PictureBox may be the only comic book publisher to win a Grammy Award, as Dan Nadel helped design the packaging for Wilco’s 2004 album A Ghost is Born. What might be more remarkable is that despite such a high-profile achievement, it isn’t likely to be how the small yet innovative comics house will be remembered when it closes at the end of year. Instead, at least in comics circles, PictureBox will be remembered for somehow capturing and releasing a mercurial yet eye-catching merger of music and imagery that manifested as graphic novels, art books and magazines.
For all intents and purposes, PictureBox is Nadel. He’s an accomplished editor, designer, publisher and curator of “visual culture,” as he describes it. “Each project comes from my own tastes and relationships, and are rooted in what I believe in,” he wrote on the PictureBox website. “Since it’s just me running this thing, you’re pretty much seeing me through those books and this site.” Looking through the PictureBox catalog proves that to be true. It’s like walking into the house of the kid down the street who had a collection of comics you never heard of but instantly wished you had. Where did he find these people, these mad geniuses? Maybe if I read everything, I’ll understand.
PictureBox, the influential Brooklyn-based publisher of such titles as 1-800 MICE, Cold Heat and Powr Mastrs, announced it will no longer release new books after the end of the year. Its final title will be Matthew Thurber’s Infomaniacs.
“This was not an easy decision, but the company is no longer feasible for me as a thoroughgoing venture,” owner Dan Nadel wrote this morning on the company’s website. “Change is, as the cliché goes, a good thing, and I am proud of PictureBox the idea and the company, and grateful to the many artists I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve been publishing since 2000, and without such an astounding array of loyal and talented people PictureBox would be nothing. Some of my closest friends were made while working on PictureBox projects.”
Nadel offers more details in an interview with The Comics Reporter, where he explains the decision to shutter PictureBox was a personal one rather than a financial one; the company remained viable.
Current titles will remain available through the PictureBox website. Nadel is also holding a 50-percent-off sale through Jan. 2 on all books, prints, posters and more.
Creators | Dark Horse announced that legendary Lone Wolf and Cub writer Kazuo Koike will be its guest of honor at Comic-Con International in San Diego, where he’ll sign July 18-19 at the publisher’s booth (#2615). In 2014, Dark Horse will debut New Lone Wolf and Club, the 11-volume series by Koike and Hideki Mori (original artist Goseki Kojima passed away in 2000) that picks up where the initial saga ended. [Dark Horse]
Awards | The Judging Panel for the British Comic Awards has been announced. This panel will choose the final winners from a shortlist sent to them by the Judging Committee, which screens nominations from the public. [Forbidden Planet]
Commentary | Steve Morris pens a thoughtful essay on cost versus content in comics and what exactly you are paying for with your $2.99 (or, more frequently these days, $3.99). [The Beat]
Superheroes | Writer Jim Zubkavich tackles the burning question of why there are so few Canadian superheroes: “We don’t have a long standing superhero tradition in this country. We don’t have a long-standing focal point character people recognize (I like Captain Canuck, but the average person on the street does not know who he is). We’re not a country galvanized by heavy-duty patriotic pride that lends itself to a Superman, Captain America or even a Batman. We don’t have the kind of rampant crime that ‘needs’ a heroic symbol to fight back against.” [Zub Tales]
Digital comics | The first issue of Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 100,000 copies in stores, but was that because he refused to allow it to be sold in digital format the same day? Steve Bennett is doubtful, because so many people (including himself) didn’t realize until the last minute it would be print-only for now. [ICv2]
Love it or hate it, manga has revolutionized American comics by bringing in new readers, new genres and new creators. Sometimes the influences are obvious, as in the manga-style graphic novels of Svetlana Chmakova or Laurianne Uy, and sometimes they are less so; many artists who don’t work in what we think of as the “manga style” have adopted storytelling, paneling and pacing techniques from Japanese comics.
What we forget, because manga still seem so exotic and foreign, is that the influence went the other way, too, and that’s the underlying premise of a fascinating new line of manga scholar Ryan Holmberg is editing for PictureBox. Titled Ten-Cent Manga, it will showcase manga that explore “that mysterious underground country between Japanese and American popular culture.” Even the name suggests a pulpy sensibility that is straight out of the American mass market of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]
One of the more interesting, art-focused and idiosyncratic comic conventions around, the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, will take place this weekend.
The bulk of festival will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The show has expanded considerably, however, to include a number of other events, including gallery shows and a film festival.
