Today is Free Comic Book Day, and here’s a rundown of some of the comics that caught my interest. If you want to check ‘em out before you go, CBR has previews of many of the FCBD titles. (My FCBD comics came from my favorite Boston comics shop, Comicopia.)
Hands down, the one comic everybody wants is Archaia’s hardback anthology, which includes brand-new stories from six of their titles: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Return of the Dapper Men, Rust, Cursed Pirate Girl, and Cow Boy. The stories stand on their own but also tie in to the books in clever ways; the Mouse Guard story is a puppet show, and the Rust story features a boy writing a letter to his father (as his older brother does in the book). This book is a keeper; it even has a nameplate inside the front cover. Here’s a list of where Archaia creators will be doing book signings this FCBD.
BOOM! Studios has a nice flipbook with several Adventure Time comics on one side and Peanuts on the other. The Peanuts comics are mildly funny, but the Adventure Time side is edgier and features extra stories by Lucy Knisley and Michael DeForge. The stories are colorful and lively, and DeForge’s contribution, about a bacon ecosystem that supports tiny breakfast organisms, is downright surreal.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Joey Weiser, creator of Cavemen in Space, The Ride Home and Tales of Unusual Circumstance, and a contributor to SpongeBob Comics.
To see what Joey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
You’ve heard it said that children are the future, and if that’s true—and it must be, since they’ll be around for more of the future than we adults will be—it’s as true for comics as it is for whatever else people mean when they say children are the future.
So what sorts of comic books are we providing for our children, our future these days? As it turns out, some pretty good ones—hell, some pretty great ones.
This week saw the release of three particular comic books–not graphic novels or tankobon, but good-old-fashioned 20-some pages and some staples comic books—that featured superior writing and art, some of that art coming from world-class cartoonists.
And all three of those comics, oddly enough, are based on cartoon series.
When I was a child, there were comic books based on cartoons (cartoons that were often based on toy lines), and while they were readily available in drug and grocery stores, and you could buy one with a dollar bill and get change back, they weren’t exactly the highest quality product.
But some of today’s based-on-cartoons comics can put to shame much of what the “Big Six” direct market publishers release for their grown-up audiences.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
It’s a slow week, this week; if I had $15, I’d use it to catch up on some recent enjoyments like Action Comics #3 (DC, $3.99) and OMAC #3 (DC, $2.99), two of my favorite titles from the New 52 relaunch–OMAC in particular has been a really weird and wonderful joy–as well as the final issue of Marvel’s great and sadly underrated Mystic revival (#4, $2.99). I’d also see if the parody-tastic Shame Itself #1 (Marvel, $3.99) lives up to its potential, because “Wyatt Cenac + Colleen Coover” sounds pretty promising to these ears.
The fourth issue of the humor anthology The Devastator arrives Nov. 9, and the theme for this issue is video games, It includes contributions from James Kochalka, Danny Hellman, Corey Lewis and many more. Above is a brief taste of Kochalka’s contribution; if you’d like to see the whole thing, you can find a preview of a few pages from the book on their site. And hey, if you pre-order it before Nov. 9, you’ll get a mystery prize!
A trailer for the book is available after the jump.
While the rest of the world is going digital, Box Brown is heading in the other direction: Last month he launched Retrofit Comics with plans to publish 17 print comics by new and independent creators in the next 17 months. He got the seed money for Retrofit with a Kickstarter drive, and the launch comic was James Kochalka’s Fungus. All the books are by different artists, and most are one-shots, although Brown said he is open to creators incorporating their Retrofit comics into their ongoing series. This month’s release is Drag Bandits, by Colleen Frakes and Betsy Swardlick, which Brown describes as “kind of like The Scarlet Pimpernel, a woman dressed as a man and a man dressed as a woman, and it’s really exciting.” Comics by Pat Aulisio and Josh Bayer round out this year’s offerings, and plans for the future include an anthology in the spirit of the Japanese underground-manga magazine Garo, a project that Brown says was the brainchild of Ian Harker, editor of the free alt-comic newspaper Secret Prison. The comics are sold both in selected retail stores and by subscription, and Brown estimates he has 150 subscribers to the four-month package and a handful with six-month or twelve-month subscriptions.
While he is handling all this, Brown, who recently won two Ignatz Awards, continues to self-publish his own work, and Blank Slate will publish his graphic novel The Survivalist in December. We talked to him this past weekend about the genesis of Retrofit Comics and what it’s like to run a really, really small press.
