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Start Reading Now (Again) | Ben Towle’s Oyster War

Ben Towle (Midnight Sun, Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean) has been posting pages from his current project, the seaside adventure webcomic Oyster War for a while now on Tumblr. The trouble is, Tumblr’s not all that friendly an experience for webcomics readers. Pages are difficult to navigate and since Oyster War is a “graphic novel in progress” (and new pages go up every two weeks) it’s good to be able to flip back a page or two to remind yourself what’s going on.

Fortunately, Towle’s realized this himself and has switched the comic to its own site with traditional navigation buttons. He just started Chapter Five (reading 45 pages will catch you up), so it’s a great time to jump in on a cool, fantastical comic about oyster pirates and the ragtag crew intent on ending their pilfering ways.

Comics A.M. | Is Amazon planning its own brick-and-mortar chain?


Retailing | Rumors have begun to swirl that online retail giant Amazon plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle within the next few months to help gauge the profitability of a chain. The store reportedly won’t just sell e-readers and tablets, but also books from Amazon’s newly launched publishing division. [Good E-Reader, Gawker]

Publishing | Japanese publisher Shueisha Inc. released the 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece last week with a first printing of 4 million copies, tying the record set in November by the previous volume. [The Mainichi Daily News]

Retailing | Howard Ackler writes about the final days of Dragon Lady Comics, the Toronto retailer that closed last week after 33 years in business. [National Post]

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What are you excited about for 2012?

[Note: this post was assembled by both Tim O’Shea and JK Parkin]

This is our final post for our big birthday bash, and what a post it is. No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they are excited about for 2012 in comics–something they aren’t working on and something they are.

There’s a lot of great stuff here–hints at new projects and even some downright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded!

Jason Latour

Loose Ends 4

I’m most anticipating the 30th Anniversary of HEROES CON (June 22-24, Charlotte, NC) . For any convention 30 years is an amazing run, but the fact that Shelton Drum and his extended family have put this show together every year with nothing but blood, sweat and tears is flat out super heroic.

On the personal front, the challenging and exhilarating ride that’s been Loose Ends will come to a close with issue 4. It’ll be bittersweet to send our child off to into the real world but I can’t wait for you guys to see the work Brunner & Renzi are doing.

I’m also super excited to dip my own toes into the Mignola-verse with the BPRD: The Pickens County Horror [March 28, 2012] and to read the end of Jason Aaron & RM Guera’s Scalped, which is my favorite series in years.

Jason Latour is a writer/artist, most recently the writer of Loose Ends. He spoke with Tim O’Shea about the miniseries in July.

Patrick Zircher

This sounds politic, but it’s genuine: what excites me about comics in 2012 is what’s exciting every year, the work of the talent.  Seeing what the best are up to and how the up-n-comers have grown as artists and writers.  In the new year, I’m also excited about illustrating several books and covers that feature my favorite Avengers.

Patrick Zircher is an artist, who explored the 1920s/1930s era of the Marvel universe in 2011 with the five-issue miniseries, Mystery Men. He spoke with Tim O’Shea about the miniseries in May.

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Cyber Monday sales-o-rama

Just like we did with Black Friday, we’ve rounded up various deals on comics and comic-related stuff that you can get on Cyber Monday. And since at least one of the deals kicks off at midnight Pacific time, I thought I’d go ahead and post the list now instead of waiting for tomorrow morning. I’ll add any additional deals I discover throughout the day.

Also, if you did check out our Black Friday list, some of these are repeats from it, as several places have deals that have been running all weekend and go through Monday. I’ve put the new stuff up top, after the deal that starts at midnight …

Dark Horse Comics has another digital deal set up for Cyber Monday: the first 500 customers through Dark Horse Digital will get a 50 percent discount. There’s a $20 minimum, and the deal runs for 24 hours beginning at midnight Pacific Time on Nov. 28; you’ll also need a coupon code: dhcyber. You can find more details here.

And if you buy $100 worth of stuff from Things from Another World on Monday, they’ll give you $10 worth of digital Dark Horse Comics.

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Ben Towle gives steampunk a fresh twist

Ben Towle has posted some sketches on his blog of a work that is not so much in progress as on hold: A graphic novel adaptation of Cherie Priest’s steampunk zombie novel Boneshaker. Towle has an interesting perspective:

As I looked to working up some drawings for this, I made a deliberate effort to avoid for the most part visual references that dealt with steampunk and instead sought out historical imagery from the American Civil War. My approach to this was just to forget about “steampunk” entirely and to approach the project as an alternate history of the Civil War.

In the end, what got him was the zombies, or rather, the daunting task of coming up with a visual take on zombies that hasn’t been done a million times before. He hasn’t given up, though, just put the project on hiatus for now… and he’s looking at some other books as well. In the meantime, enjoy the art—he has a few more pieces posted at his blog.

