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Anne Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior, out this month from NBM, is as much art book as graphic novel. While there is a narrative thread to the story, it often looks very like fashion illustration, with models arrayed across the page, posing in careful contrapposto to show off the graceful curves of the dresses. Even panels that aren’t part of the fashion show often use this same format, with a gaggle of fashion writers or Dior employees filling the panel, each one with a single comment in a word balloon.
The plot is slight and beyond implausible, a mere pretext to bring us into the world of Christian Dior: Clara, a young girl who has just been hired as a reporter, covers Dior’s first show, is fired after a disastrous photo shoot, and ends up being hired as one of his models. She’s a pretty standard-issue character—young, smart, spunky—who exists mainly as a lens through which we get an insider’s view of the Dior atelier. Indeed, the book focuses as much on the life of the people who make and model the dresses as on the designer or even Clara herself.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a great story, though. Goetzinger brings us into the world of Dior on the day of his first show, which galvanized the fashion world. It was 1947, and although World War II had been over for two years, rationing was still in place and the French were still feeling the hardships of the war and its aftermath. Dior’s “New Look” (as it was christened by fashion writer Carmel Snow) swept that aside, replacing the practical shapes and short skirts that were the result of fabric rationing with long, flowing skirts and graceful wasp-waisted silhouettes. Goetzinger shows us the action behind the scenes as well as the buzz of the crowd, but most important of all are the dresses themselves, which she renders in loving detail.
Legal | Turkish cartoonist Mehmet Düzenli began serving a three-month sentence this week on charges of insulting Muslim preacher Adnan Oktar, who espouses controversial views, such as creationism and Holocaust denial. Oktar sued Düzenli over a cartoon about him, and Düzenli refused to appeal the sentence on the grounds that even if it were suspended, he still would not be able to express himself freely. “If Mr. Oktar has the right to claim that he is the Mahdi [the redeemer who is supposed to appear at the ‘end times’], I have the right to say that he is lying,” he said. [Reporters Without Borders]
Comics sales | ICv2 has sales estimates for the direct market in May, which was a good month for chart-toppers, with four titles selling more than 100,000 copies, compared to just one in each of the first three months of the year. The top seller was Marvel’s Original Sin #1, at 147,045 copies, but ICv2 notes that sales were juiced by incentives, including variant covers and a plastic eyeball, and that orders for the second issue are considerably lower. They also give the top 400 comics and the top 300 graphic novels charts for the month. [ICv2]
Everywhere Antennas (Drawn and Quarterly): Julie Delporte’s challenging, emotionally wrenching book comes in the form of a sketch-filled diary, the words all written in cursive with various colored pencils. It reads a bit like a therapy journal made by someone attempting to crawl out of a breakdown, sometimes sliding back as far as she gets out, an impression furthered by the art, which, like the handwritten text, looks so intimate, “corrections” made by redrawing portions on new pieces of paper, which are then taped atop the pages before printing.
There’s such a lack of artifice to the book — unless there’s a high degree of artifice applied to make it seem as if there’s a great lack of artifice — that it really seems like something you’re not supposed to be reading, something you might have found in someone’s apartment, rather than bought in a bookstore. Delporte does tell a story, but it’s fragmentary, with characters who appear and disappear and scenes that don’t necessarily lead to the next.
It would be tempting to think it was a straight diary comic created during a time of mental crisis — the line “coloured pencils … are her favourite antidepressants” in Delporte’s back-page biography indicates that many aspects of the deeply felt contents aren’t completely alien to her — were it not for the specific ailment of our unnamed, perhaps Delporte-like heroine. She suffers from a rare sensitivity to radio waves and electrical auras, so cell phones, televisions, computers, cell phone towers and power lines give her migraines, and she must find a way to divorce herself from the modern world while still trying to live some semblance of a life in it.
Book Expo America is the annual trade show where publishers promote their upcoming books to retailers and librarians. BEA is all about books, but comics and graphic novels are a growing presence. Diamond had a dedicated area, as it has in previous years, several comics publishers had their own booths, and several of the big publishers featured graphic novels alongside their other titles, most notably Hachette, which gave quite a bit of space to Yen Press.
I spent Friday at the show looking at which books the publishers were drawing the most attention to. Here’s a very subjective account of what I saw.
