How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
As promised, here are some thoughts on this year’s SPX, along with some sorta short reviews of some of the more notable comics I picked up at the show (that I’ve read thus far.
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.
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 spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.
If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.
The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!
On Friday, publisher Alvin Buenaventura announced he had shut down his imprint Buenaventura Press as of this past January, due to a single knockout legal/financial blow. Publicly available details are few, in keeping with the private way the move has been handled for the past six months. But comics creators and critics en masse are mourning BP’s demise and reading the tea leaves as to where its publisher, artists, and entire brand of comics will land.
Robot 6 reached out to several of the artists published by Buenaventura, as well as a few of his fellow publishers, for their reaction:
Working with Alvin over the years has been really amazing. He has introduced me to a lot of magical and influential artists and hooked me up with tons of inspiring and perverted books. His place has awesome shit scattered all over- mountains of crazy books, toys, memorabilia, gigantic figures, artwork- it’s like a bomb went off. Now that he’ll be taking a break from the business we’ll finally have more time to play Rock Band and trip out on weird TV shows.
–Matt Furie, writer/artist, Boy’s Club
I somehow missed this in Tucker Stone’s report from MoCCA last week, but luckily Heidi over at the Beat caught it — Stone spoke with John Kerschbaum about his future projects, and the creator revealed that he’s working on this year’s Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror book for Bongo Comics.
Kerschbaum isn’t the only one working on the book, though; as you can see below in the solicitation copy that Bongo was kind enough to send us, they’ve recruited a Murderer’s Row of creators, including Jeffrey Brown, Kevin Huizenga, Matthew Thurber and many more, and it’s edited by Sammy Harkham of Kramers Ergot fame:
Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15
Edited by Sammy Harkham
48 pages/standard format/color/humor
UPC: 01511 (7-98342-02851-5)
Guest edited by Sammy Harkham, the award-winning creator of the popular Kramers Ergot anthology, this year’s issue is a jam-packed with some of the most idiosyncratic (and weirdest) takes on “The Simpsons” universe ever. Among Halloween-inspired short strips by such visionary cartoonists as Jordan Crane (Uptight), C.F. (Powr Mastrs), Will Sweeney (Tales from Greenfuzz), Tim Hensley (MOME), and John Kerschbaum (Petey & Pussy), are four featured tales of inspired Simpsons lunacy: heralded artists Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Or Else) and Matthew Thurber (1-800 Mice, Kramers Ergot) collaborate on a weird and wild story equal parts Lovecraftian eco-horror and Philip K. Dick identity comedy. Jeffrey Brown (Incredible Change-Bots, Clumsy) does a creepy and suitably pathetic story featuring Milhouse in a “Bad Ronald”-inspired tale of murder and crawl space living. Harkham and Ted May (INJURY) pull out all the stops for a tragic monster tale of unrequited love, bad karaoke, and body snatching at Moe’s Bar. Ben Jones (Paper Rad) does the comic of his life with an epic tale of how bootleg candy being sold at the Kwik-E-Mart rapidly spirals out of control into an Invasion of The Body Snatchers-like nightmare of a Springfield filled with cheap bootleg versions of familiar characters. And nobody does squishy, sweaty, and gross like up and coming cartoonist Jon Vermilyea (MOME), who outdoes himself with “C.H.U.M.M.,” a C.H.U.D.-inspired parody featuring everybody’s favorite senior citizen, Hans Moleman!
With a cover by Dan Zettwoch, Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 is like nothing you’ve ever seen, and is sure to be one of the most talked about comics of the year by alternative comic readers and Simpsons fans of all ages!
This goes on my “must buy” list.
Refusing to sound the death knell for the alt-comic pamphlet, Buenaventura Press, publishers of last year’s mammoth, unexpected-controversy-inducing Kramer’s Ergot 7, have announced plans to release not one but six new comic books this year.
The inspired bit is that these comics will be packaged together in what the company is calling “The BP Comics Revival Economic Stimulus 3-Pak.” In other words, BP will release two sets of three comics shrink-wrapped together, a la the drugstore packages of olden days.
The first three-pack includes Ted May’s Injury #3, Aviatrix #1 by Eric Haven and I Want You #1 by Lisa Hanawalt. The books cost $4.95 apiece, but will be available as a package for $11.95 and will be offered in the June issue of Previews.
As you may remember, May had expressed concerns online that the latest issue of his ongoing series would not meet Diamond’s new minimum cut-off requirements and thus not be available in most comic stores. It’s nice to see the publisher has found an inventive way around that problem.
Click on the link to read the full press release: Continue Reading »
I’m not sure when I first came across Ted May‘s work — it was probably with It Lives — but I remember being delighted with his sly blend of rock and roll, monster mania, superheroics, and adolescent smartassery, all delivered with a wink and a nod. I was excited, then, when May recently began a new comic book series, Injury, published by Buenaventura Press. What other alt-cartoonist would dare to imagine a Slade pinball machine or unabashedly quote Nazareth lyrics?
Alas, it seems Injury and May have fallen victim to Diamond’s recent policy changes, as the third issue apparently won’t make the cut-0ff criteria, making distribution of the pamphlet a tricky issue at best.
I spoke with May over email last week about these issues and the future of the series. I’d like to take this moment to thank him profusely for taking the time to answer the list of poorly worded questions I threw at him.