SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Analysis | Rob Salkowitz kicks off the new year with big-picture questions about “geek culture”: With the popularity of comics-based movies, will continuity and nostalgia become less important? And will comics themselves become less important? “Putting out comics is a relatively costly and troublesome process with limited revenue potential relative to other ways of exploiting the intellectual property. A fan base that buys licensed merchandise and watches entertainment programming without needing a monthly fix of new art and story is probably considered a feature of the new comics economy, not a bug.” [ICv2]
Creators | Chew artist Rob Guillory, who will appear this weekend at Wizard World New Orleans, talks about the strange comics that he read as a kid (The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man) and the unexpected success of Chew, which will end next year with its 60th issue: “In the beginning, John and I were kind of like, ‘Well, best-case scenario, we can go 60 issues. Worst-case scenario, we can do five and go our separate ways and never speak again.’ I don’t know if we’ve seen the peak of our reception. I don’t think we’ll see how popular we’ve been until it’s over. When it’s wrapped and it’s the complete thing, I think people will start missing us.” [Best of New Orleans]
Creators | Osamu Tezuka, the “godfather of manga,” has been dead for 25 years, but his influence lives on, not just in manga and anime but in his old neighborhood, where a restaurant features his favorite dish and merchants have their own local currency, Astro Money. There’s even a group of inventors who were inspired by Astro Boy to design a “power-assisted hand.” [The Yomiuri Shimbun]
Creators | Ivan Brunetti tried to draw Nancy and failed, but he learned how to be a cartoonist in the process: “Nancy is a harsh taskmaster; resuscitating it was a grueling task, but the challenge was invigorating and edifying. By drawing Nancy, I realized that every character (even the environment) in a strip is the cartoonist and is invested and imbued with the cartoonist’s life force. This is perhaps why continuing a strip after a creator’s death is so misguided, and it also explains the precious few exceptions that prove the rule: those cartoonists made the preexisting characters truly their own, commandeering their ink-on-paper souls.” [BoingBoing]
[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Last week readers of SF Weekly, San Francisco’s weekly alternative newspaper, received a special treat — the entire issue, including the features, columns, news stories, letters and more — were transformed into comics.
The writers for the paper teamed up with artists from the California College of the Arts, under the guidance of the paper’s editor, Brandon R. Reynolds, and special guest co-editor Matt Silady, chair of the California College of the Arts’ MFA in Comics Program and creator of the Eisner-nominated The Homeless Channel. The goal was to take the writers and artists out of their comfort zones, to get them thinking more like their counterparts and to find new ways to tell stories — within the boundaries of a regular issue.
Silady told me, “This very special issue has been in the works for quite some time, and we’re thrilled it is hitting SF Weekly newsstands and the web this week.”
Passings | Artist Janice Valleau Winkelman, creator of the detective Toni Gayle, passed away on Dec. 8 at age 90. Winkleman, who drew under her maiden name Janice Valleau, had polio as a child and wore a brace through school. Her first work was published in Smash Comics in 1939, when she was 16. She studied at the Phoenix Art Institute and moved to New York, where she found steady work as a penciler and inker for Archie Comics and Quality Comics. She left the industry during the anti-comic crusades of the 1950; author David Hajdu profiled her in the prologue to his chronicle of those times, The Ten Cent Plague. According to the Grand Comics Database, one of her stories was reprinted as recently as last April, in Archie Double Digest #238. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
Retailing | The rental chain Tsutaya and the bookstore chain Yurindo have returned Kuroko’s Basketball books and DVDs to their shelves after “X-Day,” Nov. 4, passed without incident. Someone has sent hundreds of threatening letters to convention sites, bookstores, the media and Sophia University (the alma mater of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki), over the past year, and the most recent batch of letters said that “X-Day will be on the final day of the [Sophia University] school festival.” Meanwhile, police are checking security cameras near all the mailboxes in the districts from which the letters were mailed, looking for suspicious people. [Anime News Network]
Comics | Brian Steinberg looks at Archie Comics’ most radical move yet: the relatively adult Afterlife with Archie, which literally turned America’s most iconic teenagers into zombies. Steinberg talks to Archie CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, artist Francesco Francavilla and others about the significance of this comic, which sold almost 65,000 copies to the direct market. [Variety]
Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]
Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]
Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Check out the Boston public radio website WBUR for a powerful example of comics journalism: Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD explores the emotional consequences of the decisions that soldiers make during wartime — decisions that often go against their own moral code.
