Nate Powell seems to be on some sort of a streak; his artwork for the civil rights story The Silence of Our Friends is winning deserved accolades, he is currently drawing and coloring an issue of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, and he has just announced a new project that will bring his work to an entirely new audience: He will be drawing the graphic novel adaptation of Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. For those who don’t have a tween-ager in the house, Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The New Olympians is the Twilight of the middle-grade set (in terms of popularity, not sparkliness), a series of novels that update the Greek gods in witty ways. The Lost Hero is the first volume in Riordan’s spinoff series The Heroes of Olympus. Robert Venditti will be scripting the graphic novel, which makes me think it will have some adult appeal as well, but we’ll have to wait until fall 2014 to find out.
Meanwhile, drop by Powell’s blog to see all the stages of one of his Sweet Tooth pages, from thumbnails to colors.
Legal | A judge denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of Michael George, the former comic book store owner and convention organizer convicted of killing his wife in 1990, dismissing the defense’s argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction. George is serving a life sentence. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | DC Comics announced last night it will shut down its message board in early March as part of an overhaul of the publisher’s website that will include Facebook-hosted commenting and integrated Twitter feeds. [The Source]
Creators | About 15 people threw eggs at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks as he spoke on freedom of speech at the University of Karlstad. Vilks has raised the ire of some Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Vilks told the audience, “Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves, it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don’t think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough.” None of the eggs hit the cartoonist, and the protestors were removed from the room. [UPI.com]
Legal | The attorney for Marc Toberoff, the lawyer representing the Siegel and Shuster families in the bitter battle over the rights to Superman, argued last week before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that Warner Bros. shouldn’t be granted access to sensitive documents stolen from Toberoff’s office and delivered anonymously to the studio in 2008. A federal magistrate judge ruled in May 2011 that Toberoff waived privilege to the documents when he turned over the files in response to a grand jury subpoena issued in the investigation of the theft. An attached cover letter, dubbed the “Superman-Marc Toberoff Timeline,” was determined in 2009 not to be covered by privilege, and become the basis for the studio’s lawsuit against the attorney, in which it claims he acted improperly to convince the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to seek to reclaim the original copyright to the Man of Steel. Warner Bros. also alleges that Toberoff schemed to secure for himself “a majority and controlling financial stake” in the Superman rights. [Courthouse News Service]
Legal | Former Judge Dredd artist Brett Ewins was arraigned Thursday on charges of grievous bodily harm with intent following an incident last month in which he allegedly attacked police officers with a knife when they responded to a public-disturbance call. The 56-year-old Ewins, who reportedly has a history of mental-health issues, was remanded into custody pending a Feb. 17 preliminary hearing. [Ealing Gazette]
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]
To see what Ao and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Crime | A man in Lincoln, Nebraska, told police that a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, valued at $15,000, disappeared from his home sometime between Oct. 27 and Monday morning. The 1962 issue was kept with other comics, but the man claims several people had been in and out of his home since he last saw it. A near-mint copy of the comic, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold at auction in March for $1.1 million. [Lincoln Journal Star]
Creators | Writer Greg Pak has set up a page to take donations for former comics writer Bill Mantlo, whose tragic situation was detailed in an article last week. “Bill Mantlo has had a huge influence on me as a writer and reader,” Pak said. “His Micronauts stories blew my mind as a kid and his Incredible Hulk run laid the groundwork for the themes I explored my five-and-a-half year run with the character.” Money donated through the site goes directly to Mike Mantlo, Bill’s brother, for Bill’s ongoing care. [Greg Pak]
Creators | Any Empire and Swallow Me Whole creator (and our special guest this weekend for What Are You Reading?) Nate Powell appeared at the United Nations earlier this month with several teen-fiction writers who contributed to What You Wish For, a benefit book to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad. Video of the event can now be found on the U.N. website. [Top Shelf]
Business | Details on the collaboration between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment Inc. and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s Vuguru have emerged: The two companies will work on a YouTube channel called “Stan Lee’s YouTube World of Heroes.” The channel is one of the 100 online video channels announced by the Google-owned video site, which seeks to add “professional, high-quality programming” to its site. [Los Angeles Times]
Business | They might move slow and eat people, but MSNBC estimates that zombies are worth about $5 billion to the economy. [MSNBC]
Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where every week we talk about the comics, books and other stuff we’ve been reading lately.
Our special guest this week is musician and comic creator Nate Powell, who you might know from his most recent graphic novel, Any Empire, or the Ignatz and Eisner Award-winning Swallow Me Whole. When he’s not creating comics, he’s hanging out at the United Nations with the likes of R.L. Stine, Ann M. Martin and other teen-fiction writers in support of What You Wish For, a collection of young adult stories and poems. Proceeds from the book will be used to fund libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in Chad.
