It’s summer, and the news has slowed down considerably — I can see it, both when I put together Comics A.M. every morning and at work, where the steady stream of press releases we usually pump out has slowed to a trickle. I also know, from being a news reporter myself, how much editors love lists; my editor was always after me to break things down into a finite set of bullet points.
So it is that the news feeds are blossoming with lists of five comics that you should read. And so naturally, I have made a handy list of four articles about five comics that someone, somewhere, thinks you should read.
The Funny (Touching, Fascinating) Pages: 5 Comics for Summer, by Myla Goldberg | Let’s kick this off with a highbrow piece from NPR — but I’m immediately deducting a point for this sentence: “Oh, right, the term now is ‘graphic novel’ — as if calling them “comics” was somehow undignified or not sufficiently intellectual.” No, no, no! Could someone please send a memo to all editors everywhere explaining that the term “graphic novel” denotes a format, nothing more? So tiresome! Anyway, with that out of the way, Goldberg comes up with a solid list of indy comics—Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Ben Kachor’s Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories, Lisa Hanawalt’s My Dirty Dumb Eyes, Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, and the complete Moomin collection. Aside from Building Stories, I don’t think these books get a lot of play in non-comics circles, so props to Goldberg for doing her homework. [NPR]
Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | More than 4,000 new comic titles were released in the European Francophone market in 2012, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth. According to the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée, the French association of comic strip critics and journalists, more comics were produced in the Francophone market than in the United States. [RFI]
Comics | The death of Spider-Man hits the mainstream media, with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso asserting, “We didn’t make this move lightly.” Stan Lee called it “a helluva birthday present” but added “But then, a little voice in my head whispered, ‘never say never. Just go with it while you can because Marvel, the House of Ideas, will always have a surprise up its creative sleeve for you and the rest of Marveldom Assembled!’” Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher said the ongoing deaths of superheroes are starting to feel “a little gimmicky” but he also nailed why the publishers do it: “if you look at who’s buying Marvel and DC, it’s long term fans and those readers are going to complain about this and debate about it — but are going to buy two copies.” [New York Daily News]
The news broke Sunday on the Two-Headed Nerd podcast that Ape Entertainment is relaunching Poison Elves, the fantasy series by the late Drew Hayes that ran from 1991 to 2004. Now in an interview with Robot 6, Ape CEO David Hedgecock discusses his plans for both new comics and new editions of the older material, and provides an exclusive look at some of the art for the new series.
Robot 6: As Poison Elves has been out of print for a while, can you give us a quick idea of what it is about and why it is important?
David Hedgecock: Poison Elves is Bauhaus Tolkien filtered through a rockabilly sense of style. Poison Elves is rock ‘n’ roll comics at its finest — dirty, messy, flying in your face, all energy and heart with an innate sense of craft applied that makes you believe in magic.
Poison Elves is the story of Lusiphur, an elf with an attitude. Lusiphur is a thief, an assassin, a force of nature that will wipe you clean from the map if you dare to call him foe. He has a disdain for authority and lives by a moral code that others might question (and often do). He is also the reluctant key player in a grand tapestry of events that may very well decide the fate of his world and all those who live upon it.
Poison Elves was one of the most successful black-and-white “indy” comics ever produced. In his time the creator, Drew Hayes, produced over 100 issues worth of material. The book spawned trading cards, statuettes, spin-off titles and more. It was a seminal work of the ’90s, a modern-day Cerebus if you will.
