When comics entrepreneur Marc Arsenault announced almost a year ago that he had bought defunct Alternative Comics in order to relaunch the publisher, a lot of fans (me included) were thrilled. Under founder Jeff Mason, Alternative introduced readers to creators like Graham Annable, Brandon Graham, James Kochalka, Ed Brubaker, Scott Campbell (of Great Movie Showdowns fame), Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. So with Alternative and comiXology announcing today that the publisher’s catalog is becoming available digitally on the app, I was eager to talk to Arsenault about their plans.
Michael May: For those who don’t know you, what’s your background in comics?
Marc Arsenault: Wow. Where to begin? I’ve been a pretty behind-the-scenes guy for most of my time in comics, but this year I’ve hit the quarter century mark for working in them.
I figured out that I wanted to make comics somewhere around eighth grade when I discovered RAW, Warrior and Heavy Metal. When I found out about the comics program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) my path was clear. I didn’t even apply to any other schools. I got to study with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Orlando, David Sandlin, Jerry Moriarity, Marshall Arisman and the very influential Jack Potter.
That experience was very relevant to Alternative Comics’ past and present because it was there that I met Sam Henderson and Tom Hart. I shared a studio space with Tom, and he and Sam had started an off-campus comics anthology called Tuna Casserole. By the fifth issue I became co-editor and we founded the first incarnation of my company Wow Cool. I ended up becoming an illustrator instead of a cartoonist, and did that freelance on and off up until about a decade ago.
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
First of all, we need to think up some new terms to distinguish journalism done via comics — as practiced by, say, Joe Sacco — from journalism about comics. Suggestions gleefully accepted!
Whatever we call it, sequential-art reporting is definitely coming into its own, and we have the links to prove it. For starters, here’s a video of the Comics and Journalism in a New Era panel at Comic-Con International, moderated by Publishers Weekly comics editor Calvin Reid and featuring a stellar lineup of Susie Cagle (who
has been involved in as well as reporting reported* on Occupy Oakland), Andy Warner, Stan Mack, Ed Piskor, Dan Carino and Chris Butcher.
There’s comics journalism, then there’s comic journalism. There’s a growing number of individuals who are using comics to do journalism, and they’re increasingly being noticed by the journalism community at large. New York-based cartoonist Josh Neufeld has been on that trail for years with A.D.: New Orleans After The Deluge and The Influencing Machine, and now he’s received a rare recognition with the offering of a Knight-Wallace Fellowship.
The Knight-Wallace Fellowships is offered by the Universe of Michigan to, as their website states, “exceptional journalists from the U.S. and abroad to share this life-changing experience.” The fellowship is a offer for a full academic year of sabbatical studies at the University’s campus, with twice-weekly seminars and other educational opportunities. As a bonus, Neufeld and the other fellows will make two extended international tours to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Istanbul.
“My study plan is to extensively research Bahrain’s Pearl Revolution, which I did a short piece about for Cartoon Movement,” Neufeld said in an e-mail. “I plan on taking courses in the history of the Persian Gulf, Islam (specifically the Sunni-Shia divide), and the language and culture of the region. The ultimate goal is to produce a long-form comics-format book on the topic.”
Neufeld’s piece in Cartoon Movement, “Bahrain: Lines In Ink, Lines In The Sand,” was nominated for an Eisner and was later translated into both Persian and Italian. Neufeld is the first comics journalist to be offered this fellowship, and the second comics journalist to receive any sort of American journalism fellowship.
Comics | A July house fire in Minneapolis that killed homeowner Gary Dahlberg spared his meticulously preserved comic-book collection, which experts say could be worth $1 million. The comics, which includes first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Daredevil, will be sold at auction on May 5 by Heritage Auction Galleries, with the money going to Dahlberg’s estate. “To go for the really big money they have to be really perfect, and that what these are,” says Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auction Galleries. “The comics look like they just rolled off the printing press and nobody’s ever touched them.” [KSTP TV, with video]
Crime | A 17-year-old boy accused of attempting to rob Fun 4 All Comics & Games in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Monday has been arraigned on charges of assault with attempt to rob while armed and attempted larceny. Police say the teen, wearing a blond wig, bandanna and dark glasses, gave an employee a list of merchandise — “most, if not all, of it Yu-Gi-Oh! cards” — then opened his coat to reveal what appeared to be an improvised explosive device. The boy allegedly threatened to detonate the bomb if he wasn’t given the merchandise. When the employee yelled for the owner to call police, then teen said he was only joking, then bought some inexpensive items and left the store. The sheriff’s department later arrested the teen in his car in a Burger King parking lot. The Michigan State Police bomb squad responded, and determined the potential explosive device was inert. [AnnArbor.com]
Publishing | Veteran writer J.M. DeMatteis has resigned as editor-in-chief of Ardden Entertainment, fledgling publisher of Flash Gordon and partner in the planned revival of Atlas Comics. DeMatteis, who joined Ardden in February 2008, cited creative differences with Co-Publishers Brendan Deneen and Rich Emms. Deneen has assumed the role of editor-in-chief. [J.M. DeMatteis' blog]
Comic strips | Non Sequitur cartoonist Wiley Miller comments on the decision by more than 20 newspapers to replace the Oct. 3 installment of his strip because it mentioned the Prophet Muhammad: “[Editors] didn’t see the satire was on them, of being petrified to run anything related to him. But this whole thing has just gotten so silly over the years. It’s something I can’t lay off. It’s my job as a satirist to point out the stupidity in the world. And the editors fell right in line with proving how stupid it is.” Andrew Alexander, ombudsman for The Washington Post, criticized his newspaper for pulling the strip. [Fox News]