Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]
Happy Sunday and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Kevin Church, writer of The Rack, Signs and Meanings, the new Monkeybrain series Wander: Olive Hopkins And The Ninth Kingdom and many other comics.
To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Since the publication of his superhero novel Prepare to Die, Paul Tobin’s been answering a lot of questions about whether he’s leaving comics. The short answer is “no,” but he goes into some detail in a comic strip he made. It’s cool not only because Tobin drew it himself, but because of the insight it gives to the difficulty of writing compelling superhero comics.
If you only checked Twitter today for your news, you know that, among other fun facts, Anderson Cooper is gay, Big Sean gave Justin Bieber a pinkie ring and Chris Roberson announced the new digital comics initiative Monkeybrain Comics is coming July 4.
Make that was coming, actually–due to the attention they received today, Monkeybrain and comiXology decided to launch the line early.
“With “#Monkeybrain” trending worldwide on Twitter most of the day, Monkeybrain Comics and comiXology have taken the unprecedented step of releasing the entire launch line of Monkeybrain Comics two days early. Available now at this link, fans worldwide can stop tweeting about “#Monkeybrain” and start experiencing this great new line of comics. (But seriously, don’t stop tweeting about it either! – Chris and Allison.),” read the press release from comiXology.
Available now from comiXology are:
- Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer
- Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, DJ Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire
- Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
- Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver
- October Girl by Matthew Dow Smith
I’m downloading Bandette as I type this, soon to be followed by the rest. The comics are 13-16 pages each for 99 cents except for Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which is $1.99 for 31 pages. I mean, seriously; 99 cents for a Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover comic? I’m all over that. You can check out artwork from each of them over on CBR.
“Batman is considered THE detective in comics (he first appeared in Detective Comics and has been there for 70+ years, after all) and the rest of the Bat-Family are right up there with him. But, the reputation, I’m sad to say, is undeserved. It’s HARD to write a detective in a comic book format. I know. I’ve been there. There’s only so much room for clues and for drawn out searches. Stories in comics have to move so fast that being a detective, even for Batman, usually comes down to a trail of muddy footprints, with a mud that comes ONLY from one certain place in an area of five square yards, where the murderer happens to be standing right now …”
– Paul Tobin, killing my long-held dream that Detective Comics will ever live up to its name.
Is he right, though? I love Paul Tobin, but is it that tough to write a mystery comic? Seems like Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker might disagree. Or is it just tough to write a mystery comic featuring Batman or other superheroes? Tobin’s certainly correct that most Batman stories aren’t actually detective stories, but is that a problem with the comics medium, the superhero genre, or just the writers themselves?
Is it a problem at all? Am I the only one who’d really enjoy seeing Batman do some actual sleuthing? Or Lois Lane put some actual investigating into her journalism?
I really love this particular image because it’s almost like Supergirl is dramatically pronouncing, “Love that chicken!” Let’s all make that our new battle cry, shall we? In one way, it’s far more intimidating than “Avengers Assemble!” Can you just imagine the entire Justice League faced off against you, and then Supergirl pointing to you and dramatically yelling, “LOVE THAT CHICKEN!” No matter how confident I was of my powers, I’d be running my ass off.
– Paul Tobin, talking about how awesome Supergirl is.
Okay, actually this is a huge digression from his discussion of how awesome Supergirl is, but it makes me laugh every time I read it. The rest of Tobin’s discussion is well worth checking out, though, especially his objections to the sexual objectification of the character. These thoughts include the following: “I really really like naked women. I love breasts and rumps and curvy lines and soft feminine parts. I run a secret Tumblr blog post for a reason, after all, and if a woman is pretty or so much as utters “Godzilla is kind of sexy,” then I’ve probably wondered what it would be like to kiss her while she’s naked. Bottom line, I’m kind of a perv, and I’m okay with that.” So it’s not just prudish hand-wringing.
