Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Comics | In advance of a radio show titled “White Men in Capes,” to be broadcast Tuesday, BBC News looks at diversity in comics and finds it lacking; as DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio says, there “doesn’t seem to really be a proper representation of ethnic characters across the entire industry.” He talks about DC’s efforts to bring diversity to its line, and he explains why: “There’s a very hungry audience, excited audience and the reason why we know that exists is because we go to the conventions and we hear from our stores and you hear the make-up of the people shopping in those stores.” [BBC News]
In Archie Vs. Predator, the unstoppable killing machine of the sci-fi horror franchise that’s previously taken on such comic book tough guys as Batman, Tarzan and Judge Dredd sets his triangular laser sighting mechanism on all-American teen Archie Andrews.
The title, and the premise it suggests, is this comic’s very best gag. Really, the only thing funnier than the thought of an Archie vs. Predator miniseries is knowing that it actually exists.
But is there anything to it, beyond the central joke that’ so wonderfully told on artist Fernando Ruiz’s cover to the first issue?
Image Expo returned on Thursday, and it wasn’t messing around. Each year, Image Comics seems to pack bigger announcements and bigger surprises into a single-day event. And the diversity of creators and genres gets that much better, too.
This year’s Image Expo — held again at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, following last July’s event at Comic-Con International in San Diego — included the now-standard keynote address by Publisher Eric Stephenson. He reviewed the past year’s successes and echoed plans to make Image the No. 1 publisher, but aside from throwing the gauntlet down at the feet of Marvel and DC, his address avoided some of the controversial statements and manifestos of years past. While I appreciate a good sabre-rattling, it allowed the focus to remain squarely on the creators and their comics.
With that in mind, here are my six favorite announcements from Image Expo 2015:
Dark Horse will celebrate the 200th issue of Dark Horse Presents in February with an 80-page installment that includes the first U.S. publication of “Masks,” a short story by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and veteran artist Dave Gibbons.
The story, about a mother turned masked vigilante, originally appeared in April as part of The Guardian’s celebration of the opening of the “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.” exhibition at the British Museum. “Masks” marks Flynn’s comics debut.
Creators | Cartoonist Roz Chast talks about her memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? landing on the 2014 longlist for 2014 National Book Award. It’s the first time a graphic novel has been nominated in that category, and Chast is the only woman on this year’s list. When The Wall Street Journal noted that, between this nomination and Alison Bechdel’s MacArthur “genius grant,” “it’s a good day to be a female cartoonist,” Chast replied, “I totally agree. Actually my first thought was just it’s good for cartoons, for the graphic form.” [Speakeasy]
Creators | Alex de Campi talks about her pioneering digital comic Valentine, widely regarded as the first long-form comic to make extensive use of digital techniques. She doesn’t think the medium has come too far since then: “We’re all still in the shallow end, congratulating each other for getting our feet wet. There’s been no significant innovation since us. The DC and Marvel stuff is still based on half-page increments so it can go to print. The Madefire stuff I have seen (not a lot, maybe it’s gotten better) is just embarrassing motion comics. It pisses me off because there is so much more to be done. And I want to do it. But it would take an investor, or a very daring multi-media entertainment company. And big entertainment companies are many things, but daring is not one of them.” [Digital Spy]
“There was a very fine line to walk, though. To create a book that Comic Book Guy could enjoy because wa-hey, boobies and gore … but that also as a female writer (and a feminist) I could be OK with. Most people won’t notice that the gaze in the book towards the female characters is not predatory — the women are complicit, and in fact usually in charge. It’s a gossamer thing, this manipulation of gaze, this slight change, this look awry — but it makes a huge difference to how the book feels when you read it. The book makes people really happy. And, you know, for the horror crowd, the little changes in having a woman write it so some of the invasive, penetrative horror happens to men — well, it makes for more effective and unexpected horror.”
— writer Alex de Campi, talking with ThinkProgress about her new series Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, a gleefully trashy exploitation comic the describes “straight-up tits and gore, the way nature (and Russ Meyer) intended.”
Nonetheless, De Campi, whose work ranges from the action thriller Ashes to the all-ages Kat and Mouse and My Little Pony, approaches her work in a thoughtful way. In the same interview, she discusses how changing the point of view of a rape scene radically alters it. De Campi’s work illustrates the point that bringing diversity into comics can greatly improve the stories, by introducing fresh and original perspectives — and even surprising the reader.
Tokyopop has come back to life, sort of: The manga publisher unveiled its revamped website a few days ago, and the company is once again selling books, in partnership with Right Stuf (for print) and Graphicly (for digital). The only Japanese manga available on the new site is Hetalia; Tokyopop’s licenses for other series lapsed, and most of them probably aren’t coming back, although CEO Stu Levy dangled the possibility of some new licenses in a panel last week at Anime LA. What’s left is a good-sized collection of Tokyopop’s Original English Language (OEL) manga and a few graphic-novel imports from countries other than Japan.
Although Tokyopop’s OEL line earned a fair amount of derision at the time, many of the books were actually pretty solid. In addition, they provided paying work for many young and veteran artists. Here’s a look at six that are of interest either because of the creators or because they are so strong (or both).
East Coast Rising: Becky Cloonan’s first full-length graphic novel, this urban-pirate story earned a nomination for Best New Series in the 2007 Eisner Awards. Alas, there was never a second volume.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.
