"Game of Thrones": 10 Questions for Season 7
Retailing | An American collector donated about 800 comics to the Books For Amnesty charity store in Bristol, England, just ahead of a planned sale of comics and graphic novels. Volunteer Richard Wallet said the collection, which goes back to the 1960s, is probably worth tens of thousands of pounds. The store, which benefits Amnesty International, recently had another windfall when someone donated a copy of the Beatles album Revolver signed by the designer, Klaus Voormann, and valued at £1,000 (about $1,716 U.S.). [Bristol Post]
Comics | Jim Rugg interviews retailer Andrew Neal about the Ghost Variant cover program, which was created by a group of store owners. The idea was to commission a prominent artist to do a special variant cover for a particular comic and release it, through the stores in the group only, with very little promotion. It turns out that some comics buyers like a little mystery! [BoingBoing]
It’s shaping up to be a red-letter day for fans of free quality comics: As if that digital edition of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Trees #1 weren’t proof enough, this morning also saw the debut of Moose Kid Comics, an impressive children’s anthology featuring the work of more than 40 creators.
Created and edited by Jamie Smart, the 36-page digital comic boasts such talents as Roger Langridge, Tom Plant, Neill Cameron and Abby Ryder, Mark Stafford, Aaron Alexovich, Sarah McIntyre, James Downing, and Samantha Davies. And did we mention the “Young Tank Girl” strip by Alan Martin and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell?
“Here in the U.K, mainstream children’s comics have been dying out, especially ones featuring original content,” reads the comic’s mission statement. “The Phoenix and The Beano are the only commercially available weekly titles still producing entirely original characters, but they are competing against big-name licensed titles based on TV shows or merchandising. We want to help change things. We want to be creating the next generation of loveable characters for the world to embrace, all created by artists who retain their copyrights and put all their heart into their creations. We want to remind both children and adults alike how fantastical and imaginative comics can be, and to help bring children’s comics back into the public consciousness.”
Awards | Jamie Smart’s Fish-Head Steve has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the first comic to make the list in the six-year history of the award. The prize recognizes the funniest book for children in two age categories, and the final judges will be 200 children from schools around the United Kingdom. [Forbidden Planet]
Comics | Eric Margolis reports on the difficulties U.K. creator Darren Cullen had in getting his Kickstarter-funded comic (Don’t) Join the Army printed. The format was unusual, so some shops simply couldn’t do it, but printers also took exception to the comic itself, which was an “anti-recruitment leaflet” satirizing the British army. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]
Word got out over the weekend that Issue 13 of the digital version of the venerable U.K. children’s comic The Dandy would be the last. It seems to have started with a tweet from contributor Wilbur Dawbarn, who was relaying what his editors had told him. That prompted the editors to take to Facebook to deny (sort of) that the comic is dead:
A DC Thomson spokesperson said, “The Digital Dandy team has worked hard to produce an interactive and engaging App. While the digital comic has delivered its promised mixture of daft, dramatic and different stories, the technology and format have let us down.
“For this reason, we’re suspending the existing App. Discussions and planning are already underway to re-examine The Dandy’s digital offerings. It is still too early to announce what form this next stage will take but we would like to reassure readers that The Dandy remains a very important part of the company’s plans for the future.”
You can include me as one of the people who was not enamored of the latest digital Dandy, and I’m a longtime fan — I grew up reading it, and I still treasure an almost-complete run of the annuals from the 1970s. I was thrilled with Dandy‘s original iPad app, which was serviceable and basically identical to the Beano app: You could buy a digital version of the print comic from the storefront, with no bells and whistles, and it worked fine.
Publishing | Declaring this “the year of The Walking Dead,” the retail news and analysis site ICv2 notes the $60 Compendium volumes One and Two could “easily” be the top-selling graphic novels of 2012. Those two books also topped the Nielsen BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores in November, joined by six other collections from the acclaimed horror series in the Top 20. Chris Ware’s $50 Building Stories, which has emerged on best-of lists as one of the books — and the graphic novel — of 2012, was No. 3 in November, followed by DC Comics’ Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, and, in a surprise Top 20 appearance by Marvel, the $75 Avengers Vs. X-Men hardcover at No. 5. [ICv2]
Comics | Scottish publisher DC Thomson has asked Dundee City Council to rename a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. An unnamed street adjacent to 142/144 West Marketgait would be called Bash Street as part of the celebration of the magazine’s 75th anniversary. [LocalGov]
Retailing | North Hollywood will get a new comics shop on Nov. 10, when Blastoff Comics opens its doors. Owner Jud Meyers seems to think it is an essential part of a hip neighborhood: “They want restaurants, they want bars, they want supermarkets, they want gyms. What didn’t they have? They don’t have a comic book store, every neighborhood has got to have a comic book store.” The opening will feature an assortment of comics guests, including Mark Waid, Greg Hurwitz, and Jim Kreuger, whose The High Cost of Happily Ever After will premiere at the event. [Patch.com]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest this week is writer and letterer Ed Brisson, whose comic Comeback with artist Michael Walsh arrives in November. He’s also the writer of Murder Book and Black River.
