INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
In early August, in the wake of Mike Dawson’s conversation-starting essay, Magic Whistle creator Sam Henderson assessed the mitigating factors affecting his work as a cartoonist, laid many of the challenges at his own feet. As refreshing as it was to read a candid assessment of his creative plight, I was curious to learn Henderson’s mindset after people he responded to his post. While I was at it, of course, I angled to get a glimpse of his creative process.
[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.]
When writer/artist Mike Dawson shared how weakly his graphic novels sold (as part of a larger self-examination of where his comics career currently stands), it struck a chord with a variety of industry members and pundits.
A great deal of attention was paid to the perceived tone of Abhay Khosla’s initial response to Dawson. I have to admit I struggle to read Khosla’s essays with any regularity, as I never feel like he is writing as himself, but rather is projecting an exaggerated version of himself. He is a lawyer by profession, so I have always assumed his comics coverage is a way to write about a medium he clearly loves, but also to burn off some of the tension of his legal work (pure speculation on my part, admittedly). That being said, Khosla’s tone (whether it clicks with you or not) makes some valid points.
Alternative Comics, the publisher of alternative comics, is back in business, with two big releases of note this month: Failure, a collection of Karl Stevens’ remarkably illustrated comic strips from the Boston Phoenix, and Alternative Comics #4, the latest installment of its showcase anthology (the first three issues were released as Free Comic Book Day giveaways, with the third issue shipping way back in 2005).
The new iteration isn’t free (in fact, it’s a $5.99, 48-page book), and it’s not coming out on Free Comic Book Day, but it is bigger, newer and perhaps even improved. To find that out, we’ll have to take a closer look at this book, edited by Marc Arsenault and featuring a lovely cover by Mike Bertino.
Here then, are a few words about every single story in Alternative Comics #4:
“Talent Goes In” by Sam Alden
This is a four-panel, inside-front-cover strip by Alden, which amounts to little more than a picture poem. It’s not terribly profound or even substantial but that’s okay, it’s only the inside front cover. Alden has a better strip later in the book.
When comics entrepreneur Marc Arsenault announced almost a year ago that he had bought defunct Alternative Comics in order to relaunch the publisher, a lot of fans (me included) were thrilled. Under founder Jeff Mason, Alternative introduced readers to creators like Graham Annable, Brandon Graham, James Kochalka, Ed Brubaker, Scott Campbell (of Great Movie Showdowns fame), Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. So with Alternative and comiXology announcing today that the publisher’s catalog is becoming available digitally on the app, I was eager to talk to Arsenault about their plans.
Michael May: For those who don’t know you, what’s your background in comics?
Marc Arsenault: Wow. Where to begin? I’ve been a pretty behind-the-scenes guy for most of my time in comics, but this year I’ve hit the quarter century mark for working in them.
I figured out that I wanted to make comics somewhere around eighth grade when I discovered RAW, Warrior and Heavy Metal. When I found out about the comics program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) my path was clear. I didn’t even apply to any other schools. I got to study with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Joe Orlando, David Sandlin, Jerry Moriarity, Marshall Arisman and the very influential Jack Potter.
That experience was very relevant to Alternative Comics’ past and present because it was there that I met Sam Henderson and Tom Hart. I shared a studio space with Tom, and he and Sam had started an off-campus comics anthology called Tuna Casserole. By the fifth issue I became co-editor and we founded the first incarnation of my company Wow Cool. I ended up becoming an illustrator instead of a cartoonist, and did that freelance on and off up until about a decade ago.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? We are joined today by special guest Josh Hechinger, writer of The Grave Doug Freshley, Bear Beater Bunyan, and Robot + Monsters. Check out his blog or the R+M site for more from Josh.
To see what Josh and the Robot 6 team have been reading lately, click below …
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.
It’s beginning to look a lot like the final Wednesday before Christmas (and the final full one of the year), so with my $15, I’d get some gifts for myself that I know I’ll enjoy: the second issue of Chris Roberson (and now, Dennis Calero)’s Masks (Dynamite, $3.99), the third issue of Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity (Image, $2.99) and Francesco Francavilla’s The Black Beetle: Night Shift #0 (Dark Horse, $2.99). Also, I suspect that I’ll be unable to resist the first part of Vertigo’s adaptation of Django Unchained (DC/Vertigo, $3.99), too.
If I had $30, I’d add another pile of favorites to that list: Judge Dredd #2 (IDW, $3.99), the by-now-amazingly-late-but-still-enjoyable Bionic Woman #6 (Dynamite, $3.99), Hawkeye #6 (Marvel Comics, $2.99), and the latest issue of the always-wonderful Saga (Image, $2.99).
When it comes to splurging, however, then I’m going to be playing it relatively cheaply: That Star Trek 100-Page Winter Spectacular (IDW, $7.99) feels like it might offer just the kind of space-age cheer I’ll be grateful for by mid-week … Happy Warpspeed Holidays, all.
Comics | Last week a building fire destroyed the negatives for Dave Sim’s Cerebus: High Society, but George Peter Gatsis reports that more than half the 500 pages already had been scanned for the audio/visual digital edition (covering issues 26-50). For the other pages, Sim will be getting the best possible printed material and, hopefully, high-res scans. [Bleeding Cool]
Comics | Food writer Jon Watson addresses “the rise of foodie comics,” singling out Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory: “It helps that the book is extremely well written, but I’m interested in a well-executed crossover of foodie culture into pop culture. It’s not often that happens when it doesn’t elicit a groan or feel forced. I think that, as food culture has grown of the last few decades, it is organically inspiring other art forms rather than feeling like an attempt at commercialization.” [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]
The soon-to-be-launched cartooning school Sequential Artists Workshop has announced a special night of readings and theatre by a host of comic artists this weekend in New York City.
Scheduled for this Sunday at 7 p.m., SAW’s Easter Fundraiser at the KGB Bar will have cartoonists such as Dean Haspiel, Sam Henderson, John Keerschbaum and others reading from their works for the live audience. The festivities will be hosted by SAW co-founder Tom Hart.
If you haven’t heard of Sequential Artists Workshop, it’s a new school for cartooning scheduled to open this year in Gainesville, Fla. The proceeds from SAW’s Easter Fundraiser will go toward filing fees, space rental and marketing. They’re also looking for the donation of books, art supplies and virtually anything else you think a cartooning school would need. More more information, visit SAW’s website.
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.