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You can read my official SPC report at PW, with news and notes, but I’m guessing that everyone who was at SPX is probably, like me, realizing that the magic is over and we have a whole year to go, or maybe a few weeks if you count APE, but in the meantime, I can keep the magic going a few moments more by rounding up some of the magical, mystical memories of SPX. I said there were a few people who didn’t have a good time, and you can find one of two on Tumblr who sat outside hotel rooms sadly waiting for the person with the key to come back. But if you could open your heart, SPX would make you love it. As the above picture shows, SPX is the only con where you can find Julia Wertz and Renee French just sitting and smiling with each other. It’s also the only place where someone would leave their computer just sitting out on a table (as one prominent comics personage di don Friday)and feel pretty secure that it would be just fine. There is a reason why people puts up so many pics and blog so much about this show—it’s a full on love affair.
SDCC was fun but kind of discouraging, and presents an image of what is now, I guess, the Entire entertainment industry in a bluntly capitalistic way: the most space is given to the companies with the most money for it, and the events and products are talked about according to a similar hierarchy. I don’t like it but it makes its own kind of sense and it’s how things are: work that makes money has more mobility in the culture, and barring any strongly-principled management at events like this, the amount of money the work makes will be the thing that decides its place. I try really hard to not get pessimistic about this. And of course popular things can be quality things! I like a lot of popular things. But the connection between popularity and your or my specific notion of quality is tenuous.
I leave SDCC and shows like it having spent huge amounts of money the exhibit there and feeling like what I’m doing is insignificant and untenable. I want to emphasize that this is an issue I have with the philosophy of the show, not with the attendees. I have met some very excellent people who attend SDCC every year.
I came out of SPX this year extremely excited about the huge volume of beautiful and idiosyncratic work being produced by artists working outside of entrenched & monied institutions. It’ll never be the same amount of room as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or whatever, but there is room in the culture for this stuff, in terms of attention and money and enthusiasm. It’s hugely inspiring to me to see so many people making work independently or with publishers they know personally and believe in, and seeing that a lot of that work is sustainable for them, and seeing that a lot of it takes full advantage of its independence by being brutally honest, or strange, or socially conscious.
§ Loser City’s David Fairbanks, an occasional Beat contributor, made his first journey and was swept off his feet:
The next two days were a blur of comics with SPromX right in the middle, and I can honestly say I have never been in an environment that was so pro-comics. Whether you had been making minicomics as long as folks like John Porcellino and James Kochalka, you were a cartoonist fresh out of (or still in) school, or you had never once put pencil to paper to craft a comic, you were among peers. I think I speak for most of the attendees when I say that the environment at SPX felt like home, despite knowing virtually no one there before my plane landed. Over the course of the first twenty-four hours, I made fast friends with artists and fans, and I get the feeling these are friendships that are going to last. From the (sometimes exhausted) smiles I caught on the faces of nearly everyone there, I would imagine I was not alone in my joy, and I think a great deal of it stemmed from the communal feeling of SPX.
This year’s theme was a celebration of the alt-weekly cartoons, from Jules Feiffer to the end, which I believe was reached sometime last week. It’s something that is long overdue. The peak of the genre, from 1985 to 2000, produced, in my opinion, the finest, most original comix of the time. Discounting hacks like me, of course. We were always kind of the bastard stepchildren of both the mainstream comic strip community and the indy comix community. I always felt like an outsider to both. Now I’m a B-minus Indy Comix Star, so those days are behind me, as are comic strips, but it’s nice to see the genre get it’s due.
§ Jane Irwin, like many, had a stellar show sales wise: This year I had the best SPX I’ve ever had — but for some reason I neglected to take any photos other than the sad, blurry one at the top of this post (the lettered balloons were to identify the blocks of tables — I was in the “L” block). It may have been because I was just so busy at my table — the crowds were incredibly heavy and were extremely generous — I heard some folks could barely stop selling long enough to go to the bathroom, and several people sold out of books entirely on the first day, including C. Spike Trotman and my next-door neighbor, Pregnant Butch author A.K. Summers. I sold out of Clockwork Game mid-day on Sunday, but I was able to take orders for a few more copies (they went out this afternoon, and should arrive soon!) and I know I could’ve sold a dozen more, if I’d only had them on hand.
§ Roger Langridge didn’t even break even and he still had a great time:
I attended SPX this past weekend. As usual, I had an excellent time. Despite it not being a successful trip from a financial point of view (although I covered my biggest expense, I’m still somewhat out of pocket at the end of it) I’m really glad I went. I find I need SPX in my life every so often as a kind of course corrective; a reminder of the kind of comics I ought to be doing.
