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Comic Books, Film
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.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are Gardner Linn and Dave Lentz, the creative team behind the webcomic Registered Weapon — “the internet’s only webcomic starring a robotic cash register who fights crime.” They just kicked off their latest story, Case 006, on Nov. 12, and you can also download the first ten pages from their site if you prefer to read in bigger chunks.
To see what Gardner, Dave and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
If you need a Kate Beaton sketchbook to go with that copy of Hark! A Vagrant and are one of the first 500 people to act, TopatoCo (an online distributor for merchandise by indie cartoonists) has you covered. There’s also a supply at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn, which I guess means that less than 500 are available for online orders. The book was put together from scans of Beaton’s actual sketchbook. “Some are doodles, some are research,” TopatoCo writes. “You know how it goes with sketchbooks. We’re keeping the run small to make this a special thing, for fans who want something a little different and personal.”
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]
Nominees for the awards were chosen by a jury of five creators and voted on by attendees at the show. This year’s jury included Edie Fake, Minty Lewis, Dylan Meconis, Lark Pien and Julia Wertz.
The 2012 Ignatz award winners are:
Outstanding Artist: Jaime Hernandez – Love and Rockets New Stories (Fantagraphics)
Outstanding Anthology or Collection: Hark! A Vagrant – Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)
Outstanding Graphic Novel: Big Questions by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)
Outstanding Story: “Return to Me,” Love & Rockets New Stories #4, by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
Promising New Talent: Lale Westvind – Hot Dog Beach (Self-published)
Outstanding Series: Love and Rockets New Stories by The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics)
Outstanding Comic: Pterodactyl Hunters by Brendan Leach (Top Shelf)
Outstanding Mini-Comic: The Monkey in the Basement and Other Delusions by Corinne Mucha (Retrofit Comics)
Outstanding Online Comic: SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. To see what the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
There aren’t a lot of details, but I guess there isn’t much more to know than what’s in the title. Kate Beaton will be San Diego Comic-Con and so will her calendar. There are many reasons I’m excited to go to this year’s show, but this just jumped to the top of them.