5 'Beloved' DC Heroes that Could Join "Legends of Tomorrow"
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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.
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]