I have a really strong attachment to this show. SPX was the first show I ever attended in the USA, back in 2000. I was just there as a visitor, not even as an exhibitor; it was the year Will Eisner was there, I remember. I bought minicomics from Craig Thompson. I met Dean Haspiel for the first time, who went out of his way to make me feel like a part of the community, which I will always be grateful for. Attending that show energised me to turn my Fred the Clown webcomic into a self-published comic book, which in turn has led to every opportunity I’ve had in comics since then. Without SPX, it’s probably fair to say that my subsequent career wouldn’t have happened.
So I keep coming back. Not every year, but I try to do at least every other year. And each time, I feel like it’s a timely reminder that these are the kinds of comics I ought to be doing: comics straight from the cartoonist’s brain to the reader’s hands, without compromises.
I came into the fandom a bit late, but it’s such a welcoming and vibrant community that I never felt out of place. After weeks of awful news coming from gamer culture, it was such a positive experience at SPX seeing diverse creators and fans in a niche community all supporting each other. It can happen, people! I’ve seen it! But I really recommend SPX to tabletop game designers because it is an excellent place to network with lots of undiscovered and rising talent. You can check out the artists I talked to at SPX on my pinterest board here. Specifically for “SPX 2014″ tag in the description. Also check out the SPX Tumblr and Twitter feeds for more cool arts.
As usual, half of the reason for the glory of SPX is due to the Bethesda Marriott Hotel, whose comfy confines are given over completely to the endless array of misfits that we call a comics industry. It’s more than just a con venue — it’s the eye of the storm, for one brief weekend this one building is the center of the comics universe. You exhibit there, you drink there, you draw there, you sleep there. (You eat elsewhere and abruptly realize there’s such a thing as outside.) By the end of the weekend it feels like home. I’m not sure Jesse Reklaw ever put on a pair of shoes. To the maids and bellhops it must be kind of like going to the zoo, if the animals were all inside of your house. Their hospitality was stunning, and can in no way be attributed to the eight bazillion dollars they generated in overpriced drink sales.
And visual representations:
OMG, someone on my flight back home is reading a copy of my book. Someone I don’t know!
And so on and so forth….I probably could have found a half dozen more similar tributes, but I’ll leave with just a few representative photos.
Am I the only person who caught the TV in the bar switching from football to vibrator infomercials on Friday?
Can you believe these people are all FIRST TIME SPXers? Okay Chris Butcher went before, but he hadn’t been to the “new” venue, which is really the only venue most people know. Amy Chu, Louie Chin, Murilo, Butcher and Brigid Alverson were all converts by the end of the weekend.
Fun and frolic at the SPromX. Looks like it will be back next year…and so will I.
At SPX, following the Ignatz awards, a very special wedding took place, as cartoonist Simon Hanselmann, author of Megahex, wed comics in a ceremony presided over by SPX Executive Director Michael Thomas. Michel DeForge, currently on tour with Hanselmann, stood in for comics, althuogh several acual comics were present. Hanselmann, who is a cross dresser, appeared in a lovely wedding gown, and a brass band serenaded the wedding party which consisted of Annie Koyama, Annie Mock, Jason Leivian, Sean T. Collins, Julia Gfrörer and Gary Groth.
When I first heard about this, I thought it was going to be funny but cringeworthy, but it turned out to be funny and memorable in a very performance arty way. Hansellman wrote vows that were amusing and accurate at the same time, and since everyone falls in love with comics all over again at SPX, making the union legal seemed a very appropriate thing to do.
As you’ll see, the big moment came when Hanselmann’s publisher Groth jumped up at the end to kiss the bride and kiss the two did. Which again, is usually what happens when you fall passionately in love with someone, or even comics. Brigid Alverson has some still photos and the money shot but you’ll have to go here to see that.
After the ceremony, Hanselmann cut a giant wedding cake, eventually tearing out chunks with his bare hands and giving them out as other attendees cavorted around the chocolate fountain and an equally enthusiastic and fun prom got under way a few meeting rooms down. People will be saying they were there for this for years to come. The social aspect of SPX has always been one of the biggest appeals of the show—I remember back in the day at the picnic people climbed trees and threw water balloons at each other. In a wacky way, this was the perfect update.
If there's one trend we've noticed growing over the years its the use of graphic novels as teaching tools—on the must basic level, comics are now recognized as a way to get reluctant readers to get started reading. On a larger level, comics are being used as a general teaching tool. Josh Elder'sReading with Pictures organization has been promoting this idea and cataloging the use of comics in the classroom. It's not just the visceral appeal of colorful pictures that puts comics over—some think that the verbal-visual blend is the future of literacy, and comics could potentially be on the forefront of that.
