Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Publishing | Archaia founder Mark Smylie will leave the company he founded in 2002 to focus on his writing career. Creator of Artesia and author of the 2014 novel The Barrow, sold the company in 2008 to Kunoichi Inc., but remained as an acting principal. BOOM! Studios then purchased Archaia in 2013, transforming it into an imprint of the publisher. [press release]
Conventions | Filmmaker John Waters says the organizers of Shock Pop Comic Con, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the weekend of Feb. 14, owe him $6,250 — and they have told him they don’t intend to pay. Waters said the con seemed legit, if lightly attended, and they paid the first half of his fee up front. “I didn’t think that they were gonna – in a very short time – send a letter from a lawyer that basically was just like, ‘Don’t bother even trying,’” he said. But that’s what they did: The letter said the company that organized the event “had to close their doors and had no assets within which to satisfy its debts.” Freelance talent manager Shade Rupe said the con had “an incredible lineup,” but it was poorly organized; he got stuck with the limo bill for one of the people he represents, actor Danny Trejo. [Broward/Palm Beach New Times]
In what Top Shelf Productions describes as possibly “the first — and the last — time Jon Stewart ever features a graphic novel,” Congressman John Lewis appeared last night on The Daily Show, where he discussed meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” and his memoir of the civil rights movement March.
“People must understand,” Lewis said, “and that’s why we did [these] two books here, March Book One and Book Two, to tell the story, so our young people — our children and their children — will understand what happened and never forget it.”
The second volume of Rep. John Lewis’ autobiographical trilogy March is darker than the first one, both literally — artist Nate Powell fills many panels with almost unbroken blackness, as he depicts smoke, night and noxious fumes — and figuratively, as it shows human cruelty at its worst. Even in its lighter moments, Book Two shows the flaws as well as the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement. As this era recedes from living memory to history books, it’s in danger of dwindling to a series of inspirational images and iconic figures. Book Two of March is a bracing antidote to that.
March‘s first volume focused on Lewis’ youth and his involvement with the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins of 1959-1960, his first experience with nonviolent social action. In Nashville, the protestors were mostly students, their leaders were mostly religious, and they took the principle of nonviolence seriously. The refusal to answer violence with violence, whether verbal or physical, was integral to their actions. While there are violent moments in Book One, the story doesn’t dwell on them.
In Book Two, on the other hand, Lewis jumps right in with an attempted murder: The manager of a diner not only refuses to serve Lewis and a colleague, he sends his staff away, turns off the lights, turns on a fumigator spraying insecticide gas, and locks the door. The opposition has moved from harassment to deadly force, and while Lewis was rescued by firefighters (who must have been called by someone), it’s clear from the start that the stakes have been raised.
Business | Marvel parent company Disney has reportedly laid off as many as 17 of the 60 full-time employees at DisneyToon Studio, the Glendale, California-based division that produces animated direct-to-video sequels and prequels, such as The Lion King 1 1/2 and Mulan II, the Disney Fairies releases and the occasional feature film, most recently Planes: Fire & Rescue. While Disney has been cutting positions throughout the company for the past few years — dating back to 2011 with the elimination of 200 jobs in its interactive division and about a dozen at Marvel — Variety chalks up these layoffs to the declining home-video market. [Variety, Deadline]
Passings | Dan Lynch, former editorial cartoonist for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, died Sunday at age 67. Lynch also worked for the Kansas City Times, and his cartoons were syndicated nationally and appeared in Time and Newsweek. However, his career was cut short by a debilitating stroke in 2001. “Dan had (what I thought was) a fabulous drawing style,” said Julie Inskeep, publisher and president of The Journal Gazette. “And, in the 20-plus years he worked at the JG, he provided a vast array of cartoon topics – always welcome, though not always in agreement with our editorial board. But he got people to think and react in his special and powerful way.” [Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller mines the circulation statements provided once a year to put together a 54-year sales history of Archie Comics’ flagship title Archie (the publisher is one of the few that still prints annual statements of ownership, allowing the numbers to be traced back, unbroken, to 1960). As he points out, Archie was a big newsstand title, selling almost 600,000 copies in the late 1960s, but it didn’t fare well when comics moved to the direct market — although Archie Comics has done well nonetheless with its digests, which far outsell its single-issue comics. [Comichron]
