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A young girl ventures into an abandoned, labyrinthine city in order to find her lost brother, despite it’s being haunted by malevolent demons. One of the strengths of Wartman’s debut graphic novel is that he doesn’t vary much from that core story outline. He dabbles in a lot of overly familiar genre and mythological tropes to be sure (there’s some business with the demons being named and people entering the city forgetting who they are) but he doesn’t play up these elements too strongly or let them overwhelm the story, instead keeping the focus on the girl and her desire to locate her brother. I also liked the relationship between the girl and a somewhat helpful demon who seems so astonished that someone would willingly enter the city that he ends up acting as a benefactor. Again, it’s a familiar trope, but paces the story well enough that it never once feels rote or cliched.
Another key to the book’s success is the city itself. I can’t emphasize enough the need for cartoonists, especially young cartoonists, to set their stories in a well-defined universe. This is especially true in fantasy stories, where the reader needs to get a sense of the physical world the characters inhabit in order to be willing to accept the supernatural and logic-defying events that occur in the story. You can’t map out Wartman’s city in your head, but the seemingly endless panels of well-detailed corridors, stairs, gardens and passageways give a sense of scale to the story. The city seems so foreboding and ancient, you worry the characters really will lose their way. Overall I just appreciated this well-structured, engrossing adventure tale and hope it’s a sign of more good things to come from this particular cartoonist.
“They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but I really can’t believe that that’s true about Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. Oh, I’m sure that lots of people collect their merchandise but it’s hard to imagine anyone does it because they’re such funny, fleshed out characters. Let’s face it, for the last seventy or so odd years they’ve been fairly toxic female stereotypes of Olive Oyl proportions: bow wearing, squeaky voiced, clingy, emotionally demanding killjoys who seem to have been exclusively engineered to let boys know from an early age that girls are weird and no fun. And to see them being turned into actual characters that girls might actually like, well, I never thought I’d live to see that day.”
— retailer Steve Bennett, on his discovery of the new Minnie and Daisy BFF Magazine, which reinvents the two ladies of Disney as middle-school friends. Like all the Disney magazines, it has a mix of content that includes comics, and Bennett points out that this is the first comic since BOOM! Studios’ last issue of Darkwing Duck to show classic Disney characters.
It looks like this is a special issue of Disney Fairies Magazine, and hopefully it will lead to more. It’s nice to see Disney reinventing its characters like that.
Publishing | As the movie version of 2 Guns heads toward theaters this weekend, BOOM! Studios CEO Ross Richie talks about his company’s “creator share” model and his career in comics publishing, from Malibu Studios to Atomeka to BOOM!, which he co-founded on a suggestion from Keith Giffen, whom he describes as “the Aerosmith of comics”: “If Steven Tyler came up to you and said, ‘You really ought to produce albums,’ you probably would listen.” [The New York Times]
Legal | The prosecutor for Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided not to pursue sedition charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was arrested in April on charges stemming from a cartoon at his Demon-Cratic Singapore Facebook page. Chew still faces charges of contempt of court for “scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore.” That case will be heard on Aug. 12. [Straits Times]
North American manga publisher Viz Media has relaunched its Viz Kids imprint as Perfect Square, which will release comics, manga and children’s books “with an emphasis on strong storytelling, eye-popping graphics, empowering themes, and a dash of irreverence, that captures the imagination of a whole new generation.”
Announced Wednesday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Perfect Square will debut books based on Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors next year. Other offerings include Hello Kitty, Max Steel, Ben 10: Omniverse, Uglydolls, Monsuno: Combat, Mameshiba, Mr. Men/Little Miss, Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda, all of which were part of Viz Kids. The publisher will also release a Perfect Square app for iPad and iPad Mini.
Speaking with Publishers Weekly, Viz Media Senior Editorial Director for Children’s Publishing Beth Kawasaki said the imprint will likely publish 40 to 50 titles a year, “a little less Pokemon and a lot of new stuff.”
“The brand will become the new home for many legacy titles featuring favorite characters fans know and love, as well as brand new series readers can explore and fall in love with,” she said in a press release. “We are ecstatic to be working with properties we love and we’ve assembled an unbelievably talented team of editors, writers and artists who are fans themselves and have a strong commitment to great storytelling.”
Retailing | Publishers Weekly’s annual comics retailer survey yields some interesting commentary, although the sample size is small (just 10 stores): Sales are up, retailers are optimistic, and Saga is the hot book right now. Also, booksellers who underestimated the demand for Chris Ware’s Building Stories lost out to direct-market retailers who didn’t, making for some nice extra sales during the holiday season. And while readers seem to be getting tired of the Big Two and their event comics, they are more enthusiastic than ever before about creator-owned comics, and Image is doing quite well. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Ladies Making Comics presents the complete list of women Eisner nominees for this year, noting that women have been nominated in almost every category. [Ladies Making Comics]
Conventions | The organizers of Asbury Park Comic Con emphasize they are getting back to basics, with a comics event that eschews movies and other media to focus solely on comics. The headline guests for the Saturday event are Michael Uslan, Al Jaffee and Herb Trimpe. [The New York Times]
Conventions | In Pennsylvania, the first-ever Nittany-Con drew about 400 people to enjoy the three c’s of comics conventions: Creators, cheap comics, and cosplay. [Centre Daily Times]
Conventions | And in New Jersey, the Hasbrouck Heights Comics Expo drew an equally enthusiastic, if somewhat smaller, crowd. [NorthJersey.com]
Manga | The Japanese market research firm Oricon reports sales of manga volumes (tankobon) slipped 1.5 percent last year, to about $2.886 billion, the first decline since the company began reporting the figures in 2009. [Anime News Network]
Graphic novels | The Scottish Archaeological Research Project has put together a rather lively looking graphic novel about the history of Scotland, including such little-known events as the Storegga Tsunami. [BBC News]
Manga | Someone with a sharp eye spotted a manga license that hasn’t been officially announced: Kodansha Comics will publish Sherlock Bones, a series about a crime-solving boy and a talking dog, by Shin Kobayishi (Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files) and Yuki Sato (Yokai Doctor). [allfiction]
Artist Tyler Kirkham, known for his work on such titles Green Lantern: New Guardians and Ultimate Fantastic Four, is stepping outside of the superhero arena with The Family Troll, a graphic novel written by his wife Jill Kirkham, and he’s turning to Kickstarter for help.
