"Tomb Raider" Finds Its Lara Croft in "Ex Machina's" Alicia Vikander
Video Games, Film
One of the early breakout characters of Saga, Lying Cat has appeared on T-shirts and in memes, and has even been transformed into a 3D-printed sculpture. Now the blue-skinned feline is getting her own official plushy doll that says “Lying” when you press its collar.
We’re totally not lying. We swear.
Graphic Novels | The one-volume Naruto sequel, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, and the first four volumes of One-Punch Man dominate the BookScan top 20 graphic novels list for January, taking five of the top six slots and making room only for Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. BookScan tracks sales in bookstores, and the presence of not only Fun Home but Watchmen and American Born Chinese suggests that graphic novels are popping up on lots of required-reading lists for the spring semester. Three collected editions of Star Wars comics, the first four volumes of Tokyo Ghoul, and the fifth volume of Saga also made the list. [ICv2]
Passings | Linus Maurer, a professional cartoonist whose name Charles Schulz borrowed for his Peanuts character, has died at the age of 90. Maurer was a co-worker of Schulz’s at the Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis when Schulz was developing the characters for Peanuts. “Linus came from a drawing that I made one day of a face almost like the one he now has,” Schulz later wrote. “I experimented with some wild hair, and showed the sketch to a friend of mine who sat near me at art instruction, whose name was Linus Maurer. It seemed appropriate that I should name the character Linus.” Maurer started his career as an illustrator and was an art director for the McCann Erickson ad agency before becoming a full-time cartoonist, working on a number of nationally syndicated comics including Old Harrigan, Abracadabra, and In the Beginning. In his later years he was a cartoonist for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. “I feel very honored that Schulz used my name in his strip,” Maurer said in an interview in 2000. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if the cartoon Linus had never existed. I think we have a lot in common. We’re both philosophical and level-headed.” Maurer didn’t carry a security blanket, but, he said, “I do keep a lot of sweaters and jackets in the trunk of my car.” [The Press Democrat]
As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.
The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.
The iTunes’ Terms and Conditions agreement has got to be the least-read-yet-most-signed contract in human history. For pages and pages (and a nearly limitless downward digital scroll), it enumerates Apple’s latest subtle shifts in policy regarding the ways we purchase, license and “own” music and media acquired through the most influential online marketplace to date. Who reads those things? Who could even pretend to? Can one even imagine a more arduous task than going through that document, line by line, and trying to parse what exactly it is we are all signing on for?
But ah, the magic of comics. Cartoonist R. Sikoryak, whose work has appeared in Drawn and Quarterly and The New Yorker, is publishing his painstakingly thorough, unabridged graphic adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement on Tumblr. This version of the contract is no mere dry rendering of legalese — instead, Sikoryak has transformed the document into a showcase of styles from talent all across the history of comics, making each page an experiment in the diverse visual language of the medium’s most beloved luminaries.
Legal | A Judge Dredd comic that makes fun of McDonald’s and Burger King is finally being reprinted in a collection, thanks to a change in the European Copyright Directive, which now allows creators to use copyrighted characters if the intent is clearly parody. In the “Burger Wars” story, first published in 1978, Judge Dredd is captured on a trip to the United States and force-fed fast food; the story includes images of Ronald McDonald and the McDonald’s logo. Another story, “Soul Food,” has a mad scientist creating versions of the Jolly Green Giant and the Michelin Man. Ben Smith of Rebellion Publishing says fans have been asking for years for these story to be reprinted in their collected editions, but they were held back for fear of legal action. When the law was changed, Smith said, they took another look: “It was like a light bulb went on. We thought: ‘Surely this means we can look at Burger Wars?’ We looked into it and here we are. This is straight-out pastiche, parody and arch satire. There didn’t seem any reason not to bring them to the public again.” [The Independent]
Auctions | A rare drawing of Tintin by Hergé from the 1936 book The Blue Lotus was sold at auction Monday in Hong Kong for $1.2 million. The black-and-white illustration, which depicts Tintin and Snowy being pulled in a rickshaw through the streets of Shanghai, is the only original piece from the book that remains in private hands. [BBC News]
Passings | Artist and writer Alan Kupperberg has died of thymus cancer at the age of 62. Kupperberg got his start writing dummy letters for Marvel in the late 1960s, then moved to the production department at DC and in 1974 was hired by the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics, where he played a variety of roles, including letterer, colorist, and editor. That company folded after a year, and he went to Marvel, where he worked on a number of different titles, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Savage Sword of Conan, and Amazing Spider-Man. He created the one-shot comic Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men working entirely solo, and he drew the weekly Howard the Duck newspaper comic as well as the comic-strip version of The Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. His magazine work included National Lampoon, Cracked, and Spy. Kupperberg also taught at the School for Visual Arts, and he was the brother of writer Paul Kupperberg. [ICv2]
Manga | Hiromi Bando has translated Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen into Chinese and is looking for a publisher, but she has been told the Chinese government will not approve its publication. Bando, who is Japanese, was inspired to translate the manga, an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, after hearing of her father’s experiences fighting in China during World War II. The manga is taught in the original Japanese in a few universities in China. [Asahi Shimbun]
That’s some stunt.