If you heaven't read David Mazzuchelli's amazing graphic novel Asterios Polyp, please avert your eyes NOW. The award winning GN and book of the year in 2009 was a sly comment on art through the life of a man named Asterios Polyp, who finds potential happiness in life just in time to [SPOILER ALERT] have it potentially snuffed out by having a meteor fall on his house.
Last year, Marvel received a letter from the mother of a young fan, Anthony Smith, who had hearing difficulties, and had been told by doctors that he would require a hearing aid. The mother was wondering if there were any heroes who had ever had hearing difficulties, who might serve as the inspiring spark for Anthony to accept the hearing device.
On getting the letter, editor Bill Rosemann not only pointed her to Hawkeye, who has in the past suffered from hearing problems, but also spread the letter to the Marvel offices.
And that’s what led Marvel to create a new character called The Blue Ear, who doesn’t let his hearing problems stop him from saving the day. Created with Marvel staffers Manny Mederos and Nelson Ribeiro, the character is based on Anthony himself. You can read Blue Ear’s origin story in my original post announcing the character,
Now, though! That’s not the end of The Blue Ear’s work with Marvel. Last month Marvel held a special event honouring him, as they partnered with Phonak, a hearing aid supplier. Anthony and his family were invited along, as Marvel unveiled a new poster which will be distributed nationally, in which we see Iron Man meet a young boy who is being bullier for having a hearing aid. Written by Christos Gage and drawn by Paco Medina, the poster encourages people to never feel like they should be ashamed of their disability:
The event also saw Iron Man attend in person – awfully nice of him to teleport over from the 616 Universe – and meet Anthony. After receiving a copy of the poster from Iron Man, the Avenger also then gave him a second gift – an Iron Man costume of his own.
Which, he immediately put on.
As I said last time – isn’t it now time for The Blue Ear to join The Avengers?
Okay this isn’t “The Comics Diversity Times” but, issues of diversity and identity seem to be the most pressing ones these days. And so to cleanse the palette, here’s a transcript of Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the 2014 National Book Festival this weekend. With American Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints and now The Shadow Hero, Yang has become one of the best selling and most important graphic novelists and he’s also one of those heroes I was alluding to earlier, standing up for people who don’t have as big a voice.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
Yang made a nice splash at erh National Book Fetsival and just to wrap that up, Raina Telgemeier, whose Sisters has just come out, also has a nice post and a photo of the standing room crowd for her talk:
So yeah, graphic novels did oooookay at the National Book Festival. Now on to Balitmore, SPX and the Brooklyn Book Festival!
Amid all the concern and conversation regarding the “nude 52”, we here at the Beat would like to remind our readers of a previous attempt to develop new comics readers by offering comics featuring strong, attractive, empowered female characters engaged in romantic pursuits with male protagonists.
A lack of proper distribution and fans angry at editors for altering storylines and characters were the two major reasons this franchise failed initially. However, it did convince others that there was a market for this type of comic, and within five years, had revolutionized the comics medium and marketplace, creating millions of fans.
Now, almost fifteen years later, this title is being revived, with the first volumes released this month in the shadow of the New 52. It is hoped it will catch lightning a second time, encouraging a new generation of readers and fans!
Best American Comics series editors Matt Madden and Jessica Abel have just posted the Notable Comics of 2011 list, those comics that did not make the contents of this year’s Alison Bechdel-edited book, but are still worthy of notice. The listing includes covers, links and more information:
Over the now-four volumes we’ve been involved with (we’ve just wrapped selections for the fifth, but they’re still top-secret), we’ve tried to shine a spotlight on this list. As most guest editors point out in their introductions, the selection process, when it gets down to which stories make the cutoff for the volume and which don’t, can be alarmingly arbitrary. Often, we and the guest editors would love to include 50 stories, but there just isn’t room. But when you combine the notable list with the stories in the volume, it might be a little more possible to talk about representing what’s we actually think is best in a given year. Also, when looking for good comics to read, why limit yourself? We’ve always hoped readers will delve a bit into the list to find more great stories once they finish reading BAC.
Although it represents releases mostly from 2010, this is definitely as catholic and wide-ranging a list of worthy, readable comics as you could find anywhere, from formalist experiments to a smattering of books published by Marvel and DC. Please take a look and poke around — you might just find something you like.
The industry has been asking itself some hard questions recently, and my tweets and email are full of people being depressed about things being so bad. As I always say, the comics industry can be horrid, but comics themselves are eternal. And you know what, when you get down to it the industry isn’t THAT bad either. There are some good eggs out there.
