Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti, who you know from All-Star Western, Monolith, Phantom Lady, Unknown Soldier, Creator-Owned Heroes, Queen Crab and countless more.
To see what Jimmy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creator Ryan Estrada has created a new digital comics site, The Whole Story, that—if it succeeds—could change the whole way digital comics are sold.
The site basically delivers what people have been clamoring for: Downloadable, DRM-free comics at a reasonable price. In fact, until July 23, the starter bundle is pay-what-you-want (with a $1 minimum, which sounds reasonable). The rest of the comics are sold in bundles with various extras thrown in—it’s sort of like Kickstarter, only with instantaneous delivery. Even more Kickstarter-y: On the FAQ page, Estrada promises to make more rewards, such as being drawn into his comics, available via Twitter.
Who’s on board? A host of indy creators, that’s who: The free bundle gets you comics by Estrada and Box Brown as well as Fusion Elementary, illustrated by Nam Dong Yoon and written by Meredith Gran, Jeffrey Brown, C. Spike Trotman, and other luminaries, most of whom have made their names in the webcomics world. At the higher levels, you get more new books by Brown and Yoon, and for $200 you can get download links to share with ten friends.
By cutting out the middleman, Estrada also cuts out a lot of the nonsense involved with digital comics purchases, such as licenses, geographical restrictions, and DRM. The sales mechanism is a bit clumsy at the moment—he e-mails out the higher-priced bundles by hand—but this site might have the right combination of talent and user-friendliness to really be a game changer.
Here’s an interesting bit of news from the BOOM! Studios Tumblr: John Allison, creator of Bad Machinery, is providing variant covers for all six issues of the upcoming Adventure Time story arc “Marcelline and the Scream Queens.” The covers will be available only to customers who order the comics through the BOOM! website; if you subscribe to the entire miniseries through the site, the shipping is free.
That seemed like a great deal until I clicked through and realized that the variant covers are $14.99 each (as opposed to $3.99 for the regular cover), so the subscription is $90. That first cover is nice, but … damn, that’s a lot of money for a variant. The miniseries is written and drawn by Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie), so that’s some serious webcomics star power on these.
Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]
Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]
The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, wrapped up Sunday, and while there weren’t nearly as many announcements made on Sunday as there were Friday and Saturday, there were a few more tidbits from Marvel and a fun one from BOOM!:
• At the Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel, the company revealed the creative team for the new Gambit ongoing series they started teasing before the show. Writer James Asmus and artist Clay Mann will have the X-Men’s favorite thief stealing items across the Marvel universe, literally, as Asmus promised to send him into space and to “places with Kirby monsters.”
• The Next Big Thing panel also brought the news that Jamie McKelvie will begin drawing Defenders with issue #8.
• Marvel’s Mighty Thor and Journey Into Mystery will crossover later this year in an event called “Everything Burns.” It’ll feature the villain Surtur. “It stretches the whole nine realms. It threatens every pantheon and planet in all creation. When we say ‘everything burns,’ we mean everything. Everything you’ve seen, anything you’ve cared about, anything at all… cinders, dust. It’s big,” JiM writer Kieron Gillen told Newsarama.
Sales | Sales of comic books and graphic novels to comic books stores through Diamond Comic Distributors increased 27.5 percent in January compared to the same month in 2011. Comics were up 32 percent while graphic novels were up 18 percent compared to 2011. DC Comics dominated all 10 spots at the top of the chart, with Justice League #5 coming in at No. 1. Batman: Through the Looking Glass was the top graphic novel for the month. [ICv2]
Passings | British comics artist Mike White, who illustrated Alan Moore’s The Twisted Man and numerous other stories for 2000AD, Lion, Valiant, Action and Score ‘n’ Roar, has passed away after a long illness. [Blimey!]
Publishing | Because the world demanded it, apparently, Random House plans to publish e-books of all the collected editions of Garfield newspaper comics. [Down the Tubes]
SPX, or the Small Press Expo, returns to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Bethesda, Md. this weekend.
The show’s special guests include Roz Chast, Jim Woodring, Diane Noomin, Jim Rugg, Ann Telnaes, Chester Brown, Johnny Ryan, Craig Thompson and Matthew Thurber, and fans who attend will also have the opportunity to meet and/or hear from Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Jessica Abel, Sarah Glidden, Alex Robinson, Brian Ralph, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz, just to name a few. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that our own Chris Mautner will be attending and conducting a Q&A with Johnny Ryan on Saturday, so be sure to tell him hi for us.
