“[T]hey broke my spirit,” Don Rosa wrote in an epilogue to his autobiography in comics, explaining why he retired from the job he so dearly loved. The whole tale is heart-breaking but also beautiful in the cartoonist’s abundant gratitude and humility.
“They” of course are Disney and its publishing licensees who don’t pay their comics talent any royalties whatsoever despite the incredibly healthy exporting of Disney comic books around the world. Rosa created Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics for almost 20 years and only ever received a flat page rate, as though it were the 1940s. His rate was better than other Disney comics artists at the time because he was so popular, but his wife was still the primary provider for the family. She was a school teacher, a profession not typically known for financial excess.
Whenever I hear about these kinds of stories, I always wonder why the creator doesn’t turn to creator-owned comics, which allow freedom on many levels, and a greater potential for financial benefit. The Walking Dead, anyone? Rosa, the internationally beloved cartoonist, doing his own comic book series or graphic novel would be an event. It seems like a no-brainer. But it’s easy to forget that for some creators, despite the opportunities, that option is a non-starter.
“I don’t think Marvel or DC are racist, systemically, nor do I think that anyone there is, either. I am friends with lots of people at both companies and to a person, they’re terrific. Ultimately, people will hire the people that they know and in order to get to know them, you need access to them. I got my access through my day job as a magazine editor in Manhattan. Plus, I’m a dazzling urbanite. But if you’re a black kid living in Detroit or Tampa or Oakland, how do you get that access? How do you know which convention is the best for meeting editors? How do you know which bar to go to?
More importantly, if you’re that black kid (or Hispanic kid or woman of any color) why do you even want to make comics? The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”
– Marc Bernardin, who has written such comics as Static Shock,
The Authority and Wolverine, reflecting on the current discussion about the lack of black writers at Marvel and DC
Organizers of STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo have provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at the details for their ninth annual event, held March 2-3 at the Marchesa Hall & Theater in Austin, Texas. Billed as the premier indie-comics convention in the Southwest, STAPLE! showcases a range of performers, exhibitors and artists, with an emphasis this year on independent table-top gaming, web TV, animation and pop-culture podcasting.
The announced panelists are: comics creators James O’Barr, Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson; veteran game designers Jason Morningstar, Jeff Dee and Marc Majcher; web TV icons Danni Danger, Sara Reihani and Jessica Mills; animators Dax Norman, Kyle Sullivan, Bill Byrne and Mongrel Studio Productions; and podcasters Geek Bombast, Chris Cox, Martin Thomas, The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen and The Random Access Web TV Podcast. See the panelist biographies below. A full list of exhibitors can be found on the STAPLE! website.
The event, and its official “Live Art Show” after-party, also will feature performances by the macabre musical troupe After Midnight, nerdcore hip-hop artist Bad Barry, DJ LD and chiptune artist Run/DMG.
Two-day passes can be purchased for $15 from the Marchesa Hall & Theater website, or at the door.
“This is the first week of Black History Month, a four-week celebration and remembrance of the significant events and people of the African diaspora. For many, myself included, it’s a month to reflect on where we’ve been, as a people and as a nation, and to contemplate exactly where it is we’re going. In terms of the comic book industry, an obvious interest and passion of mine, there is one glaring and sobering fact that needs our attention: There is currently not a single black writer working on a monthly series for either of the two biggest comic book publishers in the United States, and precious few working for any of the others.”
– Joe Hughes of ComicsAlliance, delivering an eye-opening assessment of the lack of black writers at DC Comics and Marvel
Comic Book Resources columnist Hannibal Tabu points out that Marvel hasn’t had a black writer since Reginald Hudlin’s tenure ended on Black Panther in 2009. What’s more, “With Dark Horse Presents, Dark Horse has paid more black people in comics in the last year or so than DC and Marvel have done in many, many years.”
Rick Olney, the comics advocate, publisher and convention promoter perhaps best known for his public conflicts with creators, passed away Friday at his home in Mohawk, New York. He was 58.
Founder of Organized Readers of Comics Associated (ORCA), Olney became a somewhat-notorious figure in recent years for his dealings as both a publisher and a convention organizer. He was accused by several creators of non-payment for their work for his company TightLip Entertainment, and misleading others about his conventions. No shrinking violet, Olney frequently responded to the claims online with charges of libel and harassment.
Olney, a former Marine and National Guardsman, is survived by his wife Barbara and five children. His funeral was held today in Whitesboro, New York.
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.
In March, Dark Horse will reprint the first issues of Brian Wood’s The Massive and Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT at a special $1 price. The Massive follows a group of environmentalists after the Earth undergoes a massive ecological disaster, while MIND MGMT is the story of a group of psychic super-spies and a journalist who’s pursuing their story. Both reprints will be listed in the new Previews catalog, out Jan. 30, but we have exclusive cover reveals here. And, to make it more fun, I started an interview with Wood and Kindt, and then let them take over.
Robot 6: Each of these comics is set in a universe in which one thing has changed significantly; in MIND MGMT it is not clear right away what has happened, while in The Massive it is obvious, at least in its outer manifestations. What was your inspiration for these, and why did you think they would make for interesting stories?
