Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Censorship | During a panel at Comic-Con International, members of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund criticized a student’s attempt to have four graphic novels banned from her college campus. Crafton Hills College student Tara Shultz and her father, Craig Shultz, have called for Fun Home, Persepolis, the first volume of Y: The Last Man, and the second volume of The Sandman, all of which were included in a course on the graphic novel as literature, to be removed not only from the course but also from the college bookstore. The school has refused. CBLDF director Charles Brownstein noted that this is part of a troubling new trend: Graphic novel challenges at the college level. The CBLDF has been involved in 18 college cases so far this year, up from 10 in all of 2014. [Redlands Daily Facts]
Creators | “Opus’s [voice] came screaming back at me — true— when I faced those four empty panels that I hadn’t done since 1989,” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed told Michael Cavna, explaining why he is returning to his comic strip Bloom County after a lengthy absence. He also discusses the possibility of self-publishing rather than going with a newspaper syndicate: “Dead-tree media requires constancy and deadlines and guarantees. This flattens the joy. It also presents a huge income. It’s an interesting trade-off, isn’t it?” [Comic Riffs]
Commentary | David Brothers critiques Marvel’s plans to publish hip-hop themed variant covers, given that none of the newly announced creators for Marvel titles are black. [i am davidbrothers dotcom]
Creators | Kate Beaton talks about her family, webcomics, princesses, and her pony character’s guest appearance on Adventure Time. [Time]
Passings | Anastasia Moreno, co-creator of the webcomic Marine Corps Yumi and a manga translator for Seven Seas, has died. Moreno was the translator of Kisses Sighs and Cherry Blossom Pink, Girl Friends, and Strawberry Panic, as well as the Love Hina and Trinity Blood novels. [Crunchyroll]
Comics | Political cartoonist Matt Bors has left his post as editor of The Nib, the comics section of the website The Medium, which he had built into a highly regarded online comics site until Medium gutted it. Bors told Tom Spurgeon he would be launching a Kickstarter for a Nib book, but he did not reveal any future plans. [Comics Reporter]
Editorial Cartoons | Political cartoonist Adrian Raeside is being laid off from the Victoria Times Colonist after 30 years. [Vancouver Sun]
Comics | I rounded up the kids’ comics news at Comic-Con. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | “I kind of understood inherently — and I wasn’t really conflicted about this — that comics were not for me or by people who looked like me,” says Noelle Stevenson. Discovering the “free for all” of webcomics, and seeing women making stories for women, changed her attitude, and at 23 she already has a solid career, as the creator of Nimona (which started as a webcomic) and one of the co-creators of Lumberjanes. [Hero Complex]
Creators | Kate Beaton talks about her new picture book, The Princess and the Pony, and the power and joy of making kids laugh with poop and fart jokes. [Jezebel]
Creators | Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis talks about comics and being mistaken for Robert Downey, Jr. [Huffington Post]
Graphic Novels | Leah Hayes talks about her graphic novel Not Funny Ha-Ha, which follows the experiences of two women as they have abortions; the book focuses on the procedure itself, not the decision to have an abortion or the discussion that surrounds it. [MTV]
Graphic Novels | Phil Morehart covers three creator panels on diversity in graphic novels at the American Library Association annual meeting. Trina Robbins, Brenden Fletcher, Noelle Stevenson, and Jeremy Whitley were among the participants. [American Libraries]
Manga | Deb Aoki rounds up the recommendations from the Best and Worst Manga panel at Comic-Con (in which I took part). [MangaComicsManga]
This being the Internet, there very well may be someone somewhere who does not, in fact, care for Beaton’s work, but I’ve never run across that person. Similarly, it’s difficult to find a cartoonist whose work is so widely enjoyed and championed that affection for it approaches universal.
From her long-running online comics about historical and literary figures (collected in the Hark! A Vagrant books, a second volume of which is due soon) to her online-only, more-doodled-than-drawn strips about visiting her family, Beaton’s work is always engaging and easy to share.
Manga | The Naruto spinoff Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, which is running simultaneously in the Japanese and American versions of Shonen Jump, will end in the July 6 issue. [Anime News Network]
Fandom | Rob Salkowitz presents results of a recent survey of convention-goers conducted by the online ticket platform Eventbrite. Interestingly, they found almost complete gender parity (48.9 percent female, 48.7 percent male, and 3.1 percent non-binary/other) among convention-goers in general but much bigger skews in individual categories: “Comics, toys and gaming are predominantly male, while media, anime/manga and sci-fi/fantasy fandom are predominantly female.” A typical con-goer spends between $100 an $500, with comics fans being the biggest spenders and prints and original art the most popular thing to buy. There’s a lot more detail in the article about what people like and don’t like (biggest beef: lack of wi-fi an connectivity in convention centers). The survey updates and expands on a similar survey conducted last year. [ICv2]
Although the book was teased in Drawn & Quarterly’s Free Comic Book Day listing, the publisher has now officially announced the September release of Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops, the follow-up to her bestselling 2011 collection Hark! A Vagrant.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 160-page book will combine new material with strips from Beaton’s wildly popular webcomic, including her “Broadside Ballads” series. The cartoonist talks briefly with the newspaper about Hark! A Vagrant, its historical and literary influences, and how she settles upon topics.
