Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Drawn Onward, by Matt Madden (Retrofit Comics)
I’m mostly familiar with Matt Madden as someone who writes about the theory and practice of comics, as the co-author (with his wife, Jessica Abel) of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, as well as the sole author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story, so I wasn’t too surprised that this comic would be an experiment in form. In fact, the name gives it away: Drawn Onward is a palindrome. The story, a tale of infatuation and obsession set almost entirely on the New York subway, reads at first like a straightforward tale of a woman’s encounter with a strange man who keeps bothering her—and with whom she becomes obsessed. But the last page of the comic is only the midpoint of the story: The narrator tells the reader to go back and read the comic backwards, and when you do, it’s the same story with the roles reversed.
Retrofit Comics is extending its early bird sale, allowing readers to subscribe to a full year of their comics for just $65, shipping included.
That includes original single-issue comics by Kate Leth, Olivier Schrauwen and Matt Madden, as well as some up-and-coming creators you probably haven’t heard of … yet. But wait! There’s more! They also throw in a free digital version of each comic (in PDF format) and two free gifts and you can have one of their 2014 comics sent to a friend! If that’s all too much, there’s also a digital-only option for $35.
Retrofit, which publishes single-issue alt-comics, was launched in 2011 by creator Box Brown with initial funding from a Kickstarter campaign. The idea is to allow creators to publish single-issue comics, which Brown sees as an important part of the creative process:
Manga | The widow of Barefoot Gen creator Keiji Nakazawa, has found 16 pages of penciled notes and sketches for a possible sequel to Nakazawa’s semi-autobiographical account of living through the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath. Before he died in December, Nakazawa donated the first 16 pages of the projected volume to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum; this is the outline for the second set of pages. The new story would have taken Gen to Tokyo to become a manga creator, just as Nakazawa did in real life. [Anime News Network]
Comics | Glen Weldon, who writes about comics for National Public Radio, explains why he, as a gay man, won’t be reading Orson Scott Card’s issues of Adventures of Superman: “DC Comics has handed the keys to the ‘Champion of the Oppressed’ to a guy who has dedicated himself to oppress me, and my partner, and millions of people like us. It represents a fundamental misread of who the character is, and what he means. It is dispiriting. It is wearying. It is also, finally, not for me.” [NPR]
Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]
Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]
Matt Madden created the above six-panel comic for an article by Professor Paul Lopes, author of Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book. Lopes is an associate professor of sociology for Colgate University, which published the article in its online magazine Scene. The New York liberal arts college not only doesn’t offer a major in dentistry (a joke surely never before stated on or near the campus), it also doesn’t appear to offer any significant studies in comics or graphic novels.
That didn’t stop Colgate from inviting Lopes to comment on how comics have grown up over the decades and how our culture has responded to them. A lot of it is introductory but the sociological context gives it a different filter to view this information, even if Lopes sometimes seems annoyed at the superhero genre and the dated stereotypes that surround it. (Although even this stance isn’t completely consistent. He opens sneering that The Avengers movie was an “aesthetic black hole” but ends confessing that he cheered while watching it.) And while he sets up the simplistic, and again, frankly dated paradigm of mainstream superhero fans vs. alternative comix readers, he does admit that “like all art, comic artworks, artists, and readers fall more along a continuum between pure mainstream on one end and pure avant-garde on the other.” This is becoming increasingly true if recent chart toppers The Walking Dead and Smile are any sign of the evolving landscape.
A generation ago, becoming a comic book creator was usually a solitary and self-guided process. Sure, there was How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, The Kubert School (still going strong), and a few other tools, but for the most part you were on your own. Today there is a blossoming variety of resources that are building a smarter and more skilled community of tomorrow’s comics makers.
One of the most recent additions is Comics Workbook, a new web magazine set up by cartoonist Frank Santoro (Storeyville, Kramer’s Ergot). As he explained on his own Tumblr, Santoro intentionally set out to put together a team of contributors that consisted of more girls than boys to “flip the script on this comics magazine thing”. Instead of looking to other comics sites, he turned to girls roller derby and the supportive community those teams create, and is trying to “copy their model.” The results are a rough yet immediate DIY vibe that displays comics and minicomics in-progress (such as “The Great” by Alyssa Berg, pictured here), brief yet hilariously brash reviews in comics form, a series of reflections on Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, links to interviews and reviews, and more.
Santoro is in the middle of teaching an eight-week correspondence course for comic book makers, and has written a series of columns examining layouts and color for The Comics Journal. So the guy definitely knows his stuff and has some interesting theories (even if they are beyond me as a non-artist).
Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]
Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]
Publishing | According to the San Diego Comic Con schedule, Archaia will publish an adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic sci-fi manga Cyborg 009, “reimagined” in Western style. The adaptation will be written by F. J. DeSanto and Brad Cramp, and illustrated by Trevor Hairsine. In case you missed it, David Brothers recently wrote a fascinating piece on the original. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Colleen Doran is looking for original art from her creator-owned series A Distant Soil. “I require good quality scans of the art for the future editions of the print books, as well as the upcoming digital editions … If you purchased A Distant Soil original art, I would be very grateful if you would get in touch with me.” [A Distant Soil]
Mastering Comics, the second comic-creating textbook by Artbabe and La Perdida creator Jessica Abel and 99 Ways to Tell a Story‘s Matt Madden, finally hit shelves last month, offering a remarkably thorough (and remarkably enjoyable, as well) lesson in what it takes to not only make a comic, but get it in front of readers, as well. It’s no surprise that it’s so wonderful; their previous collaborative effort, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, was similarly informative and entertaining to comic creators and the more generally curious alike, and the two have taught at New York’s School of Visual Arts for the past few years. I had a brief chat with the two about the release of the book, and what it takes to “Master” comics.
Comics | When 4-year-old Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t wear them, his mother emailed Marvel to ask if they had any pictures of superheroes wearing a hearing aid. Not only did Marvel editor Bill Rosemann respond with an image of the cover of 1984’s West Coast Avengers #1, which featured Hawkeye wearing a hearing aid, he also had artist Nelson Ribeiro transform Anthony into a superhero, Blue Ear. [Concord Monitor]
Publishing | Former Marvel editor Jody LeHeup, who was let go by the publisher in October during a round of layoffs, has joined Valiant Entertainment as associate editor. [press release]
Conventions | Rich Lopez has a gallery of photos from last weekend’s Dallas Comic Con. [The Dallas Voice]
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 had $15, I’d grab the latest Lio collection, Zombies Need Love Too. Cartoonist Mark Tatulli has one of the better newspaper comic strips going these days.
If I had $30, I’d nab what is clearly the book of the week, NonNonBa, the latest book from Shigeru Mizuki, author of Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths. NonNonBa aims more toward Mizuki’s traditional milieu of Japanese folklore and yokai monsters, though this book is more autobiographical in nature in that it deals with his relationship with his grandmother and how she instilled in him an interest in the spirit world. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release.
My splurge for the week would likely be one of two books from First Second: Either Baby’s in Black, Arne Bellstorf’s fictionalized tale of the sadly doomed Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe, or Mastering Comics, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s follow-up to their previous how-to textbook, Drawing Words, Writing Pictures.
Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]
Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]
First Second has announced its releases for spring 2012, and as usual it’s an exciting, eclectic lineup. Here’s a quick rundown:
Which are you looking forward to?
As the end of 2011 approaches, websites and publications are unveiling various year-end lists and gift guides — so many that keeping up is a challenge. Here’s just some of what’s been released in the past few days
• Matt Madden and Jessica Abel, editors for the Best American Comics series, have released their annual Notable Comics list. Every year they try to get their hands on every North American comic that’s published every year so they can narrow them down to about 100 or so comics for their guest editor to choose from for each edition. This year’s list includes comics by Matt Kindt, Brandon Graham, Megan Kelso, Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, Michael Deforge, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, Mike Dawson, Joshua Cotter and many, many more.
• In a list of their favorite music, movies, books and more of 2011, The Tulane Hullabaloo spotlights Mark Waid, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera’s run on Daredevil: “The series contains a sense of pure, manic glee missing from many of today’s dark, gritty and realistic superheroes, with Daredevil grinning as he makes snow angels on the rooftops of his beloved city rather than brooding over his internal demons. It’s a joy to read every month and cannot be recommended more, even to non-comic book enthusiasts.”
• MTV Splash Page counts down the top five comic book movie deaths of 2011.
• Brian Truitt at USA Today offers a list of gift ideas for comic fans.
• Lauren Davis at ComicsAlliance offers a guide to various webcomics collections and merchandise she thinks would make fine gifts — “a fantastic way to convert friends and family to your favorite webcomic.”
The problem with superheroes is it’s not a personal taste so much as it just requires so much insider knowledge to read these things. They don’t stand on their own. There have been about three superhero comics, maybe two, in the past five years that stand on their own. That you can just read and not have to know what happened in issue #56 and ever since. It’s a real problem, I think, and it’s a problem for the industry. How do you get into this stuff if you’re not into it already?
— Jessica Abel, cartoonist and co-editor of the Best American Comics annual anthology series, explains why so few superhero comics have made it into their best-of collections in an interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben. (Though this isn’t through lack of trying — DC previously turned down their request to use Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100.) Her husband, fellow cartoonist, and co-editor Matt Madden agrees: