better slowly, and expect to be putting pencil to paper in a week or so, just as soon as I can go more than an hour awake. There’s probably another Bun Toon or two in the whole experience (you people need to know what it’s like to be awake for an aortic stent operation, science is COOL!)
I’m going to close with this: For everyone who needs to think about changing their lifestyle, please use me as the poster boy, and don’t wait until your own wake up call. I’ll take the hit for everyone if they just learn my lesson. NO PROCESSED FOODS! Raw veggies, water and fruits, and no meat until after sundown, and it’s a long life for all of us. Oh, and walk around a bit, not just back and forth to the fridge.
While thankful for Templeton’s survival. it’s worth heeding his closing thoughts as well. As someone who makes her living sitting down for 12 hours a day I can tell you that is extremely unhealthy and I’m not alone. No sleep deadlines backed up by caffeine and nicotine and performance enhancing energy drinks are an industry norm. It’s a good idea to take care of yourself in some way. A couple of ideas:
I’d like to recommend this book, No Pain: Injury Prevention for Cartoonists by Kriota Wilberg which has important information on how to sit if you’ve got to do it. (And just a few minutes ago we reported on one well known cartoonist’s arm injury, so this is a real thing.)
Everyone wants to lsoe weight but there’s love handles and there’s a serious issue. For those who are thinking “I’ve tried and this is impossible” I’d like to point out this inspiring public post by Action Labs’ Jamal Igle who has instituted a lifestyle change that has yielded incredible results for him:
I’ve recently made some health changes myself, going from a diet that was high in sugar and carbs to cutting out bread and sweets about 95% of the time and reintroducing more weight resistance exercise into my life style. Finding the time for all this is hard, but my discovery was that feeling better makes me MORE productive as opposed to sitting and fretting and chugging more and more coffee as a hedge against time. I have a ways to go, but something is better than nothing.
Reporting on health issues for cartoonists is a once a week feature of this site and others. Some of it is chance, but some of it is preventable. Take a few moments to think about yourself and what changes you can make that are achievable to improve your health—if not for you, for the people you love. They’ll be glad you did and so will you.
The Pulitzers, awarded for excellence in journalism, were announced yesterday, and the winner for cartooning was Adam Zyglis of The Buffalo News. Finalists were Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher of the Baltimore Sun and Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins), of Daily Kos. (On her FB page Columbia U librarian Karen Green revealed she was one of the judges for the category.) You can see some more of Zyglis’s work here.
As usual, WaPo’s Michael Cavna was on the scene for the first interview:
“Hearing I’d won was surreal,” Zyglis tells The Post’s Comic Riffs this afternoon, shortly after receiving the news. “I was working in a corner of the newsroom, and suddenly, people started shouting and coming up and hugging me.”
Perhaps Zyglis, who’s in his 30s, pretty youthful for a Pulitzer winner, should not have been so surprised. In recent years he won the Berryman Award, was a finalist for a Reuben, was named the 2015 recipient of the Grambs Aronson Award for Cartooning With a Conscience and was a runner–up for the National Headliner Award. Given all that it would be more surreal if he HADN’T won.
It isn’t quite clear what happened from Canadian cartoonist Eric Orchard’s Twitter and FB stream—being beaten up will often leave a person confused—but it seems that he was assaulted by three police officers, and then hospitalized. Doubtless there is a lot more to the story, but it’s hard to imagine Orchard, creator of many beautiful illustrations and the graphic novel Maddy Kettle being a dangerous offender. His gn Bera the One Headed Troll (above) will be published by First Second next year. We wish him a complete recovery and that justice is served in some manner. The artist also has a Patreon campaign that is worthy of support.
After a four year hiatus, a new issue of Sammy Harkham’s acclaimed Crickets is coming at the end of April. You can pre order it at the What Things Do website. It’s billed as “Special all Blood of the Virgin issue! The mishegoss continues.”
Cricket’s #3 came out at the end of 2010 and Harkham won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for his 2012 collection Everything Together. He’s also known as the ground-breaking editor of the Kramer’s Ergot anthology. His keenly observed slice of life short stories—and editorial vision—have been a huge influence on the current generation of cartoonists, so a new issue is definitely a comics event.
Beloved comics figures Jen Vaughn is leaving her marketing position at Fantagraphics, and Tom Spurgeon has her exit inerview:
VAUGHN: The plan was to stay in comics. Period. I’ve worked with comics and graphics novels at almost every level: handselling Y: the Last Man and Jeffrey Brown at a bookstore (Bookstop in Austin), comic book library, teaching comics to people from age seven to seventy, teaching teachers how to integrate comics in their curriculum, interned a company (Top Shelf), gone to comic book school, drawn — and printed — my own comics, wrote for a comics news site (The Beat), had a webcomic for a year and half, organized a small comic con, hosted indie comics — ye old Nerdlingers — worked at a comics non-profit, worked at a comics publisher. Basically, the only things left for me are to work at a printer in Asia and be a full-time freelancer. And maybe become a font…
Vaughn is a popular industry figure for all the above as well as her very funny and charming comics—which she hasn’t had as much time to work on as she’d like, hence the going freelance. Future projects include:
VAUGHN: Probably working in the aforementioned studio with Gaudiano, Moritat, and Thies. I’m inking two mainstream books and that news will be out soon. They are rad as hell and I’m working with great creative teams, I adore the pencillers especially. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@thejenya) can hazard a guess. Meanwhile, Ryan K. Lindsay is writing a one-shot comic for me about power struggles, teens and more; can’t wait to sink my teeth in his script. Kevin Church promised me a space epic. My own ideas have been bubbling up for a bit so I may throw a thing or two out in the world.
