INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
Passings | Archie Comics artist Tom Moore died yesterday at the age of 86. Moore got his start as an artist in the Navy, where he served during the Korean War: His captain found a caricature that Moore had drawn, and instead of calling him on the carpet, he assigned him to be staff cartoonist. Moore’s comic strip, Chick Call, ran in military publications, and after the war he studied cartooning in New York, with help from the GI Bill. Moore signed on with Archie Comics, drawing one comic book a month, from 1953 until 1961, when he left cartooning for public relations. “It’s important to create characters that can adapt to anything, but whose personalities are consistent,” Moore said in a 2008 interview. “Establish that, and don’t deviate. Betty doesn’t act like Veronica, and Charlie Brown doesn’t act like Lucy.” He returned to cartooning in 1970, drawing Snuffy Smith, Underdog, and Mighty Mouse, and then went back to Archie to help reboot Jughead, staying on until his retirement in the late 1980s. After retiring, Moore taught at El Paso Community College and was a regular customer at All Star Comics. [El Paso Times]
Publishing | DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio talk about the comics market as a whole, variant covers, and their move to Burbank, among many other topics, in a three-part interview. [ICv2]
Commentary | Christopher Butcher discusses the way the comics audience has diversified, and the way that parts of the industry (the parts that aren’t involved, basically) have refused to acknowledge the enormous popularity of newer categories of comics by “othering” them: “‘Manga aren’t comics,’ went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it.” Butcher sees these attitudes changing at last, though, thanks to the massive commercial and critical success of books like Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (three years on the New York Times graphic novel best-seller list!) and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer. [Comics212]
Passings | Artist and writer Alan Kupperberg has died of thymus cancer at the age of 62. Kupperberg got his start writing dummy letters for Marvel in the late 1960s, then moved to the production department at DC and in 1974 was hired by the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics, where he played a variety of roles, including letterer, colorist, and editor. That company folded after a year, and he went to Marvel, where he worked on a number of different titles, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Savage Sword of Conan, and Amazing Spider-Man. He created the one-shot comic Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men working entirely solo, and he drew the weekly Howard the Duck newspaper comic as well as the comic-strip version of The Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. His magazine work included National Lampoon, Cracked, and Spy. Kupperberg also taught at the School for Visual Arts, and he was the brother of writer Paul Kupperberg. [ICv2]
Manga | Hiromi Bando has translated Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen into Chinese and is looking for a publisher, but she has been told the Chinese government will not approve its publication. Bando, who is Japanese, was inspired to translate the manga, an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, after hearing of her father’s experiences fighting in China during World War II. The manga is taught in the original Japanese in a few universities in China. [Asahi Shimbun]
That’s some stunt.
For quite a while now, publisher Archie Comics has been engaged in an ongoing campaign of stunt comics, all seemingly calculated to secure the most mainstream media coverage. They introduced characters that made the notoriously conservative comics more representatively diverse. They had a same-sex marriage. They married Archie to Betty…and they married Archie to Veronica (In alternate future timelines, of course). They killed Archie. They had the gang from Riverdale meet Kiss, President Barack Obama and then-Governor Sarah Palin, and even a Predator. They even launched an honest-to-God, mature-readers horror comic in which Archie and friends battle to survive a zombie apocalypse.
But relaunching Archie with a new #1, a new creative team and a new direction has got to be their best stunt yet. Certainly, the move boasts some of the same calculation that went into those mentioned above (many of which did produce some good comics, no matter how cynically you want to view the decisions behind them). Hiring Mark Waid, one of the more popular and maybe the most reliable of superhero writers, and Fiona Staples, an immensely talented artist who achieved superstardom via creator-owned Image series Saga, is every bit as attention-getting as setting the issue counter back down to #1, or having an ungodly 21 (Twenty-one!) covers, or divorcing the book from its long-time house style.
It works though, and it works for the most simple of reasons: The new Archie #1 isn’t just new and it isn’t just different, it’s also very good.
Graphic novels | The National Arts Council of Singapore has withdrawn a $8,000 publication grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography of the Singaporean comics pioneer that depicts some tumultuous events in the nation’s history. “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions,” said Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the literary arts sector of the NAC. He did not specify what the “sensitive content” was, but the book makes satirical references to Singaporean politics and history. The publisher, Epigram, will return the $6,400 that was disbursed already and will cover the NAC’s logo on the book cover with a sticker. The book will be published next year in the United States by Pantheon. [Straits Times]
Conventions | Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi will be a guest in July at Comic-Con International. Yu-Gi-Oh! is a card-fighting manga that has inspired a number of anime and manga spinoffs as well as, logically enough, a card game. This is the second announcement in two weeks of a high-profile manga-ka coming to America, as Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto will be a special guest in October at New York Comic Con. [Anime News Network]
Awards | Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer is the winner of the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, and Richard McGuire’s Here is the 2015 Honoree. [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
Creators | Fast Company named writer Kelly Sue DeConnick as one of its 100 “Most Creative People in Business 2015,” a list that includes innovators in technology, scientific research, entertainment, medicine and social media. The writer of such comics as Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly, DeConnick is cited specifically for “reanimating a superhero,” Captain Marvel. [Fast Company]
Awards | Bad Blood, the Dark Horse miniseries written by Jonathan Maberry and illustrated by Tyler Crook, won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a graphic novel, presented over the weekend by the Horror Writers Association. [Horror Writers Association]
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?
Passings | MAD Magazine writer Lou Silverstone has died at age 90. Silverstone was the writer of many of MAD‘s movie and television satires in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with “Bananaz,” a parody of Bonanza. Later he went to work for Cracked, MAD‘s chief competition, and he also wrote for the Jackson 5 animated series and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic, a gig that he got through former MAD artist Wally Wood. The MAD website also pays tribute to Silverstone. [News From ME]
Conventions | Oregon’s Cherry City Comic Con has a new owner and a new attitude. The con fell on hard times last year, and at one point this year’s show was canceled. New owner John Roache bought the show when he heard that news; he and his wife, artist Nicole Brune, had been to last year’s show and enjoyed it. He’s keeping the name but changing the format to more of a pop-culture convention, with a long list of entertainment guests, and he has expanded the number of slots available for vendors. The show is scheduled for April 11-12. [Statesman Journal]
The tagline for one1990s wrestling promotion was “Where the Big Boys Play!” Wonder what they’d think of Archie Andrews?
Following a recent uptick in pro-wrestling appreciation by the comics industry, Archie Comics has released a digital collection of its wrestling-themed stories. Given the cover image and title, Archie & Friends Wrestle Maniacs, Archie gives a bit of a nod to WWE’s Wrestlemania and Hulk Hogan (whose fans are “Hulkamaniacs”).
Archie: The Married Life Book Six (Archie Comics): This is a phone book-sized collection of the final seven issues of Life With Archie, the series set in a possible future where Archie is married to Betty … and Veronica, in two alternate timelines. The narrative jumps between those parallel realities in a way that can be downright confusing when read in such a huge chunk as the collections offer.
While the stories feature the same fairly sprawling cast — and the character designs and are style are, as usual, in perfect harmony no matter whose names are in the credits — there’s more differences between the two timelines than just which girl Archie settled down with. In one timeline, Jughead is dating Ethel; in the other he’s having a baby with Midge. Likewise, Reggie is either a newspaper reporter or a mechanic with a reality show, and Moose is either Riverdale’s mayor or Riverdale High School’s janitor. And so on.
There are a few things both universes share, however, like Kevin Keller having been elected to the U.S. Senate, campaigning on gun control, an issue driven home by a mass shooting in the nearby Southport Mall. And, of course, in the final two issues, the “Death of Archie” and the epilogue that follows, the story is carefully, delicately crafted so that every line and every panel can be read so they’re the conclusions of both storylines, despite all the differences between the two.
[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.]
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went to Meredith, New Hampshire, for a quiet weekend Away From It All. I had never heard of Meredith before, but my last-minute search on Expedia turned up a little inn there that had a reasonable price and good ratings, so off we went.
I wasn’t really expecting to have any comics experiences there, other than reading the stack I brought with me, but comics just seem to follow me around. We spent a pleasant hour in a bookstore in the center of town, and as we headed for the cash register, I noticed a biography of Bob Montana, the original artist for Archie. I grabbed it and added it to the stack, and the cashier said to me, “Did you know he lived here?” I didn’t, but it turns out that he not only lived in Meredith for most of his adult life, he owned an art gallery that was just steps away from the bookstore (although according to the minutes of this January meeting of the Meredith Planning Board, it may not be there for much longer—a developer is planning to tear it down and replace it with a new structure).
On Thursday, Mondo will offer six posters by Alex Ross, Francesco Francavilla and Jay Shaw that were previously only available at MondoCon, held last month in Austin, Texas. So if you’re a fan of those artists, or of The Iron Giant, Afterlife With Archie or Deadpool, you’ll probably want to keep an eye on Mondo’s Twitter account for the on-sale announcements.
Check out the prints, and the details, below.
Archie Comics has launched what it calls its new app — it’s really an update of the publisher’s existing iOS and Android apps — with an offer of 100 free comics for those who download it. And there may be more: I asked Archie’s Alex Segura how long the promotion would be in effect and he said, “We’re looking to have this up for about a month, and if downloads reach a certain threshold, we’ll be unlocking more free books on a tiered basis to celebrate the new app launches on Android and iOS.”
There’s quite a range of free comics available on the app, including classics, recent releases and comics that feature the side characters Jinx, Sabrina (original and manga versions) and Cosmo the Merry Martian. Not present: Afterlife With Archie, which carries a teen rating as opposed to Archie’s standard all-ages rating. There are also no Sonic, Mega Man or New Crusaders freebies, although they are available for in-app purchase. Say what? Yes, this app is built on iVerse’s Comics Plus platform, so you can buy new comics in-app. The app also includes Archie Unlimited, an all-you-can eat subscription service that allows subscribers to read a ton of comics, both new and back issues; because it’s integrated into the app, you can then buy the ones you want to keep.
Here are my picks for six free Archie comics that make entertaining reading, especially on a lazy summer weekend.
Editorial cartoons | The public-relations consultant hired by the city of Murrieta, California, after residents protested the arrival of refugee children to be processed there, told cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz that referring to Murietta as “Hate City USA” was “actionable.” “There IS a fine line between your constitutional right to draw cartoons and expressed (sic) your opinions,” Hermosillo wrote in a comment on Alcaraz’s Facebook page, “and falsely, deliberately, and maliciously labeling and attacking an entire community as racist or as ‘Hate City.’ You are working overtime to damage Murrieta and such a false premise is actionable. There’s a fine line between humor and stupidity. You may have crossed that line at your own peril.” Murrieta spokesperson Kim Davidson walked that back, however, saying the city has no plans to sue Alcaraz. [The Press Enterprise]
Publishing | Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater responds to Singapore’s ban of the third volume of Life With Archie, which features the wedding of Kevin Keller and Clay Walker: “Riverdale will always be about acceptance, equality and safety. I’m sad readers in Singapore will miss out on the chance to read such a pivotal moment in comics.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Business | Devin Leonard looks at the possible effects of a Fox/Time-Warner merger on superhero movies; Time-Warner owns DC Entertainment, and Fox has the movie rights to some Marvel characters. The New York Times offers a broader overview. [Business Week]