Congressman John Lewis has been asked in numerous interviews why he chose the graphic novel format for March, his memoir of the civil-rights movement, and his answer is that he and many others involved with that movement had been inspired, in part, by a comic book. And now Top Shelf is publishing that original comic as part of a digital bundle with March — and also releasing a special print edition.
The 1957 comic Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, published by the interfaith peace organization Fellowship of Reconciliation, told the story of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, starting with the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, and concluding with a section on “The Montgomery Method,” advice for other civil-rights advocates. The comic showed the brutal treatment of black people in the South, but it also preached a message of nonviolent protest, drawing on Mahatma Gandhi as an example to be emulated. It was translated into a number of different languages and circulated around the world.
It was some 50 years later, when Lewis was a member of Congress, that he mentioned the comic to his aide Andrew Aydin, who researched the title (and ultimately wrote his master’s thesis about it); he also co-wrote March with Lewis.
Now Top Shelf and Fellowship of Reconciliation are offering Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story as part of a bundle with the digital edition of March; it is available on comiXology for $9.99, which is the same price as March alone.
And for those who prefer their comics on paper, Top Shelf and the Fellowship of Reconciliation are also publishing a commemorative print edition of the 16-page comic, priced at $5. Top Shelf and comiXology will donate their share of the proceeds to Fellowship of Reconciliation, which continues its nonviolence work to this day.
Check out the Boston public radio website WBUR for a powerful example of comics journalism: Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD explores the emotional consequences of the decisions that soldiers make during wartime — decisions that often go against their own moral code.
“Moral injury” is something different from post-traumatic stress disorder. As the introduction explains, “Post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a terrible event — in combat, that’s often something that has happened to you. But what about a terrible event that has happened because of you?” The comic explores that question through a combination of conversations with veterans, flashbacks to actual events, and concise summaries of research on the topic. The visual medium really brings it to life, not just in the depiction of events but also in illustrating more abstract ideas, such as the way soldiers may become gradually alienated from the rest of the world in the course of war.
Conventions | With just a day to go until WonderCon kicks off in Anaheim, California, Saturday and three-day passes have sold out. Although Friday and Sunday badges are still available, organizers recommend they be purchased in advance online, rather than at the door. Additional passes will likely become available as cancellations and refunds are processed. [Toucan]
Conventions | Renatt Kuenzi files a report on this month’s Fumetto International Comix Festival, which co-director Marta Nawrocka describes as “a festival for exhibitors and artists – not a fair with stands and people dressed in suits.” Part of the challenge for organizers of the festival, which featured work by Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Swiss artist Bastien Gachet, and Arab artists Mohamed Shennawy and Lena Merhej, among others, was to combat the German-Swiss prejudice that comics are “juvenile.” [SwissInfo]
Conventions | The organizers of Asbury Park Comic Con emphasize they are getting back to basics, with a comics event that eschews movies and other media to focus solely on comics. The headline guests for the Saturday event are Michael Uslan, Al Jaffee and Herb Trimpe. [The New York Times]
Conventions | In Pennsylvania, the first-ever Nittany-Con drew about 400 people to enjoy the three c’s of comics conventions: Creators, cheap comics, and cosplay. [Centre Daily Times]
Conventions | And in New Jersey, the Hasbrouck Heights Comics Expo drew an equally enthusiastic, if somewhat smaller, crowd. [NorthJersey.com]
Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]
Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]
First of all, we need to think up some new terms to distinguish journalism done via comics — as practiced by, say, Joe Sacco — from journalism about comics. Suggestions gleefully accepted!
Whatever we call it, sequential-art reporting is definitely coming into its own, and we have the links to prove it. For starters, here’s a video of the Comics and Journalism in a New Era panel at Comic-Con International, moderated by Publishers Weekly comics editor Calvin Reid and featuring a stellar lineup of Susie Cagle (who
has been involved in as well as reporting reported* on Occupy Oakland), Andy Warner, Stan Mack, Ed Piskor, Dan Carino and Chris Butcher.
