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My own private Eisners

Being a judge in the Eisner Awards meant making hard choices. It’s like being an admissions officer at Harvard: You could make a top-notch set of picks, throw them away, and still have a strong field for the second set. With six judges each having a different voice, sometimes a book that one or two of us think is the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t make the final cut.

Here’s my short list of comics that, if it were up to me, would have gotten Eisner nominations.

Best Limited Series

One of my favorite series of 2011 was Spontaneous, by Brett Weldele and Joe Harris. It’s a great crypto-mystery about spontaneous human combustion, with a nerdy know-it-all played off against an aggressive reporter. The story has its flaws, but I couldn’t put it down.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)

Nina in That Makes Me Mad: We had an unusually strong field of children’s books, even after we split the category into two age groups, but this book was my first choice for a nomination. The writing is sharp and perceptive, and Hilary Knight’s illustrations are amazing. Even the page layouts are awesome. This is a book that speaks directly to children, in a voice they can understand, yet does it with an elegance that adults can appreciate as well.

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Boston Comic Con | Highlights of the Creator-Owned Comics Panel

From left: Brian LeTendre, Ben Templesmith, Becky Cloonan, Joe Benitez, Geof Darrow, Jeremy Bastian

The Creator-Owned Comics panel at Boston Comic-Con drew together five creators with a range of experiences to discuss the fine points of making and marketing their own comics. The panelists were Ben Templesmith (Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse), Becky Cloonan (Wolves), Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika), Geof Darrow (Shaolin Cowboy), and Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl). The moderator was Brian LeTendre of the Secret Identity podcast.

The panel began with a discussion of how the comics landscape has changed over the years. “It’s changed completely,” said Ben Templesmith. “Every small publisher in the comics media, they have all now pretty much been swallowed up by bigger fish. Everyone in the main media is getting involved in comics and buying up small publishers.”

Cloonan, on the other hand, doesn’t see much difference in the way she sells her self-published comics. ” When I first started doing mini-comics, it was almost exactly the way I do them now,” she said. “I go to conventions and I bring my suitcase filled with comics; I just sell more. It’s funny how much social media and the industry has changed, but I still handle it and approach it much the same way I did in college.”

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C2E2 | A round-up of news from Friday (and before)

C2E2

Publishers, creators, retailers and fans rolled into Chicago this weekend for the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, or C2E2. While the convention officially kicked off Friday, the announcements started rolling out Thursday during the Diamond Retailer Summit. After going through Kiel Phegley’s lengthy report on CBR, I’ve pulled out a few tidbits that publishers shared with attending retailers:

• Dynamite Entertainment shared that the first issue of Garth Ennis and Aaron Campbell’s The Shadow, which comes out next week, will likely go to second print. Following their Vampirella and Pantha projects, they also plan to roll out more of the former Harris Publications characters they now own, and they said they plan to work again with Kevin Smith in the future, who they’ve worked with on Bionic Man and Green Hornet.

• Dark Horse Comics announced two Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff miniseries; one featuring Spike and one featuring Willow (Editor Scott Allie spoke more about them with CBR). In addition, legendary artist Russ Heath will draw some pages in an upcoming issue of Buffy. Dark Horse will launch a new Dragon Age series in August, following the online miniseries that’s been running on Dark Horse Digital. They also confirmed that Becky Cloonan will return to Conan after James Harren’s three issues, and they announced Ex Sanguine, a five-issue miniseries by Tim Seeley and Josh Emmons. Finally, The Goon will go monthly with issue #40.

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Food or Comics? | Pete and mirliton

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d first snap up a book I’ve been trying to track down for years: Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (Marvel, $4.99). This 1986 lost classic features Bernie Wrightson drawing a webhead story featuring monsters and alternate worlds – looks like a real gem. Now to convince Marvel to republish John Paul Leon’s Logan: Path of the Warlord… Next up would be Secret Service #1 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99). I’ll buy pretty much anything Dave Gibbons puts out these days, and seeing him with Mark Millar is bound to be a unique experience. Next up is Saga #2 (Image, $2.99); Brian K. Vaughn is really setting up a world – like a sci-fi sitcom here, with loads of direction to go in. Lastly I’d get Conan the Barbarian #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50). Can I admit I might like this more than Northlanders? Brian Wood’s definitely expanding how people think of him with this story, and Becky Cloonan is making a lot of editors look foolish for not putting her on these kinds of books sooner.

If I had $30, I’d start out with Secret #1 (Image, $3.50). Manhattan Projects seems more up my alley than this story, but Jonathan Hickman’s built up some credit in me to try anything new he puts out even if I’m not too interested. Next up would be Northlanders #50 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), which I’m sad to see go. I think this will be one of those series that achieves more popularity after it’s over, and it’s a shame DC can’t find a way to continue it. After that it would be Glory #25 (Image, $2.99). I was a bit shaky on the story after Joe Keatinge’s first issue, but everything after has really put the pieces into place and Ross Campbell seems to be finding his footing to really land the superheroics of this story. Last up would be Secret Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99); Rick Remender’s clearly put his own spin to this series, so much I’m surprised Marvel didn’t use this as a chance to renumber the series… but I’m glad they didn’t.

