Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Manga | Manga accounted for almost 80 percent of Japan’s digital book market in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a report released by the Yano Research Institute. The marketing research company predicts the country’s larger digital market, which is worth about $710 million, will see a 23.5 percent growth in the 2014 fiscal year. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Tom Devlin, creative director of Drawn and Quarterly, talks about the unlikely success of Tove Jansson’s Moomin comics. [Montreal Gazette]
Comics | Noah Berlatsky writes about Wonder Woman the character and Wonder Woman the comic. [The Atlantic]
Conventions | The Tokyo Big Sight convention center in May will lift the ban on events associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. Creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki and numerous venues that were hosting manga and doujinshi (fan comics) shows have received threatening letters, some containing liquid or powder, and as a result, Kuroko’s Basketball fan events have been canceled and doujinshi tables have been banned from several comics events. (More background here.) [Kotaku]
Comics | A Columbus, Ohio, entertainment weekly lays out a case for the city — home of Jeff Smith, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo — becoming, like Portland, Oregon, a hub for comic books. “Comics in Columbus is a weird underground, sort of hip-hop thing,” indie publisher Victor Dandridge Jr. says. “We’re like hip-hop in the Bronx in ’79, just on the corner doing our thing.” [Columbus Alive]
Conventions | Bart Beaty files a final report on this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival, and his verdict is … meh. “There was a consensus all around that the show was flat. People would throw around adjectives like “fine,” “good,” and “okay.” It wasn’t a disaster (as were some of the shows disrupted by construction), but it also wasn’t that memorable either” [The Comics Reporter]
Legal | Writer Scott Henry details the lengthy attempt to prosecute Dragon*Con co-founder Ed Kramer on charges of child molestation. The case began in 2000 and has yet to go to trial. [Atlanta Magazine]
Publishing | Bandai Entertainment will discontinue sales of manga, novels and anime, with the final shipment of manga going out at the end of October. The company, a subsidiary of Namco Bandai Entertainment, had stopped publishing new work in January and was focusing on sales of its existing properties. [Anime News Network]
The Comics Journal, a venerable, influential and controversial mainstay of comics journalism that had developed an air of the walking wounded in recent years, has radically revamped and relaunched its online presence. Its new editors are Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler, best known as the minds behind Comics Comics magazine and, in Nadel’s case, the art-comics publisher PictureBox Inc.
The print version of the Journal will continue to be helmed by founding editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth, acting in a more hands-on capacity as of the forthcoming Issue #301 than he has in years, by the sound of it. Kristy Valenti serves as editorial coordinator. Contributors to the new TCJ.com include Frank Santoro, Jeet Heer, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, Ken Parille, Ryan Holmberg, Rob Clough, Richard Gehr, R.C. Harvey, R. Fiore, Vanessa Davis, Bob Levin, Patrick Rosenkranz, Nicole Rudick, Dash Shaw, Jason T. Miles, Andrew Leland, Naomi Fry, Jesse Pearson, Tom De Haven, Shaenon Garrity, Matt Seneca, Tucker Stone and Hillary Chute. On a Robot 6-related note, my colleague Chris Mautner and I will also be contributing.
A look at the new site reveals a multifaceted approach, with reviews, columns, interviews, lengthy features and essays (the current lead feature is a look at the legacy of, and turmoil surrounding, Frank Frazetta by writer Bob Levin), an events calendar, selected highlights from the magazine’s archives, and more. The biggest news, perhaps, is that Hodler and Nadel plan to have literally the entire 300-issue Comics Journal archive scanned and posted online by the end of this year and made available in its entirety to the print magazine’s subscribers. Click here for Hodler and Nadel’s welcome letter, in which they explain some of the changes and reveal a bit of what’s ahead. (And click here for their farewell letter to Comics Comics.)
“I had an anus-clenching moment when I read Ken [Parille]’s parodic ‘Where are your standards?’ paragraph without knowing it was parody and thought, ‘My God, [Parille and Comics Journal contributor Noah Berlatsky are] both idiots!’ You can imagine my relief when Ken revealed that it was a joke! I thought I’d created some sort of critical purgatory that I would wander around in forever in an intellectual torpor, and the only way out would be to extinguish the site. My only solace was that I might bump into Harold Bloom and we’d sit down and commiserate.”