SLG Publishing goes digital two ways

SLG Publishing has been doing digital comics since before they were cool, and this week had more news on that front: They have signed with iVerse, and their comics will be available in iVerse’s Comics Plus reader. This will definitely help bring their comics to a wider audience. The digital launch includes the first five issues of Nightmares & Fairy Tales, Serenity Rose, and Ben Towle’s Midnight Sun, and the first three issues of Rex Libris.

Checking the SLG site, I also noticed they are doing digital in a different way: They are making Katy Weselcouch’s The Floundering Time available in CBZ format, for use in readers such as ComicZeal, and they say they will be making more comics available in that format in the future. The advantage to CBZ is that you can download it once and keep it. Comics bought through iVerse can only be read in the Comics Plus reader, and if the company or the technology disappears, your comics may disappear as well. Basically, digital comics distributors don’t sell you a comic, they sell you a license to read a comic. CBZ is much more portable and makes it possible to keep your comics forever, independent of a particular distributor or app. The ebook versions of The Floundering Time are priced at a very reasonable $3.99, a considerable savings over the print price of $12.95.

Ben Towle talks cartooning on film

Folktales and Airships from Peter Salomone on Vimeo.

Artist Ben Towle, whose credits include Midnight Sun and Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, is the subject of Folktales and Airships, a documentary by Peter Salomone, a filmmaker who is working toward an MFA in filmmaking at Wake Forest University. Towle confessed to having some misgivings about the project:

One of my big personal pet peeves with comics documentaries is how the actual comics artwork is filmed and shown on-screen. Filmmakers (because they’re used to moving images I assume) have a tendency to want to make the comics images move and this often works out really really badly. It also seems to me to imply that the original static comics images are somehow deficient and need to be “augmented” for use in film. A particularly egregious example of this is Tintin and Me, in which Hergé’s artwork is separated into foreground and background elements and then subjected to some sort of half-assed animation effect. On the other hand, I can certainly see some reasoning behind not wanting just a static image on-screen for long periods. There are a lot of ways to handle this problem in film, and I had some trepidations for sure about how it would be dealt with with my artwork.

Nonetheless, he was happy with the way Folktales and Airships turned out. It’s only 9 minutes long, but the film has a nice mix of Towle’s art and interviews with the artist himself.

Talking Comics with Tim | Rico Renzi

HeroesCon 2011

Not to mince words, HeroesCon is my San Diego. Scheduled for June 3-5 at the Charlotte Convention Center this year, I recently caught up with Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find Creative Director Rico Renzi, to discuss what to look forward to at HeroesCon 2011. Anyone that has read my past con reports knows how much I always enjoy this family friendly/comics focused con, and will not be surprised to learn I will be in attendance again this year. Thanks to Renzi for the interview and for giving us the scoop that  Farel Dalrymple is returning to the con this year. I was also enthused  to learn the con is trying a Friday night event this year, as well as introducing a new section of the convention floor devoted to comic strip creators.

Tim O’Shea: How are things shaping up with less than a month to go before the con, starting to panic? Planning-wise, how do you and Shelton Drum (con founder/organizer and owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find) divvy up the heavy lifting of making this con happen?

Rico Renzi: HeroesCon is like breathing to Shelton so I’m pretty sure he’s not panicking. This is my first time doing anything like this so, yeah I think there’s some pressure on me. Maybe I get a pass since this is my first year though? Dustin Harbin has been a great help showing me the ropes on a few things, especially the floor plan. Deciding where everyone is going to sit seems like the hardest job to me right now. Aside from that we get great help from our warehouse manager, Seth Peagler. Whether I need someone to brainstorm with or edit my blog posts, Seth is my guy. Also, Andy Mansell has been instrumental in planning and coordinating our programming. These guys keep me sane!

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Comics A.M. | Green Lantern light-up displays pose fire hazard

Green Lantern Animated Light Up Display

Retailing | DC Comics has advised retailers to immediately unplug the $150 Green Lantern Animated Light Up Display after one of the signs caused a small electrical fire Saturday at Rick’s Comic City in Nashville. Other retailers have reported the smell of burning plastic coming from the displays. The publisher will notify stores in the next few days how it will rectify the problem.[]

Retailing | Borders Group lost more than $50 million in February and March as it sought bankruptcy protection and began liquidating 226 stores, a new court filing shows. [The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly]

Publishing | Mike Searle, former editor of Wizard Entertainment’s defunct InQuest Gamer magazine, reportedly will replace Mike Cotton at Wizard World Digital. Cotton, who had been co-chief pop culture editor, left the company on Friday. [Bleeding Cool]

Conventions | Forces of Geek rounds up news from last weekend’s Boston Comic Con. [Forces of Geek]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Ben Towle

Oyster War Tumblr

On any given week, reading Ben Towle’s Twitter feed or Oyster War Tumblr or his blog, I tend to take away some perspective of substance. And that’s what prompted me to do this email interview with him. Rather than explain what ground we tried to cover, I prefer to jump right into the interview, after thanking Towle for his time and thoughts. This interview was conducted prior to Towle’s Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean being nominated in the Eisner Best Publication for Kids category.

