DiDio & Lee Say Early "Rebirth" Response is 'Uncharted Territory' for DC Comics
Passings | Longtime Mark Trail artist Jack Elrod Jr. died Wednesday at age 91. Mark Trail was created in 1946 by Ed Dodd, who brought on Elrod four years later as a background artist. When Dodd retired in 1978, Elrod took over the comic strip, and earned many awards from environmental organizations. He also made a significant change due to reader feedback, removing the title character’s pipe after a 6-year-old fan wrote to him saying, “It is bad for his health, pollutes the air, and it is dangerous to the birds.” Elrod retired in 2014, handing over Mark Trail to current artist and writer James Allen. [Gainesville Times]
Comic strips | The soap opera comic strip Apartment 3-G ended its 54-year run Sunday with little fanfare, leaving it up to a handful of bloggers, including Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter and Josh Fruhlinger of The Comics Curmudgeon, to give the longtime funny-page staple a proper sendoff. “It definitely has an unaffected, what-we-call-Lynchian quality where what you’re seeing and what you’re ‘hearing’ as dialogue don’t match,” Spurgeon writes. “The limited sets and slightly faded color choices make it a bit nightmarish, almost like the world is collapsing comic book ‘crisis’ style around these increasingly feckless characters. It’s hard to believe there are more than a dozen “places” in the world these characters exist. [The A.V. Club]
Publishing | Vox takes a lengthy look at the effects of DC Comics’ efforts to diversify, in terms of characters, titles and creators. The article, which includes interviews with Marguerite Bennett, Genevieve Valentine, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, notes that while new titles like DC Comics Bombshells have been successful, others launched under the “DC You” umbrella – Black Canary and Midnighter, for instance — are on far shakier ground, sales-wise. However, Co-Publisher Lee suggests the company is standing behind the initiative: “I think it’s important for us to listen and to learn and basically to adjust and pivot. There is this emerging audience. Comics are changing. At the end of the day, if you’re going to remain competitive and grow and flourish, you have to be able to adapt and change and evolve.” [Vox.com]
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kadokawa will relaunch its English-language e-book service BookWalker on Oct. 8 with 700 new manga and light novel titles. BookWalker, which includes a website and iOS and Android apps, debuted last year with a library of Kadokawa books, including Sgt. Frog and Neon Genesis Evangelion, some of which have also been published by Viz Media and Dark Horse. The new site will include a wider range of books from other Japanese and North American publishers. Kadokawa also runs ComicWalker site, which offers free chapters of manga in English. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Colin McEnroe interviews Zippy creator Bill Griffith about his new book, Invisible Ink, which is the story of his late mother’s affair with a cartoonist — or, as McEnroe puts it, “Zippy Meets Freud.” [NPR]
Legal | A judge has ordered Matthew Pocci to stand trial on charges of felony reckless driving for an incident at last year’s SDCC ZombieWalk: San Diego that left one woman seriously injured. In a preliminary hearing held Wednesday, the defense argued that Pocci, who is deaf, was scared for his and his family’s safety, and was just trying to drive through an opening in the crowd of spectators, but the prosecution countered that he had grown angry and impatient. [CBS 8 San Diego]
Comics | Michael Dooley looks at Marvel’s Daredevil through the years, with an emphasis on the art. [Print Magazine]
Graphic novels | The National Arts Council of Singapore has withdrawn a $8,000 publication grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography of the Singaporean comics pioneer that depicts some tumultuous events in the nation’s history. “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions,” said Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the literary arts sector of the NAC. He did not specify what the “sensitive content” was, but the book makes satirical references to Singaporean politics and history. The publisher, Epigram, will return the $6,400 that was disbursed already and will cover the NAC’s logo on the book cover with a sticker. The book will be published next year in the United States by Pantheon. [Straits Times]
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Bay Area’s Alternative Press Expo, and Comic-Con International has announced the special guests who will be in attendance when it returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco Oct. 12-13 for what will be its last show at the venue.
This year’s special guests are:
APE was started in 1994 by SLG Publishing’s Dan Vado and was held in San Jose until 1999. It moved to San Francisco after that and has been held at the Concourse since 2004. But according to CCI, the show will be looking for a new home next year. “Sadly, we have been notified that this will be the last year for APE at that location,” a statement on the show’s website reads. “The Concourse is scheduled to be razed at some point in the future to make room for new condominiums.”
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who hasn’t been associated with the show since 2000, has been brought back to the Gwinnett County Jail and booked on child molestation charges that date back to August 2000. The 51-year-old Kramer was released on bond after his initial arrest following accusations that he sexually abused three boys, and has avoided jail and court for more than a decade because of his health problems, although he was under house arrest for a while. He was arrested again in Connecticut in 2011 for violating the conditions of his bond after he was allegedly found alone in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy. Atlanta Magazine ran a lengthy expose on Kramer last year. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
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 only had $15, I’d walk out a happy camper despite only having one book, because that book is 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22 (Viz, $12.99). While your typical American comics fan may have no idea who Naoki Urasawa is, he is in my mind undoubtedly the best cartoonist working today. Twenty-two books in and he hasn’t let up, delivering comics’ example of long-run storytelling perfection a la Sopranos. Friend is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in comics in some time, and the mad assemblage of childhood pals out to stop him are some of my most treasured fictional friends.
