It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. Michael and Graeme have each picked the five new comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 10 of the best new comics coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Blacklung HC (Fantagraphics Books, $24.99): This one grabbed me as soon as I read the high-concept in the solicits: A man decides to be as evil as possible so that he’ll be reunited with his dead wife in Hell when he dies. Depressing, existential AND romantic? I couldn’t sign up quickly enough for Chris Wright’s original graphic novel debut.
Chris Ware: Building Stories HC (Pantheon Books, $50.00): To be honest, I run hot and cold on Ware’s work; as a formalist, he’s wonderful and his work is technically perfect, but I don’t always get the emotional hook that I want from his work, and that’s a real problem for me. Luckily (or not? This is a pricey book to gamble on), the technical aspects of this box set of interrelated publications, all seen for the first time here, sounds interesting enough to sample no matter how cold the writing leaves me. Damn my curiosity about comics formats!
Happy! #1 (of 4) (Image Comics, $2.99): I’ll admit it; I’m more than a little dubious about the “It’s a hit man teaming up with a magical flying My Little Pony” set-up of this new series, but it’s Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, so I almost feel a sense of “How bad can it actually BE?”
Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99): I’ve always enjoyed the old Avengers TV show at something of arm’s length, having only seen a handful of episodes (but enjoyed them greatly); what draws me to this new series is the presence of Mark Waid, who seems to be on fire these days between Insufferable and Daredevil.
Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case #1 (Oni Press, $3.99): Oh, you should’ve seen me when I found out this was finally coming out. Not only did I absolutely love the first Stumptown series a couple of years ago, but I’ve also been on a Greg Rucka novel re-reading kick recently, so finding out that Dex’s client for this new story is the lead character from A Fistful of Rain made me almost impossibly happy. Easily my most-anticipated book of the month.
Publishing | May was a huge month for comics sales in the direct market, and John Jackson Miller quantifies just how huge: It was the biggest month for dollar sales in the “Diamond Exclusive Era” (i.e. since 2003): “Diamond’s Top 300 comics had orders totaling $25.72 million, an increase of 44% over last May and the highest total since Diamond became the sole distributor in 1997. It beats the total of $25.37 million set in December 2008.” [The Comics Chronicles]
Comics | Art Spiegelman is contributing a prescient New Yorker cover from 2001 to the Occupy Comics anthology; other creators who are contributing work include Alan Moore, Jimmy Palmiotti and Dean Haspiel. [Underwire]
History | Joe Sergi takes a look at the comics burnings of 1948, a series of disturbing events in which children, no doubt goaded on by well-meaning adults, collected comics door to door and then burned them in a public bonfire. [CBLDF]
Publishing | Eight months after the launch of DC Comics’ New 52, Marc-Oliver Frisch takes a look at the reboot and concludes that it is not the “game-changer” it was touted to be. After an initial burst of sales when the series was launched, DC’s monthly numbers have settled down to about half the September sales, above the previous year’s levels but best described, as Frisch puts it, as “solid but not spectacular.” [Comiks Debris]
Digital comics | Anthony Ha looks at the success of the Pocket God comic, which is marketed alongside the game; more than 200,000 copies of the first issue have been sold, and sales for the whole series total 600,000. Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative thinks the strong sales are due in part to the 99-cent cover price: “Meanwhile, the traditional publishers don’t want to undercut their print prices, so they’re usually charging $2.99 or $3.99 for new issues. (Some older comics are available for considerably less.) Castelnuovo says that’s ‘just too expensive’ for digital comics, especially when they’re competing with something like Angry Birds, which offers more content for just 99 cents. And although Marvel and DC are sell digital collections, Castelnuovo argues that they should be doing more to bundle dozens or even hundreds of issues together, so that readers can ‘blaze through them’ the way that they will consume entire seasons of Mad Men or Game of Thrones.” [TechCrunch]
Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]
Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Viz Media announced that Ken Sasaki, formerly the senior vice president and general manager of the manga and anime publisher, will take over from Hidemi Fukuhara as president and CEO. Fukuhara is being promoted to vice chairman, which apparently involves little of the day-to-day management of the company. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Johanna Draper Carlson counts the pages in some recent DC and Marvel comics and finds lots of house ads — and very few paying ones. This raises the chicken-and-egg question of whether the comics publishers are losing interest in selling ads or the advertisers are losing interest in buying them. [Comics Worth Reading]
Digital | Nerdist Industries’ CEO Peter Levin has joined comiXology’s advisory board. [comiXology]
Publishing | The 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece has sold more than 3 million copies in Japan in less than two months, beating the two previous volumes to that goal. No other manga has sold that many copies so quickly since the market research firm Oricon began releasing sales figures in April 2008. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | After 33 years on the comics page, Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia is hanging up her cigarette and typewriter and calling it a day. Hollander is upfront about the reason: “After the Chicago Tribune dropped Sylvia, my income was cut by half and Sylvia disappeared from my hometown. I felt the loss.” She will continue to post vintage Sylvia strips on her blog. [Bad Girl Chats]
An odd little remix of Art Spiegelman’s Maus caused a bit of a stir at this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival (of which Spiegelman was the honorary president), and now it looks like the remaining copies of the book will be destroyed at the behest of Spiegelman’s publisher.
