Ralph Cosentino is in a fairly unique position when it comes to getting superheroes.
An extremely gifted artist and children’s picture book author, Cosentino has been tasked with telling the stories of several DC superheroes via picture books, which means Cosentino is a) Reclaiming the characters for the audience they were originally created for, b) simplifying their stories down to their most essential aspects in order to fit them into about 32 pages (or the equivalent of thirty-some panels) and c) streamlining them to make them as appealing as possible to an audience unfamiliar with their comics.
Of course, while the children’s story book and comic book have a lot in common, they’re not exactly equivalent, and Cosentino’s work faces some demands that the original, Golden Age comic books did not, including making these characters and their first stories beautiful enough and satisfying enough that they earn their permanent, expensive ($16) format.
Cosentino started this series with 2008’s Batman: The Story of The Dark Knight (which I discussed at some length on my home blog, here), and continued it last year with 2010’s Superman: The Story of The Man of Steel. I was particularly excited to check out his new book, Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess, since the character seems like such a difficult one to get…at least judging by the property’s permanent residence in Hollywood development hell, the recently passed-over David E. Kelly TV pilot and DC’s now seemingly annual reboots of the comics character.
Welcome to a long holiday weekend (at least here in the United States) edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Doug Zawisza, who writes reviews and the occasional article for Comic Book Resources.
To see what Doug and the Robot 6 gang are reading, click below.
Retailing | Troubles continue for Borders Group as the retailer filed notice Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Executive Vice President Thomas D. Carney and Chief Information Officer D. Scott Laverty have resigned. Just last week Borders, the country’s second-largest bookstore chain, announced it’s delaying payments to some publishers as it attempts to restructure its credit lines. [GalleyCat]
Libraries | Four of the top five young-adult titles checked out from the New York Public Library in 2010 were manga: Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, Tite Kubo’s Bleach, Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, and Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z. Jennifer Holm’s graphic novel Babymouse and Jeff Kinney’s comics-prose hybrid Diary of a Wimpy Kid were the top two children’s titles. [NYPL Wire]
A few days ago I posted a teaser for a new Cullen Bunn project coming from Evileye … and now Cullen has revealed more details about it on his blog. Crooked Hills is a new series of prose books for kids that “blends mystery and adventure to weave a fun an unforgettable story of will, friendship and family bonds,” according to the press release.
“Crooked Hills, Missouri, is a combination of many of the small towns in which I grew up,” Bunn said, “from Newton Grove, North Carolina, to Thayer, Missouri. (Thayer in particular helped to form a template for Crooked Hills.) Those towns were rich with interesting people and even more interesting urban legends and ghost stories. With CROOKED HILLS, I imagined sitting in the heart of a dark forest around a campfire, telling kids those kinds of spine-tingling ghost stories. So it seemed to me that having a witch come back to life to kidnap kids and be eaten by a hell hound would scare the living daylights out of almost anybody. But in that nightmare, I also saw a chance to explore what happens when kids face their fears; to overcome them can be incredibly liberating and empowering.”
And as someone pointed out in the comments section of the teaser image, the promo artwork is indeed by Bunn’s The Sixth Gun co-conspirator Brain Hurtt.
Passings | Writer Peter O’Donnell, creator of the Modesty Blaise comic strip, died May 3 at age 90. Steve Holland notes that although the prolific novelist suffered from Parkinson’s disease, he “kept in touch with fans and continued to pen introductions for Titan’s Modesty reprints.”
Born in south London on April 11, 1920, O’Donnell wrote such adventure strips as the long-running adaptation of the James Bond novel Dr. No, Garth, and Romeo Brown before being asked in 1962 to create a new character for the Daily Express. He came up with Modesty Blaise, whose catsuit-wearing heroine fought villainy with the help of her right-hand man Willie Garvin. The strip was quickly picked up by the Evening Standard, and ran from May 1963 to July 2002.
Conventions | The inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew an estimated 27,500 unique attendees, slightly less than the 30,000 expected. “We felt it was an excellent launch,” Lance Fensterman, Reed Exhibitions vice president, told ICv2.com. “For the last year this show has been a theory. For the last three days people have been able to walk around and experience what the event, the concept, and the community are about, and now we can grow from here.” Christopher Borelli, Brent DiCrescenzo and Heidi MacDonald file wrap-ups from the show. [C2E2]
Publishing | According to ICv2′s annual white paper, presented during the Diamond Retailer Summit at C2E2, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada fell 5 percent last year as the total market declined from an estimated $715 million in 2008 to $680 million in 2009. In the book channel, manga sales dropped by more than 20 percent, while sales of kids and young-adult graphic novels jumped by more than 50 percent. [ICv2.com]
Peter Richardson discusses why World War I did not capture creators’ imaginations the way other wars have, and he accompanies his discussion with a beautiful counterexample, a sample from Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches, upcoming from Fantagraphics next month. (via Journalista)
Craig Fischer has a decidedly mixed review of The Definitive Prince Valiant Companion, but then halfway through he goes roaring off into a digression on one of Hal Foster’s possible influences, Olive Beaupre Miller’s series of children’s books titled My Bookhouse. For good measure, someone just sent Ben Towle a set. (I had these as a kid, and they are lovely.) For more about Foster, see Ng Suat Tong’s recent post at The Hooded Utilitarian.