In writing, once a gender is established … it’s often best to leave it alone. A woman does not need to walk to the door with a decided roll to her hips that a man would not have. She just walks to the damn door. Likewise, a man does not need to reach out for a cup of coffee, all the time grunting, thinking about football, about how hard it is to follow a map, and how much he believes he could beat a tiger in a knife fight …
– Paul Tobin, discussing the depictions of gender in fiction, but especially in reference to women in superhero comics. He talks about specific traps that comics creators fall into (including an observation about drawing breasts that’s both hilarious and sad) and how female characters should be written.
In mainstream fiction [...] we cannot succumb to the whim of the story. We can’t decide that the reason the barista won’t date the main character ISN’T because she’s had a horrible breakup and is slowly learning to trust again (leading to series of bad lovers because she feels more comfortable when she KNOWS she can’t trust) but rather because there is a dragon’s ghost within her, and love and lust can only be fulfilled if that dragon is defeated by creating a mythical cup of cappuccino that transports the main character to a fantasy world, and also goes quite well with bagels or croissants.
–Paul Tobin explains why he enjoys writing genre stories better than slice-of-life stories. As you can see from the quote, it has to do with the joy of creative freedom, but he also balances that in the article with the need for rules, even in a fantastical setting.
It’s a mix that’s tough to get right, but as a reader it’s the best thing in the world when a story can not only connect me to other people through its characters and our shared humanity, but can also throw in some vampires, pirates, and creatures from space just to keep it interesting.
Another problem I have with the character is that too many writers (dudes, all) seem like they’re trying WAY TOO HARD to have Wonder Woman be an icon of femininity. If you want me to believe that Wonder Woman is a strong character who does strong things, I’m cool with that. That’s great! That’s what she IS! But, if you want me to believe that Wonder Woman is a strong character only because she’s doing all sorts of typically male things … even though she’s all woman! … then we have a serious problem.
– Paul Tobin, on why Wonder Woman is only No. 10 on his list of Favorite Female Characters in Literature. It’s been a great list so far, and I can’t wait to see the Top Nine. If you click through, you’ll see lots of examples of why this has been a great series of posts. There are tons of pictures with commentary and even more analysis. For instance, Tobin also talks about the problem with Wonder Woman’s origin. Or, more specifically, the problem with how writers have handled her origin, how Batman has avoided that fate, and how Superman hasn’t. I wish I could just quote the whole article.
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 first snap up a book I’ve been trying to track down for years: Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (Marvel, $4.99). This 1986 lost classic features Bernie Wrightson drawing a webhead story featuring monsters and alternate worlds – looks like a real gem. Now to convince Marvel to republish John Paul Leon’s Logan: Path of the Warlord… Next up would be Secret Service #1 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99). I’ll buy pretty much anything Dave Gibbons puts out these days, and seeing him with Mark Millar is bound to be a unique experience. Next up is Saga #2 (Image, $2.99); Brian K. Vaughn is really setting up a world – like a sci-fi sitcom here, with loads of direction to go in. Lastly I’d get Conan the Barbarian #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50). Can I admit I might like this more than Northlanders? Brian Wood’s definitely expanding how people think of him with this story, and Becky Cloonan is making a lot of editors look foolish for not putting her on these kinds of books sooner.
If I had $30, I’d start out with Secret #1 (Image, $3.50). Manhattan Projects seems more up my alley than this story, but Jonathan Hickman’s built up some credit in me to try anything new he puts out even if I’m not too interested. Next up would be Northlanders #50 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), which I’m sad to see go. I think this will be one of those series that achieves more popularity after it’s over, and it’s a shame DC can’t find a way to continue it. After that it would be Glory #25 (Image, $2.99). I was a bit shaky on the story after Joe Keatinge’s first issue, but everything after has really put the pieces into place and Ross Campbell seems to be finding his footing to really land the superheroics of this story. Last up would be Secret Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99); Rick Remender’s clearly put his own spin to this series, so much I’m surprised Marvel didn’t use this as a chance to renumber the series… but I’m glad they didn’t.
