Ben Hatke Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Manga | In a two-part interview, ICv2 talks at length to veteran Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn about how the manga market has evolved since 1987, which manga do and do not do well, and what the future may hold. The good news is the market seems to be recovering after several years of declining sales; the hard evidence is that Dark Horse is sending more royalties back to the Japanese licensors. And the new reality is that while the market may be smaller, almost everyone knows what manga is now: “You can’t simply put a manga on the market and expect it to sell because it is manga (that was one of the nice things about the boom because you could take a chance on more marginal titles), but on the other hand you don’t have to do as much explaining about what manga is anymore.” In addition, ICv2 lists the top 25 manga and the top 10 shoujo and shonen properties from the last quarter of 2013. [ICv2]
Last week, when I was packing my bags to go to the Angoulême International Comics Festival, I kept having to explain to people — even comics people — what it was.
Now that I’m back, it’s not a problem any more.
This year’s selection of Bill Watterson as the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, and the president of next year’s festival, has put Angoulême on the map for more U.S. readers — or at least, it has sent the cartoonist’s fans scurrying to the map to see where it is.
What follows is a series of first impressions from my first trip to Angoulême; check out Publishers Weekly (which provided me with a press badge) for more solid coverage, and of course no one can capture an event like Heidi MacDonald.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Angoulême — the international array of creators and publishers who are there, the opportunity to get the hottest new BDs and of course, French food, scenery and wine all spring to mind — but to me, the most impressive thing about it was that I was in a place where comics really mattered. Comics aren’t a niche product in France; they are available everywhere, they are widely read, and they are taken seriously. In my previous sojourns in France, long before I was a comics journalist, I was accustomed to seeing a rack of hardcover, full-color comics at the grocery store, train station, and bookstore.
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Digital comics | Sony is shutting down its PSP Comic Store as of Oct. 30. After that, readers will no longer be able to purchase new comics from the store, although they will be able to download at least some previously purchased comics until January 2013. After that, the whole thing is just gone. Sony pulled something similar in Japan, but its new PS Vita store includes a manga service. The PSP doesn’t seem to have been a very popular medium for reading comics in the United States, but it’s too bad that those who did take a chance on it have no way to permanently preserve their comics in a way that isn’t dependent on an aging piece of hardware. [Engadget]
Publishing | The Brooklyn Daily chats a bit with Sean Howe, the writer of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, whose book includes an account of Marvel founder Martin Goodman, a Brooklynite who gave Stan Lee his first gig but was barely remembered by the company when he died. [Brooklyn Daily]
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.
If I had $15: Whoah, another tough week to narrow things down. Is every Brian Wood-written title required to come out the same week of each month? Do Dark Horse and Marvel get together and plan it that way, so that people who only buy Wood comics only have to go to the store once a month? I think more than half the DC titles I buy come out this time every month, too. So yeah, lots to pick from …
Anyway, I’d start with one of those Brian Wood comics, Conan the Barbarian #8 (Dark Horse, $3.50), which features Vasilis Lolos on art. Lolos drew one of my favorite issues of Northlanders, “The Viking Art of Single Combat,” so it’s cool to see the two of them working together again. I’d also get a comic I’m sure will be popular with a few of my colleagues, the first issue of the new Stumptown miniseries by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth (Oni Press, $3.99). Next I’d get Manhattan Projects #6 (Image, $3.50); this issue turns the focus from America’s secret science program to Russia’s secret science program. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra are having a lot of fun with this one. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #31 (Marvel, $3.99), which really picked things up last issue … and this is a comic that’s usually running on twice as many cylinders anyway.
If I had $30, I’d also grab two finales from DC Comics — Shade #12 and Resurrection Man #0 (both $2.99). Honestly, I never expected to see a Resurrection Man comic again, much less by the guys who wrote the original, so the fact that we got a good run of 13 issues is a pleasant surprise. Shade, of course, was planned as 12 issues from the beginning, and was a nice return to the Starman-verse by writer James Robinson. That leaves me room for three more $2.99 comics, which means I’m going to bypass X-Men, The Massive and Avengers Assemble this week (let’s assume that I’ll one day spend my splurge money on the trades) and instead go with Chew #28 (Image, $2.99), It Girl and the Atomics #2 (Image, $2.99) and Demon Knights #0 (DC Comics, $2.99).
Splurge: Assuming I wouldn’t spend my unlimited gift card on single issues, I’d be looking at the first Bucko collection from Dark Horse ($19.99) and Fantagraphics’ Is That All There Is? trade ($25).
I wasn’t very familiar with Ben Hatke‘s work before I met him in 2010 at the Small Press Expo, apart from reading his contribution to the second Flight anthology. So I was pleasantly taken by surprise at how charming his debut graphic novel, the all-ages Zita the Spacegirl, is. The book, about a young girl who is inadvertently transported to another galaxy full of strange and fearsome aliens, adheres closely in style to many well-worn fantasy adventure comics. But it manages to stand out from the pack with a cast of broad, engaging characters, an appealing heroine, and some smartly (and tightly) paced actions scenes.
Now Hatke has a sequel, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, which finds the pint-sized interplanetary traveler struggling to cope with her new-found celebrity, and encountering a would-be impostor who’s more than happy to taker her place.
I talked with Hatke about the new Zita book, how he became a cartoonist, and his goals for the series.