My sincere thoughts on how to promote the presence of women in comics:
Pay them. No, seriously. Pay them with money.
–Octopus Pie cartoonist Meredith Gran argues that money talks when it comes to women comics creators. “It’s not a question of awareness,” she goes on to say, “It’s a question of who’s getting paid,” because even a modicum of financial security enhances confidence and enables artists to create more and better work on their own terms. Gran also points out that her prescription for supporting men cartoonists is identical. “Paying people to work” does indeed seem like a pretty solid plan, and it reminds me of the utility of Tom Spurgeon’s “Rooney Rule” idea for publishers, which would put many more non-male and non-white creators in a position to secure paying jobs.
And thus begins what I can guess without even googling are a thousand racy fanfics. But it’s also the premise, more or less, of cartoonist Dave Kiersh’s thoughtful, funny minicomic Amazons, which he’s now posted online in its entirety on his new site Teenage Archive. The strip imagines what life would be like if these pulchritudinous paragons of fierce femininity were to attend high school, navigating the uncharted waters of jocks, nerds, preps, angry teachers, uncaring administrators, and unyielding dress codes.
Kiersh’s About Me blurb on Teenage Archive reads “Afterschool specials and the American dream,” and that pretty much nails what his comics are like: Whimsical yet melancholy explorations of teenage lust, boredom, romance, and desire to escape — and adult desire to return. Amazons is more of a goof than his usual stuff, but underneath the silliness is something true about the way dudes idealize beautiful women and the sense of unattainable freedom and fulfillment these fantasy figures represent. Read it in tandem with Kate Beaton, Carly Monardo, and Meredith Gran’s “Strong Female Characters” for a very different but I think complementary take on the power such images have.
New York Magazine has a slideshow up this week about Pizza Island, the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, studio where six comics creators make the magic happen.
The slideshow includes self-portraits of Julia Wertz (Fart Party, Drinking at the Movies), Kate Beaton (Hark, A Vagrant) Lisa Hanawalt (I Want You), Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less) Domitille Collardey (whose works are mostly in French), and Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie) as well as comments on each one by a co-worker. (It was Lisa and Domitille who commented on that Frank Quitely piece, so it’s interesting to contrast their self-portraits with his version of a woman cartoonist.)
There’s a whole lot of talent working in that small space, and if you’re fortunate enough to be going to MoCCA, be sure to check out their panel, which will feature all six. If you’re not, then head on over to the Pizza Island blog, where, at the moment, everyone is showing off their work spaces and discussing the quirks of their desktops.
Webcartoonist Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn — collecting the first few stories from the Octopus Pie webcomic — has just hit stores, and Gran marked the occasion by speaking to CBR’s Alex Dueben. Here’s what I’d call the money quote:
[Alex Dueben:] You started working on webcomics as a teenager, essentially growing up with the industry. What were the comics that really inspired you and have had a particular influence on “Octopus Pie?”
[Meredith Gran:] I’ve really admired the cartoonists behind the Dumbrella collective for years. Jon Rosenberg of “Goats,” R. Stevens of “Diesel Sweeties” and Jeffrey Rowland of “Wigu/Overcompensating” in particular taught me a lot about the business, cultivating a readership, and the sort of lifestyle webcomics demand.
Artistically, most of my influences come largely from outside the webcomics bubble. Though David McGuire of “Gastrophobia” attended college with me, and I see a lot of similarity in our styles.
My background is in animation, and I was raised on Looney Tunes (Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett) and MGM shorts (Tex Avery), which I consider some of the biggest influences, even if the comic itself doesn’t resemble them superficially. I love Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken’s shows of the 90s. “The Simpsons” is probably in there too.
Suddenly it struck me — a dude weaned on the “Dueling Banjos” of the traditional North American comics scene, first superheroes and then alternative comics — that webcomics really truly is its own beast. Now you’ve got a generation of cartoonists who’ve grown up reading them, springboarding off their artistic and business models, and incorporating the sorts of influences you really don’t find in either Acme Novelty Library or Savage Dragon (to name the only two comics I was reading regularly a decade ago). “The sort of lifestyle webcomics demand” probably has a lot in common with the lifestyles demanded by newspaper strips, superheroes, altcomix, any kind of comics, but in terms of influence and output, it stands alone…