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Quote of the day | Craig Thompson’s Arabian Nights

Habibi is in, if you can call it a genre, the Arabian Nights genre. It’s borrowing from the tradition of 1001 Nights where one story folds into another and you lose sight of where you began. I was drawing from that book as a genre as if it were superheroes or crime noir, borrowing from a lot of the tropes of Arabian Nights and the bawdiness, the sensuality, the adventure, the violence, the religious aspects, the landscapes, the deserts, the harems.

Craig Thompson, in conversation with CBR’s Alex Dueben, on his ambitious new graphic novel Habibi, which is set in a world shaped both by actual Islamic and Arab culture and an old-school, romanticized/exoticized Western vision of the same. As I’ve written elsewhere, Habibi isn’t really a book “about Islam,” as some of its PR makes it seem — it’s a book that uses Islam and the Middle East as a vector for exploring issues and obsessions close to Thompson’s heart, from religious texts to sexuality to art and design to simply drawing sweeping panoramic views of the desert. In that sense, his use of the term “genre” makes a good deal of sense, since like any genre artist might do, he’s using preexisting tropes as building blocks for his world.

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Comics A.M. | Judge bans note-taking in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | The judge in the trial of former retailer Michael George banned note-taking in the courtroom on Friday out of concern that two women were sharing information with George’s wife Renee. George is on trial for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, and Renee George has been barred from hearing the testimony of other witnesses because she may be called to the stand herself. Also, on Friday a witness testified he had called George’s store at around 5:30 on the day of the murder to ask why an Amazing Spider-Man comic had jumped in value from $5 to $40. Michael Renaud said he spoke to George for about five minutes and that George seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone; the testimony places him at the crime scene rather than at his mother’s house, where he claimed to be at the time of Barbara’s murder. [The Detroit Free Press]

Conventions | Nearly 5,000 people turned out over the weekend for the second annual Detroit Fanfare, held at the Cobb Center. That’s slightly more than the number who attended the first event at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency, but half what organizer Dennis Barger Jr. had hoped for this year. [The Detroit News]

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This weekend, it’s SPX

SPX, or the Small Press Expo, returns to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Md. this weekend.

The show’s special guests include Roz Chast, Jim Woodring, Diane Noomin, Jim Rugg, Ann Telnaes, Chester Brown, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson and Matthew Thurber, and fans who attend will also have the opportunity to meet and/or hear from Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Jessica Abel, Sarah Glidden, Alex Robinson, Brian Ralph, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz, just to name a few. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that our own Chris Mautner will be attending and conducting a Q&A with Johnny Ryan on Saturday, so be sure to tell him hi for us.

In addition to a lot of great talent, SPX also offers a full schedule of programming and the yearly Ignatz Awards. And a whole lot of new books and cool things will be available at the show:

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Get great comics at cheap prices from the Top Shelf Massive $3 Sale

It’s an annual tradition to look forward to: The alternative comics publisher Top Shelf has unveiled its “Massive $3 Sale,” in which they’re pricing down their catalog to near-ridiculous levels — in many cases $3, and in many more cases just one lousy American dollar. For very little money, you can rack up a big chunk of one of the best comics publishers’ best comics.

What would I get? At the $3 level, Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King — a surreal collection of intertwined short stories that for once lives up to the overused, rarely true label “fairy tales for grown-ups” — is basically a must-buy. I’d also be sure to pick up Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, an unpredictable and impeccably cartooned funny-animal allegory about conformity and self-discovery. Lilli Carré’s remarkably assured debut collection of satirical short stories, Tales of Woodsman Pete, is another no-brainer. If you’re interested in rounding out your Alan Moore collection with some of his more off-the-beaten-path efforts, you can get all eight issues of his underground-culture zine Dodgem Logic, his prose novel Voice of the Fire, and his poetry/photography collaboration with José Villarubia The Mirror of Love for three bucks a pop. And you can pick up all three issues of Jeffrey Brown’s one-man action anthology series SulkBighead & Friends, a return to his genuinely funny superhero parody characters; Deadly Awesome, an 84-page mixed martial arts fight comic; and The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness, a grab bag of sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure spoofs — for a buck apiece, which is a steal.

Beyond the deepest discounts, you’ll rarely find the publisher’s heavy (literally–these books are big) hitters priced as low as they are now: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, Campbell’s Alec: The Year’s Have Pants omnibus, and Jeff Lemire’s complete Essex County are all $20, while Craig Thompson’s Blankets is just $22.50.

And hey, if you’re totally new to all of these books, so much the better. Maybe DC’s New 52 initiative has you in an “I’ll try anything for $3 a book” mood? If so, put a few bucks aside and get some full-fledged graphic novels for that price or lower. You’ll be glad you did.

