Mike Dawson Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Late last year, I noticed that writer/artist Mike Dawson was contributing original content to The Nib, a collection of political cartoons, comics journalism, humor and nonfiction at Medium.com edited by Matt Bors.
Curious to learn what led him to participating at The Nib, and hoping to see if I could get Dawson to break down one of his recent pieces that ran there, I reached out to the cartoonist. It turns out he was more than happy to reveal the development process for his Oct. 6 strip, “The Underdog Myth.”
In early August, in the wake of Mike Dawson’s conversation-starting essay, Magic Whistle creator Sam Henderson assessed the mitigating factors affecting his work as a cartoonist, laid many of the challenges at his own feet. As refreshing as it was to read a candid assessment of his creative plight, I was curious to learn Henderson’s mindset after people he responded to his post. While I was at it, of course, I angled to get a glimpse of his creative process.
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
When writer/artist Mike Dawson shared how weakly his graphic novels sold (as part of a larger self-examination of where his comics career currently stands), it struck a chord with a variety of industry members and pundits.
A great deal of attention was paid to the perceived tone of Abhay Khosla’s initial response to Dawson. I have to admit I struggle to read Khosla’s essays with any regularity, as I never feel like he is writing as himself, but rather is projecting an exaggerated version of himself. He is a lawyer by profession, so I have always assumed his comics coverage is a way to write about a medium he clearly loves, but also to burn off some of the tension of his legal work (pure speculation on my part, admittedly). That being said, Khosla’s tone (whether it clicks with you or not) makes some valid points.
Legal | A South Korea court has ruled an exhibition devoted to One Piece can be held as planned after it was abruptly canceled earlier this month following allegations that Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga contains images that resemble the Rising Sun flag, considered a symbol of Japanese imperialism in South Korea. The company staging the One Piece show, which includes life-sized statues, rare figures and Oda’s sketches, asked the court to step in after the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul pulled the plug on the event just days before its scheduled July 12 opening. The court found that One Piece can’t be considered to “[hail] Japanese imperialism” simply because it depicts a flag reminiscent of the Rising Sun; and even if those images are of the Rising Sun flag, it’s mainly shown in a negative light. [The Asahi Shimbun]
Having detailed his love affair with Queen, delved into the secret lives of boy scouts and even produced the odd superhero comic, Mike Dawson has released his most ambitious book yet, the politically and socially charged Angie Bongiolatti.
Set only a few months after 9/11, the book centers around a group of twentysomethings, more or less fresh out of college, working at an aspiring dot-com in the Big Apple and trying to figure out what exactly they want to do with their lives. Like satellites, many of them seem to rotate to one degree or another around the titular character, an attractive young woman who is driven by her left-wing political beliefs and trying to ascertain how to adhere to them in the workaday world.
Far from being some sort of one-sided political screed however, Bongiolatti asks questions about the effectiveness of any political movement, no matter how noble, and how best to affect change in the world while still being able to maneuver through it effectively.
I talked with Dawson over email the last few weeks about the book, its themes, politics and the joys of working with a large cast of characters.
Angie Bongiolatti is set within a very specific place and time, New York immediately after 9/11. What made you decide to set your story during this period rather than, say, during the Iraq War or during the Bush/Gore election. Or later?
The Bush/Gore election was the last time in my life when I was completely and blissfully unaware of current events and had no opinion on what was happening. I had no television set at the time, the Internet wasn’t yet an all-consuming focal point of my life, and plus I was 25 years old, and just didn’t care about the world outside of my own social life.
The period after 9/11 was that short window in time where the rest of the world was more or less on America’s “side” when it came to their response. To be against the invasion of Afghanistan was a minority position to take. The invasion seemed legitimate. I remember there were some voices of dissent at the time – David Rees’ Get Your War On being this great voice screaming into the roaring winds of war. I loved that comic. It might have been the first webcomic I experienced in real time.
Conventions | A reported 86,500 people attended the third annual Denver Comic Con over the weekend, up from 61,000 in 2013. The event is undergoing some growing pains, however, with organizers quickly rescinding an announced cart-service fee for next year’s convention following complaints from vendors. Even without that additional charge, some exhibitors remain unhappy about the proposed increase in booth fees. [The Denver Post]
Comics sales | ICv2 unpacks February’s miserable direct market sales numbers a bit, noting that for the second month in a row just one comic — in this case, Batman #28 — sold more than 100,000 copies, indicating weakness at the top of the list. Since September 2011, when the most recent “growth spurt” began, at least two comics have sold more than 100,000 copies each month; however, that streak ended with the first two months of 2014. One cause of the poor sales may be the unusually cold winter, which meant higher heating bills and thus less disposable income for some folks. ICv2 also has a separate analysis of dollar sales and the charts of the top 300 comics and graphic novels of the month. [ICv2]
It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.
But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.
After this post went live, a representative from Kickstarter reached out to clarify some of the points made below. I don’t think it changes my basic conclusion, but when you’re working with statistics, it’s good to have all your caveats in a row, so I added a few more comments after the cut.
