Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday 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.
Even if I didn’t have any money at all, I’d stand on the street corner and beg until I collected three bucks to buy Alpha Flight #0.1 ($2.99). I’ve never not bought an issue of Alpha Flight and I’m not breaking that streak this week. Fortunately I have $15 and can afford to get not only that, but also Rocketeer Adventures #1 ($3.99), which I’m only slightly less excited about. And since I’ve still got some money I’d add Drums #1 ($2.99) – because it’s been a while since I’ve read a voodoo story and this looks like a good one – and Snake Eyes #1 ($3.99). I’m not a GI Joe fan, but ninjas are cool and expect that I’d be entertained by a comic about one who fights an evil spy organization.
Publishing | The drop in year-over-year sales in the direct market slowed in April, with periodicals slipping 1.75 percent and graphic novels just .84 percent. Overall sales were down 1.46 percent for April and 6.5 percent for the first four months of the year. Marvel topped Diamond’s comics chart with Fear Itself #1, while DC led the graphic novel category with the 15th volume of Fables. [ICv2.com]
Crime | Police evacuated the bus terminal in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Friday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered across the street. The Michigan State Police bomb squad was called in, and it was determined the mysterious package was merely a briefcase-shaped media kit promoting Acura’s involvement with Marvel’s Thor. A writer for Automobile, whose offices are next to the terminal, had discarded the “S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test” kit in the recycling bin, but it wasn’t picked up — apparently because it isn’t recyclable. [WXYZ, Jalopnik]
Crime | Police in Petoskey, Michigan, arrested a 31-year-old man early Wednesday morning after he allegedly climbed to the roof of a downtown hardware store dressed as Batman. Mark Wayne Williams of Harbor Springs — yes, his middle name is Wayne — has been charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and possession of dangerous weapons, as he reportedly carried a folding steel baton, weighted (sand-filled) gloves, and a can of chemical irritant spray.
Williams said at his arraignment that he didn’t realize the items were illegal, but didn’t offer an explanation as to why he was hanging off the roof of Meyer Ace Hardware dressed as the Dark Knight. The incident apparently isn’t Williams’ first encounter with police: The city’s public safety director said he had previously dressed as the Crow, but didn’t give any further details. [Petoskey News]
Crime | The expired website domain of defunct manga publisher Go! Comi is being used in a scam by an unknown party to solicit donations under the guise of resurrecting the company. “It is not real,” Audry Taylor, Go! Comi’s former creative director, warned last night on Twitter. “Do not donate. Gonna my lawyers on them.” [Anime News Network]
Broadway | The $70-million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will emerge Thursday from its three-week hiatus a vastly changed production, featuring five additional flying sequences, expanded roles for Aunt May, Uncle Ben and Mary Jane, a scaled back (and transformed) Arachne, new songs and a lighter tone. “There is still a ton of emotional complexity in the musical, and some of that original darkness,” says playwright and comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was hired to help rework the script. “But we all also wanted a show that would honor the rich legacy and history of the Spider-Man story: the high school love story, the pretty girl next door, the science geek who is coping with new powers.” The new opening night is set for June 14. [The New York Times]
Publishing | Gregory Noveck, former senior vice president-creative affairs at DC Entertainment, has been hired as senior vice president of production for Syfy Films, a joint venture of Syfy and Universal. Noveck, who oversaw DC’s film and television ventures, left the company in August amid a massive restructuring. [Heat Vision]
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]
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or TCAF, is coming up May 7-8, and to promote it some friends of the organizers have created this nifty video featuring many of Toronto’s talented comics folks — Chester Brown, Michael Comeau, Steve Charles Manale, Vicki Nerino, Michael Cho, Michael DeForge, Seth, Fiona Smyth and Britt Wilson.
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]
Paying for It
by Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly, 272 pages, $24.95.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Paying for It, Chester Brown’s latest graphic novel, is an autobiographical work in the same vein as his seminal books The Playboy and I Never Liked You. You’d be forgiven but you’d be wrong. Despite what surface appearances might suggest, the book’s autobiographical and personal elements are in service to its larger goals, which is to serve a polemic. A polemic whose ultimate message is: “Prostitution is really, really awesome.”
With the end of the year approaching, book publishers are sending out their preview catalogs to book buyers and the media. One of those publishers, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, just happens to represent the Canadian comics company Drawn & Quarterly, which means we can get a sneak peek of sorts at their plans for the spring and summer months. Most of these titles won’t be too surprising to those who follow the company’s output, but there are a few books of note that readers may not be expecting. Click on the link to find out what they are.
