Examining "Rebirth's" Treatment of Legacy & Promise of a Less "Grimdark" DC Universe
Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick, creators of the bestselling Feynman, have reteamed for a graphic novel biography of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, to be published in 2016 by First Second.
Titled Hawking, the book “will tell the story of how he made his place in the many worlds he inhabits, from the scientific to the celebrity… and how his discoveries have shown everyone how to understand our place in the universe.” Boing Boing has the official announcement and a preview.
“July 4, 2012 was a good day in physics and for Gordy Kane, Leland and me,” Ottaviani said in a statement. “Not only was the Higgs boson revealed to the world, but Gordy — a prominent physicist and author of The Particle Garden — won a long-standing $100 bet with his friend Stephen Hawking on whether there even was a Higgs. And in an email letting us know about these things, Gordy and his wife Lois also added an ‘Oh, by the way …’ They told us that Stephen had read and enjoyed our Feynman book (!) and invited us to come to Cambridge and talk about doing a book about him. We didn’t get on a plane that same afternoon, but we did start planning our trip, and this book. Like I said, a good day.”
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and digital comics totaled $750 million in 2012, making that year the best of the millennium so far for the comics business, according to the retail news and analysis site ICv2. Total print sales were estimated at $680 million and digital at $70 million, a hair over 10 percent of print and almost triple the 2011 total of $25 million. The website also breaks down the top properties in eight graphic novel categories (superheroes, genre, manga, etc.), based on interviews with retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Interestingly, Hawkeye is nestled at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 superhero properties, between Iron Man and Spider-Man. [ICv2]
Publishing | Torsten Adair takes a look at IDW Publishing’s financials, and they’re looking pretty good. [The Beat]
Retailing | Saying that video games, texting and digital comics have killed interest in collectibles, 80-year-old Joseph Liesner is closing his Sunnyside, Queens, store Comic Book Heaven after nearly three decades. “The store’s not making any money,” he says, “and, besides, I’m as old as Methuselah.” The store will remain open for another two months, with Liesner using the time to search for a much younger girlfriend via a sign in the window. [Sunnyside Post]
Retailing | Publishers Weekly’s annual comics retailer survey yields some interesting commentary, although the sample size is small (just 10 stores): Sales are up, retailers are optimistic, and Saga is the hot book right now. Also, booksellers who underestimated the demand for Chris Ware’s Building Stories lost out to direct-market retailers who didn’t, making for some nice extra sales during the holiday season. And while readers seem to be getting tired of the Big Two and their event comics, they are more enthusiastic than ever before about creator-owned comics, and Image is doing quite well. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Ladies Making Comics presents the complete list of women Eisner nominees for this year, noting that women have been nominated in almost every category. [Ladies Making Comics]
Failure (Alternative Comics): Faithful readers of ROBOT 6 may recall the name of cartoonist Karl Stevens from a fall 2012 story about his Boston Phoenix strip Failure being canceled after an installment referred to Bud Light — one of the paper’s advertisers — as “diluted horse piss.” The Phoenix denied this at the time, and, coincidentally, several months later ceased publication all together (after a brief time in which it was split into five different newspapers with five different editors — Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik — until Cyclops assumed control over all five papers and it took the combined might of all of the Avengers to stop him … there’s a comic book joke for you!).
While that history may not be particularly relevant to readers, Stevens covers his side of the incident in his introduction to the Failure collection, which packages the final installments of his strip — right up to, and a few past, the “horse piss” one — into 150 pages of gorgeously drawn material.
What is important is that this is some great work, of the must-read variety. Failure, at this point in its existence, had become a sort of slice-of-life strip, with one to four panels devoted to anecdotes from his own life, including his relationship with his girlfriend, funny things his friends said or funny things he overheard. There are, additionally, plenty of flights of fancy starring his descendant in the far-flung future, and recurring characters like Bongbot, a time-traveling robot bong, and Pope Cat, a cat who is also the pope (if I’ve got that right).
What keeps Failure from being as mundane as you might imagine it, based on how I just described its premise, is what an incredible artist Stevens is. He works in a lush, highly detailed, representational style, as if he were drawing portraits rather than cartoons. Check this out:
Auctions | The original art for two Peanuts Sunday comics, one of them autographed by Charles Schulz, sold for a combined price of $78,200 at auction on June 6. [artdaily.org]
Creators | Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who are doomed to be forever yoked by the parenthetical phrase “no relation,” reminisce about the days when they were paid for their work in beef, and talk about their digital-first strategy, serializing Zander’s Heck and Kevin’s Crater XV in their monthly digital magazine Double Barrel before releasing them in print. Mark Waid drops in to praise the Cannons for their digital strategy, saying, “If you let the audience access your material over the Web rather than force them to search — often in vain — for a retail outlet, they’ll be your fans for life.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.
But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.
Season’s Greetings and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guests are Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows, editors of Devastator: The Quarterly Comedy Magazine for Humans. Their latest issue has a video game theme, with contributions from James Kochalka, Corey Lewis, Danny Hellman and many more. And if you head over to their website between now through Dec. 16, the code ROBOT6 gets you 20 percent off single issues.