“Kate’s wit is sharper than ever in Step Aside, Pops,” acquiring editor Tom Devlin said in a statement. “She’s found the perfect way to explore her love of history, while effortlessly deflating the pompous, self-righteous figures of authority we were taught to respect in school. Her restlessness has made her drawings even funnier.”
Beaton, who’s been producing her webcomic since 2007, has won four Harvey Awards for her work. The 2011 collection of Hark! A Vagrant spent five months on The New York Times graphic books bestsellers list.
Step Aside, Pops will be previewed along with Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy in Drawn & Quarterly’s FCBD offering.
Crime | Artist Josh C. Lyman reports that thieves broke into his car sometime on Monday or Tuesday and stole about 40 pieces of original art (some of it commissioned), 1,200 prints, plus convention setup materials, art supplies and clothes. “I’m more devastated in the fact my originals are all gone … some of my better non-commissioned work of the last 3 years … along with all of my tools I have earned and acquired during the aforementioned periods. Tshirts and the like I can slowly replace … but it’s the matter of having all this potential art for shows gone; along with all the posters I had left,” he writes. Lyman contacted police and has notified local comic shops to keep an eye out for the missing work, and he has posted images of the stolen art. [Facebook, via Bleeding Cool]
Censorship | Rachael Jolley takes a long and wide view of the pressures that political cartoonists are subject to, looking at several recent attempts to suppress editorial cartoonists as well as the history of tensions between creators of political cartoons and those they portray; the article also includes comments from Neil Gaiman on the topic of censorship. [The New Statesman]
Kate Beaton remains one of the most recognizable names in webcomics. Hark! A Vagrant began as humorous doodles posted to LiveJournal but has since become one of the most-loved webcomics in the world. It’s been nominated for several awards, winning the Harvey twice for Best Online Comic. In 2011, Time named Beaton’s collection (published by Drawn & Quarterly) one of the Top 10 fiction books of the year.
It’s not difficult to see why Beaton’s comics are popular: Her style is unmistakable; it’s loose and deceptively simple, as if she just had a funny notion only seconds ago, and yet manages to be successfully comedic with its goofiness, bug-eyed faces and rubbery body language. Her love of history helps, too (she has a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology from Mount Allison University). There’s a lot of life that goes into both the caricatures of royal dead dudes and the attention to detail on the period costumes. And then Beaton has them act and talk like a bunch of teens. It’s a magical formula that combines goofiness with an air of respectability… like, say, a classy Victorian lady smoking a cigarette and talking like an urban tough guy. It’s the sort of thing that gets her invited to participate in a diverse array of projects, from Marvel’s non-canon superhero anthology Strange Tales to the notoriously sophisticated (and sometimes inscrutable) pages of The New Yorker.
Auctions | A rare copy of The Beano #1 from July 1938 — only about 25 copies are believed to exist — is being auctioned on eBay by Seaford, England, dealer Phil Shrimpton. With just four days remaining, the opening bid of £3,499 (about $5,875 U.S.) has yet to be met. As you can see on the website, the copy certainly isn’t in the best shape. The issue, which sold a reported 442,963 copies when it was released, introduced such characters as original cover star Big Eggo the ostrich, Lord Snooty, Wee Peem and Ping the Elastic Man (the racist caricature in the magazine’s logo is Little Peanut, who stuck around on the cover until 1947, when he was replaced by Big Eggo). “Every year or so another one seems to emerge – often found in someone’s attic,” Shrimpton says. “People didn’t really look at comics as collector’s items until the sixties and seventies, so lots of them got destroyed. Also a lot of the comics were destroyed during the war as people were more conscious about recycling the old issues.” [The Argus]
The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This week is pretty packed, as we have news, reviews, a con recap and a whole year’s worth of announcements from one publisher. So buckle your seat belts and hold on tight as we aim our DeLorean at the last seven days …
Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.
“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]
On an Internet whisker-deep in cat photos, cat videos and cat memes, Grumpy Cat is the indisputable king — or, rather, queen, as the peevish feline is actually a female named Tardar Sauce. She has her own meme manager, her own book, her own book tour, a litter-pan full of web awards, a movie deal and a company valued at $1 million.