Kid stuff! Children’s and YA graphic novels have been hot for a couple of years, and the news that Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters is getting a 200,000 copy initial print run got a lot of buzz. Of course, the BEA crowd has been on board with her work for a while, and they lined up in droves for her book signing. The same was true of Jeff Kinney, who was signing copies of The Wimpy Kid School Planner at the Abrams booth; the crowd just kept on coming. And the staff at the BOOM! Studios table were hustling as attendees grabbed copies of their Adventure Time and Bravest Warrior collections as well as their third original Peanuts graphic novel, Peanuts: The Beagle Has Landed, which takes Snoopy to the moon.
All Star (NBM): The latest graphic novel from Joe and Azat‘s Jesse Lonergan, All Star gets a lot of mileage out of its setting in both space and time. The space is an extremely small small town of Elizabeth, Vermont, a place with little to do and little chance of escape for the young, caged tiger types who are coming of age there. The time is 1998, and Lonergan returns again and again to the sports, politics and pop culture of the time for knowing gags, commentary on the events of the story or even just color.
Our protagonist is Carl Carter, the cocky, hot-shot all-star of the title, a fantastic baseball player whose skill could take him far from town once he graduates, and has made him one of his school and town’s most popular residents, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering brother (who is also his teammate).
One night, after drinking way too much at a party, he and his best friend make a stupid decision, one that gets his friend expelled from school and sent on a completely different path than Carl, who suspects his baseball skills and the importance of the sport to his school got him off light.
He begins soul-searching from there, and realizes too late how screwed-up his world is, and actually has been for a while, but it’s too late to do anything about. A tragedy — in the sense that it ends sadly rather than happily — All Star captures small-town adolescence perfectly (perhaps all too perfectly, depending on a reader’s mood and propensity for elegiac nostalgia), and is actually a great deal of fun, despite the down ending and the heavy melodrama.
Russell Willis of Panel Nine has announced the iPad app Sequential will now carry a selection of titles from NBM Publishing, including Rick Geary’s Madison Square Tragedy, Margreet de Heer’s Science: A Discovery in Comics and Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics, and Renaud Dillies’ Abelard, Betty Blue, and Bubbles and Gondola.
Sequential began as a U.K. app and launched in August in the United States. With a strong focus on indie and underground graphic novels, it started out with titles from U.K. publishers like Blank Slate, Myriad Editions and Knockabout but has since added titles from U.S. publishers Fantagraphics and Secret Acres. While comiXology goes wide, with apps for every device and comics for every taste, Sequential has taken a different path, with a curated catalog of graphic novels for a particular audience and a sleek interface for a single device, the iPad.
It must be working: Sequential’s other announcement is that it will be a major sponsor of the MoCCA Arts Fest, together with the School of Visual Arts, Blue Sky Studios and Wacom. That sponsorship makes a lot of sense, as MoCCA features the sort of independent, literary comics and graphic novels that appeal to Sequential’s audience — including NBM.
Editorial cartoons | The Durban, South Africa, police have confirmed they’re investigating criminal charges against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who goes by the pen name Zapiro, stemming from a cartoon that portrayed the Hindu god Ganesha in a manner many Hindus found offensive.
The cartoon, which criticizes the local cricket organization for corruption, depicts a scowling Ganesha holding a cricket bat and piles of cash while the head of the cricket organization is being sacrificed before him. Businessman Vivian Reddy, whom the newspaper The Citizen notes is also a benefactor of the African National Congress, filed a criminal complaint; the cartoon has also sparked protests among local Hindus, who marched on the offices of the Sunday Times last week. The ANC is also taking the anti-Zapiro side, perhaps in part because of his depictions of its president, Jacob Zuma. Zapiro, meanwhile, isn’t taking calls, but he stated a few days ago that he stands by his cartoon, adding, “It didn’t cross our minds that so many people would be upset.” [The Citizen]
By the time I reached the little gray box reading “End of Book 1″ in the last panel of Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman’s Persia Blues, Vol. 1 Leaving Home, I still wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but, to the creators’ credit, they had conjured the good kind of uncertainty — a sense of engaging suspense, with clues strewn throughout the pages, rather than a confusion borne of bad storytelling or uninteresting characters and subjects.
