Publishing | Calvin Reid talks to publisher Josh Frankel, who is relaunching his Zip Comics (the publisher of Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland) as Z2 Comics. The first books under the new name will be reprints of a sort: Paul Pope’s Escapo, which he originally self-published in black and white, and Dean Haspiel’s Fear My Dear, which first appeared as a webcomic at Act-I-Vate. Escapo will be colored and Fear My Dear will be re-colored. The company will publish strictly graphic novels, no periodicals, and they will be distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Toledo, Ohio, cartoonist Pete Hoffmann, whose comic strip Jeff Cobb was syndicated nationwide, died last week at the age of 94. Hoffman was also a ghost artist for Steve Roper and illustrated the panel cartoon Why We Say, which explained the meaning behind common sayings. He “got ambitious” and decided to strike out with his own strip, and the result was Jeff Cobb, a serial about an investigative reporter, which ran from 1954 to 1975. In this 2004 interview, he talks about his work and shows off his first published drawing, which appeared in the Toledo Times when he was four years old. [Toledo Blade]
Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]
Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]
Comics | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham discuss October sales, the date change for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and variant covers. Although the company is releasing 52 variants for Justice League of America #1, DC plans to cut back on variants in its other lines. “We’re going to pull back and drop variants from a handful of titles in the next solicitation cycle to pull back that number ourselves, where it didn’t seem the variant was making a substantial difference in the buy-in for the book or the perception of books,” Wayne said. “We’ll be looking at the remaining titles that have variants the following month.” [ICv2]
Comics | Speaking of variant covers, Tim Beyers of The Motley Fool discusses the dos and don’ts of buying variant covers as an investment. [Daily Finance]
Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]
Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
Digital | Comics by ComiXology has topped Apple’s charts as the top-grossing iPad application for the last six Wednesdays. ComiXology cited the launch of DC’s New 52 initiative, as well as many other comic companies moving to a same-day digital release schedule, as reasons for its success. “When have comic books, not comic book movies, not comic book merchandise, but the actual comic books been #1 in anything, much less high tech?” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “Being the number one grossing iPad application six Wednesdays in a row isn’t just a huge milestone for comiXology, but a huge milestone for comics as a medium … and we could not be prouder.” [press release]
Creators | An auction for the naming rights to a character in Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ The Secret Service raised $5,100 for St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, where Millar attended. The money will be used to pay for field trips for the school’s students. “I’m a former pupil at St. Bartholomew’s and have so many great memories of the place,” Millar said. “I know there’s not a lot of money in local government at the moment and I was sad to hear that the annual school trip for the children had been cancelled. By establishing this fund, I hope to have a pot the head-teacher can dip into every Christmas and take the entire school to a pantomime every year.” [Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser]
I’ll freely confess that at the end of the new issue when I saw how Jaime had tied together the fates of Hopey, Maggie, and Ray I started crying like a baby. When I started burbling to Jaime about all this, he said that in working on his recent comics he was thinking that if he were hit by a bus tomorrow and killed he wanted to leave behind a story that would complete his life’s work. Having achieved that goal, the question now is what will Jaime do next.
–The Comics Journal‘s Jeet Heer on his recent conversation with Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 co-author Jaime Hernandez concerning the thought process behind his magisterial story “The Love Bunglers.” The only thing more striking than the fact that Jaime set this career-defining hurdle for himself is that he freaking cleared it.
Humorist Michael Kupperman is the kind of storyteller that prompts a (long thought dead) legendary writer to reveal he’s undead. Such is the offered backstory on Kupperman’s new book, Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010, described by Fantagraphics as follows: “From WWI to the Great Depression, WWII to Woodstock, and through the present, Twain details his careers as an ad man, astronaut, hypnotist, Yeti hunter, porn star, drifter, grifter and more, rubbing shoulders and having never-before-told adventures with many major figures of the 20th Century.” After covering his new collection of writing and illustrations, Kupperman discusses the upcoming series of live performances (set to start tomorrow with his solo appearance, but future installments will often be in conjunction with Kate Beaton)—and how performing his work helps him gain a sense of his material. Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to peruse the publisher’s 32-page book preview and Kupperman’s reading of the Ant I Am Telling You portion of the 160-page book.
Tim O’Shea: Have you heard what Mark Twain thinks of what you did with the manuscript he gave you, or do you expect never to hear from him again?
Michael Kupperman: Actually I’ve been hearing from him a lot. I thought that one meeting would be it, but since then he keeps reappearing, asking for help dealing with today’s publishing industry. He’s written a new novel called Prairie Rumpus, which I feel is dated in its use of slang and locale. Meanwhile I’ve got a lot of interest in my novel The Fart Vampires, a lotta heat building up.
Retailing | Struggling bookseller Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, told shaken publishers it’s developing a long-term plan to “reposition itself,” even as it released a list of some 200 stores set to close by the end of April. The closings include 35 locations in California and 15 in metropolitan Chicago. On a website dedicated to the reorganization, the retailer — the second-largest book chain in the United States — assures customers that “Borders’ Business Operations Continue As Normal.”
In its bankruptcy filing, the company listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.27 billion in assets. It owes $272 million to its 30 largest unsecured creditors, including $41.1 million to Penguin Group. Diamond Book Publishers, which stopped shipping to Borders last month, is on the hook for $3.9 million. [The New York Times]
Retailing | Meanwhile, REDgroup Retail, which owns the Australian booksellers Borders (owned independently of the U.S. chain) and Angus & Robertson, has entered into administration. Angus & Robertson is the country’s largest book chain, with more than 180 stores nationwide. [The Australian, Guardian]
Politics | Warren Ellis joins the list of creators who want nothing to do with Heavy Ink after Travis Corcoran’s inflammatory remarks. At The Daily Cartoonist, Ted Rall pushes back on the outrage, saying, “If I only bought from companies and individuals whose political beliefs I agreed with, I wouldn’t be buying much.” [Warren Ellis, The Daily Cartoonist]
Conventions | Now there’s even more of Fan Expo Canada to love: The self-proclaimed “largest combined gaming, horror, comic, science fiction and anime event in the country” is expanding from three to four days, Aug. 25-28, 2011. [Convention Scene]
Manga | A Chinese artist named Xiao Bai is this year’s winner of the Japanese government’s International Manga Award. The prizewinning entry, Si loin et si proche (So near and so far), was published in Belgium last year. [Monsters and Critics]
Many cartoonists have benefited from the recent interest in republishing classic comic strips, but arguably none more so than Frank King. While the Gasoline Alley creator had always been an artist of interest to those who caught a glimpse of his work in the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics or other like-minded coffee-table tome, he remained sadly undervalued until Drawn & Quarterly started collecting the strip in its Walt and Skeezix series of landscape-format books. The series caught on with both critics and more general readers and led to a complete re-evaluation of King and his work, to the point where he has entered many artists’ personal canons.
Now, after an unfortunate hiatus of about three years, the series is back with a fourth volume that collects strips from 1927-28. I talked with the series’ co-editor (along with Chris Ware) and renowned comics scholar Jeet Heer about the new book, and about King’s legacy in general.