One of the highlights of every comics reading week for me is on a Saturday morning, when the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has a new strip in its magazine supplement by Stephen Collins (they’re all available to see on the website). Collins won their Observer/Cape graphic short story competition in 2010, which resulted in a book deal with Jonathan Cape, the fruits of which is the upcoming The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
As you can tell from his weekly strips, Collins is something of a master at finding new angles to view the world from, as likely to see the absurd and the unsettling as the humorous. Liberated from the joke-of-the-week short form, Collins has produced a rich allegorical work with a certain Kafkaesque quality, with the story told in a rolling, rhyming blank verse (you can see examples on both his blog and this preview at It’s Nice That.
He’s also produced a great director’s commentary feature for Joe Gordon’s FPI blog that goes some way to show the scale of the hard work that goes into producing such a hefty end product. It’s telling that Cape have secured a quote from Raymond Briggs for the back cover. Like so much of Briggs’ own work, this book has a timeless, ageless quality, that could be as enjoyed as much as an entertainment by children or as a satire by adults.
Business | Marvel parent Disney is expected to begin layoffs in the coming weeks as part of a planned reorganization that follows a company-wide review of operations. The film studio is believed to undergo the deepest cuts, specifically in marketing, home entertainment and production.
The news arrives a little more than five months after Disney announced its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm; earlier this week, word spread the media giant has closed LucasArts, the video-game subsidiary of Lucasfilm, and axed 150 employees. According to Variety, Disney executives told each division to ensure “that staff levels are in line with the company’s needs in a changing marketplace, particularly in divisions affected by shifts in new media and technologies.” The film division will bear the brunt of the layoffs in large part because of Disney’s increasing reliance on Pixar (purchased in 2006 for $7.4 billion), Marvel (purchased in 2009 for $4 billion) and, soon, Lucasfilm. [Variety]
On Twitter, 2000AD is running a fan-art competition (#thargsartchallenge) that has produced the expected mix of submissions, with an occasional gem outshining the rest: For example, take this Mike Donachie/Baz Renshaw reimagining of Judge Dredd in the style of classic DC Thomson kids comics such as The Dandy and The Beano.
Udon Entertainment, which has published several Mega Man manga, is putting out an artbook paying tribute to the venerable video game-cartoon-comics franchise, and they are inviting everyone to participate:
UDON is sending out a call to comic artists, video game artists, freelance illustrators, and fan artists all around the world to show us your artistic tribute to Mega Man! Give us your best artwork featuring the cast of Mega Man®, Mega Man® X, Mega Man® Zero, Mega Man® ZX, and Mega Man® Legends. All styles are welcome – anime, western comic style, cartoon, pixel-based, sculptures – whatever you can come up with as your tribute to the blue bomber!
The fine print includes some fairly specific legal stipulations. Characters from the Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force series are not allowed, and crossovers are also verboten. And the characters have to be from the games only, not comics or animation. “For example, the green Mega Man from the Captain N animated series is not allowed.” Got that? And no fan-created characters: “You may not, for example, create your own Zebra-themed Robot Master named ‘Zebra Man’.” Damn! Plus no drinking, smoking, or nudity, although now that I think about it, those elements probably be hard to integrate into a Mega Man comic anyway. (Not impossible, but difficult.)
On the other hand, the editors are open to a variety of different styles. The top 300 entries will be published and the creators will get a copy of the book.
The winners of the UK’s Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize have been announced and the two top stories are up on the web for your enjoyment.
The best place to read the winning story, Room 208 by Stephen Collins, is at the creator’s website, where you can see the story in two-page spreads, which is crucial to the art.
For the second-prize winner, Square Eyes, by Ann Mill and Luke Jones, take a look at the prize page for the layouts, but the full-size version only seems to be available on the Observer’s website, where it is presented one panel at a time. This is an unfortunate way to present a comic, because you lose the sense of the page as a whole, and it seems like a lot of work compared to simply slapping up a PDF, as Collins did. Nonetheless, both comics are lovely and short and shouldn’t be missed.
(Via the Forbidden Planet blog.)