Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Political cartoons | On the 10th anniversary of the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, experts and journalists reflect on the controversy that followed. While the publication of the cartoons and their aftermath have “made some journalists more thoughtful about the way they cover minority groups,” journalism professor Angela Phillips says, “In other instances I think it made quite a lot of journalists if anything less sensitive to these issues. There is in some countries an even faster recourse to a rather essentialist notion of freedom of expression.” [Agence France-Presse]
Manga | The Naruto spinoff Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, which is running simultaneously in the Japanese and American versions of Shonen Jump, will end in the July 6 issue. [Anime News Network]
Fandom | Rob Salkowitz presents results of a recent survey of convention-goers conducted by the online ticket platform Eventbrite. Interestingly, they found almost complete gender parity (48.9 percent female, 48.7 percent male, and 3.1 percent non-binary/other) among convention-goers in general but much bigger skews in individual categories: “Comics, toys and gaming are predominantly male, while media, anime/manga and sci-fi/fantasy fandom are predominantly female.” A typical con-goer spends between $100 an $500, with comics fans being the biggest spenders and prints and original art the most popular thing to buy. There’s a lot more detail in the article about what people like and don’t like (biggest beef: lack of wi-fi an connectivity in convention centers). The survey updates and expands on a similar survey conducted last year. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold through its second printing in Singapore and is heading into a third, just weeks after the country’s National Arts Council abruptly withdrew funding. The graphic novel traces the career of pioneering Singaporean cartoonist Charlie Chan Hock Chye through 60 years of the country’s history and includes satirical portrayals of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, and his rival Lim Chin Siong. An NAC official said it “potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the Government and its public institutions.” The graphic novel has already sold 2,500 copies, making it “the top-selling local fiction title so far this year.”
Crime | A rare copy of 1939’s Superman #3 was stolen from Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton, Alberta, sometime in the past week. The comic was displayed high on a wall, and when owner Jay Bardyla went to show it to a customer on Wednesday, it was missing. This issue would be worth $30,000 if it were in mint condition, but Happy Harbor’s copy had tears and other defects and was priced at $2,000. Bardyla and his staff are keeping an eye on comics sites and other comic shops to see if it turns up. “To my knowledge there’s not another copy of Superman #3 kicking around Edmonton so if it shows up at another shop, pawn shop or a flea market … hopefully if they see it they’ll let us know,” he said. [Global News]
Awards | Roz Chast won the Reuben Award for cartoonist of the year, presented over the weekend in Washington, D.C., by the National Cartoonists Society. Divisional award winners of note include Jules Feiffer (Kill My Mother) for Graphic Novel, Jason Latour (Southern Bastards) for Comic Book, Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots) for Online Comics-Short Form, Minna Sundberg (Stand Still, Stay Silent) for Online Comics-Long Form, Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange) for Newspaper Panel Cartoon, and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) for Newspaper Comic Strip. [National Cartoonists Society]
Toronto Comic Arts Festival organizer Christopher Butcher opened the 2014 show by announcing the “unspoken theme” of that year’s show was spotlighting work by women creators. “Then,” I noted at the time, “Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled ‘Women in Comics.'” This year’s festival continued that theme, showcasing a diverse group of artists and spreading that diversity across the breadth and depth of the show.
In fact, the first thing I noticed when I looked over the schedule was there was no “Women in Comics” or “LGBTQ Comics” panel. There were a couple of more specialized panels — one on gay comics art in Japan, another on older women and comics — but for the most part, the diversity was just sort of there, no further comment needed. The “Art of the Travelogue” panel moderated by my con roommate Johanna Draper Carlson, for instance, featured four women and two men, and it didn’t seem like a particularly big deal until I started to write this article. This may be a watershed in the history of comics events.
