Design is integral to comics. In its basic form, it’s used by artists to tell story through panel composition and transitions, but in broader terms it’s the logos, trade dress and visual platform by which comics are shown to the public.
Last month at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina, cartoonist/designer Rich Barrett moderated a panel that looked at the approach and examples of graphic design in use in the medium. With a panel that included cartoonist/designers like Jim Rugg, Matt Kindt and Robert Wilson IV, publisher/designer Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books and non-comics desginer Matt Stevens, Barrett shepherded the room through slideshow series of impressive design, from page layouts to book covers to book packaging.
The indie-centric design group talked about the use of design by mainstream creators like Jonathan Hickman, Chris Ware and Chester Brown, and its changing role of design as the methods by which comics being sold have changed over the past 20 years.
Although no recording of the panel exists (as of yet), Barrett has shared his slideshow presentation here:
I first came across Ming Doyle’s work when she illustrated a new Michael Moorcock Elric short story in Weird Tales #349, the series’ 85th birthday issue. I’m something of a Moorcock nut, and prone to strong opinions about his artistic collaborators, but Doyle’s work more than passed muster: Here was an artist whose progress I was going to have to keep a close eye on.
Since then, Doyle’s career trajectory has been consistently upward, from the Star Trek-loving webcomic Boldly Gone with Kevin Church, to her current work on the Image comic Mara with Brian Wood. Every time some editor at DC Comics or Marvel claims he isn’t employing female creators because there just aren’t any out there fit for purpose, she’s always one of the first names that pops into my head as I mentally compose a list as long as your arm of women one big gig away from comics super-stardom.
Anyway, it’s convention season, that happy time when my favorite artists post lots of lovely sketches on their blogs, Instagram timelines, Facebook and the like — y’know, that newfangled social media the kids are all talking about. The collective Doyle belongs to, Out of Step Arts, has posted several sketches done at last weeks HeroesCon, some of which can also be seen at her own site, along with more May’s Phoenix Comicon. There’s a selection of my favorites after the break, including probably the most smouldering-est rendering of Bones McCoy ever.
(Note: The headline has been changed to better reflect the intention of this post, which is to celebrate Ming Doyle’s artwork. We apologize if our meaning wasn’t clear.)
Retailing | Naruto topped the May BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores, followed by two volumes of The Walking Dead, the latest volume of Sailor Moon, and Yen Press’ latest Twilight adaptation New Moon. Just three volumes total of The Walking Dead made the Top 20 (down from eight last month), and as usual, DC and Marvel got clobbered: DC had three titles on the list (two volumes of Court of Owls and Watchmen) while Marvel had one (Hawkeye), and none was above No. 15. Or to put it another way: Vol. 14 of Dance in the Vampire Bund, a high-numbered volume in a fairly niche manga series, placed higher than every Big Two book on BookScan last month. [ICv2]
Creators | With the second issue of their digital-only comic The Private Eye recently released, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin talk about their story, why they decided to do it digitally, and what the response has been so far. [The Verge]
Conventions | HeroesCon, which begins Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will double in size this year, with the exhibit area increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. “There’s a whole lot more of everything,” says founder Shelton Drum. Including people? Last year’s convention drew in 17,000 attendees, and Drum thinks this year’s event will attract more newcomers curious about the source material of their favorite movies. [Winston-Salem Journal]
Creators | Peter Bebergal talks with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, magic, comics, and the tendency to conflate gods with superheroes: “It is contrived, because they’re not at all the same. Superheroes are the copyrighted property of big corporations. They are purely commercial entities; they are purely about making a buck. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wonderful creations in the course of the history of the superhero comic, but to compare them with gods is fairly pointless. Yes, you can make obvious comparisons by saying the golden-age Flash looks a bit like Hermes, as he’s got wings on his helmet, or the golden-age Hawkman looks a bit like Horus because he’s got a hawk head. But this is just to say that comics creators through the decades have taken their inspiration where they can find it. Before I was interested in magic as a viable way of life, I was certainly aware of the occult, and wouldn’t be above taking names or concepts or ideas from the occult.” [The Believer]
Before heading off to Charlotte, North Carolina, for this weekend’s HeroesCon, Frank Cho offers a tantalizing clue to his secret follow-up to Marvel’s Savage Wolverine in the form of a cover detail that clearly shows Emma Frost (in full below), along with what may be Angel in his classic X-Men costume. Those other elements are anybody’s guess.
