Comics | The Dundee, Scotland, city council has approved a proposal by publisher DC Thomson to name a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. Dundee already has statues honoring comic characters Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx. [BBC News]
Comics | Laura Sneddon continues the New Statesmen’s week-long series on comics with a look at children’s comics in the U.K., including the digital relaunch of The Dandy, the continuing popularity of The Beano (which sells a respectable 30,000 copies per week) and the new kid on the block, The Phoenix. [New Statesman]
Crime | Police say a Willston Park, New York, man shot his girlfriend in the back Monday following an argument about the AMC adaptation of The Walking Dead. Twenty-six-year-old Jared M. Gurman reportedly believed a military mishap could lead to the release of a virus, triggering a zombie apocalypse; Jessica Gelderman, 27, thought the idea was absurd. According to police, the argument escalated and even continued through text messages after Gelderman left the apartment to spend the night at her parents’ house. When Gelderman returned to try to smooth things over with her boyfriend, police allege he was sitting on the stairs with a .22-caliber rifle; a single round pierced her lung and diaphragm and shattered her ribs. Gurman was arrested when he took Gelderman to the hospital. She’s in stable condition with the bullet still in her body. [Newsday]
Amazon.com has launched Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that offers access to thousands of handpicked books, movies, television shows, games and educational apps appropriate for children ages 3 to 8. The online retail giant promises, “Parents don’t have to spend time (and money) guessing what their kids will enjoy, and kids can explore a world of age-appropriate content on their own — no ads, no in-app purchases.”
The service, included as a free trial on every new Kindle Fire, debuts with a library that includes the Disney-released Marvel picture books, Warner Bros. Consumer Products-produced DC Comics apps, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate, Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, Mark Tatulli’s Lio, and Graphic Universe’s “Graphic Myths & Legends, Sherlock Holmes and “Manga Math Mysteries” series. Presumably we’ll see more kids’ comics as the rollout continues.
The monthly subscription is $4.99 a month for one child, and $9.99 for up to six (cheaper for Amazon Prime members).
Comics | The editor-in-chief of the Boston Phoenix denies accusations that the alternative weekly canceled Karl Stevens‘ satirical comic Failure because advertiser Anheuser-Busch was offended by last week’s strip, which referred to Bud Light as “diluted horse piss.” Stevens, whose comic has appeared on ThePhoenix.com since 2009, claims he was told by the art director that Failure was being canceled specifically because of the Bud Light jab. “Apparently I offended Bud Light, and cannot be trusted,” Steven told Publishers Weekly. However, Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli called the accusation “categorically false,” insisting Failure was canceled because it no longer fit The Phoenix, which has changed from a weekly newspaper to a weekly magazine. “It is categorically false that Karl’s strip was discontinued due to any outside objections. As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue Failure,” Carioli told The Boston Globe. “There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.” [Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe]
As if the Uglydoll characters weren’t already ubiquitous, spreading from plush toys to clothing to coffee mugs, they’ll soon be appearing in graphic novels as part of Viz Media’s children’s line.
Launching this summer from the Viz Kids imprint, the Uglydoll graphic novel series “will transport readers to a diverse universe where ‘ugly’ just means unique and different, and celebrating who you are inside and out is the new beautiful. Join Wage, Babo, OX, Ice-Bat and their Uglydoll pals as they express themselves through laughs, tears, love and adventure!” Needless to say, these are all-ages books.
“Uglydoll is an iconic pop culture brand that has helped to question and redefine the very definitions of ugly and cute,” Beth Kawasaki, Viz’s senior editorial director. “Each Uglydoll is unique, and possesses its own distinctive characteristics and personalities that everyone can relate to. These adorable and highly original characters will come to life in a series of fun, and funny, adventures and are sure to find their way into the hearts of readers everywhere.”
Beginning as a character David Horvath drew on a love letter to Sun-Min Kim, the Uglydolls debuted in 2001 as hand-sewn plush toys. Since then they’ve spread virtually everywhere: There’s even an animated movie in the works from the production company behind Despicable Me.
Publishers Weekly reports that Craig Thompson, creator of Blankets and the much-discussed Habibi, has signed with Scholastic to do a children’s graphic novel called Space Dumplins. In a (NSFW) blog post last December, Thompson said he was working on three books: a children’s graphic novel, a nonfiction book about “global trade,” and an erotic graphic novel. Apparently this one has taken over, for now.
Thompson’s agent, PJ Mark, describes the book as the story of “a little girl and her misfit friends who set out to rescue her father from the belly of a planet-eating space whale.” Sounds like fun, and if there’s anyone who can market the heck out of this book, it’s Scholastic, which also publishes Jeff Smith’s Bone, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Drama, Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, and Doug TenNapel’s Bad Island and Cardboard.
Awards | Although the website for the 40th Angoulême International Comics Festival is down, several outlets managed to pick up on the official selections for the 2013 festival, to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Contenders for book of the year include Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Fables by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and others, The Hive by Charles Burns, The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon, Paying For It by Chester Brown, and The Walking Dead Vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case were among those named in the crime comic category. [BoDoi]
Publishing | Bluewater Productions Publisher Darren G. Davis isn’t afraid to talk about real numbers: Bluewater’s income is about $2 million a year, and the most popular titles sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies apiece, although others never make it out of the triple digits. And while he admits he doesn’t have a thick skin, Davis says he has gotten used to criticism: “I’ve learned that I’m not my company. When they attack my company, they are not attacking me personally.” [The Columbian]
Digital comics | The top-selling digital comic may not be what you think: Rich Johnston reports that Ape Entertainment’s game comic Temple Run is the top paid book app in the iTunes store (it was No. 2 this morning). He also reveals that Ape Entertainment has sold a million copies of its digital Pocket God comic. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Jen Vaughn and friends pay a visit to the offices of MAD magazine. [Flog]
Conventions | Corinna Kirsh files a report, with plenty of pictures, on last weekend’s Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. [L Magazine]
Last week saw the digital launch of Jeff Kinney’s comics/prose hybrid Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which can now be purchased from comiXology, either through its regular service or through its dedicated Wimpy Kid app, Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The seventh volume, The Third Wheel, which is due out on Nov. 13, will be available digitally the same day as print. Abrams has created a special brand, Wimp-E-books, with its own logo, for the wildly popular series.