Comics | Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns talks with The Wall Street Journal about the introduction this week of the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps Simon Baz, an Arab-American Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan: “As fantastic as the concept of Green Lantern is of an intergalactic police force, the comic has had a history of grounding in the now and dealing with modern characters and concepts and Simon Baz is that. I wanted to create a character that everyday Americans have to deal with. When 9/11 hit, he was 10-years-old. His family was devastated, just like every other American. He’s grown up in that world. It’s just part of the daily life, the new normal.” [Speakeasy]
Comics | The new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, reaches a key moment in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #14, when Aunt May gives him Peter Parker’s web-shooters and the formula for for his web fluid. Writer Brian Michael Bendis explains why he waited so long to pass along the iconic tools: “‘This is like Excalibur. This is it. This is like being bequeathed the sword,’ Bendis says. ‘But, young Miles and (his friend) Ganke trying to figure out how to make web fluid is going to be my favorite stuff to write ever in the history of writing of anything. Just because someone gives you a formula and says, “Here, cook this,” doesn’t mean you can.’” [USA Today]
Passings | Italian comics artist Sergio Toppi has died at the age of 79. Most of his work seems to have been in Italian and French, but Archaia has plans to publish an English-language edition of his version of the Arabian Nights, Sharaz-De. [The Beat, Archaia]
Comics | Brian Truitt marks Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary by talking to creators from Stan Lee to Brian Michael Bendis about the 10 traits that make the web-slinger special. On a related note, Complex runs down the 50 most iconic Spider-Man images. [USA Today]
Publishing | If you’re interested in self-publishing, Todd Allen’s latest article about Ingram’s new, lower-cost color print-on-demand service is a must-read. Allen does the math for several different scenarios, in terms of format and distribution method, and boils it down into several handy charts. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Two titles from First Second won the graphic novel categories in the 2011 Cybils Awards, literary honors given by bloggers who write about children’s and young-adult books: Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl received the graphic novel prize in the Elementary & Middle School category, while Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost won in the Young Adult division. [Cybils]
Digital | With the Vita on the way, Sony is shutting down its PSP comics service, and users will lose their comics come September. [Gameranx]
Graphic novels | Craig Thompson’s Blankets made Oprah’s list of the eight greatest love stories of all time, taking its place alongside Brokeback Mountain and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. [Oprah.com]
Zita the Spacegirl creator Ben Hatke is apparently pretty new to the publicity machine, as he actually was excited to do an author appearance in a bookstore—and he chronicles his adventures in this absolutely adorable comic strip at the website of First Second, his publisher. It’s a nice look at the experience through the eyes of the main attraction—and even better, one who is not jaded yet. Plus it shows off Hatke’s loose, fluid style, which gets tightened up a bit in his published work.
Here’s a preview of Zita the Spacegirl, which is kid-friendly but fun for adult readers as well.
Retailing | The financially troubled Borders Group reportedly could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as today or Tuesday, setting the stage to close about 200 of its 674 Borders and Waldenbooks stores and eliminate thousands of jobs. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors revealed that 98 percent of the more than 500 direct market stores visited by secret shoppers during the first month of day-early delivery were found to be in compliance with the program’s street-date requirements. According to Diamond, of the 10 stores discovered to be in violation of the agreement, one was reported by another retailer while the others were discovered by secret shoppers. [ICv2.com]
Welcome to a special Super Bowl Sunday edition of What Are You Reading? Not that it’s any different from a regular WAYR column, but you can enjoy it while eating hot wings while the TV is paused.
Today our special guest is biology professor Jay Hosler, creator of Clan Apis and Optical Allusions. His latest book, Evolution, with artists Kevin Cannon and Zandor Cannon, was recently released by Hill & Wang. Check out his blog for a story he’s working on about photosynthesis.
To see what Jay and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.
Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl won’t be out in print until February, but there’s no need to wait: MTV Geek has posted the first four chapters online, for free, using comiXology’s web reader. Zita the Spacegirl is a cute all-ages comic about a girl who travels to another planet to rescue a friend who has been snatched away. If you want to know more, check out Charles Webb and Eddie Wright’s interview with Hatke, also at MTV Geek.
Reading the actual comic presents a challenge, though. You would think a swell outfit like MTV Geek would be able to pay someone to put in links to related posts, or at least use tags, but you’d be wrong. There is no pointer from chapter 1 to chapter 2, and forget about using their search engine—it just churns up an identical list of useless results. It’s a shame: This is a great way to show off a new comic, and get it in front of a lot of new readers, but it looks like no one gave much thought to the problem of leading people from one chapter to the next. I did eventually find the links using Google, but if someone has to use Google to navigate your site, that’s a major failure.
Of course, there may be some blindingly obvious link that I’m just missing (the page is busy, and filled with animated ads), but I have had most of my coffee and I’m still stumped. Anyway, now that we have done the work for you, go ahead and read the comic! And here’s a bonus link: Zita started out as a webcomic, and you can read a couple of episodes at Hatke’s website.
First Second Books has just added a winter list to its traditional spring and summer releases. It’s just two books, but it’s nice to see a quality graphic novel publisher expanding its offerings rather than going into retreat. Here’s the 411, straight from First Second marketing coordinator Gina Gagliano:
Most Adorable Book of the Season: Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke.
Here’s what happens in Zita the Spacegirl: Zita accidentally gets transported into space, and she has to figure out how to get home and also make friends with many alien robots and a giant mouse along the way. Also includes: bonus space-chickens!
Book Most Likely to Make You Grateful that You Are Inside by a Fire and Not Trekking across the Country Having No Idea Where You’re Going: Lewis & Clark, by Nick Bertozzi
Here’s what happens in Lewis & Clark: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the American West, in a non-fictional sort of way! Also includes: lots of expansive landscapes that make you realize just how intimidatingly big the American West was before we all started flying across it in six hours.
There’s more at the links, but that’s the gist of it. Look for both in February, but you can read previews at the links. And while I’m saying nice things about First Second, it’s nice to see a publisher get the website thing right, with a clean, useful catalog page for each book that’s up well in advance of publication.