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University of Florida hosts ‘Monsters in the Margins’ comic conference

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, UF’s Comic Conference series this year carries the theme of “Monsters in the Margins” for its April 14-15 event Gainesville, Florida. The papers and panels being presented this year will explore the representation of monsters and the monstrous in comics around the world.

Organizers have tentatively planned talks on subjects as diverse as “Hulk as a Metaphorical Monster,” the portrayal of God as a monster in Preacher, and the works of Hitoshi Tomizawa. In addition to scholarly talks, the biannual conference will also host panels with comic creators such as Jim Rugg, Jonathan Case and Ben Towle. Another interesting event  is a workshop by cartoonist Tom Hart, who recently set up the Sequential Artists Workshop school in Gainesville.

Unbeknown to many comic fans and Florida residents, including myself, the University of Florida has a focused “Comic Studies” track inside its English department, led by Dr. Donald Ault. It’s also home to an expanding special collection of comics that holds many gems. So if you’re in central Florida next month, it’s worth a visit.

Jim Rugg art show kicks off March 29 in Pittsburgh

This #*?! Isn't Very Funny

Afrodisiac and Street Angel‘s Jim Rugg is the subject of an upcoming art exhibit, This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny at the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh March 29-May 6.

This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny features Rugg’s work on Street Angel and Afrodisiac, as well new and seldom seen pieces. You can find the press release and some additional Rugg art after the jump.

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Food or Comics? | Conan the barberryan

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Thief of Thieves #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start with Thief of Thieves #1 (Image/Skybound, $2.99). The gang at Skybound gave me an advance PDF of this issue, and I like it so much I want to hold the physical thing in my hands. Shawn Martinbrough really nails this first issue, and Nick Spencer really puts his Marvel work to shame with this story. Next up I’d get my favorite DC Book – Batwoman #6 (DC, $2.99) – and favorite Marvel book – Wolverine and The X-Men #5 ($3.99). I’d finish it all up with Northlanders #48 ($2.99). I’m not the biggest fan of Danijel Zezelj’s work, but I can’t let up now to see my long-running commitment to Northlanders falter at this point.

If I had $30, I’d dig into Richard Corben’s Murky World one-shot (Dark Horse, $3.50). Corben’s one of those “will-buy-no-matter-what” artists for me that Tom Spurgeon recently focused on, and this looks right up my alley. Next up I’d get Secret Avengers #22 (Marvel, $3.99) because Remender’s idea of robot descendents intrigues me, and then Wolverine and The X-Men: Alpha and Omega (Marvel, $3.99). I didn’t know what to expect from the first issue, and after reading it I still don’t know where this series is heading – but I like it so far. Finally, I’d get Haunt #21 (Image, $2.99). The combination of Joe Casey & Nathan Fox is like a secret code to open my wallet.

If I could splurge, I’d take the graphic novel Jinchalo (D+Q, $17.95) by Matthew Forsythe. I loved his previous book Ojingogo, and this looks to continue in that hit parade.

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Comics A.M. | How to save the struggling manga industry

Lucky Star

Publishing | Longtime industry hand Jason Thompson has written a thoughtful essay on why the manga industry is in trouble, going beyond the American scene to point out structural problems in the Japanese market: An aging readership, the decline of print and the reluctance of Japanese publishers to embrace digital publishing in any coherent way. “Perhaps wary of creating an iTunes-like behemoth which could drive prices down,” Thompson writes, “publishers haven’t united in any reasonable way to create a consistent digital newsstand/bookstore format for their titles.” This, of course, has just made life easier for the scanlators. He also points to a shift toward the individual creator — it’s the big publishers who are hurting, while self-published and indy manga are on the rise. All this may sound familiar to American comics fans, but Thompson’s prescriptions for the future — more gag manga, simpler art, more color, and motion comics — don’t seem like convincing ways to rescue the industry. An iTunes-like behemoth is probably the way to go. [io9]

Awards | The Horror Writers Association has released the preliminary ballot for the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards, which includes a graphic novel category. [Horror Writers Association]

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pood to cease publication with issue #4

As a newspaper broadsheet it was always able to do so literally, but now the alternative comics anthology pood has folded in the unfortunately metaphorical sense. Writing on the pood blog, co-founder and co-editor Geoff Grogan says the publication’s fourth issue will be its last.

Through pood, editors Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader published a wide array of challenging, often unfashionable altcomix work, by creators ranging from Jim Rugg to Hans Rickheit to (in the anthology’s fourth and final issue) DC and Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton. But Grogan says that the project, always a labor of love, was a quixotic one in today’s marketplace: Its unconventional newsprint format, uncommercial contents, and budget-necessitated lack of a dedicated PR person made it impossible to generate enough revenue to continue the series.

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Warning: Jaime Hernandez may be hazardous to cartoonists’ work habits

I read [“The Love Bunglers”] one evening while sitting at my drawing table. When I finished it, I turned off the lights in my studio (spare bedroom), and decided to spend the evening hanging out with my wife. I knew I was done drawing for the day. It reaches emotional heights I rarely encounter when reading comics and was not prepared for.

Afrodisiac and Street Angel cartoonist Jim Rugg, himself no slouch in the comics department, on encountering Jaime Hernandez’s astonishing work in Love and Rockets: New Stories #4. Hmmm, Rugg left his drawing table, Adrian Tomine left a signing party…I really hope no cartoonists read this book while behind the controls of an airplane or something.