Publishing | Annie Koyama of Koyama Press talks with Dan Berry about how comics publishing works, and how she got into the field. [Make It Then Tell Everybody]
Manga | The 13 volumes to date of Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy Attack on Titan have sold a combined 30.37 million copies in Japan, making the manga only the third series to do so since market research firm Oricon began tracking the numbers in 2009 (the first two were, of course, mega-hits One Piece and Naruto). [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | John Casteele considers the acquisition of comiXology from Amazon’s point of view: “It’s easy to see how the ComiXology purchase is going to benefit Amazon. Access to the ComiXology platform not only provides the company with additional revenues from the growing digital comics market and to the comic series that had the highest-selling single issue in 2013 (The Walking Dead, which also had five of the top 10 best-selling graphic novels for the year). It could also provide synergy with Jet City Comics and the Kindle, giving both access to the ComiXology publishing platform. Amazon could also use its Kindle platform to further refine the ComiXology’s ‘Comics’ app, which is already available for the Kindle Fire but might enjoy more direct integration in the future.” [Business Insider]
Fans attending this weekend’s SPACE, the long-running small press show in Columbus, Ohio, will have the first opportunity to see some of artist Nate Powell’s work on the forthcoming March Book Two.
March Book Two, as you can probably guess, is the followup to March Book One, and is written by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. The well-received graphic novel, published by Top Shelf, is Lewis’ memoir of the civil rights movement. According to the creator, “Original pages from the forthcoming March: Book Two will be unveiled for the first time ever, and will be on exhibit near my table all weekend.”
Powell will also give a presentation about his upcoming projects on Saturay at 3 p.m., which include Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero, a collection of comics called You Don’t Say, a new printing of Swallow Me Whole, an early look at his next solo book and “collaborations with acclaimed writers Scott Snyder and Van Jensen.”
In addition to Powell, SPACE will also host a ton of creators from the Midwest and beyond, including Matt Feazell, Ryan Claytor, Jimmy Gownley, John Porcellino, Carol Tyler and many more. Find the complete list here.
Awards | March: Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, was honored this morning at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia with the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults. Other youth media winners include: Lucy Knisley’s Relish, the Alex Award as one of the 10 best adult books that appeal to teens; Chip Kidd’s Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults; and Brian Selznick, recipient of the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award. [press release]
Passings | One of Fiji’s best-known cartoonists, Laisiasa Naulumatua, was remembered by his former editor as someone who relied on humor rather than venom to make his point. A number of former government officials, including a former prime minister, came to pay their respects to the cartoonist, who used the pen name Lai, at his funeral on Saturday. [The Fiji Times]
Business | Bitstrips co-founder and CEO Jacob “Ba” Blackstock, whose DIY avatar and comic strip app exploded in 2013, reflects on the lessons of the year, and sketches out the Toronto company’s goals for 2014. Unsurprisingly, those include finding more uses for its comics and, y’know, making money (earlier this month, Bitstrips confirmed a $3 million injection of venture capital, which will go toward more engineers, artists and designers). [Entrepreneur]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon interviews Nate Powell about his work on March, the graphic novel memoir of Rep. John Lewis’ experiences in the civil rights movement, and one of the most acclaimed books of the year. [The Comics Reporter]
Between the chart-topping sales, rave reviews and widespread media coverage, it’s pretty easy to make a case for March: Book One as graphic novel of the year. To ensure that Rep. John Lewis’ congressional colleagues don’t miss out on the acclaimed civil-rights memoir, publisher Top Shelf is presenting all of the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with digital copies of the book, along with the groundbreaking comic that inspired it, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.
In a letter accompanying the gift, Lewis explained that March “is not just my story, it’s the story of a movement, the story of a generation that stood up for justice in our country.”
