X-POSITION: Bennett Talks "Years Of Future Past's" Teenage Mutant Savior Heroes
I happen to be a person of faith who also has a sense of humor. As a result, the effort by writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler to accurately, yet comically, condense the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You, amused the hell out of me. In Catholic high school, I once offended several people by characterizing a newly unveiled statue of Christ (hands outstretched blessing a crowd) as showing the son of God opting for a “basketball zone defense.”
Fortunately Russell and Wheeler, are far superior at comedy (and religious scholarship) than I have ever been. The book clicked with me from the opening pages. While it will not be released until August, you can preorder it now from Top Shelf.
Tim O’Shea: First question goes to Shannon, thanks to his part of the book dedication. Just to clarify: In the dedication, in which both you and your mom were glad you were not struck by lightning, you also thank Patricia, who survived a lightning hit. I have to hear the story about that.
Shannon Wheeler: My mom manages to be in the middle of all sorts of zeitgeists. Elvis played at her high school. When I was little we went to see Jim Jones preach (before Guyana). She managed to stop by the Koresh compound mid-standoff (she bought me a novelty Frisbee from a roadside vendor). She seems to be at the right place, or wrong place, at the right, or wrong, time. In college she was hit by lightning. It knocked the shoes off her feet and threw her into a ditch. She couldn’t move her legs. A couple of co-eds carried her back to her dorm. The doctor told her to take a warm bath and call back if the feeling didn’t return. Over the next couple hours everything returned to normal. She said it was “tingly” — the same as when your foot falls asleep. She had a circular carbon mark on her side for a bit. Some Native Americans believe that being hit by lightning makes you a shaman. She tells the story like it was no big deal.
Top Shelf Productions has announced the July debut of a series of all-ages graphic novels by veteran cartoonist Rob Harrell, and a “condensed” version of the Bible by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler.
Harrell’s Monster on the Hill ($19.95) is set in a fantastical version of 19th century England, where every little town is terrorized by a unique monster, much to the pleasure of the citizens, who view the ferocious creature as a matter of local pride and a magnet for tourism. That is, except for the residents of Stoker-on-Avon, whose monster Rayburn is a little down in the dumps and in need of a makeover from the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and street urchin Timothy.
And then there’s God Is Disappointed in You ($19.95), the irreverent yet faithful retelling of the Bible written by Russell and illustrated by Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man). It’s billed as “a must-read for anyone who wants to see past the fog of religious agendas and cultural debates to discover what the Bible really says.”
Publishing | Dark Horse President Mike Richardson discusses how he became one of the first publishers of manga in the United States, explains how the company selects its titles, and suggests some manga for first-time readers. [Previews]
Digital comics | Retailer Ron Catapano points to the comiXology server crash triggered by the response to the free Marvel comics promotion as “the problem with digital content that fans keep complaining about”: “I can’t read the books I paid for because I can’t save them on my own computer and I’m limited in what I can save to my tablet by the small storage on tablets. Instead, the books I pay for are kept by comiXology and as long as I have a high speed internet connection available… I can log on and read my books on their web site or I can download a few to my tablet. BUT NOT TODAY … because someone decided it was a good idea to put 700 Marvel issue #1’s up for free at the same time.” [ICv2.com]
The digital comics juggernaut comiXology is having quite a week: Mark Waid put his Insufferable, which is also hosted on his own Thrillbent site, onto the service, and the company signed a deal with Andrews McMeel for digital versions of Doonesbury, Dilbert and Big Nate. And today comiXology debuted something that was initially announced in October: ComiXology Submit, which allows creators to submit their own creator-owned comics to the platform. Here’s the deal, fresh from the press release:
The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, kicked off today in San Francisco, and I made the trek up north to partake in comic culture-dom. I missed the show last year, and in fact haven’t been to a comic convention since SDCC in 2010, so it was fun to get back into the con groove. And APE is just the place to do it, with its laid back vibe and focus on making, buying and talking about comics.
