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It’s not unusual for a comics creator to visit a classroom, but the program that Eben Burgoon led for the Sacramento, California, nonprofit 916 Ink was much more than that: a six-week workshop in which elementary school students learned to write comics, then pitched their stories to professional artists who worked with them on the finished product. The workshop included a variety of exercises and techniques, including the “Marvel Method” — Burgoon gave the students pages of finished art and had them fill in the word balloons — and making up the backstory for a random LEGO Minifig.
916 Ink promotes literacy by encouraging young people to write their own stories and poems, and it has published more than 25 books of student work. Its comics program is new and was spurred by demand from both parents and students; the finished work, released this week, will be available in local comics shops, through the 916 Ink website, and eventually through other channels.
We spoke with Burgoon about what he did with the students, how they worked with the artists, and why he thinks comics are a good medium for a literacy program.
The nominees have been announced for the 10th annual Joe Shuster Awards, which recognize the best of the Canadian comics world. They’re named in honor of Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman.
The winners will be presented later this year, at a time and location to be announced. The nominees are:
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 something great fans are doing to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s get to it …
Conventions | The doors open today on the 25th annual Motor City Comic Con, held through Sunday in Novi, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. Comics guests include Art Baltazar, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Talent Caldwell, Chris Claremont, Matthew Clark, Gerry Conway, Katie Cook, J.M. DeMatteis, Clayton Henry, Mike McKone, Jame O’Barr, Ryan Ottley, Dave Petersen, Don Rosa, Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Soule, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. The Detroit Free Press previews the event, and speaks with Claremont, while Metro Times provides a beginner’s guide. [Motor City Comic Con]
Digital comics | Kate Reynolds looks at the recent Image Humble Bundle promotion and compares it to sales of hard copies of the individual titles in comics shops. Her key insight is that this is Image’s first attempt to sell comics directly to the video game audience rather than established readers: “Many people who check the Humble website with some frequency may have been surprised to see comics books on a video game page, and for many, surprise turned to intrigue. While it’s impossible to tell whether the purchasers of the Image bundle were frequent comic buyers or not, it’s logical to assume that many were not. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if for some, the Image bundle was the first comic purchase of their lives.” [feminism/geekery]
KaBOOM! will publish a comic based on Cartoon Network’s hit animated series Uncle Grandpa as part of BOOM! Studios’ first-look deal with the cable channel.
Created by Pete Browngardt, Uncle Grandpa is a surreal adventure comedy the centers on everyone’s magical uncle and grandfather, who travels the world in his mystical RV, helping children with their problems. Did we mention he’s accompanied by a talking fanny pack, an anthropomorphic dinosaur, a photo cutout of a tiger and a talking slice of pizza? Well, he is.
Writer Rob Worley has provided ROBOT 6 with a preview of Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds #2 that includes an exclusive first look at the cover by Herobear & The Kid creator Mike Kunkel.
Debuting in 2010, the Eisner-nominated kids comic follows the adventures of a young, naive cat who can summon any of his eight other lives for help. Drawn by Joshua Buchanan, Cat of Nine Worlds kicks off in June with a new adventure from Hermes Press that finds the villainous Dr. Schrödinger allying himself with Strick (introduced in next month’s Free Comic Book Day Special), who could shape up to be Scratch9’s greatest foe. (Full disclosure: Worley is CBR’s lead developer.)
Available now for pre-order (Diamond code MAY14 1449), Scratch9: Cat of Nine Worlds #2 arrives July 2.
The comic strip/webcomic documentary Stripped opens with an idyllic scene straight out of the Hallmark Channel. A little girl runs into the kitchen and sits on her father’s lap; he opens a newspaper, and together, they flip to the Sunday funnies, a well-remembered moment of childhood made possible by the magic of comic strips. It’s a scene that rings true, because many viewers have had similar experiences. Maybe you weren’t sitting on your father’s lap; maybe you just ripped through the paper, trying to separate the cartoons from the classifieds. Anything to get at those comic strips.
It’s a scene that may accidentally have put a chink into the “webcomics are the future of the newspaper comic strip” argument.
Legal | Daniel Curry, the actor who was seriously injured in August during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages, claiming the producers and other defendants knew a mechanical lift could be dangerous. Curry was hurt when an automated door pinned his leg; he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. The producers have insisted the accident was caused by human error and not malfunctioning equipment. [The New York Times]
Events | Japan’s ambassador to France has expressed his country’s displeasure with a South Korean exhibit at the Angouleme International Comics Festival devoted to “comfort women” who were forced into sex slavery during World War II by the Japanese military. Ambassador Yoichi Suzuki said the exhibit, which attracted about 17,000 visitors, promotes “a mistaken point of view that further complicates relations between South Korea and Japan.” [GMA News, Yonhap News Agency]
Graphic novels | Image Comics had a strong December in bookstores, snagging nine slots on BookScan’s Top 20 chart: Eight volumes of The Walking Dead (including the very first one, at No. 4), plus the first Saga collection, which was originally released in October 2012. The first two volumes of Attack on Titan, which are more than a year old, were also on the chart. [ICv2]
Legal | Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for her role in a failed conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew images of the Prophet Mohammed that offended many Muslims. [The New York Times]
Continuing the march of best-of-the-year lists, the School Library Journal’s Good Comics for Kids blog has compiled its list of the Top 10 graphic novels for kids in 2013. It’s a pretty diverse group, ranging from historical fiction to fantasy to biography, with Abrams, First Second and Top Shelf well-represented:
Follow the link to read about the Good Comics For Kids bloggers have to say about each of the selections.
