Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | As the smoke settles around the turmoil at Platinum Studios, it appears that company founder and CEO Scott Rosenberg remains in his position following an attempt by President Chris Beall to unseat him — and it’s Beall instead who’s been voted out. According to Deadline, Beall stands by his claims that Rosenberg has mismanaged Platinum and transferred controlling interest in the company to a shell entity called RIP Media without the approval of shareholders. Rosenberg denies the accusations, including that he controls RIP. The Beat has background on the whole mess. [Deadline]
Passings | Cartoonist Chris Cassatt, one of the contributors to the comic strip Shoe, has passed away following a short illness. He was 66. Cassatt started out in 1993 as the assistant to Shoe creator Jeff MacNelly and worked with him until MacNelly’s death in 2000. After that, he collaborated with Susie MacNelly and Gary Brookins on the strip. In earlier days he was a photographer for the Aspen Times in Colorado and also created a local comic featuring a character named Sal A. Mander whom he had run in actual local elections. “After candidate Sal A. Mander was thrown off the ballot in an Aspen mayoral election on the shaky (in Aspen, anyway) grounds that he was not a ‘real person,’ Cassatt legally changed his name to Sal A. Mander and ran for Colorado governor in 1978, finishing fifth in a six-candidate contest,” the newspaper writes. The following year, he mounted a write-in campaign for Sal against an unpopular district attorney who was running unopposed. He lost, but the ridicule Cassatt’s character heaped on the D.A. during the campaign took its toll, and he didn’t stay in office for long. [Aspen Times]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s an odd one for me this week; if I had $15, I’d probably just grab two of DC’s Zero Month books (Batman Incorporated and Flash, both $2.99) and then skip straight to the $30 portion of the week so that I could pick up the Showcase Presents Amethyst, Vol. 1 collection (DC, $19.99), if only to reassure me that the original series was good after last week’s revival.
If I were to splurge, I’d step outside of DC’s purview and go for IDW’s Joe Kubert Tarzan Artist Edition. I was one of the many people who didn’t really “get” Kubert as a kid, but his linework won me over as I got older, and the chance to see some of his best-looking art in ”real size” is something that I’d love to be able to embrace.
If I had $15, I’d get Batman Incorporated #0, probably the only DC zero book I’ll get, and Vol. 11 of Yotsuba&!, because I could use some irrepressibly cute manga about an adorable green-haired girl right about now.
If I had $30, I’d put away Yotsuba&! and get Barbara, Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a would-be artist who takes in a lovely but strange homeless woman, only to become convinced that she is his personal muse. I know there was a bit of grumbling that DMP went the Kickstarter route in getting this published, but honestly, I’m just happy to have more Tezuka in print.
What constitutes a splurge purchase? How about six, hardcover, slipcased volumes of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook work, priced at about $1,600, courtesy of the fine folks at Taschen? Yeah, I think buying that would be a “splurge purchase.” It would also constitute sheer madness and a one-way trip to the poorhouse, but at least you’d have all those nice Crumb books to keep you company. I’m sure they’d make a fine pillow.
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)
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.
If I had $15, I’d reverently pick up the big release of the week: the final issue of DMZ, #72 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). Wood and Burchielli have done something special here, and I easily see the series taking its place next to Preacher and Transmet as Vertigo (and mature comic) staples. Next up I’d get a dose of a new Vertigo series, Spaceman #3 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99); Azzarello and Risso definitely zigged when most thought they would zag, and in this shaking off of the long shadow of 100 Bullets they’ve created something decidedly unique and spellbinding. Next up I’d get another DC book, this time All Star Western #4 (DC, $3.99); I’ve really enjoyed Palmiotti and Gray taking Jonah Hex into the big city here and opening up the world and heroes of these tumbleweed times, and I’m excited for the new back-up featuring a literal firebrand of a female. Finally, my last book on a $15 budget would be Avengers: Children’s Crusade #8 (Marvel, $3.99); I could write a whole article on how the schedule’s affected this book, but despite all that what we’ve got is a great story. Despite all the delays, I’m apprehensive about the final issue because it’ll probably be the last we’ll see of Allan Heinberg in the Marvel U for a long time.
If I had $30, I’d thank the yuletime gods and pick up the vibrant new issue of Haunt, #20 (Image, $2.99). I don’t know what’s in the water at Image, but they’ve orchestrated a series of recent inspired and left-field revamps of their books: Casey/Fox on Haunt, the upcoming Keatinge/Campbell on Glory, Graham/Roy on Prophet. Next up I’d get Top Cow’s Artifacts #12 (Image/Top Cow, $3.99); I admit coming onto this series late, but thanks to a plush assignment I was able to tear through the past two years of Top Cow comics and found I really enjoyed their current event book. After I read and re-read that book, I’d get a double-shot of Marvel with Captain America & Bucky #625 (Marvel, $2.99) and FF #13 (Marvel, $2.99); love what the writers are doing here, but the recent choices by editors for their new artists have made both these books even more enticing for me. Juan Bobillo drawing Hickman’s scripts on FF especially gives it a creepy vibe I’d love to see more of. Speaking of art, my final pick for this final week of the year would be the artistic tour de force of Flash #4 (DC, $2.99); Manapul and Buccellato are really showing their stuff, providing story to enable Manapul to do some of the most dynamic and heart-wrenching work of his career. In the back of my mind I’m worried what happens when Manapul needs a break from drawing: much like finding an appropriate artist for J.H. Williams 3 to rotate with on Batwoman, a suitable second for The Flash will be hard to come by.
My splurge this week is the under-the-radar collection Broadcast TV: Doodles of Henry Flint (Markosia, $19.99). I’d buy an art book by Henry Flint on face value alone, but from the limited previews I’ve seen of the book online it’s something far, far more unique. These are off-hand doodles Flint’s done in his spare time over the past five years, but I’m not talking about quick sketches: “doodles” as in ornate mind-benders where Flint literally doodled his heart out. Once I get this in my merry hands, I’ll be going over it with a fine tooth comb, magnifying glass and anything else I can find.
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.