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Eric Stephenson means well. As publisher of Image Comics, and even before he held that position, he’s often called out for change in the comics industry. I love these calls to action, even if they’re not always graceful; change usually isn’t. Most of us agree that changing the comics industry for the better is in everyone’s best interest, but how to change it and how we define better is when things get messy. I’m usually in agreement with what Stephenson is saying, but his speech last week at the ComicsPRO annual meeting was jumbled and tripped over itself when it came to licensed comics.
Stephenson got hung up on a significant sector of comics publishing, and I think it muddied his larger message. In his speech, as I’m sure you’ve seen re-quoted multiple times by now, he claimed that licensed comics like IDW’s Transformers and GI Joe, and Dark Horse’s Star Wars “will never be the real thing.” In the lead-up, he also explained there are “only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.” Now, he never outright said licensed comics are in the “bad” category, but some certainly viewed that as the implication.
His argument is that comics should rely on original ideas to produce original content, a point he underscored by pointing to the perennial bestseller The Walking Dead and the fast-growing Saga, both coincidentally published by Image. I agree original comics are where the magic can happen, and where the creators can most benefit. But that doesn’t mean everything else is by default a waste of time.
This time last year, longtime U.K. book and magazine publisher Titan announced it was delving into comics with a new imprint titled, aptly enough, Titan Comics. And in the 12 months since, the company has published a number of creator-owned titles as well as new editions of formerly out-of-print stories such as Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom. But 2014 looks to see the company grow by leaps and bounds, as it recently announced the acquisition of the comics license for Doctor Who, previously held by IDW Publishing.
During IDW’s seven-year run publishing Doctor Who comics, it produced an ongoing series and a number of miniseries and one-shots to some success, so it’s conceivable that Titan Comics could do much the same. If so, it could help expand Titan from a boutique publisher to a sizable presence in the marketplace.
Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]
Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]
Although I’ve known him for a few years from frequent drop-ins at the BOOM! Studios booth on the convention circuit, I haven’t ever had the opportunity to interview Matt Gagnon, the company’s editor-in-chief. So I jumped at the chance to talk to him for ROBOT 6’s anniversary.
Matt Gagnon joined BOOM! in 2008 to edit its Farscape comics after working as buyer and purchasing manager for Hollywood’s Meltdown Comics. He moved up fairly quickly, becoming managing editor, then editor-in-chief when Mark Waid was named chief creative officer in 2010. This past year saw the launch of BOOM!’s ultra-popular Adventure Time comic book, as well as several other kids’ series as a part of the KaBOOM! line. The publisher also announced a new Hellraiser series and put out several original series, like Higher Earth, Freelancers (which Gagnon co-created) and last week’s Deathmatch, just to name a few.
My thanks to Matt for his time, as well to BOOM!’s Filip Sablik, who helped set it all up.
A few months ago, I picked up Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline’s minicomic The Potter’s Pet and was really impressed — it’s a cleverly written, beautifully drawn, handsomely produced little comic. I have been a fan of Lamb’s work since I discovered his (unfortunately incomplete) webcomic Kitty Hawk years ago; Paroline’s work was new to me, but her lively lines quickly made me a convert.
So I was delighted to see that they will be handling the art for BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time comics, which are based on the animated Cartoon Network series.
Everyone else seems to be excited about the concept here, but we don’t watch a lot of Cartoon Network in our house and, to be honest, I have never seen the show. It’s the creators who have me interested in this series, which is the opposite of how things used to work with licensed comics. When I was a kid, the Disney comics I read all looked alike, and they weren’t signed because the Disney folks wanted me to think that they all flowed from Walt Disney’s magic pen. More and more, though, creators are putting their own stamp on licensed comics and becoming an important part of the package. Think of Roger Langridge’s run on The Muppet Show comics, or Dan Hipp’s reinvention of Ben 10. What’s more, licensed projects give artists a chance to work on their skills and bring in a regular paycheck without the risks of creator-owned work. If you want to see the up-and-coming artists of the next decade, check out BOOM!’s Pixar and Muppets comics or Archaia’s Fraggle Rock anthologies.
Lamb and Paroline have honed their craft working on BOOM!’s Muppet comics: Paroline was the artist and Lamb the colorist for Muppet Snow White, which is apparently out of print, and Paroline actually drew the Muppet Show #0 comic. From what I have seen, Adventure Time will be worth picking up for their art alone.
IDW Publishing has picked up the license to produce comics based on the canceled CBS show Jericho.
The license was previously held by Devil’s Due Publishing, who have had financial troubles of late and parted with Diamond Comics Distributors earlier this year. IDW will reprint the three issues Devil’s Due published in a collection called Jericho Redux for $8, due in February, when IDW will also publish the fourth issue. Issues #5 and #6 will follow in March and April. Beginning with issue #4, the series will be written by Matthew Federman, with artist Matt Merhoff, and Scott West, who will provide covers.
The release also says that “IDW and CBS Consumer Products will work diligently to make sure that subscriptions to the original series are fulfilled.”
Jericho, which was about a small Kansas town in the aftermath of nuclear attacks on 23 U.S. cities, ran from 2006 to 2008. The storyline for the comics is a direct continuation of the show.
Profile: Paul Gravett looks at the work of British cartoonist Simone Lia, whose comic Fluffy chronicles the relationship that grows between a man and a rabbit on a tour through Sicily. Gravett writes:
Lia spins together realistic emotional situations with fanciful, cartoonish playfulness, using diagrams of the thoughts cramming a character’s head, guest narrators like a cheery dust particle and a grouchy piece of dandruff, or “footage” of a little brain cell.
Theory: Shaun Huston discusses comics based on movie and television properties, and how they fit—or don’t fit—with the franchises they are based on:
For both writers and artists working on adaptations of movies and TV shows the challenge is to find a working space wherein one’s own sensibilities can be effectively meshed with the look and feel of the original text and into a book that works for readers. As [Douglas] Wolk implies, this may not be the highest or best expression of art and craft in comics, but doing it well is, in its own way, still an achievement, perhaps even more so because of the mixed reputation of such books.
Review: Kate Dacey writes a mixed review of the first volume of Library Wars: Love and War, a manga about “hot guys who hate censorship but like books, libraries, and butt-kicking women.”
Review: David Brothers has four reasons why he likes Heralds #1—and you should, too!
Advocacy: Ben Morse feels that Young Justice: Sins of Youth has been sadly underrated and unjustly overlooked, so he takes the opportunity to discuss just why it’s so great.
Review: Oliver Ho reads Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster, a coming-of-age story that takes a walk on the weird side.
Review: I know that reviews of Daniel Clowes’s Wilson are a dime a dozen, but Michael Buntag’s review sums it all up nicely, so if you don’t have time to read them all, read his.