Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
As the reviews editor for Comic Book Resources, I accumulate a lot of collected editions. For better or worse, trade-waiting has become a part of the comics landscape, but it’s easy to tell when a collection rises above the pack. Whether it’s through superior craftsmanship, incredible bonus material, attention to the little details or a combination of all three, there are always a few trades that rise to the top, and make for an enjoyable reading experience and a fantastic display piece.
Thus, here are a few of my favorite collected editions of 2014, factoring in the strength of the original material, and what makes the collection worth picking up for those that might already own the single issues — ranging from budget-conscious trades up through the incredibly pricey omnibus editions.
This will not be a post about how Saga is awesome. I’ve written 30 of those already. No thrilling over Lying Cat here, no desperation for the next issue, none of my hopes to see The Will return to action or for [SPOILER] to [SPOILER] and [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER].
Nor will I lose my cool over the fact that, right now, my bookshelf contains two excellent and weird and hilarious China Mieville (China Mieville!)-penned trades of Dial H, complete with blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em anti-MPAA digs. Or that Neil Gaiman, in the – yikes — almost two decades since I picked up my first Sandman trade, has evolved from Sensational Comic Book Writer Neil Gaiman to MechaGaiman, Devourer of Worlds, Savior of Publishing and Champion of Art. Or that Genevieve Valentine is writing Catwoman!
I won’t flip out about The Wicked + The Divine or Chew or either Marvel, Ms. or Captain.
Given the commercial and critical success of Saga, the space opera from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, it seems likely the Image Comics series has been eyed by more than a few film and television producers. However, the writer says he would be more interested in a video-game adaptation.
“That’s actually something that has come up,” he told The Verge. “A Saga video game, particularly if it’s sort of about characters other than the main characters in our story, is really exciting to me — even more exciting than a film or TV show. So, uh, never say never.”
Crime | Artist Josh C. Lyman reports that thieves broke into his car sometime on Monday or Tuesday and stole about 40 pieces of original art (some of it commissioned), 1,200 prints, plus convention setup materials, art supplies and clothes. “I’m more devastated in the fact my originals are all gone … some of my better non-commissioned work of the last 3 years … along with all of my tools I have earned and acquired during the aforementioned periods. Tshirts and the like I can slowly replace … but it’s the matter of having all this potential art for shows gone; along with all the posters I had left,” he writes. Lyman contacted police and has notified local comic shops to keep an eye out for the missing work, and he has posted images of the stolen art. [Facebook, via Bleeding Cool]
Censorship | Rachael Jolley takes a long and wide view of the pressures that political cartoonists are subject to, looking at several recent attempts to suppress editorial cartoonists as well as the history of tensions between creators of political cartoons and those they portray; the article also includes comments from Neil Gaiman on the topic of censorship. [The New Statesman]
Publishing | The British independent publisher Great Beast, which has released the work of Dan Berry, Marc Ellerby and Isabel Greenberg, among others, will close on Jan. 7. Founded in 2012 by Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, the publisher was something of a victim of its own success, as Cadwell explains: “As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place… We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work.” [Great Beast Blog]
Passings | Dr. George Slusser, co-founder of the University of California, Riversides’ renowned Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy, passed away Tuesday at age 75. Curator emeritus and professor emeritus of comparative literature, Slusser expanded the Eaton holdings from 7,500 items to more than 300,000, making it the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction and fantasy literature in the world. It encompasses novels, journals, manuscripts, comics and manga, fanzines and anime, and includes first editions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Action Comics #1 and The Fantastic Four #1. “Over three decades, George Slusser built the Eaton Collection up from a small core of titles into the world-class archive that it is today,” Rob Latham, co-director of UC Riverside’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program, said in a statement. “The field of science fiction scholarship owes him an incalculable debt.” [UC Riverside]
Graphic novels | Although BookScan’s September list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores is populated largely by old stalwarts — The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Saga, Watchmen — Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1, the only Marvel title on the chart, clung to the Top 20 in its second month of release (although it slipped from No. 4. to No. 20). Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, meanwhile, climbed in its third month to No. 6. One new manga debuted at No. 12: Noragami, about a homeless god who does odd jobs as he tries to build up his reputation; the anime is already out, which probably gave it a boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | A television reporter pays a visit to the Last Gasp offices to talk about the Kickstarter recently launched by the longtime publisher of underground comics (and other quirky books). It’s worth a look just to see the owner’s amazing collection of oddities. [NBC Bay Area]
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]
Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]
Conventions | Attendance at the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con was estimated at between 120,000 and 130,000, putting it on a par with the big shows like Comic-Con International in San Diego and New York Comic Con. Even better, Stan Lee proclaimed it “the greatest comic con in the world” (but he probably says that to all the shows). [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Conventions | The scale of the first Las Cruces [New Mexico] Comic Con was considerably smaller, with expected attendance of 3,000 to 5,000, but organizers were pleased with the event, which featured a Yu-Gi-Oh! tournament, a Comic Strip Burlesque show, and appearances by Jim Steranko, Power Rangers stuntman Jason Ybarra, and the 1966 Batmobile. [Las Cruces Sun-News]
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
In some ways, this is the best of times and the worst of times for those who are interested in bringing comics to a broader audience. As the hubbub died down over Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman cover, another story went viral, about a comic shop where an employee allegedly made a crude joke about a “rape room” and then fired a trainee who complained about it. While debate continues to rage over what exactly happened there (the store owner denies it), Bloomberg did a big story on how the number of women comics readers is growing and becoming an ever more important sector of the industry.
