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What Are You Reading? with Jamaica Dyer

Conan #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco’s Noisepop for Spin Magazine.

To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Seth to illustrate new Lemony Snicket book series

Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Daniel Handler and Gregory Gallant are teaming up for a new children’s book series that kicks off this fall. That sentence may not mean a lot to you, unless you know that Handler is the real name of Lemony Snicket, the author of the mega-popular, best-selling A Series of Unfortunate Events children’s book series, and Gallant is better known as Seth, the Canadian cartoonist who created Wimbledon Green, George Sprott and Palookaville.

Who Could That Be at This Hour?, the first book in the “All the Wrong Questions” series, arrives in stores Oct. 23. Here’s a description of the book from its Barnes & Noble listing: “In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He began asking questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not have been published, in four volumes that shouldn’t be read. This is the first volume.”

Publisher Little Brown plans a first printing of a million copies and has set up a teaser site to promote the book.

Daniel Clowes and Seth in “Spot the Alternative Cartoonists”

Can you find the acclaimed comics creators behind The Death-Ray and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists in this photograph by Adrian Tomine from their trip to the Miami Book Fair? Just be patient and keep searching — I’m sure you’ll see them in there eventually!

Move over, Ana Alexandrino’s photo of Killoffer — there’s a new sheriff of Awesome Pictures of Cartoonists-Town.

A Month of Wednesdays: Clowes, Seth and Mother Goose

The Death-Ray (Drawn and Quarterly): I have two distinct reasons to be exceedingly grateful to Drawn and Quarterly for republishing Daniel Clowes’ 2004 comic book Eightball #23 (originally published by Fantagraphics) as a bound hardcover album, bearing the title of the comic’s full-length story.

The first is highly personal. While I greatly enjoyed reading the issue in its huge, newspaper-sized, stapled format, as soon as I finished, I was faced with a problem: Where on earth do I put the damn thing? Obviously it wouldn’t fit in a long box or on any of my bookshelves, either laid flat or standing. If I simply set it on an end table or a coffee table, not only would it take up a lot of space, but it would collect dust and need regularly dusted. And it wasn’t like I had a lot of comics of similar size—only Lauren Weinstein’s Goddess of War, really—so I couldn’t stack it up with my other gigantic comics in a corner somewhere.

Ultimately, I stuck it in an oversized shipping envelope and hid it in the space between a bookshelf and the wall of my apartment, although even there it bothered me, as I knew it was there. And, of course, every time I moved I would pull it out, look at it, and realized I’d have to find a place to keep it in my new apartment as well, before I ultimately would decide to hide it behind a bookshelf in my new place. (It occurs to me now that while Clowes probably didn’t plan that experience for me, it does replicate the feelings of some of the characters in the story, who come into possession of something they can’t really get rid of, but can’t have others know about and have to secretly store for years).

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Food or Comics? | Batwoman, 20th Century Boys, Regenesis and more

Batwoman #2

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.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d first grab hold of my favorite of DC’s New 52, Batwoman #2 (DC, $2.99). J.H. Williams III has successfully kept up to the immense expectations he accumulated following his run with Greg Rucka, and the artwork seems to benefit even more by J.H.’s input into the story as co-writer. Next I’d dig down for two of my regular pulls, Northlanders #45 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and Uncanny X-Force #16 (Marvel, $3.99). For my final pick, I’d have to miss a bunch of other titles for the chance to get the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 #4 (Image, $4.99). I love the anthology format, and having that plus the good cause plus the a-list talent makes it a must get; seriously, can you imagine one comic book containing new work by Frank Quitely, Williams, Mark Waid, J. Michael Straczynski, Matt Wagner AND Craig Thompson? BELIEVE IT!

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Comics A.M. | Stan Lee honor draws fire; Seth wins Harbourfront prize

Stan Lee

Creators | Some military personnel are upset that comics legend Stan Lee received the Honorable Order of St. Barbara award in July during the week of Comic-Con International, as the award is “traditionally reserved for career cannon cockers in the Army and Marine Corps who have made their mark on the field artillery or air defense communities.” While the award credited Lee, who served stateside in the Army during World War II, with writing “several training manuals and films for the artillery and all other branches of the service,” the co-creator of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel properties said he didn’t recall ever doing so. A spokesman for Maj. Gen. David Halverson, commander of the Army Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill, Okla., who signed off on the award, said it “was given to a former soldier and WWII veteran whose contributions, both in the Army and beyond, are in keeping with and representative of all the high standards of achievement and selfless service associated with the Honorary Order of Saint Barbara.” Lee actually missed receiving the award, as at the ceremony he also received an Army Certificate of Achievement and left before the second award could be given. [Air Force Times]

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Seth throws his support behind Marvel boycott

Coober Skeber 2 cover by Seth

Coober Skeber 2 cover by Seth

Wimbledon Green creator Seth has joined in the call to boycott Marvel following the recent court ruling that Jack Kirby’s heirs have no claim to the characters he co-created for the publisher, saying, “I hope it catches fire and spreads. The corporation badly needs to be shamed into doing the right thing.”