“Moral injury” is something different from post-traumatic stress disorder. As the introduction explains, “Post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a terrible event — in combat, that’s often something that has happened to you. But what about a terrible event that has happened because of you?” The comic explores that question through a combination of conversations with veterans, flashbacks to actual events, and concise summaries of research on the topic. The visual medium really brings it to life, not just in the depiction of events but also in illustrating more abstract ideas, such as the way soldiers may become gradually alienated from the rest of the world in the course of war.
Symbolia is a digital magazine that blends comics and journalism, using the medium as a way to tell true stories. The format is particularly powerful on the Symbolia iPad and Kindle Fire apps, which bring in sound and other interactive features to enhance the storytelling, but it also has a PDF version that will work on any computer or tablet, albeit without the special features.
The latest issue, “Heroines,” features five first-person narratives from women around the world. All are powerful — the struggles of a Dalit (low-caste) woman in Nepal, the testimony of two women who were guards at Guantanamo — but the one that caught my eye was “Luna of Cairo,” the story of an American woman who works as a bellydancer on a tourist boat on the Nile.
Illustrated by Leela Corman (Unterzakhn), “Luna of Cairo” offers an inside look not only at the life of a bellydancer but also at the life of a foreigner in Egypt. The excerpt below focuses on the casual sexism that Luna and the other women of Egypt encounter every day — and its corrosive effects.
To read the rest of Luna’s story and meet other heroines, check out this month’s issue; Symbolia is reasonably priced at $2.99 per issue or $11.99 for a six-issue subscription.
What do you when the world around you is going crazy? If you’re a creator, you create.
Brazil has been in turmoil over the past week after demonstrations over a rise in transit fares mushroomed into a series of protests throughout the country about a broader range of issues. Comics creators, and brothers, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá saw their home city of São Paolo turn into “a war zone” last week after the police reacted with extreme violence to what began as a peaceful demonstration. So they responded the way creative people do, by making comics about the demonstrations. Both are powerful statements presented in different ways; Moon simply draws himself giving his take on the protests, while Bá draws scenes of his beloved city and of the police shooting at the protestors. See their comics in full on their website.
Both brothers pledged to be at yesterday’s demonstration. “On June 17, I will go to the streets to tell my story and to defend the right of other people to tell theirs,” Bá says at the end of his comic. Watch their blog for more updates.
It’s going to take a while to get to us, but it looks like it will be worth the wait: Drawn and Quarterly announced it will publish Sarah Glidden’s next graphic novel Rolling Blackouts.
Glidden’s first book, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, received quite a bit of favorable attention when it came out in 2010, and since then she has burnished her career with a number of short journalistic comics at Cartoon Movement and other sites; check out The Waiting Room, about Iraqi refugees, and State of Palestine, both of which are short but thought-provoking.
Here are the details on Rolling Blackouts:
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]
Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]
Digital comics | I talked to Viz Media Executive Vice President Alvin Lu and the head of Viz Labs, Gagan Singh, about the company’s digital strategy, which includes the recent announcement that their digital magazine Shonen Jump Alpha will publish manga chapters simultaneously with Japan; the idea, Lu explains is to create the same sort of weekly ritual that superhero comics readers have, and to use the digital releases to build a community both online and in the real world. [Good E-Reader]
Creators | Fantastic Four was the first Marvel Universe comic, so it has been around for a while, but writer Matt Fraction is doing his best to keep it fresh: “Anything you can do to run contrary-wise to expectation to keep people guessing and wondering and entertained and surprised, you should do because otherwise people are going to dismiss the book as ‘Been there, read that.'” [USA Today]
Legal | South African President Jacob Zuma has formally withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (who goes by the pen name Zapiro) and will pay a portion of his court costs as well. Zuma dropped part of the case last week, a claim of 4 million rand for “impairment of dignity.” A spokesman for Zuma said the president had more important things on his mind and didn’t want to set a precedent that “may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech.” [The Citizen]
Passings | The Catalan artist Jose Luis Ferrer, who signed himself simply “Ferrer,” died Monday of a brain tumor. Ferrer’s work appeared in 2000AD, Starlord and other British comics, but he was an international artist with work published in Germany, France, Sweden and the United States as well. [Down the Tubes]