With this in mind, I want to call out three things that happened this week.
The first is Gene Luen Yang’s speech at the National Book Festival. First of all, it’s impressive that a comics creator is given such a prominent platform at an event that isn’t actually focused on comics. What Yang had to say was even more impressive. He spoke about the African-American creator Dwayne McDuffie, whose love of comics first caught fire when he encountered the Black Panther, a black character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Black Panther wasn’t perfect, but, Yang said,
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Although Saturday at Comic-Con International was dominated by movies and television — led by Warner Bros. Pictures, Marvel Studios and Legendary Pictures — there was still room for plenty of comics news. First and foremost, the announcement of Marvel’s Star Wars plans.
That line, telling canonical stories set between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, launches in January with Star Wars, by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, followed in February by Star Wars: Darth Vader, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca with covers by Adi Granov, and in March by the miniseries Star Wars: Princess Leia, by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson.
“What’s great about this time period is that all the characters are kind of on the table,” Aaron told CBR News. “Of course this is still early on and these people have pretty much just met each and just come together. So they’re still finding their place within this group and sort of figuring out their relationships with each other. Then there’s the fact that when you look at the gap between Episode IV and Episode V there’s some pretty major beats that happen off screen. So this gives up the opportunity to grab those beats and lay them down as part of the same canon as the movies.”
Like comiXology and Marvel Unlimited, DC Entertainment and Image Comics are celebrating Comic-Con International with sales on select digital titles.
Through Tuesday, DC is marking the 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight by offering digital downloads of a whopping 750 Batman comics for 99 cents each. These aren’t typical dollar-bin titles, however; they include The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, No Man’s Land, Year One, Hush, The Court of the Owls and All Star Batman & Robbin the Boy Wonder. If you’re wanting to go way back, there are comics dating back to 1938, with Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27.
Publishing | The latest BookScan numbers reveal June was a good month for manga in bookstores, with eight volumes of Attack on Titan making the top 20 — a new record. The first volume topped the list, which means new readers are still discovering Hajime Isayama’s dark fantasy. Overall, manga had a slight edge, with 11 titles, and all three volumes of Saga were on the list, but only one volume of The Walking Dead. And despite the Amazon-Hachette battle, the Yen Press title Sword Art Online: Aincrad made the chart. [ICv2]
Publishing | ICv2 and Comichron’s John Jackson Miller joined forces to calculate the size of the entire comics market, including the direct market, bookstore and digital channels, and both single issues and graphic novels. Inevitably some things get left out, such as subscription services, sales to libraries and the juggernaut that is the Scholastic Book Fair, but it’s a good snapshot. The bottom line: $850 million in 2013. [Comichron]
Retailing | Image Comics took seven of the Top 20 spots on Nielsen BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in May, with multiple volumes of Saga and The Walking Dead once again appearing, joined by the first collection of Sex Criminals. Kodansha Comics took six spots, with the most recent volume of Attack on Titan at the top of the chart, followed by the first volume. Four more volumes were scattered around the list. Legendary’s Godzilla movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening, placed at No. 3. [ICv2]
Legal | The Japanese legislature has moved forward with a bill that would criminalize possession of child pornography, which is expected to pass the Diet before it recesses on June 22. The new law would ban photos and videos made using real children but excludes manga and anime. [The Japan Times]
Retailing | While Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection cracked Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores, making it the first Marvel or DC Comics release since January to do so, the April chart was again dominated by three familiar titles: The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan and Saga, which claimed a combined 13 spots. The horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard led the trio with six volumes, followed by Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy with four, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera with three. The 36th volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s hit manga Naruto was No. 1 in April. [ICv2.com]
Events | On the eve of the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Japan Times looks at both the growing presence of manga, and Dork Shelf talks with festival director Christopher Butcher about its Comics vs. Games 3 showcase. Meanwhile, the National Post is running a series of conversations between artists attending TCAF, beginning with Georgia Webber and Seo Kim, and Réal Godbout and Nick Abadzis. You can read more of its festival coverage here. [Toronto Comic Arts Festival]