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Digital comics: What’s hot on the small screen

The digital comics scene continues to be a bit of a mishmash.

Every week, I get an e-mail from comiXology listing all of its new issues for the week, but the order seems to be somewhere between alphabetical and random. Viz Media also does a nice job of letting me know what’s new on its app. Graphicly sends a chatty e-mail featuring a couple of titles, but the company doesn’t put them front and center in its app, so I have to go looking for them (and it’s not the most intuitive interface). And while I know the iVerse folks have been busy, they don’t update their blog or (as far as I can tell) send out e-mails. This is all my way of saying that while the following may seem heavy on comiXology content, that’s not because I’m biased — it’s because comiXology has more titles and is doing a better job of promoting them.

That said, I thought it would be helpful to sift through this week’s offerings and pull out some good weekend reading.

A couple of classic series are debuting on comiXology this week. Having attended both the Vertigo panel and the Bill Willingham spotlight panel at C2E2, I was interested in seeing more of Fables, so it’s a happy coincidence that Jack of Fables #1 is up there for free. It’s just as clever as the main series, and Tony Akins’ supple penciling is a treat for the eyes. (One of the things I enjoy about Fables is that there is plenty of eye candy for the ladies as well as the guys.) Sometimes the free samples are kind of mingy, but not here: This is the whole first issue of Jack of Fables, and if that whets your appetite, Issue 2 is up there for $1.99.

Also new this week, although, sadly, not free, is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin. The first six issues, comprising two complete story arcs, are up this week.

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Check out the latest round of Xeric winners

We all seem to have missed this, but The Comics Reporter caught it: This year’s Xeric Grant winners were announced a little while ago. And they are…

Established by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, the Xeric Foundation gives grants to comics creators to finance self-publishing their work. Previous winners include Adrian Tomine, Megan Kelso, Jessica Abel, Linda Medley, James Sturm, Jim Ottaviani, Nick Bertozzi, Jeff Lemire, and Gene Yang, which suggests that the judges do a pretty good job of picking grant recipients.

Global manga: Time to stop the hatin’ (and start creatin’)

Tokyopop alumna Svetlana Chmakova

Former Tokyopop editor Tim Beedle has a thought-provoking piece on his blog about the antipathy most publishers still harbor toward manga-influenced art. Back when Tokyopop was publishing global manga, it was fashionable in manga circles to pooh-pooh it on the grounds that it wasn’t Japanese, and some of the books were weak. However, many of the creators have gone on to do very strong work. Unfortunately, they have had to switch styles to do so.

Tim thinks that’s a shame (as do I), and here’s why:

At New York Comic-Con last month, I was introduced to a ridiculously talented manga-influenced artist. She showed me her latest comic (which she had self-published), and after seeing how skilled she is, I thought about a few of the projects I’m working on that are in need of artists. I asked her if she only drew in a manga style, and she said yes. It was the only way of drawing that she really felt passionate about. I remember looking down at some of the comics in front of me, shaking my head, and telling her that unfortunately, I didn’t have any opportunities for her right now. None of the publishers I’m working with are interested in publishing comics drawn in a manga-influenced style. She smiled and said she understood, and that it’s something she’s heard before.

Tokyopop’s original global manga didn’t sell well, probably because the publisher’s audience was only interested in Japanese works, and these books didn’t pretend to be Japanese. Unlike some other global manga, they were mostly set in the U.S. and didn’t pick up on cultural tropes like schoolgirls and ninjas. On the other hand, potential readers (indie and western comics fans) were put off by the manga label. These books probably would have done better if they were published by a Top Shelf or an Oni Press. Here’s hoping the creators get more opportunities in the future.

(Via The Manga Critic)

Make your plans: Intervention vs. SPX this weekend

If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, you will have an embarrassment of riches to choose from: Small Press Expo, which is just what it sounds like, and Intervention, a brand-new webcomics convention, both will be going on. And you don’t even have to decide between them; as Intervention organizer Onezumi Hartsein points out, you can do both:

A lot of people are doing both since we are in walking distance from each other. SPX seems to focus more on print and close around 5 or 6pm. We are all Internet and have huge events running until at least 3 AM. It’s almost like the yin and yang of comics. Some fans have nicknamed this weekend, “Comicspalooza”

Guests at Intervention include Fred Gallagher, Molly Crabapple and Ben Bova (who was recently rather critical of comics … hmmm), and activities will include not only webcomics panels but a class on WordPress and ComicPress taught by the developer of ComicPress. SPX will feature Richard Thompson, Nate Powell and R. Sikoryak.

