X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
Publishing | Zainab Akhtar looks at the success of Koyama Press and how it changed the comics small press world as a whole. She starts with the amazing origin story: Founder Annie Koyama nearly died from a brain aneurysm, and while she was recovering she played the stock market so successfully that she was able to quit her job and launch Koyama Press. For six years she provided funding for artists without taking anything for herself, and she also searched for and promoted emerging artists. “On an immediate level, Annie’s generous yet meritocratic approach validated the work of artists who were otherwise written off by the established alternative comics community, which often views this new generation of cartoonists working primarily online as somehow less legitimate,” Akhtar writes. “On a broader scale, her commitment to taking risks on emerging artists reflected an ongoing paradigm shift affecting the way alternative comics are produced and consumed.” [The Fader]
Welcome to Store Tour, ROBOT 6’s weekly exploration of comics shops, and the people who run them; think of it as the retailer version of Shelf Porn. Each Sunday we feature a different store, and also get to know the person behind the register.
For this week’s store, we take our first leave of North America to discover England’s Page 45, 9 Market St., in Nottingham. We spoke with co-owner Jonathan Rigby.
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Graphic novels | The seventh volume of Sailor Moon was the top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in September, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto,Vol. 58, an Avengers character guide, the third volume of Batman: Knightfall, and vol. 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise. ICv2 notes that, the Avengers book aside (and it is published by DK Publishing), Marvel is completely absent from the top ten, although DC makes a strong showing. [ICv2]
Creators | Hope Larson, who adapted Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into graphic novel form, chats with Margaret Ferguson, her editor on the project. [Publishers Weekly]
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, I’d first double-down on creator-owned comics with Butcher Baker, Righteous Maker #8 (Image, $2.99) and Saga #6 (Image, $2.99). I’m glad to see Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston back on Butcher Baker after a hiatus in which I feared it was no more, and I’ve just pulled out #1-7 to get me back up to speed. I’m thinking that taking hallucinogenics would make me enjoy this comic more. On the other side, Saga #6 is flat-out amazing in the most conventional way (despite the unconventional setting). Aliens, ghosts and babies, and yet Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring it all together. At this point I’ve shifted into the The Walking Dead mode of reading – no point in reading about what’s ahead, as I’ll just buy it blindly on the great comics they’ve done so far. After that creator-owned two-fer, I’d give Marvel the rest of my money with Uncanny X-Force #29 (Marvel, $3.99) and Avengers vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99). I think Marvel’s finally found a suitable replacement for Jerome Opena in artist Julian Totino Tedesco, and I hope he’s locked in to finish out this arc. And speaking of Rick Remender’s work, I spent about 15 minutes conversing the other day about how and why he should’ve been enlisted into Marvel’s Architects and worked into Avengers Vs. X-Men. While the group-written approach takes some getting used to, I’d love to see Remender do an issue of this. In Avengers Vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99) however, we see Ed Brubaker taking the lead and showing the Phoenix Force Five venturing into K’un L’un for what seems like the Empire Strikes Back moment of the series.
If I had $30, I’d turn back in all my $15 purchases except Saga #6 and spend the recouped $25-plus dollars and get Hulk: Season One HC (Marvel, $24.99). I’ve never been the biggest Hulk fan, but seeing the previews of Tom Fowler’s art on this has won me over. Fowler, like the above mentioned Tedesco, is one of Marvel’s hidden gems and this might be the launching pad for him to (finally) get some recognition. And for me to get some good comics. Fowler SMASH!
If I could splurge, I’d do the boring choice and simply use it to buy all the single issues mentioned in the $15 section and be able to also afford Hulk: Season One HC. Easy, breezy, beautiful, comics boy.
The Wrong Place (2010), page 72. Brecht Evens.
The printed comics page is rarely allowed to exist as a whole. In comics as they’re traditionally done, the page is basically a vehicle for strings of panels, connected to one another by narrative and the flow of action but usually nothing more. Panels are typically conceived as isolated moments, with poses and camera angles and color schemes unique unto themselves. When one follows the next it almost always tracks the same dialogue streams, the same characters, the same forward thrust of time; but rarely if ever does it expand on the actual space set out in the box before it. Comics cut and cut and cut again, like a film helmed by a hyperactive editor. This is most often a searching medium, forever sliding into new angles and new compositions, looking for a newer and more immediate way into the spaces being set out by the story.
But the page itself is a space too — a single, uninterrupted space, one surface, even when it’s been sectioned up by gutter lines. The artists of comics worth paying attention to are usually aware of this to some extent or another, composing passages of panel-to-panel cutting that also work as a single visual unit, treating the page as a venue for both incremental storytelling and immediate fine art. There’s something to be said for pages that can be taken in all at once, that pull all the space the surface has to give into the accomplishment of a single visual effect.
With a cheerful crowd, a pleasant venue, and plenty of exciting creators and books, this year’s MoCCA seems to have been deemed a success. Both Christopher Mautner and I were there, and we decided that rather than write two separate blog posts, we would have a dialogue in which we contrast our impressions of the show. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive report on the show, check out the MoCCA report by our CBR colleague Alex Dueben as well as Tim Callahan’s writeup of his visit.
Chris: I’ll start: Was this your first time at a small-press comics show? I know you’ve gone to NYCC and several manga/anime related shows before, but I didn’t know if you’d been to something like MoCCA before? What was your general impression?
