Passings | The New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher has died at the age of 86. Mike Lynch has a nice appreciation, with a sampling of cartoons and links to other obituaries. Fisher was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Lynch says, but even so, he often came to the New Yorker offices on “look day”: “He would be sitting on the couch, in the cartoonists’ waiting room, with his portfolio, ready to chat. I introduced myself and was really glad to meet him. More than once he pulled out his roughs and showed them to me. Ed treated me like an equal.” [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Muhammad Saba’aneh, who was detained by Israeli authorities in early March, has been sentenced to five months in jail and must pay a fine of 10,000 shekels. Saba’aneh was charged with contacting “enemy entities,” according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested and held without specific charges, raising fears that he would be detained indefinitely. [FARS News Agency]
I walked into MoCCA Arts Fest a few minutes after it opened, with my friend Erica Friedman, and we noticed the difference right away: The last two shows have had an improvised, “Let’s have a comics show! We can use my father’s barn!” kind of feeling. They weren’t disorganized, exactly, and the talent has always been top-notch, but the show floor felt crowded, cluttered, and confusing.
This was the first year that the Society of Illustrators was running the event. Organizers had a lot to prove, and they proved it. The show felt professional. The aisles were wider. A very simple addition — a bright red backdrop that ran behind the tables — made a huge difference, giving visitors more focus and eliminating the distraction of looking out across that cavernous space. The red curtains also set off a small gallery at the back of the armory that featured original comics art from the Society’s collection, a gentle reminder that they have been welcoming comics creators for more than 100 years. Visitors could buy a slick, nicely produced catalog for $5, and there was a modest cafe downstairs, a pleasant addition that allowed friends who met at the show to sit down and have a bite and a chat without disrupting the experience too much.
Awards | The National Press Foundation has named political cartoonist Robert Ariail, who draws for Universal UClick and the Spartanburg, South Carolina, Herald-Journal, as the winner of this year’s Berryman Award. [The Washington Post]
Creators | Brothers Wesley and Bradley Sun discuss their upcoming graphic novel, Chinatown; Wesley is a hospital chaplain in Chicago, and Bradley quit his job in Florida to join his brother and work on the book. [Hyde Park Herald]
Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]
“It’s instructive to read something about a family wanting certain rights returned or better rewarded when most people really like what’s been done with those rights as opposed to their either not caring or actively hating the result. One of the reasons a lot of our comics-related issue discussions remain unsophisticated is that we frequently choose to fight our battles along fundamental “I like it”/”I hate it” lines and then kind of furiously stare at the other issues involved until we can find a way to make them comply to our initial impression. It’s no way to move forward.”
Spurgeon’s observation is helpful, because the first step in solving the problem is acknowledging the problem.
Awards | Following the nomination of two graphic novels for the Costa Prize, the new chairman of the Man Booker Prize said he would welcome submissions of graphic novels as well. [The Telegraph]
Passings | Former Wizard staff member Marc Wilkofsky, whose efforts on behalf of Friends of Lulu earned him their Volunteer of the Year award in 2005, has died at the age of 42. He was also an enthusiastic member of the NYC Comic Jams. [Andrew Kardon, The Beat]
Conventions | Richard Bruton files a comprehensive con report on the recent Thought Bubble festival in Leeds, England. [Forbidden Planet]
“I thinks it’s a truly different world now in that getting out and publishing your own work is paramount rather than just another strategy. A lot of these companies have so many options that digging through the horrors of a submissions pile is never going to match getting an impression from what people are seeing out there and then pursuing the best of it”
I’m still catching up from being offline all last week, so I apologize for leaning heavily on Mr. Spurgeon today. He makes a great observation, though, about the choices that comics publishers have and how that should affect creators hoping to be published by those companies. If I were looking for stuff to publish, I’d be scouring festivals and the Internet for awesome self-published stuff too instead of digging through my slush pile. Better to see what creators are already actually doing than what they claim they can do in a pitch.
