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SDCC Wishlist | Top Shelf has new Powell, Gentlemen and kung fu

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. 3 Century #2

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.

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Save the alternative comic book!

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.

Click here (or watch the video above) to learn more about the venture and contribute to its Kickstarter campaign.

James Kochalka draws animated cells

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.M. | Archie #1 sets auction record; more bookstore layoffs

Archie Comics #1

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]

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Comics A.M. | More details on Wizard closing; did Comics Code end in 2009?

Wizard

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.

In related news, GeekChicDaily, the email newsletter and website co-founded by Shamus in 2009, has secured new Hollywood investors. [Wizard World]

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Batman & Robin #15

Batman & Robin #15

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.

Chris Mautner

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.

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Kurt Busiek, artcomix aficionado

from Seth's pencils for the Coober Skeber 2 cover

from Seth's pencils for the Coober Skeber 2 cover

The other day we linked you to the saga of Coober Skeber 2, the Marvel-spoofing, copyright-defying anthology put together by influential alternative comics publisher Tom Devlin and a small galaxy of future alternative-comics stars in the late 1990s. Well, now it’s time for genuine superhero-comics superstar Kurt Busiek to weigh in on the book. On his blog, the Buse shares his memories of getting a copy at Comic-Con International in 1997 and digging it so much he helped get one participant hired by Marvel:

I liked the Hulk story so much that when I got home, I photocopied the story and faxed it to Tom Brevoort at Marvel (this was in those halcyon days before scanners were common), and urged him to get someone to buy it from Kochalka and have it colored and run it as a backup somewhere. It was too cool not to show to Hulk fans everywhere.

Tom wasn’t editing Hulk at the time, but he took over the book a little later, and eventually did try to buy the story. Kochalka wanted to re-do it, so Tom hired him to re-do the story, in color, and it ran in Hulk 2001, that year’s Annual.

Click the link to read the whole story — and to get a look at the full pencils for Seth’s cover, which Busiek bought. This makes me wonder: Does Astro City have a hipster enclave full of superheroes that look like Fort Thunder drawings?

Buy tons of Top Shelf books for $3

You can buy this book for three bucks

You can buy this book for three bucks

Goodness gracious, look at all the terrific titles that are on sale for $3 over at Top Shelf Productions’ website. That’s some 70 in all, including books by Alan Moore, Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Scott Morse, Liz Prince, and Renee French. Another 30-plus comics and graphic novels are also on sale for suitably impressive amounts — the complete Lost Girls from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie and the complete Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell may be purchased for just $25 and $20 respectively, for pete’s sake. Top Shelf’s $3 Sale lasts through Friday, September 24th, so get ‘em while the gettin’s good!

Comics at the ALA

Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly meet the peeps

Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly meet the peeps

The American Library Association’s annual midsummer meeting just wound up in steamy but hospitable Washington, DC, and it was a great weekend for graphic novels.

The vibe at a library meeting is completely different from a comic con. It’s quieter, friendlier, more a meeting among equals than a fan/superstar kind of thing. And it’s strictly about graphic novels, not periodical comics (which most libraries don’t collect), and not movies or video games. Marvel and DC weren’t there, but a lot of the smaller indy publishers were (Top Shelf, BOOM!), and Diamond Book Distributors also hosted a number of publishers at their booth. The big guys (Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster) all have booths filled with every type of book, including graphic novels, although funnybooks often get short shrift from the reps there (a source of continual irritation to my librarian friends).

So, what did I see?

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Talking Comics with Tim | James Kochalka

SuperF*ckers

SuperF*ckers

When you’re somebody as well known as James Kochalka, both in terms of music and comics, do you really need an introduction? Probably not, but just in case, Kochalka and I recently got a chance to discuss his latest release, the collected SuperF*ckers (Top Shelf [due out in March])–as well as his upcoming graphic novel/video game project, Glorkian Warrior. As described at the Top Shelf site: “SuperF*ckers collects all four fan-favorite issues of James Kochalka’s beloved series, plus the all-new Jack Krak one-shot! Foul-mouthed, filthy-minded, and completely oblivious, these young ‘heroes’ do everything BUT fight crime – they’re too busy getting high, hazing the new kids, playing video games, scheming to be team leader, and designing new costumes.” I agree with the first line of Top Shelf’s Kochalka bio which states he “is, without question, one of the most unique and prolific alternative cartoonists working in America today”.

After the interview, be sure to check out Top Shelf’s preview of the book here. My thanks to Kochalka for the interview and Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton for his assistance. One final piece of advice, as great as this interview is (thanks to Kochalka’s answers), it only touches upon one of Kochalka’s projects. I reference two of Tom Spurgeon’s interviews in my questions to Kochalka and I strongly recommend that you read both of them.

Tim O’Shea: Looking back at a 2005 Tom Spurgeon interview with you, I was surprised to see you say of SuperF*ckers: “Once it turned into a superhero book, I thought I could force it into some kind of all-ages type book, but the characters just would not stop swearing.” Even the interior page marketing of the first issue has cussing: “Hey kids, take your dicks out of the Playstation Three for one god damn minute and read some fucking comics.” Why do you think the cussing bolsters the comedy (and I ask this thinking it would not be as funny without the cussing).

James Kochalka: Not every character swears. The ones that should swear, do. It fits their personality, a kind of “I can do whatever I want because I’m awesome”, and that includes insane wanton swearing. The swearing is also pretty creative at times, it’s often not just straight up swearing. And it makes the action more dramatic. For instance, instead of yelling “I’m going to punch you” or even “I’m going to fuckin’ punch you”, at one point Jack Krak yells something like “I’m going to fuck your face with my fist”. That’s just way snappier sounding, isn’t it?

To me it isn’t even really an issue of funnier or not. It’s just an issue of the characters being as awesome and overblown as they can be.

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James Kochalka’s American Elf Bros.

Screenshots from Kochalka's game

Screenshots from Kochalka's game

Apparently being a prolific cartoonist, children’s author, singer/songwriter and father of two leaves James Kochalka with a lot of time on his hands, because he recently created a hack of Super Mario Bros. where you get to play as him (or, rather, his pointy-eared elfin character) instead of Mario. And yes, by you, I mean you, the person reading this, as you can download the patch to the game right here. There’s no other surprises. You don’t get to fight Amy instead of the Koopas or Bowser. You’re just controlling a pointy-eared, balding character instead of a red-hatted Italian stereotype. Really, that’s not a bad trade-off.

Robot reviews: These stories are totally true

American Elf Book Three

American Elf Book Three

Ah, the autobiographical comic. Is there a genre more maligned and misunderstood. Apart from superhero comics I mean.

It’s a genre that tends to get lumped together as “too much of the same thing,” a criticism I really don’t agree with. Two recent autobiographical diary comics — Little Nothings: The Prisoner Syndrome by Lewis Trondheim and American Elf Book Three by James Kochalka —  for example are very similar in execution and style (both are diary comics) but very different in what they reveal and the ways they present themselves to the reader.

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