Happy Sunday and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guest is Dave Dwonch, creative director at Action Lab Entertainment and the writer of such comics as Space-Time Condominium, the upcoming Ghost Town, Double-Jumpers and more.
To see what Dave and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
It’s become an annual tradition during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of people we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they are excited about for 2013.
Check out Part One, and keep reading to see more of what people shared with us, including details on their upcoming projects. Our thanks to everyone who responded this year. Also, thanks again to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
SAM HUMPHRIES (The Ultimates, Sacrifice, Uncanny X-Force)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
- Simon Hanselmann’s Megg and Mogg strips at http://girlmountain.tumblr.com. Hilarious, dark, and strange.
- SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilian Tamaki at: http://mutantmagic.com/. Beautiful, funny, and heartbreaking.
Earlier today, SCAD Atlanta Professor and Crogan Adventures creator Chris Schweizer announced the 2012-2013 academic year will be his final one teaching at Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. As the scholar/writer/artist noted at his own blog, “I love being a teacher, and I love being a cartoonist, and in many ways each helps me be better at the other. But I’ve come to find that I can do neither to the best of my ability without infringing on the time necessary to see the other done to the degree of quality I’d expect of myself.”
The move is not just a decision to stop teaching: Schweizer has also agreed to form a new studio with Chad Thomas (Mega Man) and Jason Horn (Ninjasaur). In conjunction with announcing the decision, Schweizer fielded a few questions from me. As a fellow resident of Atlanta, I have to add, as pleased as I am to know Schweizer will have more time to devote to his craft, I am equally sad to know he will be leaving Atlanta to do it.
Tim O’Shea: Knowing how much you love teaching, how many times did you talk yourself into staying at SCAD?
Chris Schweizer: I know it sounds cavalier, but never. Once I realized that there was a real problem with the regularity of my output, a problem that was only growing as I moved the Crogan projects to color, I had to look for a solution. I often have trouble finding my way through a problem that I’m in, both in writing and in real life, and I find that the best way puzzle out a solution is to not think of it from the standpoint of what to do next, but to decide on the ideal outcome. Once that outcome is in place, it’s much easier for me to determine the path by which to arrive at it. I was surprised that my ideal outcome didn’t leave time for teaching, or have us staying in Atlanta. Once I realized that, there was no real debating, there was only trying to figure out how best to undertake the change. Originally we thought I’d teach for an additional year after this one, to give us plenty of time to sell the house.
Welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette, where creators spin the virtual roulette wheel and let Lady Luck determine what questions they’ll answer. We’ve got 36 possible questions, and each week I will select at random which of those questions our guest is subjected to.
Today Chris Schweizer tests his luck at the wheel. Chris is the creator of the Crogan Adventures series, published by Oni Press, and teaches sequential art at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design. He also makes some pretty rad paper figures.
My thanks to Chris for playing along with us today. Now let’s get to it …
Crogans Adventures creator Chris Schweizer has been having some fun lately making paper figures that you can cut out and stand up; last week he did a very ambitious 55-piece set of the entire Harry Potter cast.
This week, it’s something completely different: He has made cutouts of The Sixth Gun creators Brian Hurtt and Cullen Bunn. Does that seem strange? Schweizer addresses that question head-on:
Now you may just be asking yourself “who are these guys? Why didn’t Chris put up characters from The Sea Hawk or Scrubs or something?”
To which I say, “how in the world have you read MY comics and not THEIRS? That’s like saying ‘Oh, I really dig Alexander Kent” but you’ve never read Patrick O’Brian or C.S. Forrester.’” Not that there’s any real equation there, just that it’d be surprising if you knew the former but not the others, which is how surprised I’d be if you’d read Crogan and not Sixth Gun. Read it. Seriously. I can’t tell you how not disappointed you’ll be.
What these paper figures lack, of course, is Hurtt and Bunn’s banter, which has always make the Oni Press panels at comics conventions so entertaining. But with convention season over, we’ll take what we can get. Maybe Chris can come up with some more creator figures for us to collect and trade during the long winter months.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said, “but we’ve had people read whole issues before and not buy them.”