Re. people of the year, I’m just writing to agree totally with you on your ‘anonymous assistance’ part. Having discovered comics only in the last three years, I never cease to be amazed by the generosity and kindness of the people in comics in this country (the UK). In my own profession, industry leaders would not speak to me (and I’m in my 40s and near the top), but it is not like that in comics. I’ll single out some senior guys in comics here: Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegredo, Jock, Peter Milligan, Phil Winslade, Mick McMahon, Rufus Dayglo, Rob Davis, Glyn Dillon, Simon Gane, and others. Drawings, criticism, encouragement and advice and most recently an ‘Is there anything i can do to help?’ I still find this shocking and I’m very grateful for the colossal amount of time people have given me. They really didn’t need to do that. Even things like Marvel portfolio reviews- I know they are meant to be a talent search and all. I met Steve Wacker at the end of this last year in Leeds. It was patently obvious I wasn’t going to work for Marvel, but he still gave me his advice- completely generously and usefully- for free. When you come from an industry where nobody gives anything away, comics is a shocking and special place. Everyone I’ve met so far has been lovely, which is helpful when you are trying to be creative. We should be grateful for this- and I am.
You know, we’re not so bad.
We’ll close out this week with some nice art.
Another page of Sam and Lilah by Jim Dougan and Hyeondo Park, because he’s amazing and his work is beautiful. And comics, like I keep saying, are filled with some of the most awesome, talented people on earth.
More art byAndy Kettler, whose SPX poster we featured earlier.
A page of a textbook comic about the goddess Pele by
–The panelists of Mythic Fiction in Comics included Bill Willingham, Kurt Busiek, Chris Roberson, Matt Wagner, and Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin and they all agreed that superhero comics were a dying genre. They also all thought that it would be beneficial for everyone to allow the characters to lapse into public domain.
Much of the recent focus on Marvel has seen them as a corporate behemoth, crushing the innocent as they march across America in their golden boots. But a recent news story reported by the Huffington Post reminds that the people working for the company are still doing everything they can to support and entertain their fans, and help out wherever they can.
When 4-year old Anthony Smith, a young comic book fan with hearing impairment, was told by Doctors that he needed to wear a hearing aid, he refused. He didn’t want to feel like he stood out and was alone. So his mother, superheroic Christina D’Allesandro, sent an email to Marvel comics, asking if there were any examples of superheroes who also wore an aid - if she could find pictures showing her son that there was nothing unusual about wearing an aid, perhaps he’d change his mind about wearing one himself.
Not only did Marvel point her to a famous storyline where Hawkeye temporarily damaged his hearing (during his time with the West Coast Avengers, fact-fans); but editor Bill Rosemann decided to take Anthony as his inspiration to create a new superhero, called The Blue Ear.
Here’s a look at Blue Ear in action, as drawn by Nelson Ribeiro:
Bolstered by D’Allesandro’s email, a number of Marvel’s staff started to draw their own Blue Ear artwork, and sent it over to Anthony. And now he’s not only a superhero – but a superhero who hangs out with the Avengers, Anthony has now happily started wearing his hearing aid. After all, he’s got Hawkeye backing him up now, as drawn by Manny Mederos:
Now the only thing left is to bring him into Marvel continuity!
BY JEN VAUGHN – If you are one of the last souls who has yet to buy WANDER or DRACULA THE UNCONQUERED #2, allow me to convince you. Put away that latte money for I have something better for you to enjoy.
In WANDER, Writer Kevin Church, along with artist Grace Allison, follows about Olive Hopkins, your typical grad-school-esque malcontent who can tell her Master’s degree is only going to permanently cement her job behind the barista counter. Be it magic or some heavy, regrettable drinking, Olive wakes up in a land beyond, full of swords, sorcery and adroit companions such as an elf and Dwarf. Olive, it seems, can shift through dimensions but unholy havoc could this bring to both worlds? Church is oh-so clever and delivers at least two, wait THREE, hints disguised in the full Wander package.
The team of creators spin such a yarn that the $2 price is almost maddening. The clean, sharp linework and cool coloring of Grace Allison often nicely contrast the nasty and funny ideas of Church’s story, instead of playing along. Below, even though jonesing for a slice of ‘za, Olive attempts to be open to new experiences.
I’m a sucker for anyone who follows the add a dog for more cuteness rule.
Luwhil the Dwarf is probably the favorite character so far, being ugly, sweaty AND a drunkard who calls people on their bullshit, compared to the acerbic and reluctant Olive or beautiful Monet of an elf (looks great far, obsessive close up), Shalwyn. Future issues will hopefully play up all their flaws.
WANDER is part of the amazing Monkeybrain Comics line-up bringing the world unique and fun digital comics, which leads up to Chris Sims (of Comics Alliance) and his independently published digital comic, Dracula the Unconquered #2. Sims is even hosting a contest to win a ohh-laa-la print edition of Drac #1 (WANT!) if you buy a digital copy of #2 by FRIDAY.
