I’m sharing this mostly because I just like holiday cards from comics publishers, whether I get them in the mail or see them on someone’s blog. But I also appreciate that this one includes three comics incons and the reminder that Fantagraphics has Christmas-related books featuring each of those characters. I’ve already mentioned Charlie Brown’s Christmas Stocking a couple of times (I have a copy and it is indeed as sweet and lovely as it looks), but didn’t realize that Nancy Likes Christmas and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown are also things that exist. Gonna need at least that Donald Duck one.
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. I’m filling in this week for Michael May, who is off in Florida spending his splurge money on mouse ears and giant turkey legs.
If I had $15, I’d start of the week with Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga #7 (Image, $2.99). Saga has become a real bright spot in comics for me being sci-fi without being “sci-fi,” being romance without being “romance,” and being great at being great. It gives me the same excitement the way Bone, Strangers In Paradise and A Distant Soil did back in the early 90s. Next up would be Punk Rock Jesus #5 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) by Sean Murphy. Murphy’s really exceeded my expectations here, creating a nuanced and elaborate world that has great art as a bonus. You can really tell Murphy’s been thinking about this story for awhile now. After that I’d get Invincible #97 (Image, $2.99), to finally get the truth behind the new Invincible, Zandale. I’ve been enticed by what’s been teased so far, and I hope the inevitable return of Mark Grayson doesn’t prevent me from seeing more of Zandale in the future. Last up with my $15 budget would be my call for the best superhero book on the stands today, Wolverine & The X-Men #20 (Marvel, $3.99). I feel like the title isn’t getting the attention it deserves with Marvel NOW! upon us, but Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw are absolutely delivering it here.
If I had $30, I’d double back and double up on Brian Wood with Conan The Barbarian #10 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and The Massive #6 (Dark Horse, $3.50). The Massive has survived the monumental loss of artist Kristian Donaldson, forging on in Wood’s story of one ship trying to survive in an ecological destitute Earth. Over at Conan The Barbarian, Declan Shalvey looks to be bringing the goods and showing he’s more than a Marvel superhero artist. After that I’d get the second series debut of Where Is Jake Ellis? (Image, $3.50) by Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic. This is a mighty pairing, and seeing them peel back the layers on Jake Ellis has been fun.
Tim Beedle, formerly a Tokyopop editor and now a freelancer, has two interesting posts on his blog about choosing the artist for the Muppet Robin Hood comic (which he wrote and fellow Tokyopop alum Paul Morrissey edited). The first set of drawings is an audition comic by Armand Villavert, Jr., who was the one who got the gig; the sample pages that Tim shows aren’t in the finished comic, though, they are a sequence Villavert wrote himself, and they include some pages colored in a very different style than the finished comics.
The other sequence is by Amy Mebberson, who went on to draw several of the other Muppet Show comics (and is now one of the artists on Strawberry Shortcake). In this case, Tim shows both Villavert’s and Mebberson’s versions, and it’s fascinating to see how differently the two artists handled the exact same script. Choices have consequences!
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley
by Floyd Gottfredson; edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth
Fantagraphics Books, 288 pages, $29.99
It must seem difficult for younger generations to fully understand just how integral Mickey Mouse once was to the Disney franchise. While at one time his smiling, three-circle face was the iconic symbol for the company, today that image has been shoved aside to make room for Cinderella’s castle. The Disney bread is now officially buttered by a bunch of divas and Buzz Lightyear. These days Mickey is relegated to stalwart supporting cast member, fit for entertaining the preschooler crowd on daytime television, though efforts like the recent Epic Mickey video game show an interest in making him a viable player in their stable once more.
Even for my generation (that’s Gen X for those of you keeping score), understanding Mickey’s appeal was a tough proposition at times given how bland he seemed to appear in various cartoons and other products we or our parents were expect to shell good money out for. Everything about him stank of goody-two-shoes pitchman. No wonder he eventually faded from the limelight.
In what is sure to be one of the most acclaimed comics events of 2011, Fantagraphics has announced that they will be publishing a definitive collection of Carl Barks’ seminal run of Donald Duck comic stories. In an exclusive interview with Robot 6, Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth revealed that the company – which announced their plans to publish Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics last summer – had acquired the rights to reprint Barks’ work from Disney and that the first volume will be released in fall of this year. The comics will be published in hardcover volumes, with two volumes coming out every year, at a price of about $25 per volume.