Tim O’Shea: When you started on Oyster War, did you expect that “publishers [would not]… be beating down my door to publish this weird, not-all-ages mashup of 20s newspaper comic strips and obscure (at least in the U.S.) French graphic novels“? Or has that been an unexpected, disappointing surprise?

Ben Towle: As far as my statement about publishers goes, I should clarify: no big publishing house is beating down my door to give me a publishing deal with a decent advance. And no, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

I guess I’ve gotten a reputation as a naysayer as a result, but I’ve always been quite dubious of the (in my opinion, very Pollyanna-ish) claim that the graphic novel as a literary/art form has “arrived.” I think if you look at what GNs for adults have gotten deals from big publishers, they’re almost exclusively very specific genres—usually memoir with some sort of an angle (historical, grave illness, identity politics, etc.)—-and that’s not the sort of thing I’m personally interested in doing comics about.

That said, I’m optimistic that once Oyster War gets to the point that it’s, say, 75% complete I’ll be able to shop it around to a specialty graphic novels publisher and find it a home. It would be nice if we got to the point that there’s a sizable enough audience for adult general fiction graphic novels to sustain the “living from advance to advance” model that successful prose authors can pull off, but until then, I’ll just continue to do what I’ve been doing: produce the work that I love doing and which I truly believe in, and hope to find some success with those projects on the back end.

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Start reading now: Ben Towle’s Oyster War

from "Oyster War"

Ben Towle, artist on Hyperion’s Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and creator of Midnight Sun, has started to post pages from his forthcoming graphic novel Oyster War on tumblr.

“Does that make Oyster War a webcomic now? Probably not,” he said on his blog. “I’ll be violating the webcomics first rule–’update regularly’–right off the bat: I just posted twenty-something pages in one big batch, and I’ll only start posting new pages once I’ve started cranking out pages from the next chapter… which is still a few weeks off at best.”

You can start reading the first two chapters here.

Ben Towle’s history of the ukulele

Here’s a fun take on an obscure topic: Ukuleles have been around forever, but where did they come from, and who plays them? Ben Towle drew a one-page comic about the history of the uke for the music magazine Signal to Noise, and he posted it on his blog little while back.

In just a handful of panels, Towle quickly sketches out the history of the ukulele, throws in a few fascinating facts, and takes a couple of digs at Tiny Tim. The comic is both funny and informative, and if you like it, check out Towle’s take on the 1950s soul/R&B band, The “5” Royales.

Gift suggestions for every taste | Vintage X-Men game, Brown’s cat cards

Wolverine by Dan Panosian

Brigid did a round-up yesterday of various holiday gift-giving suggestions, so I thought I’d follow suit with some that I’ve seen lately.

• The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning off original art by Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Gabriel Hardman, Tom Fowler, Dan Paosian and many more, as well as lunch with Chew writer John Layman in New York next week.

• I remember shoveling a whole bunch of quarters into the X-Men arcade game back in the day; my friend Mike and I beat the game as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. If you have an Xbox fan in your life, they too can fight the Blob, Magneto and more in side-scrolling action, as the game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade Dec. 15. The PlayStation Network, unfortunately, won’t get it until February, so you’ll have to find something else this holiday season for the PS3 fan in your life. Joy to the world! The game will hit the PlayStation Network Dec. 14!

• Khepri Comics is selling Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Atelier, a comic they created to sell at conventions.

• Comics creator Ben Towle has a 20 percent off sale going in his web store, where you can purchase original art from books like Midnight Sun, signed copies of Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and superhero commissions.

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Sketchbook: Ben Towle creates some characters

A character evolves in Ben Towle's sketchbook

Ben Towle has been working up his characters for his next graphic novel, In the Weeds (which sounds like it will be set behind the scenes at a restaurant), and he shows off his thought process at his blog. The book presents some challenges:

About half of the book takes place in a restaurant kitchen and this presents a prickly problem in that everyone will be dressed the same. It’d be really easy here to fall into an “Alien 3″ situation here where you’ve got a bunch of (mostly) white guys running around in the same outfit and you can’t tell who’s doing what or saying what unless you’re seeing a close-up of their faces.

It’s interesting to see how much the characters change as he refines them.

What Are You Reading?

Afrodisiac cover

Afrodisiac cover

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? Our guest this week is Van Jensen, writer of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater. To see what Van and the rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below.

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