Awards | Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies have awarded the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Graphic Novel of 2012 to Chris Ware for Building Stories, and the prize for Best Web Comic to Noelle Stevenson for Nimona. Each winner receives $1,000. [Salon.com]
Comics | Tom Spurgeon talks at length to Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics and editor-in-chief of The Comics Journal, about the prospects for young creators today versus years ago, changes at The Comics Journal, and Groth’s own interview with Maurice Sendak, which runs in the latest issue of TCJ. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Todd Allen analyzes the sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles from their September 2011 launch to the past month. Sales of any series tend to drop off from one issue to the next — Allen compares it to radioactive decay — and when the numbers drop below 18,000 for a couple of titles, DC tends to cancel them in batches and start up new titles to replace them. That plus crossovers and strong sales of some flagship titles has kept the line fairly stable until recently, but as Allen notes, the replacement titles tend to crash and burn pretty quickly, and overall sales have dipped a bit. [Publishers Weekly]
History | David Brothers has a great column for Black History Month, featuring Krazy Kat, All-Negro Comics and other titles by black creators. [Comics Alliance]
A few years ago, Viz Media published Inio Asano’s manga Solanin and What a Wonderful World to great critical acclaim. Set in present-day Tokyo, they show the lives of twentysomethings trying to navigate their place in the world.
Now Fantagraphics Books has announced it will publish another Asano manga, Nijigahara Holograph, but it’s not a slice-of-life manga; it’s a horror story. Matt Thorn, who has translated the other Fantagraphics manga titles, including Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories and Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son, will translate this one as well. The story is complete in a single, 200-page hardcover volume, which will retail for $26.99. Here’s what Fantagraphics President and Co-Publisher Gary Groth has to say about the book:
Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph is both a departure from and entirely consistent with our growing line of manga graphic novels. It is considerably and consistently darker than either Moto Hagio’s or Shimura Takako’s work, using a much more deliberately involuted literary structure, but it’s also in keeping with our editorial imperative to publish unique artistic voices. We’re proud to make this landmark work available to an American readership.
As it happens, Shaenon Garrity just wrote a column about Asano’s manga; here’s her take on Nijigahara Holograph:
Asano blends character studies of directionless young adults with shocking violence, supernatural horror, time travel, and the end of the world, creating a work that’s sort of half Magnolia, half Donnie Darko, with a splash of Stephen King.
Solicitation text and sample artwork can be found below:
Buried within a lengthy Comics Journal discussion about the bizarre — and ultimately unsuccessful — public negotiations between Dave Sim and Fantagraphics to release collected editions of Cerebus, Gary Groth announced Thursday the next books in the publisher’s acclaimed Carl Barks and EC Comics lines.
The next installment of the Carl Barks Library, titled The Old Castle’s Secret, will include reprints of Donald Duck stories from 1947 and 1948: “The Old Castle’s Secret,” “In Darkest Africa,” “Wintertime Wager” “Watching the Watchman,” “Wired,” “Going Ape,” “Spoil the Rod,” “Bird Watching,” “Horseshoe Luck,” “Bean Taken,” “Rocket Race to the Moon,” “Donald of the Coast Guard,” “Gladstone Returns,” “Links Hijinks,” “Sorry to be Safe,” “Sheriff of Bullet Valley,” “Best Laid Plans,” “The Genuine Article,” “Pearls of Wisdom” and “Foxy Relations.”
Following the January release of “50 Girls 50″ and Other Stories by Al Williamson and “Taint the Meat … It’s the Humanity” and Other Stories by Jack Davis, Fantagraphics will expand its EC Comics Library with a crime volume dedicated to the work of Johnny Craig and a science fiction devoted to Al Feldstein.
“I’m very happy I didn’t have to negotiate these contracts on an internet thread,” Groth said.
(via The Beat)
Fantagraphics announced last week it has formed a partnership with Alexander Street Press to include a complete run of The Comics Journal as part of the Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels online archive. Not knowing much about Alexander or the archive, I contacted Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Gary Groth to get some more information.
Robot 6: For the uninitiated, can you explain what Alexander Street Press is and what purpose they serve in the academic community?
Gary Groth: I’m by no means an expert on Alexander Street Press, but my understanding is that they provide searchable digital databases to academic institutions composed of classics works in a variety of disciplines — such as film, theater, literature, etc. These are provided primarily for scholarly use. I was able to go into some of their databases and poke around and they’re truly remarkable. You can search for subjects, themes, proper names, historic events, key words, etc.
