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When the webcomic reality show Strip Search ran last year, Abby Howard emerged as one of my favorites. As the youngest of the group, she had the least experience out of any of the contestants (eventual winner Katie Rice, for example, had worked for years in animation.) She was quite the character, though: When asked if she would consider taxidermy, Howard admitted she’d been interested in the subject for a while. She had some good jabs at Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins’ expense in the final episode, regarding how they were trying to paint her as a villain in line with reality-show tropes. It was my favorite moment in the series.
In the finals, Howard drew with a more traditional style than her competitors. The Last Halloween was rendered in heavy black and white, with macabre style reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Jhonen Vasquez. Krahulik and Holkins remarked on the designs of her creatures and her great grasp of anatomy — honed, perhaps, by her experience illustrating college textbooks.
The comic strip/webcomic documentary Stripped opens with an idyllic scene straight out of the Hallmark Channel. A little girl runs into the kitchen and sits on her father’s lap; he opens a newspaper, and together, they flip to the Sunday funnies, a well-remembered moment of childhood made possible by the magic of comic strips. It’s a scene that rings true, because many viewers have had similar experiences. Maybe you weren’t sitting on your father’s lap; maybe you just ripped through the paper, trying to separate the cartoons from the classifieds. Anything to get at those comic strips.
It’s a scene that may accidentally have put a chink into the “webcomics are the future of the newspaper comic strip” argument.
On the heels of Penny Arcade‘s 15th anniversary, creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik have announced they’re scaling back by closing the Penny Arcade News Report video-game news site and ending Penny Arcade TV as an outlet for third-party content. Instead, they’ll focus on projects a little closer to the core webcomic.
“… I don’t think I want to ‘grow my business’ anymore; I sort of want to do the opposite,” Holkins wrote on Friday. “And I’m tired, sick to death, of saying ‘Maybe Someday’ when it comes to the things we really want to make. So, we’re not going to do that anymore. The next year is going to be a pretty big one, one of the biggest yet; it’s the year the previous fifteen have been leading up to in the literal sense but also in other ways. I think they’re going to be ‘big years’ from now on, frankly. And it hurts pretty bad, but I don’t know where PATV as a ‘channel’ for third party shows and The Penny Arcade Report fit into that. We’ll be shutting those things down at the end of this year.”
Their Child’s Play charity and Penny Arcade Expo will continue — “We will do everything in our power to ensure that these things outlast us by a wide margin,” Holkins assured — as will the fourth season of the documentary Penny Arcade: The Series. However, there was no mention of Strip Search, the online reality show for webcomics creators.
Going to PAX East in Boston over the weekend was like going to a comic convention on another planet.
The gestalt was the same — the exhibit floor, the booths, the cosplayers, the panels — but everything was a little off. The crowd was bigger and younger. Huge screens advertised properties I knew by name only. A lot of the attendees were glued to consoles or computer screens, playing games; one side of the convention center was split into a massive tabletop gaming area and an even bigger PC gaming section. The part that really came closest to a comic con was the indie area on the exhibit floor, where developers were hand-selling their games the way indie creators promote their graphic novels.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6’s guide to the week ahead. Below you’ll find our contributors’ picks of the comics of the week — from the return of Poison Elves to Grant Morrison’s farewell to Action Comics — and the top events to watch for in the next seven days.
Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik had a great idea when they came up with Lookouts. If youth scouting existed in fantasy worlds, earning badges would be a lot more dangerous than just making fires and spotting raccoon tracks. It’s a clever concept that includes an ensemble cast of diverse characters and an endless supply of situations in which our heroes can find themselves. Getting Ben McCool to join the writing team is also a good thing. But the reason I most look forward to a new issue of Lookouts is the art by Robb Mommaerts and colorist Rainer Petter.
Mommaerts does several things exceedingly well, and he (and Lookouts as a whole) deserve to be talked about more than they are. First are the creature designs. Lookouts puts more thought into creatures than just sticking in a dragon or unicorn every once in a while, and even when the monsters are familiar, their looks are new and refreshing. Take, for instance, the sphinx that serves as the antagonist for most of the first story.
