Finn Wields a Lightsaber in New "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Footage
Publishing | Papercutz, which has had an extremely successful program of LEGO graphic novels based on the Bionicle, Ninjago and Legends of Chima properties, is losing that license to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which will have its own graphic novels in bookstores by the end of this year. Papercutz reveals it will continue to publish Bionicle and Ninjago through the end of this year, and Legends of Chima through mid-2016. [Publishers Weekly, ICv2]
Passings | Fred Fredericks, who drew the Mandrake the Magician comic strip from 1965 to 2013, has died. In addition to his daily newspaper work, Fredericks drew comics for Western Publishing and Marvel. [ComicMix]
Awards | Mimi Pond’s Over Easy has been recognized with a PEN Center USA Literary Award for Graphic Novel Outstanding Body of Work. Previous category winners are Gilbert Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco and Matt Fraction. [PEN Center USA]
Publishing | Dark Horse is planning to beef up its lineup of children’s graphic novels, which already includes such successful titles as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Plants vs. Zombies and Itty Bitty Hellboy. Four new titles are slated for 2015: Rexodus, a story about dinosaurs from outer space, and three older properties, Rod Espinosa’s Courageous Princess, Samuel Teer and Hyeondo Park’s Veda: Assembly Required, and an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Return of the Gremlins. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Liam Burke, editor of the essay collection Fan Phenomena: Batman, discusses the enduring appeal of the Dark Knight, who of course turns 75 this year: “This isn’t a guy who’s from an alien planet, this isn’t someone who was bitten by a radioactive spider. This is an average guy, albeit incredibly wealthy and incredibly intelligent, at the peak of human fitness, but an average guy nonetheless. That sort of aspirational quality has been identified as the reason Batman sort of stands above Spider-Man, Superman or any number of heroes.” [RN Drive]
Publishing | David Harper looks at the economics of monthly creator-owned comics, as well as how trades fit into the picture; for creators, the monthlies provide a regular stream of income so they can always be working on the next issue. Brandon Montclare, Jim Zubkavich and others provide some first-hand commentary on how things work in the real world. [Multiversity Comics]
All Star (NBM): The latest graphic novel from Joe and Azat‘s Jesse Lonergan, All Star gets a lot of mileage out of its setting in both space and time. The space is an extremely small small town of Elizabeth, Vermont, a place with little to do and little chance of escape for the young, caged tiger types who are coming of age there. The time is 1998, and Lonergan returns again and again to the sports, politics and pop culture of the time for knowing gags, commentary on the events of the story or even just color.
Our protagonist is Carl Carter, the cocky, hot-shot all-star of the title, a fantastic baseball player whose skill could take him far from town once he graduates, and has made him one of his school and town’s most popular residents, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering brother (who is also his teammate).
One night, after drinking way too much at a party, he and his best friend make a stupid decision, one that gets his friend expelled from school and sent on a completely different path than Carl, who suspects his baseball skills and the importance of the sport to his school got him off light.
He begins soul-searching from there, and realizes too late how screwed-up his world is, and actually has been for a while, but it’s too late to do anything about. A tragedy — in the sense that it ends sadly rather than happily — All Star captures small-town adolescence perfectly (perhaps all too perfectly, depending on a reader’s mood and propensity for elegiac nostalgia), and is actually a great deal of fun, despite the down ending and the heavy melodrama.
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kadokawa plans on March 22 to launch ComicWalker, a digital comics service that will carry manga in three languages: Japanese, English and Chinese. The stories will include some well-known classics (Sgt. Frog, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam: The Origin) as well as new manga, and apparently they will be free. The launch will include 150 titles, 40 of which will be translated, so it sounds like not everything will be available in English right away. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Lewis Trondheim, a former winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême and therefore a member of the academy that chooses each year’s winners, provides an insider’s view of the voting and the causes and effects of the changes that have been made over the past two years: “In its forty-three years, the festival has had, I believe, three Americans, one Argentine, one Swiss, three Belgians, and over thirty Frenchmen. This doesn’t seem to correspond with the reality of the comics world to me.” [The Comics Journal]
Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it’s time to look forward. Here are six comics I’m really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I’ve been such a clod as to overlook.
A few years ago, Viz Media published Inio Asano’s manga Solanin and What a Wonderful World to great critical acclaim. Set in present-day Tokyo, they show the lives of twentysomethings trying to navigate their place in the world.
Now Fantagraphics Books has announced it will publish another Asano manga, Nijigahara Holograph, but it’s not a slice-of-life manga; it’s a horror story. Matt Thorn, who has translated the other Fantagraphics manga titles, including Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories and Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son, will translate this one as well. The story is complete in a single, 200-page hardcover volume, which will retail for $26.99. Here’s what Fantagraphics President and Co-Publisher Gary Groth has to say about the book:
Inio Asano’s Nijigahara Holograph is both a departure from and entirely consistent with our growing line of manga graphic novels. It is considerably and consistently darker than either Moto Hagio’s or Shimura Takako’s work, using a much more deliberately involuted literary structure, but it’s also in keeping with our editorial imperative to publish unique artistic voices. We’re proud to make this landmark work available to an American readership.
As it happens, Shaenon Garrity just wrote a column about Asano’s manga; here’s her take on Nijigahara Holograph:
Asano blends character studies of directionless young adults with shocking violence, supernatural horror, time travel, and the end of the world, creating a work that’s sort of half Magnolia, half Donnie Darko, with a splash of Stephen King.
Solicitation text and sample artwork can be found below: