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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.
Set for release in 2016, the coming-of-age story is described as “an exploration of sexuality, family and faith” that centers on Amanda, who’s trying to figure out what the big deal is about kissing.
“I wanted to write a hopeful book about growing up queer in a conservative community — both in the present day but also in the past — inspired partially by my older sister’s coming out and the reaction of my very Catholic family, both good and bad, “Venable, an Eisner nominee and senior designer for First Second, said in a statement.
Wagner added, “When I read the script for Kiss Number Eight, I had this fantasy about if I were a decade younger, and I got to read this comic for the first time when I was Amanda’s age, and how much it would mean to me. I remember the teenage feeling of a book having been written for me, and I think probably it would be one of those ‘I want to make comics’ or possibly ‘I want to be Colleen AF Venable’ moments. “
Conventions | Samantha Melamed looks at the problem of harassment at comics conventions, particularly of cosplayers, and what some women are doing about it. The article includes interviews with artist Erin Filson, one of the co-founders of Geeks for CONsent, which has called upon Comic-Con International to institute a more specific, and more visible, anti-harassment policy; cosplayer Nicole Jacobs, who describes a recent incident at AwesomeCon; and psychology professor Kimberly Fairchild, who studies harassment. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
Creators | Frequent collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie discuss their new series The Wicked + The Divine, which debuted this week from Image Comics. [USA Today]
Born a poor, put-upon peasant ridiculed by those around him, he would grow up to become one of the most recognizable figures in his profession, his worldwide fame leaving an indelible mark upon the chilhoods of more than one generation. But his greatest strength, that which made him such a powerful presence on the world stage, was also his greatest weakness; that which so defined his life would ultimately kill him.
You can’t make this sort of thing up, and in telling the life story of Andre Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant, cartoonist Box Brown doesn’t have to make anything up — although he may have to massage some anecdotes to better fit the format of a story, or imagine visual details where none were provided. In other words, Brown has to “put over” his narrative, to borrow some of the wrestling jargon that appears throughout his story (and is helpfully contained in a glossary).
Brown’s bio-comic Andre the Giant: Life and Legend opens with an illustrated version of a 2010 interview with Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, a man who worked with Andre for years in professional wrestling, and became one of its most popular faces during a storyline in which Andre graciously decided to play the heel, the villain to Bollea’s hero.
“There was never a fork or a knife …. even a bed!” the cartoon Bollea says. “There was never a situation where he could be comfortable.”
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Creators | Frannie Jackson talks with a handful of prominent creator couples — Mike Allred and Laura Allred, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin — about sexism within the comics industry. “I’m occasionally invited to participate in panel discussions about ‘women in comics,’” Coover says. “I’m usually emotionally torn by those invitations, because, yeah, I want women in comics to thrive and be seen as thriving, but I’d much rather be part of a discussion about ‘awesome creators in comics’ that’s stacked with awesome women and men.” [Paste]
Retailing | Andrew Wyrich visits several comics shops in the North Jersey area and finds they rely on a friendly atmosphere and incentive programs to keep customers coming back. “People who buy comics tend to have a $40 weekly budget,” said Len Katz, co-owner of The Joker’s Child in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “We hear of people who love comics, but eventually just hit a wall with expenses. The key for us is to get customers coming back. The reality is we are not a necessary item; we aren’t milk, bread or cheese.” [The Record]
The upcoming graphic novel crafts a new origin for the Green Turtle, an obscure Golden Age character believed to have been imagined as Chinese-American by his creator Chu Hing — making him the very first Asian-American superhero.
“His publishers didn’t think that would fly in the marketplace,” Yang explained last year, “so Chu Hing reacted in this really passive-aggressive way: He drew those original Green Turtle comics so that we never see the hero’s face. Whenever the hero is on a panel, we almost always just see his cape. Whenever he is turned around, something is blocking his face. […] Rumor is that Chu Hing did this so he could imagine his hero as he originally intended, as a Chinese-American.”
In The Shadow Hero, the Green Turtle is envisioned as a young Asian-American immigrant whose mother is excited about having a superhero for a son, “with at times disastrous results.”
Rainbow Rowell, author of the acclaimed young-adult novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, has signed a two-book deal with First Second, EW.com reports. Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The Adventures of Superhero Girl) will illustrate the first of the two graphic novels.
“I started reading Faith’s graphic novels this summer. … And her work just clicked with me, especially Friends With Boys,” Rowell said in a statement to the website. “Her style is so expressive — dense with feeling and meaning. She tells you so much in every panel, even when she isn’t telling you anything. I really crave creative collaboration — that’s a theme in Fangirl and Landline — and I’m so excited to get to work with someone I respect as much as Faith.”
Published in February 2013, Eleanor & Park centers on two misfit teens in 1986 Nebraska who become friends, and then more, through a shared love of comics and ’80s alternative music while dealing with issues of race, class and abuse. It was honored just this week with a 2014 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.
Rowell followed that novel in September with Fangirl (it sports a cover by Noelle Stevenson), a coming-of-age story about fan fiction and first love, centers on Cath and Wren, twins with a shared, longtime devotion to the Simon Snow novels. But when Wren, who’s drifted away from fandom, announces she doesn’t want to be college roommates with her sister, Cath finds herself on her own.
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So without further ado, let’s get to it …
It’s been a busy week for First Second: Following on its announcement of The Stratford Zoo, which features animals staging a production of Macbeth, the publisher has revealed two more graphic novels.
InRealLife, written by Corey Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang, is a story about the human side of gaming—specifically, the “gold farmers” who make real-world money from gaming. Based in part on the experiences of Doctorow’s wife, who was a high-level gamer in the 1990s, the book revolves around a teenager named Anda who’s recruited into a fictional multiplayer online game, Coarsegold, and ends up as a player in the game’s underground economy.
The graphic novel will explore attitudes about gaming and gamers, and, Doctorow says in an interview at Kotaku, there is a larger point:
When you contemplate the microscale phenomenon of a world-in-a-bottle like an MMO and the toy economy within it, it equips you with a graspable metaphor for understanding the macroscale world of monetary policy. In other words: thinking about gold farming is a gateway drug to thinking about money itself.
Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]
Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]