X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
The thing that amazes/impresses me the most about Kate Beaton’ comics is how much everyone loves them. OK, not everyone — I do know one or two stragglers that refuse to find anything amusing in her sly little comics — but a lot of people from disparate fan bases really like her stuff. Indie readers like Kate Beaton, Superhero fans like Kate Beaton,, and (perhaps most notably) people who hardly ever (if at all) read comics like Kate Beaton (like my wife). She crosses boundaries in a way I don’t think I’ve seen any modern cartoonist do, let alone a webcartoonist. I think that’s even more impressive when you consider how often she relies upon (relatively) obscure historical figures and literature as the basis for her strips.
Other than that I really don’t have much to say, except that those who own her first book, Never Learn Anything From History, and haven’t bought this one yet because they’re worried it reprints the same material can relax; it doesn’t. Basically if you appreciate intelligence, wit (or smartassery) and the chance to learn something on the side, then this is the book for you.
More reviews after the jump …
Bake Sale (First Second) Sara Varon trades in the anthropomorphic animal characters of her previous comics Robot Dreams and Sweater Weather (and her children’s picture book Chicken and Cat) for a new source of character design: anthropomorphized foodstuffs.
I really enjoyed the waves of cognitive dissonance I got from seeing Bake Sale’s star Cupcake, a cupcake, making cupcakes, and other such weirdness as an animated chicken leg walking its dog in the park, a bag of sugar excitedly ordering brownies and, perhaps most disturbingly, seeing Cupcake chopping up a carrot for his carrot cake…only to visit a restaurant a few pages later and placing an order with a carrot, named Carrot! (Also, there’s a panel where Cupcake learns his place in the band has been filled by a potato, and responds, “A potato?! Everyone knows potatoes have no rhythm!” Why is Cupcake so racist against potatoes? And I’m pretty sure he’s eating mashed potatoes with his meatloaf sandwich in that scene…)
Another difference between Bake Sale and Varon’s previous works? I was able to read it without bawling my eyes out (as I did with Robot Dreams) or even getting a little choked up (as with Chicken and Cat). Which isn’t to imply that her latest is lacking in emotional content—Varon’s cute, simple cartoon characters are remarkably communicative of complicated feelings, and her visual storytelling is masterful. There remains an almost elegiac quality to it.
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.
If I had $15, I’d spend several musty dollars on Fear Agent #31 (Dark Horse, $3.50). This penultimate issue has been a long time coming, and I’m excited to see Remender and Moore enlist Mike Hawthorne to help get these final issues done – big fan of all three of them! Next up would be two of DC’s New 52; Action Comics #2 (DC, $3.99) and Swamp Thing (DC, $2.99); I admit that I feel weird not being more excited about Morrison’s run than I am, but somehow the first Action Comics wasn’t as gripping as the first All-Star Superman … and it’s not the art. For the last pick, I’d get X-Men: Schism #5 (Marvel, $3.99). It got off to a slow start, but Jason Aaron’s an expert at nailing his landings, and I’m intrigued to see how it all goes down.
If I had $30, I’d start off with a pair of number ones – Pilot Season: Test #1 (Image/Top Cow, $3.99) and Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99). Pilot Season has always been a must-buy for me; sometimes the concepts don’t live up to the promise, but they still have a good track record. I just wish more ended up as ongoing series. Next up I’d get the long-running Invincible #83 (Image, $2.99); seriously, this hits all my itches harkening back to my younger comic-reading days. Last up I would get Animal Man #2 (DC, $2.99); I love what Lemire and Foreman started here; I just wish there were more of it!
If I found some extra cash, I would double-back for Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant (D+Q, $19.95). This reads like a literary nut’s comic strip, and I love every bit of it. For some reason it reminds me of Gary Larson’s The Far Side but in a very modern way.
Legal | Stan Lee’s Guardian Project, introduced last year at New York Comic Con, has sparked a lawsuit from a Hollywood manager who claims he was cut out of the venture, which transformed National Hockey League mascots into superheroes.
In the lawsuit, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, Adam Asherson contends the project, now co-owned by NBC Universal, dates back to 2003, when he was introduced to the idea by fellow manager Anthony Chargin and Chargin’s client Jake Shapiro. Asherson, who had a relationship with Lee, says he suggested the legendary comics writer would be the “perfect” partner for the endeavor. They pitched Lee on the project, called Defenders, which focused on the National Football League, with plans to expand to Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the NHL. For unspecified reasons, the NFL deal never came together. However, six years later The Guardian Project emerged with the involvement of Chargin, Shapiro and Lee — but without Asherson.
