In-Depth on Marvel's "Divided We Stand" and The Latest Hydra Cap Twists
Comic strips | The end of Edge City has generated a conversation about newspaper comics in general. As co-creator Ray LaBan says, creating a comic strip was his childhood fantasy, and he got to do it, “But I got to do it when everybody stopped paying attention.” This article takes a broad view, looking at the fact that newspapers’ budgets for comics, like everything else, are shrinking, online portals are providing alternatives, and readers’ strong preferences for legacy strips like Beetle Bailey and Blondie, as well as safe topics, are limiting the opportunities for new strips. Universal UClick launches one new strip a year, according to president John Glynn. On the other hand, creator Brad Guigar is taking his comic Evil Inc. out of the Inquirer because he can do better with a more mature version, published online and supported through Patreon. With interviews with the syndicates, a newspaper features editor, and creators, this piece is a well rounded look at the current state of syndicated comics. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
The iTunes’ Terms and Conditions agreement has got to be the least-read-yet-most-signed contract in human history. For pages and pages (and a nearly limitless downward digital scroll), it enumerates Apple’s latest subtle shifts in policy regarding the ways we purchase, license and “own” music and media acquired through the most influential online marketplace to date. Who reads those things? Who could even pretend to? Can one even imagine a more arduous task than going through that document, line by line, and trying to parse what exactly it is we are all signing on for?
But ah, the magic of comics. Cartoonist R. Sikoryak, whose work has appeared in Drawn and Quarterly and The New Yorker, is publishing his painstakingly thorough, unabridged graphic adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement on Tumblr. This version of the contract is no mere dry rendering of legalese — instead, Sikoryak has transformed the document into a showcase of styles from talent all across the history of comics, making each page an experiment in the diverse visual language of the medium’s most beloved luminaries.
Over the past few weeks, thousands — probably tens of thousands — of graduates of received diplomas in a broad range of studies, but it’s safe to say that none of them is as cool as the ones handed out by the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.
Each year the school commissions a cartoonist to create the diploma for that graduating class. This year, it was Jason (I Killed Adolf Hitler, The Last Musketeer). You see those from previous years, from the likes of Ed Koren, Jim Rugg, R. Sikoryak, Eleanor Davis, Michael Kupperman and Ivan Brunetti, on the CCS Flickr page.
MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA for the Boston area. Sponsored by the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Art Institute of Boston, MICE is in its third year, and last year’s show was such a hit that tables for this year sold out within three hours. The headline guest is R. Sikoryak, and the roster includes Box Brown, Ming Doyle, Cathy Leamy, Kevin Church, Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (who will be debuting their latest Pet Shop Private Eye book at the show), Adventure Time team Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, and many more too numerous to mention (more than 150 in all). Besides Venable and Yue’s book, there are several other debuts at the show, including the Boston Comics Roundtable’s Hellbound III, Cathy Leamy’s Diabetes Is After Your Dick and Mike Lynch’s Don’t Let the Zombie Drive the Bus.
As much as I love the big shows, and I’ll move heaven and earth to get to New York Comic Con every year, I really enjoy smaller shows like this. Boston has a lot of native and nearby comics talent, and while the room does get crowded at times, it’s still more laid back than a big con. You get to see talent at all stages of its development and interact with creators while they are still making their comics by hand. Plus it’s in a great location, easy to get to and with a ton of good restaurants nearb y— no shriveled-up turkey sandwiches for $9 a pop or fake coffee in a Styrofoam cup. Admission is free, too. So if you’re in the area, hop on the T and check it out.
Politics | Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean has apologized for calling Neil Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel,” but contends the author and comics writer should return the $45,000 fee he received in May 2010 for speaking at the Stillwater, Minn., library (Gaiman donated the money, minus agents fees, to charity). Dean’s original remarks were made during a discussion of how the state’s tax-generated Legacy funds for the arts are spent. He was quoted as saying that Gaiman, “who I hate,” is a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
Now, however, the Republican lawmaker has dialed back the rhetoric while standing by his underlying criticism. “My mom is staying with us right now,” he tells Minnesota Public Radio. My wife’s out of town, and she was very angry this morning and always taught me to not be a name caller. And I shouldn’t have done it, and I apologize.”
Gaiman, who responded to Dean’s initial comments early Wednesday on Twitter, has since expanded on his remarks on his website, writing in part, “I don’t like the idea that a politician is telling people that charging a market wage for their services is stealing.” [Minnesota Public Radio, Underwire]
Comics | A psychologist has been brought in to a Houston elementary school after a group of fourth-graders created a comic book allegedly depicting them holding a gun to the head of one of their classmates. [My Fox Houston]
With this interview, Jason Little threw me a great curveball with the manner in which he answered the questions. In addition to his text replies, he supplied me with a wealth of graphics to accompany his answers. This approach appeals to me and I hope it clicks with other folks as well as proves to be an approach that interest others to try (be sure to click on the thumbnails for larger versions of the graphics). This email interview was in the wake of the December 15 release of Motel Art Improvement Service (Dark Horse), described by the publisher as “Eighteen–year–old Bee has finally saved up enough to embark on her long–planned cross–country bicycle trip. However, she doesn’t make it very far before disaster leaves her stranded at a motel. Her hormones surge when she meets a misunderstood young artist on a mission to ‘upgrade’ the banal “artwork” that hangs on the walls of every motel room. Taking a job there as a housekeeper, Bee snoops around in the motel’s dirty laundry and finds herself entangled in a scary drug deal gone dangerously wrong.” My thanks to Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for introducing me to the storyteller, as well as Little himself for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Out of the gates, let me reveal a bit of ignorance on my part. Could you define “bubblegum noir”?
Jason Little: “Bubblegum noir” came from a comment in a reader mail. This is the second time I’ve lost track of his name, I will go through my email archives and find it! Bubblegum rock is a genre from the late 60s and early 70s with an emphasis on hooks, danceable beat, and enough mention of sugar in the lyrics to cause tooth decay. I suppose in the same way Bee is “bubblegum” because of the bright colors and clear cartooning, but noir because of the suspense, and flashes of darker content.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading, where we can’t stop talking about the comics (and other things) we love. I’m pleased as punch to write that our guest this week is R. Sikoryak, whose wonderful book, Masterpiece Comics, is out right now from Drawn and Quarterly.
Click on the link below to find out what Mr. Sikoryak and the rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading this week. And don’t forget to let us know what comics or books you’re currently enjoying in the comments section.