Oh oh oh… also, I have the pleasure of working on a menstruation comic with the Menstrupedia people, who helped raise awareness and break the taboo about speaking about menstruation in India. Rajat Mittal hired me and I got to pick my creative team so Fanta editor Kristy Valenti is helping with rewrites and Fanta designer Keeli McCarthy is helping with some coloring/lettering and design. I’m all about getting paid and passing on some work to other people. And some my first mini-comics were menstruation-related. It is basically the perfect convergence of projects to start out with. My email is email@example.com if someone is dying to have me do something. My dance card is a bit full now but I have a list of people I want to collaborate with.
Vaughn was a huge addition to Fantagraphics, especially teamed with her publicity partner Jacq Cohen
, overseeing Fanta’s successful kickstarter campaign and helping in innumerable other ways to negotiate the very changed world of comics retail and marketing. It’s a big loss for them, but Vaughn has trained her replacement interns in her mystical way of the stick. Although we’re saddened not to be working with her in that business capacity, the sorrow is mitigated by having more Jen Vaughn comics in the world! YAY!
April Fools? Or totally cools?
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Today is a day to send shout-outs to the Center for Cartoon Studies, located in White River Junction, VT and recognize it’s many good deeds. While my shout out should be a loving essay on how teaching comics has had a strong effect on storytelling and how the bucolic yet isolated campus in rural Vermont allows students to focus in on making comics, or the print room or the other great things about the faculty which includes James Sturm and Steve Bissette, I don’t have time for that.
Instead I will just direct you to Rob Clough’s series looking at the WORK of CCS grads (which he didn’t tag with CCS, shame shame shame), and spotlight a few of them:
• Chuck Forsman, now putting out an exciting new action focused comics series, THE REVENGER:
• Melissa Mendes, who is serializing a great comic called The Weight.
• Colleen Frakes, creator of Island Brat and much more, including StevenUniverse fan art.
• Melanie Gilman creator of the Eisner nominated webcomic As The Crow Flies
• Sean Ford creator of Only Skin and Shadow Hills.
• Eleri Mai Harris whose non fiction comics grace The Nib on numerous occasions.
• Alexis Frederick-Frost artist on the Adventures in Cartooning series.
• Sophie Goldstein, whose The Oven is coming out later this month and is amazing.
……and dozens more. I have to leave the office now or I would spend hours more looking at the great great yards from this school. Someone smarter than me needs to look at how the precepts taught at CCS have changed cartooning, and how Sturms ideas about applied cartooning are changing the business. But for today…just a shout out.
There are a lot of comics events going on around town tonight but here’s a pretty cool one, especially if you’d also like to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Dutch cartoonist Barbara Stok will speak on her work and her recent portrait of of Vincent van Gogh’s brief and intense period of creativity during his time in the south of France.
The event is free with a museum admission, but you need to RSVP in the link. The museum is also open until 9 pm.
Stok is known for her candid autobiographical comic strips. In 2009 she won the Stripschapprijs, one of the most prestigious comic awards in the Netherlands, for her entire oeuvre. In addition to her work for newspapers and magazines, she has created nine books. Her book Vincent, a joint initiative by the Van Gogh Museum, the Mondriaan Fund, and Nijgh & Van Ditmar publishers, is the first in SelfMadeHero’s Art Masters series and has been published around the world.
Vincent will be available for purchase in the Uris Center Met Store. Stok will be signing books after the presentation.
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Cartoonist Ty Templeton—generally considered one of the funniest people of his generation—is in stable but critical condition after suffering a heart attack wife, KT Smith reported on Facebook. Templeton, 52, suffered the attack yesterday but in an update today she reports he’s in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator, but expected to be taken off of it tomorrow.
On his blog, Templeton, like many, had been talking about going to a convention, but also complaining about stomach pains:
Oy, what a weekend. I’m supposed to be at a convention in Kitchener, Ontario, but I’ve been having my tummy problems again. (Long time readers don’t need tickets to a new Stones Tour, but you get the picture).
I worked with Ty quite a bit during my editing days and the short version is…he’s such a great guy and so talented. His Bun Toons comic strips are biting and hilarious takes on comics history and controversy, like this one on complaints over Marvel continuity
Templeton’s work includes his debut classic Stig’s Inferno, and tons of comics for DC, Marvel and Bongo, including an award winning run on The Batman Adventures.
Get well letters can be sent to Templeton here.