Guess what? You don’t get to call yourself underground if you’re on Kickstarter. Guess what else? You don’t get to call yourself a publisher either; you’re just someone who pays a printing bill. Take pre-orders on your site. Sell your boots. Do what you have to do. But don’t go begging for money so that you can then give 5% of it to Amazon.com, which is actively trying to put you (!), and the stores you hope to shove this shit into, out of business.
Dan Nadel, objecting to Box Brown and Ian Harker’s Kickstarter campaign to fund their anthology of comics inspired by the Japanese magazine Garo. (Dan also objected to the book on intellectual grounds, but everyone who would have argued with him about that is at Otakon this weekend.)
These days I only get miffed at Kickstarters when it’s someone asking for people to pay for them to quit their jobs. The SP guys [Brown and Harker] make some fun books and usually only take in as much money as they need plus a bit for production costs, then give the damned things away for free. They’re good yeggs with their hearts in the right place, and certainly didn’t deserve to get kicked in the teeth on TCJ. If Kickstarter is the way folks are getting their stuff out there now, fine by me. Getting uppity about someone using a popular site whose name is instantly recognized in the minds of millions of people, but being totally cool with hosting the exact same thing on your own site which get 4 hits a month (half from your mom) is fucking weird. Finding the best ways to get your material out there has always been the hardest part about making comics for me, if this makes it easier for someone, more power to them.
Some guy named Cheese, providing the counterpoint.
Missed out on the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival? Want to check out new comics, zines, and prints from some of the show’s buzziest attendees and exhibitors? BCGF co-organizer PictureBox Inc. has you covered. Dan Nadel’s brainchild has stocked its online store with new books and art from a who’s who of folks at the show, including Frank Santoro, Anya Davidson, Matthew Thurber, CF, Sammy Harkham, and Leif Goldberg, and the anthologies Mould Map 2 (edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler) and Weird (edited by Noel Freibert) from Landfill Editions and Closed Caption Comics respectively. Stuff your stockings, artcomics fans.
Paying off thirty years of continuity and character development. Delivering shocks, gasps, cheers, and tears in equal measure, seemingly at the author’s whim. Offering a master class in everything from laying out a double-page spread to drawing clothes. Telling a story about beloved characters so emotionally engaging that even their most ardent fans wouldn’t mind if this were the last one ever told. Any way you slice it, Jaime Hernandez’s “The Love Bunglers” — his contribution to the recently released Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 and the conclusion to the already wildly acclaimed “The Love Bunglers”/”Browntown” suite from last year’s issue — is a hell of a comic. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
Dan Nadel, editor of The Comics Journal, has posted his own appreciation, and invited cartoonists Frank Santoro (Storeyville) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve) to do the same. (SPOILER WARNINGS in effect at those links, folks.) Nadel (like Jordan Crane on the first part of Jaime’s tale in issue #3 before him) minces no words: “This is not just Jaime’s finest work, but one of the best (at this moment I’d rank it in my top five of all time) works ever created in the medium.” Santoro calls Jaime “the greatest cartoonist of all time,” saying “No art moves me the way the work of Jaime Hernandez moves me.” Tomine talks of picking the issue up at a signing event for Jaime and being so moved by a two-page spread he encountered while randomly flipping through that he actually had to leave.
I posted my review at the beginning of August, after the book had started circulating at cons but long before it hit stores, but weeks and even months later people would still post comments on the review, like they’d been hungrily seeking out anything anyone had written about this remarkable comic. I’ve got a feeling that as more and more critics read this comic, they’ll never go hungry again.
Pretty much since the Womanthology initiative began, Robot 6 has done its best to cover it. A few weeks back, some questions came about how the money raised for the Womanthology project was to be spent and further questions resulted based on the response to the concerns. Rather than stand on the sidelines as the discussion played out, I contacted Womanthology organizers to see if an email interview was possible. Laura Morley, Womanthology’s project administrator, was willing to take my questions. Thanks to Morley for her time, as well as to Michael May, Sean T. Collins and Graeme McMillan for interview prep support.
Tim O’Shea: Laura, how did you come to be involved with Womanthology?
Laura Morley: I’m an aspiring comics writer, and saw the original tweet Renae De Liz sent out in May, seeking women to contribute comics to an anthology for charity. I hadn’t actually crossed paths with Renae back then, and saw the message via someone else’s retweet – I wish I could remember whose, so I could thank them! It’s been an amazing experience for me. Then, since I’m one of those perverse people who gets a kick out of wrangling spreadsheets, I sent an email offering to help out with admin for the project – from that I wound up coordinating the admin effort, which has meant acting as a first point of contact for our contributors and our Kickstarter backers. You can also hear me sounding British on the Womanthology Kickstarter video.