OF COURSE YOU HAVE. YOU’RE A COMIC BOOK SHOP.
– Chris Schweizer, sharing why he quit patronizing a particular comics shop
Tom Spurgeon has a weekly feature on The Comics Reporter called “This Isn’t a Library: Notable Releases to the Comics Direct Market.” Because of the cantankerous, old shopkeeper it creates in my head, it makes me smile every time I read it. I wouldn’t want to meet that person in real life, though, and I especially wouldn’t want to shop in his store.
The place I shop is awesome, and one of the many reasons is that they’re okay with customers giving books the old flip-through. Schweizer’s right that in the age of easy and cheap online retailers, one of the few advantages brick-and-mortar shops have is the ability to check out a book before you buy it. Well, that and the joy of interacting face to face with friendly, knowledgeable employees. You know: the kind that don’t make you feel bad for enjoying some comics with your daughter in the store.
Chris Schweizer (The Crogan Adventures) is a big Sherlock Holmes fan. He also loves to design paper figures for fans to print and cut out, and sometimes — wonderfully — those two interests come together. Most recently, they’ve merged in a set of paper figures from the popular Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss series Sherlock. He’s even created some 221B Baker Street diorama backgrounds for the set.
Like always, fans can print them out and put them together on their own, but Schweizer is also holding a special contest for Tumblr users to win professionally printed versions. Third prize is a complete set of the Sherlock figures. Second prize is that, plus a professionally printed set of the Arthur Conan Doyle versions. First prize is both sets, plus a custom figure that you tell Schweizer what you want him to draw. So if you want Holmes to team up with Batman in your diorama, or a Sleestak from Land of the Lost, Schweizer can totally make that happen.
All you have to do is have a Tumblr account (they’re free!) and reblog his contest post by 4am Eastern Time early on Saturday, September 29th. “Likes” don’t count. He’ll choose a random winner.
Digital comics | The Japanese web portal JManga today launched an unlimited-access site JManga7, although it won’t be putting any actual content on it until October. Unlike JManga, which sells digital manga one volume at a time, JManga7 operates on an “all-you-can-eat” model, with single chapters of a variety of titles available for free, and a wider selection with a paid subscription. The site will be updated daily and will include a mix of genres, with some new content that is being published close to its Japanese release date as well as some older series. The idea is for readers to check out the manga at JManga7 and ultimately buy them for keeps at JManga. To encourage readers to pre-register, JManga is raffling off seven Nexus 7 tablets and seven free subscriptions. Plans for the site were unveiled last month at Comic-Con International in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. [JManga]
Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).
Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?
Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.
Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on the retailer lunch at Comic-Con International, where spirits were running high after an exceptionally good year, with sales up 13 percent over 2011. Retailers shared success stories, Diamond Comic Distributors offered incentives for new businesses, and MacDonald pulled out an interestingly eclectic list of titles that are spurring sales, including The Walking Dead, Saga, and Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoons and Vader and Son. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | ICv2 talks to the Viz Media executives about a range of topics, including the stabilization of the manga market, new interest from comics retailers, the shift to digital, and an uptick in the popularity of shoujo (girls’) manga. [ICv2]
Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]
Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald reports that the organizers of San Diego Comic Con are tightening up on badges with measures that include matching the name on the badge to the user’s ID to prevent counterfeiting and illegal resale. Amusingly, you don’t have to go too far down the comment thread to see someone blaming Twilight fans. [The Beat]
Legal | Canadian artist Craig Wilson didn’t make it to this weekend’s Phoenix Comicon because U.S. Customs and Border Protection turned him away, saying he needed a work permit to sell comics at his Artist Alley table. Not only that, Wilson was also thumb printed and his car was searched. He said the customs agents even sent a notice to the other border crossings in case he tried to enter the country somewhere else. “I’m paying my own table at the con, hotel, meals, drinks …” Wilson said. “I was going to inject close to $2000.00 dollars into the very economy I was supposedly threatening.” [boardguy]
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 pick up the third issues of what may be becoming my two favorite new series: Saga (Image, $2.99) and Saucer Country (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). The former is easily one of the most enjoyable, most packed books out there right now for me, with Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples firing on all cylinders with the two issues to date, whereas the latter has an enjoyably retro feel that reminds me of the earliest days of the Vertigo imprint in ways that I can’t quite put my finger on but love nonetheless.