Brigid: This was my first time at MoCCA and my first time at a small-press comicsshow like this, although I have been to art shows with a similar feel.
First of all, I loved the locale. I actually used to live a few blocks away, so it was a bit of a homecoming for me to walk through Madison Square Park in the sunshine. The building itself had a nice, open, loft-like feel with plenty of rough edges—it felt artsy.
The show itself seemed like a giant, really good, Artists Alley. (I kept getting this feeling of deja vu because there were so many people I had just seen at C2E2.) The show definitely felt crowded, but never overwhelming. I made a pretty good circuit of the floor, but I felt like I missed as much as I saw, and I could easily have spent twice as much time there as I did.
One of the regular features of the new Comics Journal website is a diary comic by a different creator each week. They started off with Brandon Graham, and as this week’s diarist, Pascal Girard, notes, that’s a tough act to follow. Girard is off to a strong start though; his first comic chronicles the doings of Night Animals creator Brecht Evens, who is already becoming a bit of a MoCCA legend (see Peggy Burns’ epic MoCCA post at the Drawn and Quarterly blog for more). Stay tuned!
Night Animals (cover is probably NSFW)
Written and Illustrated by Brecht Evens
Top Shelf; $7.95 (Shipping in March)
When Brecht Evens describes his new work as “a walk on the Where the Wild Things Are side,” he’s not exaggerating. Night Animals contains two stories, each of which follows a normal person into a fantasy world that comments on his and her real-life situation. The second one, “Bad Friends” is especially (and intentionally) reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s most famous book, complete with homemade crown and a wild rumpus in the woods with fierce, wonderful creatures.
But the similarities end right there. Night Animals is no children’s book. From the graphic details in the visuals to the dark, oppressive themes, this is a book for grown-ups. Or – especially in the case of “Bad Friends” – well-adjusted teens at least.
Do you like comics with gorgeous colors, hot sex scenes, and all-too-relatable scenes in which twenty-something urbanites go to crazy nightclubs and lousy parties? Then Belgian cartoonist Brecht Evens’ The Wrong Place may be right book for you. The Drawn & Quarterly release took a lot of readers and critics by storm at the tail end of 2010 with both its incisive writing and innovative use of color as a storytelling mechanism. (You can read my interview with Evens about the book by clicking this link.)
In just a couple months, Evens will be back with a book about a very different kind of night life. Slated for a March release from Top Shelf, Night Animals — an earlier work than The Wrong Place — was described to me by Evens as a walk on the Where the Wild Things Are side. It contains two wordless tales about seemingly normal people who get caught up in a world of wild wonder (and, perhaps, danger) among the creatures beyond the city limits. While the drawing style is more traditional than The Wrong Place‘s all-watercolors approach, it’s just as lush and inviting, and the color washes are just as vibrant and emotionally freighted. Meanwhile, the stories themselves show that Evens is just as adept at fairy tales and fables as he is at lousy parties and awesome one-night stands. Good stuff.
And courtesy of Leigh Walton and the fine folks at Top Shelf, here’s an eight-page preview of the book. Unleash the animal within, folks!
Hello and welcome to a special “birthday bash” edition of our weekly “What Are You Reading” feature, where the Robot 6 crew talks about what books we’ve read recently. Usually we invite a special guest to share what they’ve been reading, but since today isn’t just an ordinary day for us, we thought we’d invite a whole bunch of special guests to help us out — our friends and colleagues from Comic Book Resources, Spinoff and Comics Should Be Good!
To see what everyone has been reading, click below …
Brecht Evens took a lot of people by surprise this past autumn. Seemingly emerging from nowhere, the Flemish cartoonist’s English-language graphic-novel debut, The Wrong Place, was released by Drawn & Quarterly and quickly made a major splash among critics and cartoonists in a year already crowded by high-quality releases. For that you can thank Evens’ eye-popping painted colors, which do far more than just tell you what color hair or clothes his characters have.
His story of a small group of twenty-somethings — revolving around an odd couple of mismatched friends and their divergent night lives during a party, a one-night stand, and a night out at a club — uses color almost as a code. It differentiates the characters, conveys their personalities, and helps us understand their environments and relationships. You’ll see parts of yourself you like and dislike in all three of its main characters: gray-colored wallflower Gary, his legend-in-his-own-time bright-blue best friend Robbie, and Olivia, who decides to live it up one night in fiery red.
So color us excited (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to be able to interview Evens as part of Robot 6’s second anniversary spectacular…
Sean T. Collins: The thing that most surprised me about The Wrong Place was that it didn’t “teach me a lesson.” I expected to be hit with a moral about how Robbie’s vida loca was actually empty and meaningless, or how wrong it is for Gary not to loosen up and live a little, but neither thing happened. Olivia shows a tinge of regret about her wild night with Robbie, but it’s just a tinge, not an indication that she Did The Wrong Thing or something like that. All of this despite the fact that the title itself implies that one or all of these characters is not where they really belong. I was hoping you could talk a bit about why you took this approach to your main characters and their decisions, which I found refreshingly non-judgmental.
Brecht Evens: I was 20 when I came up with the first draft, the setup for the book, and it was very noir, very contrived and judgmental, and full of nifty “ideas.” Most of this got thrown out along the way, where the ideas come to seem stale and instead the need becomes greater to be able to believe in and identify with the characters, and to testify about things observed in real life. Or, because I automatically began to identify with the characters, and love them, I was more compelled to nuance.