ComiXology CEO Answers the Big Questions About New "Unlimited" Subscription Service
Comics | In an excerpt adapted from his new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, Glen Weldon delves into the long history of the gay subtext in the relationship between Batman and Robin, noting that it’s been there from the Boy Wonder’s 1940 debut: “Remember: Queer readers didn’t see any vestige of themselves represented in the mass media of this era, let alone its comic books. And when queer audiences don’t see ourselves in a given work, we look deeper, parsing every exchange for the faintest hint of something we recognize. This is why, as a visual medium filled with silent cues like body language and background detail, superhero comics have proven a particularly fertile vector for gay readings over the years. Images can assert layers of unspoken meanings that mere words can never conjure.” [Slate.com]
Awards | Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona has made the shortlist for the National Book Awards, only the third graphic novel to make it that far. At 23, Stevenson is apparently the youngest NBA finalist ever. Nimona is based on an idea Stevenson began toying with in high school and developed into her senior thesis at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She started posting the comic online, and a literary agent spotted it and signed her on. “I don’t know if I actually expected anything to come from signing with an agent — I assumed I’d self-publish, like most webcomic creators did,” she said. “Then my agent called me when I was in the middle of a class critique to tell me that he had sold it to HarperCollins, and that was that.” [Comic Riffs]
Museums | The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, founded by George Lucas and slated to open in 2018 in Chicago, has acquired the original art from Robert Crumb’s The Book of Genesis. [The Art Paper]
Editorial cartoons | R.C. Harvey writes the definitive piece on the Ted Rall case, rounding up pretty much everything that’s been written in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Times’ decision to cut ties with the cartoonist. In addition to presenting the evidence and all points of view, Harvey sheds a harsh light on the paper’s public statements about Rall and the relationship between the newspaper and the Los Angeles police union. [The Comics Journal]
Passings | Underground comics artist Michele Wrightson has died. As Michele Brand, she was a contributor to the first all-women underground comics anthology, It Ain’t Me Babe, with a story titled “Tirade Funnies” that still rings true 45 years later. That comic spawned the ongoing Wimmen’s Comix, to which she was also a contributor. Wrightson was also a colorist for Marvel and several other publishers and was married first to cartoonist Roger Brand and then to artist Bernie Wrightson, with whom she collaborated on the Creepshow graphic novel. Stephen Bissette has more in a Facebook post, including the fact that she helped Louise Simonson get her first job in comics. [The Beat]
Below are some links to news, commentary and reactions to the Charlie Hebdo shootings, but to start off, here’s a fascinating look at the staff at work, planning their first Prophet Muhammad cartoon issue. This five-minute video not only shows the slain cartoonists at work, it provides valuable context for everything that follows. [The New York Times]
Demonstrations | The crowd at Sunday’s rally in honor of the slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists was estimated at 1.6 million, and leaders of more than 40 nations were there as well. [The New York Times]
Awards | Jillian Tamaki has won the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Prize for children’s literature illustration for her work on This One Summer, a graphic novel collaboration with cousin Mariko Tamaki (who was nominated in the text category). Their first book, 2008’s Skim, was previously nominated in the text division, further demonstrating a separation of illustration and story that Jillian Tamaki finds “strange.” ““I think we are both creators of the book,” she tells the Edmonton Journal. “You can’t read a comic without either component, it won’t make sense. It’s something I will always be addressing when talking about the award. But I am completely flattered by the honor and will be sharing the prize with my cousin.” [Edmonton Journal, via The Comics Reporter]
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is being investigated once more under the country’s Sedition Act, his lawyer revealed Tuesday. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested last week for selling two of his books, neither of which has been officially banned, and his webmaster has been summoned to talk to police on Thursday. Zunar has also been called in for questioning at a future date. What’s more, the Malaysian Home Ministry has appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to remove the ban on two of Zunar’s other books. [Malaysia Chronicle]
Publishing | Red Giant Entertainment has announced that retailers ordered about 900,000 copies each of its four anthology comics, which are ad-supported and will be given away for free. The company, which also releases digital comics and paid print comics, kicked off this program with a package of four zero issues on Free Comic Book Day. [ICv2]
Political cartoons | Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart, who was acquitted last month on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks out: “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.” Kart faced a possible penalty of nine years in prison if he had been found guilty, and it’s not clear the case is over yet, as Erdogan could appeal the acquittal.“Unfortunately, day by day, life is getting harder for independent and objective journalists in Turkey,” Kart said. [Index on Censorship]
Political cartoons | Syrian Kurdish cartoonist Dijwar Ibrahim talks about his anti-ISIS cartoons, which are on exhibit in Iraq. [Al-Shorfa]
He’s gathered a Murderers’ Row of great contributors and collaborators to tell the life’s stories of 16 cartoonists, in the most obvious format to do so — comics, of course.
But what, exactly, constitutes a cartoonist? Some of those included might have worked at one point in the field, but made their greatest marks in other areas: people like Walt Disney, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and Hugh Hefner (whose inclusion will likely be the biggest surprise to more readers; and, make no mistake, the book is made as much for the casual reader as the expert, armchair or otherwise). Others you might not think of as cartoonists at all, like Edward Gorey or Al Hirschfeld.
And changing the world — the whole world?! — is a pretty bold claim, certainly bolder than changing, say, a genre, or a medium or an industry. Certainly Disney and Osamu Tezuka qualify, as do Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who introduced the superhero as we know it, and Jack Kirby, who reimagined the superhero, made countless contributions to the form and who created or co-created characters and concepts that today make billions of dollars.