(Interestingly enough, the initial press release from Abrams, dated Oct. 15, didn’t mention any platforms, which seems like a grievous omission.)
You can still get the original edition of the book for free on the site where it first appeared, FunBrain.com. That’s where Kinney first published it, and it’s interesting to compare this first edition to the published versions — I took a look at the first few pages and the edits were obvious, and generally improvements over the original. It’s still pretty good though, and years ago, when I showed it to my daughter, who was maybe ten at the time and a bit of a reluctant reader, she took my computer away and read the whole thing in one sitting.
Publishing | The Penguin Group plans to wade into the market for children’s graphic novels with a new line aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers. “Clearly it’s a huge, growing market, the kid’s graphic novel market,” Penguin’s Rich Johnson told ICv2 at New York Comic Con. “You see those titles making the bestsellers list all the time. So we are looking to do work in that area to get more kids reading comics.” [ICv2]
Creators | Feisty as ever, Stan Lee talks about his World of Heroes YouTube channel and breaks up the camera crew a couple of times in an interview shot New York Comic Con. [MTV Geek]
Graphic novels | The seventh volume of Sailor Moon was the top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in September, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto,Vol. 58, an Avengers character guide, the third volume of Batman: Knightfall, and vol. 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise. ICv2 notes that, the Avengers book aside (and it is published by DK Publishing), Marvel is completely absent from the top ten, although DC makes a strong showing. [ICv2]
Creators | Hope Larson, who adapted Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into graphic novel form, chats with Margaret Ferguson, her editor on the project. [Publishers Weekly]
While I would generally applaud efforts by comics publishers to reach young readers, the newly announced “DC Comics Super-Villains” program strikes me as more than a little tone deaf.
To celebrate October, “the spookiest time of the year,” DC Entertainment is introducing kids to the bad guys of the DC Universe with a multi-platform “Know Your Super-Villains” campaign that includes a mini-poster (above), an online quiz, “Who’s Who”-type guides in the DC Nation comics, a contest and the release of the DC Comics Super-Villains: The Joker’s Last Laugh DVD collection.
Never mind the Aaron Lopresti poster, which features a mishmash of villains from different eras, from early-’80s Lex Luthor to New 52 Darkseid (admit it, you went straight to continuity concerns). My question is, aside from extra website traffic and some DVD sales, what’s the purpose of this campaign?
I wasn’t very familiar with Ben Hatke‘s work before I met him in 2010 at the Small Press Expo, apart from reading his contribution to the second Flight anthology. So I was pleasantly taken by surprise at how charming his debut graphic novel, the all-ages Zita the Spacegirl, is. The book, about a young girl who is inadvertently transported to another galaxy full of strange and fearsome aliens, adheres closely in style to many well-worn fantasy adventure comics. But it manages to stand out from the pack with a cast of broad, engaging characters, an appealing heroine, and some smartly (and tightly) paced actions scenes.
Now Hatke has a sequel, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, which finds the pint-sized interplanetary traveler struggling to cope with her new-found celebrity, and encountering a would-be impostor who’s more than happy to taker her place.
I talked with Hatke about the new Zita book, how he became a cartoonist, and his goals for the series.
“I think that when you are doing a long series like this, the most important thing you need to do at the end is confirm the premise. That’s why, even though the Seinfeld finale was perceived as a flop at the time, it never hurt the series in syndication. It actually works, because it confirms and affirms the world you just spent so much time in. Everyone says they love the Newhart finale, but they really don’t. It’s clever and cute for a one-off joke, but you notice that Newhart is rarely seen in syndication. Why would it be? Who would watch any of those episodes again? It was all just a dream. It’s actually the worst possible thing you could do to your audience. So my goal was to create a finale that was implied at the beginning. I think it works really well, and I love the point where we leave the characters.”
– Jimmy Gownley on winding up his eight-volume series Amelia Rules
In the first volume of the series, Amelia has just left New York for a small town, where she and her mother will live with her Aunt Tanner following her parents’ divorce. Although Amelia adjusted to her new situations, these stories have never been static; unlike many comics characters, Amelia continued to grow and change as new challenges came up. So it’s appropriate that Gownley has created an actual finale to the series, rather than just stopping at the end of a volume. It does make me wonder how many creators have the ending of their story in mind as they write the first chapter—or whether the ending becomes obvious to them after the story has been going on for a little while.
… a superhero movie, by definition, you know, it’s comic book. It’s for kids. It’s adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, “Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,” I don’t think they know what the fuck they’re talking about.
– director David Cronenberg, on the limitations of superhero movies
Although he’s focusing on whether superhero movies can be art, the part of that quote that most interests me is Cronenberg’s assertion that the superhero genre is for kids and is “adolescent in its core.”
My first reaction was that it’s Cronenberg who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore meme has been going on so long that it’s now accepted fact. We should be clear that when we say “comics aren’t just for kids,” what we really mean is that superhero comics aren’t just for kids, but that’s still a fact, too. If anything, the challenge is to find superhero comics that are appropriate for children. This is not a new observation.