In all seriousness, times when a comic emotionally incapacitates you for however long are times to be treasured. Last night, in prepping for this post, I flipped through the book one more time, and came across pages that made me gasp and swoon. Hey, kids! Comics!

(Image by the great Alex Kropinak from text by yours truly)

This weekend, it’s SPX

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.

In addition to a lot of great talent, SPX also offers a full schedule of programming and the yearly Ignatz Awards. And a whole lot of new books and cool things will be available at the show:

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Comics A.M. | Man charged with insider trading in Disney-Marvel deal

Disney & Marvel

Legal | The Los Angeles Times reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Toby G. Scammell with insider trading. Scammell has been accused of using confidential information “surreptitiously gleaned” from his girlfriend to make $192,000 off of Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. Scammell’s girlfriend was an intern working in the corporate strategy department at Disney. [Los Angeles Times]

Comics | Heidi MacDonald rounds up questions creators have raised about the Womanthology project, which raised $109,000 on Kickstarter, specifically about how the extra money will be used and whether the creators who are involved will be paid. Organizer Renae De Liz has posted additional details on the Womanthology site. [The Beat]

Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con gets into full swing today in Rosemont, Illinois. Comics guests include Brian Azzarello, Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato Jr., Gary Friedrich, Patrick Gleason, Mike Grell, Dave Johnson, Ariel Olivetti, Eduardo Risso, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ethan Van Sciver. The Chicago Sun-Times briefly spotlights attending artists Ivan Brunetti and Don Kramer, while the Daily Herald interviews Brunetti and Nate Powell. [Wizard World]

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HeroesCon Recap: Photo Essay

Rather than try to write a summary of my HeroesCon 2011 experience, I have opted this year to share as many photos as possible. My camera was out-of-commission yesterday so all photos were taken during the second day of the show (Saturday).

Jeff Parker and friends

Jeff Parker and friends

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Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies collection coming in July

After a stellar run as the back-up story in Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, the Michel Fiffe-edited series Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is making its way toward the bookshelf with a collection that boasts some amazing extras.

The collected Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is scheduled to hit this July as an over-sized 144 page book, collecting all 12 back-up stories as well as some new material from the likes of Tom Scioli, Jim Rugg, Jasen Lex, Paul Maybury, Zack Soto and others.

If you missed it in singles, this collection is worth a flip through. You have to admire Larsen’s agreeance to allow Fiffe and his team of creators to do this liberal a take on his characters. It really allows each of them to play to their strengths, and wish more creator-owned cartoonists would consider giving over the reins of their characters like this.

Read Afrodisiac online for free

Afrodisiac, by Jim Rugg

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac took the comics world by storm last year and recently received an Eisner Award nomination. Only thing is, the book is currently between printings.

“To ensure that every possible Eisner Award voter has all of the necessary information to cast their ballot in a responsible and educated manner, we have decided to put the entire book online for FREE,” the team posted on AdHouse’s site. You can check it out for yourself over at the Issuu website.

Forget Kid Rock, KISS and Eminem — Detroit brings in Jim Rugg

Jim Rugg’s made himself known through a series of thrilling projects both creator-owned and work-for-hire, doing work for Vertigo’s Minx line, collaborating with the frontman of the Dandy Warhols on a graphic novel, and doing two excellent books of his own (Afrodisiac and Street Angel).

And now he’s bringing it to Detroit for one night only.

On March 4, Rugg will speak at the Michigan’s Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit as part of their annual Comic Jam which is co-hosted with local retailer Green Brain Comics. Rugg’s scheduled to go on stage at 7 p.m., and will talk about his experiences in comics — and maybe give a sneak peek of what he’s working on next. Come early and enjoy this free all-ages Comic Jam, which starts at 4 p.m.

Looking forward, looking back: Chris Pitzer on AdHouse in 2010 and 2011

Afrodisiac

If you’re looking for a company that started and ended strong 2010, look no further than AdHouse Books, the independent company that’s published books by Joshua Cotter, Paul Pope and James Jean, among others. Although they aren’t the kind of company that puts out a huge amount of books, they are one you can always count on to put out something interesting.

As for those bookends for the year, AdHouse kicked off 2010 with the release of Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg, and ended it with Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines, which landed at the top of some folks‘ best comics of the year lists. (Including my own; it came in at No. 16 on CBR’s list for 2010).

I spoke with AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer about the previous year, the above two books, their new AdDistro initiative and what they have coming up for 2011. My thanks to Chris for sending over a lot of cool art to show you as well.

JK: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us today, Chris. I thought we could start off talking about 2010, and in particular some the bigger projects you put out.Let’s start with something that seems like it came out a long time ago, Afrodisiac. It seemed to garner a lot of attention when it came out in January.

Chris: Thanks for the interest in AdHouse, JKP! I dig what the Robot 6 blog does, so I appreciate the opportunity to chat about this stuff. In regards to Afrodisiac, it was an HONOR to work with Jim and Brian on that. We’ve been “dancing” around the topic of publishing it for years, and it was nice to finally have it happen. Yeah, it feels like so long ago, doesn’t it?

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What Are You Reading?

Blood's a Rover

Blood's a Rover

Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talk about the comics and graphic novels that they’ve been enjoying lately. Our special guest this week is comics journalist and critic Dirk Deppey of Journalista and The Comics Journal fame.

To see what Dirk and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …

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