Asherson claims Guardian Media Entertainment, SLG Entertainment, Chargin and Shapiro have breach an oral joint-venture agreement, committed promissory estoppel and fraud, and breach fiduciary duties by leaving him out of the NHL agreement. [Hollywood, Esq.]
Another thing which is never brought up or mentioned, but it’s very intriguing, forever going back to the old days of The New Yorker and through now, as far as women and men cartoonists are concerned, there is no problem. None of this bullshit that’s been plaguing almost every other endeavor or business, this war of the sexes. Not a trace of it in cartooning. It just isn’t there. It may be because we all have a sense of humor. I don’t know what it is, but it’s very interesting and it’s nice.
— Legendary cartoonist Gahan Wilson of Playboy, National Lampoon and The New Yorker fame, explaining to CBR’s Alex Dueben that things apparently aren’t as contentious over issues of sex and gender in Francoise Mouly’s shop as they are in other parts of the industry. (Cf. recent New Yorker roster addition Kate Beaton’s ongoing victory lap …)
Publishing | DC Comics associate editor Janelle Asselin has left the company, reportedly for a job with Disney. She clarifies on Twitter that, contrary to a report, she wasn’t escorted from the building on Tuesday but, rather, left “at my leisure.” Asselin had been with DC since 2008, working primarily on Batman books like Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, Birds of Prey and the relaunched Batman, Batwoman, Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Longtime editor Betsy Mitchell is taking early retirement from her post as editor-in-chief of Del Rey, where she helped create Del Rey Manga. Tricia Pasternak, a former Del Rey Manga editor herself, has been promoted to editorial director. Del Rey was established as a science fiction prose imprint; the manga line was created in 2004 and was mostly shut down in 2010, when Kodansha began publishing its manga directly in the U.S. However, Del Rey still publishes a handful of manga and graphic novels, including xxxHolic, King of RPGs, and Deltora Quest. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | In a twist that sounds like something out of a comic (or even an ad from an old comic), a witness in the Michael George trial testified he saw someone wearing an obviously fake beard outside George’s Clinton Township, Michigan, comics shop a few minutes before George’s first wife Barbara was murdered inside the store in 1990. [The Tribune Democrat]
Humorist Michael Kupperman is the kind of storyteller that prompts a (long thought dead) legendary writer to reveal he’s undead. Such is the offered backstory on Kupperman’s new book, Mark Twain’s Autobiography 1910-2010, described by Fantagraphics as follows: “From WWI to the Great Depression, WWII to Woodstock, and through the present, Twain details his careers as an ad man, astronaut, hypnotist, Yeti hunter, porn star, drifter, grifter and more, rubbing shoulders and having never-before-told adventures with many major figures of the 20th Century.” After covering his new collection of writing and illustrations, Kupperman discusses the upcoming series of live performances (set to start tomorrow with his solo appearance, but future installments will often be in conjunction with Kate Beaton)—and how performing his work helps him gain a sense of his material. Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to peruse the publisher’s 32-page book preview and Kupperman’s reading of the Ant I Am Telling You portion of the 160-page book.
Tim O’Shea: Have you heard what Mark Twain thinks of what you did with the manuscript he gave you, or do you expect never to hear from him again?
Michael Kupperman: Actually I’ve been hearing from him a lot. I thought that one meeting would be it, but since then he keeps reappearing, asking for help dealing with today’s publishing industry. He’s written a new novel called Prairie Rumpus, which I feel is dated in its use of slang and locale. Meanwhile I’ve got a lot of interest in my novel The Fart Vampires, a lotta heat building up.
The winners of the 2011 Ignatz Awards were announced this weekend at SPX, the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Md. Nominees for the awards were chosen by a jury of five creators and voted on by attendees at the show.
Congratulations to this year’s winners:
Outstanding Mini Comic: Ben Died of a Train, Box Brown
Outstanding Anthology or Collection: I Will Bite You, Joseph Lambert
Outstanding Online Comic: Hark! A Vagrant, Kate Beaton
Promising New Talent: Darryl Ayo Brathwaite
Outstanding Story: Browntown, Jaime Hernandez
Outstanding Series: Everything Dies, Box Brown
Outstanding Comic: Lose #3, Michael DeForge
Outstanding Graphic Novel: Gaylord Phoenix, Edie Fake
Outstanding Artist: Joseph Lambert, I Will Bite You
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.
Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.
Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.
