INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
As Kevin reported back in March, Andrews McMeel — the company that publishes the collections of popular newspaper comic strips like The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Cul de Sac, Baby Blues, Get Fuzzy, Dilbert, and Pearls Before Swine – also has new editions coming for Fox Trot, Lio, and Big Nate that are specially tailored to appeal to children. To do that, the publisher has created a new imprint: AMP!
Building on that previous announcement, AMP! has now revealed the official titles of those books and released the cover art. The books, they say, “are designed to bridge the gap between today’s mostly older-skewing comic book content and the demand from kids for comic books that are age appropriate. A boy genius, bickering siblings, and a comic book reading scientist – along with zombie bunnies, a robot maid, and a mischievous iguana – will have kids anticipating new offerings from AMP! season after season.”
It’s a cool idea, because while I don’t know that I’d keep my child away from any of the normal collections of those strips, certainly not every storyline of Foxtrot is going to appeal to him as much as the ones focusing on Jason and Quincy the iguana. Collecting just the strips that kids will most appreciate is pretty great.
The line launches next month with Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate Makes the Grade and continues in October with another Big Nate collection (all color, Sunday strips) as well as Bill Amend’s AAAA! A Foxtrot Assortment for Young Readers and Mark Tatulli’s Lio: There’s a Monster in My Socks. There are already plans for Pearls Before Swine and other series to follow.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]
You don’t have to be an art critic to figure out that the drawing on the right is not a real Ernie Bushmiller panel, but Peteykins of Princess Sparkle Pony’s Photo Blog counts the ways that you can tell it’s actually a tracing, which is something I have to admit I never thought much about. It’s not a preliminary sketch, either. It’s just a bad copy done with markers on an index card. Amazingly, someone apparently paid $100 for it on eBay.
First: don’t buy a Picasso, Miró, or Dalí on eBay, OK? But most of Greco’s fakes are more modest items: so-called “convention sketches” on small cards by cartoonists and animators. Even genuine examples of these types of drawings are usually minor items, done for fans on the fly over bustling tables crowded by onlookers, not the best circumstances for careful draftsmanship. That’s how Greco gets away with it: he excuses the poor quality of the drawings by “admitting” that they are minor curiosities with, after all, affordable price tags. It’s a pretty good scam!
Your best bet: Buy directly from the artist, which has all sorts of other benefits as well. Of course that won’t work with Bushmiller, because he is dead, but if a seller is offering works by several artists that all look suspiciously similar, I’d give them a pass.
(Via Colleen Doran.)
Some newspapers just put Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury on the editorial page; others run it next to Garfield and then are startled when they notice the tone is somewhat different. Watch for one of those moments next week: The Portland Oregonian and the St. Paul Pioneer Press have already announced they will not run a week’s worth of strips that are critical of the Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before they are permitted to have an abortion. Other papers, including the Kansas City Star, will move them to the op-ed section. Jim Romenesko has the scripts as well as statements from the two papers—and from the Dallas Morning News, which will run the strips. (Honestly, the scripts sound a bit heavy-handed, but I thought Friday’s was dead on.)
On the one hand, you can see the papers’ point. People don’t want to hear about abortion over their Cheerios, and the strips include mention of a ten-inch “shaming wand” and show a woman in stirrups in an examining room. But Doonesbury has always been controversial and by now, there is no excuse for editors not to know what they are getting into. Besides, it’s satire on a social issue that has been very much in the news these days, including the news and opinion sections of those same newspapers, so why not run it on the funny pages?
The Atlantic Wire thinks that getting himself banned is brilliant self-promotion on Trudeau’s part, noting that the Chicago Tribune pulled some Doonesbury strips last year that drew from Joe McGinniss’s book about Sarah Palin. And it’s not like he’ll take a big hit from this; Lee Salem, president of Universal UClick, which syndicates Doonesbury, figures “20 or 30″ papers out of the 1,400 that carry the strip will kill next week’s episodes.
UPDATE: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trudeau says that ignoring the latest turn in the abortion controversy would be “comedy malpractice.”
As a newspaper broadsheet it was always able to do so literally, but now the alternative comics anthology pood has folded in the unfortunately metaphorical sense. Writing on the pood blog, co-founder and co-editor Geoff Grogan says the publication’s fourth issue will be its last.
Through pood, editors Grogan, Kevin Mutch, and Alex Rader published a wide array of challenging, often unfashionable altcomix work, by creators ranging from Jim Rugg to Hans Rickheit to (in the anthology’s fourth and final issue) DC and Dick Tracy artist Joe Staton. But Grogan says that the project, always a labor of love, was a quixotic one in today’s marketplace: Its unconventional newsprint format, uncommercial contents, and budget-necessitated lack of a dedicated PR person made it impossible to generate enough revenue to continue the series.
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.
