ROBOT 6′s Corey Blake wrote a great piece last month on the evolution of digital comics and the innovations that make them more than just electronic copies of print comics. Without repeating what he said, those innovations raise a couple of questions that are also worth talking about: What are we going to call this new format and does it even need a separate name?
Gabriel Hardman (Star Wars: Legacy, Kinski) recently asked on Twitter, “Is there an accepted name for the Thrillbent/Infinite style of digital comics?” Even filtering out all the joke responses (my favorite is Dennis Culver’s ”Labor Intensive”), the answer seems to be no.
A couple of folks note that Scott McCloud’s Infinite Canvas (or, alternatively, Expanded Canvas) is a common term, but Hardman observes that it could be seen as pretentious, which might keep it from catching on. I like the idea of letting McCloud name it — he more or less came up with the idea — but it does remind me of how it sounded when comics fans all started referring to the medium as “sequential art.” It’s a great term for talking about comics academically, but not so good for popular use.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t understand at first what Creator-Owned Heroes is. It’s my fault, because it looks like a magazine, and Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Steve Niles say very clearly right there in the first issue that that’s what it is, but I stubbornly insisted on looking at it as an anthology comic with some text pieces in the back. I figured that I would wait on the eventual collections and read the comics in larger chunks.
This week, though, I realized that reading four issues back to back actually is reading in bigger chunks, so I bought the issues I’d missed and caught up. Doing that convinced me that Creator-Owned Heroes isn’t something that’s going to be replicated very well in a collected volume. Most obviously, you’d lose the timeliness of the text pieces. Each of the three writers has a monthly column, but there are also recommendations of movies, products, and other people’s comics. None of that would hold up very well in a permanent, collected form. It’s not designed to.
But more importantly, not even the comics are designed to be collected. Each issue has two, 11-page comics, one written by Palmiotti and Gray, the other by Niles. In the first four issues, Palmiotti and Gray teamed up with Phil Noto for “Triggergirl 6,” about the most recent in a line of assassins that have become famous for their relentless, exclusive targeting of the President of the United States. Niles partnered with Kevin Mellon for “American Muscle,” a post-apocalyptic drama about a group of young people driving muscle cars (while also fighting mutants) toward what they hope is the Promised Land.
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 (only) had $15, I’d first pick up Creator Owned Heroes #2 (Image, $3.99). This format is something I revel in, and it doesn’t hurt to have good comics like those from Palmiotti, Gray, Noto, Niles and Mellon. After that I’d get the long-awaited Infernal Man-Thing #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I only found out about this delayed-’80s series in the early 2000s, but I had the chance to speak to Kevin Nowlan about a year back and we talked at length about the book. He showed me some art and I was sold. Third on my list would be Invincible #93 (Image, $2.99). The Walking Dead might be getting all the attention, but if I had to chose between all of the books Kirkman’s written it’d easily be Invincible. He and artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley continue to bring their A-game here, and this new format with Ottley and Walker trading pages is great. With the last bit of my $15 I’d pick up Avengers Vs. X-Men #7 (Marvel, $3.99). This has easily become one of the greatest event series since Civil War, and the last issue in particular sold it with the twin stylings of Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel. You might say I have diminished thresholds when it comes to event series, but I see it as a different kind of comic than, I don’t know, Dan Clowes or something. It’s its own thing, and in this case it’s very good at it.
If I had $30, I’d get Mike Norton’s Battlepug HC (Dark Horse, $14.99). Call me a fool for buying a free webcomic in trade, but I missed the boat when this was coming out online. Norton has won me over with his work through the years and I have no problem shelling out $15 bucks to see it in this hardcover format – even if I’m not a dog person.
And for splurging, I’d get Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig HC (Top Shelf, $19.95). This is exactly the kind of book that fits in my wheelhouse, but like Battlepug I missed out on this when it was first published. Like some sort of Hackers movie done right (sorry Angelina!), I want to learn more about this and eschew my status as a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]
Awards | Stan Lee will receive the Producers Guild of America’s 2012 Vanguard Award recognizing achievement in new media and technology. “Stan Lee’s creative vision and imagination has produced some of the most beloved and visually stunning characters and adventures in history,” Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim said in a joint statement. “He not only has created content that will forever be in our culture but continues to make strides in the digital and new media realms, keeping the comic book industry fresh and exciting. Stan’s accomplishments truly encompass the spirit of the Vanguard Award and we are proud to honor him.” George Lucas and John Lasseter are among the award’s previous recipients. [press release]