The second issue of Dracula the Unconquered by Sims, drawn by Steve Downer and lettered by YES, the same Josh Krach. When we last met Dracula, he had just woken up all sorts of grump
Is no place safe from comics? Authors David Baldacci (Absolute Power) and Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) appeared on The Today Show to pick 10 holiday books and one of those Flynn picked was the graphic novel Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel. Flynn called it ”Steamboats, romance, and mythology, and a search for love universally – it’s really a haunting book.”
The Sailor Twain reference is at about 2:12 in the above video.
The Year of Graphic Novel Mainstream Promotion is definitely going out with a bang.
This year’s Small PRess Expo was so wonderful that we can’t stop reading about it! It the first time in a while that it wasn’t too cold or too hot but just right at an indie comics show we’ve attended and that made it special. PLUS., SVA and MICA and CCS and MCAD and SCAD have been turning out lots and lots of excellent new cartoonists and the established people are putting out great stuff and there is real excitement everywhere.
There are tons of ‘em including this video made by Steven Greenstreet…we selected a few because they were interesting or especially charming.
• The report of D&Q’s Tom Devlin is of course an epic journey into the history of culture. Here he captures just two of the HORDES of plaid-shirt wearing men at SPX. Seriously, apparently if you don’t wear a plaid shirt you don’t get a discount or something.
• Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch — we should throw in here that our traveling companions for the show, Brian, Jeff Newelt, Sean Pryor and Rick Parker, were great companions and helpers every step of the way. Also, having been up and down to the Baltimore/DC area twice in three weeks, we can safely state that the Delaware rest stop is definitely the best one.
• Comicsgirl — how have we managed to not meet Comicsgirl…or we did and forgot about it?
I’ve often said that it seems like a lot of people — exhibitors included — come to SPX primarily to hang out. And to me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (I am, more or less, becoming one of those people). It feels very relaxed and everyone’s approachable. Other than a tiny number of exceptions, everyone I’ve met at SPX — volunteers, attendees, exhibitors — have been incredible people who I feel honored to know.
Fiffe: OK, let’s see… He’s had some exemplary stories out there. Recently, too. “Browntown” does have panel after panel of heartbreak. I think the level of remorse and sympathy we may feel during this story, we may have felt in varying degrees in reading his other highlights. “Flies on the Ceiling” is one. “Everybody Loves Me, Baby” is another [Penny Century #7]. Those were my top 2. “Browntown” is just more complex, more involved, more ambitious, and structurally tighter. This is not to say that those previous works AREN’T, I’m just saying that Jaime’s just gotten better at it. Here’s an artist at the top of his form, telling some of the most mature and compelling stories in ANY medium… and the thing is, I could’ve said that 5 years ago, I could have said that 10 years ago. This new one is a masterpiece, and although I feel biased saying that because I like the Bros.’ work so much, I think it will hold up as a work of art forever. I hate to sound like I’m a soapbox or something, but this medium is tremendously lucky to have this kind of story in existence. It’s an example of not only “Pure” comics, but “Perfect” comics.
As The Beatrix, on vacation up country, deals with the new server and it’s delusion that it’s an electronic bulletin board from 1982, I am performing caretaker duties here at Stately Beat Manor.
So, some links…
Over at The Comics Journal, Tom Crippen posts two reprints of Gahan Wilson’s Nuts comic strip, which originally ran in the National Lampoon way back in the 1970s. Fantagraphics will publish a collection soon (SDCC 2011?), but if you can’t wait, there’s a previous collection available from 1979, and the DVD-ROM of the entire magazine is on sale at Amazon!
For comicologists, George Rohac, Jr., operations manager at Oni Press, publishes his Master’s thesis on webcomics and copyright. Here’s the abstract:
In recent years there has been a growing debate on the impact of copyright and copyleft on the creative industries. Both the merits and importance of each have been raised by academics, lawyers, industry professionals, and creative people alike, and the debate has reached a near stalemate as each side fights to provide hard data to prove other arguments invalid. The purpose of this study is to contribute hard data and encourage further in depth quantitative and qualitative study into the effects of these decisions on profits and popularity. To do this we have singled out one particular creative online market – webcomics. By surveying and interviewing creators from the field we will examine how these decisions affect notoriety and earnings.
(Thanks to Comicbook Resources.)
Over at Beat advertiser CO2 Comics, two items of note:
1) Comics Interview, Volume 1 is available to order in four different editions. (Variant covers, yes, but only in the logo and the binding.) I didn’t list this over on the Coming Attractions post, as they do not have ISBNs to link to. This first volume has 680 pages of the first fourteen issues. There’s a preview available, which includes the table of contents for each issue! I ordered the hardcover special edition, and it arrived rather quickly for a print-on-demand edition. Chock full of interviews of famous and/or forgotten individuals in the comics industry, starting way back in 1983!
