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.
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 walk out of the comic store with one book this week Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me (Image, $14.99). I fell off this book after the first issue, preferring to read in trades, and now that time has come. I’m looking forward to being surprised at what Brubaker and Phillips have done in this first arc as the debut issue was very promising.
If I had $30, I’d load up at Image with Manhattan Projects #4 (Image, $3.50), Prophet #26 (Image, $2.99) and Hell Yeah #4 (Image, $2.99). Prophet is becoming my favorite Image book because it unites my comic heroes of childhood (Prophet!) and one of the top cartoonists out there (Brandon Graham) with a surprising introduction of BD-style science fiction. Hell Yeah is a fun romp reimagining the staples of ’80s and ’90s comics as if John Hughes were the eighth Image founder. Last up I’d get Wolverine and the X-Men #12 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series would get derailed by Avengers Vs. X-Men, but Aaron and Co. have managed to keep it on point as best as conceivably possible. It’s an ideal opening to bring Rachel Summers to the forefront, and the smirking Kid Gladiator on the cover is full of win.
If I could splurge, I’d get Michel Rabagliati’s Song of Roland hardcover (Conundrum Press, $20). I’ll always admire Free Comic Book Day, because it was there that a little Drawn and Quarterly one-shot introduced me to Rabagliati’s work. I’m surprised to see this new volume of his work not published by D&Q, instead published by Canadian house Conundrum. Anyway, this book appears to deal with the death of the father-in-law of the lead character, Paul. It’s been extremely engaging to see Paul grow through the series, and having him deal with events like this as I myself grow up and experience similar events is really touching.
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Daredevil #220, composed and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Christie Scheele, scripted by Denny O’Neil, with unspecified assistance by Frank Miller. Cover-dated July 1985. Published by Marvel Comics Group.
How acquired: In a back-issue sale at the worst/best comic book shop in the Los Angeles area. You know the type of place: dust everywhere, smell of Indian food, way too hot, full boxes of X-Force #1 from the early ’90s blocking the shelves in the back. The type of place where when they have a half-off bin blowout you can grab all the David Mazzucchelli Daredevil issues for a flat fee, and get them to let the ones that aren’t in the bins (like this one) go for half price too, provided you’re willing to sell them your heavily dented copy of Absolute Watchmen.
Although DC Comics’ new printing of the Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition doesn’t arrive in stores until next week, the 144-page hardcover already has drawn sharp criticism — from artist David Mazzucchelli himself.
“DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it,” he told The Comics Journal‘s Dan Nadel. “I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition of Batman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.”
Mazzucchelli, who collaborated with Frank Miller on the seminal 1987 storyline, said he’s sent letters and emails complaining to DC executives but has received no response. The new printing, which includes new introductions by Mazzucchelli and Miller, goes on sale March 14.
Batman #404-407 (1986-87). David Mazzucchelli.
Despite his having drawn two of the bangin’-est, bone crunching-est superhero comics of the modern age (namely Daredevil Born Again and the book at hand, Batman Year One), few would argue that a — perhaps the — defining aspect of David Mazzucchelli’s approach to his mainstream comics work is its great subtlety. The artist’s decision to leave superheroes for the greater freedom of alternative comics may have been surprising at the time, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense: Mazzucchelli was never as interested in the roaring moments of climax that are action comics’ stock in trade as he was in the smaller, tension-filled moments of ascent and decline that bookend them. It was perhaps inevitable that he would one day leave the spandex merry-go-round in order to investigate them more deeply, but in his timeless collaboration with Frank Miller on Year One, Mazzucchelli was able to find an ideal point between noise and quiet, action and inertia: superhero comics somehow created to lack the kitschy “zap bam pow” element, given a truer “real-world” feel than can be found just about anywhere else in the genre.