Like I said, I missed last year’s show, so I have no idea how the crowds compared or the size of the place compared. Since I first started attending the show in 2007, they’ve switched up the layout of the place, and it seemed much bigger, with more exhibitors, than it has in the past. There seemed to be a bunch of people there, many with kids, and the folks exhibiting who I talked to for the most part seemed to be happy with the turn out. The weather was beautiful, which can sometimes be a hindrance; San Francisco doesn’t have that many days per year where there’s lots of sunshine and it’s very warm outside, so you never know when someone might decide to hit the park instead of, say, a convention. It’ll be interesting to hear what the CCI folks say about attendance this year
The Alternative Press Expo, or APE, returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco this weekend. The show’s special guests are Groo creator Sergio Aragonés, Flood creator Eric Drooker, all three legendary Hernandez Brothers, The Cardboard Valise creator Ben Katchor, jobnik! creator Miriam Libicki, and Weathercraft creator and giant pen owner Jim Woodring, all of whom have spotlight panels over the course of the two days. In addition, other guests attending the show include Shannon Wheeler, Stan Mack, Justin Hall, Derek Kirk Kim, Jason Shiga, Thien Pham, Jamaica Dyer and many more.
In addition to the spotlight panels, the show has panels on politics and comics, censorship, queer cartoonists and a “Gigantes” meet-up with the Hernandez Bros. and Aragones. They also have workshop panels if you’re interested in making comics and a “creator connection” that allows aspiring creators to find writers or artists to work with.
The show is usually one of my favorites of the year, mainly because it’s so easy going and loaded with opportunities to discover something new and cool. Here’s a round-up of some of the folks you can see and buy cool stuff from at the show, as well as things to do inside and outside of the Concourse:
It’s impossible not to be moved by the story of longtime comics writer and inker Karl Kesel and his wife Myrna, who less than four months ago adopted baby Isaac, the child of a heroin user who began life battling methadone withdrawal. Facing $67,000 in medical bills, in addition to the $25,000 for the adoption itself, and uncertain of how much would be covered by Myrna’s health insurance, Karl decided to sell the Silver Age Marvel collection he’d amassed over four decades.
Reading about the Kesels’ situation, a Reddit member named Razorsheldon rallied the troops to help the family while simultaneously attempting to save Karl’s comics. “Why not start a fundraising campaign to buy as many of his comics as we could so we could give them right back to him?” he wrote earlier this week. “I have no lofty expectations for this endeavor, but I thought even purchasing one comic would send the right message that there are people out there that are grateful that people like Karl and his wife Myrna exist to make this world a better place.”
Publishing | Viz Media announced that Ken Sasaki, formerly the senior vice president and general manager of the manga and anime publisher, will take over from Hidemi Fukuhara as president and CEO. Fukuhara is being promoted to vice chairman, which apparently involves little of the day-to-day management of the company. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Johanna Draper Carlson counts the pages in some recent DC and Marvel comics and finds lots of house ads — and very few paying ones. This raises the chicken-and-egg question of whether the comics publishers are losing interest in selling ads or the advertisers are losing interest in buying them. [Comics Worth Reading]
Digital | Nerdist Industries’ CEO Peter Levin has joined comiXology’s advisory board. [comiXology]
Writer Douglas Rushkoff repurposes the familiar acronym for the title of this original graphic novel, only here it stands for Adolescent Demo Division rather than Attention Deficit Disorder (although the association with the original definition is certainly attentional, and somewhat apropos).
The kids of this ADD are professional beta testers and something of a focus group as intentional society. They were raised from the cradle to test things, and to compete as the athletes of the near-future, where video game competitions are apparently the dominant professional sport.
Something’s a little off with these kids though, as civilians and their competitors all notice and never fail to point out, and they all seem to have some sort of developing superpower, as well. Protagonist Lionel can see through electronic information and codes of all kinds to the message and intent behind, his friend Takai can build and un-build just about anything, and so on.
When some of the kids themselves discover something’s off regarding their origins and the company that keeps them pampered prisoners, they try to escape. Rushkoff’s plot is well-structured, if quite familiar and predictable, and he obviously put a lot of care into crafting the near-future slang of the teens, most of which struck me more as funny than convincing (“Dekh” for decode, “Kopa” for cool by way of copacetic, “nexy” for a blend of new, next and sexy, etc).
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Legal | The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI on Thursday shut down the popular file-sharing site Megaupload, seized $50 million in assets and charged its founder and six others with running an international enterprise based on Internet piracy that’s cost copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue. The FBI has begun extradition proceedings in New Zealand to bring company founder Kim Schmitz, aka Kim DotCom, to the United States. He and three other associates are being held without bail until Monday, when they’ll receive a new hearing. Three others remain at large. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
News of the shutdown was met with retaliation by the hacker collective Anonymous, which attacked the websites of the Justice Department and the Motion Picture Association of America.
