Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today we welcome special guest Joshua Williamson, writer of Masks and Mobsters, Captain Midnight (which has been running in Dark Horse Presents), Uncharted, Voodoo and much more.
To see what Joshua and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Awards | Although the website for the 40th Angoulême International Comics Festival is down, several outlets managed to pick up on the official selections for the 2013 festival, to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Contenders for book of the year include Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Fables by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and others, The Hive by Charles Burns, The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon, Paying For It by Chester Brown, and The Walking Dead Vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case were among those named in the crime comic category. [BoDoi]
Publishing | Bluewater Productions Publisher Darren G. Davis isn’t afraid to talk about real numbers: Bluewater’s income is about $2 million a year, and the most popular titles sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies apiece, although others never make it out of the triple digits. And while he admits he doesn’t have a thick skin, Davis says he has gotten used to criticism: “I’ve learned that I’m not my company. When they attack my company, they are not attacking me personally.” [The Columbian]
It’s not every month that we get to discuss a new issue of Ethan Rilly‘s Pope Hats, but here we are. This month, AdHouse is releasing Pope Hats 3 and giving readers a chance to enjoy the latest in the unique lives of law clerk Frances Scarland and her pal Vickie (among many other distinctively engaging characters).
In an interview with Robot 6, the Toronto-born/Montreal-based storyteller talks about his view on creating covers, the impact of winning a 2008 Xeric Grant, and his inclusion of the late, great Spalding Gray in his latest issue. As much as I enjoyed reading Issue 3, as a longtime fan of Gray’s writing, I was apoplectic when I found Rilly had worked him into a strip in the latest Pope Hats installment.
Tim O’Shea: First off, a little historical perspective. Last year the Xeric Grants came to an end for comics. You won a Xeric Grant back in 2008. How instrumental was the grant to getting Pope Hats off the ground?
Ethan Rilly: It seems like 10 years ago … Of course it was a great help. It covered printing and shipping costs for the first issue. I can’t say at that point I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the series as a whole, but the seeds were there, and the grant definitely helped get the ball rolling. It’s rare as a cartoonist to receive any financial support for this type of personal work, so I was fortunate. I sometimes do freelance illustration and I get a taste of things going in the other direction—bending your creative energies toward a pre-established need. Doing your own weird exploratory thing is always best.
One of the more interesting, art-focused and idiosyncratic comic conventions around, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, will take place this weekend.
The bulk of festival will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The show has expanded considerably, however, to include a number of other events, including gallery shows and a film festival.
“Where I was in Brooklyn, I don’t think I would have even known that there was a major storm happening,” says Adrian Tomine, the artist of next week’s cover, “Undeterred.” He continues,
Legal | South African President Jacob Zuma has formally withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (who goes by the pen name Zapiro) and will pay a portion of his court costs as well. Zuma dropped part of the case last week, a claim of 4 million rand for “impairment of dignity.” A spokesman for Zuma said the president had more important things on his mind and didn’t want to set a precedent that “may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech.” [The Citizen]
Passings | The Catalan artist Jose Luis Ferrer, who signed himself simply “Ferrer,” died Monday of a brain tumor. Ferrer’s work appeared in 2000AD, Starlord and other British comics, but he was an international artist with work published in Germany, France, Sweden and the United States as well. [Down the Tubes]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where every week we talk about the comics, books and other stuff topping our reading list. Our special guest today is Rafer Roberts, creator of Plastic Farm–”The strange, terrifying, and hilarious story of Chester Carter’s messianic journey through madness and self-loathing.” Roberts is currently raising money for the second volume on Kickstarter.
To see what he’s been reading, along with the Robot 6 crew, click below …
The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, kicked off today in San Francisco, and I made the trek up north to partake in comic culture-dom. I missed the show last year, and in fact haven’t been to a comic convention since SDCC in 2010, so it was fun to get back into the con groove. And APE is just the place to do it, with its laid back vibe and focus on making, buying and talking about comics.
Like I said, I missed last year’s show, so I have no idea how the crowds compared or the size of the place compared. Since I first started attending the show in 2007, they’ve switched up the layout of the place, and it seemed much bigger, with more exhibitors, than it has in the past. There seemed to be a bunch of people there, many with kids, and the folks exhibiting who I talked to for the most part seemed to be happy with the turn out. The weather was beautiful, which can sometimes be a hindrance; San Francisco doesn’t have that many days per year where there’s lots of sunshine and it’s very warm outside, so you never know when someone might decide to hit the park instead of, say, a convention. It’ll be interesting to hear what the CCI folks say about attendance this year
The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco this weekend. The show’s special guests are Groo creator Sergio Aragonés, Flood creator Eric Drooker, all three legendary Hernandez Brothers, The Cardboard Valise creator Ben Katchor, jobnik! creator Miriam Libicki, and Weathercraft creator and giant pen owner Jim Woodring, all of whom have spotlight panels over the course of the two days. In addition, other guests attending the show include Shannon Wheeler, Stan Mack, Justin Hall, Derek Kirk Kim, Jason Shiga, Thien Pham, Jamaica Dyer and many more.
In addition to the spotlight panels, the show has panels on politics and comics, censorship, queer cartoonists and a “Gigantes” meet-up with the Hernandez Bros. and Aragones. They also have workshop panels if you’re interested in making comics and a “creator connection” that allows aspiring creators to find writers or artists to work with.
