Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
In the past couple of weeks, “Bottle of Wine,” a one-page comic by Russ Heath rightfully captivated the imagination of many industry observers, where the legendary artist addresses the appropriation of his work by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein got rich and famous, the strip relates, and Heath received no monetary compensation. A silver lining, Heath describes, is that the work of The Hero Initiative — a nonprofit focused on aiding comics creators in need — has provided him with financial support decades later, including assistance after a knee-replacement surgery.
A tweet on Nov. 1 from cartoonist Dylan Horrocks helped bring widespread attention to the comic — 1,325 retweets and 1,000 favorites as of Wednesday afternoon — and renewed critiques of Lichtenstein’s body of work, frequently derivative of existing comic book art with no credit to the original illustrator. Outlets from Boing Boing to ComicsAlliance all picked up on Heath’s strip, bringing greater awareness to both the Hero Initiative’s work and Lichtenstein’s problematic oeuvre.
Hero Initiative President Jim McLauchlin reached ROBOT 6 to clear the air on a couple of elements of the “Bottle of Wine” coverage. First, the comic strip (colored and lettered by Darwyn Cooke) was initially published in May 2012, in IDW’s Hero Comics 2012. (In fact, ROBOT 6 ran the comic that month.) Also, the Lichtenstein work cited in the comic, 1963’s “Whaam!,” was actually based on a panel by Irv Novick in 1962’s All-American Men of War #89, published by DC Comics — Lichtenstein lifted from Heath in 1962’s “Blam,” with a panel also from All-American Men of War #89. Same issue, different artists.
Events | Heidi MacDonald beats everyone else to the punch and files the definitive report on the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which featured a flurry of graphic novel debuts and appearances by artists as diverse as Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet) and Andrew Hussie (Homestuck). [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | BOOM! Studios will publish a line of Robocop comics beginning in August. Dynamite Entertainment had the license previously, but company President Nick Barrucci said the rights reverted to the licensor, who granted them to BOOM! [ICv2]
Publishing | Brian Truitt takes a look at Valiant’s lineup for the second summer of its new life, and he talks to the creators about the relaunch and their plans for the future. [USA Today]
You may have already heard about Orbital Comics’ Image Duplicator art show in London (probably via this piece at The Beat): This story is right in my wheelhouse, but I was resisting writing about it until there was a large enough stockpile of art from it to present here. The show is a reaction both to the recent Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the city’s already-iconic Tate Modern gallery, and to the BBC’s coverage of the event (which I wrote about at the time elsewhere).
Dave Gibbons is a long-standing critic of Lichtenstein (you can find footage online of him complaining about what he calls Lichtenstein’s “dishonesty” from as far back as 1993). Gibbons appeared on the BBC’s documentary to put the case for the accusations of plagiarism that may always dog Lichtenstein’s reputation. The segment featuring Gibbons debating with presenter Alastair Sooke was filmed in front of the famous “Whaam!” canvas. Sooke was all too dismissive of Irv Novick, somewhat deriding his work in order to flatter Lichtenstein. It seems odd Sooke chose to criticize Novick’s compositional decisions and praise Lichtenstein’s, when every element of Roy’s piece was lifted from Irv’s. Anyway, these new perceived slights seem to have been enough to stir Rian Hughes, Jason Atomic, and the Orbital Gallery regulars into action.
Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]
Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Publishing | This wrap-up of the third annual India Comic Con, which drew an estimated 50,000 attendees (up from 15,000 last year), doubles as a snapshot of that country’s $22 million comics industry. The growth of the market is attributed in large part to the rise of graphic novels, which are luring young-adult readers. [The Times of India]
Comics | Writing for The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky weighs in on the backlash over DC Comics hiring Orson Scott Card in an article titled “The Real Reason to Fear a Homophobe Writing a Superman Comic”: “It’s disturbing to have Orson Scott Card writing Superman, then, in part because Superman is supergood, and the supergood shouldn’t hate gay people. But it’s also disturbing, perhaps, because Superman is a violent vigilante — and because violent vigilantism in the name of good is often directed not against injustice, but against the powerless.” [The Atlantic]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]
Disney story artist Clio Chiang isn’t the only talented member of her family. Her sister Connie is a makeup artist, so she and a friend dressed up for Halloween this year as a Lichtenstein painting. However you feel about couples’ costumes, this one gets points for originality and execution. Continue Reading »
Publishing | Eight months after the launch of DC Comics’ New 52, Marc-Oliver Frisch takes a look at the reboot and concludes that it is not the “game-changer” it was touted to be. After an initial burst of sales when the series was launched, DC’s monthly numbers have settled down to about half the September sales, above the previous year’s levels but best described, as Frisch puts it, as “solid but not spectacular.” [Comiks Debris]
Digital comics | Anthony Ha looks at the success of the Pocket God comic, which is marketed alongside the game; more than 200,000 copies of the first issue have been sold, and sales for the whole series total 600,000. Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative thinks the strong sales are due in part to the 99-cent cover price: “Meanwhile, the traditional publishers don’t want to undercut their print prices, so they’re usually charging $2.99 or $3.99 for new issues. (Some older comics are available for considerably less.) Castelnuovo says that’s ‘just too expensive’ for digital comics, especially when they’re competing with something like Angry Birds, which offers more content for just 99 cents. And although Marvel and DC are sell digital collections, Castelnuovo argues that they should be doing more to bundle dozens or even hundreds of issues together, so that readers can ‘blaze through them’ the way that they will consume entire seasons of Mad Men or Game of Thrones.” [TechCrunch]