The featured guests for the third annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival have been announced, and whoo boy, it’s quite a line-up. And it runs the gamut, too: MAD Magazine legend Jack Davis, book-design kingpin Chip Kidd, The Diary of a Teenage Girl author Phoebe Gloeckner, Asterios Polyp/Batman Year One artist David Mazzucchelli, Providence artcomix vets CF and Brian Ralph, grossout-humor queen Lisa Hanawalt, and minicomics patriarch John Porcellino. An opportunity to encounter Gloeckner live and in person is not to be squandered, folks, and that’s just for starters.
Organized by publisher PictureBox Inc., retailer Desert Island, and scholar Bill Kartalopoulos, this year’s BCGF will take place on Saturday, December 3 from noon to nine at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with programming hosted at the nearby Union Pool. If the last two years are any indication, it’s the alternative comics show to beat.
It’s a little something different on Your Wednesday Sequence this week, folks. For weeks now I’ve been wanting to dig into the rock-solid action storytelling of Benjamin Marra, who draws comics like Jack Kirby given a dose of Giotto DNA and filled to the bursting point with speed metal and grindhouse movies. Ben’s work on Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse (a bracing new issue of which was just released) is about as close to flawlessly constructed as comics get: deceptively simple strings of phenomenal drawings that flow like a waterfall. Luckily enough for me, Ben was willing to answer a few of my questions on composition, layout, pacing, and a bunch of other comic book-making inside dope. And luckily enough for you, I’m posting our Q and A right here. Get ready to learn from a master, kids…
MATT SENECA: Your comics have always emphasized gridded layouts, but in your latest comic, Gangsta Rap Posse #2, you stick almost exclusively to a basic six-panel grid, with each of the frames the exact same size as all the others. What makes that layout so appealing to you?
BENJAMIN MARRA: There are several reasons. Firstly, I think it’s the most efficient system for constructing and reading comic book pages. Many masters of comic book art and storytelling have worked off of it, like Kirby, Alan Moore (to an extent), Kyle Baker and Gary Panter. If the six-panel grid was good enough for Kirby, it’s good enough for me. It’s also a matter of time. If my page layout is pre-determined I’ve spared myself from having to solve many additional problems and can spend time focusing exclusively on what the panels contain. Additionally, I think it’s a more accessible format for new readers. A lot of comics these days focus too much on doing unnecessarily crazy page layouts (I guess stemming from Neal Adams’ response to Steranko?) with panels, instead of focusing on what’s within the panels, which is what’s really crucial. Wild panel layouts just confuse readers who aren’t already versed in comics as a language.
Since a Xeric Foundation grant back in 2002 first allowed him to self-publish, comics creator Sonny Liew has created a series of stories starring Atari and Oliver, two street urchins who steal bicycles, watch giant robot movies and get into trouble in a futuristic city filled with robots. The stories have appeared in various comics and anthologies over the years, and this August Image Comics will collect them into one volume titled Malinky Robot.
Liew, whose body of work includes the Vertigo series My Faith in Frankie and Minx book Re-Gifters with writer Mike Carey, Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation with writer Nancy Butler, and SLG’s Wonderland with writer Tommy Kovac, shared some details on the new collection with me via the magic of email. Based in Singapore, Liew is also working on a few new projects, as he shares below.
JK: What stories are included in the new collection and where did they originally appear?
Sonny: The collection begins with “Stinky Fish Blues,” which was first conceived in David Mazzucchelli’s Graphic Storytelling class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Xeroxed copies of the story ended up in a couple of comic stores in the Boston area, before a Xeric grant allowed to me to try my hand at self-publishing. Later on a colored version appeared in Liquid City vol 1. “Bicycle” was originally released as a one-shot from SLG Comics, and the other stories, “Dead Soul’s Day Out,” “New Year’s Day” and “Karakuri” appeared in various editions of the Flight anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi.
Awards | Art Spiegelman on Sunday won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). “Considering my poor skills, I’m looking a little like the president Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” he told the festival by telephone from the United States. Spiegelman will serve as the grand marshal for next year’s event.
