Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
According to the cartoonist, readers of the webcomic, which features gorgeous colors by Tom Gaadt, have been lobbying for the same treatment in print. “That’s what I hear over and over while I’m on the road at comic shows,” Smith said in a statement. “To which I say: It’s on!”
The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
Bone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.
The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.
Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.
The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”
Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)
The November launch of Jeff Smith’s webcomic Tüki Save the Humans was met with excitement, followed almost immediately by grumbling that the interface seemed as ancient as the adventure’s prehistoric setting. But now Smith’s Boneville.com has unveiled a redesign that allows readers to enjoy the Reuben Award-nominated comic in an easily navigated widescreen format that better showcases the work of the cartoonist and colorist Tom Gaadt.
“When Tüki began, we redesigned the site for the occasion. Unfortunately, our rollout made Healthcare.gov look good,” Smith said in a statement. “Still, like Rasl, our motto is: It’s never too late to fix it! We listened to our readers and came up with what we hope is a better experience for reading Bone, RASL and Tüki.”
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has expanded its already-impressive creator lineup with the addition of international guests Christophe Blain, Abel Lanzac, Luke Pearson, Jeff Smith, Mimi Pond and Kuš.
“The comics medium is thoroughly celebrated the world over,” Festival Director Christopher Butcher said in a statement. “I’ve had the great fortune to travel around the world, and I’ve seen how both the medium and its authors are highly-regarded … it’s my privilege to bring a little bit of that sentiment, that respect, back to Canada through TCAF.”
Previously announced featured guests for the May 10-11 event include Darwyn Cooke, Michael Deforge, Lynn Johnston, Kazu Kibuishi, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.
Conventions | This Japan Times article about Comiket provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of the dojinshi (self-published manga) fair, which each August and December new draws between 560,000 to 590,000 visitors to Tokyo Big Sight. However, even that massive convention center is becoming too small for the event; of the 51,000 booth applications for August’s Comiket 84, only 35,000 were granted because of space limitations. Incredibly, the organizing Comic Market Committee has just eight full-time employees (but more than 3,000 volunteers). [The Japan Times]
Creators | MariNaomi discusses her experience of being sexually harassed by another creator while participating in a panel at a comics convention. That’s right, she was sexually harassed onstage. [xojane]
Not many comics can say they made their debut during a brunch, but then again, not many comics are created by Jeff Smith.
The creator of Bone and RASL will attend a benefit brunch for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Kids’ Right to Read program at the Society of Illustrators in New York City on Nov. 10, where he will unveil his newest project, an all-ages webcomic called Tuki Save the Humans!. Smith joined the CBLDF board earlier this month, and revealed he was working on the project at WonderCon last spring.
“… this is a story of the first human being to leave Africa, and all the forces of Africa are conspiring to keep him from doing it,” Smith told CBR’s Kiel Phegley at WonderCon. “I think it’ll be fun. There’ll be sabertooth tigers and other humanoids and Gods and things. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The charity brunch begins at 11:30 a.m., and the performance will begin at 12:30 p.m., to be followed by Q&A, an auction and viewing time in the Society’s galleries. More information and ticket pricing can be found on the CBLDF website.
Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So read on to find out what we thought about Lazarus and Earth 2, as well as to review the news of the week!
Publishing | ICv2 has Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels for September, which reveals an interesting month for bookstore sales. First of all, there are five volumes of Attack on Titan on the list, which means 25 percent of September’s list comes from one series — and that series is not The Walking Dead. It sort of looks like the old days, with nine volumes of manga on the chart. What’s more, the non-manga side is dominated by older titles: Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: The Killing Joke, Fun Home… and a Garfield book. Once again, no Marvel releases — and no new DC Comics books — charted. [ICv2]
Conventions | ICv2 explains the significance of the partnership between Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo and Diamond Comic Distributors, and the article gives some background on the Expo, which started in 2011 and has grown quickly into a solid regional event. [ICv2]
History | Michael Dooley celebrates Banned Books Week with a look at the comics singled out by Dr. Fredric Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent as particularly corrupting of our youth; Dooley juxtaposes scans of the pages with Werthem’s commentary. [Print]
Creators | Lynda Barry is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) as well as the UW-Madison Department of Art; she was an artist in residence at the university last year. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]
Creators | Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell talk about their involvement in the graphic novel March. [Free Comic Book Day]
Faith Erin Hicks is on top of the world these days, thanks to her critically acclaimed graphic novels (Friends With Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong), as well as her game tie-in series for Dark Horse, The Last of Us, and the collected edition of her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl. And yet, she admits, there’s a comic even she can’t sell.