Here’s what I do know: Persia Blues is the story of a young woman, or two versions of the same young woman, Minoo Shirazi.
One Minoo is a fearless swordswoman and adventurer thieving and fighting her way through the Persian Empire, aided by a mysterious fire power and her cautious, adventure-adverse lover, a scholar named Tyler. This Minoo’s culture isn’t just Zoroastrianism, but its god and devil figures Ahura Mazda and Ahriman walk among human beings, as do mythological creatures.
BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.
So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.
It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.
Omaha the Cat Dancer, the decades-old erotic comic by artist Reed Waller and writer Kate Worley, will see its final storyline collected by NBM in July.
Waller teamed with Worley’s husband, Kings in Disguise writer James Vance, to finish the story from an outline that Worley completed before her death in 2004. The story was serialized previously in NBM’s Sizzle Magazine. “Helping Reed finish Kate’s story is one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever taken on, but she left us in very good shape,” Vance said in a press release. “The final act of Omaha will be dramatic, sexy, touching and satisfying.”
Note: There’s a Not-Safe-For-Work image after the jump.
I walked into MoCCA Arts Fest a few minutes after it opened, with my friend Erica Friedman, and we noticed the difference right away: The last two shows have had an improvised, “Let’s have a comics show! We can use my father’s barn!” kind of feeling. They weren’t disorganized, exactly, and the talent has always been top-notch, but the show floor felt crowded, cluttered, and confusing.
This was the first year that the Society of Illustrators was running the event. Organizers had a lot to prove, and they proved it. The show felt professional. The aisles were wider. A very simple addition — a bright red backdrop that ran behind the tables — made a huge difference, giving visitors more focus and eliminating the distraction of looking out across that cavernous space. The red curtains also set off a small gallery at the back of the armory that featured original comics art from the Society’s collection, a gentle reminder that they have been welcoming comics creators for more than 100 years. Visitors could buy a slick, nicely produced catalog for $5, and there was a modest cafe downstairs, a pleasant addition that allowed friends who met at the show to sit down and have a bite and a chat without disrupting the experience too much.
I talked Monday with writer Dara Naraghi about his Kickstarter campaign for his new graphic novel Persia Blues, which will be published by NBM next summer; the book is done, and the Kickstarter is to pay his artist Brent Bowman. In addition to the campaign, we also spoke about the genesis of the book and the creative process, and I decided that part of the interview would be more at home at Robot 6. To accompany this part of the conversation, Dara has sent along some exclusive art from Persia Blues, which is set in two eras and drawn in two different styles.
Robot 6: Let’s start with the elevator pitch: What is this story about?
Dara Naraghi: At its very core, Persia Blues is the story of a smart, independent young woman trying to define herself and her place in the world, in the face of family obligations and societal pressures. More broadly, I’ve been describing the book like this: Minoo Shirazi is a rebellious young Iranian woman, struggling to define herself amidst the strict social conventions of an oppressive regime, and the differing wishes of an overbearing father. Minoo Shirazi is also a free-spirited adventurer in a fantasy world, a place where aspects of modern America and ancient Persia meld into a unique landscape.
And yet, neither of these women are the true Minoo Shirazi.
On her journey(s) of self-discovery, she will encounter diverse elements from Iran’s rich culture and history, both real and mythological, and eventually solve the mystery of her world(s).
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
Comics | After all of these years, the evangelical comics of 88-year-old cartoonist and publisher Jack Chick still stir controversy. The latest is in Buffalo, New York, where a mother is upset that a local church left on her doorstep a Chick tract that was read by her 7-year-old daughter. “It seems like a Lifetime movie or something that was put into a kid’s comic book and expose my 7-year-old to this horrible of an idea of a family life,” Brandi Gillette says. Titled “Happy Hour,” the 2002 comic depicts an alcoholic, abusive father whose wife dies following a beating (while he’s bellied up to the bar). When his two children start to go hungry because he’s spending the family’s money on alcohol, the girl smashes his liquor bottles and, after threatening to cut him with the jagged glass, convinces him to go to church, where he devotes his life to Christ. Chick Publications, which publishes the tract, says “Happy Hour” is intended for adults, not children. [WIVB]
Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]
Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]