Conventions | The Taipei Comics Exhibition drew 582,000 people this year, up from 560,000 last year, with more than 450 booths and appearances by 49 creators, 25 of them from Taiwan. Roger Kao, one of the organizers, said that sales of Taiwanese comics were up, perhaps because of the personal appearances. [Taipei Times]
Conventions | Graeme McMillan notes some comments by First Second’s Gina Gagliano about the cost to publishers, in time and money, of attending comics conventions. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Creators | Unshelved co-creator Gene Ambaum talks with Lucy Knisley about her graphic novel Relish and food in general. [Unshelved]
I’m not sure how this slipped beneath the radar, but BoingBoing has debuted the trailer for Paul Pope’s long-awaited graphic novel Battling Boy, and it’s kind of great. There’s also a preview, part of which we’ve seen previously.
Arriving Oct. 8 from First Second, Battling Boy centers on on the son of a war god — he’s been characterized as a “haughty yet naïve superboy” — who’s sent by his father to rid the Monstropolis of monsters after Haggard West, the previous protector of the continent-sized city, is assassinated. There’s also West’s daughter Aurora, a wannabe hero with a taste for vengeance. (Haggard West starred last month in his own one-shot, which of course ended poorly for the hero. “Haggard is dead for good at the end of this one-shot,” Pope told Comic Book Resources, “but his tragic ending sets a much larger wheel in motion, which sucks in the realms of gods and monsters, battling it out in the realm of humans.”)
A second volume of Battling Boy is targeted for release next year.
Failure (Alternative Comics): Faithful readers of ROBOT 6 may recall the name of cartoonist Karl Stevens from a fall 2012 story about his Boston Phoenix strip Failure being canceled after an installment referred to Bud Light — one of the paper’s advertisers — as “diluted horse piss.” The Phoenix denied this at the time, and, coincidentally, several months later ceased publication all together (after a brief time in which it was split into five different newspapers with five different editors — Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik — until Cyclops assumed control over all five papers and it took the combined might of all of the Avengers to stop him … there’s a comic book joke for you!).
While that history may not be particularly relevant to readers, Stevens covers his side of the incident in his introduction to the Failure collection, which packages the final installments of his strip — right up to, and a few past, the “horse piss” one — into 150 pages of gorgeously drawn material.
What is important is that this is some great work, of the must-read variety. Failure, at this point in its existence, had become a sort of slice-of-life strip, with one to four panels devoted to anecdotes from his own life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, funny things his friends said or funny things he overheard. There are, additionally, plenty of flights of fancy starring his descendant in the far-flung future, and recurring characters like Bongbot, a time-traveling robot bong, and Pope Cat, a cat who is also the pope (if I’ve got that right).
What keeps Failure from being as mundane as you might imagine it, based on how I just described its premise, is what an incredible artist Stevens is. He works in a lush, highly detailed, representational style, as if he were drawing portraits rather than cartoons. Check this out:
Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen has been one of the most talked about graphic novels of the year since its debut in April at the MoCCA Arts Festival. That’s not too surprising, as the emotional pull of food and the way it intermingles with family and other relationships often makes for compelling reading. In Relish, Knisley has put together a series of short stories about her foodie parents and her own experiences in and out of the kitchen and accompanied them with some favorite recipes, all illustrated in her loose, colorful style.
For a while it seemed like everyone in the world was interviewing Knisley, and as someone who enjoys a good food story, I didn’t want to be left out.
Brigid Alverson: Obviously food is very important to your family, but why did you think it was a good theme for a memoir?
Lucy Knisley: Sense memory is a great connection to our past! I grew up with a family that cares a lot about food, and learned from them how to care about food. I have so many wonderful memories associated with foods, it makes perfect sense to tell these stories centered around the food I love.
In the prose world, food writing has become its own genre. Do you have any favorite food writers?
Lately I love David Lebovitz‘s food writing — he has a great (and hilarious) voice, and writes quite a bit about Paris (which I love) and chocolate (ditto).
BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.
So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.
It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.
The next project from Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, is a set of two graphic novels that tell both sides of the story of the Boxer Rebellion, the anti-foreign, anti-Christianity, pro-Nationalist movement in China circa 1899-1901. One of the books is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. The books will be sold individually or as a boxed set.
There are just two things I didn’t really like about Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, the new young-adult graphic novel by writer Prudence Shen (making her comics debut) and artist Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The War at Ellsmere, Zombies Calling, other stuff). And they are minor things — quibbles, really — but I’m going to go ahead and lead my review with them anyway, as otherwise I have nothing but gushingly nice things to say about the comic, and I would hate to lose my reputation as a hard-to-please critic.
First, the supporting character Ben (second from the right on the cover) looks so much like actor Richard Ayoade that I found much of his panel-time during my first reading distracting, as I kept trying to place where I’ve seen him before.