“Now, people have asked me what’s coming up after my Savage Wolverine run,” Cho writes. “Well, gang, Marvel will announce it soon. In fact, I’ve just received the full script this week and just started drawing it. It’s a doozy.”
This weekend he’ll be at Artists Alley table AA-1503, where maybe you can pry a few more clues from him.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s back to a full work week — unless, of course, you’re heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, for HeroesCon 2013.
However, before you board that plane or plot that route, there’s a New Comics Day chock-full of quality releases. Join our contributors for a rundown of some of the highlights.
Jason Latour, artist on the Mignola-verse titles Sledgehammer 44 and B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Pickens County Horror, has posted the image below to his blog, and it’s a doozy. His work on those two Hellboy spinoffs has been under-praised, pitched perfectly between the contributions made to Dark Horse’s flagship line by the likes of Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo. This composition was produced as badge designs and
program cover an exclusive print for this year’s HeroesCon, which as Latour points out, has been an ambition of his for most of his life. That’s another one scratched off the bucket list.
Close-ups of several of these panels can be seen at Latour’s Instagram feed, in various stages of completion. He’s on something of a hot streak as an artist and a writer these last couple of years. I don’t buy that many Marvel comics these days, but his presence on Winter Soldier sold it to me. I’ll miss it, but here’s hoping he makes his way back to Dark Horse for more digging around in Mignola’s sandbox.
Awards | Online voting is open through April 30 for the sixth annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize excellence in comic-book inking. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at HeroesCon, held June 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Inkwell Awards]
Comics | On the website of the conservative Media Research Center, Kristine Marsh and Matt Philbin accuse DC Comics and Marvel of having a “homosexual agenda”: “Like the rest of American pop culture, comic books have increasingly included pro-gay propaganda pieces aimed at the children and young adults who read them.” [Media Research Center]
The writer of Captain Marvel and Ghost explains the whole story on her blog — and you should read it because it’s very sweet and she tells it much better than I’m going to — but the digest version is this: This year at Heroes Con, Kelly Sue DeConnick met a young girl named Winter who likes to draw ninjas. When Winter declared that she and DeConnick should make a ninja comic together, the writer agreed, for reasons the writer explains in her post. Seriously, go read it.
It’s a wonderful story, but it doesn’t end there. DeConnick is going to write the story a panel at a time and will tweet the descriptions with the hashtag #winterstale. That’s how Winter will get her instructions, but it’s also how you can get yours, because she and DeConnick are opening the project up to anyone who wants to join in. You, your kids, your parents, whoever. Simply reply to any #winterstale panel description with a twitpic or a link to your drawing and DeConnick will repost them to the Winter’s Tales Tumblr page. If you don’t have a Twitter account and don’t want one, you can play along via Tumblr instead.
DeConnick’s plan is to print her and Winter’s comic as a “punkzine style” minicomic to sell at next year’s HeroesCon, with all proceeds going to Winter’s college fund. If you turn your own pages into a minicomic, she’ll swap with you.
If you’d like to know a bit more about what you’ll be drawing, they’re calling the comic Ninja Princess Zombie Rockstar and, per Winter’s drawing interests, will fill it with the following:
Artist Alley Comics, the digital imprint that includes Richard Case, Craig Rousseau, Rich Woodall, Kelly Yates and others, officially launched their site this week, as several of them attend HeroesCon this weekend to promote it.
Right now if you head to the site you can download several “zero” and first issues, including Case’s Annie Ammo, Rousseau and Woodall’s Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl, Yates’ MonstHer, Chris Kemple’s Red Vengeance and Kill All Monsters! by our own Michael May and Jason Copland. There’s also a sampler that gives you a sneak preview of all of the comics. Go check’em out, as they are all free.
