INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
Publishing | Filip Sablik, BOOM! Studios’ president of publishing and marketing, describes the company’s announced cutback in the number of titles as a contrarian move: “All of the major mainstream comic publishers are pushing out more titles. Since February’s ComicsPro meeting, it’s something we’ve consistently heard from the front lines of the industry. So we decided to swim upstream a bit by trimming back our line and really focus, doubling down on our marketing and our positioning for each title, believing that a sniper-like approach would yield better profitability.” [ICv2]
Publishing | Vox takes a lengthy look at the effects of DC Comics’ efforts to diversify, in terms of characters, titles and creators. The article, which includes interviews with Marguerite Bennett, Genevieve Valentine, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, notes that while new titles like DC Comics Bombshells have been successful, others launched under the “DC You” umbrella – Black Canary and Midnighter, for instance — are on far shakier ground, sales-wise. However, Co-Publisher Lee suggests the company is standing behind the initiative: “I think it’s important for us to listen and to learn and basically to adjust and pivot. There is this emerging audience. Comics are changing. At the end of the day, if you’re going to remain competitive and grow and flourish, you have to be able to adapt and change and evolve.” [Vox.com]
The Portland, Oregon, comics cafe The Spritely Bean was broken into last week, and whoever did it wreaked considerable damage to the store, smashing the glass door and vandalizing equipment.
That’s the bad news. The good news is the shop, which specializes in independent, creator-owned comics and locally sourced food and coffee, has already built a loyal following: The GoFundMe campaign to raise $5,000 to replace the damaged and stolen property has almost hit its mark. The store was closed last Thursday and Friday but was able to reopen on Saturday.
Superheroes | Dave Itzkoff looks at the growing interest in female superheroes in comics as well as in TV and movies. The article includes interviews with writers Gail Simone and G. Willow Wilson, and Wilson speaks poignantly about Ms. Marvel: “If you wanted to work in the business, you kept your head down – you did not want to be seen as having an agenda. I would never have pitched that, because I frankly would have worried that it would have prevented me from getting other work.” [The New York Times]
Hajime Isayama, creator of Attack on Titan, talks about how he came up with the idea for the blockbuster manga in a video interview with BBC News — and he reveals he was rejected by so many publishers that when an editor did show interest, he wondered, “What’s wrong with this guy?”
“I was beginning to give up,” recalls the 29-year-old artist, “because there are so many people who want to become manga artists. I didn’t think I could become one of the big ones. […] If I didn’t become a manga artist, maybe I’d have tried to work at an Internet cafe.”
Awards | Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona has made the shortlist for the National Book Awards, only the third graphic novel to make it that far. At 23, Stevenson is apparently the youngest NBA finalist ever. Nimona is based on an idea Stevenson began toying with in high school and developed into her senior thesis at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She started posting the comic online, and a literary agent spotted it and signed her on. “I don’t know if I actually expected anything to come from signing with an agent — I assumed I’d self-publish, like most webcomic creators did,” she said. “Then my agent called me when I was in the middle of a class critique to tell me that he had sold it to HarperCollins, and that was that.” [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Underground comics writer Dennis Eichhorn passed away on Oct. 8 at age 70. He’s best known for his autobiographical comic series Real Stuff, which often involved tales of alcohol, sex and drugs. Published from 1990 to 1995 by Fantagraphics, the multiple Eisner-nominated Real Stuff was illustrated by the likes of Lynda Barry, Chester Brown, Peter Kuper, Joe Sacco, Roberta Gregory and Ed Brubaker. [The Stranger]
Legal | Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani, already serving a 12-year sentence for a cartoon depicting members of the Iranian parliament with animal heads, and under investigation for shaking hands with her male lawyer, had to endure yet another indignity in August: She was forced to undergo a “forced virginity and pregnancy test” as part of the investigation of the latter charge. “In doing so, the Iranian judicial authorities have truly reached an outrageous low, seeking to exploit the stigma attached to sexual and gender-based violence in order to intimidate, punish or harass her,” said Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International, which is calling for her release. [Amnesty International]
Digital comics | With Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto appearing this week at New York Comic Con, Viz Media is launching a dedicated Naruto app that will offer a chapter of the series every day for free (each chapter will be free for seven days). The app will sync with the VizManga digital comics platform, and users who buy one or more volumes of Naruto on either digital service this month will also get a bundle that includes the original pilot chapter Kishimoto created for the series, plus editors’ notes, chapter reviews and fan art. Viz is also offering discounts individual volumes throughout the month of October, with the first five volumes selling for $1.99 each. [Crunchyroll]