U.K. artist Rob Davis traveled to Russia last year at the invitation of the Respect Project to talk about comics and human rights and then create a small comic about Gypsies to be distributed to Russian children. As Davis says on his blog, “I’m not great at black and white politicking,” and that’s a good thing; far from being preachy, his comic addresses the stereotypes and the real experiences of Gypsies (including himself) and, in his words, “left all the thinking to the reader.” It’s poetic and heartbreaking at the same time, and well worth a look.
I think we already knew this, but it’s good news anyway: The UK publisher Myriad Editions sent out a press release announcing that they will publish Darryl Cunningham’s Science Tales in April.
If you’re a regular Robot 6 reader, you will probably already have seen some of Cunningham’s work, as we have linked to it several times; his comics are little mini-documentaries that take on controversial topics and debunk bad science. He has posted a number of the chapters of Science Tales on his blog and in a recent post he compared their popularity. His chapters on Evolution and the Moon Hoax are literally off the charts with over 250,000 hits each, while his autism/vaccine story, The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, which made the rounds of the comics blogosphere, got about 40,000 hits. Cunningham observes in the post that many of the visits come from folks who are interested in the topic covered, rather than comics per se:
It shows, I think, that the comic strip medium has a huge audience waiting out there beyond the tiny bubble of fandom. Readers coming to my blog to read these chapters were not the usual comic book crowd. They were drawn to to read these comics because of the subject, not because of the medium. Many noters commented that they didn’t usually read comics at all.
You can see this in the comments to each comic, which generally include a lively, but civil, debate about the topic at hand. (The readers also do Cunningham’s editing for him, pointing out typos and other small errors.) The posted chapters serve as the beta version of the book, but for fans of Cunningham’s work (his Psychiatric Tales is already available in the U.S.), the print edition will be well worth seeking out.
Crime | An energetic thief stole all 64 volumes of One Piece from a Japanese bookstore by stuffing 10 volumes at a time in his duffel bag. As One Piece is the most popular manga in Japan, he could have gotten a good price for his booty at a used manga store, had the forces of law not intervened. [Kotaku]
Creators | Kiss member Gene Simmons still remembers the postcard he got from Stan Lee as a kid. [Noisecreep]
Publishing | Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson talks about the ups and downs of the past year, including getting Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn on a tighter schedule and the difficulties of selling all-ages comics: “There’s this really blinkered mentality in comics that “all-ages” means only for kids, despite the relatively easy to understand implication that all-ages books can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Diamond even has this graphic they use for all-ages comics in Previews and it’s these two children that look like toddlers or whatever. People seem to miss the point that most the comics we love from the ‘60s or ‘70s or even the ‘80s to a large degree, were all-ages comics. Stan & Jack’s Fantastic Four was an all-ages book. And it was brilliant.” [Multiversity Comics]
Digital | Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the United States, began releasing its graphic novels on Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet and Nook Color devices today. As on the Viz iOS app and website, the manga are priced from $4.99 to $9.99 per volume, and they read from right to left, in authentic Japanese fashion. 107 volumes from 18 series are available at launch, although the selection skews a bit older than what’s available on the iOS app, with no sign of the Shonen Jump blockbusters Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece, at least in the initial announcement. [press release]
Libraries | A committee recommended Monday that Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age, an anthology of comics about middle school edited by Ariel Schrag, should remain in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library in Dixfield, Maine, after the mother of a student challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.” The local school board will make a final ruling in January. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter of support for the book prior to the hearing. A school board in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pulled the graphic novel from middle-school libraries in November 2009, but allowed teachers to continue to use it in class. [Sun Journal]