How did this partnership come about? Did they contact you or vice versa?
They approached us.
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Legal | Rico Venditti and six other alleged members of a stolen-goods ring pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal murder and racketeering charges following a revised grand jury indictment in the July 2010 home invasion of an elderly comics collector. The victim, 78-year-old Homer Marciniak of Medina, New York, died of a heart attack a few hours after being tied up and assaulted during the robbery, which prosecutors claim was set up by Venditti and two others. [The Associated Press]
Conventions | Bruce Lidl looks at the potential “Comic-Con tax” that could hit attendees as a result of the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. [The Beat]
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes
by Carl Barks
Fantagraphics Books, 240 pages, $24.99.
Is Barks overrated? Is he really the comics master that people claim he is or was it simply that most of his contemporaries — especially where Disney comics were concerned — were so dull in comparison? Did the mystique surrounding Barks — the fact that he worked anonymously for so long — stoke his legend? In praising Barks, are we merely praising the surface elements of his work and ignoring whether his stories are stand up to the sort of strong critical scrutiny? Does mere nostalgia drive the bulk of our interest in his work? As one person put it on Twitter: “Is the worship of Barks just another case of comics culture’s elevation of craft over everything?”
I really don’t think so. Certainly it’s easy to get lost in the surface elements of Barks’ comics — the simple, clean lines, the skilled detail in depicting other cultures and lost civilizations, the slapstick humor. I suppose to some extent there might be a few people who come to Barks expecting to have their molecules re-arranged and will walk away sorely disappointed and wondering what all the fuss was about.
If you were to list the five most important cartoonists in the history of comics, the chances are good Robert Crumb would be on the list. If you were to list the five most important editor/publishers in the history of comics, the chances are good Gary Groth of Fantagraphics would be on that list. For a lot of people, they’d each be at the top. So if you are a comics reader and you can think of a better way to spend your afternoon than reading a 13,000 word interview with Crumb by Groth for The Comics Journal, then please, become my personal planner, because your life must be freaking awesome.
Publishing | Emily Nilsson, wife of Sparkplug Books publisher Dylan Williams, said she plans to continue running the publishing company after the death of her husband. “We need your support now as much as ever,” she said in a post on the Sparkplug blog. “We are grieving at the same time as we are trying to keep business afloat, and trying not to overstrain ourselves. We want to publish again soon but that is a step we will consider more once we get through the next few months.” Nilsson, Virginia Paine and Tom Neely will continue to run Sparkplug, with plans to continue online sales and attend conventions like the upcoming MIX in Minneapolis next month and the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December. Williams passed away in September due to complications from cancer. [Sparkplug]
Legal | Michael George, the former comics retailer found guilty of murder for the second time, is in the Macomb County (Mich.) jail after his bond was revoked following Tuesday’s verdict. George was found guilty of murdering his first wife Barbara in the back of their comic book store in 1990. “The family’s ecstatic,” said Barbara’s brother Joe Kowynia. “There’s no way a jury is going to get this wrong twice. I feel sorry for my nieces, this is long overdue. Now that this is over, Barb can rest in peace. And we can move on and he can rot in jail.” [Detroit Free Press]
On the same day that Fantagraphics announced The Complete Zap Comix, the publisher revealed it will bring yet another treasure trove of groundbreaking comics back to the stands. At its panel at Comic-Con International and in an interview with The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, Fantagraphics announced it had acquired the rights to publish the EC Comics library from the representatives of its late publisher, William M. Gaines.
Known for pushing comics’ boundaries of formal innovation and craft as well as raw content before anti-comics hysteria and the creation of the Comics Code helped stifle the publisher in the mid-’50s, EC has generally been reprinted in formats that center on its (in)famous horror, crime, science fiction, and war anthology series, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Two-Fisted Tales, and Frontline Combat. What sets the Fantagraphics reprint project apart is that individual creators’ work will be culled from the series in which it appeared and presented in a series of black-and-white solo spotlight volumes. The first four books announced will collect war stories written by Harvey Kurtzman (Corpse on the Imjin and Other Stories, featuring art by Kurtzman, Gene Colan, Russ Heath, and Joe Kubert), suspense stories by Wally Wood (Came the Dawn and Other Stories), horror stories by written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Jack Davis, and science fiction stories by Al Williamson.
Click on over to The Comics Reporter for more details, including an interview with editor and co-publisher Gary Groth.