To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con kicks off today with a guest list that includes Stan Lee, George Perez, Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Pacheco, Barry Kitson, David Mack and Chris Burnham. The convention continues through Sunday in Rosemont, Illinois. [Wizard World]
Creators | Cyriaque Lamar has a brief interview with Matt Kindt about Mind MGMT #0, which is being solicited now for a November release. (Issues 1-3 are already available.) Here’s Kindt on the look of the comic: “For this project, I wanted it to be less like you’re picking up a comic and more like you’re holding a story, right down to everything outside of the panels. I want it to feel interactive, something you don’t just drift into. I tend to read graphic novels over issues — I can’t remember thirty days ago from a bit of story. I wanted each issue something you’d go back to every month. My goal was give the book as much depth as possible to reward monthly readers.” [io9.com]
Johanna Draper Carlson has a thoughtful post about the appropriate use of Kickstarter, and uses Lea Hernandez’s Kickstarter for The Garlicks as an example of a campaign she’s not comfortable with, because the comic doesn’t exist yet:
I am more comfortable funding a project where the work already exists, one where the creator needs print costs. This doesn’t apply to Lea’s case, but one of the reasons why is that, if rewards deliver within a couple of months, I’m protected if something happens and I don’t get what’s promised. Within 3-6 months, I have the ability to do a credit card chargeback in the worst case, if the provider flakes out. On a more personal level, it’s more rewarding to get a book or other rewards within a couple of months, as though it was similar to a preorder. Otherwise, it feels like throwing money into the wind.
In Johanna’s case, it’s a matter of not wanting to invest in something that isn’t substantially complete — because she wants to be sure she gets what she paid for. In the comments, though, it turns to a more general discussion of whether it’s appropriate to use a Kickstarter to support the artist while she is working on the project. Hernandez points out that her Kickstarter includes printing and production costs and a modest page rate paid directly to her for doing the work:
After the falling out between Ashes writer Alex de Campi and artist Jimmie Broxton, de Campi decided to pursue having multiple artists draw the sequel to the 2005 series Smoke. This week in an update to the project’s backers on Kickstarter, de Campi said the line-up of artists is now complete.
Joining A Distant Soil creator Colleen Doran and Smoke artist Igor Kordey are:
De Campi said she plans to begin serializing it digitally in June and publish the graphic novel in December.
Last month writer Alex de Campi’s Ashes, the sequel to the 2005 IDW series Smoke, hit a major pothole on the road to publication when de Campi and artist Jimmy Broxton split “over creative differences.” The writer offered refunds to anyone who contributed to the well-funded Kickstarter project and said she would look for a replacement artist.
Today de Campi posted an update that should make fans of Smoke happy–Smoke artist Igor Kordey “is coming back to do a 20-page flashback sequence that literally I know he will draw better than anyone else in the world (sorry, everyone else, but it’s true),” de Campi said on Kickstarter. She also said that A Distant Soil creator and Orbiter artist Colleen Doran has agreed to draw a sequence for the graphic novel as well.
De Campi said she decided to pursue multiple artists for the project while on a road trip from New York City to Mexico City. “I did a lot of thinking on I-81 about how to proceed with the book, and decided to go back to my original plan of having different artists draw different sections of the book,” she said. “Ashes breaks down really nicely into 20-50 page chunks (and a couple really small sections, 3 or 4 pages) based on location, time and secondary characters.”
She said she has reached out to “a ton” of other artists and will develop a new production and printing timeline once she’s nailed down artists for the entire book.
Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.
Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]
Ashes, one of the highest-profile and most successful comics projects to emerge from Kickstarter, hit a stumbling block over the weekend with the announcement by writer Alex de Campi that she and collaborator Jimmy Broxton “have had an irreconcileable split over creative differences,” leading her to ask the artist to leave the graphic novel.
On his Facebook page, Broxton (aka James Hodgkins) was more blunt, writing, “Jimmy Broxton has been fired, and his services are no longer required on the Ashes Kickstarter graphic novel project. I’m incredibly sorry that this has happened, and feel strongly that a lot of people who have shown tremendous support (to say nothing of actually giving money to pre order the book) are being let down. I acted in good faith, you all acted in good faith, this is a mess, make no mistake.”
That of course raises the question of what happens when a crowd-funded comic — Ashes exceeded its goal with pledges of $32,455 — loses one of its creators. De Campi was quick to address that, writing in an update to backers that she would refund money to those who donated because of Broxton’s involvement, or to anyone who has been soured by their split.
“Likewise, once I find a new artist, if his or her work is not a style you like, you may also contact me and be immediately refunded for your pledge,” she continued. “Folks, I am so committed to making this book. I am so sorry for this drama, and I hope you will find it in your heart to bear with me for a little longer while I straighten this out. Please be aware that the money you have pledged is still YOUR money (none of it was ever going to me anyway, it was all for art and print/reward fulfilment) and I will be respectful of your wishes as to where it will go.”
In a later update, de Campi also addressed specific questions about the amount of completed art for the project (“only what you see here on the Kickstarter”), whether Broxton will be compensated for his work (“Absolutely”), and the search for his replacement (“I haven’t even begun to look”).
A sequel to de Campi’s 2005 IDW series Smoke, Ashes is described as “a bullet ride through the brain of a dystopian Britain into the dark heart of the American psyche,” with soldier Rupert Cain and journalist Katie Shah reuniting five years after they brought down a government and seeking to escape punishment.
Libraries | An editorial in the Lewiston, Maine, newspaper praises a local school board’s decision last week to leave the 2007 comics anthology Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library following a parent’s complaints about “objectionable sexual and language references”: “American culture can be graphically sexual and explicitly foul and it’s important that young people learn how to navigate that world in a responsible way. The best possible way, of course, is for parents to steer their children through that process, but not every parent does and many children are left adrift. So, the next-better place to learn is the school library, where a responsible adult can help educate children about their hormone-charged emerging feelings in a confusingly sensual culture.” [Sun Journal]
Business | Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, who resigned earlier this month as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., will sell most of his shares in the company to his successor, who’s expected to be named next month. [Bleeding Cool]