Publishing | J. Michael Straczynski discusses the revival of Joe’s Comics, which returns in May with the Image Comics release of Ten Grand, illustrated by Ben Templesmith. Top Cow was home to the imprint from 1999 to 2004, publishing such series as Delicate Creatures, Midnight Nation and Rising Stars. A preview of Ten Grant will be available in April at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. [MTV Geek]
Creators | Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics and the writer for the Adventure Time comic, talks about his work habits. [Lifehacker]
Creators | Penny Arcade co-creator Mike Krahulik talks about Strip Search, the reality TV-style webseries they will launch on Friday. [IGN]
Awards | Dan Perkins, better known to his readers as Tom Tomorrow, is the winner of this year’s Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. Panelist Matt Bors cited his “consistently hilarious takedowns of women-bashers, gun culture and the president’s abuse of executive power.” The finalist was Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman. The award includes cash prizes of $15,000 (after taxes!) for the winner and $5,000 for the finalist. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson explains how the company develops licensed properties, specifically “expanded universes” that build on the world of a movie or video game: “So we came up with the idea that we could approach these licensed properties as sequels, particularly in the early days when we focused primarily on film. We’d sit down like fanboys and say ‘Okay, that was great, what can we do next?'” [Forbes]
We warned you about this a few weeks ago: Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the duo behind the ultra-popular webcomic series Penny Arcade, are looking to cultivate the next generation of comic artists with a web TV series titled Strip Search.
It’s a reality competition series in which 12 aspiring webcartoonists are locked in a house and pitted against each other in a Thunderdome-like scenario (minus a mohawked Tina Turner) in which their talent, skills and dedication are tested with the ultimate prize of $15,000 in cash and a year working in Penny Arcade‘s offices and taking advantage of the company’s resources. Even the break room.
The show is set to premiere later this month, with the
cast members cartoonists already announced. As we await the first episode, scan through the artists’ bios and choose your early favorites.
Legal | Forbes profiles Michael Wolk, a lawyer who’s organized the financial backing for Stan Lee Media’s prolonged, and so far unsuccessful, multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the characters co-created by Stan Lee. Wolk’s primary investor is Elliott Management, one the nation’s largest hedge funds. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. “We are in the right here,” says Wolk, who’s not actually a Stan Lee Media shareholder. “No court has ever addressed or ever decided who is the owner of the characters — all of the prior litigation got dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with who owns the characters.” [Forbes.com, via The Beat]
What do you do when you’ve created a comic book series that’s become more successful than you ever imagined? Branch out. It’s what Robert Kirkman did once The Walking Dead established itself as a hit, and in the webcomics world Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade have been doing the very same thing — and their creation keeps getting bigger. And last summer, when their $250,000 Kickstarter campaign generated double its goal, they included some ambition stretch goals — one of which is coming true next month.
In February, Penny Arcade will launch Strip Search, a reality/competition television series in which 12 cartoonists live together in a house and compete to win a $15,000 cash prize and space in Penny Arcade‘s Seattle offices for a year, complete with support from the company with merchandise, marketing and infrastructure.
Described by Krahulik as “Hell’s Kitchen for web cartoonists,” Strip Search isn’t a new idea — CBR did Comic Book Idol for several years — but rather a new format. The show, which is being produced by the comedy troupe/video studio LoadingReadyRun, will feature 12 up-and-coming cartoonists including indie artist Erika Moen. Filmed late last year, Strip Search will debut in February at Penny Arcade’s PATV and will also appear in some unannounced other venues. For more I talked with Penny Arcade‘s Jerry Holkins, along with Robert Khoo, the comic franchise’s president of operations and business development.
You might be used to seeing various DC Comics and Marvel swag at your local chain department store, but just because they’re the biggest doesn’t mean they’re the best. The creators of the mega-popular webcomic Penny Arcade, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, have really out-done themselves with their expansive merchandise section this holiday season: In addition to shirts, hats, toys, plushes and, yes, comic books based on the Penny Arcade strip itself, their webcomic empire is offering a variety of those things to appeal to comics fans and gamers who may not have any knowledge of the strip.
Among what’s offered is a Christmas board book (think Golden Books from your childhood) called The Last Christmas, sporting a cover wherein Cthulhu is grappling with Santa Claus. Also featured is a number of shirts for babies, including a precociously cute “Gamebaby” shirt done in the style of the Nintendo Gameboy.