Since my repertoire of Canada-based witticisms is entirely derived from half-remembered viewings of Strange Brew, I’m just gonna skip the clever opening and point you straight to this rather amazing gallery of (mostly) DC Comics superheroes drawn by (mostly) alternative comics artists (entirely) from Canada. It’s The Doug Wright Awards 2010 All-Star All-Canadian Art Auction, in which these pieces are being sold on eBay to help fund the annual award program. That’s Jillian Tamaki’s gorgeous take on Catwoman above (DC editors, are you paying attention?); click here to see Kate Beaton’s Wonder Woman, Chester Brown’s Batman, Jeff Lemire’s Hawkman & Atom, Matt Forsythe’s Hawkman, Marc Bell’s Iron Man (guess he didn’t get the “DC Comics characters” memo), original art from Bryan Lee O’Malley and more, and click here to start bidding.
(via Tom Spurgeon)
Nate Powell‘s Swallow Me Whole is a graphic novel that demands and warrants repeated readings. Released by Top Shelf last year, the publisher describes it as “a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one’s unraveling.” My thanks to Powell for this email interview and his level of candor.
Tim O’Shea: What motivated you to start self-publishing mini-comics at the age of 14?
Nate Powell: Well, I’d been drawing comics with a few friends for a couple of years already. We had many issues of a comic series mapped out, and a friend’s uncle suggested that we finish up each issue and self-publish it. We didn’t really know what that entailed, but soon discovered a few neglected copy machines around town and in my dad’s office. We made 100 copies of the first comic, and they all sold in about two months; we’d never anticipated recovering our expenses, or anyone actually BUYING the books, to be honest. We just wanted to have a comic too, and found the most accessible way to make them. At this time I was already into the punk subculture and had been exposed to people who made zines and released records in much the same manner, but it was not until a few years later when I started writing zines and putting out records that I saw the inherent connections between these two realms of DIY entrepreneurship.
Anders Nilsen makes improvisational storytelling entertaining, I’m happy to say. Nowhere is this more evident than his most recent Fantagraphics release (the second part in a trilogy and the follow up to Monologues for the Coming Plague), Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes. I was fortunate enough to recently email interview Nilsen about his creative efforts.
Tim O’Shea: Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes is the second in what will eventually be a trilogy, as you noted at your blog. Did you set out wanting to create a trilogy when you embarked on Monologues for the Coming Plague?
Anders Nilsen: When I started the first book I just thought I was doing some experiments in my sketchbook. Playing around. But once I had finished the material that comprises the first book I had started to see the potential for a more expanded form–the narrative had started to come together, characters develop, etc. I started thinking about it as a trilogy then.
O’Shea: In lettering the stories, you cross out text at certain points.What freedom do you enjoy by approaching these books as improvisational sketchbooks?
Jeet Heer is a critic and scholar who makes me realize I’m incredibly ignorant of the comics medium on so many levels. Therefore when I had the opportunity to interview him recently, to say I was intimidated (even though it was via the comfort of email) is an understatement. We covered a great deal of ground in our email exchange, but it is so diverse while at the same time succinct, I have opted to split the interview into two parts. The second part (found here) focuses on Heer’s collaboration with Kent Worcester. My thanks to Heer for his time and thoughts.
Tim O’Shea: What is the labor breakdown between you, Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros in terms of editing the collections of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley? Who handles what on the projects?
Jeet Heer: I see the Walt and Skeezix books as truly collaborative efforts. With each volume, Chris Ware and I make a trip out to see Frank King’s family, collect material and decide what the theme is going to be. I try to shape my writing around the visual material: thus in volume 3, we had a lot of photos of Gasoline Alley toys and merchandizing, thanks in large part to Chris’s efforts as a collector. See those photos inspired me to write about King’s ability to spin off merchandizing based on is characters. Chris Oliveros, of course, handles the production end of things, which is a big part of the book’s appeal (and a big reason why Drawn and Quarterly books are so treasured). I’m less involved in the production decision, but I often eavesdrop as an interested observer and it’s fascinating to listen to the two Chrises talk about paper stock, the size of books, the color scheme of the covers and other details. For both Ware and Oliveros, book making is truly an art. This is important to bear in mind because until recently, book production wasn’t a big part of comics: most comic strip collection and comic books were shoddily put together. To be sure, there were exceptions like the Barnaby books of the 1940s, or Walt Kelly’s warm and inviting Pogo paperbacks of the 1950s. But the real revolution in comics came in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to four people: Francoise Mouly, Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, and Chris Oliveros. The four really taught us that to do justice to comics as a visual form, the book design had to be specifically tailored to show the art in the best light.