Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
“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]
Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless is the story readers they want: a kid-friendly tale of a strong girl who defies authority and has swashbuckling adventures. Centering on Adrienne, a princess who breaks out of her tower, befriends the dragon who is supposed to be guarding her, and heads off to rescue her sister princesses, it’s funny and well written, and it was nominated for two Eisner Awards, best publication for kids (8-12) and best single issue (for Issue 3, which sends up superheroine costumes). Yet its small-press origins and limited distribution meant that it took a while to reach its audience.
Now publisher Action Lab comics is reissuing Princeless, first in single-issue format (starting with Issue 1), and then with a new Vol. 1. After that, the publisher will focus on new content. I spoke with Whitley, who also handles publicity for Action Labs, about why he wrote Princeless and why he is reissuing the series. (Jeremy’s essay on women and comics is also well worth a read.)
The winners of the ninth annual Joe Shuster Awards were announced Saturday in Toronto during a ceremony held in conjunction with Fan Expo Canada. The awards are named in honor of Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster, co-creator Superman. The full list of nominees can be found here. The winners are:
Isabelle Arsenault: Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)/Jane, The Fox and Me (Groundwood Books)
Jeff Lemire: Sweet Tooth #29-40 (DC Comics), The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf)
Mike Del Mundo: A+X #2B, Amazing Spider-Man #678-679, 683B, Incredible Hulk #4B, Ka by Cirque de Soleil #1, Marvel Zombies Destroy! #1-5, Max Payne 3 #3, New Avengers #24B, Scarlet Spider #1B, 4B, Uncanny X-Men #17, Untold Tales of Punisher Max #5, Venom #16-17, 20, 22B, Wolverine #314-317, X-Men Legacy #1-2 (Marvel)
After the last week or so of “We don’t publish comics for kids” and “[Depicting rape] is the same as, like, a decapitation” and “comics follow society, they don’t lead society,” among other chestnuts, I’ve been thinking about the mentality and philosophy that produces those positions, and how it reflects on the state of comics.
Reading those quotes in a vacuum, you would think the last 10 to 20 years of progress in comics never happened. They did, of course; it’s just not easy to tell sometimes.
All of the creators involved in the unfortunate remarks come from the so-called “mainstream” of comic books. While Todd McFarlane and Mark Miller are more well-known for their creator-owned comics, they still play within the superhero genre primarily defined by DC and Marvel comics to the majority of the populace. They may not be actively steering mainstream comics these days, but many of the actions of those that do reinforce the same disappointing opinions. There are plenty of beacons of hope in nearly every other sector of the industry, and even a scattered few pinpricks of light within the superhero mainstream, but the makers of our highest-profile genre are still holding back the slowly improving public perception of comic books.
Graphic novels | ICv2 has the July BookScan numbers, and six of the Top 10 titles are from Image Comics (four Walking Dead, plus both volumes of Saga). The latest volume of Sailor Moon tops the list, and the first volume of Attack on Titan shows up at No. 12, which is pretty good for a book that came out more than a year ago. The only DC Comics or Marvel titles to crack the Top 20 were Hawkeye, Vol. 2 (No. 18) and perennial bestseller Watchmen (No. 19). [ICv2]
Conventions | Fans are gearing up for next month’s Salt Lake Comic Con (which another article estimates will attract more than 25,000 attendees), but the announcement that professional cosplayer Jessica Nigri will be there has caused a minor controversy. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]
Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]
North American manga publisher Viz Media has relaunched its Viz Kids imprint as Perfect Square, which will release comics, manga and children’s books “with an emphasis on strong storytelling, eye-popping graphics, empowering themes, and a dash of irreverence, that captures the imagination of a whole new generation.”
Announced Wednesday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, Perfect Square will debut books based on Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors next year. Other offerings include Hello Kitty, Max Steel, Ben 10: Omniverse, Uglydolls, Monsuno: Combat, Mameshiba, Mr. Men/Little Miss, Pokemon and The Legend of Zelda, all of which were part of Viz Kids. The publisher will also release a Perfect Square app for iPad and iPad Mini.