For quite a while now, publisher Archie Comics has been engaged in an ongoing campaign of stunt comics, all seemingly calculated to secure the most mainstream media coverage. They introduced characters that made the notoriously conservative comics more representatively diverse. They had a same-sex marriage. They married Archie to Betty…and they married Archie to Veronica (In alternate future timelines, of course). They killed Archie. They had the gang from Riverdale meet Kiss, President Barack Obama and then-Governor Sarah Palin, and even a Predator. They even launched an honest-to-God, mature-readers horror comic in which Archie and friends battle to survive a zombie apocalypse.
But relaunching Archie with a new #1, a new creative team and a new direction has got to be their best stunt yet. Certainly, the move boasts some of the same calculation that went into those mentioned above (many of which did produce some good comics, no matter how cynically you want to view the decisions behind them). Hiring Mark Waid, one of the more popular and maybe the most reliable of superhero writers, and Fiona Staples, an immensely talented artist who achieved superstardom via creator-owned Image series Saga, is every bit as attention-getting as setting the issue counter back down to #1, or having an ungodly 21 (Twenty-one!) covers, or divorcing the book from its long-time house style.
It works though, and it works for the most simple of reasons: The new Archie #1 isn’t just new and it isn’t just different, it’s also very good.
Creators | Fast Company named writer Kelly Sue DeConnick as one of its 100 “Most Creative People in Business 2015,” a list that includes innovators in technology, scientific research, entertainment, medicine and social media. The writer of such comics as Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly, DeConnick is cited specifically for “reanimating a superhero,” Captain Marvel. [Fast Company]
Awards | Bad Blood, the Dark Horse miniseries written by Jonathan Maberry and illustrated by Tyler Crook, won the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a graphic novel, presented over the weekend by the Horror Writers Association. [Horror Writers Association]
Legal | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested last night on sedition charges stemming from a tweet criticizing the court that upheld the sodomy conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. On Tuesday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar posted a screencap of the offending tweet, which said, “Followers (Barua-barua) in black robes were proud in delivering judgement. Reward by Mr Politician must be lavish,” reflecting the popular opinion that the conviction was a political ploy by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to silence Anwar. Zunar then tweeted a cartoon of Najib as the judge handing down the verdict. Although his lawyer said Zunar offered to come in to answer questions, he was brought to the Dang Wangi police station, where he can be detained until Saturday — or longer, if police renew the remand order. [The Rakyat Post]
What if I told you that you could get a sculpture of Saga‘s Lying Cat? No, not “Lying.”
Mike Bauerlein recently shared online the details of a 3D modeling commission he undertook of the fan-favorite character from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ hit series. Using ZBrush and reference pulled from the comic, Bauerlein captured the details of Lying Cat while staying true to Staples’ art.
Given the commercial and critical success of Saga, the space opera from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, it seems likely the Image Comics series has been eyed by more than a few film and television producers. However, the writer says he would be more interested in a video-game adaptation.
“That’s actually something that has come up,” he told The Verge. “A Saga video game, particularly if it’s sort of about characters other than the main characters in our story, is really exciting to me — even more exciting than a film or TV show. So, uh, never say never.”
Crime | Artist Josh C. Lyman reports that thieves broke into his car sometime on Monday or Tuesday and stole about 40 pieces of original art (some of it commissioned), 1,200 prints, plus convention setup materials, art supplies and clothes. “I’m more devastated in the fact my originals are all gone … some of my better non-commissioned work of the last 3 years … along with all of my tools I have earned and acquired during the aforementioned periods. Tshirts and the like I can slowly replace … but it’s the matter of having all this potential art for shows gone; along with all the posters I had left,” he writes. Lyman contacted police and has notified local comic shops to keep an eye out for the missing work, and he has posted images of the stolen art. [Facebook, via Bleeding Cool]
Censorship | Rachael Jolley takes a long and wide view of the pressures that political cartoonists are subject to, looking at several recent attempts to suppress editorial cartoonists as well as the history of tensions between creators of political cartoons and those they portray; the article also includes comments from Neil Gaiman on the topic of censorship. [The New Statesman]
Publishing | The British independent publisher Great Beast, which has released the work of Dan Berry, Marc Ellerby and Isabel Greenberg, among others, will close on Jan. 7. Founded in 2012 by Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, the publisher was something of a victim of its own success, as Cadwell explains: “As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place… We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work.” [Great Beast Blog]
[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.]
In some ways, this is the best of times and the worst of times for those who are interested in bringing comics to a broader audience. As the hubbub died down over Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman cover, another story went viral, about a comic shop where an employee allegedly made a crude joke about a “rape room” and then fired a trainee who complained about it. While debate continues to rage over what exactly happened there (the store owner denies it), Bloomberg did a big story on how the number of women comics readers is growing and becoming an ever more important sector of the industry.
With this in mind, I want to call out three things that happened this week.
The first is Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the National Book Festival. First of all, it’s impressive that a comics creator is given such a prominent platform at an event that isn’t actually focused on comics. What Yang had to say was even more impressive. He spoke about the African-American creator Dwayne McDuffie, whose love of comics first caught fire when he encountered the Black Panther, a black character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Black Panther wasn’t perfect, but, Yang said,
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”