2) Here’s a rare gem… advertising via comic book! In 1987, Jordan Marsh, an upscale department store in New England, commissioned Comico, Gerry Giovinco, and Mitch O’Connell to produce a comicbook catalog to appeal to fashion-conscious young adults. The comics are fun to read, the fashions are not as laughable as actual photographs, and O’Connell’s style is perfect for the project. The only shocker? The prices! $65 for a pair of Odessa jeans?!
Bored with seeing the same old cartoon characters and toys as balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Comics Alliance provides some suggestions for some more interesting balloons, designed by Anthony Clark, including a very inappropriate Garfield balloon.
It’s a tough time for creative people right now. The economy is still sputtering along. The internet is a great way to promote yourself, but it has also embedded the idea of “free entertainment” as a right, not a privilege, and it’s devalued skills we used to respect to the point where the content farm Demand Media can make $1.5 billion on its IPO
On the comics side, periodical sales are still falling, bookstores are in jeopardy and the web model has still paid off for only a comparative handful of people. If you’re a cartoonist, forget about getting a book deal unless you already have a bestseller out there — signing up new and promising graphic novelists to book deals was an Aughts thing.
Marvel and DC aren’t even comic book companies any more. They are IP companies. Creating new IP isn’t high on the list of things they are very good at these days. Publishing anything new is risky — that’s understood — but the publishing deals being offered now are taking a bigger and bigger piece of the pie. Surviving in every creative field is a matter of cobbling together jobs here and there, staying flexible.
No wonder, then, that creators are getting a little more vocal about the importance of creator-owned material. Eric Powell’scontroversial video
All I’m doing lately is attempting to call attention to creator-owned books. I think plain and simple, things are going to get even tougher out there and we have to find our place. Personally I believe there is severe lack of cooperation among creators. There’s a very dog-eat-dog mentality in comics sometimes and I think all we harm in the end is ourselves.
My simplistic solution right now is to support as many of my fellow creators as possible. We just don’t have access to publicity budgets, so simple grassroots networking can help us all a great deal.
proof of a simpler time when children read things, bananas were a vegetable and your real father dropped off a bottle of milk at your mom’s house every day. Well, recently on the LA TimesSouthern California Moments feature of reader-submitted photos, we came across what looks to be a contemporary example of the genre:
CAPTION: Two young boys, clearly aware that life exists beyond Gameboy, entertain themselves the old-fashioned way. Newstand at Beverly Blvd and Kings Road.
This classic subject has been updated with Crocs and soccer jerseys for modern kick — while the kid on the right might be reading an issue of Vogue, the one on the left looks to have a real comic book.
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In as unstable job market as we have today, three men have decided to give their art their full time attention, their all. Writer and artist of Let’s Be Friends Again!
, Curt Franklin and Chris Haley, respectively started their witty webcomic on the print comic world and what it means to really be friends in 2008. Eugene Ahn aka nerd rapper Adam WarRock quit his career as an attorney in 2010 in order to follow his heart and let his mouth fly. Today they announced the joining of their two ventures into LBFA!, Inc.
“I can’t tell you what this means to us, mainly because I’m not really sure,” said Franklin in a press release. “What concrete information I can provide is that Eugene, Chris and I are going to be working every day doing the things we love.”
, specifically the friendship, before they had planned the ‘merger’ if you will. But now, these three intrepid Tennessee natives men are all back in Memphis, the dusky town of their origins. I asked Euge how he though moving from Washington DC to Memphis would change his music: “Well, it will make me have a thicker Southern accent, my speech is already slowing down, but it won’t change my music much. By being around other people A) like comics and B) are creating, I’ll have responsive people to bounce ideas off of. It will mean more ideas and more songs, faster.”
We look forward to fruits of your full-time creative work, guys! If you have yet to read, Let’s Be Friends Again, have a good sit and start right here
. You should totally pop in some headphones and listen to some Adam WarRock while you’re at it. Yeeeeaaahh.
to pick the best Canadian novel of the decade, it was a great boost for the cause of comics as literature. However, when it was voted off first in the final just BECAUSE it’s a graphic novel, some of the old notions of anti-comics prejudice raised their heads. Yan Basque has an excellent write-up of the whole affair:
Essex County was the first graphic novel to make it all the way to the five finalists that are debated on the air each year. While this was a significant milestone and it gave it an edge in the competition, it was also ultimately its downfall. Every interview or discussion or critique of the book started with broad comments about the form, and what it means for a graphic novel to be part of the competition, whether it can even be considered a novel, let alone one that can be compared in terms of value or merit or impact or significance to more traditional literature. As a result, there was hardly any discussion of Jeff Lemire’s work and what is unique about it, because so much attention was spent talking about the form. The book being part of the competition became less about this particular work of fiction by this specific artist with a unique voice in Canadian (and worldwide) literature, and more about the entire medium’s struggle to be taken seriously and accepted as art. In other words, the same tired old debate people have been having since the term “graphic novel” was invented. A debate that I’d like to think most of us who read comics are over.