…so I’m not even going to try. Instead I’m just going to link you to Alex Dueben’s thusly titled interview with Fantagraphics Co-Publisher and The Comics Journal Editor Gary Groth over on the CBR mothership, in which the trailblazing alternative-comics publisher and critic tackles a wide variety of the biz’s big topics. Here are a few choice nuggets:
On Fantagraphics shifting to digital:
To one degree or another, all of our books can be read on a screen.
We’re cognizant of that and we’re certainly moving in that direction. I think what the future is going to hold is that books are going to be on multiple platforms, in digital and in print. I don’t think one is going to necessarily overshadow the other. They can be available in various formats. We’ve been literally working on the digital formats for the last year, just working out all the bugs and talking to the various platforms. I’m sure by this time next year, a lot of our books, if not the majority of them, are going to be available digitally.
“It wasn’t possible for a man like Stan Lee to come up with new things — or old things for that matter. Stan Lee wasn’t a guy that read or that told stories. Stan Lee was a guy that knew where the papers were or who was coming to visit that day. Stan Lee is essentially an office worker, OK? I’m essentially something else: I’m a storyteller.”
“On The Fantastic Four, I’d tell him what I was going to do, what the story was going to be, and I’d bring it in — that’s all.”
“I created Spider-Man. We decided to give it to Steve Ditko. I drew the first Spider-Man cover. I created the character. I created the costume. I created all those books, but I couldn’t do them all.”
If you listen closely, you can still hear comics’ collective jaw dropping upon reading the above quotes, and many more like them besides, from Jack Kirby’s bombshell 1990 interview in The Comics Journal, conducted by editor and publisher Gary Groth. And now that the Journal has posted the interview online in its entirety, jaws will likely drop all over again.
It’s a fascinating document. Here you have the King of Comics himself, angry and exhausted from years of feuding with Marvel over credit and access to his original art, feeling personally slighted by the company’s other guiding light and figurehead Stan Lee, lashing out with the kind of bombast usually reserved for his spectacularly cosmic comics. In the course of recounting his career (with a little help from his wife Roz), Kirby basically takes sole credit for the creation of the entire Marvel Universe, from the Fantastic Four to Thor to the Hulk to the Avengers to even Spider-Man, relegating Lee to the role of an office boy and credit thief whose only contribution to most of the comics for which the pair shared billing was slapping his name on them and collecting checks.
Kirby’s boldest claims here have proven tough for even his most ardent defenders to swallow — and indeed he goes much further here in asserting sole authorship of the Lee/Kirby co-creations than he ever had in the past — but what his recollections may lack in historical accuracy they gain in evincing the passion he still felt for the work, the degree to which Marvel and Lee’s treatment of him hurt, and, as always, the astonishing imaginative power with which he infused every character he touched. Read the whole thing.
Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”
In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]
The Comics Journal, a venerable, influential and controversial mainstay of comics journalism that had developed an air of the walking wounded in recent years, has radically revamped and relaunched its online presence. Its new editors are Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler, best known as the minds behind Comics Comics magazine and, in Nadel’s case, the art-comics publisher PictureBox Inc.
The print version of the Journal will continue to be helmed by founding editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth, acting in a more hands-on capacity as of the forthcoming Issue #301 than he has in years, by the sound of it. Kristy Valenti serves as editorial coordinator. Contributors to the new TCJ.com include Frank Santoro, Jeet Heer, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Ken Parille, Ryan Holmberg, Rob Clough, Richard Gehr, R.C. Harvey, R. Fiore, Vanessa Davis, Bob Levin, Patrick Rosenkranz, Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, Jason T. Miles, Andrew Leland, Naomi Fry, Jesse Pearson, Tom De Haven, Shaenon Garrity, Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and Hillary Chute. On a Robot 6-related note, my colleague Chris Mautner and I will also be contributing.
A look at the new site reveals a multifaceted approach, with reviews, columns, interviews, lengthy features and essays (the current lead feature is a look at the legacy of, and turmoil surrounding, Frank Frazetta by writer Bob Levin), an events calendar, selected highlights from the magazine’s archives, and more. The biggest news, perhaps, is that Hodler and Nadel plan to have literally the entire 300-issue Comics Journal archive scanned and posted online by the end of this year and made available in its entirety to the print magazine’s subscribers. Click here for Hodler and Nadel’s welcome letter, in which they explain some of the changes and reveal a bit of what’s ahead. (And click here for their farewell letter to Comics Comics.)