Digital | Charlie Sorrel looks at the iPad comic reader called, appropriately enough, Comic Reader. [Wired]
Digital | Retailer Brian Hibbs responds to recent comments around the price of digital comics, commenting on how “channel migration” could effect comic retailers: “The concern of the comics retailer isn’t that there IS digital — fuck, I’m totally all for a mechanism to drive a potentially wide segment of customers to the medium of comics itself. How can that NOT help me? But, rather, that enough customers will ‘change channels’ (of purchase), so as to make segments of work unprofitible to carry. I’ve been pretty straight with you — most periodicals are but marginally profitible; most books are largely unprofitible. That we have stellar, break out, oh-my-god-it’s-like-printing-money successes like WALKING DEAD or BONE or SANDMAN doesn’t mean that this is the way all books can follow. Quite the opposite in fact! So what this means is that even losing a TINY portion of the readership through Channel Migration could potentially have dire effects. Seriously, if I lost just 10% of my customers, I’m done. And what we also know is that when physical stores close, most of that readership for comics UTTERLY VANISHES. The gist of this is that losing 10% of sales to migration could mean that the other 80% of that stores’ sales are COMPLETELY LOST.” [The Savage Critics]
Comics | An original page by John Byrne and Terry Austin from Uncanny X-Men #137, the 1980 issue that featured the death of Phoenix, sold at auction Wednesday for $65,725. As ICv2 notes, the sale continues the trend of 1980s comic art going for high prices; a page of Frank Miller art from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 sold for $448,125 in May. [ICv2.com]
Digital | ICv2′s Milton Griepp makes the case for publishers to provide sales information on digital comics. “Why would this information be useful? There are a number of reasons. One is that it would help distributors (most importantly, Diamond Comic Distributors) and retailers selling physical comics and graphic novels identify which titles have the largest audiences in digital form. They could then make sure that they’re merchandising the top digital titles appropriately, so they can take advantage of demand for physical titles that results from digital exposure (we’ve been hearing that there’s a significant phenomenon of digital purchasers looking for collections of comics they’ve purchased online). Digital demand can also indicate potential demand for physical books from consumers that aren’t purchasing digitally; a good book, after all, is a good book, and if digital purchasers are finding a title that’s not as popular in physical form, it may indicate that there’s an untapped market of consumers of physical books as well.” [ICv2.com]
Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall launched a new webcomic last week: John Wilcock – New York Years 1954-1971, the story of the underground publisher who, among other things, co-founded the Village Voice and hung around with Andy Warhol (and later wrote the iconic pop artist’s biography). As Persoff says in the introduction, “His life bumps up with nearly every weird New York figure of the 60′s and early 70′s.” Since that was sort of a Golden Age of New York weirdness, this should be an interesting ride. The comic is based on interviews with Wilcock and is going to be released online as eight-page “mini-issues.” The first one is up now and includes not only Wilcock’s arrival in New York but also a rather memorable interview with Marilyn Monroe.
Susie Cagle’s What Every Woman Should Know is a good example of how sequential art can mimic a documentary film. Cagle herself went to a First Resort clinic, a “crisis pregnancy center” that provides no medical care, just encouragement to go ahead and have the baby. She brings in big-picture statistics about contraception and abortion rates and interviews with representatives of First Resort and Planned Parenthood to provide a surprisingly complete story in just 18 pages.
The comic has a point of view, but Cagle doesn’t go over the top. She actually makes the point that First Resort does have its place, providing support for women who decide to go ahead with their pregnancies. At the same time, she takes issue with their deceptive practices, advertising themselves as more than they really are and giving women misinformation about their choices.
While I’m a fan of Darryl Cunningham’s non-fiction science comics, often they end up being text boxes with pictures. Cagle takes a more flexible approach, composing each page differently and offering information in different ways. I think this comic shows how powerful sequential storytelling can be—simply reading an article about the First Resort clinic wouldn’t have had the same impact.
Cagle’s comic is hosted at Cartoon Movement, which has become an interesting hub for editorial cartoons and journalistic comics. It’s a site well worth bookmarking.