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Late last year, I noticed that writer/artist Mike Dawson was contributing original content to The Nib, a collection of political cartoons, comics journalism, humor and nonfiction at Medium.com edited by Matt Bors.
Curious to learn what led him to participating at The Nib, and hoping to see if I could get Dawson to break down one of his recent pieces that ran there, I reached out to the cartoonist. It turns out he was more than happy to reveal the development process for his Oct. 6 strip, “The Underdog Myth.”
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
When writer/artist Mike Dawson shared how weakly his graphic novels sold (as part of a larger self-examination of where his comics career currently stands), it struck a chord with a variety of industry members and pundits.
A great deal of attention was paid to the perceived tone of Abhay Khosla’s initial response to Dawson. I have to admit I struggle to read Khosla’s essays with any regularity, as I never feel like he is writing as himself, but rather is projecting an exaggerated version of himself. He is a lawyer by profession, so I have always assumed his comics coverage is a way to write about a medium he clearly loves, but also to burn off some of the tension of his legal work (pure speculation on my part, admittedly). That being said, Khosla’s tone (whether it clicks with you or not) makes some valid points.
Having detailed his love affair with Queen, delved into the secret lives of boy scouts and even produced the odd superhero comic, Mike Dawson has released his most ambitious book yet, the politically and socially charged Angie Bongiolatti.
Set only a few months after 9/11, the book centers around a group of twentysomethings, more or less fresh out of college, working at an aspiring dot-com in the Big Apple and trying to figure out what exactly they want to do with their lives. Like satellites, many of them seem to rotate to one degree or another around the titular character, an attractive young woman who is driven by her left-wing political beliefs and trying to ascertain how to adhere to them in the workaday world.
Far from being some sort of one-sided political screed however, Bongiolatti asks questions about the effectiveness of any political movement, no matter how noble, and how best to affect change in the world while still being able to maneuver through it effectively.
I talked with Dawson over email the last few weeks about the book, its themes, politics and the joys of working with a large cast of characters.
Angie Bongiolatti is set within a very specific place and time, New York immediately after 9/11. What made you decide to set your story during this period rather than, say, during the Iraq War or during the Bush/Gore election. Or later?
The Bush/Gore election was the last time in my life when I was completely and blissfully unaware of current events and had no opinion on what was happening. I had no television set at the time, the Internet wasn’t yet an all-consuming focal point of my life, and plus I was 25 years old, and just didn’t care about the world outside of my own social life.
The period after 9/11 was that short window in time where the rest of the world was more or less on America’s “side” when it came to their response. To be against the invasion of Afghanistan was a minority position to take. The invasion seemed legitimate. I remember there were some voices of dissent at the time – David Rees’ Get Your War On being this great voice screaming into the roaring winds of war. I loved that comic. It might have been the first webcomic I experienced in real time.
Comics sales | ICv2 unpacks February’s miserable direct market sales numbers a bit, noting that for the second month in a row just one comic — in this case, Batman #28 — sold more than 100,000 copies, indicating weakness at the top of the list. Since September 2011, when the most recent “growth spurt” began, at least two comics have sold more than 100,000 copies each month; however, that streak ended with the first two months of 2014. One cause of the poor sales may be the unusually cold winter, which meant higher heating bills and thus less disposable income for some folks. ICv2 also has a separate analysis of dollar sales and the charts of the top 300 comics and graphic novels of the month. [ICv2]