Hicks described the project in July during her spotlight panel at Comic-Con International, where she told Bone creator Jeff Smith that she had pitched the book to First Second, publisher of Friends With Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, but the imprint had rejected it. “It is my most-rejected pitch,” she said. “It is this extremely weird story about work, and about people who work in this office, but it is literally an office that is a way station for dead people, and so it’s all about having a crappy office job but with this insane supernatural bent and it is a ridiculous story, but the thing is, it has been rejected everywhere.”
“So your coworkers are all zombies?” Smith responded. “That sounds like real life to me.”
A few weeks ago, Hicks was rummaging through her hard drive and found her pitch for the comic, which she posted on her blog. The response was so enthusiastic that she posted more of the pitch the same day. The comic is called Afterlife, Inc., and while Hicks admits it may not make a good graphic novel, she does say, in the second post, “I think this story would make a good webcomic or floppy comic (maybe at somewhere like Image), because it’s very meandering and would benefit from serialized storytelling to build the weirdness of the world its set in. Plus, the web LOVES weird stuff!”
Legal | A dancer seriously injured last month during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark insists the accident was caused by malfunctioning equipment and not, as the show’s producers contend, by human error. Daniel Curry made the claim in documents filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court that seek to prevent the production from altering or destroying the computerized stage lift before his experts can inspect the equipment in preparation for a potential civil lawsuit. He’s also requesting maintenance records and any internal reports about the accident. The 23-year-old Curry was injured during the Aug. 15 performance of Spider-Man when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door. According to court papers, he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and has had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. [New York Daily News, The New York Times]
One of the biggest indie comics events of the year, Small Press Expo (aka SPX), will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.
It’s a must-attend show for me, and this year will be no different. Well, it will be a little different, as my 11-year-old daughter will be coming along for what will be her first-ever comics convention. She will have copies of her own comic, Indefinable, for sale, so if you see us wandering the aisles, say hello.
Traversing the aisles of SPX with a pre-teen might prove to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m going to try to cram as much age-appropriate comics fun in the weekend as possible. Here’s some things I’m looking forward to/hoping to buy.
Five comics I’m planning on buying:
1. Wild Man: Island of Memory by T. Edward Bak. I’m a big fan of Bak’s Service Industry and really enjoyed the story he was serializing in Mome, about explorer and scientist Georg Steller. Wild Man: Island of Memory collects and reworks that material, the first part of what will be a projected four-volume series. Based on what I’ve read so far, I feel expect that this will be one of the more talked-about books at SPX this year.
2. Frontier #2 by Hellen Jo. Jo has been relatively quiet comics-wise since she released Jim and Jan a few years back. Now, via Ryan Sands’ relatively new publishing venture, Youth in Decline, she’s got what’s sure to be a swell mini collecting various paintings, pencils and other artwork.
3. Monster. It just wouldn’t be SPX if Hidden Fortress Press didn’t have a new volume of this usually reliable anthology. This year looks to be especially good, with 200 pages of comics by such noteworthy names as Marc Bell, Mat Brinkman, Jordan Crane, Michael DeForge, Edie Fake and Leif Goldberg. That’s a pretty killer list of talent – when was the last time we saw a new Brinkman comic, anyway?
4. Gold Pollen and Other Stories by Seiichi Hayashi. It’s nice to see more and more classic manga from people that aren’t Osamu Tezuka coming to Western shores. This is a collection of short stories from the author of Red Colored Elegy, a book I was a bit flummoxed by initially but that has slowly won me over more in ensuing years. The Picturebox site still labels it as “coming soon,” but it’s listed as a debut book on the SPX site. Basically, if it’s there, I’m buying a copy.
5. Love Stories by Mat Tait. New Zealand will be duly represented at the show by Tait, who will have this collection of stories available for sale. I’ve heard good things about Tait’s work and am excited to delve into it.
Next weekend SPX will once again be held in Bethesda, Maryland, where they will have not only a tote bag designed by Bone and RASL creator Jeff Smith, but also a limited edition print featuring the main characters from both those books. Signed copies will also be included in the SPX Limited Edition Print Set, which includes all the art created for SPX 2013 by Smith, Jeremy Sorese, Farel Dalrymple, Ed Piskor, Peter Bagge, Michael DeForge and many more.
Check out Smith’s print below.