I’ll be honest: The first thing I’d do with my $15 this week would be to buy Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (Marvel, $3.99), just to finally see Peter Parker die. This storyline has seemed so drawn out and by the numbers that it’s pretty much killed my interest in the series, and I’m hoping that the final issue either has a last-minute turnaround that makes everything worthwhile, or else provides some weird karmic payback by finally living up to its title. Much less bloodthirstily, I’d also grab the first issue of David Hahn’s All Nighter (Image, $2.99), which rescues what was, I believe, a one-time Minx book and looks like an awesome mash-up of Stuart Immonen, Jaime Hernandez and, unexpectedly, Steve Rolston. In other words, pretty damn great. Finally, I’d pick up Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing #1 (DC, $2.99), for curiosity value if nothing else. I mean, John Constantine in a DCU book? How odd can that actually get?
Part one-crazy-night comedy of errors, part Curb Your Enthusiasm-style comedy of discomfort, part heartwarming second-chance romance, part cartooning master class, Daniel Clowes’s new book Mister Wonderful packs a lot of delights in between its long covers. The book began life as a weekly strip in The New York Times Magazine‘s “Funny Pages” section before Clowes reformatted, edited, and expanded it for its new incarnation from his frequent publisher Pantheon. Now the misadventures of Marshall, a middle-aged divorcé with a penchant for second-guessing pretty much every word out of his own mouth, and his fateful blind date can sit comfortably on your bookshelf instead of lying in your recycling bin after the weekend’s over. And the added bonus to any new Clowes comic, of course, is new Clowes interviews.
Over on the CBR mothership, Clowes spoke with Alex Dueben, who elicited from the cartoonist a provocative take on the much-lamented demise of the alternative comic-book series (a la Clowes’s own Eightball):
Over on the CBR mothership, Shaun Manning interviews Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth about his upcoming reprints of the Mickey Mouse comic strips by artist Floyd Gottfredson, kicking off with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, vol. 1: The Race to Death Valley in May. With his trademark blend of erudition and bluntness, Groth details the nuts and bolts of the whole project: The reason Mickey Mouse’s comic strip was an action-adventure serial to begin with, Mickey’s surprisingly feisty personality, the basics on the first few storylines being collected, the essays and other supplemental materials being included in the package, the eventual inclusion of racist material and other items of potential controversy, how big the books will be, and even a bit about Fantagraphics’ parallel plan to release the complete Carl Barks Disney Ducks comics. But I’m sure Groth wouldn’t mind if I said that the real star attraction for the piece are the actual Gottfredson strips used to illustrate it. Simply put, my jaw literally dropped once I opened up these action-packed images, so impressed was I by their power and grace. And since most of Gottfredson’s work has been reprinted rarely, if that, chances are you’ll be bowled over too. Click on over and check them out for yourself.
In its younger days, Tom Batiuk’s newspaper comic strip Funky Winkerbean was lighthearted and occasionally even funny, with, if I recall correctly, lots of jokes about selling band candy. In recent years, however, it has become notorious as the daily newspaper reader’s pit stop of despair, as disease, bankruptcy, dysfunction, and loneliness stalk the saddest cast of characters ever to grace the funny pages; the best that can be said of them is that they smirk in the face of death.
This has not gone unnoticed by the internet. Josh Fruhlinger mocks the strip (along with a good dozen others) on a regular basis at The Comics Curmudgeon, and at Comics Alliance, Chris Sims actually has a monthly roundup of the most depressing Funky Winkerbean strips. And until earlier this week, there were two blogs devoted to commenting on each day’s comic, Stuck Funky and Son of Stuck Funky (although Stuck Funky was no longer updated).
Then WordPress.com, which hosted both strips, got a cease and desist letter from Batiuk’s lawyers, demanding that both blogs be taken down because they were infringing copyright. WordPress complied, apparently without notifying the site’s owner. What is a bit more disturbing is that the C&D letter demanded that WordPress turn over the blogger’s name and address “so that we may take action to prevent the further unauthorized copying and distribution of this content,” which sounds kind of threatening.
There’s a lively discussion up at The Daily Cartoonist, in which the general thinking is that Batiuk went after these two blogs because they posted the strip every day (and then mocked it), while Fruhlinger and Sims go after a number of targets. Regardless of the reason, Son of Stuck Funky is back, albeit without images, dishing out that delicious Funky snark once more.
UPDATE: Batiuk responds at The Daily Cartoonist
Cul de Sac is one of the freshest and funniest newspaper comics to come along in recent years, and it’s one of the few strips to gain a foothold with general comics readers as well. Creator Richard Thompson revealed in 2009 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and this week he announced he’s fighting back—with fan art.
Chris Sparks, of Sparking Design, has launched Team Cul de Sac, a fund-raising page for a book of Cul de Sac tributes. Professional cartoonists have been invited to contribute their takes on Cul de Sac characters:
Please run with them; deconstruct them, parody them, confuse them, cubisize them, psychoanalyze them, draw them in your own strip, whatever tickles your fancy. Enjoy. Open up your heart and just create something out of the ordinary, maybe not with your own characters, but this is an opportunity for you to let your talent to shine in a wide range of ways.
The contributions will be published by Andrews McMeel, and proceeds will go to the Michael J. Fox foundation, which raises money for Parkinson’s research.