"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
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.
First Second has provided ROBOT 6 with the first look at the cover for Last Man: The Chase, the third volume of the martial-arts fantasy by Bastien Vivès, Balak and Michael Sanlaville.
Originally published by Casterman, Last Man is an homage to American pop culture that centers on Richard Aldana, a cigarette-smoking, leather jacket-wearing stranger who enrolls in the gladiatorial-style games of a medieval fantasy world, but insists on relying on his martial-arts skills rather than magic.
First Second will begin releasing Last Man in March with The Stranger, followed in June by The Royal Cup and in October by The Chase. The remaining volumes will be published in 2016.
Anda is a teenager eager for a place to spread her wings, and she finds it in Coarsegold Online, a massively multiplayer role-playing game in which she can make friends, slay monsters and build self-confidence. But when she befriends a gold farmer — a poor kid from China whose avatar collects valuable game objects to sell to players with money to spare, in violation of the rules — Ada quickly learns life is more complicated than it first appears online.
Arriving Tuesday from First Second Books, In Real Life is Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s adaptation of the acclaimed author’s 2004 short story “Anda’s Game.” It’s a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that touches upon myriad timely issues, ranging from bullying to economic inequality to safe spaces for female gamers, while maintaining the strong emotional thread of Anda’s journey.
To celebrate the release of his debut graphic novel, Doctorow — the author of Little Brother, Homeland and Pirate Cinema — participated in a “30 Questions” blog tour, answering a few questions at a different site each day. Today is ROBOT 6’s turn.
Conventions | Attendance at the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con was estimated at between 120,000 and 130,000, putting it on a par with the big shows like Comic-Con International in San Diego and New York Comic Con. Even better, Stan Lee proclaimed it “the greatest comic con in the world” (but he probably says that to all the shows). [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Conventions | The scale of the first Las Cruces [New Mexico] Comic Con was considerably smaller, with expected attendance of 3,000 to 5,000, but organizers were pleased with the event, which featured a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament, a Comic Strip Burlesque show, and appearances by Jim Steranko, Power Rangers stuntman Jason Ybarra, and the 1966 Batmobile. [Las Cruces Sun-News]
Manga | Tadatoshi Fujimaki is bringing his manga Kuroko’s Basketball to an end. The final chapter will run in the Sept. 1 issue of Shonen Jump, followed in October by the release of the 29th and final collection. The manga isn’t licensed in North America (although the anime is), but it became famous worldwide after more than 400 threat letters were sent to venues in Japan hosting Kuroko’s Basketball events and to retailers selling the series. The perpetrator confessed to the crimes, and was sentenced last week to four and half years in prison. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Brian Truitt interviews two creators of Cloaks: actor David Henrie, who created the main character Adam, a street magician in New York who is recruited by a black-ops group, and Caleb Monroe, who wrote the comic. Says Monroe, “As a magician, Adam looks for underlying realities, those things many of us have forgotten or deceived ourselves about. Then he develops ways to slip those back into people’s lives disguised as entertainment.” The first issue is due out next week from BOOM! Studios. [USA Today]
In The Shadow Hero, cartoonist Gene Luen Yang collaborates with artist Sonny Liew to tell the story of Hank Chu, the teenage son of Chinese immigrants who run a small store in Depression-era Chinatown. As with much of Yang’s best-known work, this new original graphic novel deals with themes of cultural, national and racial identity, and the tensions and conflicts that arise when identities and outlooks collide.
Here, Hank finds himself pressured by his mother to become a wholly American invention, a sort of ultimate assimilation success story. She doesn’t want him to grow up to be a doctor or lawyer or politician, but a superhero, a thought put in her head when she’s rescued from a robber by the Superman stand-in The Anchor of Justice.
Their book is an excellent one, a perfect example of a modern superhero comic, masterfully and perfectly balancing comedy, crime, action, drama, melodrama, romance and fantasy into an epic story of a young man coming of age and finding himself.
As good as Yang and Liew’s story is, however, the story of their story may be just as fascinating, in large part because it’s true, and gives the comic they crafted a remarkable level of relevance. That story is told after the conclusion of The Shadow Hero, in the generous back-matter of the First Second book, presented in standard superhero-comic size, rather than the smaller, more square shape of most of the publisher’s offerings.
The Mary Sue landed the exclusive that First Second will publish Lucy Knisley’s Something New, a graphic novel about the cartoonist’s wedding. She’s a bit in front of things this time, as the wedding is still three months away, but it sounds like Knisley is going to make it interesting:
[Editor’s note: Every 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.]
I love a good cold-weather book to take the edge off the summer heat, and summer is the time to read Nick Bertozzi’s Shackleton, the story of the ill-fated Imperial Trans-Arctic Expedition.
When Ernest Shackleton set out to walk across Antarctica, in 1914, the South Pole had already been visited by two explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. The Great War had just begun, and this is quickly put into context: Shackleton realizes that if he doesn’t get his expedition funded now, it may never happen. His plan was to make the first crossing of Antarctica on foot, using two ships; one would drop him and his companions off on one side of the continent, while the other would land on the other side, set up a series of stations with provisions for the traveling party, and then wait to bring them back to England.