The Canada Reads judges seemed to have prejudged ESSEX COUNTY, mostly as not representing the kind of literacy they wanted the contest to champion. For instance Ali Velshi — best known as that loud guy who used to be on CNN — said:
At this point he was interrupted, but he came back to that idea later and added: I am coming into this competition with the very committed idea (…) that I need this to end up as a competitiont that causes people to read more, and I’m not sure [Essex County] is that solution. (…) I don’t think that’s gonna solve our problems of low literacy levels. I don’t think that’s gonna solve our problem of creative and interpretive thinking.
Debbie Travis had the most old skool dismissal of comics as lit:
I think it’s a nice book. It really is a good book. But as the essential novel? It’s like saying tweeting with 140 character gets you writing. No, it doesn’t get you writing. It actually takes it in the other direction. So the danger of that book… I think this is a shortcut. I read this in an hour and a half.
Travis, incidentally, is not an author, educator or librarian — the usual guardians of culture — but a former model and interior designer manqué who hosts TV shows
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• David Brothers, who generally has a very aggressive stance regarding moving into digital, pisses off comics retailers by suggesting day and date would not really hurt shop sales:
The entire industry is in flux, the Big Two are trying to figure out what still sells, and digital comics are subject to that upheaval. How is it going to shake out? I don’t know, and I’m not even qualified to guess. Maybe digital comics will find an entirely new market. Maybe the entire industry will collapse. I don’t know. But the dental floss analogy is damaging. It positions digital comics as something ephemeral, worthless in the face of the might of the Direct Market. That’s great for the self-esteem of retailers, but how are consumers supposed to take that? Doesn’t that suggest a lack of faith in the format? It’s like falling dominoes: publisher expresses a lack of faith in the format, doesn’t pursue the format aggressively enough, consumer notices that lack of faith and doesn’t embrace the format, and the format fails.
I agree of course, but the numbers I’ve seen are still modest. What will be the digitally native comic that really pushes things?
We’re deep into what will become the history of webcomics at this point, with a readership for the comics medium’s online format that soundly eclipses even the best selling Diamond-distributed Wednesday books. Deal with it, folks — not only will the adventures of the Doom Patrol and the Agents of Atlas, if not necessarily Batman and Wolverine, be digital-exclusive by the end of the decade, so too will a large part of the interesting new alt- and art-comix work. It’s already started: Dash Shaw’s Pantheon-published print version of BodyWorld might be hanging off those Borders shelves now, but you could read the thing free online for like a year before that.
Seneca’s discussion centers on formalists in the Shaw mode: Connor Willumsen, David Gray, and the Bret Easton Ellis for the bunch, Blaise Larmee. None of them are producing anything that will go on your iPhone — all these examples rely on the scrolling natures of the web browser, so maybe the iPad. They are abstract in some cases, but affecting. And they aren’t like “traditional” webcomics at all.
Larmee: I insist on staying in the present moment. 2001 exists, for me, in real time. This is different than Young Lions. For Young Lions I asked myself, “how will I win the Xeric grant?” and every subsequent action was structured toward this specific thing/event. Now my questions change in each panel and are a
From the comments of our “Saving Comics” post, Tim Stoltzfus went back to this Milennium Eve 1999 post by Warren Ellis that had the same message, and a call to arms on other matters:
You see, you and me, we don’t have the clout, the cash or the staff to see done the things that should be done — forcing comics into these new sales points, getting the right work in front of the right people. All you and I have is the direct market, because that’s all the major companies are interested in supporting.
So it behooves us to bolster the failing direct market system if we want to continue selling comics in the current paradigm. And I’d like to, because I’d like to continue paying for my house and stuff. And that means changing the comics store culture.
That means getting rid of the talking Jar Jar Binks stand-up in the doorway. It means racking the T&A stuff somewhere else. It means focussing more on graphic novels than back-issue bins. It means displaying your comics in the window, not the bloody toys, and making your standalone floor displays out of comics and graphic novels, not those stupid pewter figures for pretending to be sodding elves in role-paying games with. It means talking to customers, not just standing idly by or peering over your till with an air of false superiority. It means talking to the people who work in and run the shop, telling them what you think works, telling them what you want to read. It means call-out sections where you rack by creator, and all the comics shops I know of that have tried it have discovered that it works very well indeed. Because people who don’t come from the comics-store culture will walk into stores and look, not for a title, but the new Neil Gaiman, or the new Alan Moore, or the new Frank Miller.