Matt Kindt: I’m not sure that there is one significant change in Mind MGMT so much as there is just a specific genre choice I made. I try to pick one thing, whether it’s spies or crime or science fiction (in the case of MIND MGMT) and sort of apply that to real characters/people and see how they’ll react. To me it’s more of a “what if” scenario. What if you grew three stories tall? (3 Story) What if you were a spy and hated being one? (Super Spy and 2 Sisters) What if the abilities of the mind were pushed past any known limit? (MIND MGMT) That’s usually where I start and then just create some personalities to populate and react to my “what if.”
Brian Wood: It’s sort of the same thing Matt said. I find a lot of pleasure in creating very flawed, very relatable characters and then putting them through the worst situation possible. So that’s a version of a “what if” story, but in the case of my big world-building books it’s a really exaggerated “what if,” usually involving war and the end of the world. The character dramas, though, those are universal in any setting.
It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.
But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.
Stan Lee, who along with such collaborators as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett and Don Heck created the Marvel Universe, was born 90 years ago today in New York City.
With a little help from his uncle, Lee was hired in 1939 as an assistant at Timely Comics, which was owned by his cousin’s husband Martin Goodman. Twenty-two years later, as editor-in-chief, Lee ushered in the Marvel revolution with the introduction of the Fantastic Four, followed quickly by the likes of the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers, the X-Men and Daredevil. He rose to president (if only briefly) and publisher of Marvel, as well as its public face, before becoming its Hollywood representative in the early 1980s.
Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima as a child and wrote the internationally acclaimed Barefoot Gen about his experiences, died Dec. 19 of lung cancer. He was 73.
Nakazawa was 7 years old on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was walking to school and stopped to answer a question from an adult, when suddenly, in an instant, the whole world changed: “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.”
He was standing next to a concrete wall, so he was partially shielded from the blast, although he was covered in rubble, and a nail went through his cheek. The adult he had been speaking to was burned to death on the spot. There was more horror to come: His father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them. Nakazawa recounted these events, which his mother told him about later, in a 2007 interview:
Awards | The National Press Foundation has named political cartoonist Robert Ariail, who draws for Universal UClick and the Spartanburg, South Carolina, Herald-Journal, as the winner of this year’s Berryman Award. [The Washington Post]
Creators | Brothers Wesley and Bradley Sun discuss their upcoming graphic novel, Chinatown; Wesley is a hospital chaplain in Chicago, and Bradley quit his job in Florida to join his brother and work on the book. [Hyde Park Herald]
The U.S. government reportedly has seized an advance payment to artist Tim Hamilton for his work on nonfiction graphic novel detailing the activities of notorious Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony in the Congo, claiming the money was being laundered for a terrorist organization.
The news comes from journalist David Axe, who collaborated with Hamilton on Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa, which was serialized online by the Dutch website Cartoon Movement. It will be published next year by Public Affairs.
According to a press release, the title Army of God, which is also the name of a terrorist organization, “threw up a red flag” with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the division of the Department of the Treasury that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions. The money was seized early this month, and neither Hamilton nor his agent have been able to secure its release; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been contacted.
Cartoonist Matt Bors, who edited Army of God, offers: “OFAC hasn’t responded to my request for comment yet, but their answering machine urged me to visit the U.S. Treasury’s website. Comics wouldn’t be a great way to fund terrorism. They don’t pay very well. But now we know no one fighting terrorism knows how to use Google, which sure makes me feel safe.”
Hamilton, who’s worked on titles ranging from Green Lantern to Deadpool to MAD, illustrated the Eisner-nominated adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451.
The finalists have been announced for the 2012 SPACE Prize, selected from among the titles collected at the 2012 Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus, Ohio.
The winner in each of the three categories — General, Minicomics/Short Story and Webcomic — will be chosen by two rotating judges and registered 2012 SPACE exhibitors. The winner in the General category receives $300 and a plaque, while the winners in the Minicomics/Short Story and Webcomic category each receive $100 and a plaque.
Winners will be announced in January, and presented with their plaques April 13 during SPACE 2013. The finalists are:
• Binary Gray #1-2, by Chris Charton and Rowel Roque (Assailant Comics)
• Blink: Wonka Wonka Kochalka, by Max Ink (Point Media)
I love comic books, too. They’re awesome. I get plenty worked up sometimes about what goes on in the pages of my favorite books because they’re not doing it right! I get it. I’ve devoted countless hours to these characters. Heck, I’m the guy who ran a New Warriors fan site for years, tracking the chronological order of every random appearance, no matter how minor. And I did it completely without irony! So I get the emotional investment we have for these characters.
I also get how fun it is to use social networks. I use Facebook a lot, and Twitter, too, and it’s easy to get riled about something you see posted there. There’s no ‘dislike’ button to click so sometimes you just have to vent. And sometimes it feels like a regular old “how could you?!” just isn’t enough, that it just doesn’t get across how deeply you disagree with a plot development.
Regardless, none of that justifies sending threats. Dan Slott has received some extreme reactions to the leaked details of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 that go so far beyond normal fan griping that I wondered just what could’ve provoked such a backlash. So I reviewed the leaked information, and I have to say my response was, “That’s it?“