Awards | Chicago’s Columbia College has announced it will bestow the 2012 John Fischetti Lifetime Achievement Award on Jules Feiffer. What is it? “The Fischetti Lifetime Achievement Award honors an outstanding career of editorial cartooning, work skewering cultural mores, misguided public policies and self-important people.” [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | As workers begin cleaning up the mess left by a flooded warehouse full of comics, officials at Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum are appealing to the public for donations to help replace the lost works. [Post-Gazette]
Creators | Gerry Alanguilan posts his rejection letters from Marvel and DC Comics from the days when, as a young artist, he sent in samples of his work. He also tells the story of how he blew his first big chance, which should prove inspirational to others in the same boat. [Komikero]
The New Yorker art editor, Françoise Mouly has a Tumblr and it is awesome. In addition to cool miscellania like the ’80s photo above, Mouly also runs a weekly, “Theme of the Week” contest where artists can submit covers based on themes like this week’s “In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb.”
Mouly says that “this blog and contest are informal and not affiliated with The New Yorker magazine, but I’m always on the lookout for ideas. When I find them, I’ll get in touch with the artist, all on a case by case basis.” She also asks artists to “keep submissions confidential in case they are later selected for publication,” so it’s more than just for fun.
(via The Beat)
Trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, lighting the menorah, setting up the Nativity scene, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged back to back: The holidays are all about tradition. And two of the best comics websites around have holiday traditions of their own.
First up is Inkstuds, the comics interview podcast and radio broadcast hosted by Robin McConnell, and its annual Best of 2011 Critics Roundtable. This year McConnnell is joined by The Comics Journal‘s Tim Hodler, Joe McCulloch (aka Jog the Blog), and Robot 6′s own Matt Seneca for a truly enjoyable and insightful discussion of such titles as Big Questions, Prison Pit, Thickness, Paying For It, and Kramers Ergot 8, among many others. Radio turns out to be a terrific format for each participant, so much so that I was compulsively using every spare moment to finish the podcast — I even opened up my laptop in the passenger seat of my car and played it on the way to the drugstore. Give it a listen.
Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter has kicked off his much beloved by me Holiday Interview series. His inaugural interview with Art Spiegelman tackles his new book-cum-documentary MetaMaus, his stint as the Grand Prix winner of France’s massive Angoulême comic con, and his take on the legacy of the underground comix movement, while the series’ second interview examines the future of the small-press publisher Sparkplug after the death of its founder Dylan Williams with the company’s new triumvirate of Emily Nilsson, Virginia Paine, and Tom Neely. Spiegelman and Sparkplug are both vital institutions in their own ways, having put their money where their mouths are with respect to the kinds of comics they’d like to see in the world, and Spurgeon makes for a great interlocutor as they articulate their respective visions. Go and read.