Still can’t choose? Intervention press agent Brian Lynch lays out the options this way for Wired’s Geek Dad blog:

“we’re the only con to ever host a two-night, Cthulhu-themed goth/industrial dance party, replete with cosplaying go-go dancers. Alternately, I hear that SPX has a very nice chocolate fountain …”

Ignatz nominations are out

Julia Gfrörer's Flesh and Bone

Nominations for the Ignatz Awards, which go to outstanding independent comics, were released today at the Small Press Expo site; the awards will be presented at SPX on Sept. 11. Here’s the list:

Outstanding Artist
Eddie Campbell, Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Sized Omnibus) (Top Shelf Productions)
Al Columbia, Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days (Fantagraphics Books)
Mike Dawson, Troop 142 (self-published)
John Pham, Sublife #2 (Fantagraphics Books)
Sully, The Hipless Boy (Conundrum Press)

Outstanding Anthology or Collection
The Hipless Boy, Sully (Conundrum Press)
Lemon Styles, David King (Sparkplug Comic Books)
Masterpiece Comics, R. Sikoryak (Drawn & Quarterly)
Red Snow, Susumu Katsumata (Drawn & Quarterly)
Ten Thousand Things to Do, Jesse Reklaw (self-published)

Outstanding Graphic Novel
The Complete Jack Survives, Jerry Moriarty (Buentaventura Press)
Market Day, James Sturm (Drawn & Quarterly)
Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days, Al Columbia (Fantagraphics Books)
Summit of the Gods Vol. 1, Yumemakura Baku and Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
Years of the Elephant, Willy Linthout (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

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Start reading now: New, improved Wizzywig

A panel from the first page of Wizzywig

A panel from the first page of Wizzywig

Drawn in an underground-comix style reminiscent of the old Zap Comix, Wizzywig tells the story of Kevin Phenicle, who begins as a phone phreak and is pulled deeper and deeper into the world of hacking. Piskor, who collaborated with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor: Our Movie Year and The Beats: A Graphic History, has already published the first two volumes of Wizzywig, and they are both available for free download from his website as well as for sale in better comics stores everywhere. What he’s putting up as a webcomic is a new and improved version. One page is up so far, and he plans to update on Wednesdays and Sundays; for more background, take a look at Shaun Manning’s CBR interviews with Piskor about volumes 2 and 3. (Via Comics Worth Reading.)

Everyone’s a Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

A panel from Simone Lia's Fluffy

A panel from Simone Lia's Fluffy

Profile: Paul Gravett looks at the work of British cartoonist Simone Lia, whose comic Fluffy chronicles the relationship that grows between a man and a rabbit on a tour through Sicily. Gravett writes:

Lia spins together realistic emotional situations with fanciful, cartoonish playfulness, using diagrams of the thoughts cramming a character’s head, guest narrators like a cheery dust particle and a grouchy piece of dandruff, or “footage” of a little brain cell.

Theory: Shaun Huston discusses comics based on movie and television properties, and how they fit—or don’t fit—with the franchises they are based on:

For both writers and artists working on adaptations of movies and TV shows the challenge is to find a working space wherein one’s own sensibilities can be effectively meshed with the look and feel of the original text and into a book that works for readers. As [Douglas] Wolk implies, this may not be the highest or best expression of art and craft in comics, but doing it well is, in its own way, still an achievement, perhaps even more so because of the mixed reputation of such books.

Review: Kate Dacey writes a mixed review of the first volume of Library Wars: Love and War, a manga about “hot guys who hate censorship but like books, libraries, and butt-kicking women.”

Review: David Brothers has four reasons why he likes Heralds #1—and you should, too!

Advocacy: Ben Morse feels that Young Justice: Sins of Youth has been sadly underrated and unjustly overlooked, so he takes the opportunity to discuss just why it’s so great.

Review: Oliver Ho reads Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster, a coming-of-age story that takes a walk on the weird side.

Review: I know that reviews of Daniel Clowes’s Wilson are a dime a dozen, but Michael Buntag’s review sums it all up nicely, so if you don’t have time to read them all, read his.

Everyone’s a Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

The consequences of wearing a metal suit (from Windell's Superhero Showcase)

The consequences of wearing a metal suit (from Windell's Superhero Showcase)

Review: Richard Bruton on Windell’s Superhero Showcase, which “mercilessly takes the superhero ideal out the back and kicks it in the face a few times.”

Advice: Erica Friedman discusses condescending comics, using Tantric Stripfighter Trina and Executive Assistant Iris as exhibits A and B:

It can be argued that publishers only publish what sells, which is exactly why I chose these two specific series. I can pretty much *guarantee* than neither of them sold all that well, if at all. And, instead of investing in something groundbreaking, or heck, something marginally less sad, the publisher said that they approved of this utter crap. I’m all for having comic company execs walk around with signs that say, “Why yes, we ARE condescending assholes.”

She has plenty to say about fans and creators as well. When Erica gets on a roll, she takes no prisoners.

Art critique: Frank Santoro shows some panels from Jonah Hex to demonstrate how photo-referencing is killing comics art.

Review: How do I love thee, Wally Gropius? Ken Parille counts the ways.

Contrast: Sean Kleefeld reviews Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground, and he notes that this very (visually) dark book is drawn with a wide-open format, where Lieber’s earlier Whiteout, which is set in Antarctica, has much smaller panels (the opposite of what one might expect). Bonus reading: Kleefeld is temporarily thrown by some curvy women in Dynagirl.

Review: Matthew J. Brady finds Curio Cabinet utterly incomprehensible, and he’s not afraid to say so.