Thursday at this time, many Americans will be digging in to their bountiful Thanksgiving dinner or, depending upon the time zone, blissfully enjoying a tryptophan coma. Feasting isn’t the only tradition, however: There’s also the custom of giving thanks, hence the holiday’s name.
With the end of the year approaching, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the state of comics, and celebrate what’s working. Sure, this crazy industry can be frustrating at times, but it also gets a lot of things right. So in keeping with the numerical motif of our namesake, here are six things in comics for which I’m thankful.
1. Image Comics is killing it
There are a lot of fantastic comics today. It’s been said a number of times by myself and others but it’s so fun to repeat: We are living in a new renaissance period for comics. I don’t think there’s ever before been such a sustained output of quality books. You can’t reasonably give credit for that to one publisher, but if we’re just looking at the major players in the direct market, Image Comics is just killing it this year. I don’t think they’ve ever had such a stellar line-up of quality creators putting out books that look fantastic, have great hooks to them, and stand on their own as solid entertainment.
Comics | A CGC-certified 9.2 copy of The Brave and the Bold #28, featuring the first appearance of the Justice League, was sold by Pedigree Comics for $120,000, a record price for the issue (cover-dated February-March 1960). ““The sale for $120,000 is a record price for any copy of Brave and the Bold #28, almost doubling the only recorded 9.4 sale (from April, 2004) of $60,375,” said Pedigree Comics CEO Doug Schmell. “The other 9.2 copy (with off-white pages) fetched $35,850 in May, 2008. This book is beginning to rise dramatically in demand, popularity and value, evidenced by the recent sales of two 8.5 examples (in September, 2013 for $45,504 and for $40,500 in June, 2013).” [Scoop, via ICv2]
Passings | “He took me seriously”: Shaenon Garrity writes the definitive obituary of webcomics pioneer Joey Manley, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 48. She talks to a number of the creators who worked with him over the years and puts his accomplishments into perspective. [The Comics Journal]
“We sit at home and make comics and we don’t really see the impact until we go to a comic show or we get letters. I get letters just about every day. I either get a letter or a tweet. I get physical letters mailed to my P.O. Box still, which is cool. That’s how you know you’re doing it — you’re doing it right — because when I’m at home, I am making comics and throwing out the garbage. But when we’re at a convention, we’re like rock stars. [Laughs] And if we get recognized at the grocery store or a comic book shop, that’s pretty cool too.”
— Art Baltazar, about introducing children to reading through comics, in an interview with CBR about the return of Tiny Titans
A young girl ventures into an abandoned, labyrinthine city in order to find her lost brother, despite it’s being haunted by malevolent demons. One of the strengths of Wartman’s debut graphic novel is that he doesn’t vary much from that core story outline. He dabbles in a lot of overly familiar genre and mythological tropes to be sure (there’s some business with the demons being named and people entering the city forgetting who they are) but he doesn’t play up these elements too strongly or let them overwhelm the story, instead keeping the focus on the girl and her desire to locate her brother. I also liked the relationship between the girl and a somewhat helpful demon who seems so astonished that someone would willingly enter the city that he ends up acting as a benefactor. Again, it’s a familiar trope, but paces the story well enough that it never once feels rote or cliched.
Another key to the book’s success is the city itself. I can’t emphasize enough the need for cartoonists, especially young cartoonists, to set their stories in a well-defined universe. This is especially true in fantasy stories, where the reader needs to get a sense of the physical world the characters inhabit in order to be willing to accept the supernatural and logic-defying events that occur in the story. You can’t map out Wartman’s city in your head, but the seemingly endless panels of well-detailed corridors, stairs, gardens and passageways give a sense of scale to the story. The city seems so foreboding and ancient, you worry the characters really will lose their way. Overall I just appreciated this well-structured, engrossing adventure tale and hope it’s a sign of more good things to come from this particular cartoonist.
Comics | Tierney Sneed went to the Women in Comics panel at New York Comic Con and then hit the floor to talk to creators (and also yours truly) about the mismatch between the number of women comics readers and the industries that cater to them, including the publishers and cons like NYCC (where women made up 35% of attendees but only 6% of guests). [U.S. News & World Report]
Digital Comics | I interviewed Darya Trushkina, vice president for business development of NARR8, a digital comics app that features motion comics with some gamelike features. Here’s what caught my attention: When I asked her why they went with motion comics, she said “It boosts our retention rate and boosts usage significantly.” Their retention rate—readers who return to the app—is 50%, and the average session is 15 minutes. [Good E-Reader]