Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is small but mighty. On Saturday and Sunday, the show will take over the second floor of Lesley University’s University Hall, better known to locals as the Porter Exchange. Admission is free, and the roster includes a mix of local creators, aspiring artists just out of school, and some big names, including special guests James Kochalka, Emily Carroll, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman and Box Brown.
We talked with one of the organizers, Dan Mazur (a comics creator and publisher in his own right), about the challenges of running a small indie-comics show in general and the unique qualities of MICE in particular.
Brigid Alverson: What is the focus of MICE, and how is it different from other comics festivals?
Dan Mazur: MICE is an independent/alternative comics show, in the vein of larger shows like SPX, MoCCA Fest and APE, and others like TECAF, CAKE, MECAF. … So it differs from the mainstream comic cons for its lack of superheroes, cosplay, etc., and for the preponderance of minicomics. But for those familiar with the alternative scene, I guess we do have more of a focus (though not exclusive) on a local comics scene, and also on kid-friendly material and activities, to a degree.
Somehow I nearly missed that, just in time for Halloween, Dave Roman and Jason Ho have been serializing a new Agnes Quill story, “Left Behind.”
If you’ve never read the webcomic, you’re in for a treat: The title character is a teen detective who lives in Legerdemain, a fog-filled Victorian city built around an enormous cemetery the size of New York’s Central Park. There, Agnes grapples regularly with trapped spirits, zombies, cursed souls and the like. In “Left Behind,” she takes a much-needed vacation, only to discover that supernatural menaces aren’t confined to the city limits.
Agnes’ earlier adventures were collected in 2006 by SLG Publishing for a print edition called Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery. If you like “Left Behind” and want to read more, the book is still in print.
Retailing | Publishers Weekly’s annual comics retailer survey yields some interesting commentary, although the sample size is small (just 10 stores): Sales are up, retailers are optimistic, and Saga is the hot book right now. Also, booksellers who underestimated the demand for Chris Ware’s Building Stories lost out to direct-market retailers who didn’t, making for some nice extra sales during the holiday season. And while readers seem to be getting tired of the Big Two and their event comics, they are more enthusiastic than ever before about creator-owned comics, and Image is doing quite well. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Ladies Making Comics presents the complete list of women Eisner nominees for this year, noting that women have been nominated in almost every category. [Ladies Making Comics]
The beautiful and fantastical Flight anthologies put together by Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet) and his friends may be no more, but their spirit lives on in Explorer. The first volume, Flight: Explorer, was Kibuishi’s stab at assembling an anthology for kids using many of the same artists who’d worked on Flight. He followed that up by dropping the Flight label and putting together Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, but if a third volume was ever announced, I missed it.
That third volume is coming soon, though. Amazon is taking pre-orders for Explorer: The Lost Islands, a hardcover to be released Oct. 8. Again edited by Kibuishi, this volume features stories around the theme of “hidden places.” Contributors include Kibuishi, Jason Caffoe (Flight), Raina Telgemeier (Drama, Smile), Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Jake Parker (Missile Mouse), Michel Gagné (The Saga of Rex), Katie and Steven Shanahan (Flight, Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales), and new artist Chrystin Garland.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival celebrates its 10th birthday this weekend with a truly stellar lineup of guests and an amazing array of events. The list of creators who will be there is impressive in both its quality and its breadth: Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, David B., Taiyo Matsumoto, Rutu Modan, Frederik Peeters, Paul Pope, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, Faith Erin Hicks, Derf Backderf, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, a roll call that goes from living legends to plucky creators making their own comics zines by hand.
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.
Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. […] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]
Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]
First Second sent out its latest catalog earlier this week, highlighting all the graphic novels it will release next spring. The bad news is, there’s still no Battling Boy on the schedule, nor do the Box Brown Andre the Giant or as-yet-unrevealed Becky Cloonan books appear. But the good news is there are projects featuring the likes of Faith Erin Hicks, Matt Kindt, Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen, Dave Roman and many more.