Comics A.M. | Jury selection begins in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | Jury selection is set to begin today in Mount Clemens, Michigan, in the second trial of former retailer Michael George, charged with first-degree murder in the 1990 shooting death of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township comic store. George, 51, was convicted in 2008, but later that year a judge set aside the conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the emergence of new evidence that might have resulted in a different verdict. [The Detroit News]

Retailing | Retailer Mike Sterling answers questions about DC’s relaunch, noting his store saw an uptick in sales before the relaunch: “In our case, comic sales have been increasing … slowly, but steadily. And judging by demand for the new Justice League #1 and the interest we’ve seen in DC’s next batch of first issues, we’re expecting a bit of a bump in sales over the next few weeks. Whether that bump sticks, even as a slight net gain after the initial excitement over the new launches peters out and we see what the sales levels on these titles will actually be, remains to be seen. But I’m optimistic. My fear was that our upward store sales trend may have been derailed by DC cancelling everything and starting again, alienating the readership we were building, but for the most part that doesn’t seem to be happening. But, you know, in six months or a year or so, we’ll know for sure.” [Progressive Ruin]

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Comics A.M. | Kids comic store opens; the ‘I have a girlfriend in Canada’ of sales analysis

Little Island Comics

Retailers | Little Island Comics — “the first kids comic book store in North America–maybe even the world” — opens its doors today in Toronto. The store is owned and operated by The Beguiling, and is located around the corner from the flagship store. The store will hold an official grand opening in a few weeks. [The Comics Reporter]

Publishing | DC Comics co-publisher and Justice League artist Jim Lee discusses his work on DC’s flagship title, which came out in digital form last Wednesday, the same day it hit comic shops. “It’s also setting records digitally. I can’t give numbers, but on the first day it set a record for us,” Lee tells Heidi MacDonald.

That leads Tom Spurgeon to throw a flag on the play: “… it looks like DC won’t be releasing its New 52 digital numbers but will feel confident in making claims on their behalf. It also looks like comics sites will then repeat this claim as news, perhaps qualified by source or as a claim but still putting that information out there. This should stop. I think DC has a really dubious history with using the hidden portions of their numbers to PR advantage — call it the ‘I have a girlfriend in Canada’ of sales analysis. My take is that this practice has intensified slightly ever since the numbers have become smaller and therefore more crucial. When in the 1990s sales on mainstream comics dipped to the point where people questioned the profitability of certain issues of certain titles, perhaps leading to a line of analysis about mainstream publishers making books at a loss for market share advantages or to knock other comics from the limited stand space, we were sometimes assured that there were sales elsewhere we didn’t know about that pushed certain comics over this projected threshold.” [Salon, The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M.| Retailers on print vs. digital; Yang on comics, Christianity

Justice League #1

Retailing | Sacramento, Calif.-area retailers are relatively unconcerned about DC Comics’ newly launched digital initiative or an immediate threat to their bottom lines from digital comics. “I just see it as another way of kind of expanding the whole readership,” says Dave Downey, who runs World’s Best Comics. “If you missed an issue of Spider-Man, and you can’t find it anywhere, you can always go online and read it that way.” However, Kenny Russell of Big Brother Comics sees a time, “years off,” when that will all change: “It’s inevitable, and this is kind of the first step. In no time, iPads are going to be good enough, and it’s going to be easy enough, and it’s going to come out the same day where people are going to just read their comics on their iPads.” [Sacramento News & Review]

Comics | Gene Luen Yang explores the tangled history of comics and Christianity, both of which, he points out, were started by a bunch of Jewish guys who loved a good story. (Good-sized excerpt at the link; full article requires free registration.) [Sojourners]

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Comics A.M. | Flashpoint gets real? 31,000 flock to Otakon

from Flashpoint #4

Publishing | Popular comic-book guest star President Barack Obama will make a brief appearance in this week’s Flashpoint #4. DC Comics Executive Editor Eddie Berganza told USA Today that the inclusion of the actual President, rather than a fictional counterpart, signals that the danger is real — something that will get pushed as the publisher prepares for the September relaunch. [USA Today]

Publishing | Fantagraphics announced the lineup for the first volume of its EC archives series, which will collect Harvey Kurtzman’s war stories. [Fantagraphics blog]

Conventions | More than 31,000 anime and manga enthusiasts flocked to Baltimore over the weekend for Otakon, one of the biggest fan-oriented anime conventions. There were a few anime and manga licenses announced, but mainly it was a meet-and-greet for fans and publishers. [Anime News Network]

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Craig Thompson launches Habibi website

Blankets creator Craig Thompson has just finished a new book, Habibi, which he describes thusly:

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, HABIBI tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them.

At once contemporary and timeless, HABIBI gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

Ambitious! The book is due out in September from Pantheon, but Thompson launched a Habibi website yesterday, with basic information and an amazing Process Gallery filled with pages in various stages of completion—sketches, pencils, inks—as well as a few photos of the creator in action. Stop by and check it out, and if you’re going to San Diego, well, surprise! Thompson will be there too.

SDCC Wishlist | Skullkickers, panties and more

Skullkickers

The San Diego Comic-Con runs kicks off with a preview night on July 20, then runs July 21-24. If you are a comics creator or publisher, and you’re planning to bring something new to the con — a sketchbook, a print, a graphic novel debut, anything! — then we want to hear from you. Drop me an email and let me know if you’ll have something cool on hand that attendees should know about. Feel free to send any artwork as well.

