"Tomb Raider" Finds Its Lara Croft in "Ex Machina's" Alicia Vikander
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Awards | The Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois has chosen Ben Hatke’s Little Robot as the winner of this year’s Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature. The award honors children’s books that bridge the gap between being read to and reading on one’s own. “Hatke’s graphic novel is both cleverly crafted and utterly irresistible,” said Assistant Professor Deborah Stevenson, the head of CCB and chair of the committee. “Our young heroine is an admirable adventurer and capable wielder of a tool belt, and the little robot she finds, repairs, and befriends is an endearing pet/sidekick. The balance between wordless sequences and simple speech-balloon dialogue (plus the robot’s sound effects) will reassure tentative readers and encourage them to decode narrative from both visual and textual clues.” [University of Illinois]
Fandom | Twelve-year-old Cameron Bippen was looking forward to attending Tampa Bay Comic Con, but had to miss the event due to unexplained seizures. Following his release from the hospital, Cameron’s neighbors in Riverview, Florida, threw him his own comic convention, complete with costumed guests and a visit from members of the Tampa Bay 501st Star Wars Legion. [Fox 4 News]
Manga | Lynzee Lamb lists seven manga that have been banned in different areas, including Ultraman (banned in Malaysia for alleged misuse of the word “Allah”) and Dragon Ball, removed from all school libraries in Wicomico, Maryland, because of nudity and “sexual content.” [Anime News Network]
Retailing | Joe Field, owner of the Concord, California, comics shop Flying Colors, talks about how he markets children’s and all-ages titles, with a staff that is ready to make recommendations special area in his store that is easily recognized as safe for kids. “Besides what we’re doing right in that corner though, I think it’s the approach that we take to the entire store, and that is that I’ve never hung up a poster that has blood splatter on it or that has sexually suggestive stuff. We keep the store very family-friendly for everyone,” he said. “It’s not that we’re not selling things for a mature audience, we just don’t push that in the face of people who come in because we are in a suburban area. It is an area with a lot of families and we want the store to be accessible to everyone.” [ICv2]
Wolverine has worn many different costumes over the years, from the classic yellow-and-blue to the more nuanced orange-and-brown to the black-leather biker ensemble. A few have achieved an iconic look, while some others are perhaps best forgotten.
Recalling a comic from his childhood in which Logan donned “very short cutoff jean shorts,” Zita The Spacegirl‘s Ben Hatke has depicted Wolverine in a series of “wrong” outfits, from Superman’s and Vampirella’s to Skeletor’s and Harry Potter’s.
Legal | There’s one fewer party in the lawsuit over the use of the term “comic con”: Newspaper Agency Corp., which produces materials for Salt Lake Comic Con, has settled with the organizers of Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic-Con sued both in August, claiming trademark infringement. Update: A Comic-Con International spokesman clarified that the settlement with the Newspaper Agency Corp. — a printing, advertising and delivery company owned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News under a joint operating agreement — is already in effect, with the company agreeing to a court order that prevents it from using the mark “Comic-Con,” “Comic Con” or its variants in the materials it produces. The lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con organizers continues. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Crime | Someone tossed a homemade fire bomb into the offices of the German newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost at about 2 a.m. on Sunday. Firefighters put out the fire quickly, and no one was in the offices at the time. The paper published three of the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo on Thursday with the headline “This much freedom must be possible!” [The Telegraph]
Editorial cartoons | Michael Kupperman relates his frustrating, and short-lived, experience as a cartoonist for The New York Times. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Retailing | Finally breaking its silence regarding the feud with Hachette over sales terms, Amazon acknowledged it’s buying less print inventory and “safety stock” from the publisher and is no longer taking pre-orders for its titles. And while Amazon conceded that “Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives,” the retail giant said “we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.” The company also recognized the affect the dispute may have on authors, revealing it offered to fund 50 percent of an author pool to help mitigate the impact. Hachette responded, saying it was glad Amazon has admitted its actions have an effect on authors: “We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years — but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator.” [Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat]
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.