Loosely based on Tyler and Jill’s own struggles to have a child, the fantasy follows a young couple in a similar situation that consults with a wizard in hopes of obtaining a magical solution to the problem. The wizard agrees, but only if two agree to care for a newly rescued troll while he sets off to gather the ingredients for the potion. They raise the baby over the course of a year, growing close to the young troll, and … well, you can probably guess the rest.
Tyler and Jill have been working on the book for more than a year, in between his regular DC Comics series, but they need $11,200 to publish the 26- to 30-page hardcover (for production costs, printing, shipping, etc.). To help reach that goal, they’re offering Kickstarter incentives like signed copies of the book, full-color prints, stickers, original art and a custom Plush doll of Narg the Troll. The pledge tiers are a little far apart — $25, $50, $100, $200, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 — but the campaign is already chugging along at a pretty good clip: Five days in, they’ve brought in $2,987.
Check out art and the introductory video below. The Kickstarter campaign ends Feb. 24.
Censorship | At least one comic, alas unnamed, was among the thousands of books removed this week from a Turkish government restricted list. Most of the bans were widely ignored anyway, but Metin Celal Zeynioglu, the head of Turkey’s publishers’ union, pointed out one important effect of lifting them: “Many of the students arrested in demonstrations are kept in prison because they’re carrying banned books. From now on, we won’t be able to use that as an excuse.” [The Australian]
Publishing | Tom Spurgeon’s latest holiday interview is with Shannon Watters, the editor of BOOM! Studios’ children’s comics line, which includes Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Peanuts. [The Comics Reporter]
This is the first year to start without The Dandy on the shelves of U.K. newsagents since 1937, making it strange times indeed for the kids’ comics market in the British Isles. For most industry-watchers over here, as the decades passed, comics came and went, and all were vulnerable to the specter of sudden cancellation, with little certainty in the field other than there would always be The Beano and The Dandy. Waking up to a world without one or the other in it was once as unthinkable as a night sky without the moon.
Publishing | More than 4,000 new comic titles were released in the European Francophone market in 2012, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth. According to the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée, the French association of comic strip critics and journalists, more comics were produced in the Francophone market than in the United States. [RFI]
Comics | The death of Spider-Man hits the mainstream media, with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso asserting, “We didn’t make this move lightly.” Stan Lee called it “a helluva birthday present” but added “But then, a little voice in my head whispered, ‘never say never. Just go with it while you can because Marvel, the House of Ideas, will always have a surprise up its creative sleeve for you and the rest of Marveldom Assembled!'” Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher said the ongoing deaths of superheroes are starting to feel “a little gimmicky” but he also nailed why the publishers do it: “if you look at who’s buying Marvel and DC, it’s long term fans and those readers are going to complain about this and debate about it — but are going to buy two copies.” [New York Daily News]
I love this: Neill Cameron is a great proselytizer for comics, regularly holding workshops for kids at any venue that will have him — schools, libraries, conventions, book fairs, shops, anywhere you can swing a Sharpie at a whiteboard. He’s also a regular contributor to the U.K.’s best kids comic, The Phoenix, and is using his blog to promote its new competition challenging children to create their own comics.
Amazon.com has launched Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that offers access to thousands of handpicked books, movies, television shows, games and educational apps appropriate for children ages 3 to 8. The online retail giant promises, “Parents don’t have to spend time (and money) guessing what their kids will enjoy, and kids can explore a world of age-appropriate content on their own — no ads, no in-app purchases.”
The service, included as a free trial on every new Kindle Fire, debuts with a library that includes the Disney-released Marvel picture books, Warner Bros. Consumer Products-produced DC Comics apps, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate, Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, Mark Tatulli’s Lio, and Graphic Universe’s “Graphic Myths & Legends, Sherlock Holmes and “Manga Math Mysteries” series. Presumably we’ll see more kids’ comics as the rollout continues.
The monthly subscription is $4.99 a month for one child, and $9.99 for up to six (cheaper for Amazon Prime members).
James Sturm has had a rich and varied career, as the creator of critically acclaimed graphic novels such as Market Day, the writer of the Eisner Award-winning miniseries Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules, and the head of the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. A few years ago he embarked on something new: Adventures in Cartooning, a book that encourages children to draw their own comics. The book, co-created with Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost and published by First Second, was a big hit, as was its sequel, Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book. Now he’s back, just in time for the holidays, with Adventures in Cartooning Christmas Special, which features a grouchy Santa, high-tech elves, and a yeti. I talked to James about the new book and why he enjoys creating comics for children.
Robot 6: Before these books came along, I was more familiar with your work for adults, such as Market Day. What do you like about making comics for children, and how does it challenge you?
James Sturm: As a parent, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to communicate with my own kids in ways that are age-appropriate and engaging without being patronizing. So for starters I’m much more aware of my audience. That said, I find writing for kids more liberating than confining. There’s a goofy and silly side to my writing that comes out that doesn’t for more mature audiences.
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]