Legal | Marvel has sued a Jerusalem retailer for $25,000, claiming the well-known Kippa Man store is infringing on its trademarks by selling unlicensed yarmulkes bearing Spider-Man’s likeness. “A reasonable consumer could be fooled into thinking that the infringing product is manufactured and/or sold by the plaintiff with the knowledge and/or approval of the defendant,” Marvel said in its complaint. Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin notes the yarmulkes are manufactured in China, and that he only sells them. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” he told The Jerusalem Post, theorizing that he’s being targeted because his store is well known. The Times of Israel characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” [The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel]
Publishing | First Second editorial director Mark Siegel sits down with Milton Greipp to talk about his company’s success, which comes in part by marketing books in a number of different channels — independent bookstores, libraries, even textbook adoptions. He also talks numbers, and it’s interesting to see that Feynman spent 11 weeks at the top of The New York Times graphic books best-seller list with a print run of 10,000; that’s an indication of the order of magnitude of book sales for the titles on that list. Siegel also gives a preview of the fall list. Updated (Aug. 13): Siegel notes to Robot 6 that Feynman has had multiple printings, exceeding 35,000 copies. It will soon be released in paperback. [ICv2]
Legal | The attorney for Tony Moore explains why the artist’s legal dispute with his former Walking Dead collaborator Robert Kirkman has moved into federal court. “Once Moore establishes fraud and rescinds the agreement [as laid out in the first filing], the issue is going to be whether he was a co-author of these works,” Devin McRae tells Newsarama. “And it’s the federal court that has the power to decide that. So we still have to first go in the state court and prove the fraud, which we think we’ll do. This is just something that is part and parcel of the whole thing. Nothing’s really changed.” [Newsarama]
GEN Manga is a digital manga magazine that publishes doujinshi — fan-made manga. Most people associate doujinshi with Naruto slash and porn, but the range is much wider than that; it’s sort of like the American indy-comics scene, with plenty of solid comics made by people who haven’t quit their day jobs yet.
GEN is an anthology, and the model so far has been to collect a chapter each of four or more different works in a downloadable PDF for the modest price of $1.99 a month — for that, you get this month’s issue and access to all the back issues as well. They have been around for almost a year, so they are just starting to publish collected editions. I ran into GEN Editor-in-Chief Robert McGuire at MangaNEXT, and when he told me that their warrior manga Kamen was going to be published as a standalone series, I asked if he would share a preview with Robot 6 readers. So here you go — and remember, it’s manga, so it reads from right to left.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, one of the high points of the indy comics year, has announced the first round of guests for this year. It doesn’t seem to be up on the TCAF site just yet, but Tom Spurgeon has the rundown at The Comics Reporter, and it’s an impressive list: Jeff Smith, Alison Bechdel, Guy Delisle, and Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are the headliners. Smith will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Bone, while Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? and Delisle’s Jerusalem are both due out shortly before the show.
But wait! There’s more! Kate Beaton, German creator Arne Bellstorf, Scottish creator Tom Gauld (whose Goliath is due out soon from Drawn and Quarterly) Gabriella Giandelli, Jennifer and Matt Holm (Babymouse), Jason, Kazu Kibuishi (creator of Amulet and editor of the Flight anthologies), Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Gary Panter, Michel Rabagliati, Andy Runton (Owly), Olivier Schrauwen, and Adam Warren (Empowered) will also be gracing the halls of the Toronto Reference Library this May. That’s an amazingly eclectic and talented group. If you have been thinking “Some day I’ll make it to TCAF,” this should probably be the year.
The business did not fail because our discounts were too low, or because there is no room in the market. DC’s new 52 had no impact on us at all. I just couldn’t reach out to enough retailers when I was the guy placing orders, managing inventory, and packing the damn boxes by myself for most of the company’s lifespan. The vast majority of those customers who did make the leap away from the big D became avidly loyal supporters. It was getting more to break their inertia and start thinking differently that took more time than I had when I was juggling so much by myself. Then at points when we were starting to get ahead, that’s when Mr. Magoo would turn off the tap and I had to return to bootstrap financing. And all sense of progress went up in a puff of smoke.
There’s a lot more at the link, but the bottom line is that Stahlberg sees a lot of potential for a second distributor that focuses on independent comics, but without the resources he needed to run the business, he couldn’t reach that potential. “I simply never had the capital that I needed to expand, or to take advantage of any momentum that I managed to pick up,” he says.
That’s not quite the end of the story, though: Stahlberg says that someone else is planning to enter the indy-comics distribution biz—and hopefully this time they will have the financing they need to run the business properly.
Awards | The Visual Effects Society has named Stan Lee as the recipient of the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose “lifetime body of work has made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and/or groundbreaking work.” Previous recipients include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron. The award will be presented Feb. 7 at the 10th annual VES Awards. [press release]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports it raised $12,500 last weekend at New York Comic Con. [CBLDF]
Awards | Comic-Con International has opened nominations for the The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, which awarded to “an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.” [CCI]
One of the most intriguing comics I picked up at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo a few weeks back was Minimum Paige, an anthology produced by the Harvard Bookstore and printed in-house on their print-on-demand machine, Paige M. Gutenborg. I checked in with editor Ryan Mita to get the story behind the stories.