Out of all of that, strangely enough, “meme manager” may give the most pause. (Or is that paws?) Ben Lashes, former frontman for the band Lashes, is profiled, along with his client, in the latest issue of New York magazine, where we learn how he transformed Grumpy Cat from a single link into a furry little industry. (Did we mention the Friskies deal, the coffee line, the plush toys and the T-shirts?)
Among the most popular shirts, Gawker points out, is one that combines a photo of Grumpy Cat with the caption “I HAD FUN ONCE/IT WAS AWFUL,” which, after a stop off at Reddit, where it became attached to the feline, actually originated with cartoonist Kate Beaton’s popular webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! Gawker, which concluded that the best way to get rich from memes is to “steal other memes,” contacted Beaton for her take.
“No, I never authorized anything. And some people will argue that I never wrote the joke, that it’s ‘been around forever,’ she tells the website. “But I made a comic, and one panel became a meme, and that’s fine. The nature of a joke is to take on a life of its own. At some point, the meme was applied to Grumpy Cat, where it fit well. It is only how Grumpy Cat is aggressive about protecting their brand with that joke as part of it that has ever rubbed me the wrong way.”
Indeed, the New York article makes a point of how diligently the people making money from Grumpy Cat police uses of her likeness. “No one’s a chump,” Lashes tells the magazine. “We’ve got a saying over here in team meme: ‘Respect the cat.’ ”
There are few webcomics as popular or influential as Hark! A Vagrant, but news of Kate Beaton’s latest project arrived from a fairly unexpected source, the science fiction blog io9. She’s illustrating a young-adult book, The Well’s End, by debut novelist Seth Fishman.
UPDATED (11:48 a.m.): Fishman has written to clarify that, unfortunately, Beaton isn’t illustrating the novel, but rather created some exclusive art for the unveiling of the cover.
The summary from publisher Putnam makes it sound like quite a cracking yarn, too — the kind of thing that gets optioned quickly by Hollywood:
A childhood accident, a bizarre outbreak, and an impossible discovery…
Mia Kish is afraid of the dark. And for good reason. When she was a toddler she fell deep into her backyard well only to be rescued to great fanfare and celebrity. In fact, she is small-town Fenton,Colorado’s walking claim to fame. Not like that helps her status at Westbrook Academy, the nearby uber-ritzy boarding school she attends. A townie is a townie. Being nationally ranked as a swimmer doesn’t matter a lick. But even the rarefied world of Westbrook is threated when emergency sirens start blaring and the school is put on lockdown, quarantined and surrounded by soldiers who seem to shoot first and ask questions later. Only when confronted by a frightening virus that ages its victims to death in a manner of hours does Mia realize she may only just be beginning to discover what makes Fenton special.
The answer is behind the walls of the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics. Mia’s dad, the director of Fenton Electronics, has always been secretive about his work. But unless Mia is willing to let her classmates succumb to the strange illness, she and her friends have got to break quarantine, escape the school grounds, and outsmart armed soldiers to uncover the truth about where the virus comes from and what happened down that well. The answers they find just might be more impossible than the virus they are fleeing.
Beaton has an amazing capacity for portraying subtle emotions and character with a few deft pen strokes. She’s an inspired choice for an assignment in this genre. The 352-page novel will be released Feb. 25, 2014. Continue Reading »
Kate Beaton has contributed plenty of art to Canada’s Walrus magazine and the publication is continuing the association by re-releasing a limited edition tote bag featuring Beaton’s work. “Last time the beauty was available, the stylish, high-demand tote sold out in a single day,” Walrus reminds. “We’re now making it available with a special bonus for the holidays: buy the Beaton tote, get a ten issue subscription absolutely free.” The bag costs $25.
As I’m typing this on Sunday night, there are still some available, but act fast if you want one. The bags start shipping Dec. 10.
Ryan North’s (Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time) Kickstarter for his illustrated prose book, To Be or Not To Be is way past being fully funded with 24 days still to go, so this isn’t a plea for action so much as it is a public service announcement. Because, dude …
North is putting together something that he can’t call Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for legal reasons, but totally is, only it’s for grown-ups, based on Hamlet, allows you to play as various characters including the ghost, and is illustrated by an insane line-up of artists like Kate Beaton, Chip Zdarsky, Chris Hastings, David Malki, Dustin Harbin, Jim Zubkavich, Kazu Kibuishi, Ray Fawkes, Vera Brosgol. … Seriously, I’m going to embarrass myself by leaving someone awesome out and the list is loooong. Check out the Kickstarter page for the full scoop.
$15 gets you a PDF copy, but $20 gets U.S. residents the PDF and a paperback copy too. Backers outside the U.S. are asked for a $30 pledge to cover shipping costs. And of course there are other goodies for pledging more.