Passings | Dexter Taylor, the longtime writer and artist of The Adventures of Little Archie, has died at age 84. He began working for Archie Comics in the 1950s, first in the production department and then as an assistant to artist Bob Bolling on Little Archie before taking the reins on the title in 1965. His run continued until the series ended in 1983. “The first day I came to work at Archie Comics I met the nicest, most helpful, friendliest and honest person: Dexter Taylor,” Victor Gorelick, Archie’s longtime editor-in-chief and co-president, said in a statement. [Archie Comics, Den of Geek]
Manga | Manga accounted for almost 80 percent of Japan’s digital book market in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a report released by the Yano Research Institute. The marketing research company predicts the country’s larger digital market, which is worth about $710 million, will see a 23.5 percent growth in the 2014 fiscal year. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Tom Devlin, creative director of Drawn and Quarterly, talks about the unlikely success of Tove Jansson’s Moomin comics. [Montreal Gazette]
Comics | Noah Berlatsky writes about Wonder Woman the character and Wonder Woman the comic. [The Atlantic]
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Drawn and Quarterly is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tove Jansson’s birth with Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a beautiful, slipcased book that collects all the Moomin comics drawn by Jansson in a single oversized volume.
The Moomin comics were sort of hiding in plain sight: Jansson’s fanciful, hippo-like creatures appeared in children’s books (originally published in Swedish and quickly translated into English) and an animated television series, but for some reason the comics, which were originally published in English in The London Evening News, were not only out of print but rare. In the introduction to this book, Drawn and Quarterly creative director Tom Devlin tells of how he discovered the comics: Dylan Horrocks gave him a photocopy of the first English collection, which Horrocks in turn had gotten from critic Paul Gravett. There’s an almost mythical aspect to that story, and it makes a fine introduction to the comics.
Publishing | Leyla Aker, Viz Media’s vice present of publishing, and Kevin Hamric, its director of publishing sales and marketing, discuss the state of the manga market and how the company’s books are selling through the print and digital channels (including comiXology, where Viz just signed on last month). One interesting tidbit: Viz products are carried by 64 percent of Diamond Comic Distributors’ accounts (i.e., comic shops). “Some of the store owners just don’t understand manga yet,” Hamric said. “They’re like librarians were years ago. They’re afraid of it, but if it’s children’s and Pokemon, or has a tie-in, especially to anime or television, then they’re not afraid to take it.” [ICv2]
Publishing | Tom Spurgeon talks to Drawn and Quarterly’s Tracy Hurren about the company’s new website, which launched this week, as well as life in the D+Q offices. [The Comics Reporter]
You would be forgiven if you thought of French author, artist and animator Anouk Ricard primarily as someone who makes comics for kids. Before the North American release this month of Benson’s Cuckoos, from Drawn and Quarterly, her only other books to make it into English on this side of the Atlantic were a pair of collections of her charming children’s strip, Anna & Froga (2013’s I Don’t Know, What Do You Want to Do? and this year’s Thrills, Spills and Gooseberries).
And while Benson’s Cuckoos does look at first glance (and even after a fairly thorough flip-through) like a kids comic, given the adorable, big-headed, Richard Scarry-esque characters, it’s decidedly adult in nature. That the characters are all cute little anthropomorphic animals accentuates the humor of the many awkward moments of their social interactions, and diffuses the darker aspects of the story, keeping them from being read as anything other than comedy.
Originally released in 2011 as Coucous Bouzon (and earning a Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Angouleme International Comics Festival), the book seems to owe a significant debt to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office, and/or its U.S. adaptation. If, in fact, Ricard has never seen the show, which is certainly quite possible, then the boss at the office in which her book is set is quite coincidentally remarkably like Gervais’ David Brent and Steve Carell’s Michael Scott.
Benson, a particularly fluffy white poodle who owns and operates the cuckoo clock company from which the book takes its title, shares with The Office bosses an inherent belief in his own hipness, completely convinced that, unlike other bosses, he’s cool and sympathetic. He tells a lot of jokes, feels closer to his employees than they feel to him, wears funny hats, tries new and creative and dumb ideas, and generally makes everyone uncomfortable.
Everywhere Antennas (Drawn and Quarterly): Julie Delporte’s challenging, emotionally wrenching book comes in the form of a sketch-filled diary, the words all written in cursive with various colored pencils. It reads a bit like a therapy journal made by someone attempting to crawl out of a breakdown, sometimes sliding back as far as she gets out, an impression furthered by the art, which, like the handwritten text, looks so intimate, “corrections” made by redrawing portions on new pieces of paper, which are then taped atop the pages before printing.
