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Creators | Pierre Christin, the creator of Valerian and Laureline, discusses the possibility that his space opera was a source for the Star Wars movies — and how he and his collaborator Jean-Claude Mézières changed the story to move it away from the Star Wars universe: “I instantly felt connected with Star Wars because of the number of intersections and parallels with our comic strips. George Lucas had created complex worlds, just as we had. Like us, he had staged the functioning of societies from within, although Star Wars focused perhaps a bit more on the struggle between good and evil. In this respect, Valerian was more European, more intellectual.” [EuropeComics]
Fandom | Twelve-year-old Cameron Bippen was looking forward to attending Tampa Bay Comic Con, but had to miss the event due to unexplained seizures. Following his release from the hospital, Cameron’s neighbors in Riverview, Florida, threw him his own comic convention, complete with costumed guests and a visit from members of the Tampa Bay 501st Star Wars Legion. [Fox 4 News]
Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko will make his graphic novel debut with Threadworlds, a sci-fi series to be published by First Second.
Scheduled to debut in 2017, Threadworlds is set on a group of five planets that share a single orbit, each with its own intelligent species and level of technology. The story centers on Nova, a stubborn and brilliant young scientist from one of the most primitive worlds who refuses to adhere to the rules of a superstitious, oppressive empire that forbids girls to read and write. The series will follow a chain reaction of scientific discovers from planet to planet that sweep up Nova in a journey.
Manga | Remember when Kadokawa published a manga based on the BBC’s popular Sherlock television series? Well, maybe not, because the manga hasn’t been licensed for English-language countries. But now the first volume has been translated: Kadokawa, the publisher of the original manga, has released a bilingual Japanese and English version of “A Study in Pink” intended for students of English. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Attendance at ReedPOP’s second annual Special Edition: NYC, held June 6-7, reportedly increased 40 percent from the first year. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Sales of both comics and graphic novels were strong during the 2014 holiday season and have continued to grow since then, according to the 13 retailers (nine direct market shops and four bookstores that carry graphic novels) surveyed by Publishers Weekly. The answers seem to reflect some trends that have been ongoing for a while: Image Comics solidifying its place as the No. 3 (and in one case, No. 2) comics publisher, the increasing popularity of graphic novels and an influx of new readers, many of them young and female. [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Brooklyn Comics & More Inc., the owner of two now-closed stores in New York City, has filed for bankruptcy. The corporation opened Brooklyn Comics & More in 2010 and Manhattan Comics & More in 2011; both closed in 2013. The company’s debts include $71,799.93 owed to Diamond Comic Distributors. [ICv2]
Creators | Responding to the removal of Maus from Moscow bookstores as the Russian government cracks down on Nazi symbols, Art Spiegelman said, “It’s a real shame because this is a book about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory.” Retailers fear the swastika on the graphic novel’s cover may be enough to run afoul of a new law prohibiting “Nazi propaganda” as the country prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany. “I don’t think Maus was the intended target for this, obviously,” the cartoonist told The Guardian. “But I think [the law] had an intentional effect of squelching freedom of expression in Russia. The whole goal seems to make anybody in the expression business skittish.” [The Guardian]
First Second has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at the cover for the third volume The Glorkian Warrior, James Kochalka’s celebrated sci-fi series for young readers.
As you’re likely aware by now, The Glorkian Warrior is both a graphic novel series and a video-game collaboration between Kochalka and indie studio Pixeljam, both starring an alien adventure who wears a laser backpack. In, the third volume, The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny, the hapless hero has a little company. Here’s the official description:
First Second Books has announced it will publish Varmints, an all-ages graphic novel by Dallas-based Andy Hirsch, whose credits include The Royal Historian of Oz and BOOM! Studios’ Garfield, Peanuts and Adventure Time.
ROBOT 6 also has a first look at the Western, which began in 2011 as a self-published digital comic, and a brief Q&A with Hirsch.
CeCe Bell’s graphic memoir El Deafo today earned a prestigious Newbery Honor for outstanding contribution to children’s literature, while Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer became the first graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor and only the second to be recognized with a Printz Honor.
The awards were announced this morning by the American Library Association at its Midwinter Meeting in Chicago.