Second, two other supporting characters are twin roboticists, and, naturally, when I think of twins who are also roboticists, I think of Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, Ramona’s fifth and sixth evil exes from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series. While the designs of the two sets of twins are pretty different, I think Hicks’ style bears a close enough resemblance to O’Malley’s (a little in the eyes, a lot in the manga-influenced action scenes) by dint of the two artists sharing similar influences, that the feeling of “Hey, haven’t I seen these guys before?” may be exacerbated. At least among the younger, more casual, more mainstream comics readers that this book is likely to appeal to (and by that I mean this is a comic that readers will be finding in bookstores and libraries more often than the comic book stores they visit once a week; it’s a comic for people who don’t already have a life-time habit of comics, in addition to those that do).
Passings | Silver Age artist Dan Adkins died earlier this month at the age of 76. Adkins, who began with self-published zines before becoming a freelance illustrator, served as Wally Wood’s assistant. As a member of Wood’s studio, he was one of the original artists for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Adkins was a prolific penciller and inker for numerous publishers, from DC Comics and Warren Publishing to Harvey Comics and Marvel, notably drawing 132 covers for the latter. He talked in detail about his career, and working with Wood, in this interview with Alter Ego. [News from ME]
Kickstarter | Jeff Yang analyzes why Jonathan Coulton and Greg Pak’s Code Monkey Save World Kickstarter, which started with a single Tweet, was destined for success, and he talks to both creators about how it came to be. [Speakeasy]
Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as most Major League Baseball teams have their opening day. In late February, when writer/artist Matt Kindt tweeted that he was returning from a St. Louis Cardinals spring training trip to Florida, I got him to agree to an interview on the spot.
This exchange took place before Dark Horse’s WonderCon announcement that Kindt’s series, Mind MGMT, would have a finite 36-issue run.
In addition to discussing his Dark Horse series, and our shared appreciation of baseball (despite his Cardinals eliminating my hometown Atlanta Braves from playoff contention last season), we delve into the May 7 release of his First Second book, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. There are few storytellers that set a narrative environment as uniquely as Kindt can. This go-around he establishes the city of Red Wheelbarrow to serve a larger homage to classic detective fiction.
For additional insight into Kindt’s work on Mind MGMT, be sure to read Jeffrey Renaud’s CBR interview with the writer/artist from early February.
As a longtime fan of Kindt’s narrative sensibilities, I hope he gets in contact with the right folks with the MLB in order to pursue that baseball project.
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Since its launch in 2006, First Second has built a solid reputation as a publisher of high-quality graphic novels: Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Emmanuel Guibert’s The Photographer, Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain, and Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware testify to both the breadth and the quality of the company’s line.
I was offered the opportunity to interview editor Calista Brill and designer Colleen AF Venable about the past year at First Second and what we can expect in 2013, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak in some questions about the nuts and bolts of working with creators and editing graphic novels.
Conventions | Comic-Con International organizers have issued a statement regarding the technical problems many experienced Saturday while attempting to purchase badges for this year’s event: “Comic-Con badge sales opened this past Saturday and while the allotted badges were processed there was clearly an issue with some customers experiencing a frozen screen. We, along with Epic registration, are in the process of investigating this and hope to have an answer as to what occurred. Please know that we take this issue very seriously and offer our sincere apology for those who found themselves in this predicament. Thank you for your understanding in what we know was a very difficult experience for many.” Badges sold out in a little more than 90 minutes. [Comic-Con International]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Crater XV HC (Top Shelf, $19.95): I’ve been following (and loving) the serialization of Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden in the digital pages of Double Barrel, but I know that I’ll be picking up this hardcover collection of the further adventures of sea dog Rusty Shanks nonetheless. The Canadian space program deserves no less.
In The Days of the Mob HC (DC Comics, $39.99): To say that Kirby’s 1970s take on the organized-crime world of the 1930s is something I’ve been longing to read since I first discovered its existence would be an understatement, so I’m definitely looking forward to this deluxe reprint, complete with material that wasn’t in the original edition.
Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse TP (Rebellion/2000AD, $24.99): John Smith’s cosmic authorities are one of comics’ most secret treasures, I think, especially when he’s paired with an artist like Edmund Bagwell, who brings a wonderful Euro-Kirby influence to the stories in this collection. Really looking forward to this one.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen GN (First Second, $17.99): As a sucker for good autobiographical comics and also good food writing, the idea of Lucy Knisley creating a food-centric memoir — complete with recipes! — is far too good to ignore. I love that publishers like First Second are publishing work like this.
Solo Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics, $49.99): Even though I own most of these issues from their original appearance, the oversized hardcover format is waaaay too tempting when you consider some of the material this book has up its 500+ page sleeve: Paul Pope covering Kirby! Brendan McCarthy channeling Ditko as only he could! The amazing Darwyn Cooke issue! The only thing that could make this better would be if it included work completed on follow-up issues before the plug had been pulled … But maybe that can appear in a second volume, one day…
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]