The show is usually one of my favorites of the year, mainly because it’s so easy going and loaded with opportunities to discover something new and cool. Here’s a round-up of some of the folks you can see and buy cool stuff from at the show, as well as things to do inside and outside of the Concourse:
Publishing| Comics sales in the direct market were down in September relative to last year, but that may be because the launch of DC’s New 52 pushed sales unusually high in September 2011. Graphic novels were up by 14.4 percent, making for a slight uptick in the overall market. Year-to-date and third-quarter sales were also up by a goodly amount from last year. [ICv2]
Editorial cartooning | The position of editorial cartoonist as a staff job on a newspaper is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, but attendees at the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists meeting in Washington, D.C., don’t seem too downhearted; new opportunities are opening up, and this year’s presidential campaign is presenting them with plenty of material. “Times are tough for the old idea of cartoonists, but all kinds of other things have opened up,” said cartoonist Chip Bok, “And editorial cartoons, all cartoons, are more popular than ever. You see them all over the Internet. The problem now is figuring out how to get paid.” [Voice of America]
Digital comics | Sony is shutting down its PSP Comic Store as of Oct. 30. After that, readers will no longer be able to purchase new comics from the store, although they will be able to download at least some previously purchased comics until January 2013. After that, the whole thing is just gone. Sony pulled something similar in Japan, but its new PS Vita store includes a manga service. The PSP doesn’t seem to have been a very popular medium for reading comics in the United States, but it’s too bad that those who did take a chance on it have no way to permanently preserve their comics in a way that isn’t dependent on an aging piece of hardware. [Engadget]
Publishing | The Brooklyn Daily chats a bit with Sean Howe, the writer of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, whose book includes an account of Marvel founder Martin Goodman, a Brooklynite who gave Stan Lee his first gig but was barely remembered by the company when he died. [Brooklyn Daily]
The annual Small Press Expo, better known as SPX, will arrive at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Saturday and Sunday. This particular SPX promises to be excellent — mayhap the bestest SPX evar — so allow me to run through some of the goings-on if you happen to be in that area this weekend.
When I finally sat down to work on my next comics project, I felt obligated to attempt a real “graphic novel.” I was looking at these giant tomes that some of my peers were working on, and I felt really envious of that kind of achievement. It also just seemed like that was the direction everything was moving in, and my old habit of publishing short stories in the comic book format was already an anachronism. So I pursued that for awhile, doing a lot of the kind of preparatory work which is actually the hardest part for me, and the whole time I had these nagging thoughts like, “Do I really want to work on this for ten years? Do I want to draw and write in the same way for that long? Does the material really merit that much of an investment?”
I actually completed about twenty pages of this material — completely written, drawn, and colored — and I still couldn’t shake the growing suspicion that I was headed down the wrong path. The scope of the project was completely draining any amount of joy from the work for me. Then when my daughter was born and I essentially became a stay-at-home dad, that really changed everything. I felt like that needed to be the main focus of my life for the time being, and I’d need to find a way of working that would accommodate that. So returning to short stories seemed like the right solution, and now I honestly think that, at least at this point in my life, it’s the mode that I’m best suited to. I love being able to draw twenty pages in one style, finish that story, then start the next one completely fresh.
—Optic Nerve cartoonist Adrian Tomine tells CBR’s Jorge Khoury about his failed attempt to create a big fat graphic novel in the vein of…well, pretty much everyone in literary comics these days, I guess. Anytime I read about lost projects and abandoned pages like this I feel a twinge of regret, but it seems to have led Tomine to an epiphany about the kind of work he wants to be doing and the kind of life he wants to be living. If that’s failure, then we should all fail more often.
Can you find the acclaimed comics creators behind The Death-Ray and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists in this photograph by Adrian Tomine from their trip to the Miami Book Fair? Just be patient and keep searching — I’m sure you’ll see them in there eventually!
Move over, Ana Alexandrino’s photo of Killoffer — there’s a new sheriff of Awesome Pictures of Cartoonists-Town.
The last two pages of Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve #12 look like the roughest and most quickly considered and drawn pages in the entire issue, but they are also the funniest, and the most concerned with the quickly disappearing format of alternative comics like Optic Nerve.
In two black and white, 20-panel-grid pages that most closely resemble the style and tone of Tomine’s recent Scenes From an Impending Marriage, Tomine’s unshaven avatar in opaque spectacles gets lauched at by his fellow cartoonists when one refers to him as “The Last Pamphleteer.”
Stewing about the fact that the bound, book format has (what we commonly if not quite accurately refer to as “the graphic novel”) has become the default format for (non-superhero) comics, he laments sticking with “floppies”: “I even liked it when the artist was obviously just trying to fill a few extra pages, and you’d get a pointless, dashed-off autobio strip or something!”
Tomine works in an awful lot of jokes in so few pages, and rather masterfully fills those many panels so the art never looks small or claustrophobic (I read Optic Nerve #12 before and after this week’s Justice League #2, and I get such a case of whiplash reading superhero comics and “art” comics; people sometimes wonder why I’m so negative about super-comics, but how can one not be when you see the quality vs. quantity gap between a Big Two pamphlet and an issue of Optic Nerve?), eventually culminating in what is a (hopefully highly) fictionalized encounter with a comics reader at a shop signing.
The dashed-off autobio strip is endearing in the way it allows Tomine to honestly express his feelings about his chosen format and the way the industry is currently going, while also rather mercilessly ridiculing those feelings.
There are several arguments to be made for floppies (“Which is about as withering a terms as I’ve ever heard,” the Tomine character thinks in one panel), and while Tomine makes a couple of them, I think he left out one of the more compelling ones: Neither of the excellent stories in Optic Nerve #12, which are graphic short stories more than graphic novels or even graphic novellas, could have been published as books. They’re just too short to justify a book, and, I think, the expense of purchasing them.