If I had $30, I’d come back to comic stores on an American tip, starting off with Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW Publishing, $3.99) by James Stokoe. I missed this when the first issue came out, but since then I’ve found it and relished its pure cartooning chaos. The first issue was an ideal debut, and I’m interested to see Stokoe take Lt. Murakami to Vietman in the ’60s for the ongoing war on Godzilla. After that I’d get the satisfying chunk, Dark Horse Presents #16 (Dark Horse, $7.99). I’ve been repeating the same praises every month, so let me try to spin it differently. This new issue, I have little idea what’s in it besides the return of Crime Doesn’t Pay; there’s a new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in it I have heard nothing about, but DHP has re-built its track record of excellence and I’m fine spending $7.99 sight unseen. My final pick would be Daredevil #18 (Marvel, 2.99). Chris Samnee is quite different than the original artists on the book, but is excelling with Mark Waid in a new way — and that’s good. Instead of aping what had gone before, Samnee assuredly gives us his own style that would make any true fan of art in comics smile.
Oh ,wait, I found some money. I know, I’ll buy Memorial, Vol. 1 (IDW, $24.99). I missed this in singles, and this hardcover looks like the perfect chance to me to make up for past mistakes. These covers by Michael WM Kaluta really get my heart beating, and I’ve been wanting to read more of Chris Roberson on his own. The preview on IDW’s website gives me the impression it’s got down-to-earth personality amidst a fantasy world, and reminds me of classic supernatural fiction like A Wrinkle in Time or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.'” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
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 this week, I’d avoid Marvel and DC altogether and go for some more independent offerings. Top of the pile would definitely be Prophet #21 (Image, $2.99), Brandon Graham’s much-anticipated revamp of the Rob Liefeld book from the mid-90s, recreated (with artist Simon Roy) as some kind of Heavy Metal fever dream; I’m a massive fan of Graham’s, and excited to see what he can come up with when he tries to play it (relatively) straight. I’d also grab Dynamite’s Kirby Genesis: Dragonbane #1 ($3.99), another spin-off from the Busiek/Ross/Herbert series this time focusing on the almost Thor-analog warrior, and IDW’s Memorial #2 ($3.99), continuing the urban fantasy series that I enjoyed so much last month. Lastly, I’d grab the cheap relaunch for Antony Johnston’s Wasteland (#33, Oni, $1.00); I’ve really enjoyed this post-apocalyptic world building book for awhile, but this relaunch – which will return the book to a monthly schedule as well as debut new artist Justin Greenwood – looks set to be a good jumping-on point for those who’ve never sampled its charms before.
If I had $30, I’d be likely to put Dragonbane back on the shelf and try out Marvel’s Fear Itself: Journey Into Mystery Premiere HC collection ($19.99) instead. Not having been a fan of Matt Fraction’s Thor, I skipped the first few issues of this and then, by the time I kept hearing great things and realized I actually really enjoy Kieron Gillen’s writing, it was far enough into the run that I knew I’d end up waiting for the collection. Color me cautiously optimistic.
When it comes to splurging, my love of comics from around when I was born rears its ugly head again, and I find myself drawn to Marvel Firsts: 1970s Vol. 1 TP (Marvel, $29.99). This is possibly my favorite era from the House of Ideas, so the idea of an anthology of some of its weirdest hits sounds right up my alley.
I was surprised when Bil told me he read Zippy in his local Arizona paper and liked it. He didn’t even qualify his opinion with the usual, “Of course, I don’t always get it.” Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to The Family Circus, but I slowly began to see that you could read more into it than what appeared on the surface.
We mentioned the other day that the late Bil Keane once did a Family Circus crossover with Bill Griffith’s Zippy. Griffith has a nice piece at The Comics Journal that explains how the crossover came about and reinforces what everyone says about Keane being a nice guy but also sharper than his genial comic would lead you to believe; he also posts the Zippy strips that feature Jeffy and the Family Circus panel that features Zippy in all their surreal glory.
The world of comics is filled with tortured souls, but Bil Keane was not one of them.
The creator of The Family Circus passed away Tuesday at the age of 89, after what was by all accounts a wonderful life. Keane started drawing The Family Circus in 1960, and it is still going strong today — his son Jeff took over in recent years — and his 60-year marriage to Thelma Keane, the model for the mother in the cartoon, was a love match. Keane served as the president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1981 to 1983 and emceed its awards banquet for 16 years. Even before he died, his fellow cartoonists unfailingly described him as the nicest of nice guys, and startlingly funny. His niceness, apparently, had a bit of an edge.
Keane took The Family Circus seriously, seeing his mission as providing “good, wholesome, family entertainment,” a sort of cartoon comfort food for readers whose real-life families may not have been quite as warm as his fictional clan. In fact, one of the most touching tributes to his work came from Lynda Barry:
I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house, but we did have the daily paper, and I remember picking out ”Family Circus” before I could really read. There was something about looking through a circle at a life that looked pretty good to me.
For kids like me, there was a map and a compass that was hidden [in] “Family Circus.” The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. He put that image in my head and it stayed with me.