Thursday at this time, many Americans will be digging in to their bountiful Thanksgiving dinner or, depending upon the time zone, blissfully enjoying a tryptophan coma. Feasting isn’t the only tradition, however: There’s also the custom of giving thanks, hence the holiday’s name.
With the end of the year approaching, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the state of comics, and celebrate what’s working. Sure, this crazy industry can be frustrating at times, but it also gets a lot of things right. So in keeping with the numerical motif of our namesake, here are six things in comics for which I’m thankful.
1. Image Comics is killing it
There are a lot of fantastic comics today. It’s been said a number of times by myself and others but it’s so fun to repeat: We are living in a new renaissance period for comics. I don’t think there’s ever before been such a sustained output of quality books. You can’t reasonably give credit for that to one publisher, but if we’re just looking at the major players in the direct market, Image Comics is just killing it this year. I don’t think they’ve ever had such a stellar line-up of quality creators putting out books that look fantastic, have great hooks to them, and stand on their own as solid entertainment.
Look, I’m not even going to pretend to be familiar with the work of Ali Ferzat, a Syrian political cartoonist who has emerged as an outspoken critic of dictator Bashar al-Assad and his bloody crackdown against anti-government protestors over the past several months. But you can bet Assad and his regime know his work, and hate it, because their security forces abducted Ferzat, beat him, made a point of breaking his hands, and dumped him on the side of the road. This Washington Post article lays out the details as they are known right now, and included the terrifying Facebook picture above. The news comes via Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter, generally your best source for information on the pressures faced by political cartoonists worldwide.
Though people like Mike Diana, Jesus Castillo, and Christopher Handley provide us with sad exceptions to this rule, in general, no one in America is subject to legal (or extralegal) punishment for the comics they draw, sell, or consume. We’re lucky. And while it’s impossible not to be gobsmacked by not just the brutality but the arrogance of a government that would punish a cartoonist critic in such an overtly symbolic manner, it’s just as impossible not to be awed by the bravery of an artist who knows he’s up against a government that would do a thing like that, but goes up against them anyway.
Conventions | On the eve of the inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, the Chicago Reader examines the escalating competition between convention owner Reed Exhibitions and longtime Chicago Comic Con organizer Wizard Entertainment: “It’s but one battleground in a war the two powers are waging across the country — an epic struggle that some observers see as a contest between the forces of good and, well, not so good.”
Writer Deanna Isaacs touches upon the rise of Wizard’s Rosemont event to the second-largest comics convention in North America, and its more recent decline. She quotes a couple of local retailers who have become “disenchanted” with the show. But Wizard CEO Gareb Shamus shrugs off the complaints: “Everybody’s going to tell you this or that. You’re talking about one person. We have 1,000 vendors at our show in Chicago, and they make a lot of money.”
The Daily Herald interviews C2E2 show-runner Lance Fensterman, who says he expects between 35,000 and 40,000 attendees this weekend. The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, offers its own preview, with eight “must-see” convention events, and brief Q&As with Alex Ross and Jeff Smith. [C2E2]
According to Bolling, the comic was canceled due to “severe budget constraints” rather than lack of traffic — indeed, as Bolling points out, Tom is frequently one of the site’s most-read features. He later added that Salon, which had hosted the strip since the site’s 1995 inception, seems unlikely to reverse the decision regardless of reader outcry.
I’m sure Tom Spurgeon will have further analysis, but even for someone with my casual dislike and distrust of all political cartooning, the cancellation seems notable for two reasons. First, Bolling is an obvious talent whose imaginative end-runs around the cliché-ridden visual vocabulary of your average political cartoonist made his comics that much more entertaining and his points that much more hard-hitting. Second, it’s almost creepy to think that editorial cartoonists may have just as hard a time making a go of things online as they do amid the staggering carcasses of America’s newspaper industry.
At least he’ll have an easier time getting health care.
(via Greg Pak)
Bill Kartalopoulos emailed me to let everyone know about a panel he’ll be moderating tomorrow, Nov. 3, at the The New York Center for Independent Publishing, 20 W. 44th St., New York.
The panel will discuss the history and current challenges facing political cartoonists in The Big Apple and features Eric Drooker, Tom Hart, Tim Kreider and Peter Kuper.The full press release is below the jump.
The ever acerbic political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow was picked by Pearl Jam to create the cover for upcoming album, Back Spacer. To promote the release, the band is doing an “Internet Easter Egg hunt.” Find images from the album that have been scattered across the Net, and win a free downloadable mp3 of a track from the album.
Back Spacer hits stores on Sept. 20.