UPDATE: "The Flash" Hasn't Cast Savitar, Says Berlanti
TV, Comic Books
Digital Comics | Digital comics sales dropped 10% in 2015, according to calculations by the geek-industry retail site ICv2. This is the first decline since the category started to take off in 2010. “Industry participants” offered a number of possible explanations for this, including the leveling-off of new tablet and e-reader purchases and competition from Humble Bundle and other bundle services. Conspicuously not mentioned is comiXology’s decision, in spring of 2014, to eliminate in-app purchases on iOS devices, removing the most convenient way to buy comics from the most popular platform. The article does mention that sales through the Google Play store and direct digital sales from publishers of DRM-free comics had increased, although they are still a small segment of the industry. Also, e-book sales in general are down. Despite all this, ICv2 calculates that digital sales totaled $90 million last year, which is still pretty good considering that the market was just $1 million in 2009. [ICv2]
Conventions | New York Comic Con will extend the party with a series of events tagged “NYCC Presents,” running from October 3-9 (the con itself is October 6-9). The events include a “We the Heroes” Ball, Doctor Who costume and trivia contest, a live episode of “Game Grumps,” and “Shipwreck Presents: A Literary Erotic Fanfic Competition based on William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.” All events require separate tickets—your NYCC badge won’t get you in. [New York Comic Con]
Celeste cartoonist I.N.J. Culbard is adapting The King in Yellow, the 1895 short-story collection by Robert W. Chambers that received renewed attention this year because of the HBO crime drama True Detective.
Culbard revealed the cover for the 144-page graphic novel, set to be released in May by U.K. publisher SelfMadeHero.
Chambers’ collection of 10 supernatural tales takes its title from a fictional forbidden play mentioned in four stories that drives anyone who reads it to despair or madness. H.P. Lovecraft was influenced by The King in Yellow, and borrowed some of its elements for his own work.
What if terrorists took over a theme park, and the only onwho could save you was one of the park’s costumed mascots? That’s the story of the recently released graphic novel Ricky Rouse Has a Gun by writer/director Jörg Tittel and artist John Aggs. Using thinly veiled versions of Disney’s mascot and a host of other media properties to to populate their theme park, Tittel and Aggs aren’t only making an action story, they’re critiquing corporate consumerism.
Passings | Frank Cummings, an artist for the comic strip Blondie, has died at age 55, according to a posting on Blondie.com. No cause of death is given, but this obituary (in Italian) states he had a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Cummings started his career as a commercial artist and self-published his own satire magazine, JAB. Later on he illustrated the newsletter of diet and exercise guru Richard Simmons and did movie parodies for Cracked. He joined Blondie in 2004 as an assistant to head artist John Marshall. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz has debuted an “occasional” column on the retail news and analysis site ICv2. [ICv2.com]
It happens every year: Despite the best efforts of authors, publishers and publicists, there are smart, funny and downright entertaining comics that fail to get their proper due. It’s a truth made more manifest every year as production and publishing costs are lowered and more and more people find ways of getting their work on print or online.
So once again I’ve put together a list of some books I thought could have used a bit more love, at least in terms of coverage if not also sales (though usually it’s both). These aren’t necessarily the best books of the past year – I’m not sure I’d swap any of them out for my own top 10 list – they’re just really good comics that didn’t seem to get enough attention. Let me know what you’d add to the list in the comments section below.
British publisher SelfMadeHero earlier today announced its publishing plans for the first few months of 2014. They include a biography of painter Vincent van Gogh by Dutch artist Barbara Stok, a political satire set during the Iraq War by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain (!), the true story of boxer Hertzko Haft, who survived Auschwitz to become a heavyweight prize-fighter, and a collaboration between David Camus and Nick Abadzis (Laika, Hugo Tate) that involves Orson Welles and a Cuban cigar-roller.
You can find the full descriptions below.
London indie publisher SelfMadeHero has acquired the U.K. and Commonwealth rights to The Good Inn, a book written by Pixies frontman Black Francis and the band’s biographer Josh Frank, and illustrated by cartoonist Steven Appleby.
Set for release in May, The Good Inn is described as “a fantastical piece of illustrated fiction based on a yet-to-be-written soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t yet exist, which Black Francis has approached with the same characteristic eccentricity and imagination he writes a song. The teenage hero known only as Soldier Boy escapes a devastating explosion at the French port of Toulon and sets out on a bizarre journey across France. Navigating past homicidal gypsies, combative soldiers and porn-peddling peasants, he takes refuge in a secluded inn, where he finds himself center stage in the making of the world’s first narrative pornographic film.”
In July, the Pixies released “Bagboy,” its first new material in nearly a decade, shortly after it was announced bassist Kim Deal had left the band. She was replaced by Kim Shattuck, who, it turns out, has already split with the group.
Creators | Stan Lee, characterized by CNN as “the Godfather of comic book heroes,” is modest about his own achievements in a new interview: “If my publisher hadn’t said ‘let’s do superhero stories’ I’d probably still be doing A Kid Called Outlaw, The Two Gun Kid or Millie the Model or whatever I was doing at the time.” He reflects on the increased female audience for comics and discusses some new projects, including a new superhero, The Annihilator, created specifically for a Chinese audience. [CNN]
Comics| Chris Huntington reflects on the importance of Miles Morales for children of color, like his son: “… To see Spider-Man pulling his mask over a tiny brown chin – to see a boy with short curly hair sticking to the ceiling of his bedroom— well, something happened. Dagim has been Spider-Man for two Halloweens in a row. He takes a bath with his Spider-Man and a toy killer whale. He has Spider-Man toothpaste and a Spider-Man toothbrush. If Spider-Man offered medical coverage, I think he would want that, too. My son somehow understands that there is a Peter Parker Spider-Man, who is vaguely grown-up and my age, and a younger Spider-Man, closer to his age. That’s just how Dagim likes it. He even understands that Peter Parker — like Superman, like Batman – wasn’t raised by his birth parents. The best superheroes were all adopted like him.” [The New York Times]
It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
“Ah, young love,” the poets like to sigh. But as intense and memorable as childhood (and early adulthood) romance can be, it can also be fraught with insecurity, awkwardness and trauma, a fact Canadian cartoonist Patrick McEown underlines in his latest graphic novel, Hair Shirt.