Reality check: Bob Temuka points out that punching people in the head and knocking them out is really quite dangerous. Why haven’t they done a Law & Order about this?

Review: Kristy Valenti takes a dim view of the graphic-novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Everyone’s a Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

To Terra

To Terra

Philosophy: Ed Sizemore writes about the deeper meaning of Keiko Takemiya’s classic sci-fi manga To Terra:

Takemiya’s real concern is the same as the ancient Greek playwrights. She is writing to combat hubris, or extreme arrogance. It’s a belief there are no limits to one’s actions and a failure to recognize there are boundaries to life, which if violated will result in one’s destruction. In the old Greek tragedies, hubris was the downfall of the protagonist. The gods swiftly punished those that dared violated divine law or dared to imagine themselves as equal to the gods. Takemiya isn’t worried about divine law, but natural law. She is writing to warn us against the belief that we can become masters of nature and ourselves.

Review: Christopher Allen reviews Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius, which mimics the style of Harvey comics and relies on a lot of sight gags: “I think the way to approach the book is as a lavish, frequently funny, if superficial, joke.”

Review: Tucker Stone, on the other hand, immerses himself in Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft, which he finds anything but superficial.

Review: It’s good news for readers when Chris Sims hates a book, because it gives him an excuse to perform one of his trademark vivisections, as with this takedown of Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3.

Auteurs: You know, there’s something awesome about reading a critique of The Wizard of Id in French. Loleck analyzes the humor of the long-running strip at du9.

Everyone’s a Critic | A roundup of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

M.K. Reed's Cross Country

M.K. Reed's Cross Country

Indy comics: Johanna Draper Carlson reviews a handful of self-published comics at Comics Worth Reading.

History: Jason Thompson takes a look at the early days of manga publishing and the creator Ippongi Bang, who drew rebel manga and liked a good party, too.

Quickies: Top Shelf recently brought over not one but four Swedish graphic novels. Not sure where to start? Rick Marshall has quick looks at all four, ranked in his order of preference.

Art comix: Charles Hatfield is pleasantly mystified by Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions, a wispily drawn story about conceptual artists.

Previews: The reader is the winner every time when Paul Gravett plays the Previews game.

Review: Greg McElhatton reads the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and concludes that you can stretch a joke too thin.

Politics: I don’t follow DC’s non-manga lines closely enough to be able to intelligently evaluate Rob McMonigal’s claim that the company is regressing into a white-male bastion, and I won’t go there with the Tea Party logic, but I’m including this link for discussion purposes. One could argue the opposite, that they kept CMX going long after they probably should have killed it, but I think that CMX, like Minx, could have been a success if anyone outside the immediate circle of editors had acted like they cared.

Criticism: Domingos Isabelinho launches his new column at The Hooded Utilitarian with some musings on criticsm, wondering, “What twisted mind picks up the scalpel after love?” and then puts Pierre Duba’s Racines under the microscope. Also at HU: Noah Berlatsky, ever the contrarian, turns in a rare negative review of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.

Panter Pix from PCC

Poster for Panter's lecture

Poster for Panter's lecture

At Thought Balloonists, Charles Hatfield reports in on Gary Panter’s talk at Pasadena Community College last March, as part of their Artist in Residence series, and the exhibit of Panter’s paintings and prints that accompanied it. This is an image-heavy post with lots of photos of Panter and others (Mike Dooley, Matt Groening, Jaime Hernandez, Brian Tucker). Good times!

Doug Wright Awards announced

The cover of Lose #2, by Michael Deforge

The cover of Lose #2, by Michael Deforge

The winners of this year’s Doug Wright Awards for best Canadian comics and creators working in English were announced at the Toronto Comics Art Festival last weekend. The Best Book award went to George Sprott, by Seth; the Best Emerging Talent award to Michael Deforge; and the Pigskin Peters award to Hot Potatoe, by Marc Bell. (That last is for “experimental and non-narrative efforts of Canadian cartoonists,” in case you were wondering. Pigskin Peters was a character created by cartoonist Jimmy Frise.)

The National Post provides a bit of context and notes that Martin Vaughn-James was also honored at the award ceremonies.

Make Mine MoCCA: Big pictures edition

James Sturm's Market Day

James Sturm's Market Day

Indy comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly is bringing Adrian Tomine, Gabrielle Bell, R. Sikoryak and James Sturm to MoCCA, and all four will be doing panels and signings at the D&Q booth; check the publisher’s blog for the schedule.

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Unbound: Checking out the Ignatz nominees

BrickThe major gag in George Herrimann’s Krazy Kat comic strip, which ran from 1913 to 1944, was Ignatz Mouse’s repeated attempts to clobber the title character with a brick.

I’m not sure why the Small Press Expo folks thought this Ignatz would be the best character to represent their indy-comics awards. Perhaps the organizers think of independent creators as lurking in the shadows, waiting to pelt the behemoths of the industry with bricks, or perhaps it was just getting late and everyone wanted to go home.

Anyway, the nominations for this year’s awards are out, and voting will be taking place at SPX, which is actually rather soon, so I figured this would be a good time to take a look at the nominees for Best Online Comic.

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