Here’s the rundown:
Odd Duck, by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon. “A heartwarming tale of the perils and pleasures of friendship featuring two ducks who are both a bit odd.” Varon has done several graphic novels for First Second, including Bake Sale and Robot Dreams, while Castellucci wrote the Plain Janes books for DC’s Minx line, as well as several Young Adult novels.
Primates, by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks. A new science book from Jim Ottaviani, the author of thwe well-received Feynman, “with Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas and all sorts of primates.” Wicks, meanwhile, has a fun blog where you can check out her work, which includes several kids titles like Spongebob and Adventure Time.
Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Derek Kirk Kim was at the American Library Association midsummer meeting last weekend, and he went through the Artists Alley with a video camera asking the creators what they think of ALA versus comic conventions. The lineup includes Dave Roman, Raina Telegemeier, Gene Luen Yang and Cecil Castelucci, among others, and the answers are interesting; several people focused on the way that the ALA attendees (who are, obviously, mostly librarians) are very engaged in the subject matter and interested in learning about something new, while comic con attendees tend to be looking for more of the same familiar comics.
Check out the video; it’s 10 minutes well spent.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d go all-in on AvX: Vs #1 (Marvel, $3.99). As a story format-junkie, this seems like an ideal supplemental series to the event comic series as we know it – I may have read it wrong, but this seems low on continuity and high on action – kind of a throwback to the condensed comics of the ’60s, I hope. And seeing Kathryn and Stuart Immonen on this together is a big deal – wish they’d get more chances like this! Next up would be the finale of The Twelve, #12 (Marvel, $2.99). I argued with myself about waiting for the trade at this point, but at the end of the day I’m more interested in this than a lot of everything else going on out there. Plus, I bought the eleven previous issues so I should finish it out, right? Next up would be Spaceman #6 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). I’m finding this series benefits from a deeper re-reading prior to each new issues, but it’s paying off in spades in terms of my enjoyment. This is definitely a palate cleanser after Azzarello and Risso’s run on 100 Bullets, but in a good way. Finally, I’d get Daredevil #11 (Marvel, $2.99). The Eisner Awards judges got this one right when they piled nominations on this book, because Waid, Martin, and Rivera have really made the quintessential superhero book here. The fill-ins from Khoi Pham and Marco Checchetto seem off-putting, but they’ve earned some lee-way after the murderer’s row of creators who started the book. Can’t wait to see Samnee on this, however.
If I had $30, I’d start off with an interesting looking project that’s gotten no press – Airboy: Deadeye #1 (Antarctic Press, $3.50). Chuck Dixon and Ben Dunn — what a pairing. After that I’d go back to get Supercrooks #2 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99); Mark Millar knows how to sell a high-concept, but it’s Leinil Yu that’s making me come back past the first issue. After that would be an Avengers two-fer: New Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99) and Secret Avengers #26 (Marvel, $3.99). I dropped off New a few issues back, but with this new issue covering some never-before-seen connections between Iron Fist and the Phoenix Force, I’m back in for this one. And Secret Avengers, well, Remender’s on a roll with his Marvel work and this is continuing on that without being an Uncanny X-Force retread. And guest artist Renato Guedes seems a better fit for this than his work on Wolverine.
If I could splurge, I’d lunge for a copy of The Art of Amanda Conner (IDW/Desperado, $29.99). I was fortunate enough to get a digital review copy of this earlier, and seeing it like that only made me want this more. Rather than just being a template art book plugging in her work, the design and packaging really go along with what you’d expect from Amanda’s tongue-in-cheek comic style. Reading this makes me want to go back and track down her earlier work that I missed.
[Note: this post was assembled by both Tim O’Shea and JK Parkin]
This is our final post for our big birthday bash, and what a post it is. No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they are excited about for 2012 in comics–something they aren’t working on and something they are.