The story centers on John, a veguely insecure twentysomething who, while mourning the death of a long-term relationship, stumbles into the arms of Naomi, a former childhood sweetheart who happens to be attending the same university.
And while John seems happy to reconnect with Naomi, it’s clear from the start their budding relationship is fraught with problems. For one thing, both John and Naomi are haunted by the ghost of Chris, Naomi’s rather swinish older brother who died in a car crash when they were teenagers. Chris and John had been friends as kids, and there seems to be a cloud of guilt and apprehension hanging over John concerning how his relationship with Chris soured as the latter became more of an obnoxious bully. While never completely stated, John hints at horrible things that happened to Naomi in her formative years, and there’s a specter of abuse — either physical or sexual — that haunts her and by extension John.
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52’s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Crater XV HC (Top Shelf, $19.95): I’ve been following (and loving) the serialization of Kevin Cannon’s follow-up to Far Arden in the digital pages of Double Barrel, but I know that I’ll be picking up this hardcover collection of the further adventures of sea dog Rusty Shanks nonetheless. The Canadian space program deserves no less.
In The Days of the Mob HC (DC Comics, $39.99): To say that Kirby’s 1970s take on the organized-crime world of the 1930s is something I’ve been longing to read since I first discovered its existence would be an understatement, so I’m definitely looking forward to this deluxe reprint, complete with material that wasn’t in the original edition.
Indigo Prime: Anthropocalypse TP (Rebellion/2000AD, $24.99): John Smith’s cosmic authorities are one of comics’ most secret treasures, I think, especially when he’s paired with an artist like Edmund Bagwell, who brings a wonderful Euro-Kirby influence to the stories in this collection. Really looking forward to this one.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen GN (First Second, $17.99): As a sucker for good autobiographical comics and also good food writing, the idea of Lucy Knisley creating a food-centric memoir — complete with recipes! — is far too good to ignore. I love that publishers like First Second are publishing work like this.
Solo Deluxe Edition HC (DC Comics, $49.99): Even though I own most of these issues from their original appearance, the oversized hardcover format is waaaay too tempting when you consider some of the material this book has up its 500+ page sleeve: Paul Pope covering Kirby! Brendan McCarthy channeling Ditko as only he could! The amazing Darwyn Cooke issue! The only thing that could make this better would be if it included work completed on follow-up issues before the plug had been pulled … But maybe that can appear in a second volume, one day…
Continuing our look into what comics and graphic novels lie in wait for us in the year 2013, I thought I’d take a look at Abrams catalog, which also includes books from British publisher SelfMade Hero, which Abrams distributes in the U.S. Here’s what I discovered:
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.
If I had $15, I’d catch up on Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz’ Hell Yeah with the first trade, Vol. 1: Last Days On Earth (Image, $9.99). I admit to dropping off after the second issue, but it’s always something I wanted to get back to; and reading Keatinge’s interviews on the more recent issues has pushed me over the top. If nothing else, $9.99 for five issues is a good deal. After that I’d get Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 (Marvel, $4.99). Of all the group-written issues, Jason Aaron’s seems to have been the most organized and engaging, so I’m glad they opted to have him do the finale. Seeing Adam Kubert on this is surprising, as his previous issues of Avengers Vs. X-Men felt rushed – but previews of this issue show him more measured and confident, like his Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine work, also with Aaron.
If I had $30, I’d double back and gleefully grab Thomas Herpich’s White Clay (AdHouse, $4.95). When I first heard about this the onus of Adventure Time was heavy given the cartoonist works on that show, but after seeing the previews and hearing Chris Pitzer talk about this book I’m in for it. I’d also get the debut issue of Andy Diggle’s Doctor Who #1 (IDW, $3.99) with artist Mark Buckingham. Bucky’s a real treat here, and I’m interested to see what he does with Diggle’s words – and what exactly Diggle does. I’m okay if it’s not Lenny Zero – but that would be nice too. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #32 (Marvel, $3.99). At one time this was my favorite book coming from the Big Two, but it seems to have grown long in the tooth; I’m not confident enough to say Rick and crew are doing something wrong, as maybe it’s just me. But the first 18 issues had a special kind of magic, and that doesn’t seem to remain here in these issues. But still, I’m in ’til the end.
If I could splurge, I’d get The Nao of Brown (SelfMadeHero, $24.95) by Glyn Dillon. I admit I already received an advance review copy of this book, but if I didn’t I’d surely have it on pre-order. A read a review where they compared to this to Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, but I think that’s a mere surface examination. After reading this (and flipping through it a dozen times since), this is just a pure coming-of-age story that reminds me more of Hope Larson or a very chatty Adrian Tomine. Very great, very great.
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.
Last month we looked at the career of Marjane Satrapi. This month we’ll examine the career of one of her largest (or at least more apparent) influences, Pierre-Francois Beauchard, better known by his pen name, David B.