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I spent some time in May at Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the retail book business, checking out the graphic novel offerings. BEA is light duty for a comics blogger, as graphic novels are a tiny part of the retail book universe, but it’s a good way to get an advance look at the books that publishers are promoting for this summer and fall, as well as what they think will have appeal for mainstream bookstores.
Here are a half-dozen books you’re likely to hear about in the coming months:
Graphic novels | Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold through its second printing in Singapore and is heading into a third, just weeks after the country’s National Arts Council abruptly withdrew funding. The graphic novel traces the career of pioneering Singaporean cartoonist Charlie Chan Hock Chye through 60 years of the country’s history and includes satirical portrayals of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, and his rival Lim Chin Siong. An NAC official said it “potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the Government and its public institutions.” The graphic novel has already sold 2,500 copies, making it “the top-selling local fiction title so far this year.”
Trumpeting the yearlong 10th-anniversary celebration of its Graphix imprint, Scholastic has announced new projects from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telgemeier and Mike Maihack.
The brother-sister team of Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse, Squish) have created a Sunny Side Up, a semi-autobiographical for readers ages 8 to 12, set for release Aug. 25, the same date as Craig Thompson’s previously announced Space Dumplins.
Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]
Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]
Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]
Grow Anthology sounds like it might be an indie-comics collective, but it’s actually a small company that makes skateboards out of recycled paper, layered and coated with resin to make it waterproof. That means its skateboards are eco-friendly and are even certified as such by the Rainforest Alliance. And Grow Anthology’s latest model, which is being funded through Kickstarter, features a Craig Thompson drawing, a cartoon of the characters Chunky Rice and Dandel from Goodbye Chunky Rice. (As Thompson explains on his blog, the guys who make the skateboards are friends of his brother — it always helps to have an in!)
Even if you don’t skate, it’s worth visiting the Kickstarter page to see Thompson’s preliminary designs for the board, as well as the finished product. The skateboards are being produced as a limited edition of 250, at a price of $300 for the complete board or $200 for the deck alone. If you’re not a skateboarder, don’t despair: There’s also a T-shirt featuring Thompson’s design that’s available for a $30 pledge, and his original art is available for a $5,000 pledge.
Alternative Comics, the publisher of alternative comics, is back in business, with two big releases of note this month: Failure, a collection of Karl Stevens’ remarkably illustrated comic strips from the Boston Phoenix, and Alternative Comics #4, the latest installment of its showcase anthology (the first three issues were released as Free Comic Book Day giveaways, with the third issue shipping way back in 2005).
The new iteration isn’t free (in fact, it’s a $5.99, 48-page book), and it’s not coming out on Free Comic Book Day, but it is bigger, newer and perhaps even improved. To find that out, we’ll have to take a closer look at this book, edited by Marc Arsenault and featuring a lovely cover by Mike Bertino.
Here then, are a few words about every single story in Alternative Comics #4:
“Talent Goes In” by Sam Alden
This is a four-panel, inside-front-cover strip by Alden, which amounts to little more than a picture poem. It’s not terribly profound or even substantial but that’s okay, it’s only the inside front cover. Alden has a better strip later in the book.
When comics entrepreneur Marc Arsenault announced almost a year ago that he had bought defunct Alternative Comics in order to relaunch the publisher, a lot of fans (me included) were thrilled. Under founder Jeff Mason, Alternative introduced readers to creators like Graham Annable, Brandon Graham, James Kochalka, Ed Brubaker, Scott Campbell (of Great Movie Showdowns fame), Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. So with Alternative and comiXology announcing today that the publisher’s catalog is becoming available digitally on the app, I was eager to talk to Arsenault about their plans.
Michael May: For those who don’t know you, what’s your background in comics?
Marc Arsenault: Wow. Where to begin? I’ve been a pretty behind-the-scenes guy for most of my time in comics, but this year I’ve hit the quarter century mark for working in them.
I figured out that I wanted to make comics somewhere around eighth grade when I discovered RAW, Warrior and Heavy Metal. When I found out about the comics program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) my path was clear. I didn’t even apply to any other schools. I got to study with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Orlando, David Sandlin, Jerry Moriarity, Marshall Arisman and the very influential Jack Potter.
That experience was very relevant to Alternative Comics’ past and present because it was there that I met Sam Henderson and Tom Hart. I shared a studio space with Tom, and he and Sam had started an off-campus comics anthology called Tuna Casserole. By the fifth issue I became co-editor and we founded the first incarnation of my company Wow Cool. I ended up becoming an illustrator instead of a cartoonist, and did that freelance on and off up until about a decade ago.