To see what Nate and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Awards | The Visual Effects Society has named Stan Lee as the recipient of the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose “lifetime body of work has made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and/or groundbreaking work.” Previous recipients include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron. The award will be presented Feb. 7 at the 10th annual VES Awards. [press release]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports it raised $12,500 last weekend at New York Comic Con. [CBLDF]
Awards | Comic-Con International has opened nominations for the The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, which awarded to “an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.” [CCI]
Creators | Some military personnel are upset that comics legend Stan Lee received the Honorable Order of St. Barbara award in July during the week of Comic-Con International, as the award is “traditionally reserved for career cannon cockers in the Army and Marine Corps who have made their mark on the field artillery or air defense communities.” While the award credited Lee, who served stateside in the Army during World War II, with writing “several training manuals and films for the artillery and all other branches of the service,” the co-creator of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel properties said he didn’t recall ever doing so. A spokesman for Maj. Gen. David Halverson, commander of the Army Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill, Okla., who signed off on the award, said it “was given to a former soldier and WWII veteran whose contributions, both in the Army and beyond, are in keeping with and representative of all the high standards of achievement and selfless service associated with the Honorary Order of Saint Barbara.” Lee actually missed receiving the award, as at the ceremony he also received an Army Certificate of Achievement and left before the second award could be given. [Air Force Times]
Any Empire (Top Shelf) Nate Powell’s follow-up to 2008’s well-received Swallow Me Whole is similar in tone and subject matter. The former is a palpable sadness borne of masterfully communicated verisimilitude is the former, and the latter is troubled lives of young people.
The effects of various forms of militarism on young boys, and the lives that can result, accounts for much of Powell’s focus, as two of the three principal characters grew up with real soldiers in their families, and the boys devote much of their imaginative lives to war fantasies inspired by G.I. Joe comics and toys and Hollywood movies like Platoon.
A third character, a young girl, is similarly affected by her fantasy life, although she plays at girl detective thanks to Nancy Drew novels, rather than dealing with the anxieties the boys suffer trying to live up to their society’s narrow notion of manliness.
All three share a school and exposure to a weird neighborhood mystery—turtles are being found badly wounded, their shells smashed intentionally—but they drift into radically different directions as they reach adulthood and, eventually, they reunite.
It’s pretty heartbreaking stuff, but it’s never hard to read, as Powell infuses the narrative with occasionally quite startling fantasy sequences that seem to ebb and flow from the lives of the characters; initially these sequences seem summoned by them in order to deal with boredom or escape stressful situations, but later they seemingly have a life of their own, coming unbidden.
Nate Powell wowed indie readers back in 2009 with the release of Swallow Me Whole, a haunting graphic novel about a teen-age brother and sister suffering from mental illness and attempting to hold themselves and their family together.
Now Powell has released his follow-up to Swallow, Any Empire. The book, available through Top Shelf, examines the way children are taught about war and violence and how even “acceptable” military violence can end up appearing on our city and town streets.
The book debuts in San Diego this week, and should be in stores next month. We talked to Powell about the book and its underlying themes, both political and social.
Let’s start by talking about the book’s origins. How did Any Empire first take shape?
Well, the book emerged as I was finishing up Swallow Me Whole, and I’d been pretty impacted by the books Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, On Killing by Dave Grossman, the movie Children of Men, and also a zine supplement in an LP by some friends Please Inform The Captain This Is A Hijack. I’d been very focused on the long history of the state’s prime directive of ensuring its own existence, even if that meant killing or imprisoning its own citizens, or provoking air raids to flatten its own cities for a “proper” moral justification for war (as was one of Churchill’s many shadier moments leading into WWII). We’ve all grown up accustomed to seeing smoldering wastelands on CNN, but I began imagining the rubble as buildings, transplanting foliage back onto the blight, and couldn’t stop imagining my own neighborhood as a wasteland indistinguishable from the ones I’m so used to seeing on the news.
Top Shelf will debut three new books at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, including the new Nate Powell book, new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Infinite Kung Fu. In addition, James Kochalka will at their booth with his entire family signing a special family portrait print, and Craig Thompson will sign the new hardcover and softcover editions of Blankets.
Check out the debuts below.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol III): Century #2 – 1969
by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is back! Our merry metafictional marauders continue their bestselling adventures through the 20th century! In this volume, the League must battle dark cultists amid the sit-ins, sitars, and psychedelics of 1960s swinging London.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Robert Stanley Martin.
Robert writes for his blog Pol Culture, and is a contributing writer to The Hooded Utilitarian. He is a past contributor to The Comics Journal, and his essays on R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated and Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants are featured in the soon-to-be-released The Comics Journal #301.
To see what Robert and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click on through …
To see what Jim and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click the link below.