Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Conventions | Chicago’s RedEye has an overview of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, which kicked off this morning at McCormick Place, and talks with Brian Stephenson of producer ReedPop about the future of the five-year-old show. “It has all the potential in the world to be bigger than San Diego [Comic Con] or New York, all based on the square footage at McCormick,” he said. Meanwhile Chicagoist checks in with a convention food guide, while Chicago Now offers a rundown of the best after-parties. [Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo]
Publishing | Archaia founder Mark Smylie will leave the company he founded in 2002 to focus on his writing career. Creator of Artesia and author of the 2014 novel The Barrow, sold the company in 2008 to Kunoichi Inc., but remained as an acting principal. BOOM! Studios then purchased Archaia in 2013, transforming it into an imprint of the publisher. [press release]
Conventions | Filmmaker John Waters says the organizers of Shock Pop Comic Con, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the weekend of Feb. 14, owe him $6,250 — and they have told him they don’t intend to pay. Waters said the con seemed legit, if lightly attended, and they paid the first half of his fee up front. “I didn’t think that they were gonna – in a very short time – send a letter from a lawyer that basically was just like, ‘Don’t bother even trying,’” he said. But that’s what they did: The letter said the company that organized the event “had to close their doors and had no assets within which to satisfy its debts.” Freelance talent manager Shade Rupe said the con had “an incredible lineup,” but it was poorly organized; he got stuck with the limo bill for one of the people he represents, actor Danny Trejo. [Broward/Palm Beach New Times]
Passings | Bermuda-based cartoonist Peter Woolcock died Wednesday after being struck by a car as he was walking to the office of The Royal Gazette to deliver his weekly cartoon. He was 88. Born and raised on a farm in Argentina, Woolcock served on a British tank crew in World War II (during which time he also kept a sketchbook) and worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for almost 60 years, first for children’s magazines in the United Kingdom and then, after moving in 1981 to Bermuda, as an editorial cartoonist. Both his editors and the politicians he depicted have kind things to say in this lengthy obituary, which notes that his final cartoon was about San Diego losing the bid to host the America’s Cup. [The Royal Gazette]
Creators | Candorville cartoonist Darrin Bell talks about the political cartoons he drew in response to the non-indictments of the police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as his own experiences as a black man who got “the talk” when he was 6 or 7 years old and will some day have to give it to his own son. [Comic Riffs]
Museums | The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has added comics to its permanent collection for the first time. Abigail and William Gerdts donated 176 comics, including Zap Comix and Arcade: The Comics Revue. Judith Brodie, curator of modern prints and drawings, cited the influence of comics on artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein: “They were all drawing their inspiration from cartoons and comic books. It seems totally logical that we’d want a representation of those.” [The Washington Post]
Passings | Greek cartoonist Ilias Skoulas died passed away Thursday at age 87. Skoulas began his career as an editorial cartoonist at the age of 32, and his work was published in numerous Greek newspapers and magazines, as well as 13 books. [Greek Reporter]
Creators | In a new profile of Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 addresses the death threats made against him by ISIS and the fatwa issued against the animated adaptation in Saudi Arabia, and reveals he recently met with Kuwaiti police “to answer the charges of being a heretic.” Mutawa also blames pressure from “a handful of conservative bloggers” in the United States for The Hub not following through with plans to air the animated series. He said that after President Obama praised his work in 2010, attacks on him escalated in the United States, where he was painted as a jihadist “intent on radicalizing young kids to make them suicide bombers. And here [in the Gulf] I became an apostate Zionist. My mother told me growing up, be careful who your friends are because you end up inheriting their enemies. And that’s what happened: I don’t know President Obama. I’m very honored he called me out. But the hate became magnified after that.” [Al-Monitor]
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “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.
This week is pretty packed, as we have news, reviews, a con recap and a whole year’s worth of announcements from one publisher. So buckle your seat belts and hold on tight as we aim our DeLorean at the last seven days …
Last week, when I was packing my bags to go to the Angoulême International Comics Festival, I kept having to explain to people — even comics people — what it was.
Now that I’m back, it’s not a problem any more.
This year’s selection of Bill Watterson as the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, and the president of next year’s festival, has put Angoulême on the map for more U.S. readers — or at least, it has sent the cartoonist’s fans scurrying to the map to see where it is.
What follows is a series of first impressions from my first trip to Angoulême; check out Publishers Weekly (which provided me with a press badge) for more solid coverage, and of course no one can capture an event like Heidi MacDonald.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Angoulême — the international array of creators and publishers who are there, the opportunity to get the hottest new BDs and of course, French food, scenery and wine all spring to mind — but to me, the most impressive thing about it was that I was in a place where comics really mattered. Comics aren’t a niche product in France; they are available everywhere, they are widely read, and they are taken seriously. In my previous sojourns in France, long before I was a comics journalist, I was accustomed to seeing a rack of hardcover, full-color comics at the grocery store, train station, and bookstore.