—Comics Journal editor and Fantagraphics co-publisher Gary Groth, expressing his dismay that he can no longer tell actual posts on the Journal’s website from parodies thereof.
Fantagraphics co-founder and co-publisher Gary Groth can be scary enough even when he isn’t wielding a loaded firearm. (Don’t believe me? Then witness the savage critical beatdown he just doled out to Comics Journal contributor Noah Berlatsky. Ouch.) But in one of comics’ grander and weirder traditions, Groth and his fellow Fanta folks traipse out into the Washington State wilderness every year with enough guns to make a Tea Party jealous and open fire at whatever office detritus had the misfortune of catching their eye. Check out designer Adam Grano’s “Shootin’ Day” flickr set to witness a variety of Fantagraphics and Comics Journal employees and creators opening fire at everything from one of those good-luck cat statues to a Nagel print.
Sometimes an interview can be interesting because of the questions the interview subject doesn’t answer. Case in point: Blogger and critic Noah Berlatsky’s interview with The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon. Pivoting off a recent Savage Critics roundtable on Daniel Clowes’s divisive black-comedy graphic novel Wilson, Berlatksy sets Spurgeon up with a characterization of literary comics of the sort Clowes creates as self-pitying, misanthropic, pessimistic, and tedious. It’s a characterization Spurgeon’s having none of:
[Berlatsky:] …there’s a default stance in certain regions of lit comics land which is basically: “life sucks and people are awful.” Which I think is glib and overdone and tedious, a, and which, b, can be made even more irritating by the fact that the people promulgating it are, you know, fairly successful, and (what with various autobiographical elements thrown in) the result often looks like a lot of self-pity over not very much.
So…I’m wondering how strongly you would push back against that characterization of lit comics in general…and also whether you feel it is or is not ever appropriate to think about a creator’s biography in relation to his or her work in that way.
[Spurgeon:] At this point I wouldn’t push back at all against the stance that says the default mode in lit comics land is basically “life sucks and people are awful” because it’s no longer an argument I take seriously. I don’t think it’s true by any reasonable measure and I’m done with entertaining the notion until someone presents the argument in a much more effective or compelling fashion than what always sounds to me like some angry, lonely, re-written Usenet post from 1997.
A great comic review can make you feel like you’ve read the book without showing you so much as a panel…but, y’know, showing a panel really can’t hurt. And three recent reviews — Tucker Stone on Taiyo Matsumoto’s Blue Spring, Charles Hatfield on Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions, and Noah Berlatsky on Junji Ito’s Uzumaki — really struck me with their well-selected spot art. A glance at each review’s illustrations — dynamic, sexy, and horrific respectively — can probably tell you whether these books are the kind of thing you wanna check out, which is great, because each review is a solid examination of what makes them worth checking out in the first place. Click the links, feast your eyes, and see what you think.
A contrarian’s contrarian known for writing pieces like an Art Spiegelman takedown titled “In the Shadow of No Talent,” Noah Berlatsky is the sort of writer whom people who’ve never read The Comics Journal but know of its fearsome reputation might conjure up as the notoriously cranky comics mag’s critical platonic ideal. In that light, the longtime Journal contributor and current Journal blogger’s essay on everything that’s wrong with the Journal‘s new web presence might be the Comics Journaliest thing ever written.
Writing at his usual blog platform The Hooded Utilitarian — which is now hosted at the Journal‘s site, TCJ.com — Berlatsky rattles off a laundry list of problems with the recently relaunched site. Gaudy ads, WordPress clutter, an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to organizing its bloggers and their very different approaches and beats, “read more” jump-cuts that interrupt every single post mid-sentence, launching in beta, lack of promotion, frequent outages, and the already-infamous posting and yanking of TCJ #300’s content are among the many targets that draw Berlatsky’s fire.
More Journal and TCJ.com contributors chime in in the comment thread,
such as as well as blogger Derik Badman, who notes the site’s user-unfriendly headline-only RSS feed, which is undetectable to some browsers.
Though Journal publisher and guiding light Gary Groth continues to dismiss the comics blogosphere even as he admits he doesn’t follow it all that closely, the problems with his publication’s entry into the digital era make me wonder if we’ve reached a “physician, heal thyself” moment.