Tom Crippen, who is no Sarah Palin fan, cries foul nonetheless on Oliphant’s cartoon showing her postcoital encounter with a moose, pointing out that it probably reveals more about Oliphant than Palin.
Vom Marlowe reviews vol. 1 of Song of the Hanging Sky, a lovely manga with a quirky plot and a few perplexing translation problems.
Brian Heater thinks Jason’s Almost Silent is a good choice for graphic novel newbies.
Frank Santoro reviews Gipi’s Garage Band at Comics Comics.
Also at Comics Comics: Jeet Heer posts some loosely related notes on John Stanley.
Larry Cruz explains why video game webcomics are a good thing at The Webcomic Overlook.
Sean Gaffney reviews D&Q’s latest Yoshihio Tatsumi release, Black Blizzard.
Is the El Nino winter getting you down? Cheer up my friend, I’ve got just the thing. Namely, another round of What Are You Reading. I bet you’re feeling better already.
Our special guest this week is the lovely and talented Nina Stone, wife of Tucker Stone, who can frequently be found dipping her toe into the comical book waters over at The Factual Opinion, via her regular weekly column Romancing the Stone (formerly known as the Virgin Read).
To find out what Nina and the rest of the R6 crew is reading, click on the link below. But first, put on a sweater. You look cold.
Artist Steven Anderson depicts characters from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s Kick-Ass in the style of children’s book illustrator Roger Hargreaves (author of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series). Anderson’s Flickr account features similar takes on Red Mist, Wolverine, The Hulk, Nick Fury and numerous other comic-book characters.
(via Super Punch)
Arriving on your virtual driveway like a big, thick newspaper (remember those?) it’s time once again for What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is Deb Aoki, who runs the excellent Manga About.com site, which, if you have any interest at all in Japanese comics, you really should have that site bookmarked and/or in your RSS feed.
I’m abstaining from participating in this week’s WAYR, as a nasty cold has made it difficult to form coherent sentences. But Deb and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have a veritable boatload of interesting comics to talk about, so be sure to click on the link and see read their comments. Oh, and be sure to share with us what you’re reading in the comments section, OK?
This isn’t exactly comics, but it’s pretty cool so I’m posting it here anyway. Using classic Japanese monster movie posters as his guide, children’s book illustrator Dan Santat turned out a really rocking cover for his latest project Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World). He blogs about putting the whole thing together here,
The best part? The cover folds out to become a poster kids can hang on their wall. (via)
Will Everyone Please Stop Freaking Out Over Ayn Rand by Peter Bagge
Nancy Vol. One
by John Stanley
Drawn and Quarterly, 128 pages, $24.95.
When faced with the challenge of adapting Ernie Bushmiller’s classic comic strip to longer comic book format, John Stanley’s response was simple and economical: Turn her into Little Lulu.
That’s the only conclusion I can come to after reading this collection of stories in D&Q’s ongoing “John Stanley Library” project. Nancy is pretty much Lulu with frizzier hair, Sluggo is a thinner and slightly more benign Tubby. There’s even a snotty rich kid and bratty little boy similar to Wilbur and Alvin. Stanley even repeats one of his Tubby stories involving a burglar almost note for note.
That doesn’t make Nancy a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. Mediocre Stanley is still miles above most people’s best work. The best stories here though are the ones involving Oona Goosepimple, an odd, Wednesday Addams-type girl who supernatural antics cause no end of anxiety for poor Nancy. It’s those stories where Stanley — freed of the Bushmiller formula — really gets inventive and inspired. If the ratio of Oona stories increases as the volumes do, then I’ll keep buying these books as long as D&Q are able to get them out.
Reviews of Moomin, Amulet and more can be found after the jump …
We’ve said it once before, but it bears repeating: Vice Magazine has commissioned a murderer’s row of 24 alternative comics artists–including Sammy Harkham, Tony Millionaire, Matt Furie, Lisa Hanawalt, Jordan Crane, Benjamin Marra, and Vanessa Davis–for a hugely impressive comics tribute to Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s long-anticipated movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic storybook. The movie comes out today, and all 24 artists’ interpretations are now live. Let the wild rumpus start!
Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95.
Children’s comics don’t get more basic than this. Little Mouse wants to go play in the barn with his brothers and sisters, but first he has to get dressed. He does so step by step showing readers important things like how to button your shirt (and illustrating a narrative sequence of events). Then there’s a punchline and rimshot, the end.
Smith’s art is lush and spry here. I especially liked Little Mouse’s Warner Brothers-style reaction at the end. There’s no denying it’s a cute book, made by an extremely talented guy. But this is really a book for preschoolers and those just learning to read. If you know someone like that, then Little Mouse will make a great gift. But older Bone fan, even those still in elementary school, aren’t going to get too much out of this, beyond a chuckle or two at the end.