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.
– Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Sullivan’s Sluggers and Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, challenging the vocabulary we use to refer to comics not published by Marvel or DC. It’s not a new notion that “independent” isn’t the best way to describe a comic; is Powers not “independent” just because Marvel publishes it? Is G.I. Joe or Star Wars independent because they don’t have a Marvel or DC logo on the cover? I like the notion of using terms like “creator-owned” and “creator-driven,” although I don’t see them as interchangeable. Creator-driven, for instance, could be any book that was “driven” by the team that created it; so Starman and The Sandman could fall into that category as easily as, say, Bone. But Bone obviously is creator-owned while those other two are not. Then there are books like Prophet and Haunt that are owned by creators, just not the creators currently “driving” those titles. Navigating, maybe, but not driving. Obviously there’s always room for debate on the internet and the shared lexicon we use is always open to it, but it’s hard to argue with Smith’s sentiment at the end.
Ever since Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson launched his blog in 2010, it’s been home to some well thought-out essays on comics as the longtime pro sees it, and this week is no different. In a post titled “A Good Idea,” Stephenson addresses the perception some fans have that many comics created today are merely back-door pitches for movies or television series. And while he admits that’s sometimes the case, even at Image, he argues it’s not a bad thing.
“Let’s pretend for a moment that virtually everyone writing and drawing creator-owned comics is only doing so because they want to shop their ideas around to Hollywood, so they can be turned into television shows and movies. Or both,” Stephenson writes. “Let’s say these creative people are so driven by ambition that selling comic books simply isn’t enough. They don’t just want their stories to reach comic book readers – they want them to reach the world. They want as many people as possible to read their stories, to look at their artwork, to experience their creativity.”
Conventions | San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved the basic funding plan for the proposed $500 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, home to Comic-Con International. At the center of the financing scheme is an assessment district that adds between between 1 cents and 3 cents per dollar to room taxes of 224 hotels with more than 30 rooms. Those hotels closest to the convention center would be assessed an extra 3 cents per dollar, and those farthest away could be charged an extra penny per dollar.
The expansion plan has a ticking clock, as Comic-Con has signed a deal to remain in San Diego through 2015, but larger venues in Las Vegas and Anaheim have been lobbying organizers to look elsewhere. [NBC San Diego]
New York may get the big shows, but Boston has a vibrant local comics scene and is building up a nice slate of events throughout the year. Boston Comic Con was like a teeny-tiny version of NYCC, with name creators (Darwyn Cooke, Stan Sakai, Frank Quitely) chatting with dozens of fans in small conference rooms. MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA, just one day long and featuring a number of talented creators. The lineup of exhibitors includes Box Brown, Kevin Church, Alexander Danner, Ming Doyle, Gareth Hinds, Dirk Tiede, and Tak Toyoshima, plus lots of people you never heard of who are quietly doing interesting, innovative work (that’s not a punt—I saw a lot of these people at BCC.)
The schedule includes lettering, coloring, and webcomics workshops and panel discussions on comics for children (featuring my Good Comics for Kids collaborator Robin Brenner), comics and social justice, comics and fashion, and more.
It all happens Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., at Lesley University in Porter Square, Cambridge. Here’s an insider tip: It’s in the same building as a Japanese mall, which has lots of inexpensive noodle shops, one nicer fish restaurant, a bubble tea stand, and a lovely Japanese/French bakery, so plan to stay local for lunch. Admission to the show is free, and there’s plenty to see. I’m planning to make a day of it, and if you are in the Boston area, I’d highly recommend it.
I found this totally by accident, and it’s sort of old news, but it raises a few points worth pondering: The comics download site Literate Machine shut down operations in May. The site is still there, but there’s a note:
You all may have noticed activity on Literate Machine has been pretty low for a while now. This is because of two major events: 1) The party providing the financial backing for the site has gone out of business, 2) The remaining founders of the site were hired away by far more successful competitors — comiXology
I’ll confess I never heard of the site before I stumbled upon it the other day, but it looks like the NPR version of DriveThruComics: It offers downloads of indy and small-press comics and literary magazines, and the design is done in tasteful grays. I hopped over there to download the first issue of So… Buttons, but I’ll have to look elsewhere, because the site’s SSL certificate has expired, so they aren’t selling any more comics. They continue to make free issues available for download, however, and if odd little zones, self-published comics, and tiny indy anthologies are your bag, head over there right now and check out the selection, because it won’t be there forever.