Brigid Alverson: First of all, tell me about Paige M. Gutenborg—what is it and what can it do?
Ryan Mita: Paige M. Gutenborg is a book machine and fantastic opportunity for artists to custom print their works. Books must be over 40 pages long, there is no minimum print run and artists can design the book anyway they like.
In addition to custom printing, Paige can print nearly five million titles, including Google Books in the public domain, and later this fall, HarperCollins will make 5,000 backlist titles available.
We’re excited about the future of bookselling and Paige keeps Harvard Book Store a step ahead.
Conventions | The New York Post previews this week’s New York Comic Con in a pair of articles, the second of which focuses on announcements from Marvel and DC. Marvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” panel will reveal how Fear Itself, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade and X-Men: Schism tie together, while DC plans to reveal “the surprising origin of a longtime member of the Justice League” and more creators who will work on their New 52 books, in addition to Andy Kubert. Update: Presumably the Justice League member with the surprising origin is Wonder Woman. [New York Post article #1, article #2]
Comics | Not surprisingly, DC saw double-digit increases in September compared to the year before, but the overall market was down a touch as graphic novel sales, lacking this year’s equivalent of Scott Pilgrim, were down. [The Comichron]
Business | Disney CEO Robert Iger, who oversaw the company’s purchase of both Marvel Entertainment and Pixar, will step down as CEO in March 2015. [Bloomberg]
The East Coast has MoCCA and SPX, the West Coast has Stumptown and APE, and now there’s a show for the middle of the country as well: The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, or C.A.K.E.:
Taking place June 16th and 17th at Columbia College’s Ludington Building, CAKE is focused on celebrating independent and alternative comics of all stripes.
The festival plans to feature over 100 exhibitors along with a two-day program of signings, panels, workshops and lectures. With Chicago’s long legacy as a stronghold for underground and alternative comics, the Windy City is an ideal locale to showcase some of the most wild, weird and wonderful contemporary comics talent.
Yes to all this! There’s a lot of comics talent in the Midwest, and while I selfishly want them to keep coming to MoCCA, it’s great that there’s a show that will be closer to home for many creators and will bring in a whole new audience. I was impressed with the number of local creators at C2E2, and this show (which will be curated) will be an opportunity to see even more (not to mention an excuse to visit one of my favorite cities). No guests have been announced yet, but it’s early days, so stay tuned.
There are a lot of digital bargains running around in this post-SDCC week, and some new digital releases that look tasty as well. Let’s start with a good one that won’t last: ComiXology is having a Superman 101 sale, starting at midnight (EST) on Friday, and running through Sunday. You can brief yourself on the Man of Steel with 99-cent issues of Action Comics #1 (Superman’s debut), The Man of Steel #1-6, Superman: Secret Origin #1-6, and more including the first appearances of Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, and Supergirl.
In case you missed it in the rush of SDCC news, Dark Horse is now releasing Star Wars comics on its digital app, and they are posting Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #1 and Star Wars: The Clone Wars #1 for free to celebrate.
New free comics on comiXology include (links are to the comics on their web reader): Batman: Gotham Knights #1, Impulse #1, Robin #1, Titanium Rain #1, and a bunch of previews. And there’s the third chapter of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes prequel from BOOM! Studios—the whole thing is free, so you might as well go back and get the earlier chapters as well.
Of course, the really great thing about this weekend’s MoCCA Festival is the huge flock of individual creators who go there to show off their work. Here’s the full list, and here are a few of the highlights that jumped out at me. Feel free to point out the good stuff I missed in the comments section.
Neil Kleid will happily sign copies of his comics, mini-comics, and graphic novels (The Big Kahn, Brownsville), and anything else he has work in (including the Fraggle Rock anthology), but if you really want to make his day, bring him an obscure soda.
Stephanie Yue, who illustrates the Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye graphic novels (not just adorable, but funny for both adults and kids) will be there, as will her editor Carol Burrell, who draws SPQR Blues under the nickname Klio.
Rica Takashima will have a special doujinshi just for MoCCA. Rica is a yuri (lesbian) manga creator and the author of the much-acclaimed Rica ‘tte Kanji?, which Shaenon Garrity described, approvingly, as “as cute as a blender full of kittens.”
If your tastes tend more toward the retro-bizzare, check out Coin Op Studio, which will be debuting the charmingly titled Coin Op No. 3: Municipal Parking and Waterfall at the show.