If I could splurge, I’d throw money at my comic retailer for Pete and Miriam (Boom!, $14.99). Big fan of Rich Tommaso, and he seems to be honing his craft like a knife, creating more pointed and poignant stories here. And Miriam, she’s a real gem.

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Becky Cloonan illustrates new edition of Dracula

If you’ve never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula–or even if you have–here’s some news that should warm your blood: Harper Design has released a new edition featuring illustrations by Demo artist Becky Cloonan. She shows off a few of the 50 illustrations she did for the book over on her blog. The book came out today, so look for it in finer bookstores everywhere.

Food or Comics? | Sharknife shish kebab

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Sharknife, Volume 2: Double Z

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d skip lunch and dig in to the overdue Choker #6 (Image, $3.99). I almost considered waiting for the trade on this one, but I know once I see the shiny object in front of me in stores I’ll want to find out the ending to Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith’s story. After that I’d get Uncanny X-Force #23 (Marvel, $3.99), which still holds the crown for my favorite current Marvel book. I was hesitant of Remender & co. going off into Otherworld despite my fascination with the realm going back to my Excalibur days, but I’m being rewarded with good story for my allegiance. The only thing it’s missing is an appendix reminding me of older stories that he references here. Last up would be a two-fer with Spaceman #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and Walking Dead #95 (Image, $2.99). I’ve talked about both at length here, and they continue to buffet me with greatness.

If I had $30, I’d first snag Daredevil #10 (Marvel, $2.99) to see more of Paolo Rivera’s work over the solid storytelling by Mark Waid. Then, I’d rub my eyes to make sure I’m not seeing things and pick-up the 5+ year delayed book Sharknife, Vol. 2 (Oni, $11.99). I’ve been a big fan of Corey’s work back when he was doing inspired Mega Man rip-offs, and the chance that I’ll finally see this sequel is exciting and heartbreaking. I hope the quality of the book inside is enough to stave off my feelings about the severe delay the book had.

And for splurging, I’d spend my CBR paycheck on Gone To Amerikay (DC/Vertigo, $24.99). This book is at the intersection of three reasons I’d buy it: Colleen Doran, Derek McCulloch and historical Irish narratives. I’d hold McCulloch’s Stagger Lee up to any graphic novel of the past decade in terms of skill and potency, so to see him pair that with Colleen Doran’s crafty linework bears my immediate attention.

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Becky Cloonan debuts final cover for The Mire

Becky Cloonan has premiere the final cover for The Mire, the follow-up to her acclaimed minicomic Wolves. The  self-contained story is set on the eve of a battle as a humble squire is tasked with delivering a letter to a decrepit castle within a swamp. “Met with mysterious apparitions,” the artist writes, “he slowly unveils the truth about why he was sent there, as his past is re-written over the course of twenty-two pages.”

Pre-orders are being accepted now through Big Cartel, with The Mire set to debut May 5 at the Toronto Comics Art Festival. The comic can be purchased for $5; for an extra $20, Cloonan will add a sketch of one of the characters. Check out the full cover below.

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James Harren to take the second shift on Conan

There doesn’t seem to be any official announcement on this, but it’s right there in the solicitation: James Harren will be taking over from Becky Cloonan as the artist for Brian Wood’s Conan the Barbarian for issue 4. Brian Wood Tweeted that Cloonan will do issues 1-3 and 7-9, and “after that we don’t know yet.” That’s interesting, because Wood and Cloonan were definitely presented as a team, but Cloonan is busy with a lot of things, so who knows.

Anyway, for those who are not familiar with Harren, iFanboy has a short introduction to his work as well as a generous array of samples. As they point out, he has been a professional comics artist for less than two years, having started out with a short story for an X-Men anthology and moving on from there to other Marvel and DC projects before finding his feet in the Mignolaverse at Dark Horse. Cloonan’s new look for Conan has gone down well with a lot of fans, but Harren looks like he will be bringing some interesting visuals of his own to the series.

Food or Comics? | Saga or saganaki

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Saga #1

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, I’d rush to the store as quickly as possible to ensure that I’d be able to get a copy of Saga #1 (Image Comics, $2.99) before it completely sells out. It’s been far, far too long since Brian K. Vaughan has been doing comics, and Fiona Staples is one of those artists who just continually gets better even after starting pretty damn impressively in the first place. It’s not the only must-read launch this week, either; I’m also very excited about Saucer Country #1 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s mash-up of The West Wing, The X-Files and – judging by this first issue, which I’ve had a sneak peek at – The Invisibles, which pretty much ensures I’ll be on board for awhile. There’s also Marvel’s Avengers Assemble #1 ($3.99), which I’m… curious about more than excited for, in large part because I’ve already seen Bendis’ take on the team for the last few years, so this feels more like “More of That Thing You’ve Already Read!” than “First Issue of A New Series!” but… well, it might be better than I’m expecting, who knows?

