Soule Finds a Weakness in the Afterlife, Discusses Surprise "Inhuman" Return
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and digital comics totaled $750 million in 2012, making that year the best of the millennium so far for the comics business, according to the retail news and analysis site ICv2. Total print sales were estimated at $680 million and digital at $70 million, a hair over 10 percent of print and almost triple the 2011 total of $25 million. The website also breaks down the top properties in eight graphic novel categories (superheroes, genre, manga, etc.), based on interviews with retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Interestingly, Hawkeye is nestled at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 superhero properties, between Iron Man and Spider-Man. [ICv2]
Publishing | Torsten Adair takes a look at IDW Publishing’s financials, and they’re looking pretty good. [The Beat]
Retailing | Saying that video games, texting and digital comics have killed interest in collectibles, 80-year-old Joseph Liesner is closing his Sunnyside, Queens, store Comic Book Heaven after nearly three decades. “The store’s not making any money,” he says, “and, besides, I’m as old as Methuselah.” The store will remain open for another two months, with Liesner using the time to search for a much younger girlfriend via a sign in the window. [Sunnyside Post]
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.
Conceived by Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, who signed the Doors to the label in 1965, the app was developed with the participation of band members John Densmore, Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek, and the estate of the estate of Jim Morrison. Described as “an unprecedented immersive experience,” it features interactive content, unpublished photos and artwork, rare videos, music and more.
I walked into MoCCA Arts Fest a few minutes after it opened, with my friend Erica Friedman, and we noticed the difference right away: The last two shows have had an improvised, “Let’s have a comics show! We can use my father’s barn!” kind of feeling. They weren’t disorganized, exactly, and the talent has always been top-notch, but the show floor felt crowded, cluttered, and confusing.
This was the first year that the Society of Illustrators was running the event. Organizers had a lot to prove, and they proved it. The show felt professional. The aisles were wider. A very simple addition — a bright red backdrop that ran behind the tables — made a huge difference, giving visitors more focus and eliminating the distraction of looking out across that cavernous space. The red curtains also set off a small gallery at the back of the armory that featured original comics art from the Society’s collection, a gentle reminder that they have been welcoming comics creators for more than 100 years. Visitors could buy a slick, nicely produced catalog for $5, and there was a modest cafe downstairs, a pleasant addition that allowed friends who met at the show to sit down and have a bite and a chat without disrupting the experience too much.
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52’s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]
Awards | Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, by Mary and Bryan Talbot, has won the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards) in the biography category, marking the first time a graphic novel has received the literary prize. “Just being shortlisted was amazing and hearing we’d won the category was stunning,” Mary Talbot said. “We’re delighted of course, both personally – it’s the first story I’ve had published – but also for the medium, I can’t believe a graphic novel has won.” [The Guardian]
Awards | Jacques Tardi, the acclaimed creator of West Coast Blues, It Was the War of the Trenches and the Adèle Blanc-Sec series, has refused France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur medal: “Being fiercely attached to my freedom of thought and creativity, I do not want to receive anything, neither from this government or from any other political power whatsoever. I am therefore refusing this medal with the greatest determination.” [AFP]
It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: 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’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.
But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.
Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
Earlier this month, Dean Haspiel spent three weeks as a “master artist” mentoring a group of young comics creators at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. One of their exercises was to draw a short comic based on a script from Haspiel that contained no visual cues, and Haspiel has now posted the results, “A Letter Lasts Longer,” at Trip City.
It’s fascinating to click through eight comics and see the differences — and the similarities — in the ways the creators interpret the script. It’s just a scrap of reminiscence about receiving a letter from a man as a small child, and the reflection that letters last longer than computer media. Most of the cartoonists took this to be the story of a father writing to a child, but George Jurard imagined it as a love letter in a remarkably rich and detail-filled comic. And while most of the artists used fairly conventional paneling, Jp Pollard and Christa Cassano spread it out across the page in interesting ways. Haspiel himself also drew a version of the comic, and the whole group makes an interesting exercise in compare-and-contrast.
To see what Ethan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Graphic novels | The seventh volume of Sailor Moon was the top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in September, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto,Vol. 58, an Avengers character guide, the third volume of Batman: Knightfall, and vol. 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise. ICv2 notes that, the Avengers book aside (and it is published by DK Publishing), Marvel is completely absent from the top ten, although DC makes a strong showing. [ICv2]
Creators | Hope Larson, who adapted Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into graphic novel form, chats with Margaret Ferguson, her editor on the project. [Publishers Weekly]
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]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. To see what the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Marvel celebrated Spider-Man’s 50th birthday with an extra-sized issue that week that included not only the debut of Alpha, Spider-Man’s new sidekick, in a story by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, but also new stories by Dean Haspiel, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Nuno Plati. Did Spidey celebrate his big day in style or was the party a bust? Here are a few reviews from around the web:
Doug Zawisza, Comic Book Resources: “Marvel’s gift to Spider-fans includes signing Spider-Man up for the ‘Sidekick Club.’ That comes in the form of Alpha, an until-this-issue normal high-schooler, not unlike Peter Parker back in the days of yore. Alpha’s civilian identity of Andy Maguire is an ordinary C student content with just existing. He’s not a loser, but he sure isn’t a winner. In short, he’s young Peter Parker without any motivation or interest.” (4/5 stars)
Andy Hunsaker, CraveOnline: “It’s a fun inversion, having Peter himself hosting a group of Midtown High School kids to show off his new ‘Parker Particles,’ and of course it goes awry – although this time, it’s thanks to a bit of skullduggery from a jealous aspiring Horizon Labs scientist named Tiberius. This little sabotage actually brings to mind the origin of Spider-Man 2099, when Miguel O’Hara was cursed with spider-powers he didn’t want after a spiteful co-worker tried to kill him with his own device. That probably wasn’t intentional at all, but I saw it, so I’m calling it cool. Anyway, the resulting disaster gives Maguire a crazy level of super power not unlike Ultra Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes in that he’s got all the generic superhero basics but can only use them one at a time.”