I’ll admit: I really wasn’t that upset about missing Comic-Con this year until this morning. It’s not that I suddenly realized, while reading tweets about people getting flights or arriving in the city, that the con was actually starting tomorrow – the lack of sleepless nights while so many are already freaking out about travel/accommodation/crushing crowds/everything else was actually rather refreshing, actually – but that I found out that 300 copies of Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant collection will be available early at the show.
And thus begins what I can guess without even googling are a thousand racy fanfics. But it’s also the premise, more or less, of cartoonist Dave Kiersh’s thoughtful, funny minicomic Amazons, which he’s now posted online in its entirety on his new site Teenage Archive. The strip imagines what life would be like if these pulchritudinous paragons of fierce femininity were to attend high school, navigating the uncharted waters of jocks, nerds, preps, angry teachers, uncaring administrators, and unyielding dress codes.
Kiersh’s About Me blurb on Teenage Archive reads “Afterschool specials and the American dream,” and that pretty much nails what his comics are like: Whimsical yet melancholy explorations of teenage lust, boredom, romance, and desire to escape — and adult desire to return. Amazons is more of a goof than his usual stuff, but underneath the silliness is something true about the way dudes idealize beautiful women and the sense of unattainable freedom and fulfillment these fantasy figures represent. Read it in tandem with Kate Beaton, Carly Monardo, and Meredith Gran’s “Strong Female Characters” for a very different but I think complementary take on the power such images have.
The latest round of conversation about women in comics was sparked by Adam P. Knave’s piece bemoaning the lack of women creators in the comics field (which he defines as monthly comics, obviously dominated by superheroes). Adam believes the root cause is that superhero comics have made themselves unattractive to women by portraying women solely as sex objects or targets of abuse. This led Heidi MacDonald to point out that there are plenty of women in the rest of comics, just not at DC and Marvel. And they are doing quite well, too.
Danielle Corsetto, for example. The Girls with Slingshots creator was interviewed by Carl Watkins of Guerilla Geek, and he asked her if she thought it was easier for women to break into webcomics than “traditional” comics. Her answer is revealing:
Yes, although I think it has more to do with the genre than the medium. Most comic books are aimed at boys, are serious, and have a focus on superpowers. Most popular webcomics are character-driven and have to do with the characters’ lifestyles, or observations about science or philosophy, and almost all of them could be clumped into the broad category of “humor.” While I know plenty of women who genuinely love to read about superheroes, I think that, generally, most women prefer to read (and write) about how characters interact with one another, and not how they’re gonna pulverize each other.
So perhaps it’s not just the terrible portrayals of women but also the type of story that’s being told? Saying “women like this, men like that” is a sure way to get yourself called an idiot on the Internet, and certainly there are plenty of women superhero fans, but I can see her point. There’s a coldness to superhero comics that I find off-putting, and they often bore me in the same way battle-action manga do. That sounds like a value judgment, but it isn’t: The people who read Twilight and Vampire Knight are mostly female, so it cuts both ways.
On the other hand, perhaps if more women were writing superhero comics, there would be more superhero comics that women would want to read.
Did I miss any?
It’s not exactly pirates vs. ninjas, but there has been, shall we say, some ill feeling between webcomics creators and the National Cartoonists Society over the years. But there comes a time to put away childish things, including feuds, and this year the NCS actually invited three webcomics creators—Kate Beaton, Randall Munroe, and Dave Kellett—to present a panel at their annual meeting, which was held this past weekend in Boston. Naturally, Kellett worked this event, along with some of the high points of the evening, into his daily webcomic, Sheldon.
The big news of the evening was that Richard Thompson won the award for outstanding cartoonist of the year, an honor that anyone who reads Cul de Sac can tell you was well deserved. The award for best newspaper strip went to Jeff Parker and Steve Kelley’s Dustin, Jill Thompson won the Best Comic Book Award for Beast of Burden, and Joyce Farmer took Best Graphic Novel honors for Special Exits.
This has gotten around the Internet pretty well, but just so there’s no excuse for anyone not to have seen it: Kate Beaton’s series of Lois Lane comic strips does a really good job of showing how cool that character should be. There are only two explanations for Lois’ never figuring out that Superman was Clark: a) she was too dumb to put it together; b) she was too busy to care. I know which option DC continuity endorses, but I also know which one I prefer.
Beaton admits to not having read a lot of Lois Lane comics, but that’s probably for the best. Her interpretation is based instead on Lois and Clark, old Fleischer cartoons, and Dean Trippe’s unpublished Lois Lane, Girl Reporter pitch.