It’s been just over two years since the last time cartoonist Shannon Wheeler and I have done an interview. Since then, he’s gotten even more popular with his successful New Yorker cartoon submissions; turned his New Yorker rejections into the Eisner Award winning collection (from BOOM! Studios), I Thought You Would Be Funnier; collaborated with Simon Max Hill on a Little Golden Book parody, Grandpa Won’t Wake Up (BOOM! Studios); as well as teaming with Steve Duin (The Oregonian columnist) on Oil and Water (from Fantagraphics, set for release this month). This new interview focuses on the experience of winning a second Eisner (to go with his 1995 Best New Series win for Too Much Coffee Man), his various current collaborations, comedic boundaries and the impact of stress in his creative process. Be sure to peruse Fantagraphics 19-page preview of Oil and Water after enjoying the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Not many folks can say they’ve won an Eisner, but this year’s was actually your second Eisner win. How gratifying was it to get such validation again? Also, how amused were you that you won an award for a collection of work rejected by the New Yorker?
Shannon Wheeler: It was more moving than validating. I didn’t think I would win this time around. I swore I wouldn’t be one of those people who cry on stage at a stupid award ceremony. But once I got up and took the award in my hand I honestly choked up. It meant more to me than I thought.
Occupy Wall Street and the related protests in other cities are proving fertile ground for comics journalists—by which I mean those who use sequential art to report about an issue rather than journalists who cover comics. The comics-journalism site Cartoon Movement posted an Occupy Sketchbook this week featuring work from Susie Cagle, Sharon Rosenzweig, and Shannon Wheeler, and they promise another installment next week. At Comic Riffs, cartoonist and Cartoon Movement editor Matt Bors explains why cartoonists and Occupiers get along so well:
“Corporate media is met with skepticism by protesters — and with good reason,” Bors tells ‘Riffs. “I’ve found that sitting and talking to people with a sketchbook is a far better way to gain insight than shoving a network camera in their face. That only yields sound bites.
“Susie Cagle’s approach of essentially being an embedded journalist with the movement,” Bors continues, “will no doubt result in great comics and the kind of insight you aren’t going to find on television.”
Many of the comics in the Occupy Sketchbook are sound bites too, but Shannon Wheeler’s drawing of Occupy Wall Street is a birds-eye view that a camera simply couldn’t capture as well.
Digital comics | Following the entry this week by Image Comics into same-day digital release, 40 percent of the comics that debuted in print Wednesday were also available digitally through comiXology. Asking whether day and date comics are “hitting a tipping point,” retailer news and analysis site ICv2 notes: “Publishers are gaining confidence in the concept as evidence grows that day and date releases do not negatively impact print sales. DC’s bold move to convert its entire line to day and date digital with the New 52 has been the clearest indication yet that digital sales are not cannibalizing print.” [ICv2.com]
Legal | Kickstarter, the two-year-old crowd-funding site used by a variety of artists to fund projects, has asked a federal court to declare invalid a patent held by Brian Camelio, who founded ArtistShare in 2000. Camelio, a composer and former studio musician for the rock band Journey, has obtained a patent for a process that resembles Kickstarter’s own crowd-funding model. According to PaidContent, “Kickstarter ask a federal court to declare that the patent is invalid and that the company is not liable for infringement. If the patent, described as ‘methods and apparatuses for financing and marketing a creative work,’ is valid and Kickstarter is infringing, the site could be forced to shut down or pay significant damages.” [PaidContent]
Cartoonist Shannon Wheeler isn’t one to rest on his laurels; heck, do you know how uncomfortable laurels can be on your backside? After making a name for himself with the alt-comic series Too Much Coffee Man, Wheeler branched out and in recent years began aiming to join an exclusive club: artists whose comics are published in The New Yorker. And after achieving that, he’s showing off the plethora of comics that were turned down, and the accepted ones, in a new art exhibit in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Titled “Shannon Wheeler’s One-One-One-One: One-Man Show of One-Hundred-and-One One-Panel Comics, “this exhibit at Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts opens Thursday, and continues through Dec. 1.The life of a New Yorker cartoonist is arduous; for every accepted strip there are countless ones that end up rejected. The latter are often more intriguing than those that made the cut, for the joke inside as well as the imagined reasons why the editor passed on them.
Wheeler is also one of the special guests at the show this year, which also include Kate Beaton, Daniel Clowes, Craig Thompson, Matthew Thurber and Adrian Tomine. APE runs Oct. 1-2 in San Francisco.