If I had $30, I’d grab the new edition of Leviathan (Rebellion, $16.99), a collection of a 2000AD horror story by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli that the creators apparently described as “Agatha Christie meets Silent Hill” about a Titanic-esque cruise ship that disappears in the middle of the ocean, and ends up somewhere else … with no land in sight for more than two decades. Really looking forward to reading this one.
Should I suddenly find enough money down the back of my couch to splurge this week, then I’d hope to find the $29.99 I’d need for the Deadenders trade paperback (DC/Vertigo). I entirely missed the Ed Brubaker/Warren Pleece mod romance comic the first time around, so this collection of the entire series will be a welcome chance to make up for past mistakes.
Chris Schweizer has a nice post explaining the different premiums he is offering as part of the Graphic Textbook Kickstarter, which reminded me that this Kickstarter is ending in two days. The fund-raising goal is $65,000, which seemed incredibly ambitious to me, but as of this writing it has less than $2,000 to go to reach its goal. As Michael May explained a few weeks ago, the graphic textbook is the work of the nonprofit Reading With Pictures, which promotes the use of comics in classrooms and has already produced one very nice anthology; this book, should it succeed, could lead to a whole line of graphic textbooks. This would have the double benefit of providing children with another way to learn (since different kids have different ways of taking in information, adding the graphic medium will give some students a boost) and providing a lot of creators with paying work, which is always a good thing.
What sets the Graphic Textbook apart from most other educational projects is the quality of the creators, many of whom are already well known in the world of children’s or adult comics: Roger Langridge (Snarked, Popeye), Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (Action Philosophers), Raina Telgemeier (Smile) and a host of others. With creators like that on board, the pledge premiums are pretty good.
Anyway, Schweizer’s post grabbed me because I’m a fan of his Crogan Adventures, a series of graphic novels about members of the same family set in different historical eras, and the short story he is doing for The Graphic Textbook is a Crogan story set during the Revolutionary War. His premiums include original art, a video tutoring session, and sketches of the donor in 18th-century garb, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are still some other nice premiums left, including Langridge sketches, tickets to the Charles Schulz Museum, a script or portfolio review by former DC/Vertigo editor Brandon Montclare, or a personalized action figure.
Jim Zubkavich wasn’t the first creator to put some of his older work online as a webcomic, but he did it in such a deliberate way, and the work was so fresh, and he has blogged about it so much, that it feels like he was breaking new ground. Zubkavich is the writer of Skullkickers, a series that had a pretty decent following in print to begin with, and recently he started serializing the early chapters online. What he found is what most people seem to find: The online version brought him new readers without hurting sales of his print comics; in fact, quite the contrary—he is now selling tons of comics at conventions to folks who are pleasantly surprised to hear that there is a print version at all.
Now two more creators are going that route, both with graphic novels designed to appeal to younger readers: Scott Chantler announced at TCAF that he is serializing The Three Thieves, the first book in his Tower of Treasure trilogy, online, and Chris Schweizer has set up a dedicated website for his Crogan Adventures series and is offering all of Crogan’s March, the second volume, online for free through June 6, when his next book, Crogan’s Loyalty, is released. Schweizer’s site also offers a teacher’s guide to the Crogan books, printable character cutouts, and more. The move makes sense: With Borders gone, reaching younger readers is a challenge, but a popular website can go viral in a hurry—just ask Jeff Kinney, who first published Diary of a Wimpy Kid online.