Veteran artist and educator Stephen R. Bissette asked fans late last month to stop buying all “Kirby-derived” Marvel products in an effort to pressure the company to better credit the artist and fairly compensate his family for the properties he helped to create. Seth, like Bissette, takes particular issue with Marvel’s characterization of Kirby’s contributions, and the supporting testimony offered by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and others.

“The corporate lie about Kirby’s role in the creation of all those characters is abhorrent,” Seth writes on his blog. “It’s a bold faced lie. Everyone knows it’s a lie. No one is fooled. Everyone lying for the company should be ashamed. Stan Lee should be ashamed. What the Marvel corporation is doing might be legal but it certainly isn’t right.”

Seth concedes a boycott isn’t a sacrifice on his part — he’s never worked for the publisher and can’t recall the last Marvel product he bought — but encourages others to “refrain from supporting the corporation until some form of justice is brought forth for Mr. Kirby.”

(via The Comics Reporter)

In lieu of a formal review, here are five thoughts about Chester Brown’s Paying For It

Drawn and Quarterly released Chester Brown’s Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir of Being a John in May. It was one of the more eagerly anticipated books of the year, given the skill and reputation of Brown, and it ended up being one of the most reviewed and most discussed graphic novels of the year (so far).

The subject matter certainly didn’t hurt coverage any, in fact it’s colorful and controversial nature drove a lot of coverage: Brown meticulously chronicles every time he patronized a prostitute between 1996 and 2003, in the process formulating and defending a particular point-of-view regarding the evils of romantic love and relationships and the relative virtues of paying for sex.

Between the first time I read it and the second time I read it (it’s that kind of book), I read somewhere around 50 million reviews of it and articles about it and Brown and his position. Two months after release, and all that ink and virtual ink spilled over it, a formal review from me seems kind of superfluous at this point.

Instead, here are a few thoughts about the book…

1.) The book opens with the cartoonist breaking up with his live-in girlfriend…sort of. She announces that she thinks she’s falling in love with someone else, would like to try dating that person. Brown gives his blessing, and they decide to keep living together and see where it goes.

Cut to a scene of Brown walking down the street with the little comics avatars of his fellow Canadian cartoonists Seth (Wimbledon Green, Palookaville) and Joe Matt (Spent, Peepshow).

The pair have fairly big roles in the story—Dwight Garner refereed to them as a “wise-guy geek chorus” in his New York Times book review—and when I saw their first appearance, I felt a sudden surge of a mixture of surprise, glee, excitement, recognition and comfort.

I imagine it must be something like what little boys must have felt like reading Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and seeing Spider-Man sudden swing into a Fantastic Four comic, or Daredevil or Dr. Strange bumping into one another on their shared streets of New York City.

There’s something undeniably cool about seeing comic book characters appear where you don’t expect them, or interacting with one another, although it’s a coolness that has been diluted to the point it probably doesn’t even register in superhero comics anymore, given that Superman started playing sports with Batman and Robin back in 1941, and the modern Big Two super-universes are in constant states of crossover (And hell, Archie can meet the Punisher or president or Kiss, and Mr. Spock run into Wolverine or Cosmic Boy).

As cartoonists who are also characters in other comics, Seth and Joe Matt have a peculiar status and, in this narrative, it was the Canadian art memoir comics equivalent of, I don’t know, seeing Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake in a Spider-Man arc, only you’re seeing it for the first time.

The book even rewards familiarity with these characters and their previous adventures, like in a scene where Brown brings up prostitute review message boards, and the Matt character says it’s too disturbing to which Brown replies “How can this be disturbing for someone who watches porn almost 24 hours a day?”

Which isn’t just a quip, of course—it’s practically the plot of Matt’s memoir Spent.

Aside from the crossover thrill, it’s worth noting that the scenes with the other cartoonists are among the most enjoyable to read in the book, because they tend to be the most funny; Brown shows himself debating with himself and friends and even some of the prostitutes (to some extent) about the ethics and morality of prostitution and love, sex and relationships in general, but he’s apparently most comfortable around his friend cartoonists, so those exchanges tend to be the most honest and amusing. Continue Reading »

Comics A.M. | Charlaine Harris’ new graphic novel; the origins of Epic

Charlaine Harris

Publishing | Charlaine Harris, author of the “Sookie Stackhouse” novels on which HBO’s True Blood is based, says that after she finishes the last two “Sookie” books, she plans to work on a graphic novel with Christopher Golden. “I’m very excited about that. It’s called Cemetery Girl with Christopher Golden, and it’s a very exciting opportunity.” Harris had mentioned wanting to do a novel called Cemetery Girl back in 2009, about “a girl raised by ghosts in a cemetery,” but put it on hold when she found out the plot was similar to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Based on the description in the news report, it sounds like the story has been tweaked, as it says the graphic novel “centers on a woman who finds herself living in a cemetery with no memory of her past but a clear sense of a mysterious threat hanging over her.” This isn’t the first time Harris’ characters have found their way into comics, as IDW publishes comics based on HBO’s True Blood, and an adaptation of her Grave Sight novels has been published by Dynamite. [NBC San Diego]

Publishing | Former Marvel Comics editor and Transformers writer John Barber has joined IDW Publishing as a senior editor. IDW also announced the promotion of Tom Waltz to the company’s first senior staff writer position, in addition to his duties as editor, and the expansion of the company’s book department with longtime IDW employee Alonzo Simon becoming an assistant editor. [press release]

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Your video of the day | Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Pencil it In from Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Vimeo.