Legal | Prosecutors in Macomb County, Michigan, rested their case Friday in the second trial of Michael George, a former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in the back room of their Clinton Township comic store. The judge this morning will hear a defense motion for a directed verdict, seeking dismissal due to lack of evidence, before testimony resumes.
George, now 51, was arrested in August 2007, after a detective reopened the cold case, and convicted seven months later of first-degree murder and insurance fraud, among other counts, and sentenced to life in prison. However, the judge later set aside the verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct — George’s mug shot was shown to the jury — and the release of new evidence that could lead the jury to believe another person was responsible for the murder. His retrial began Sept. 14, and should conclude this week. Prosecutors contend that George staged the killing to look like a robbery so he could collect money from an insurance policy and a shared estate, and start over with another woman. George insists he was asleep at the time of the shooting, and that his wife was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. [Daily Tribune]
Publishing | Chip Mosher, marketing and sales director for BOOM! Studios, left the publisher on Friday after four years. Marketing coordinator Emily McGuiness will take over his duties. [BOOM! Studios]
Box Brown started Retrofit Comics as a Kickstarter project, with the intention of publishing 16 alternative comics. And by “alternative comics,” we mean 32-page floppies, not webcomics or graphic novels but old-school ink-on-paper pamphlets.
The enterprise bore its first fruit last week with the publication of James Kochalka’s Fungus, which features two mushrooms that are also characters in the video game he is developing; Kochalka described both in a recent interview with the A.V. Club. The next comic is Drag Bandits, by Colleen Frakes and Betsy Swardlick, and it’s due out in October. The current plan is to publish one comic a month for 17 months, at a cover price of $5 each. Four- and six-month subscriptions are available; each gets you a free comic.
In the original Kickstarter solicitation, Brown opined that floppy comics are important for creators because they allow them to connect with their audience while the work is still evolving:
Without the floppy comic (or mini-comic) the artist is forced to work on a largescale graphic novel mostly in private and THEN sell it. What if it doesn’t sell? What if the audience isn’t there? What if there are kinks that could have been worked out somehow? The artist basically has to go back to the drawing board. If there is an avenue and audience to work with, the artist can produce better and more refined work.
But he hasn’t neglected the retail side: He has already arranged for a number of retailers to carry the comics, which should bring them more (and more regular) traffic from indy-comics fans. Check the Retrofit website for updates as well as sample pages from upcoming comics; looks like there’s some good stuff in the pipeline.
Retailing | Sacramento, Calif.-area retailers are relatively unconcerned about DC Comics’ newly launched digital initiative or an immediate threat to their bottom lines from digital comics. “I just see it as another way of kind of expanding the whole readership,” says Dave Downey, who runs World’s Best Comics. “If you missed an issue of Spider-Man, and you can’t find it anywhere, you can always go online and read it that way.” However, Kenny Russell of Big Brother Comics sees a time, “years off,” when that will all change: “It’s inevitable, and this is kind of the first step. In no time, iPads are going to be good enough, and it’s going to be easy enough, and it’s going to come out the same day where people are going to just read their comics on their iPads.” [Sacramento News & Review]
Comics | Gene Luen Yang explores the tangled history of comics and Christianity, both of which, he points out, were started by a bunch of Jewish guys who loved a good story. (Good-sized excerpt at the link; full article requires free registration.) [Sojourners]
Top Shelf will debut three new books at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, including the new Nate Powell book, new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Infinite Kung Fu. In addition, James Kochalka will at their booth with his entire family signing a special family portrait print, and Craig Thompson will sign the new hardcover and softcover editions of Blankets.
Check out the debuts below.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969
by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is back! Our merry metafictional marauders continue their bestselling adventures through the 20th century! In this volume, the League must battle dark cultists amid the sit-ins, sitars, and psychedelics of 1960s swinging London.
Eightball. Love and Rockets. Hate. Yummy Fur. Grit Bath. Meatcake. Palookaville. Dirty Plotte. In a distant time, serialized staple-bound solo anthology series dominated the alternative comics scene, and these (more or less) regularly published floppy-formatted comics roamed the earth in huge hordes. They also gave people interested in genres other than superheroes a reason to come back to comic shops week after week. Today they’re on the verge of extinction, supplanted by graphic novels and webcomics as the venues of choice for alternative work, with only a quixotic few — Alvin Buenaventura’s Pigeon Press, Igort and Fantagraphics’ Ignatz Line, Anders Nilsen’s recently completed Big Questions, the occasional issue of Uptight or Optic Nerve — keeping the torch lit.