Conventions | Creative director Rico Renzi discusses HeroesCon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend with a three-day event that’s experienced a spike in advance ticket sales: “Stan Lee’s attendance to this year’s show has definitely caused a spike in advance ticket sales from what I can tell. I honestly like the show at just the size it is; it’s just right. I used to hop on a bus from Baltimore to go the NYCC and I loved it for the first couple years. It just got too big for me too enjoy it, you couldn’t walk around without rubbing up against strangers. It’s a great alternative to San Diego now I guess. If you’re looking for a pure comic book show though, HeroesCon is where it’s at.” In addition to Lee, this year’s guests include Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Becky Cloonan, Geof Darrow, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Evan Dorkin, Tommy Lee Edwards, Matt Fraction, Francesco Francavilla, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Johnson, Jeff Lemire, Paul Levitz, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Scott Snyder and Bernie Wrightson. [The Comics Reporter]
“I was faced with a dilemma: should I just refuse to do them? Should I do them for free and annoy my neighbours, who would be charging? Or should I take the money and leave myself open to charges of hypocrisy and other malarkey? My elegant solution is to do Marvel and DC character sketches as usual, but to donate the proceeds from drawing those characters to the Hero Initiative. I’ve been in touch with the organisation about this and they’re keen, and have helpfully supplied me with official logos and so forth, so that’s what’s happening. In short: from the point of view of you, the attendee wanting a sketch of Thor, it’ll be business as usual. Plus, you’ll be helping a good cause. Everybody wins!”
– Roger Langridge, on whether he should do sketches of Marvel and DC Comics characters this weekend at HeroesCon 2012 after he said he would no longer work for either company because of concerns about the way they treat creators. So instead of keeping the money he’ll get for drawing them, he’ll be donating it — a very classy move that doesn’t leave his fans disappointed.
Retailing | Tacoma, Washington, store Comic Book Ink, a seven-time nominee for the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award, could close as early as August because of mounting debt. In a plea to customers, owner John Munn attributes the store’s dire financial situation to a combination of the economy, relocation costs, an unresolved dispute with the previous landlord, the move by Diamond Comic Distributors to “call in short-term notes” in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy, and “personal trials.” In the extremely frank letter, he lays out what steps he’s taken (payment plans, using his salary from an outside job to cover payroll), and what he hesitates to do (fire staff, close the nearly nine-year-old store and declare bankruptcy): “I have juggled as far as I can juggle. I have kept a constant vigil on our shop, but currently it is resting on a house of cards and not a strong foundation (yet) that could go at any minute. [...] I need your help. This week is bad … Very bad.”
Munn asks that customers pick up any special orders or pull-list titles, purchase gift certificates, make a short-term loan or buy shares in the store. “I think we can make it,” he writes. “I wouldn’t have sent this message if I didn’t. I did not want to write this letter. I did not want to ask for help. All I ever wanted to do was to create a place where people could come and escape for awhile. A place that would invest in the community, and its organizations, that surrounded it.” [Comic Book Ink]
Not to mince words, HeroesCon is my San Diego. Scheduled for June 3-5 at the Charlotte Convention Center this year, I recently caught up with Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find Creative Director Rico Renzi, to discuss what to look forward to at HeroesCon 2011. Anyone that has read my past con reports knows how much I always enjoy this family friendly/comics focused con, and will not be surprised to learn I will be in attendance again this year. Thanks to Renzi for the interview and for giving us the scoop that Farel Dalrymple is returning to the con this year. I was also enthused to learn the con is trying a Friday night event this year, as well as introducing a new section of the convention floor devoted to comic strip creators.
Tim O’Shea: How are things shaping up with less than a month to go before the con, starting to panic? Planning-wise, how do you and Shelton Drum (con founder/organizer and owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find) divvy up the heavy lifting of making this con happen?
Rico Renzi: HeroesCon is like breathing to Shelton so I’m pretty sure he’s not panicking. This is my first time doing anything like this so, yeah I think there’s some pressure on me. Maybe I get a pass since this is my first year though? Dustin Harbin has been a great help showing me the ropes on a few things, especially the floor plan. Deciding where everyone is going to sit seems like the hardest job to me right now. Aside from that we get great help from our warehouse manager, Seth Peagler. Whether I need someone to brainstorm with or edit my blog posts, Seth is my guy. Also, Andy Mansell has been instrumental in planning and coordinating our programming. These guys keep me sane!