It’s amazing how one webcomic could spawn such a diverse and seemingly fruitful company expanding so heavily into merchandising, but, hey … didn’t Walt Disney say “it all started with a mouse?”
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 buy Boys #70 (only two issues until the big finale) and Classic Popeye #2, IDW Publishing’s ongoing series of reprints devoted to Bud Sagendorf comics from the 1940s, as the first issue was much more fun than I expected it to be.
If I had $30, I’d put those comics back, but would be stuck between a couple of books. The first would be Aya: Life in Yop City, which collects the three previous Aya books by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie in one volume. These are great, funny comics, full of life and observation regarding a culture — in this case African culture — most Westerners know nothing about.
There’s also A Chinese Life, a massive doorstop of a memoir by Chinese artist Li Kunwu (with help from writer Philippe Otie) chronicling his life and times. Kunwu lives through some of modern China’s most tumultuous periods, including the Cultural Revolution, and hopefully his book will, like Aya, humanize a time and culture that for many is just a few lines in their history book.
Finally, there’s Message to Adolph, Vol. 1, one of Tezuka’s final works, set during World War II, about three people named Adolph, one a Jew, the other a German boy living in Japan, and the third the fuhrer himself. Originally published by Viz about two decades ago, Vertical has taken it upon themselves to put out a newly translated version which is great news for those that missed this great manga the first time around.
Is there a greater splurge purchase this week that Dal Tokyo, the collected version of Gary Panter’s off-kilter comic strip? I plugged this book last week, but it deserves another one. I’ve been waiting for this book for awhile.
For the scholarly comics type, the splurge of the week might be Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, a look at the creator of Barnaby and Harold and the Purple Crayon and his wife, a children’s author with whom he frequently collaborated.
The Emerald City Comicon wrapped up yesterday in Seattle, with plenty of announcements from attending publishers. Here’s a round-up of news from the show:
• Image Comics officially announced Revival by Tim Seeley ad Mike Norton, the title we teased all last week. Seeley described the book as “rural noir,” and it is set in his home state of Wisconsin: “Both Mike and I grew up in small towns, he in Tennessee, me in Wisconsin. We both hated the towns we were from as teenagers and young adults and got the hell out,” Seeley told CBR. “But, now that we’re both older, we can look on those towns with more understanding and affection. Central Wisconsin is a really interesting place. It’s like concentrated America. It has all of the strengths and all of the weaknesses. All of the good stuff, and all of the conflicts on a more intimate scale. We thought it’d be the perfect setting for our story of a cop charged with policing the dead.”
• James Stokoe will write and draw Godzilla: Half Century War, which arrives from IDW in August. The miniseries is set in a different continuity than the Godzilla ongoing series by Duane Swierczyski and Simon Gane.
• Writer Christos Gage will team with artist Jorge Lucas for Sunset, an original graphic novel from Top Cow’s Minotaur Press. The story revolves around a retired Vegas mob enforcer.
Oni Press is no stranger to video game-inspired comics if Scott Pilgrim is any indication, and it seems they’re strengthening those bonds with today’s announcement at Emerald City Comicon. The Portland-based publisher has secured the print publishing rights to the long-running webcomic series Penny Arcade. The creation of avid video game (and comic book) fans Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, Penny Arcade is a witty piece chronicling two friends enjoying and lampooning videos games and their surrounding culture.
“This was a no-brainer for us,” explains Joe Nozemack, Oni’s publisher, in a press release. “The guys at Penny Arcade are driven by the same rebellious desire to create that led to our starting Oni Press. We emerged from the same zeitgeist. The first Oni Press comic was published at the end of 1997, and Penny Arcade hit the web in 1998. We aren’t just peers, we come from the same graduating class.”
Launched on the internet in 1998, Penny Arcade has been with a number of different print publishers over the years. Originally its collections were published by Dark Horse, and in 2009 the strip switched to Del Rey. Penny Arcade‘s new relationship with Oni begins August 2012 with the release of the series’ eighth collection titled Penny Arcade, Vol. 8: Magical Kids in Danger, collecting the series’ 2007 strips.