Other winners at the four-day festival, which drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, include David Mazzuchelli for Asterios Polyp (Grand Jury Prize), and Naoki Urasawa and the late Osamu Tezuka for Pluto (Intergenerational Award). The full list of winners can be found here. [Agence France-Presse]
Retailing | The beleaguered Borders Group announced on Sunday that it’s delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in an effort to save cash while it tries to complete a debt restructuring. This marks the second round of delays for the bookseller, which has been pressuring large publishers and distributors to agree by Feb. 1 to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. The bookstore chain announced just last week that it secured a $550 million credit line from G.E. Capital, but only if several tough conditions were met — including an unlikely agreement from publishers. [The Wall Street Journal]
Bizarro creator Dan Piraro won the 2010 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented over the weekend by the National Cartoonists Society. He beat out fellow nominees Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac).
The organization also 13 divisional awards in categories ranging from feature animation to book illustration to comic books. Paul Pope won the latter for “Strange Adventures,” his Adam Strange strip serialized in DC’s Wednesday Comics, while David Mazzucchelli took home the graphic novels award for his critically acclaimed Asterios Polyp.
The full list of divisional winners can be found after the break:
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced last night, and the Graphic Novel award went to David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp. The judges commented:
Mazzucchelli’s monolith is a beautifully executed love story, a smart and playful treatise on aesthetics, a perfectly unified work whose every formal element, down to the stitching on its spine, serves its themes. No wonder the main character is an architect finding his way back to his Ithaca and his Penelope: “Asterios Polyp” is an odyssey of design as well as writing and art and cartooning. Steeped in classicism and wholly modern, it’s a pleasure to read, and maybe even more of a pleasure to contemplate and discuss.
This is the first year the prizes have included a graphic novel category; the website calls graphic novels “an expanding part of the book landscape, both aesthetically and commercially.”
I’m old enough to still find it absolutely delightful when a mainstream publication recognizes excellence in comics, particularly when the comics it deems excellent really are excellent. And that’s certainly the case with the finalists for the LA Times’ inaugural Graphic Novel Book Prize:
Luba by Gilbert Hernandez
GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
That’s a pretty outstanding group. In other comics-related Book Prize news, McSweeney’s publisher Dave Eggers will be presented with the Times’ first-ever Innovators Award, while cartoonist Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia is a finalist for the Young Adult Literature Book Prize.
According to the announcement of the finalists in all categories — which, again to my delight, treats the addition of the Graphic Novel category like a major selling point — the winners will be announced April 23. My sincere congratulations go out to all the finalists.
(via Bryan Lee O’Malley)
by David Mazzucchelli
Pantheon, 344 pages, $29.95.
Asterios Polyp is the type of graphic novel that causes critics like me to rub our hands together frantically and salivate. It’s full of all the juicy metaphors, re-occuring motifs and classical allusions that academics and reviewers alike go koo-koo for. Best of all, they’re all right up front and not hidden in the text, so you don’t have to do a lot of hunting around.
At its center, however, Polyp is a familiar and heartfelt tale of a man, who, halfway through his life, is faced with the realization that he is far from the wonderful person he thought he was and sets about trying to make things right.
• Man, everyone and their Uncle Bob is reviewing David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp these days aren’t they? This week alone we’ve seen Brian Hibbs, Rob Clough, Douglas Wolk and the LA Times’ David Ulin.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I’ll probably have my own review of the book up this Friday.
• The Groovy Age of Horror’s Curt Purcell has been spending a lot of time talking about Blackest Night, and, given that he’s not a regular fan, he has some interesting things to say about the crossover event. Rather than link to all the separate posts, I’ll just say start here and work your way back.
Oh, and while you’re at it, read his new review of Gilbert Hernandez’s Speak of the Devil.
• Johnny Bacardi likes Blackest Night quite a bit too.
Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger, critic, Comics Comics editor and expectant dad Tim Hodler. To find out what Mr. Hodler and the rest of us are reading this week, click on the link below. And be sure to let us know what you’re currently reading in the comments section.