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Halloween seems like a particularly appropriate day to write about Sam Costello’s Split Lip, not only because the webcomics he writes are horror works of the most uncanny sort, but also because the website itself has just risen from the dead.
Costello decided to shut down Split Lip two and a half years ago, citing financial and creative reasons. He wrote about the grim financial picture even before that, but he’s always been one to not only talk about his mistakes but also learn from them. When I ran into him in August at Boston Comic Con, he told me he was relaunching the site and had reprinted the graphic novels as well with a new approach. The relaunch happened this week, just in time for Halloween, and I took the opportunity to ask him what happened during his hiatus — and what has changed since 2012.
Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]
Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]
Happy Father’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Today’s guests are two of the contributors to Skullkickers #18, which features several “Tavern Tales” short stories by different creative teams. Joining us today are Charles Soule of 27, Strange Attractors and Strongman fame, and Aubrey Sitterson, winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’s also the writer of Gear Monkey for Double Feature Comics and community manager for WWE Games.
To see what Charles, Aubrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Sam Costello’s Split Lip horror comic has been popular with reviewers and readers alike for a couple of years, so it was a surprise when Costello announced earlier this week that he is ending the comic, which is written by him and illustrated by different artists. We checked in to see what happened—and what will happen next.
Robot 6: When you first started Split Lip, what were you hoping to accomplish?
Sam Costello: There’s a big answer and a small one. The small one is that I just wanted to make comics, to write stories that would let me express some of the things inside me and demonstrate that perhaps I could be a writer of good comics. That’s not the interesting answer, though. The interesting answer is the big one: I wanted to make a different kind of horror comics.
This may seem like an odd thing to say about a comics market crowded full of titles filed under horror, but I think there are actually vanishingly few true horror comics. There are lots of comics with horror elements or themes, but many of them are actually something else: action with horror in them, romance with horror in them, adventure with horror in them. In my analysis, there are relatively few true horror comics, comics that peel away the social niceties and shared delusions we use to make the basic horror of existence (that we live in an indifferent universe, that’s there’s no meaning to life other than what we instill it with, how fraught and confused and misunderstood our relationships with others can be) bearable.
One of the weirdest books I ever ran across was Wisconsin Death Trip, a compilation of old photographs and newspaper articles that put the lie to the notion that things were better in olden times. It read like a fin-de-siecle version of the New York Post, with clippings about murders, abductions, all manner of craziness, juxtaposed with period photographs. What was interesting about the book, at least to me, was that it showed there is a hidden side of human nature that is universal — yes, there were murders and sex crimes in the 1890s — yet at the same time so far removed from our current existence that it seems unreal.
A similar spirit seems to underlie Sam Costello’s upcoming graphic novel Labor & Love: A Garland of American Folk Ballads, which is set to debut in October at SPX. Costello is best known as the writer of the horror comic Split Lip, and this comic, illustrated by Neal Von Flue, features comics based on four folk songs about craziness and death that all have a surrealistic feel.
Boston Comic Con isn’t one of your better-known cons, like SDCC or NYCC—heck, I live just north of Boston and I never heard of it until last year—but if you’re in the area, this year’s show looks like a pretty good bet, with guests like Darwyn Cooke, Frank Quitely, and Joe Kubert.
Right off the bat, BCC is better than 90 percent of comic cons because it is not in some sterile, isolated convention center. You know how you have to walk a mile from the Javits to get a reasonably priced sandwich? No problem here; the Hynes Convention Center is conveniently attached to a mall, and it’s located in the heart of the Back Bay, which is chock full of great little restaurants, funky boutiques, and bars with atmosphere. I used to live in the neighborhood, and it’s still one of my favorite places to go. When you’re at the Hynes, you know you’re in Boston.
Another nice thing about a small con is that conflicting panel times won’t drive you crazy; the panel schedule (warning: PDF) has only one strand, so if you want to see Stan Sakai, Darwyn Cooke, and Terry Moore speak, you don’t have to be in three places at once. Just stay in your seat.
And there will be interesting things to see and to buy! Sam Costello will be debuting the latest volume of his Split Lip horror comic, complete with a back cover blurb from me! Anthony del Col and Andy Belanger, two of the creators of Kill Shakespeare, will be there with an “exclusive digital promotion” as well as the news that they just got some financing to develop a film script based on the property. The Artists Alley lineup includes Thom Zahler (Love and Capes), Tak Toyoshima (Secret Asian Man) and a panoply of Boston-area talent. I just hope the show doesn’t get too successful, or they’ll move it to Boston’s own sterile, out-of-the-way convention center and it will lose much of its charm.