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or TCAF, is coming up May 7-8, and to promote it some friends of the organizers have created this nifty video featuring many of Toronto’s talented comics folks — Chester Brown, Michael Comeau, Steve Charles Manale, Vicki Nerino, Michael Cho, Michael DeForge, Seth, Fiona Smyth and Britt Wilson.

Comics College | Seth

George Sprott 1894-1975

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.

This month we’re going to take a look at the bibliography of the Canadian cartoonist called Gregory Gallant, better known to you and me as simply Seth.

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales in December, Nick Lowe promoted

Batman: The Dark Knight

Publishing | Diamond’s December numbers for sales in comics shops are out, and the picture is grim. Diamond reports that it sold 89,985 copies of the top selling single-issue comic, Batman: The Dark Knight #1—the lowest number for the month’s top seller since ICv2 started tracking the numbers in 2001. In its more detailed dollar analysis, Diamond sees comics sales down and graphic novel sales up for a slight overall increase, both in December and in the last quarter of 2010 as a whole. [ICv2]

Publishing | Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that Nick Lowe has been promoted to senior editor. Lowe edits Uncanny X-Men, Generation Hope and New Mutants, among other titles. [Comic Book Resources]

Publishing | Douglas Wolk boils down the 2010 comics sales data into some easily digested bullet points, for the benefit of those who don’t like to spend all day squinting at sales charts. [Techland]

Pop culture | Apparently inspired by Tiger Mask, a character from a manga popular in the 1960s, people in Japan have been quietly dropping off gifts for children in orphanages and other institutions. [Inquirer.net]

Digital comics | Johanna Draper Carlson tries out the comiXology app for the Android OS and is somewhat underwhelmed. [Comics Worth Reading]

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‘You got superheroes in my altcomix!’ ‘You got altcomix in my superheroes!’

Coober Skeber 2 cover by Seth

Coober Skeber 2 cover by Seth

Before Strange Tales, before Bizarro, before those pages in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up that Craig Thompson drew, before the past decade’s worth of alternative comics artists taking a crack at the spandex set, there was Coober Skeber 2. Published by Tom Devlin, who would go on to launch the hugely influential (if never quite financially successful) Highwater Books imprint, this anthology’s so-called “Marvel Benefit Issue” contained a galaxy of altcomix stars both famous (that’s a Seth cover above) and obscure taking on the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe.

The book hit an unsuspecting Comic-Con International in 1997, as the ailing comics giant was cape-deep in bankruptcy. And though the “benefit” angle was dubious, since the book was handed out for free, the impact on readers who’d never seen the likes of future underground legends like Mat Brinkman or Ron Regé Jr. before, let alone working with characters like Spider-Man, was substantial.

The good folks at Comics Comics have posted the story behind the book. Here’s a snippet:

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Straight for the art | Seth does Criterion

Make Way for Tomorrow cover

Make Way for Tomorrow cover

Check out Seth’s latest illustration project, the cover to Criterion Collection’s edition of the classic Leo McCarey film Make Way for Tomorrow. I would imagine the interior booklet is just as superbly designed.

Straight for the art | Seth’s new Nancy design

Nancy and Oona Goosepimple, by Seth

Nancy and Oona Goosepimple, by Seth

Man, that’s a knockout, huh? Feast your eyes on George Sprott author (and all-around Dapper Dan) Seth’s design for Nancy, Vol. 2, the forthcoming installment of Drawn & Quarterly’s gorgeous John Stanley Library.

The image hails from this post by D&Q’s Rebecca Rosen, which you really ought to read if the cult of Nancy has been a bit inscrutable to you like it has been to me. Just for example, the above image is a Seth drawing … which graces a book containing the adventures of a character created by, and best known through the work of, Ernie Bushmiller … but D&Q’s Nancy books collect John Stanley’s run on the character from her comic books, as opposed to Bushmiller’s newspaper strips … but those books were actually drawn by Dan Gormley, working off Stanley’s storyboard-format scripts. Phew! And then there’s the role that Mark Newgarden’s abstractified tribute to Bushmiller’s Nancy, “Love’s Savage Fury,” played in the character’s popularity with cartoonists…and ditto Newgarden and Paul Karasik’s landmark essay “How to Read Nancy” … ah, let Rebecca explain it to you, and why it all matters.


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