How "DC Universe: Rebirth" Fulfills Its Promise of Restoring Legacy to DC Comics
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.
A heated Twitter conversation that began Wednesday with Jimmy Palmiotti saying it was “a crime” Amanda Conner didn’t receive an Eisner Award nomination for her work on Silk Spectre took an unexpected turn when Landry Walker pointed to a blog post by Eisner judge Frank Santoro in which he lists all the creators who contributed to Before Watchmen and says, “I refuse to buy or read anything by these folks.”
“HOLY SHIT… how could he be a judge then??” Palmiotti replied.
The easy answer is that if everyone who expressed an opinion was eliminated from consideration, there would be no one left to be an Eisner judge. However, Josh Flanagan of iFanboy went straight to Santoro for a response:
Digital comics | So, your $3.99 comic comes bundled with a download code for a free digital copy, but you’re strictly a paper person. What to do? Todd Allen has a fascinating article about the secondary market in unused download codes, not just the fact that they are being sold fairly openly but also what that market tells us about the true value of comics: “Outside of eBay it’s relatively easy to use Google to find somewhere to swap or purchase Ultraviolet codes. The Home Theater Forum’s classified ad section has codes sprinkled in, with a low $2-$3 looking like a common price. Codes are also easy to find on Reddit, including a dedicated subreddit, though codes on Reddit are swapped or given away, not sold.” [The Next Web]
Conventions| Small Press Expo announced its first round of guests for the Sept.14-15 convention: Seth, Gary Panter, Lisa Hanawalt, Gene Yang and Frank Santoro. [SPX]
Legal | A federal judge this week made final his Oct. 17 decision that the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster surrendered the ability to reclaim their 50-percent interest in the property in a 1992 agreement with DC Comics, triggering an almost-immediate appeal to the 9th Circuit by Shuster estate lawyer Marc Toberoff. Jeff Trexler delves into the legal strategy behind the attorney’s motion for final judgment. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Todd McFarlane has settled his lawsuit against former employee Al Simmons, who earlier this year released a book in which he claimed to be the inspiration for Spawn. McFarlane had accused Simmons of violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Settlement terms weren’t disclosed. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Being an Eisner Awards judge has to be one of the coolest gigs in comics—I know this because I was one last year. Comic-Con International has just announced the names of the 2013 judges, and as always, they represent a mix of the different sectors of the business — creation, criticism, retailing, journalism, and of course, Comic-Con itself. Here’s the lineup:
Michael Cavna, a writer, editor and artist for The Washington Post and the man behind the newspaper’s Comic Riffs blog, which is an important part of my daily reading.
Charles Hatfield, professor of English at California State University, Northridge and the author of Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, which won an Eisner Award last year, and Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, as well as a contributor to The Comics Journal and a member of the Modern Language Association’s Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives.
Adam Healy, co-owner of Cosmic Monkey Comics in Portland, Oregon.
A generation ago, becoming a comic book creator was usually a solitary and self-guided process. Sure, there was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, The Kubert School (still going strong), and a few other tools, but for the most part you were on your own. Today there is a blossoming variety of resources that are building a smarter and more skilled community of tomorrow’s comics makers.
One of the most recent additions is Comics Workbook, a new web magazine set up by cartoonist Frank Santoro (Storeyville, Kramer’s Ergot). As he explained on his own Tumblr, Santoro intentionally set out to put together a team of contributors that consisted of more girls than boys to “flip the script on this comics magazine thing”. Instead of looking to other comics sites, he turned to girls roller derby and the supportive community those teams create, and is trying to “copy their model.” The results are a rough yet immediate DIY vibe that displays comics and minicomics in-progress (such as “The Great” by Alyssa Berg, pictured here), brief yet hilariously brash reviews in comics form, a series of reflections on Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, links to interviews and reviews, and more.
Santoro is in the middle of teaching an eight-week correspondence course for comic book makers, and has written a series of columns examining layouts and color for The Comics Journal. So the guy definitely knows his stuff and has some interesting theories (even if they are beyond me as a non-artist).
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention hawkers of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Chimera, by Frank Santoro. Cover-dated Summer 2005. Published by Picturebox Inc.
How acquired: The best way you can get a comic — across the table from the person who made it. Specifically, Frank brought a few copies of Chimera along to his similarly classical art/Greek myths-themed painting show New Values in Los Angeles a few winters back. “These are already starting to look a little different,” he said as he handed one over to me. Even five years and change on, the newsprint broadsheets the comic is printed on were turning brown and brittle, its searing yellow and pink tones bleeding through the pages onto one another. This is a comic whose individual panels and single drawings are constantly in the process of losing their identities as separate from what surrounds them, a whole whose parts are engaged in losing themselves. Which, as we’ll see, is perfect.
Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]
Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]
Missed out on the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival? Want to check out new comics, zines, and prints from some of the show’s buzziest attendees and exhibitors? BCGF co-organizer PictureBox Inc. has you covered. Dan Nadel’s brainchild has stocked its online store with new books and art from a who’s who of folks at the show, including Frank Santoro, Anya Davidson, Matthew Thurber, CF, Sammy Harkham, and Leif Goldberg, and the anthologies Mould Map 2 (edited by Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler) and Weird (edited by Noel Freibert) from Landfill Editions and Closed Caption Comics respectively. Stuff your stockings, artcomics fans.
Paying off thirty years of continuity and character development. Delivering shocks, gasps, cheers, and tears in equal measure, seemingly at the author’s whim. Offering a master class in everything from laying out a double-page spread to drawing clothes. Telling a story about beloved characters so emotionally engaging that even their most ardent fans wouldn’t mind if this were the last one ever told. Any way you slice it, Jaime Hernandez’s “The Love Bunglers” — his contribution to the recently released Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 and the conclusion to the already wildly acclaimed “The Love Bunglers”/”Browntown” suite from last year’s issue — is a hell of a comic. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
Dan Nadel, editor of The Comics Journal, has posted his own appreciation, and invited cartoonists Frank Santoro (Storeyville) and Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve) to do the same. (SPOILER WARNINGS in effect at those links, folks.) Nadel (like Jordan Crane on the first part of Jaime’s tale in issue #3 before him) minces no words: “This is not just Jaime’s finest work, but one of the best (at this moment I’d rank it in my top five of all time) works ever created in the medium.” Santoro calls Jaime “the greatest cartoonist of all time,” saying “No art moves me the way the work of Jaime Hernandez moves me.” Tomine talks of picking the issue up at a signing event for Jaime and being so moved by a two-page spread he encountered while randomly flipping through that he actually had to leave.
I posted my review at the beginning of August, after the book had started circulating at cons but long before it hit stores, but weeks and even months later people would still post comments on the review, like they’d been hungrily seeking out anything anyone had written about this remarkable comic. I’ve got a feeling that as more and more critics read this comic, they’ll never go hungry again.
Okay, not exactly — they’ll be shipped from Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics. But still, the source of this secret stash of Frank Santoro’s long-out-of-print newspaper-format comic about a young man’s journey through the down-and-out America of the early 20th century was a long-forgotten box found in his dad’s house.
“All the others were destroyed in the fire at my mom’s house. No joke,” Santoro writes of the discovery.
So once this box is gone, so too is your opportunity to read a pretty stunning comic in its original format. Santoro’s visual shifts between realism and impressionism, and what they say about his protagonist Will’s tormented mental state, are a master class in establishing and controlling tone in comics. Order now, but if you miss out, don’t worry — you can always spring for the hardcover edition from PictureBox.
Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki’s Twitter, The Beat]
Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]
Previously on Lost: Dash Shaw, author of Body World and Bottomless Bellybutton, and Jesse Moynihan, storyboard artist for Adventure Time and author of Forming, teamed up a couple years ago to create an innovatively formatted fold-out comic for an issue of the literary magazine The Believer. Titled “Spiritual Dad,” the strip told a multi-generational story of fathers, sons and significant others struggling to find their destinies via various chemical and/or mystical means … leading one of them to a dreamlike vision of a plane crash, an island, a mysterious bald man on a vision quest, and other events that years later would become the subject matter of a little cultural phenomenon called Lost.
Flash forward to today, when cartoonist and commentator Frank Santoro hid the never-before-digitized comic, hatch-style, at the bottom of his long and compelling interview with Moynihan for The Comics Journal. Read the whole thing and marvel at the dense meta-magic performed by Shaw and Moynihan as they weave Lost into the tapestry of their own tale. Just be sure to dig into that interview, and Moynihan’s gorgeously colored Forming art, as you scroll down toward the comic itself.
Cartoonist Frank Santoro (Cold Heat, Storeyville, Kramers Ergot) has long taken his knowledge about comics and cartooning straight to the masses. From his curated longboxes, whose hand-selected ’80s genre-comic treasures bring a touch of the back-issue bin to the alternative comics conventions he attends, to his popular columns on page and layout for The Comics Journal, he’s brought idiosyncratic intensity to the study of making comics. Now, from his Tattooinesque wind-and-solar-powered redoubt in New Mexico, Santoro’s offering an eight-week correspondence course for more in-depth study.
Conducted over email, snail mail, and phone, the class will begin on Oct. 28 and cost $500 per student. Each student’s instruction will vary, designed with Santoro to be tailored to their specific needs and the kinds of comics they want to make. In the announcement, Santoro sets up his course as an alternative to schools like CCS, SVA, and SCAD: “You don’t have to move to a different city to attend one of the few schools that exist for making comic books. Put your money directly towards training – not living expenses.” But act fast: The course is only open to ten students.
Find more details, including the application requirements, at The Comics Journal.