Ellis and Larry Young’s writing of the period are very much the foundation of a lot of today’s indie sales methods — and some of the concerns are exactly the same.
How much has changed? How much hasn’t? What do you think?
On Friday, May 25, 1984, in a small town of 1200 people, in a small grocery store on the highway not too far from cornfields, at the golden age of 14, I became a comic book collector.
What set me on this path that has led me >choke< 27 years later to be a comics missionary, spreading the four-color gospel far and wide? Well, I blame Morgan Freeman and Jim Shooter.
As a child of the Seventies, I would watch Sesame Street, and immediately after that, The Electric Company. During the 1974-75 season, TEC started showing episodes of “Spidey Super Stories”. These were comicbook/live action hybrids, mixing live action with drawn panels. Spidey usually had to thwart some crazy villain, and never spoke, except in silent word balloons which had to be read by the viewer. (My favorite villain: The Can Crusher, who, while visiting a tomato canning factory as a child, loses his pet frog in a kettle. Thus he spends his adult life crushing open tomato cans in supermarkets, searching in vain for his beloved croaker. *sniff* Such pathos.)
I was just learning to read, as well as going through the “superhero phase” most young boys experience. So I got hooked on Spider-Man, and my mom actually bought me the first comic book I ever read! (Thanks, Ma!) As you can see on the cover, the Easy Reader (Morgan Freeman) gives his seal of approval, stating “This comic book is easy to read!” (The Comics Code approved it as well, but they’re as square as their seal.)
I would continue to enjoy Spider-Man throughout my childhood, taking my Spider-Man vitamins every day, and reading the daily comic strip whenever I had access to the Des Moines Register during my summers. (Their comics were much better than those in the Omaha World-Herald. The Register ran Star Trek, Asterix (!), Bloom County… and on Sundays we’d get the smaller market Sioux City Journal with the comics never seen in bookstores (Eek and Meek, Born Loser, Berry’s World).) But I never really bought comics as a kid. From 1979 until 1982, I was a fan of Mad Magazine, buying back issues and passionately learning all I could, pre-Internet, about The Usual Gang of Idiots. From 1982 until 1984, my passion was video games. While my family owned nothing more advanced than an old Coleco Telstar 6040 playing variations of Pong, that didn’t keep me from haunting arcades, searching for the new and unusual, and buying almost every videogame magazine I could find.
Of course, like most kids across the country, I read comic strips, bought the occasional strip collection, watched the CBS specials, and looked at any comic or cartoon (including the ones in my older brothers’ National Lampoons). I even glommed onto an old graphic novel from the 1950s… the first Pogo reprint from Simon and Schuster. When I was sick, I would read Richie Rich comics (the superhero covers at the pharmacy just made me sicker). But it was just part of the multimedia background collage of my life, with older interests constantly being covered by newer distractions.
So, given all this, what caused me to become a comics fan? What brought comics into the foreground, eclipsing my other interests? Junior High and Mattel toys.
“You have a life-threatening condition,” the doctor said.
“We need to get you somewhere where they can operate on you,” he continued, the words tumbling out of him.
“We need to get you there immediately.” A breath.
“We have a hospital. We have a surgeon. When we have an ambulance, you’ll go.”
Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve seen Tom Spurgeon’s essay on facing a life threatening illness, an illness which led to his unexpected blogging absence earlier this summer, and which still affects him, although he’s recovering. Since looking death in the face usually prompts some inventory of life, Spurgeon does just that in an astonishing essay that covers his life and his life in comics, if there is a difference. That a man fighting for his life should spend that time thinking about the Green Lantern movie is both ridiculous and awesome — Tom’s thoughts on why we chose the comics life and why we stay there speak for me about 80% of the time. It’s not that we have no choice, but rather why would we WANT to leave a field that is full of such honest, unpretentious work and creative, life-loving people?
That’s when Dan waved his hand again because I was being too loud. What-ever! I was having fun. I can’t help it! See, the cool thing about comics is that if you hang in there long enough your heroes can become your friends. And what’s cool about comics people is that we all know how hard it is to do comics or publish comics or write about comics – and so there is a certain comfort in sharing stories because no one really outside of comics actually gets what comics is about. So this was an occasion to celebrate this most crossroads-y, interzone-y – most impure art form on the planet. I was happy.
What makes it worth it though, is I love drawing. I LOVE IT. I love making comics. I love starting a new page and buying new paper, ink and brushes. I love telling stories! I love the people I work with, I love the people I meet. I love thinking about the syntax and language of comics. I love esoteric discussions about the comic book industry. I love the opportunities I’ve had in life because of comics. The second I stop loving it I will find something else to do. Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it love