Awards | Sammy Harkham’s Everything Together: Collected Stories, published by PictureBox, won the 33rd annual Los Angeles Times Book Prize for graphic novels/comics. The Los Angeles Times also profiles Harkham as “a significant voice on the L.A. cultural scene.” [Los Angeles Times Book Prizes]
Awards | Now that their work is done, the Eisner Award judges share their experiences and the insights they have gleaned from six months of reading as much of last year’s’ graphic novel output as possible — and four days of deliberations. [Comic-Con International]
Creators | Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi) interviews the French creator Blutch, whose So Long, Silver Screen will be released soon by PictureBox. [BoingBoing]
I live north of Boston, and as I write, my front door is snowed shut (don’t worry, the neighbor kid is shoveling it out) and my car is immobilized behind a large berm of snow. The nameless blizzard of ’13 didn’t wreak any major damage in my area, but I’m going to be staying in for a while.
This doesn’t bother me; I grew up in Northern Indiana, where you could count on being completely snowed in at least once a winter, and we sort of liked it. It clears a space in your life; when you can’t go out and most of the activity in the outside world has stopped, it’s a great time to light a fire, pour the drink of your choice (for me it’s hot tea) and hunker down with a good book. Here are six graphic novels that evoke that winter feeling, all of which are equally enjoyable whether you are reading them by a snowy window or on the beach.
Chikyu Misaki | This three-volume manga, published many years ago by the now-defunct CMX, is a charming all-ages story about two children who find a shape-shifting lake monster in their country town. It’s structured like a caper movie, but one of the things I really enjoy about it is Yūji Iwahara’s wonderful art, which perfectly evokes the feeling of a country house on a snowy day. You’ll have to pick it up used or from the library, though, as it’s long out of print.
Publishers Weekly reports that Craig Thompson, creator of Blankets and the much-discussed Habibi, has signed with Scholastic to do a children’s graphic novel called Space Dumplins. In a (NSFW) blog post last December, Thompson said he was working on three books: a children’s graphic novel, a nonfiction book about “global trade,” and an erotic graphic novel. Apparently this one has taken over, for now.
Thompson’s agent, PJ Mark, describes the book as the story of “a little girl and her misfit friends who set out to rescue her father from the belly of a planet-eating space whale.” Sounds like fun, and if there’s anyone who can market the heck out of this book, it’s Scholastic, which also publishes Jeff Smith’s Bone, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Drama, Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, and Doug TenNapel’s Bad Island and Cardboard.
Publishing | Belgium, birthplace of Tintin and the Smurfs, is beginning to see its government-funded efforts to revive the country’s once-thriving comics scene pay off, with small publishing houses, self-publishers and digital comics portals springing up. [Deutsche Welle]
Creators | Habibi creator Craig Thompson posts an account of his recent trip to Jordan, which coincided with the troubles in Libya. Disconcertingly, he learned that Habibi is banned there, but his experiences in the schools and studios he visited stand in stark contrast to what the rest of us were watching—and even what he experienced while traveling from place to place. (Craig also gives a shout-out to a couple who got engaged while waiting in line to see him at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC; the groom-to-be concealed the ring in a hollowed-out copy of Blankets.) [Craig Thompson]
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Awards | Big Questions by Anders Nilsen has won the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for 2012, the second such award given by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The organization also named four honorees: Freeway by Mark Kalesniko, Habibi by Craig Thompson, Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier and Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil. The awards will be presented during a ceremony at Penn State later this year. [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Dirk Wood to vice president of marketing. Wood joined IDW in 2010 as director of retail marketing. [IDW Publishing]
Conventions | Misha Davenport previews this weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Note: Some images below contain mild nudity that may be NSFW, depending upon where you W.
Blutch, born Christian Hincker, was one of the most influential cartoonists to come out of the French alt-comix scene of the 1990s (although he arguably owes quite a bit to Edmond Baudoin). Blutch’s masterful, expressive line, exemplified in works like Peplum and Le Petit Christian, influenced a number of artists both in Europe and here in America, most notably Craig Thompson. Blutch’s art was such a strong influence on Thompson while he was working on Blankets that L’Association publisher Christophe Menu derided the work as being too derivative and the supreme example of the co-opting the French small press scene in his book-length essay Plates-bandes.
Digital | Archie Comics will begin selling its comics through its Facebook page, which connects readers with Graphicly. With almost 120,000 fans, the page does seem like fertile ground. “It’s really a major move toward connecting the potential reader to the product,” said Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “We make it easy and hopefully create a new, lasting part of our fan base.” [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Matthew Price takes the temperature in the room at ComicsPRO and says that retailers want stability — they credit the consistent shipping schedule for the New 52 for part of that line’s success — and creativity. The overall mood seemed to be optimism, with Diamond Comic Distributors reporting that comics sales were up slightly in 2011. [NewsOK.com]