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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.[ICv2.com]

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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HeroesCon 2010 | Defective Comics

Promo art for the Defective Comics panel

Promo art for the Defective Comics panel

Heading to Heroes Con? This sounds like a good time: Ben Towle and Craig Fischer will be doing a mega-panel titled “Defective Comics” — “a lovingly critical look at just how bizarre the superhero genre can be.” Details:

The event will include a presentation by Towle on the sad-sack super-man in Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library; a panel discussion with Colleen Coover, Evan Dorkin, Jeff Parker and Chris Pitzer; a talk by Crogan Adventures creator Chris Schweizer about art-comix creators crossing over into mainstream superhero comics; and clips from some of the weirdest and worst superhero films of all time. Excelsior?

Straight for the art | A peek at Towle’s Oyster War

Oyster War by Ben Towle

Oyster War by Ben Towle

More than a year ago Midnight Sun creator Ben Towle shared the name and description of one of his next projects, Oyster War, and I’ve been waiting patiently ever since. Over the last few days he’s been sharing artwork for the splash page, ending with the colored version you see above (and here). Go check out his blog for more sketches and process pieces related to the new book, which can’t get here soon enough.

Related: Towle’s artwork for his Amelia Earhart book will be on display in Winston Salem


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