Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette. It’s kind of like Vegas, without the mob connections or chances of actually winning money–comic creators spin the virtual wheel and get six questions thrown at them to answer.
Today Kurt Busiek takes his six questions and turns them into gold. Kurt, of course, is the award-winning writer of Astro City, Liberty Project, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Marvels, Avengers, Arrowsmith, Shockrockets, Thunderbolts, Iron Man, Kirby: Genesis, JLA/Avengers, Trinity, Superman: Secret Identity, Conan, Power Company and many, many more comics. You can find out more about him on his website.
My thanks to Kurt for agreeing to answer our questions. Now let’s get to it …
Publishing | The Penguin Group plans to wade into the market for children’s graphic novels with a new line aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers. “Clearly it’s a huge, growing market, the kid’s graphic novel market,” Penguin’s Rich Johnson told ICv2 at New York Comic Con. “You see those titles making the bestsellers list all the time. So we are looking to do work in that area to get more kids reading comics.” [ICv2]
Creators | Feisty as ever, Stan Lee talks about his World of Heroes YouTube channel and breaks up the camera crew a couple of times in an interview shot New York Comic Con. [MTV Geek]
Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.
It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.
Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
Today we’re looking at one of the comics medium’s most restless and interesting inventors and theorists — and a pretty compelling storyteller to boot — Scott McCloud.
Mark Waid made his career in print comics, but over the past few years he has become increasingly involved in digital work, and this short video demonstrates where his thinking is going. Waid believes that the day of the print-first comic is coming to an end, and that creators should be designing their comics with the digital reading experience in mind.
This past Sunday was 24-Hour Comics Day, a grand old comics tradition that began in 1990 when Scott McCloud challenged his friend Steve Bissette to draw an entire 24-page comic in a single day. Scott has posted the whole story, including the first 24-hour comics, on his blog. The idea loped along for a while until 2004, when writer and publisher Nat Gertler came up with the idea of making it a Thing, with coordinated events and people posting on the internet and so forth. And now it even has its own Twitter hashtag. What a long way we have come!
I looked through a lot of blog posts while compiling this, and one thing I noticed was the number of people who felt their comics failed, or who didn’t complete the challenge. I think the value of 24-Hour Comics, especially for newcomers, is that it allows the creator to start something and bring it to a close within a defined period. Starting things is easy, but finishing them is hard, and even finishing a bad comic is better than starting a lot of good ones and never bringing them to a close.
Tom Spurgeon is compiling the definitive, exhaustive collection of links, and what I see from his list and the people linked at the official 24-Hour Comics Day site is that very few well-known creators took the challenge this year; the flip side of that is that there are a lot of ambitious newcomers who gave it a shot.
On the other hand, there were a few veteran creators, including Lea Hernandez, whose comic was super-cute and very colorful, although a bit lacking in storyline …
Apart from all the “new 52″ brouhaha, one of the more interesting and talked about bits of online was Michael Fiffe’s essay on the delineations between mainstream (i.e. superhero) comics and the alt/indie comics scene. Spinning off of his essay, I thought it would be fun to list my own favorite super-styled tales by folks who usually don’t do that type of material, some of which Fiffe talked about in his essay.
Note: For the purposes of this article I’m deliberately avoiding any of the officially sanctioned productions from the Big Two, namely Strange Tales and Bizarro Comics, just to make it a wee bit harder.
“The legacy of his artistic storytelling and abilities played a key role in cementing the enduring popularity of characters like Daredevil, Iron Man, Howard the Duck, Blade and Dr. Strange, and garnered him praise and fans the world over,” columnist George Khoury said in an obituary on Comic Book Resources this morning.
In lieu of flowers, Colan’s friend Clifford Meth is asking folks to contribute to a scholarship being set up in Colan’s name for The Kubert School. Details on how to donate can be found on Meth’s blog.
Fellow creators, fans and friends of Gene Colan are sharing memories. Here are a few; as always, click through to see the entirety of what they have to say about one of comics’ legendary artists:
Clifford Meth: “I knew this day would come but it came too quickly. It’s been a rare pleasure working with Gene. He knew who he was—how valuable his contributions to the world of comic art have been—how prized it remains by so many. Yet he never felt less than grateful to anyone who’d even read a single panel that he’d drawn. Until he was too weak to hold a pencil, he put his whole kishkes into everything he drew—whether it was a $5000 commission or a small drawing for someone’s child. And he was never satisfied with his artwork but always eager to learn a little more, do a little better, try something new. At 84.”
To mark what would have been Will Eisner’s 94th birthday, Google is honoring him with a homepage “doodle” spotlighting The Spirit and the cartoonist’s imaginative blend of type and architecture. Scott McCloud, who helped design the piece, also writes a tribute to Eisner on the Official Google Blog: “For most of his career, Eisner was years, even decades, ahead of the curve. I saw him debating artists and editors half his age, and there was rarely any question who the youngest man in the room was. It helped that he never stood on ceremony. Everyone was his peer, regardless of age or status. None of us called him ‘Mr. Eisner.’ He was just “Will’.”
Koren Shadmi’s new webcomic The Abaddon is only up to Page 8, so it’s a good time to start reading, and it passes my eight-page rule: I really want to know what happens next. The action seems a little slow — it starts with a prospective roommate looking at an apartment — but there’s something slightly off about the whole thing, which makes it intriguing. Shadmi’s art is sweet and easy to look at, with a limited palette of brick red and dull blue that would be difficult for a lot of artists to pull off. The comic updates on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Via Scott McCloud, who mentions something I appreciated as well: The comic is in a “web-friendly” format. Actually, it fits very nicely into my browser; not only is it horizontal, but the presentation is sleek and uncluttered, with everything hidden except the title and the navigational aids. It’s classy and elegant and makes the comic the most important element on the page, something that should be obvious but that seldom happens in practice.
Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]
Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]
The best way I’ve come up with to explain it is that looping animation (and sound, for that matter) still communicate a static span of time. If panel 2 clearly comes after panel 1 and before panel 3, it still feels like comics, even if panel 2 is a short loop of some sort.
It’s a good point, and in this case, the motion gets more and then less pronounced as the comic goes along, so there is a progression to it. Scott says,
The point isn’t whether or not we want to give it a particular label or not, but whether a given comic works as storytelling. Does it feel whole? Can we lose ourselves in the reality of the strip? And in this case, I’d say yes.
I agree that the animation fits the story, but looking a the comic as a whole is a bit like trying to read a comic printed on a bowl of Jell-O.
HarperCollins has posted the first 100 pages of Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection by Scott McCloud
“I remember when Understanding Comics was first published in 1993 and Kitchen Sink sent me to a trade show to promote it. We’d sent out mailings, we’d taken out ads, but the best promotion for the book we ever did was simply handing out a thousand copies to retailers,” McCloud writes on his blog. “Covers sell comics. Ads sell comics. But nothing sells comics better than the comics themselves.”