The Georgia Congressman continued, “Just like the comic book I read more than 50 years ago, it is my hope that this graphic novel can inspire new generations to speak up and speak out, to make their voice heard, and, hopefully, to make our nation a more just and peaceful place for all.”
Co-written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, the graphic novel recounts Lewis’ you in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The second volume in the planned trilogy is set to arrive next year.
Last night, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show devoted a full 10-minute segment to March, its creators Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and to Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, the 1958 comic that helped to inspire the civil-rights movement.
While many authors, musicians and politicians have cited increased sales and profiles following their appearances on The Colbert Report — the frequently mentioned, by Stephen Colbert himself, “Colbert Bump” — March seems seems to be the beneficiary of the lesser-known “Maddow Bump”: Following last night’s episode, the book rocketed to No. 12 on the Amazon Best Seller list, its peak position.
Maddow, an avowed comics fan, recently conducted a one-hour interview with Lewis about March at the Kentucky Author Forum. CBR spoke with the March team in June, and in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
As we reported earlier this week, publisher Top Shelf Productions has partnered with Fellowship of Reconciliation to offer Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in a digital bundle with March. Watch the Maddow segment below.
Stage | Dancer Daniel Curry, who was seriously injured during an Aug. 15 performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, made his first appearance since the accident at a benefit concert held Monday that raised $10,000 for his medical bills. Curry was injured when his leg was pinned by an automated trap door — he blames malfunctioning equipment, producers say it was human error — resulting in fractured legs and a fractured foot; he has undergone surgeries and unspecified amputations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Actors’ Equity have launched investigations into the accident, and Curry’s lawyers are exploring a possible lawsuit against the $75 million show and the equipment suppliers.
During previews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — before the March 2011 firing of director Julie Taymor and the sweeping overhaul that followed — no fewer than five performers were injured, the most serious previously being aerialist Christopher Tierney, who fell about 30 feet in December 2010, breaking four ribs and fracturing three vertebrae. He returned to rehearsals four months later. There have been no major accidents since the show opened in June 2011. [The New York Times]
History | Michael Dooley celebrates Banned Books Week with a look at the comics singled out by Dr. Fredric Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent as particularly corrupting of our youth; Dooley juxtaposes scans of the pages with Werthem’s commentary. [Print]
Creators | Lynda Barry is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) as well as the UW-Madison Department of Art; she was an artist in residence at the university last year. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]
Creators | Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell talk about their involvement in the graphic novel March. [Free Comic Book Day]
The first volume of March, released this week by Top Shelf Productions,just oozes respectability. Its author and protagonist is a well-known and well-respected figure, no less than a venerated U.S. congressman. It’s about an important subject – race relations – and set in a iconic and turbulent time period – the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s the kind of book that both the comics industry and the mainstream media like to trip over themselves in holding aloft as an example of the sort of general interest, literate work that would not only appeal to a non-comics reading public, but can be shown as an example of how the medium is capable of more than mere spandex fisticuffs.
In other words, I absolutely dreaded having to read the thing.
It’s not that I think that comics only work best only when they recognize their low-gutter, high-slapstick, overwrought melodrama origins or that cartoonists shouldn’t aspire to tackle complex, serious issues. It’s more that these sorts of works – biographical dramas where the central character happens to be caught in the midst of a major historical event – tend to simply not be very good, a few notable exceptions aside. All too often it seems as though the authors make the fatal mistake of assuming the subject matter itself is enough to carry the work forward and neglect to focus on things like crafting sharp dialogue, compelling page compositions or an interesting – or even comprehensible – plot. The end result is a lot of boring books with noble intentions.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with March. While the comic stays well within its basic, Bildungsroman structure, it’s an engaging, well-crafted read nevertheless.
March: Book One debuted Tuesday from Top Shelf Productions, earning high praise and a lot of attention for Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. But last night the graphic novel garnered arguably the highest accolade of all: the coveted Colbert Bump.
Lewis, the civil-rights pioneer who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the book, which chronicles his early life in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. and the Selma to Montgomery marches.