Although the stories will be printed in chronological order, the first volume, “Lost in the Andes,” will cover the beginning of Barks’ “peak” period, circa about 1948. The second volume, “Only a Poor Old Man,” will cover roughly the years 1952-54 and feature the first Uncle Scrooge story. Later volumes will fill in the missing gaps, including his earlier work, in a process somewhat similar to Fantagraphics’ publication of George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the name, the Barks library has been one of the great missing links in a time that many have dubbed the “golden age of reprints.” Acclaimed around the globe for his rich storytelling and characterization, as well as excellent craftsmanship, Barks has long been regarded as one of the great cartoonists of the 20th century, equal to luminaries like Charles Schulz, Robert Crumb and Harvey Kurtzman. He’s been one of the few major American cartoonists whose work has, up till now, not been collected in a comprehensive, manner respectful of his talent (at least not in North America), however, so this announcement comes as extremely good news for any who read and love good comics, let alone are familiar with Barks’ work.
Fantagraphics will release an official announcement about the project tomorrow. In the meantime, click on the link to read our exclusive interview with Gary Groth:
News from New York started pouring out last week before New York Comic Con even started, as publishers got a jump-start on press releases leading into the show, and ICv2‘s Conference on Comics and Digital provided plenty of discussion points about the current and future state of the industry.
• At Comic Book Resources, Kiel Phegley has a thorough report from the conference, where Milton Griepp of ICv2 shared that industry sales are down in 2010, as comic sales are only slightly up at 1 percent, with a 20-percent decline in the graphic novel category. Manga sales are also down 20 percent. The bulk of the conference focused on an area where the story isn’t quite so grim — digital comics. While ICv2′s 2009 report gave a $500,000 to $1 million sales estimate for digital, 2010′s number pointed toward a market of $6 to 8 million.
• Coinciding with the conference and the con, several companies, of course, had announcements regarding their digital plans. Dark Horse announced a new homegrown digital comics app that will work across the various Apple devices and on the web, offering single issues for $1.49. It will be available in January. BOOM! Studios made three announcements late last week, about its comics being available on the PSP and from MyDigitalComics.com. The publisher also announced the availability of Farscape through its comiXology app on the iPad and iPhone. Longbox announced that its comics app will be “the exclusive pre-installed service for purchasing, cataloguing and reading digital comics on all four of Notion Ink’s announced tablets.” And finally DC Comics announced Sunday that Hank Kanalz, former general manager of WildStorm, will head up the DC Digital Comics division in Burbank, Calif. Kanalz jumped right into his new role, leading a Sunday panel on DC’s digital initiatives.
Someone please explain to me why, in this golden age of reprints, when every 20th century cartoonist under the sun and their dog is getting the lavish, fancy-shmancy book collection treatment, do we still not have a decent, definitive collection of Carl Barks’ work?
Awards | The Xeric Foundation, the nonprofit corporation established in 1992 by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, has announced the recipients of the fall/winter grants: Sarah Becan, The Complete and Original Ouija Interviews; Sixta C., Soldiers of God; Ben Costa, Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk; Blaise Larmee, Young Lions; Lane Milburn, Death Trap; Stefan Salinas, Within the Rat; and Nathan Schreiber, Power Out.
The Xeric grants assist creators with the costs of self-publishing. [The Xeric Foundation]
Retailing | Ron Marshall has resigned after just a year as chief executive of the financially troubled Borders Group. Michael J. Edwards, who joined the book chain in September as chief merchandising officer, has been appointed as interim chief executive. [The New York Times]
Out West by Harvey Eisenberg
To all those who have been enjoying this column and wondering where it went, I apologize about the long hiatus. I have no excuses other than it’s been a bumpy year. In any event I shall try to keep things proceeding from here on out at a more regular pace. It might not be weekly, but it won’t be bimonthly certainly.
Anyway, for the return of Collect This Now, the column wherein I pick long-neglected comics and make a case for them to be reprinted, I’ve picked the mother of all lost causes. You can pray to St. Anthony all you like but you’ll see gold-embossed Miracleman Omnibus with a foreword by both Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane before you’ll ever set eyes on the trade paperback of this puppy, thanks largely to the Walt Disney company.
Wherefore you ask? What possible reason could the Disney Conglomerate (Inc.) have to prevent this material from ever being printed again? And is it possible that if I click on the link below I will encounter images that are most definitely Not Safe for Work?
Mmmmmmmmm ….. could be.
Despite recent rumors about the closing of Gemstone Publishing, President Steve Geppi claims the company will continue.
“As has been the case with many businesses across a wide array of industries, there has been a reduction in staff at Gemstone, and this included the departure of many valued employees,” he said in a statement posted Monday on his company’s Scoop website. “This, however, is not the end of Gemstone Publishing.”
(Last month Gemstone closed its offices in West Plains, Missouri, and laid off its five staff members there.)
But the future of Gemstone’s licenses for Disney comics and The E.C. Archives isn’t so clear-cut.
“At this time, no final decision has been made regarding The EC Archives or our comic books featuring Disney’s standard characters, but it seems certain that both lines will continue in some form,” Geppi said. “We all anticipate resolving the issues facing us and moving forward, and I will be happy to announce the specifics once things have been finalized.”
Gemstone has held the Disney comics license since 2003.