But cartoonist Box Brown is looking to pull this fabled format back from the brink in a big way with Retrofit Comics, a new Kickstarter-funded publishing imprint seeking to publish fully 16 32-page pamphlet-format alternative comic books in a single year. Brown’s assembled an impressive line-up of creators for Retrofit Year One, including James Kochalka, Liz Bailie, Noah Van Sciver, L. Nichols, and Chuck Forsman — as well as a murderer’s row of retailers committed to carrying the comics, including The Beguiling, Jim Hanley’s Universe, Quimby’s, Desert Island, Floating World, Bergen Street, Chicago Comics, and Forbidden Planet UK. I think this last part is key. Brown explains that he’s doing this in part to provide alternative comics creators with the regular feedback of an audience as opposed to having them disappear from view for years at a time to draw a graphic novel, but that’s the sort of thing publishing to the web can take care of. What it can’t do is create an incentive for altcomix fans to visit their local comic shop, which would presumably drive more demand for similar books down the line. That’s worth pushing for.
Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall when James Kochalka was discussing this assignment with the editor? Kochalka illustrated the cover of the latest issue of Trends in Cell Biology, which provides this helpful caption for his drawing:
The actin cytoskeleton assembles into a variety of structures in order to fulfill its unique role in diverse cellular processes, including polarized transport, cytokinesis, patch formation during endocytosis, and mating in fission yeast.
Kochalka’s fertile imagination has made this both interesting and adorable. But will there be a T-shirt?
(Via the Top Shelf blog.)
Comics | A copy of Archie Comics #1, published in winter 1942, sold at auction last week for $167,300, setting a world record for an Archie title and a non-superhero comic. “Archie may have a ways to go to catch the likes of Superman and Batman, his Golden Age counterparts,” said Lon Allen, managing director of comics for Heritage Auctions, “but you can bet that collectors sat up and took notice when this comic brought that price. This amount exceeds the priciest of Spidey and Hulk comic books we’ve sold, which brought in excess of $125,000 each.” [Luxist]
Retailing | REDgroup Retail, which owns the Australian booksellers Borders and Angus & Robertson, has laid off 321 employees at the two chains following the closing of 38 stores. The company entered into administration last month. [ABC News]
Retailing | Borders Group has asked a bankruptcy judge for more time to decide whether to assume or reject its 681 leases, including those for 674 stores. If granted, the extension would give the company until Jan. 12, 2012, to deal with its leases. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | More details have begun to emerge about the abrupt closings of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, and the announcement of a new public company headed by Gareb Shamus. ICv2.com reports that Wizard World Inc. was taken public through a reverse merger with a shell company, a failed oil and gas venture known as GoEnergy Inc., which acquired the assets of Kick the Can, a corporate repository for the assets of Shamus’ Wizard World Comic Con Tour. Following the acquisition, GoEnergy’s chairman and chief financial officer resigned and was replaced by Shamus. In the process, the new company raised capital through the issuance of $1.5 million in preferred stock. Meanwhile, an anonymous Wizard staff member reveals to iFanboy he was informed that the magazine had folded during a phone call Sunday evening, and was not permitted to collect personal belongings. A freelance contributors writes at Bleeding Cool that he learned about the closing through a Facebook message on Monday morning.
The comics Internet is swarming with reaction pieces: Andy Khouri points out the huge number of comics editors, bloggers and journalists who got their starts at Wizard; Heidi MacDonald does the same, noting that it was “a total boys club”; Albert Ching surveys numerous creators and editors; and Robot 6 contributor, and former Wizard staffer, Sean T. Collins comments on the magazine’s demise and rounds up links.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for Food or Comics?, where every week some of the Robot 6 crew talk about what comics we’d buy if we were subject to certain spending limits — $15 and $30, as well as if we had extra money to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list to see what arrives in comic shops this week,then play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
I’d get Batman & Robin #15 ($2.99), the final chapter in the “Batman Must Die” arc, which, I think we can all agree, as been one of the best runs in the series so far, thanks largely to the stellar work of artist Frazer Irving. I’d also get Highland Laddie #3 ($3.99), the latest issue in the Boys spin-off mini-series. I haven’t been as impressed with this one as I was with the current storyline in Boys, but I remain ever hopeful that it will come together in some fashion by the end.
If I had $30:
I’d chuck those comics aside like so many election mail flyers and nab Picture This ($29.95), the latest book by Lynda Barry and a sequel to her stellar What It Is. As with that book, this uses collage, comics, autobiography and more to provide an inspirational, thoughtful examination of drawing and the artistic process. I can’t wait to sit down with a copy. If it’s half as good as its predecessor, it will be fantastic.