Passings | Clint Thomas, the owner of Clint’s Comics in Monroe, Louisiana, was found dead Saturday at his home. He was 50 years old. In addition for running his store for nearly two decades, Thomas was known as a perennial political candidate, having run for mayor five times. He was challenging Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell in the current election, saying, if elected, he would look for “damsels in distress.” Thomas reportedly viewed himself as Batman, attempting to save the city from the “supervillains” who had taken over the government; as a candidate, he made no promises and accepted no donations, because he believed money corrupts politicians. [The News-Star, NBC 10]
Graphic novels | This week is Banned Books Week, when the American Library Association releases its list of the 10 most challenged books of the previous year. This year’s list includes three graphic novels: Persepolis, Saga and Drama. Michael Cavna discusses graphic novel with Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who points out that Drama, which was challenged for being “sexually explicit,” is just the opposite: “In the incidents I’ve personally been involved in, and many others, the book’s light touch is precisely what infuriates those who want to take it off the shelves — there’s a sense that’s been communicated to me and others that kids shouldn’t be reading that being gay is a normal part of the human experience.” [Comic Riffs]
The shortlist for the fourth annual British Comic Awards was announced this morning, along with the slate of judges and the longlist of titles suggested by readers.
The judges will choose the winning title in each category, with the awards announced Nov. 13, on the opening night of the Thought Bubble Comics Festival in Leeds. This year’s Hall of Fame honoree will be Dudley D. Watkins, creator of Desperate Dan, Oor Wullie and The Broons.
Museums | The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, founded by George Lucas and slated to open in 2018 in Chicago, has acquired the original art from Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis. [The Art Paper]
Editorial cartoons | R.C. Harvey writes the definitive piece on the Ted Rall case, rounding up pretty much everything that’s been written in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Times’ decision to cut ties with the cartoonist. In addition to presenting the evidence and all points of view, Harvey sheds a harsh light on the paper’s public statements about Rall and the relationship between the newspaper and the Los Angeles police union. [The Comics Journal]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint is the first comics company to use the Wattpad “social reading app,” where writers and publishers can share their work with potential readers around the world. Survivors’ Club writers Lauren Beukes and Dale Halvorsen are starting things off with a list of their favorite horror movies, and Gail Simone and Holly Black are expected to check in as well. [TechCrunch]
Conventions | Journalist Tom Spurgeon and Bone creator Jeff Smith, co-organizers of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, discuss their concept for a truly comics-focused festival. “We’re almost at the point where we’re treating comics as a weigh station before you make your money or impact,” Spurgeon says. “Comics are solely what we do and it’s solely where our efforts go. We want this to be important. We want to celebrate older cartoonists who may have fallen out favor. We want to celebrate the anniversaries of great comics. It’s solely comics-focused.” [Paste]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on last week’s Diamond Retailer Summit, where the news was mixed: Comics sales are up this year, but the increase is smaller than in 2013, triggering fears that the market is cooling down. Some publishers are retrenching, with Image announcing it will no longer release variant covers, Marvel simplifying its ordering requirements for variants, and BOOM! Studios cutting the number of titles it will release next year by 15 percent. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar announced Monday that another of his books is drawing government scrutiny, as police are questioning the sales assistant who handles online sales of his book Sapuman – Man of Steal. “My sales assistant did nothing illegal as the ‘Sapuman – Man of Steal’ is not officially banned by the government” Zunar said. “On the contrary, the police should investigate who took RM2.6 billion of public funds instead of clamping down on book sellers who sell books legally.” The cartoonist is currently facing nine charges of sedition stemming from one of his Tweets, and his books have been banned and his assistants harassed in the past. [The Malaysian Insider]
Political cartoons | On the 10th anniversary of the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, experts and journalists reflect on the controversy that followed. While the publication of the cartoons and their aftermath have “made some journalists more thoughtful about the way they cover minority groups,” journalism professor Angela Phillips says, “In other instances I think it made quite a lot of journalists if anything less sensitive to these issues. There is in some countries an even faster recourse to a rather essentialist notion of freedom of expression.” [Agence France-Presse]