There’s a lot of great stuff here–hints at new projects and even some downright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded!
I’m most anticipating the 30th Anniversary of HEROES CON (June 22-24, Charlotte, NC) . For any convention 30 years is an amazing run, but the fact that Shelton Drum and his extended family have put this show together every year with nothing but blood, sweat and tears is flat out super heroic.
On the personal front, the challenging and exhilarating ride that’s been Loose Ends will come to a close with issue 4. It’ll be bittersweet to send our child off to into the real world but I can’t wait for you guys to see the work Brunner & Renzi are doing.
I’m also super excited to dip my own toes into the Mignola-verse with the BPRD: The Pickens County Horror [March 28, 2012] and to read the end of Jason Aaron & RM Guera’s Scalped, which is my favorite series in years.
This sounds politic, but it’s genuine: what excites me about comics in 2012 is what’s exciting every year, the work of the talent. Seeing what the best are up to and how the up-n-comers have grown as artists and writers. In the new year, I’m also excited about illustrating several books and covers that feature my favorite Avengers.
Comics | John Jackson Miller slices and dices the October numbers for the direct market, noting that overall dollar orders for comic books, trade paperbacks, and magazines topped $40 million for the first time since September 2009. Orders rose 6.9 percent over September, the first month of DC’s relaunch. “While that may sound counter-intuitive, it isn’t when you consider that all those first issues continued to have reorders selling through October,” Miller writes. “Retailers with an eye on the aftermarket may also have some sense that second issues are historically under-ordered — something which goes at least back to the experience of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #2 in the 1980s, which wound up being much more valuable than its first issue.” [The Comichron]
Passings | Tom Spurgeon reports that author Les Daniels has passed away. Daniels wrote horror fiction and nonfiction books on the comic industry, which include Comix: A History of the Comic Book in America, Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics and DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes. [The Comics Reporter]
Creators | With the announcement that Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios is back in business, former Extreme Studios employee and current Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson reflects on his time with the studio. “From 1992-1998, Extreme Studios was more or less my life. Youngblood, Supreme, Brigade, Bloodstrike, Team Youngblood, New Men, Prophet, Youngblood: Strikefile, Bloodpool, Glory… We put out a lot of comics, and for the most part everyone involved was incredibly young. Rob and I were amongst the oldest at 25. So many of the artists involved in various aspects of production were just out of their teens, and that made the work as frustrating as it was fun. But looking back, the main thing I remember about that time is Rob wanted to share his success with people who loved comics and wanted to make a living in the business as much as he had.” [It Sparkles!]
Webcomics | A Distant Soil creator Colleen Doran, who began serializing the comic online in 2009, notes “my bottom line is up significantly, and my online audience is ten times higher than when I started the five day a week online serialization of A Distant Soil 2.5 years ago.” She also shares advice she received when she started the endeavor that hasn’t worked for her. [A Distant Soil]
All this week at Robot 6 we’re interviewing some of the many contributors to First Second’s new anthology, Nursery Rhyme Comics. Today Brigid Alverson talks to the editor, Chris Duffy.
Chris Duffy is the former editor of Nickelodeon Magazine‘s comics section and the current editor of SpongeBob Comics. I was interested in hearing the inside story of Nursery Rhyme Comics—how he rounded up this diverse array of talent and what sort of marching orders he gave them—and Chris obliged with some interesting insights into the making of Nursery Rhyme Comics.
Brigid Alverson: You have some really big names contributing to this book. Were you the one who recruited them, and if so, how did you get them to participate?
Chris Duffy: Almost everyone we asked wanted to be a part of the book. That’s the good news with a collection with a great, clear concept like this book has. Everyone wants in! The challenge was paring down our list to 50 cartoonists (harder than you might think) and just making all those phone calls and emails. I did most of the contacting, though Mark Siegel and Calista Brill broke the ice with a lot of creators who they knew well. I should mention that the idea began with former First Second publisher Lauren Wohl.