But what about Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Crumb and the aforementioned Hirschfeld? Are their influences and innovations on equal footing?
Felix Dennis, who passed away this week at age 67, was the founder of a publishing empire that included the men’s magazine Maxim and the news magazine The Week, but he also has a place in comics history as one of the defendants in a famous U.K. obscenity trial that drew support of many prominent figures of the time, from John Lennon to Germaine Greer.
Dennis was one of the editors of the British satire magazine Oz, which published a mix of prose, art, poetry and comics. Stung by criticism that they were out of touch with youth, the editors in 1970 placed a notice in the magazine inviting schoolchildren to contribute to a special issue. About 20 teenagers came to London, singly and in groups, to create and edit a special “Schoolkids” issue. (One of those students, Charles Shaar Murray, described the experience 30 years later, and another contributor, David Wills, has posted the full issue online.) Although the “Schoolkids issue” was created by teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily created for them. On the other hand, teenagers were obviously already reading the magazine, as that’s where the call for contributions appeared.
(Warning: Potentially NSFW image below.)
Fred Guardineer’s cover for Action Comics #15 (dated August 1939), on the fifth cover appearance of the Man of Steel, depicts the superhero aiding a distressed U.S. submarine on the ocean floor. It was purchased by Richard Evans of Bedrock City Comic Company in Houston.
“Guardineer’s cover is the earliest Superman cover art in existence, and an absolute treasure of comics history,” Ed Jaster, senior vice president of Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. “A price like this shows just how much collectors covet a rarity like this.”
A prolific Golden Age writer and artist, Guardineer created Zatara, whose first appearance in Action Comics #1 was overshadowed by the debut of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman.
The Feb. 20-22 auction in New York City featured more than 1,200 lots, including the second part of the Don and Maggie Thompson collection. Highlights included: a near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, which sold for $191,200; Jack Kirby and Frank Giacola’s original cover art for Tales of Suspense #84, which fetched$167,300; and R. Crumb’s original art for the three-page story “Ducks Yas Yas” from Zap Comix #0, which went for $101,575.
Comics | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 lists the top 10 comics business events of 2013, from strong sales growth in all three channels (book market, direct market and digital) to issues with sexual content, both Apple’s restrictions on in-app purchases and the sentencing of a Missouri man to three years in prison for possession of obscene comics. [ICv2]
Comics | Here’s a local-news take on Dark Horse’s loss of the Star Wars comics license, in which Publisher Mike Richardson reveals the franchise makes up 4 to 6 percent of the company’s bottom line. [KGW]
Comics | Tom Spurgeon talks to writer-about-comics Zainab Akhtar about her own writing and a good handful of other people’s graphic novels. [The Comics Reporter]
Manga | Roland Kelts looks at the international popularity of One Piece, whose sales number 300 million volumes in Japan and 45 million in the rest of the world. The piece includes an interview with creator Eiichiro Oda — he says he writes what he imagines his 15-year-old self would like to read — as well as editors from Viz Media, the American publisher of One Piece, who discuss the reasons for its popularity overseas as well as the global impact of manga piracy on these manga pirates. [The Japan Times]
Conventions | Which shows are money-makers for creators, and how much do they make? The answers, broken out into a handy infographic, may surprise you. [The Devastator]
Sure, everyone gets worked up about turning comics into movies, but what about the other way around? Cartoonists have been attempting to cram great works of literature or art into tiny panels since the birth of Classics Illustrated. But many of these adaptations, despite the noblest of intentions, fall horribly flat or fail to evoke a tenth of the original work’s greatness.
There are exceptions of course; comics that not only manage to capture or add to the spirit of the original work, but in a few cases are the equal or better of the source material. Here then are six such examples. Feel free to include your own nominations in the comments section.
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 this week, it’d be all first issues, all the time. Being a Trek fan, I couldn’t resist IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #1 ($3.99), offering some glimpses into the new movie for the first time outside of the trailer, for one thing. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers #1 (Marvel, $2.99) looks to be equally unmissable judging from both the previews and interviews heralding its launch, and also Gillen’s performance on Iron Man and other titles recently, so that’d make it in there, too. Finally, I’d grab The Answer #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99), Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton’s new superhero/mystery series. I’ve been back and forth about Hopeless in the past (loved his X-Men: Season One; hate his Avengers Arena), but the hook for this one looks pretty solid and Norton’s work is always nice to gaze at.
Should I suddenly find myself with an additional $15, I’d add some current favorites to the pile: Chris Roberson and Dennis Calero’s pulp dystopia Masks #3 (Dynamite, $3.99), Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena’s Avengers #3 (Marvel, $3.99, and less a “favorite” than an “undecided about, but was surprised by how much I appreciated that second issue”) and Greg Rucka and Matt Southworth’s Stumptown #5 (Oni, $3.99). After the fourth issue of Stumptown, I’d pick that last one up even if Rucka had accidentally forgotten to write any dialogue in there. Did you see that last issue? Man …
Were I to splurge, it’d almost feel greedy after this week of bounty. Nonetheless, I’d grab The Spider, Vol. 1: Terror of The Zombie Queen (Dynamite, $19.99), the collected edition of the first storyline from David Liss’ revival of the pulp hero that I loved based on the first issue but somehow fell off of before the end of that first arc for reasons that escape me. Definitely curious to revisit it.