Publishing | Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson talks about the ups and downs of the past year, including getting Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn on a tighter schedule and the difficulties of selling all-ages comics: “There’s this really blinkered mentality in comics that “all-ages” means only for kids, despite the relatively easy to understand implication that all-ages books can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Diamond even has this graphic they use for all-ages comics in Previews and it’s these two children that look like toddlers or whatever. People seem to miss the point that most the comics we love from the ‘60s or ‘70s or even the ‘80s to a large degree, were all-ages comics. Stan & Jack’s Fantastic Four was an all-ages book. And it was brilliant.” [Multiversity Comics]
Digital | Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the United States, began releasing its graphic novels on Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet and Nook Color devices today. As on the Viz iOS app and website, the manga are priced from $4.99 to $9.99 per volume, and they read from right to left, in authentic Japanese fashion. 107 volumes from 18 series are available at launch, although the selection skews a bit older than what’s available on the iOS app, with no sign of the Shonen Jump blockbusters Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece, at least in the initial announcement. [press release]
Sales | The comic book market was up more than 19 percent in November when compared with the same period last year, with comics up 23 percent and graphic novels up 12 percent. So far this year the comics and graphics novel market is up 1.87 percent versus the first 11 months of 2010. If December cooperates, this could be the first up year for the market since 2008.
DC Comics was once again the top company in terms of market share. The company took six of the top 10 spots on Diamond’s Top 100 Comics list, with Justice League #3, Batman #3, Action Comics #3, Green Lantern #3 and Marvel’s Point One #1 making up the top five comics of the month. Batman: Noel took the No. 1 spot on the Top 100 Graphic Novels list. [The Comichron]
Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein to president, with a focus on new markets and acquisitions. He joined the company in 2008 from Upper Deck. [ICv2.com]
A great deal of the source material for Art Spiegelman’s ground-breaking, medium-defining, market-redefining Maus came from the cartoonist recording long conversations with his Holocaust-survivor father Vladek.
A great deal of the source material for MetaMaus, a book-length discussion of Maus that includes an astounding amount of reference, background and process-related material, comes from editor Hillary Chute recording long conversations with Art Spiegelman.
They didn’t put the word “Meta” in the title for nothing.
Less punchy, but also appropriate, might have been Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Maus and Probably Much More Besides, Including Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know Until We Told You.
Pushing 300 pages and including a disc titled “The Complete Maus Files” that boasts the complete Maus and so much material about each page of it that it’s like a little Library of Mausandria, it might at first seem strange that the book about Maus seems to dwarf Maus itself, at least in terms of size. But part of the value of the project, beyond an admirable work of preservation of the astounding amount of research Spiegelman put into creating it and the family and cultural history that resulted and aside from creating an invaluable resource for future college kids writing papers on Maus, is what it reveals about Maus from a different perspective — inside out.
The book exists on a crossroads between family history and comics. And explaining the geography of where the work sits involved answering both questions pretty fully, and it was very difficult to reenter, I’ve got to say. Very painful….Well, you know, you get calluses when you work, and it protects you as you do your gardening, and during the thirteen years of Maus, I got my protective layer of dead skin, so that I could kind of deal with my family and history at least, and even get the comics done efficiently, if thirteen years is efficient. But those went away. You get new skin. And re-entering, looking at my dead family, rereading, and further reading, on an area where I haven’t really been focused, i.e., the death camps, and reading more, is really painful — and even looking back at my own work, and how it’s affected my work life since is difficult. So, I avoided the project for a long time. The first month or so was really devastating. Then the callouses came back, and I could go on to shaping and making a byoo-ti-ful book. So that’s why, basically.
—Art Spiegelman on how revisiting his masterwork Maus was hazardous to his mental health, in an interview on the exhaustive new Maus-umentary book/DVD MetaMaus with Robot 6′s Chris Mautner for The Comics Journal.
I have to say that even if I were dismiss the difficulty of having this personal and painful a work as your personal career centerpiece, and even if I were to discount his editing of RAW, his New Yorker covers, his illustration and children’s books, his publishing work, In the Shadow of No Towers, and the expanded re-release of Breakdowns, I’m still much more sympathetic than many with regards to Spiegelman’s supposed failure to produce another work commensurate with his Pulitzer Prize-winning family history of the Holocaust. That comic changed the entire art form for the better, and that’s one more art-form-changing comic than most people have drawn.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
It’s a slow week, this week; if I had $15, I’d use it to catch up on some recent enjoyments like Action Comics #3 (DC, $3.99) and OMAC #3 (DC, $2.99), two of my favorite titles from the New 52 relaunch–OMAC in particular has been a really weird and wonderful joy–as well as the final issue of Marvel’s great and sadly underrated Mystic revival (#4, $2.99). I’d also see if the parody-tastic Shame Itself #1 (Marvel, $3.99) lives up to its potential, because “Wyatt Cenac + Colleen Coover” sounds pretty promising to these ears.