Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
While the whole rest of the world, it seems, is experimenting with digital comics, Box Brown has been going the opposite direction, publishing indie print comics through his own Retrofit Comics. I talked to him when he was launching the first season of Retrofit Comics, in fall 2011, and now that he’s back for a second round, I thought it would be a good time to ask him what he learned from the first iteration and what he will be doing differently this time.
Robot 6: What did you learn from your first year as the publisher of Retrofit Comics?
Box Brown: I think I spread myself too thin. I released 17 comics in about 18 months while working on a graphic novel of my own and I was working too hard. I wasn’t able to give each release the attention it deserved. Also, I learned a lot about “seasons” in the retail world. Stuff slows down a lot in the Summer. And, I think I also learned that people actually wanted a comic from Box Brown the cartoonist as well. Publishing your own work until a brand like this is kind of a weird feeling. I think I was uncomfortable with it for a while, but I’ve learned to say “fuck it”
Business | Marvel parent The Walt Disney Co., which just purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, reportedly has begun an internal cost-cutting review that could include layoffs in its studio and other divisions. The cutbacks are believed to focus on jobs that are no longer needed because of technological advancements and redundancies created by the acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. Disney has made a series of staff cutbacks over the past couple of years, beginning in January 2011 with 200 jobs in its interactive division; Marvel trimmed about a dozen positions in October 2011. [Yahoo! Finance]
Publishing | Robert Stanley Martin takes a new look at Jim Shooter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Marvel. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, UF’s Comic Conference series this year carries the theme of “Monsters in the Margins” for its April 14-15 event Gainesville, Florida. The papers and panels being presented this year will explore the representation of monsters and the monstrous in comics around the world.
Organizers have tentatively planned talks on subjects as diverse as “Hulk as a Metaphorical Monster,” the portrayal of God as a monster in Preacher, and the works of Hitoshi Tomizawa. In addition to scholarly talks, the biannual conference will also host panels with comic creators such as Jim Rugg, Jonathan Case and Ben Towle. Another interesting event is a workshop by cartoonist Tom Hart, who recently set up the Sequential Artists Workshop school in Gainesville.
Unbeknown to many comic fans and Florida residents, including myself, the University of Florida has a focused “Comic Studies” track inside its English department, led by Dr. Donald Ault. It’s also home to an expanding special collection of comics that holds many gems. So if you’re in central Florida next month, it’s worth a visit.
Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen) and Leela Corman (Queen’s Day) have experienced a terrible, devastating loss with the unexpected death of their young daughter, Rosalie Lightning. Vineyland creator Lauren Weinstein has set up a memorial fund via PayPal to help Hart and Corman in their time of need. Please consider giving if you have the time and financial ability to do so. Weinstein also says that anyone seeking information on where to send condolences should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m sure I speak for everyone here at Robot 6 when I say we wish Tom and Leela our deepest condolences and hope they find the strength to carry on in the face of such a heart-rending, inexplicable tragedy.
The soon-to-be-launched cartooning school Sequential Artists Workshop has announced a special night of readings and theatre by a host of comic artists this weekend in New York City.
Scheduled for this Sunday at 7 p.m., SAW’s Easter Fundraiser at the KGB Bar will have cartoonists such as Dean Haspiel, Sam Henderson, John Keerschbaum and others reading from their works for the live audience. The festivities will be hosted by SAW co-founder Tom Hart.
If you haven’t heard of Sequential Artists Workshop, it’s a new school for cartooning scheduled to open this year in Gainesville, Fla. The proceeds from SAW’s Easter Fundraiser will go toward filing fees, space rental and marketing. They’re also looking for the donation of books, art supplies and virtually anything else you think a cartooning school would need. More more information, visit SAW’s website.
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]
With this interview, Jason Little threw me a great curveball with the manner in which he answered the questions. In addition to his text replies, he supplied me with a wealth of graphics to accompany his answers. This approach appeals to me and I hope it clicks with other folks as well as proves to be an approach that interest others to try (be sure to click on the thumbnails for larger versions of the graphics). This email interview was in the wake of the December 15 release of Motel Art Improvement Service (Dark Horse), described by the publisher as “Eighteen–year–old Bee has finally saved up enough to embark on her long–planned cross–country bicycle trip. However, she doesn’t make it very far before disaster leaves her stranded at a motel. Her hormones surge when she meets a misunderstood young artist on a mission to ‘upgrade’ the banal “artwork” that hangs on the walls of every motel room. Taking a job there as a housekeeper, Bee snoops around in the motel’s dirty laundry and finds herself entangled in a scary drug deal gone dangerously wrong.” My thanks to Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for introducing me to the storyteller, as well as Little himself for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Out of the gates, let me reveal a bit of ignorance on my part. Could you define “bubblegum noir”?
Jason Little: “Bubblegum noir” came from a comment in a reader mail. This is the second time I’ve lost track of his name, I will go through my email archives and find it! Bubblegum rock is a genre from the late 60s and early 70s with an emphasis on hooks, danceable beat, and enough mention of sugar in the lyrics to cause tooth decay. I suppose in the same way Bee is “bubblegum” because of the bright colors and clear cartooning, but noir because of the suspense, and flashes of darker content.
Something tells me that sunny Gainesville, Florida, is about to see an influx of aspiring comics creators: Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), Leela Corman (Subway Series), and John Porcellino (King-Cat) have announced the opening of The Sequential Artists Workshop [UPDATED: link added], a new non-profit educational institution “dedicated to the prosperity and promotion of comic art and artists.” The school will offer a two-year program with its inaugural class to begin in 2012, while a “Spring Break Intensive” will be offered from March 6-12, 2011. The SAW will also feature a residency program for practicing cartoonists, online classes, gallery and performance spaces, a house anthology called The Seen in which cartoonists will do “cover versions” of pages from other artists’ creator-owned works, and the proverbial “much more.”
If you’re thinking the SAW sounds a bit like James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, you’re not alone. According to the new school’s FAQ:
Isn’t this just like CCS?
Yes, a little, and maybe no. James Sturm, who founded Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) has done a great thing in White River Junction, VT and we are in constant awe of his gumption and smarts. James has been friendly with us and he has helped us enormously by offering advice in the forming of this school. We too offer a two-year program in comic art, and will require students to publish their own work at the end of the program. Our school is new and we don’t know how it will evolve. Right now, our goals may be similar, but the places and personalities are different enough that soon the differences between the schools will become evident.
The more the merrier if you ask me.
In addition to the announced faculty of Corman, Porcellino, and founder/executive director Hart — himself a longtime School of the Visual Arts instructor — SAW’s boards of directors and advisors feature an all-star line-up that includes Lauren Weinstein, Brendan Burford, Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Bill Kartalopoulos, Donald Ault, Matt Madden, Joey Manley, Chris Staros, Phil Yeh, and William Ayers. School’s in!