There’s such a lack of artifice to the book — unless there’s a high degree of artifice applied to make it seem as if there’s a great lack of artifice — that it really seems like something you’re not supposed to be reading, something you might have found in someone’s apartment, rather than bought in a bookstore. Delporte does tell a story, but it’s fragmentary, with characters who appear and disappear and scenes that don’t necessarily lead to the next.
It would be tempting to think it was a straight diary comic created during a time of mental crisis — the line “coloured pencils … are her favourite antidepressants” in Delporte’s back-page biography indicates that many aspects of the deeply felt contents aren’t completely alien to her — were it not for the specific ailment of our unnamed, perhaps Delporte-like heroine. She suffers from a rare sensitivity to radio waves and electrical auras, so cell phones, televisions, computers, cell phone towers and power lines give her migraines, and she must find a way to divorce herself from the modern world while still trying to live some semblance of a life in it.
Diane Obomsawin’s On Loving Women and Brecht Vandenbroucke’s White Cube have two things in common: First, they’re both published by Drawn and Quarterly; second, they’re both collections of very short, individual comics stories riffing on a single theme that defines them as books — little pieces contributing to a great, big whole.
Wait, did I say they have two things in common? I meant three – they have three things in common: Both are excellent.
Beyond those commonalities, there’s not a whole lot of overlap between the two works. On Loving Women is a series of six- to nine-page, black-and-white short stories about the real-life sexual awakenings of various women who love other women. White Cube is a bunch of one- or two-page, fully painted, full-color, silent strips about modern art and related subject matter. The former is pretty funny, but mostly by virtue of the way Obomsawin tells a joke, as the stories are more conversational anecdotes than gags. The latter is very funny because it’s a collection of comic comic strips (although some of those jokes are pretty dark).
The first six pages of Beautiful Darkness comprise one of the more dramatic sequences you’re likely to see in any comics work. On the first, a saucer-eyed young blonde is having hot chocolate and cake with the fancily dressed man she met at the ball, and then something is falling from the ceiling — “But this isn’t how things were supposed to turn out!” — and after a quick, desperate struggle, the reader is treated to maybe the last thing he or she might expect to see. It’s creepy, scary and intriguing, a potent dare to stop reading, and an irresistible lure to turn the page.
The book is a collaboration between writer Fabien Vehlmann, who wrote the quirky, Jason-drawn comedy Isle of 100,000 Graves, and Marie Pommepuy, one-half of the art team known as Kerascoët, who drew the Miss Don’t Touch Me books, and who rather lavishly renders this story. Publisher Drawn and Quarterly bills it as an anti-fairy tale, but adding “anti-” seems a bit much, given how closely elements echo fairy tales and more modern, but still classic, children’s literature: Thumbelina and Tom Thumb, most especially, with at least a touch of Hansel and Gretel near the ending. There’s some Beatrix Potter in here, particularly in the visuals, and anyone who has read or encountered any adaptation of the The Borrowers will find much of that as well.
His last major work of fiction was Big Questions, a 600-page epic fable involving a community of birds. If Big Questions was a graphic novel (in the most literal sense of the word “novel”), then his latest work, Rage of Poseidon, is more of a short-story collection. Here the cast of characters is grander: All seven of these stories star characters from Judeo-Christian belief or classical mythology and sometimes both, including Prometheus, Abraham, Isaac, Jesus, God and a good chunk of the Olympian pantheon.
But whether writing through birds or gods, the mundane or the divine, Nilsen’s true subject matter remains much the same: explorations of metaphysical and existential concerns, here more directly concerned with faith and religion than elsewhere.
Nilsen’s writing is spare and efficient; you could even say curt. In all of the stories, he writes quite conversationally, usually easing into second-person storytelling. “So imagine you are Poseidon, god of the sea,” the title story begins. That story is set in the present, but features the ancient Greek god; the same goes for “Prometheus” and the book’s longest and most compelling story, “The Girl and The Lions.” The stories “The Flood” and “Leda and the Swan” take place in their original settings. “Isaac” (“So imagine your name is Isaac and you are standing on a moutaintop with your dad”) is fairly true to the Biblical telling, but the ending finds Isaac playing a video game his father let him buy at the market (It’s Exodus 6: The Reckoning, if you’re wondering). The final story, the single page “Jesus and Aphrodite” is set in a bar in heaven.