"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!'” [MTV Geek]
Comic strip historian Allan Holtz has posted a 1926 interview with Frank King, creator of the long-running strip Gasoline Alley, and parts of it sound quite modern. King hands out some general good advice (“The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing”) and discusses the genesis of several of his characters, which is pretty interesting, but this is what caught my eye:
In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix’s birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix’s parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.
King obviously didn’t originate this story; it seems to be one of those Paul-is-dead pieces of fan folklore that might have even started with someone’s fan fiction and somehow went viral. It’s a reminder that in their heyday, newspaper strips had the same kind of interactivity as webcomics do now, with readers sending in comments and suggestions via the old-fashioned mail and the creators commenting in articles like this one. It all just moved slower.
(via The Comics Reporter)
This month marks the re-release of Kevin Huizenga‘s Gloriana (originally self-published in 2001, then first collected by Drawn & Quarterly in 2004). The writer/artist recently accepted my invite for an email interview about the new 96-page hardback edition, which includes four stories (The Groceries, The Sunset, The Moon Rose and Basketball). I was particularly pleased to talk to Huizenga about Basketball, given how he notes in the interview working on that story proved “surprisingly emotional for me at the time”. My thanks to Huizenga for taking my questions (and correcting me when I was misinformed with some aspects of my queries).
Tim O’Shea: Back in 2004 Tom Spurgeon interviewed you. At that time you were increasingly using computers with your work, also you discussed with Tom experimenting with the size of your original art (trying to work on larger pages). How large are the pages now that you work with and have you incorporated computers more into your work?
Kevin Huizenga: Readers of your website will be fascinated to hear that I draw at about 150%. As far as computers, doesn’t everyone use them for everything now? I fix and edit in Photoshop and have done so for many years now. I’m pretty sure everyone else does too, but I don’t use tablets or anything like that—it’s still pen and paper. I’ve been using the same scanner since 2000! An Epson. Now that I’ve said that I’m sure it will break tomorrow.
Auctions | An original watercolor by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, showing his creations lounging under a tree, fetched $107,000 at auction. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | David Barnett writes an appreciation for 2000AD, the U.K. comics anthology that turns 35 years old this year: “For a seven-year-old, 2000AD was anarchic and fascistic and funny and frightening and gory and exciting and thought-provoking, all rolled up together. They called it 2000AD, presumably, because no one expected the comic to live that long. But 35 years after the first issue, which had a 26 February cover date, and in the year that Queen Elizabeth II marks her diamond jubilee, 2000AD is still going, delivering (in the magazine’s own words) ‘thrill power’ every single week since then.” [The Guardian]
Gasoline Alley Sunday page (1934). Frank King.
Even when cartoonists working in the comic book format caught on to the fact that it was possible to design sequential pages that also worked as unified visual statements, it never quite worked the same as the Sunday strip. The context of the single-page broadsheet comic is something that the form lacked for years post-1950 or so, and has only recently begun to make a return. To really understand Sunday pages it’s necessary to think about how they were originally presented, not how we see them today.
For the better part of the medium’s first half-century, its territory was the funny pages, not the pamphlet and certainly not the book. The comics sections of yesteryear provided artists with a presentational challenge that the comic book format avoids: when each page of the work’s delivery system is drawn in a completely different style on a completely different subject by a completely different artist, that work lacks a pre-existing context. It’s forced, essentially, to create its own. To my mind, the emphasis the comics section put on creating a fully-rounded aesthetic statement in one page is at least as responsible for the staggering weight of brilliance the Sunday page format produced as a more frequently discussed property — page size — is. When the turn of each page doesn’t add to the experience of a single work of art but actively works against it, the one-page spotlight an artist is given becomes an urgent call for something fully formed, a single page that stands alone. Like the one above.
Many cartoonists have benefited from the recent interest in republishing classic comic strips, but arguably none more so than Frank King. While the Gasoline Alley creator had always been an artist of interest to those who caught a glimpse of his work in the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics or other like-minded coffee-table tome, he remained sadly undervalued until Drawn & Quarterly started collecting the strip in its Walt and Skeezix series of landscape-format books. The series caught on with both critics and more general readers and led to a complete re-evaluation of King and his work, to the point where he has entered many artists’ personal canons.
Now, after an unfortunate hiatus of about three years, the series is back with a fourth volume that collects strips from 1927-28. I talked with the series’ co-editor (along with Chris Ware) and renowned comics scholar Jeet Heer about the new book, and about King’s legacy in general.
Jeet Heer is a critic and scholar who makes me realize I’m incredibly ignorant of the comics medium on so many levels. Therefore when I had the opportunity to interview him recently, to say I was intimidated (even though it was via the comfort of email) is an understatement. We covered a great deal of ground in our email exchange, but it is so diverse while at the same time succinct, I have opted to split the interview into two parts. The second part (found here) focuses on Heer’s collaboration with Kent Worcester. My thanks to Heer for his time and thoughts.
Tim O’Shea: What is the labor breakdown between you, Chris Ware and Chris Oliveros in terms of editing the collections of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley? Who handles what on the projects?
Jeet Heer: I see the Walt and Skeezix books as truly collaborative efforts. With each volume, Chris Ware and I make a trip out to see Frank King’s family, collect material and decide what the theme is going to be. I try to shape my writing around the visual material: thus in volume 3, we had a lot of photos of Gasoline Alley toys and merchandizing, thanks in large part to Chris’s efforts as a collector. See those photos inspired me to write about King’s ability to spin off merchandizing based on is characters. Chris Oliveros, of course, handles the production end of things, which is a big part of the book’s appeal (and a big reason why Drawn and Quarterly books are so treasured). I’m less involved in the production decision, but I often eavesdrop as an interested observer and it’s fascinating to listen to the two Chrises talk about paper stock, the size of books, the color scheme of the covers and other details. For both Ware and Oliveros, book making is truly an art. This is important to bear in mind because until recently, book production wasn’t a big part of comics: most comic strip collection and comic books were shoddily put together. To be sure, there were exceptions like the Barnaby books of the 1940s, or Walt Kelly’s warm and inviting Pogo paperbacks of the 1950s. But the real revolution in comics came in the 1980s and 1990s thanks to four people: Francoise Mouly, Chip Kidd, Chris Ware, and Chris Oliveros. The four really taught us that to do justice to comics as a visual form, the book design had to be specifically tailored to show the art in the best light.