This time around we have panties from Pantheon (seriously), more Mimoco, word of an announcement by Dark Horse, plans for Viz and Arcana, several Hasbro exclusives and more. So let’s get to it …

Skullkickers creators Jim Zubkavich and Edwin Huang will be at the Image Comics booth #2729, selling hardcovers of the first volume of Skullkickers with an SDCC-exclusive cover. You can find more details here.

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SDCC Wishlist | Top Shelf has new Powell, Gentlemen and kung fu

Top Shelf will debut three new books at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, including the new Nate Powell book, new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Infinite Kung Fu. In addition, James Kochalka will at their booth with his entire family signing a special family portrait print, and Craig Thompson will sign the new hardcover and softcover editions of Blankets.

Check out the debuts below.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3 Century #2

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969
by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is back! Our merry metafictional marauders continue their bestselling adventures through the 20th century! In this volume, the League must battle dark cultists amid the sit-ins, sitars, and psychedelics of 1960s swinging London.

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Comics A.M. | Justiniano pleads not guilty; Burkle loads up on B&N stock

Josue Rivera (aka Justiniano)

Crime | Josue Rivera, the comic artist known as Justiniano, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of possessing more than 100 photographs and videos containing child pornography. Rivera was arrested in Connecticut on May 10 following a July incident in which police say he mistakenly gave a funeral home director a thumb drive containing 33 files classified as child pornography instead of the one containing photos of a deceased relative. Police later seized Rivera’s computer and found 153 files of suspected child pornography. On Tuesday, the 38-year-old artist pleaded not guilty to first-degree possession of child pornography, and requested a jury trial. [Connecticut Post]

Retailing | Days after it was announced that media conglomerate Liberty Media offered $1 billion to buy Barnes & Noble, supermarket magnate Ron Burkle has revealed he bought another 603,000 shares at $18.49 a share, raising his stake in the bookseller to 19.74 percent. The Wall Street Journal suggests that Burkle, already the book chain’s largest shareholder, may be “playing a potentially dangerous game of chicken to force a takeover price for Barnes & Noble even higher.” [Deal Journal]

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Six by 6 | Six noteworthy debut comics

Good-Bye Chunky Rice

Cartoonists rarely produce great work right out of the starting gate. It usually it takes lots of time and lots of effort for an artist to hone their style and storytelling abilities. Debut comics — even those made by the greats — rarely offer any indication of what type of treasures lie ahead. Even Chris Ware had to make Floyd Farland before he could produce Jimmy Corrigan.

Still, sometimes a cartoonist seems to spring out of the sea foam fully formed, producing a work that not only draws attention and great buzz, but also indicates exactly where they’re headed — what direction they plan to take as an artist and what you as a reader can expect from them.

Here then, are six debut comics that made people go “Who the heck is this guy? And why haven’t I heard of him before?” I’m sure I missed someone. I always do. Be a dear and let me know who I forgot in the comments section, won’t you?

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Craig Thompson’s SPX flyer

Small Press Expo is still a few months away, but it’s never to early to start drumming up interest. That must be what the organizers had in mind when they released this year’s flyer, illustrated by none other than Craig Thompson, creator of the classic Blankets and the much-anticipated Habibi. Thompson will be a guest at the show, along Roz Chast, Chester Brown, Jim Woodring, and other artistic luminaries.

Craig Thompson’s Habibi due out on Sept. 20

It sounds like some of his blog’s readers found this out before he did, but Blankets author Craig Thompson has revealed that his looooooooong-awaited fantasy graphic novel Habibi will be released on Sept. 20 by Pantheon. “The book will be $29.95 — 672 b&w pages — clothbound hardcover with stamped gold foil, and look something like the mock-up above,” Thompson writes. It will come out just one day before Thompson’s 36th birthday.

It’s difficult to describe the impact of Thompson’s last bona fide graphic novel, the 2003 memoir Blankets, to people who weren’t there to feel it. (Though God knows I’ve tried.) This is hard to imagine in a world where your bookshelves can groan under the weight of Bottomless Belly Button, A Drifting Life, If ‘n Oof et al, but at the time this Top Shelf release was the longest original graphic novel ever published; its mere existence was a statement about the future of the medium. And it’s equally difficult to describe just how hard its story of finding and losing first love and religious faith while growing up amid the snows of the conservative upper-Midwest hit with readers, many of whom had never cracked open a comic without being harangued by true believers. My wife, whose prior experience with comics was pretty much limited to stuff I’d force her to read, started flipping through it on the kitchen table one day, read it in one sitting, and eventually got a picture from it tattooed on her person, let’s put it that way. Thompson followed the book up with Carnet de Voyage, a 2004 travelogue recounting his experiences touring Europe in support of Blankets and Northern Africa as research for his already nascent next project Habibi, but Habibi itself is really the “next Craig Thompson book” for which fans have been waiting. And God help us all, but its long-discussed filtering of Middle Eastern and Muslim culture through an epic fantasy lens remains as timely as it was when Thompson concocted the idea during the first term of the Bush Administration. I can’t wait to read it.

Anyway, click the link to see a whole bunch of cover designs that didn’t make the cut over at Thompson’s blog.


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