If I could splurge, I’d throw money at my comic retailer for Pete and Miriam (Boom!, $14.99). Big fan of Rich Tommaso, and he seems to be honing his craft like a knife, creating more pointed and poignant stories here. And Miriam, she’s a real gem.
Details are super-mysterious, but Colleen Coover shared a couple of costume designs on her blog for a project she’s working on with her husband, Paul Tobin. I’m crossing my fingers for the Adventures of Gingerbread Girl and Bulldog.
Paul Tobin (Marvel Adventures, Gingerbread Girl) announced yesterday that his first novel, Prepare to Die will be published this summer (June 5 is the current target date) by Night Shade Books. Appropriately, it’s a superhero story.
Tobin describes the book as being about a hero named Reaver who during a battle receives the traditional villains’ imperative: “Prepare to Die!” When Reaver surprisingly accepts his fate and asks for time to prepare, his arch-nemesis grants it. The novel explores Reaver’s trip to his hometown where he attempts to make peace with the past, but also finds a new reason to want to see the future.
Though he makes clear that he’s not leaving comics, Tobin states that he expects the novel to be the first of many, though not necessarily all about the same characters. The attraction of novels for him is to “delve into characters on a level that would take fifty comic book issues to explore.”
Stayed tuned to Tobin’s website for more details, including sample chapters.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.
Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]
Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]
A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the holidays and comics. More exactly, I started wondering what some creators might say if i asked them for their favorite comics-related memory. As I got into contact with some creators, they did not have a favorite story per se, but those recollections were definitely memorable. Bottom line, these storytellers not surprisingly had some great stories to share. My holiday memory is an odd one, as a kid in the 1970s reading the Doonesbury comic strip where Rev. Scott Sloan had opening remarks before the Christmas pageant, where he noted that the part of the Baby Jesus would be played by a 40-watt light bulb. A lifelong Doonesbury fan, there are few strips that have made me laugh longer than that one. Told you it was an odd one. Now on to the storytellers with far better tales. My thanks to everyone that responded. Once you’ve read them all, please be sure to chime in with your most memorable comics-related holiday recollection in the comments section.
Every Christmas, comics would show up in my stocking. They’d be rolled up, which I’m sure breaks the heart of every collector out there, but it didn’t bother me much. Comics were for reading. For some reason, my mother thought I liked Thor. I wasn’t a Thor guy, except when he was hanging out in the Avengers. I was, and still am, a Captain America super-fan. How could my Mom not know this? But every year I’d get a couple more Thor comics.
Fast-forward 35 years. I’m the official stocking-stuffer in the household. My wife is the queen of holiday organization, but the stocking assignment has always been mine, primarily because it’s the kind of job you can give to a procrastinator. I can run out on Christmas Eve and grab everything I need: gum, iTunes gift cards, candy bars, extra batteries… and comics. See, my son is 15, and he IS a Thor guy, so I usually try to round up something Asgardian for him, as well as a something with Atomic Robo or Axe Cop. I don’t understand the clothing my daughter is asking for (an “infinity scarf” sounds like something Dr. Who would wear), but by gum, I do know my son’s taste in comics.
Retailing | The inventory Arizona retail chain Atomic Comics, which abruptly closed its four locations in late August amid the bankruptcy of owner Michael Malve, will be sold at auction
Jan. 3 Jan. 10 in Phoenix, both live and online. Known nationally for its in-store signings, innovative marketing and sheer size, the 23-year-old chain gained international exposure last year when its name and logo were featured prominently in Kick-Ass, the film adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Photos of the inventory to be liquidated can be found on the website of the auction company. Update: The date of the auction has changed to Jan. 10. [Sierra Auction Management]
Publishing | Tim Stroup, co-founder of the Grand Comics Database, recently dug up some old comics sales figures from the 1940s; John Jackson Miller analyzes them and reaches an interesting conclusion: “comics may be reaching far fewer eyeballs, but it’s a more profitable business to be in today.” [The Comichron]