Speaking with Publishers Weekly, Viz Media Senior Editorial Director for Children’s Publishing Beth Kawasaki said the imprint will likely publish 40 to 50 titles a year, “a little less Pokemon and a lot of new stuff.”
“The brand will become the new home for many legacy titles featuring favorite characters fans know and love, as well as brand new series readers can explore and fall in love with,” she said in a press release. “We are ecstatic to be working with properties we love and we’ve assembled an unbelievably talented team of editors, writers and artists who are fans themselves and have a strong commitment to great storytelling.”
Kids take center stage on the last day of Comic-Con International, as proven by the rich slate of panels dedicated to kids’ comics, all-ages comics and animation on Sunday, July 21.
DC Comics, Archaia, Archie, IDW and Oni Press all host kid-friendly panels, while DC Entertainment shows off episodes of Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go. You’ll also find spotlight panels for Neil Gaiman, Ted Naifeh, Faith Erin Hicks, Mike Norton, Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens and Adam Hughes, and a tribute panel to Jack Kirby.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
Voting for the 2013 Eisner Awards concludes Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about them. Last year, I had the privilege of being an Eisner judge, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. This year I’m back to being a civilian, and that means once again I can complain about the judges’ choices. Let the games begin!
Actually, I thought the selections were pretty good, and I’m happy that the judges decided to continue having three categories for young readers, as we did last year. However, children’s and YA graphic novels are a burgeoning sector of the market, and there’s a lot of good work out there. Here are six graphic novels that I would have been arguing for this year had I been in the judging room. And incidentally, all of them are good reads for adults as well.
Little White Duck, written by Na Liu, illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez: This book deserves the Eisner for the beautiful art alone, but the story is wonderful as well. It’s Liu’s tale of growing up in China in the 1970s, and she starts with her parents mourning the death of Chairman Mao. The view of Chinese life in the Communist era is very different from what we are accustomed to; Liu writes matter-of-factly about the hardships (their family had two children, so she was not allowed to go to school) but also the joys of family life. It’s a very personal and three-dimensional perspective on an era we often view in flat black and white, and both Liu and Martínez are master storytellers.
When the canned-spinach cartel wanted to make its product more attractive, it put Popeye on the label.
Now a fruit producer is doing something similar with bananas — but in this case, the comic goes right on the peel. The multinational fruit and fresh produce company Fyffes, which is based in Ireland, teamed up with the German branding company Serviceplan to make bananas attractive to children by printing comics directly on the peels, using special laser printing technology. (One could argue that it also made comics attractive to children by printing them on bananas, but the fruit folks were paying the bills.) The bananas were then handed out to schoolchildren in Spain, Russia, Belgium and the United States — Why were we not told of this? — for an entire week.
Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna interviews Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s demand that the newspaper apologize for an April 25 cartoon in which the politician is depicted boasting that “Business is booming in Texas!” beneath a banner that reads, “Low Tax! Low Regs!,” juxtaposed with an image of the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. “It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon,” Perry wrote in a letter to the editor. “While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has reportedly called for Ohman to be fired.
Legal | The final chapter of The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon has been completed (we hope), and it’s not a shining moment for Carreon: A judge has ordered him to pay $46,000 in attorney’s fees to the creator of a Satirical Charles Carreon website, whom he threatened with legal action. Carreon eventually dropped his suit, but the whole dispute escalated anyway, and the judge cited his “malicious conduct” in awarding the fees. [Ars Technica]
Digital comics | Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Comic Creator, which allows creators to upload various types of files and make them into e-books to be sold in the Kindle store; the software has its own system for creating panel-by-panel view, and the finished product can be read on a wide variety of Kindles and Kindle apps. [Good E-Reader]
Awards | Online voting is open through April 30 for the sixth annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize excellence in comic-book inking. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at HeroesCon, held June 7-9 in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Inkwell Awards]
Comics | On the website of the conservative Media Research Center, Kristine Marsh and Matt Philbin accuse DC Comics and Marvel of having a “homosexual agenda”: “Like the rest of American pop culture, comic books have increasingly included pro-gay propaganda pieces aimed at the children and young adults who read them.” [Media Research Center]