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Retailing | Fans of the Fall River, Massachusetts, retailer StillPoint Comics, Cards & Games kicked in $5,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to keep the store in business. The shop, which opened in 1997, had to close for 10 days last month after its power was shut off. [The Herald News]
Publishing | Following confirmation last month of a Space Mountain graphic novel series, Heidi MacDonald talks with executives from Disney Publishing Worldwide about the expansion of the new Disney Comics imprint. [Publishers Weekly]
Events | Sean Kleefeld reports on Day 1 of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art in Columbus, Ohio. [Kleefeld on Comics]
Conventions | Brian Howe looks at the rivalry between Comic Book City Con, which debuted two weekends ago in Greensboro, North Carolina, and NC Comicon, which returns Saturday in Durham. The latter, which is now co-owned by artist Tommy Lee Edwards, drew 4,000 attendees last year (its first at the Durham Convention Center), and this year doubled its exhibit space and ramped up its programming. The conflict, which manifested in a flier for Comic Book City Con that one party considers playful but the other calls “bullying,” seems to be rooted in the proximity of the dates and a perceived lack of communication. However, it’s not simply a rivalry between nearby conventions; it’s one between retailers: Durham’s Ultimate Comics organizes NC Comicon, while Greensboro’s Acme Comics operates Comic Book City Con. [Indy Week]
His work might have a rushed, “dashed-off” look to it at times, but don’t kid yourself: Frank Santoro puts a lot of time and consideration into his comics. In fact, it’s safe to say he puts more thought into the overall structure and design of his pages than a lot of his contemporaries, as anyone who has read his “Layout Workbook” series of posts on TCJ.com can attest.
Santoro’s latest comic, the stand-alone graphic novel Pompeii, deals quite overtly with issues of art and craft, as it follows the story of aspiring ancient Roman artist Marcus who’s slaving away as an assistant to the more established painter Flavius (who has his own problems). Marcus is at something of a crossroads, frustrated by his slow progress under Flavius’ tutelage, but unwilling to move back home or reconsider his options, despite the pleadings of his girlfriend, Lucia. As you might expect given the book’s title, things come to a head quite violently with the eruption of a nearby volcano.
Overall Pompeii is a fast-paced but moving, almost tender at times, work, that begins almost as a sex farce but quickly turns into a more considered and elegiac consideration of careers, youth, love and the purpose of art and artistry in our lives.
I talked with Santoro recently about his new book and its conception.
Digital comics | The Chernin Group, headed by former News Corp Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin, has acquired a controlling stake in Crunchyroll, the streaming anime site that just launched a digital comics service. [All Things D]
Digital comics | Rob McMonigal takes a look at Believed Behavior, a website where subscribers can read comics by five different creators for $8 (there’s a free component as well) and then get them in print form. [Panel Patter]
Manga | Dark Horse announced Tuesday that there are 750,000 copies of the various volumes of Berserk in print; that number is about to increase, as the publisher is about to release new printings of the volumes that are low in stock, which is pretty much all of them. Volume 37 is due out later this month. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest (DC Comics): It’s difficult to talk about this comic without also discussing the announced departure of its creative team which, like several others that have worked on DC’s New 52, left amid quite public complaints of editorial interference.
As an auteur-driven book starring a relatively new character that’s barely been drawn by anyone other than artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III, the whole affair strikes me as strange, as Williams seems to be at least as big a factor in the book’s continued existence as the word “Bat” in its title. And it’s stranger still he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are only now reaching the breaking point, as from a reader’s perspective, DC appeared to have pretty much left them alone to do their own thing; like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and the Geoff Johns-written portions of Green Lantern, this book seems set in its own universe and is sort of impossible to integrate into the New 52 if one thinks about it for too long (with “too long” being “about 45 seconds”).
Regularly cited as one of the best of DC’s current crop of comics, Batwoman is definitely the company’s best-looking, and most intricately, even baroquely designed and illustrated. As for the word half of the story equation, I found Batwoman — and this volume in particular — to be extremely strange, even weird, more than I found it to be good.
A bit of a firestorm erupted in the comments section of Frank Santoro’s most recent Riff Raff column at The Comics Journal. Closing with six pictures from the most recent issue of the self-published series Fukitor #9 by Jason Karns, Santoro praised the book for its use of colors on two different types of paper within the same issue, calling it “one of the most interesting print jobs out there.” Indeed, the art is visceral and eye-catching, judging by the photos of Santoro holding the comic.
The sticky part is that three of the images are from a “Special Forces Attack Squad” story that contains what could be considered as racially insensitive. Santoro also described Karns’ work as being “almost ‘too real’ to be part of the contemporary comics conversation.” He also said, “Just about everything compared to his work seems ‘pretentious.’ Karns is not trying to do a throwback style or appropriate ‘bad comics’ in order to make some sort of art comic. This is the real deal. This shit is SERIOUS!”
I’m not sure what most of that description even means. In what way is his work “too real”? Karns certainly isn’t doing journalism comics a la Joe Sacco. Santoro later admitted he could’ve done a better job of presenting Karns’ work, and the ensuing comments to his column appear to have caused him to reassess his appreciation, at least as it pertains to the subject matter. Right off the bat, the first commenter asked whether Fukitor is racist. Karns himself quickly showed up with a strange response that’s boils down to, “They’re just cartoons.” It reads as though he’s claiming the comic book form is somehow incapable of depicting racist imagery, which is pretty easily disputed by any cursory survey of World War II-era comics. Karns goes on to dig a rather big hole for himself.