Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
Conventions | John Giuffo does a compare-and-contrast between Comic-Con International and New York Comic Con. While San Diego has more Hollywood presence, NYCC has grown with stunning rapidity — it’s hard to believe that first event had just 25,000 people and shared the Javits Center with a travel convention; this year attendance was 116,000, gaining hard on San Diego’s 125,000. One key difference is that CCI spills out of the San Diego Convention Center into the surrounding neighborhood, which has restaurants and bars and parks, while the area around the Javits is pretty barren, limiting opportunities for parties or even a decent lunch, let alone the sort of outside activities that have sprung up in San Diego. [Forbes]
Legal | A Missouri man has pleaded guilty to federal obscenity charges stemming from comics depicting minors having sex with adults and other minors. The prosecutor has asked that he be sentenced to three years in federal prison without parole. [Anime News Network]
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Batman, by Josh Simmons. Dated 2006-’07. Self-published.
Best single image:
Hard to argue with this comic’s screenprinted cover drawing, actually…
Apart from all the “new 52″ brouhaha, one of the more interesting and talked about bits of online was Michael Fiffe’s essay on the delineations between mainstream (i.e. superhero) comics and the alt/indie comics scene. Spinning off of his essay, I thought it would be fun to list my own favorite super-styled tales by folks who usually don’t do that type of material, some of which Fiffe talked about in his essay.
Note: For the purposes of this article I’m deliberately avoiding any of the officially sanctioned productions from the Big Two, namely Strange Tales and Bizarro Comics, just to make it a wee bit harder.
Editor’s note: As a part of Robot 666 Week, we welcome guest contributor Van Jensen, writer of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and its upcoming sequel.
by Van Jensen
I was on a panel with Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson to discuss horror comics earlier this year, and I admitted that I didn’t really like horror as a genre. I can’t even see a trailer for Saw MCXVII (or whatever number they’re up to) without feeling repulsed. But Steve and Bernie talked me down from the ledge. The problem isn’t so much with the horror genre, it’s with the trend of comics and movies that use gore as a substitute for real fright. So here’s my list of favorite horror comics and films, and they’re all projects that rely heavily on atmosphere and thrills (the real hallmarks of horror) rather than buckets of blood.
1. House, by Josh Simmons.
Simmons’ debut graphic novel is a relatively simple story, with three teenagers exploring a giant old house in the woods. Things go wrong, which is predictable, but in an unpredictable way. Simmons uses no words through the entire story, but his real accomplishment is utilizing the design of the pages to deliver an increasingly claustrophobic, disorienting and terrifying story.
It was one of the best comics you never read last year. Available only in Robin Bougie’s extreme-smut anthology Sleazy Slice #3 (link is NSFW) or as a minicomic with a wrinkled and grease-stained brown paper bag for a cover and the title hand-scrawled on it in pencil, cartoonist Josh Simmons’s horror opus Cockbone nevertheless came in at #53 on Comic Book Resources’ list of the best comics of 2009. Many critics –Tom Spurgeon, Joe “Jog the Blog” McCulloch, Tucker Stone, yours truly — ranked it even higher. Once read, this story of a simple-minded oaf, the grotesque family that exploits him, and the horrifying fate that awaits them all was simply impossible to shake.
And now — for our sins — Simmons has posted Cockbone online in its entirety. Please note: This is perhaps the most disturbing comic I have ever read, and it’s way, way beyond NOT SAFE FOR WORK. I’m serious — this nightmarish cocktail of sexual violence and depravity will upset you. Badly. But if you think you can take it, you’ll find that it takes the themes and imagery Simmons has been developing in his more accessible horror work — his stories in Mome and Kramers Ergot, his graphic novels House and Jessica Farm — and takes them to a masterful, unforgettable extreme. Just remember: You’ve been warned.
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a horror comic in this post-30 Days of Night, post-The Walking Dead age. Meanwhile, there’s a bustling alt-horror … well, “scene” and “movement” probably aren’t the right words, but there are plenty of those comics and cartoonists out there.
But are any of them, y’know, actually scary?
Blogger Curt Purcell of The Groovy Age of Horror has endeavored to answer that question — long a topic of debate among comics readers, many of whom are skeptical that comics really can hang with movies or prose for their sheer power to frighten — by rounding up thoughts on the topic from a variety of horror and comics creators and commentators. These include cartoonists Richard Sala (Peculia) and Josh Simmons (House); CRwM of the provocative horror blog And Now the Screaming Starts; Kimberly Lindbergs of the movie-focused Cinebeats; Karswell of the pre-Comics Code horror-comics blog The Horrors of It All; and (ahem) yours truly. The roundtable was inspired by a post from Richard Cook at The Hooded Utilitarian, so be sure to check that out, too.
Where do you stand on scarybooks?
Before Halloween I posted a list of “Six Deeply Creepy Alt-Horror Cartoonists” as part of Robot 666′s week-long reign of terror. Well, these avatars of alternative comics’ dark side have been up to some interesting things lately. Feast your eyes on the latest enterprises of our strange sextet:
The Squirrel Machine‘s Hans Rickheit is selling original pages from his darkly erotic, Xeric-winning graphic novel Chloe. If you’re in the original art market you can buy them straight from the artist himself here; if you’d just like to take a gander at the book itself, you can buy it here. (And I recommend you do so.)
What do you think of when you think of horror comics? Vintage EC shockers, black-clad Vertigo occult titles, weird and wild manga, modern-day success stories like 30 Days of Night and Hack/Slash, or the mother of all zombie comics The Walking Dead? For my money, the most reliably disturbing and disquieting work in the genre over recent years has come from artists who produce what you’d consider to be “alternative comics.” These alt-horror cartoonists may not even think of themselves as horror-comics creators at all, eschewing as most of them do the rhythms and staples of conventional horror fiction. But by deploying altcomix’ usual emphasis on tone and emotional effect in service of dark and macabre imagery, their comics haunt me all the more.
So for my contribution to Robot 666′s daily horror-centric lists this week, I’m singing the praises of six talented alt-horror cartoonists. I could have listed quite a few more, mind you–some real giants of the field, including Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Jim Woodring, and Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell have done tremendous work in this area. But for me right now, these were the six who demanded the spotlight.