O’Shea: Can you explain how it came to be that there is a hardback anthology and a sketchbook associated with Womanthology?
Morley: Publishing a hardcover volume was the plan from the beginning. The book is going to be pretty hefty – it’s over 300 pages long, on a 9×12 inch format, and we wanted to make something truly elegant that would serve as a good vehicle for the beautiful work inside. The sketchbook came about, I believe, as an opportunity to showcase some more of the work by our creators. Some contributors preferred to draw pinups than full stories, and some wanted to do both; some writers wanted to share samples from their scripts – we thought this would be a good way to get more of it out to the audience it deserves.
Looks like the mother of all post-millennial art/alt-comix anthologies is about to get a makeover. Last Thursday, editor Sammy Harkham and publisher Dan Nadel of PictureBox Inc. announced the November 2011 release of Kramers Ergot 8, the latest installment in Harkham’s “this is why the word ‘seminal’ exists” anthology series. According to Harkham and Nadel, the new volume will mark a break from the four previous, sprawling, all but physically intimidating collections — a smaller, more focused effort, featuring longer 16-24-page stories from about a dozen creators, working with the same aesthetic end in mind instead of the potpourri of approaches evident in earlier volumes. The line-up includes Harkham, cover designer Robert Beatty, Gary Panter, Gabrielle Bell, C.F., Kevin Huizenga, Ben Jones, Jason T. Miles, Leon Sadler, Johnny Ryan, Frank Santoro & Dash Shaw, Anya Davidson, Ron Rege Jr., Ron Embleton & Frederic Mullally.
Talk about a no-lose situation. CF (aka Christopher Forgues), the cartoonist behind PictureBox Inc.’s revisionist-fantasy masterpiece in the making Powr Mastrs, needs money to make some emergency house payments. To raise it, he’s selling nearly every page from the first three volumes for the pretty damn reasonable price of $200 for black-and-white pages and $300 for color pages. “Your purchases will enable him to save his home,” writes publisher Dan Nadel — it doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. If you’ve got the scratch and you want to hold CF’s delicately drawn decadence in your hands, you know what to do.
The taxman cometh, and that, says publisher Dan Nadel, is why boutique comics publisher PictureBox Inc. is having a 30% off sale for the rest of April. In addition to acclaimed comics like Renee French’s H Day, CF’s Powr Mastrs, and Brian Chippendale’s If n’ Oof and various art prints and music projects by their affiliated cartoonists, PictureBox also offers everything their book about the album art of legendary Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin designers Hipgnosis to a vinyl statue of Beat icon Allen Ginsberg designed by Sof’Boy creator Archer Prewitt. If you can’t find something to buy, that’s on you, man.
The Comics Journal, a venerable, influential and controversial mainstay of comics journalism that had developed an air of the walking wounded in recent years, has radically revamped and relaunched its online presence. Its new editors are Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler, best known as the minds behind Comics Comics magazine and, in Nadel’s case, the art-comics publisher PictureBox Inc.
The print version of the Journal will continue to be helmed by founding editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth, acting in a more hands-on capacity as of the forthcoming Issue #301 than he has in years, by the sound of it. Kristy Valenti serves as editorial coordinator. Contributors to the new TCJ.com include Frank Santoro, Jeet Heer, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Ken Parille, Ryan Holmberg, Rob Clough, Richard Gehr, R.C. Harvey, R. Fiore, Vanessa Davis, Bob Levin, Patrick Rosenkranz, Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, Jason T. Miles, Andrew Leland, Naomi Fry, Jesse Pearson, Tom De Haven, Shaenon Garrity, Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and Hillary Chute. On a Robot 6-related note, my colleague Chris Mautner and I will also be contributing.
A look at the new site reveals a multifaceted approach, with reviews, columns, interviews, lengthy features and essays (the current lead feature is a look at the legacy of, and turmoil surrounding, Frank Frazetta by writer Bob Levin), an events calendar, selected highlights from the magazine’s archives, and more. The biggest news, perhaps, is that Hodler and Nadel plan to have literally the entire 300-issue Comics Journal archive scanned and posted online by the end of this year and made available in its entirety to the print magazine’s subscribers. Click here for Hodler and Nadel’s welcome letter, in which they explain some of the changes and reveal a bit of what’s ahead. (And click here for their farewell letter to Comics Comics.)