"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
I spent some time in May at Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the retail book business, checking out the graphic novel offerings. BEA is light duty for a comics blogger, as graphic novels are a tiny part of the retail book universe, but it’s a good way to get an advance look at the books that publishers are promoting for this summer and fall, as well as what they think will have appeal for mainstream bookstores.
Here are a half-dozen books you’re likely to hear about in the coming months:
Comics | When 4-year-old Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t wear them, his mother emailed Marvel to ask if they had any pictures of superheroes wearing a hearing aid. Not only did Marvel editor Bill Rosemann respond with an image of the cover of 1984’s West Coast Avengers #1, which featured Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid, he also had artist Nelson Ribeiro transform Anthony into a superhero, Blue Ear. [Concord Monitor]
Publishing | Former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup, who was let go by the publisher in October during a round of layoffs, has joined Valiant Entertainment as associate editor. [press release]
Conventions | Rich Lopez has a gallery of photos from last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con. [The Dallas Voice]
One of the high points of MoCCA, at least for me, was getting acquainted with Jennifer Hayden, the author of Underwire. I love Hayden’s casual style and her good-humored approach to the large and small stumbling blocks of life, and it was a treat to finally meet her in person. She is currently working on an ambitious graphic novel about her experiences with breast cancer, and I was disappointed to hear that she will be working on it for a while yet, but then she turned me on to her diary comic, Rushes.
Diary comics are fascinating because they are glimpse into the minutiae of someone else’s life. Hayden’s comic has a certain amount of continuity to it—the family adopts a problem dog—but outside that story arc it is filled with the things we do every day: Getting together with friends, running errands, school projects, and at the moment, a home renovation project that is sure to provide some chuckles. Hayden’s life isn’t that different from mine, but somehow it’s more entertaining to read about these things than actually do them—especially when they are presented with wit and good humor. In other words, I’d rather read about Hayden going to the hardware store than go to the hardware store myself; some experiences are better when they are vicarious.
There’s an inherent risk in using your own life as material for your comics: When a comics creator presents himself or herself as an unlikeable person in a quasi-autobiographical comic, it gets hard to separate the artist from the work. It’s sort of a negative aura thing—if the creator looks like a jerk, it’s hard to like the comic.
This became blindingly clear to me recently as I happened to read three graphic novels about roughly the same theme—dealing with getting older—in which the attitude of the main character strongly affected my reaction to the story: Joe Ollman’s Mid-Life, Pascal Girard’s Reunion, and Jennifer Hayden’s Underwire. Ollman and Girard both fell into the trap of making their lead characters so obnoxious I never wanted to see them again, while Hayden’s character was just the opposite, approaching some serious issues with grace and humor—which probably made me like the book more than I should have.
Passings | Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the popular children’s book characters the Berenstain Bears, passed away Friday at a hospital near her home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Berenstain, 88, had suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Since the release of The Big Honey Hunt in 1962, the Berenstain Bears series has grown to more than 300 books and sold about 260 million copies worldwide, inspiring animated television specials and series, museum exhibits and a stage show. Stan Berenstain passed away in 2005 at age 82. [The Washington Post]
Events | This year’s 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Oct. 20. [ComicsPro]
Comics | Here’s a variation on the comics-aren’t-for-kids-anymore theme, with reasonable parents who know they need to check what their kids are reading, and a retailer who gets it. [WNYT.com]
Creators | Sarah Glidden, creator of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, chronicles her time at Occupy Miami Nov. 15-21 in a sketchbook. [Cartoon Movement]
Creators | Corey Blake follows up on the Bill Mantlo story published by LIfeHealthPro, including some clarifications of issues raised in the story and additional details on various fundraisers over the years to help pay for Mantlo’s care. [Corey Blake]
Creators | Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast interviews Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich about piracy and the Stop Online Piracy Act. [Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast]
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
SPX, or the Small Press Expo, returns to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Md. this weekend.
The show’s special guests include Roz Chast, Jim Woodring, Diane Noomin, Jim Rugg, Ann Telnaes, Chester Brown, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson and Matthew Thurber, and fans who attend will also have the opportunity to meet and/or hear from Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Jessica Abel, Sarah Glidden, Alex Robinson, Brian Ralph, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz, just to name a few. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that our own Chris Mautner will be attending and conducting a Q&A with Johnny Ryan on Saturday, so be sure to tell him hi for us.
When Miles Morales was revealed as the new Spider-Man this week, David Betancourt had a visceral reaction to the news:
My friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was … just like me?
Like Betancourt, Morales is half black, half Hispanic, but there’s more to diversity than ethnicity. Everyone talks about how superheroes are all white, but nobody talks about how they are all young. A middle-aged superhero is usually the butt of a joke, but outside the capes-and-tights realm, there is a growing category of comics about the trials and joys of middle age.
When I was young, I looked upon aging as a horror show—your looks deteriorate, your parents get sick and die, your kids get snottier and snottier and then move away, and every visit to the doctor carries the potential of a nasty test or a bit of bad news. Instead of daydreaming about accepting the Nobel Prize, you spend your days thinking about boring things like health insurance, car maintenance, and college tuition. The cheery nihilism of youth gives way to the humdrum of necessity and responsibility. What I am learning, though, is that as difficult as all this can be, there are also moments of grace and even humor. You don’t stop living and growing and changing once you turn 40. Every stage of life is full of stories.