If I had $30, I’d think about putting Avengers back on the shelf before picking up Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout Premiere HC (Marvel, $19.99), the second collection of Kieron Gillen’s remarkably great Thor spin-off. I’ve only recently caught up with the first collection, and loved it, so I’m looking forward to more of the same with this one.

There’s really only one choice to splurge on this week for me: The Womanthology: Heroic hardcover (IDW, $50.00). Not only do I have friends with work in the book, but I was pretty much signed up for this one as soon as I heard about it online. I love well-done anthologies, and I’m ready for this to be one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

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What do Fiona Staples and Diddy Kong have in common?

Well, she listens to his soundtrack while crazily racing towards deadlines, for one thing.

At The Huffington Post, Dave Scheidt asked several comics creators what music they listen to while making comics. In addition to Staples, he talked to Becky Cloonan, Tony Akins, Steve Niles, Michael Kupperman, and Rick Remender. Who likes Charlie Parker and Brian Eno? Who prefers Meat Puppets and Corrosion of Conformity? Who’s into Kveldssanger and The Mercian Sphere? Only one way to find out.

What Are You Reading? with Jamaica Dyer

Conan #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco’s Noisepop for Spin Magazine.

To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Sheldon Moldoff dies; record sellout for Comic-Con

Batman #92

Passings | Classic comics artist Sheldon Moldoff, who co-created Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat Hound, passed away Wednesday. He was 91. Moldoff broke into comics at the age of 17 with a sports filler that appeared on the inside back cover of Action Comics #1. He went on to become a prolific cover artist, drawing the first cover image of the Golden Age Flash for Flash Comics #1 and the Golden Age Green Lantern for All-American Comics #16. He also worked on comics featuring Hawkman, Kid Eternityand Black Pirate. He also was one of the pioneers of horror comics in the late 1940s and worked as a “ghost artist” for Bob Kane on Batman from 1953 to 1967. After being let go by DC Comics in 1967, he went on to work in animation. [News from ME]

Conventions | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday morning within an hour and a half, a record for the annual pop-culture extravaganza. Last year it took about seven hours for badges to disappear. [U-T San Diego]

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Now Read This | Becky Cloonan breaks your heart with ’1989′

1989

Earlier this week I posted about Becky Cloonan’s upcoming minicomic The Mire being available for pre-order, but those looking for more immediate gratification can find a complete short story from the Conan and Demo artist on the Heartbreak: Just Friends site.

Jonathan Rivera and Nick DeStefano are putting together an anthology of “the world’s greatest anti-romance comics,” and one of the stories in it is by Cloonan. And for Valentine’s Day, they posted her entire story, “1989,” an autobiographical tale set in the fourth grade.

Joining Rivera, DeStafano and Cloonan in the pages of Heartbreak: Just Friends are Vasilis Lolos, Star St. Germain, Liz Baillie, James Euringer and newcomer Lacey Whelan, so this sounds like something that’ll be worth your money once it is published in March. You can find more details on the book here.

Becky Cloonan runs her own crowdfunding project for The Mire

The Mire

Last year Becky Cloonan self-published a well-received minicomic called Wolves, which she sold at conventions and via her Big Cartel site. Now she’s publishing another self-published minicomic called The Mire, which she is now accepting pre-orders for and, like folks do on Kickstarter, she’s offering extra incentives for additional funds.

“I’m doing what so many others have done through Kickstarter and other fundraising sites- try to raise money to print in large quantities, except I’m cutting out the middle-man,” she said on her blog. She added that Wolves has sold about 3,000 copies total, and she plans to do a third printing of it along with the initial printing of The Mire — about 5,000 copies between the two.

“I don’t skimp on printing either. Each book has heavy interior paper, plus a silk-screened cover on colored card stock,” she said. “Pre-ordering will help me estimate how many I’ll need to print as well. All in all a logical decision!”

The comic can be bought for $5, and for an extra $20 she’ll add a random sketch of one of the characters in it. Here’s a description of the book: “The much anticipated follow-up to 2011′s WOLVES, THE MIRE is a self-contained story set on the eve of battle, when a humble squire is given the task of delivering a letter to a decomposing castle in a swamp. Met with mysterious apparitions, he slowly unveils the truth about why he was sent there, as his past is re-written over the course of twenty two pages.”

Comics A.M. | Matt Groening donates $500,000 for UCLA chair

Matt Groening, by Matt Groening

Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]

Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]

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