Simply put, I’d be wary of allowing my ability or inability to successfully fund the printing costs of a book to have any influence over whether or not I saw said project through to completion.
Pre-failing financially, would undoubtedly undermine any chances I have of succeeding creatively.
Allowing a kind of market to pre-determine if my project has value… that would alter my own perception about it’s worth, no matter how hard I tried to fight that.
Failing to raise funds would mean I’d scrap the story and try something else. And I think that’s a crappy outcome.
(Emphasis in the original.) It’s not the same as getting rejected by a publisher — that, he feels, could be written off as the opinion of one or two people. If the entire market rejects your work, it’s a lot harder to get up the enthusiasm to complete it.
But hold on a minute. After looking at the Kickstarter statistics presented by Jeanne Pi of AppsBlogger and Prof. Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t be so quick to scrap a project just because it didn’t get a lot of pledges. Pi and Mollick present their findings in a handy infographic, but here’s a quick summary:
It’s been almost three years since writer/artist Mike Dawson and I last talked (back then our focus was on Ace-Face: The Mod with the Metal Arms and 2008’s Freddie & Me). In this 2012 round, we pitch a tent around his latest Secret Acres release Troop 142, the story of one week at a boy scout camp and its impact on the boys attending as well as the men running it. Dawson is a great interviewer in his own right (as we discuss briefly), so I was a tad nervous in trying to generate my queries. It was also refreshing to understand his stepping away from social media to the benefit of his creative efforts. My thanks to Dawson for his time and perspective, especially the book’s evolution from webcomic to printed bound edition.
Tim O’Shea: I gotta be honest, reading this book a week before my son goes off to scout camp was not the best thing for me to read. Many of the kids straddle the line between being insecure and total jerks (as all kids will be). But all the characters had redeeming values (of course)- – how challenging was it to strike a balance of positives and negatives with the characters?
Mike Dawson: I think that’s one of the few aspects of writing that comes easily to me. People are a mix of positive and negative values, and even then it’s subjective. It’s important to me to try to show different sides of a character. I think readers first impulses would be to dislike a lot of these characters, especially some of the adults in the beginning of the story, and my hope is to bring them around a little bit, and see them as more complex.
Digital | Retailer Brian Hibbs responds to recent comments around the price of digital comics, commenting on how “channel migration” could effect comic retailers: “The concern of the comics retailer isn’t that there IS digital — fuck, I’m totally all for a mechanism to drive a potentially wide segment of customers to the medium of comics itself. How can that NOT help me? But, rather, that enough customers will ‘change channels’ (of purchase), so as to make segments of work unprofitible to carry. I’ve been pretty straight with you — most periodicals are but marginally profitible; most books are largely unprofitible. That we have stellar, break out, oh-my-god-it’s-like-printing-money successes like WALKING DEAD or BONE or SANDMAN doesn’t mean that this is the way all books can follow. Quite the opposite in fact! So what this means is that even losing a TINY portion of the readership through Channel Migration could potentially have dire effects. Seriously, if I lost just 10% of my customers, I’m done. And what we also know is that when physical stores close, most of that readership for comics UTTERLY VANISHES. The gist of this is that losing 10% of sales to migration could mean that the other 80% of that stores’ sales are COMPLETELY LOST.” [The Savage Critics]
Conventions | The New York Post previews this week’s New York Comic Con in a pair of articles, the second of which focuses on announcements from Marvel and DC. Marvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” panel will reveal how Fear Itself, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade and X-Men: Schism tie together, while DC plans to reveal “the surprising origin of a longtime member of the Justice League” and more creators who will work on their New 52 books, in addition to Andy Kubert. Update: Presumably the Justice League member with the surprising origin is Wonder Woman. [New York Post article #1, article #2]
Comics | Not surprisingly, DC saw double-digit increases in September compared to the year before, but the overall market was down a touch as graphic novel sales, lacking this year’s equivalent of Scott Pilgrim, were down. [The Comichron]
Business | Disney CEO Robert Iger, who oversaw the company’s purchase of both Marvel Entertainment and Pixar, will step down as CEO in March 2015. [Bloomberg]
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …
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.
Publishing | DC Comics will allocate the second printing of Justice League #1, with retailers receiving 32 percent of their orders, which now won’t ship until Sept. 21, the same day the third printing will be released. ICv2 reports some stores are concerned that potential new readers drawn in by the publisher’s promotional campaign for the New 52 won’t understand the two-week wait to pick up a copy of the comic. The website also runs down the list of cable television shows during which DC’s New 52 commercial is airing. [ICv2.com]
Passings | Comic Art Community reports that artist Dave Hoover passed away earlier this week. Hoover, who drew runs of Captain America and Starman in the 1990s, more recently worked on Zenescope’s Charmed comic. Before working in comics, Hoover was an animator, working on Flash Gordon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Super Friends, The Smurfs and many more in the 1970s and 1980s. [Comic Art Community]