To see what Amanda, Geoffrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
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]
Art | Jerry Robinson’s cover artwork from Detective Comics #67 is expected to bring in more than $300,000 when it goes up for auction Nov. 15. “Robinson penciled and inked this cover and the detail of his art is amazing close-up,” said Todd Hignite, consignment director for Comic Art at Heritage Auctions, “particularly his shading lines on Batman and Robin, and on the feathery details of the ostrich being straddled by that bird-of-prey, the Penguin.” [Art Daily]
Business | Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and Vuguru, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s independent studio, are partnering to produce “original digital content.” [press release]
Comics | Darryl Ayo has a small manifesto about comics that makes a lot of sense: “Things that don’t make sense in North American comics: 1) comics that exist after their creators have ceased to. 2) these comics’ existence continues despite minimal effort to applicable to contemporary culture. Things that make perfect sense in North American comics: people’s general lack of interest in comics.” He points out a number of reasons why the comics audience is small and challenges creators and publishers to “Do better.” One point he makes that is rarely mentioned: The critical importance of editors. [Comix Cube]
Publishing | DC Comics associate editor Janelle Asselin has left the company, reportedly for a job with Disney. She clarifies on Twitter that, contrary to a report, she wasn’t escorted from the building on Tuesday but, rather, left “at my leisure.” Asselin had been with DC since 2008, working primarily on Batman books like Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, Birds of Prey and the relaunched Batman, Batwoman, Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Longtime editor Betsy Mitchell is taking early retirement from her post as editor-in-chief of Del Rey, where she helped create Del Rey Manga. Tricia Pasternak, a former Del Rey Manga editor herself, has been promoted to editorial director. Del Rey was established as a science fiction prose imprint; the manga line was created in 2004 and was mostly shut down in 2010, when Kodansha began publishing its manga directly in the U.S. However, Del Rey still publishes a handful of manga and graphic novels, including xxxHolic, King of RPGs, and Deltora Quest. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | In a twist that sounds like something out of a comic (or even an ad from an old comic), a witness in the Michael George trial testified he saw someone wearing an obviously fake beard outside George’s Clinton Township, Michigan, comics shop a few minutes before George’s first wife Barbara was murdered inside the store in 1990. [The Tribune Democrat]
Publishing | We noted in late April that Archie Comics appeared to be embracing cultural and political commentary with its upcoming Kevin Keller miniseries, which features Riverdale’s first openly gay character and his father, a retired three-star general. But now the publisher, or at least the character, is going a step further, marching into the middle of the debate over gays and lesbians openly serving in the armed forces by revealing that Kevin aspires to be a journalist, but only after attending the U.S. Military Academy and becoming an Army officer. “Even though we don’t tackle the specific issue of Don’t Ask Don’ Tell, the goal was to show that patriotism knows no specific gender, race or sexual orientation,” cartoonist Dan Parent says. “While it sounds like heavy subject matter, I tried to show it simply that Kevin, like his dad, loves his country. Being gay doesn’t effect that in any way.” [The Associated Press]
Publishing | DC Comics’ line-wide reboot has received extensive coverage by mainstream media outlets, based largely on the original USA Today article or The Associated Press report. But my favorite piece is this one by George Gene Gustines that turns back the clock to 1985 and attempts to explain to The New York Times audience the effects, and problems, of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the publisher’s subsequent attempts to streamline continuity: “… If the goal was to make the DC universe easier to understand, the end result was the opposite: to this day, fans frequently mention ‘pre-Crisis‘ and ‘post-Crisis‘ as a way to distinguish stories. Twenty years later, in the Infinite Crisis limited series, DC tried to clean continuity up again: Superman’s career as Superboy was back; Batman knew who murdered the Waynes; and Wonder Woman was a founder of the Justice League again.” [The New York Times]
An interview with Jim Ottaviani is long overdue, on multiple levels. Ottaviani is a storyteller that has been impressing peers and entertaining/informing readers since 1997. I should have interviewed the writer a long time ago. And in fact, I did. This email interview was conducted in mid-November 2009, but logistical snafus on my end prevented me from being able to post this interview until now. My apologies to Ottaviani for the delay. On the good news front, since this interview, Ottaviani’s latest book (T-Minus: The Race to the Moon)–which we discuss a great deal–was included in YALSA’s 2010 Great Graphic Novel for Teens (ALA) list. T-Minus, as described by Ottaviani at his G.T. Labs site, “tells you what happens when you take two global superpowers, dozens of daring pilots, thousands of engineers and scientists, and then point them at the night sky and say “Go!?” So join the whole world as it counts down to sending the first men to the moon, and discover the story of the people who made it happen, both in the rockets and behind the scenes.” We also got a chance to discuss his upcoming work for First Second and Tor.com.
Tim O’Shea: You’ve been writing graphic novels since 1997, a period of time that has seen numerous independent creators come and go. What about the creative process has kept you around and interested in projects?
Jim Ottaviani: The short answer is everything about the process keeps me interested: I enjoy finding out about new scientists and subjects, figuring out whether there’s a graphic novel in their story somewhere, doing the research, and then crafting that story. And the pleasure of seeing the finished product — a story I care about realized via the skills of artist(s) I admire — never grows old.