Conventions | With the long-planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center stalled indefinitely, the Los Angeles Times offers an overview of efforts to keep Comic-Con International in the city past 2016, and what suitors like Los Angeles and Anaheim, California, have to offer. “The proposals we’ve received are pretty amazing,” says Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer. “It’s not an easy decision.” However, the San Diego Tourism Authority remains confident that convention organizers will sign a deal — possibly with a month — to remain in the city through 2018, based on an agreement for nearby hotels to offer their meeting space for Comic-Con programming. (The Tourism Authority has already asked hotels in the Comic-Con room block to freeze their rates at 2015 levels for the next two years.) [Los Angeles Times]
Publishing | In a three-part interview, First Second Books Editorial Director Mark Siegel talks about 2014, the upcoming year, and the emergence of a “new mainstream.” In Part 1 he discusses the 2014 releases and ends with some numbers (print runs rather than sales); the imprint’s top books are Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl and Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, both of which have 30,000 copies in print. In Part 2 he looks at the importance of the library market and support from librarians, especially for children and teens, as well as the emergence of a new category of graphic novels that he calls “new mainstream.” Part 3 focuses on First Second’s planned releases for 2015, including Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor, which will have a print run of 100,000. [ICv2]
The creator of Skeleton Key and Love Fights, cartoonist Andi Watson has worked in more recent years on his all-ages series Gum Girl and Glister, which are better known in his native United Kingdom than in the United States. However, he’s about to make a big splash with young readers on this side of the Atlantic with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, a lighthearted romance with creepy characters to be published in February by First Second.
We asked Watson to talk a bit about the book and where it fits in with the rest of his work.
Brigid Alverson: First of all, can you tell us what Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula is about?
Andi Watson: It’s a spooky-themed romance story about love, responsibility and desserts. Princess Decomposia is princess of the Underworld whose father, the king, has taken sick and demands constant attention. The Princess has to run the Underworld, the palace and take care of her father. It’s all getting too much when the king’s fussy eating habits drive off another chef. Fortunately, Count Spatula gets the job and he helps the princess tackle the Underworld’s problems while they grow closer … only the king’s not too keen on their friendship.
Mythology is the intellectual gateway that’s gotten many readers interested in becoming a writer or artist. But few are as passionate about the subject as George O’Connor, creator of Olympians, the 12-book series from First Second recounting the Greek myths. This month, he releases one of the volumes he’s clearly looked forward to since first embarking on the project: Ares: Bringer of War.
Ahead of the book’s release, O’Connor spoke with ROBOT 6 on what appeals to him about mythology and these characters in particular, and the challenges of adaptation. He also recounts how became friends with Age of Bronze creator Eric Shanower not through their shared fondness for classical mythology, but rather a mutual appreciation of Oz.
On one level, Eric Orchard’s Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch is a classic adventure tale about a girl who has to go find the witch who turned her parents into kangaroo rats, in order to undo the spell. The art is reminiscent of children’s fantasy tales, and Maddy meets a fanciful assortment of friends and foes along the way. However, after reading Orchard’s recent tweets about his experiences with mental illness, I realized there are many layers to this story.
I asked Orchard if he would discuss the way his experiences with mental disorders — his mother’s schizophrenia and his own depression and anxiety — have influenced his storytelling.
Brigid Alverson: How has mental illness affected your life?
Eric Orchard: My mother always suffered terribly from schizophrenia, but when my father died, when I was 2, she fell apart. Most of my childhood was my mother struggling to keep herself together. In retrospect it seems like a heroic feat; even though I suffered somewhat, she overcame things that I find astounding. She had reserves of strength and compassion that saw us through. She was battling fears and terrifying visions so that I could have some kind of normal life. Really, there was only so much she could do. What I recall most was the antipsychotics causing her to sleep most of the day. With no siblings or father, I was alone a lot. These were times I started writing and drawing. I had hours to tell elaborate stories and build worlds. I was taught to read very young by an aunt, and that also helped.
[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.]
Copyediting is a strange profession: If you do your job well, no one will know you did it at all. It’s when you don’t—or, more likely, when the copyeditor is eliminated—that people notice. I was reading a comic from a major publisher just the other day and encountered a glaring typo that popped me right out of the story.
As a former copyeditor myself, I was touched by Calista Brill’s post at the First Second blog about their copyeditor, Manuela Kruger, who passed away recently.
Despite never having had a conversation with her, I felt like Manuela and I were friends, communicating across the written page. Manuela would return her copyedited printouts of our books to us with a cover letter sharing her thoughts—always perceptive, and sometimes very funny—about the book she had just marked up. The notes and asides she added to her copyediting corrections often made me laugh—made me feel like I had a friend reading along with me.
There are a lot of people whose work goes into making a graphic novel see the light of day, and a lot of them are pretty invisible to the reader and even to the person who wrote or illustrated the book in the first place. But their contributions are invaluable, and it’s a very sad day when you lose one of them.