To see what Ed and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
The U.K. comics scene continues its angst-ridden inner debate following news that The Dandy will cease print publication in December. For the living legend John Wagner, it’s a matter of regret close to shame that a comics institution of nearly 75 years will end on our watch. Others see the debate as hand-wringing — “pious sackcloth-and-ashes nonsense” to quote one U.K. comics writer on Facebook — that, between technological advances and the Darwinism of the newsstand, the kids have spoken: Comics are no longer the chosen literature of children, so move on. Publisher DC Thomson certainly seem to have — The Dandy‘s website now makes no mention of the print comic at all, linking purely to the Apple App store.
For some creators, the debate is more about spotting a widening hole in the market, and developing a product to fill that niche. So far, the following cartoonists have waded in on this theme:
The Dandy may look like just another wacky kids’ comic to American readers, but it is as deep in the British DNA as Archie is here, and last week’s announcement that publisher DC Thomson will cease print publication of the 75-year-old comic drew an array of responses from different quarters.
Charlie Brooker of The Guardian may be unique in thinking that the move from print to digital is a good thing for The Dandy; of course, he never liked the comic to begin with, and he accuses it of not keeping up with the times:
Why is The Dandy going all-digital? Because it’s a magazine for children, and today’s children don’t seem to want magazines any more than I wanted a 1920s whirligig when I was their age. Kids today have Moshi Monsters and the Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster. Traditional ink on paper looks like medieval tapestry to them.
Brooker clearly hasn’t read The Dandy in a few years, as it is not the dated fossil he portrays it as; on the contrary, it has been home to some bright new talent in the past few years, and creator Jamie Smart (who draws their most beloved legacy character, Desperate Dan), called on those creators to start their own comic:
Rumors have been flying that DC Thomson was considering shutting down The Dandy, and today the publisher confirmed the news, announcing it will cease print publication of the United Kingdom’s longest-running comic following the Dec. 4 release of the 75th anniversary issue.
It’s strictly a matter of numbers, with the magazine selling fewer than 8,000 copies each week. This may not be curtains for The Dandy, however: It appears the comic will continue in digital form, with chief executive Ellis Watson telling The Guardian that, “It’s what comes online then that will set the tone for the next 75 years.” Perhaps there The Dandy will find the larger audience it deserves. The website was taken down a few days ago to deter potential hackers, but the current incarnation invites visitors to leave their e-mails so they can be “the first to know,” which implies there may be news in the future.
The Dandy writer Lew Stringer offered his reactions to The Dandy‘s possible demise, and urged people to pick up a copy of the comic, although he acknowledged that may not be easy to do, as many newsagents no longer carry it. Artist Jamie Smart had an article in The Guardian about why The Dandy is important, and he has more at his blog:
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.
If I had $15, I’d first double-down on creator-owned comics with Butcher Baker, Righteous Maker #8 (Image, $2.99) and Saga #6 (Image, $2.99). I’m glad to see Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston back on Butcher Baker after a hiatus in which I feared it was no more, and I’ve just pulled out #1-7 to get me back up to speed. I’m thinking that taking hallucinogenics would make me enjoy this comic more. On the other side, Saga #6 is flat-out amazing in the most conventional way (despite the unconventional setting). Aliens, ghosts and babies, and yet Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring it all together. At this point I’ve shifted into the The Walking Dead mode of reading – no point in reading about what’s ahead, as I’ll just buy it blindly on the great comics they’ve done so far. After that creator-owned two-fer, I’d give Marvel the rest of my money with Uncanny X-Force #29 (Marvel, $3.99) and Avengers vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99). I think Marvel’s finally found a suitable replacement for Jerome Opena in artist Julian Totino Tedesco, and I hope he’s locked in to finish out this arc. And speaking of Rick Remender’s work, I spent about 15 minutes conversing the other day about how and why he should’ve been enlisted into Marvel’s Architects and worked into Avengers Vs. X-Men. While the group-written approach takes some getting used to, I’d love to see Remender do an issue of this. In Avengers Vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99) however, we see Ed Brubaker taking the lead and showing the Phoenix Force Five venturing into K’un L’un for what seems like the Empire Strikes Back moment of the series.
