"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Awards | Mimi Pond’s Over Easy has been recognized with a PEN Center USA Literary Award for Graphic Novel Outstanding Body of Work. Previous category winners are Gilbert Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, Joe Sacco and Matt Fraction. [PEN Center USA]
Publishing | Dark Horse is planning to beef up its lineup of children’s graphic novels, which already includes such successful titles as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Plants vs. Zombies and Itty Bitty Hellboy. Four new titles are slated for 2015: Rexodus, a story about dinosaurs from outer space, and three older properties, Rod Espinosa’s Courageous Princess, Samuel Teer and Hyeondo Park’s Veda: Assembly Required, and an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Return of the Gremlins. [Publishers Weekly]
We’re a little more than halfway through the year, which makes it the perfect time to pause and separate the truly exemplary comics from the merely mediocre.
Below are six of my favorite comics of the year thus far. Many of them will likely make their way into my final “best of 2014″ list come December, but I reserve the right to completely change my mind between now and then.
In any case, let me know what comics you’ve enjoyed reading thus far (or how crazy I am for forgetting Graphic Novel X) in the comments section.
Emily Carroll, Drew Friedman, Brandon Graham and Mimi Pond will make their Small Press Expo debuts, joining previously announced guests like Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry and James Sturm at the Sept. 13-14 event in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Having Brandon, Emily, Drew and Mimi for the first time at SPX is a great thrill for both the SPX Executive Committee and the SPX community,” SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard told The Washington Post. “Their diverse styles and the mediums they work in really reflect the wide view that the SPX community has of the comics world. We are totally stoked about them coming to this year’s show.”
As we noted just last week, it’s been a particularly good year professionally for Carroll, who won both the Cartoonist Studio Prize and a Doug Wright Award. The first print collection of her fairy-tale horror comics, Through the Woods, will be released next month by McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
Publishing | Both Marvel and the manga publisher Yen Press are caught in the middle of the Amazon/Hachette dispute: Hachette is accusing Amazon of suppressing sales of Hachette titles in order to force the publisher to agree to its terms, according to The New York Times. Marvel uses Hachette as its distributor and Yen is a Hachette imprint; ICv2 found evidence that several of Amazon’s cited tactics, which include shipping delays and lower discounts, were being used on their titles. In fact, Amazon is offering no discount at all on Yen Press titles at the moment. [ICv2]
Comics sales | ICv2 runs the numbers on April comics sales, and The Amazing Spider-Man #1 is the spring phenom: After three months of no comic selling more than 100,000 copies, ASM #1 sold more than 500,000, thanks in no small part to its nearly 50 variant and retailer custom covers, generating a record $3.19 million. Two other comics, Superior Spider-Man #31 and Batman #30, also hit the six-figure mark. ICv2 has the numbers for the top 300 comics and graphic novels as well. [ICv2]
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World (DC Comics): The greatest virtue of the Greg Pak-written World’s Finest team-up title is also its main drawback: There’s really great, flat-out gorgeous artwork by Jae Lee … except when their isn’t. Lee draws the lion’s share of the book — about 70 of its 100-plus story pages — and it’s some of the artist’s best comics work; his heroic figures pose through a series of complex layouts, their anatomy and features those of real, if exceptionally beautiful, people, rather than musclebound action figures. The too-busy New 52 costume designs are stripped down to their essentials, the various bits of technology all look like mobile art installations, and Lee’s vision of a Gotham City park is appropriately, if amusingly, dark, twisted and exaggerated.
He might not have been the best possible choice for this particular storyline, which involves two different Batmen, Supermen and Catwomen, given his use of silhouettes and sparse panels, and the cacophony of color-coded narration boxes have to do a little more work than they might otherwise. But it’s jarring to the point of shocking when fill-in artists appear to help Lee, with Ben Oliver-drawn climaxes for the first and last issues/chapters, and an extensive Yildiray Cinar flashback in another issue. There’s also a rather tacked-on origin story of Darkseid and the main villain for the story arc, which appeared in September’s Justice League #23.1, drawn by two more artists.
Retailing | Dennis Barger, co-owner of Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, and the driving force behind the new retailer association CBRA (Comic Book Retailers Alliance), says direct-market stores want publishers to pull back on same-day digital release, and debut the print comics first. He says ComicsPRO, the established, much larger, trade organization, is taking the wrong approach in trying to adapt to digital. Barger also feels that hand-selling by employees, not social media, is what propels sales of comics, especially non-Big Two titles: “The employees at local comic shops pushing these books is the difference in being in the top 200 and the bottom 300 in sales for those books.” A shift to digital, which removes the local comics shop from the equation, would thus harm second-tier publishers such as Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios and IDW. The association was able to purchase an exclusive variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #1, drawn by John Romita Sr., for its members. [The News-Herald]
Digital comics | In today’s Amazon-acquires-comiXology article, Rachel Edidin deflates much of the hype, and the panic, surrounding the deal, pointing out that comics distribution is already a monopoly, large corporations already run the comics market, and comics have been available on Kindle all along: “Is the concern […] a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins — or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers — is frankly ridiculous.” [Wired]
Awards | Michael Cavna talks with Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer about winning the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning. [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Maine cartoonist Jeff Pert, best known for his cartoons and illustrations of lobsters and moose, died Friday on his way to the hospital with chest pains. He was 55. His cartoons adorned souvenir postcards and coffee cups, but he was also an active part of the local comics community in Brunswick, Maine, a regular at Casablanca Comics, and a participant in the Maine Comic Arts Festival. Pert created his first comic when he was in fifth grade and sold copies to local comic shops. “They probably gave us the money and then threw them in the garbage, but we were happy,” said his collaborator (and best friend) Jon Dumont. Pert was known for supporting other artists and even persuaded his local state representative, Maggie Daughtry, to start drawing her own comics: Daughtry knocked on Pert’s door when she was campaigning for office, and, she said, “Within an hour of meeting him, he literally changed my life.” When Daughtry told Pert that she had dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, he encouraged her to start drawing again, which she did. [Portland Press Herald]
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has expanded its already-impressive creator lineup with the addition of international guests Christophe Blain, Abel Lanzac, Luke Pearson, Jeff Smith, Mimi Pond and Kuš.
“The comics medium is thoroughly celebrated the world over,” Festival Director Christopher Butcher said in a statement. “I’ve had the great fortune to travel around the world, and I’ve seen how both the medium and its authors are highly-regarded … it’s my privilege to bring a little bit of that sentiment, that respect, back to Canada through TCAF.”
Previously announced featured guests for the May 10-11 event include Darwyn Cooke, Michael Deforge, Lynn Johnston, Kazu Kibuishi, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.