If I had $30, I’d turn back in all my $15 purchases except Saga #6 and spend the recouped $25-plus dollars and get Hulk: Season One HC (Marvel, $24.99). I’ve never been the biggest Hulk fan, but seeing the previews of Tom Fowler’s art on this has won me over. Fowler, like the above mentioned Tedesco, is one of Marvel’s hidden gems and this might be the launching pad for him to (finally) get some recognition. And for me to get some good comics. Fowler SMASH!
If I could splurge, I’d do the boring choice and simply use it to buy all the single issues mentioned in the $15 section and be able to also afford Hulk: Season One HC. Easy, breezy, beautiful, comics boy.
The UK comics scene is bustling, with 2000AD celebrating its 35th anniversary, a new kids’ comic making waves, and tons of creators working on tons of new projects.
The indy publisher Blank Slate, home of Psychiatric Tales and the anthology Nelson, will be publishing a collected edition of Nick Abadzis’s Hugo Tate, and in anticipation of that, Abadzis has set up a Hugo Tate Tumblr for photos, thoughts, and even the odd page of comics.
The U.K. comics scene has been heating up of late, and we can only hope that 2012 will see a British Invasion of the comics variety. The BBC has coverage of the latest development: The launch of The Phoenix, a weekly children’s comic published by David Fickling (whose David Fickling Books is an imprint of Random House). The name is apt: The Phoenix is a reprise of an earlier attempt, The DFC, which garnered a lot of praise but shut down after 43 issues. The Phoenix is launching with a nice lineup of stories and talent, including Neill Cameron, Simone Lia, Gary Northfield and Jamie Smart (who draws Desperate Dan for the long-running weekly The Dandy). Unfortunately, it’s print-only and not available digitally, so most U.S. readers won’t get to see it just yet.
Meanwhile, Strip Magazine, a monthly comic dedicated to serialized action tales, has released its second issue. Unlike The Phoenix, Strip is available digitally as an iPad app, which means we Yanks can read it, too. (I think the high point of my year was learning that The Beano and The Dandy are now available as iPad apps.)
If you’re not quite ready to let go of Christmas yet (hey, it’s supposed to be 12 days!), check out the classic British Christmas comics that Lew Stringer (another talented artist) has posted at his blog. It’s a fascinating look back in time. Dandy artist Andy Fanton posts a more modern Christmas comic (very much in the Dandy style) at his blog.
And finally, we had the U.S. release last week of Nelson, the collaborative graphic novel by 54 creators, each of whom contributed a chapter about one day in the life of a young woman. The contributors include Roger Langridge, Duncan Fegredo, Warren Pleece, Posy Simmonds and Darryl Cunningham, and publisher Blank Slate is donating the proceeds from the sale of the book to the homelessness charity Shelter.
I grew up reading British comics, but because I lived in the United States most of the time, I couldn’t just trot down to my local newsagent to get the latest Beano or Dandy. My aunts used to send me bundles of them every now and then from Ireland, and the arrival of these big rolls of comics, wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, was always a special event in our household.
The Beano and The Dandy featured one- or two-page stories, mostly about mischievous kids punking their parents, their teachers, or the local bully, and they had a goofy sensibility that was missing from the smoother, blander American titles we got at home — Archie, Richie Rich, Little Dot.
While they are less exotic than a package from a foreign land, the brand-new Beano and Dandy iPad apps still deliver the goods. Both apps offer the full weekly comic at a reasonable price ($1.99 for most issues, 99 cents for one of the Dandys), plus a handful of back issues for free. The Beano is almost unchanged from the days of my youth, with old favorites like Roger the Dodger and the Bash Street Kids still causing rather mild trouble for all around them, while The Dandy is a bit edgier, with more short strips, fart jokes, and a comic called The Bogies that’s about boogers. (It’s funny and not particularly mucus-oriented but … eew.) However, it also features the very talented Jamie Smart breathing new life into the classic Desperate Dan (about an enormous cowboy who doesn’t know his own strength) and contributing a delightfully goofy newer strip “Pre-Skool Prime Minister.”
There’s only one page up so far, but Hairy Steve already has a bit of a history: Creators Jamie Smart and Steve Bright lived up to their last names with an indiegogo campaign that has already overshot its goal of $2,000. (The funding levels run from “stubbly” to “hirsute.”) Smart and Bright only have one page up so far, but it has a distinct EC vibe and the promise of plenty of mashup madness. Hairy Steve is, well, a hairy beast, who hides from humans because he finds them annoying but isn’t averse to rescuing them if he sees them getting into trouble. And there’s a whole lot of trouble when he accidentally crushes a zombie’s skull, bringing a plague of walking dead into his city. Smart and Bright say they can pull this story off in 24 pages, which seems like a feat in itself, but it should be fun to watch them try.