(Cover detail from Dave Ryan’s War of the Independents)
“… more time has passed between John Constantine being created and now than between the creations of Hal Jordan and John Constantine. That is … I don’t know if that’s depressing or astonishing or what. These characters aren’t young. An era of comics that many of us think of as still ongoing is really receding in the rear view mirror.”
– Tom Spurgeon, making me feel old
Comics | Johan Palme talks to Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group about the continuing controversy over a Swedish library’s decision to re-shelve some Tintin comics because of racist caricatures and colonialist attitudes. The books were put back following an uproar, but the move has sparked a larger conversation, and it even has its own hashtag, #tintingate. [The Guardian]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and the Publishers Weekly team (including Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson) post a comprehensive report on New York Comic Con, including debuts, new-title announcements, and a quick look at logistics. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Conventions | Dave Smith looks at one of the most vexing problems of New York Comic Con: the lack of decent wireless access, a situation troubling exhibitors and media alike. [International Business Times]
… to extol the virtues of these creators would seem to have the potential to drive people to more consumption of Marvel product. No, it’s not 1.5 billion dollars in movie tickets, but I know I’ve bought Disney-related material presented to me via the idea of the Nine Old Men; I don’t know why Marvel Bullpen isn’t a similar organizing principle for that company.
– Tom Spurgeon, explaining why it’s weird that Marvel Studios doesn’t make a bigger deal about the creators of its characters.
It makes sense, right? I don’t know when the last Visionaries collection came out, but at one point Marvel saw potential in marketing comics based on the names of legendary creators. Think how much better those collections could sell if the names were known by the general public. Seems like an opportunity for corporate synergy that they’re just walking away from for no reason that’s been explained very well.
(Bullpen photos via The Kirby Museum)
If I’m doing the math right, Ed Brubaker’s time on Captain America will end with issue #19 of the title. And while he’ll continue to write Winter Soldier “as long as I can,” the writer told Tom Spurgeon in an interview at The Comics Reporter that he plans to focus on creator-owned work versus picking up another work-for-hire project after his Cap run ends.
“I hit a point with the work-for-hire stuff where I was starting to feel burned out on it,” Brubaker told Spurgeon. “Like my tank is nearing empty on superhero comics, basically. It’s been a great job, and I think I found ways to bring my voice to it, but I have a lot of other things I want to do as a writer, too, so I’m going to try that for a while instead.”
Brubaker’s run on the character started in 2005 when he brought the long-dead Bucky Barnes back as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed Soviet operative who clashed with Cap and eventually remembered who he really was. When Steve Rogers was killed in the well-lauded “Death of Captain America” storyline, Barnes took up the shield and became Captain America–at least until Rogers was brought back to life and eventually put the uniform back on. Those fantastical superhero plots seem secondary, though, to the overall tone of Brubaker’s noir-ish run on the title, which included everything a good Captain America run should have–intrigue, spy vs. spy plots and some real-world political references that piss off real-world political folks.
“… it’s hard for me to be all that upset about some character to whose new adventures I enjoy absolutely no relationship, nor is there a web-sized hole in my life were such a relationship could go.”
I’m not quoting him in order to comment on the controversy itself. Like Spurgeon, I don’t have or miss a relationship with the current adventures of Spider-Man that gives me a stake in that discussion. What strikes me about the quote is how it acknowledges a phenomenon that I’ve noticed several times over the course of my long relationship with corporate-owned superhero characters — that is, when I stop investing time in them, I sort of don’t miss them.
Conventions | A group of 21 events companies, including New York Comic Con and BookExpo America organizer Reed Exhibitions, are opposing a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tear down the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In a letter to the governor that was also distributed to 600 other officials, the Friends of Javits said they would not patronize the much larger venue that’s to be built in Ozone Park, Queens, primarily because of its distance from Manhattan. [Crain's New York Business, via ICv2]
Conventions | Comic-Con International is just six weeks away, and you know it’s coming when Tom Spurgeon posts his annual list of tips for enjoying the convention. It’s a wealth of information, compiled over 17 years of con-going, so go, learn. [The Comics Reporter]
“When I first started doing webcomics back in the dark ages of the early ’00s, word of mouth was how people found your stuff, but it was on a much smaller scale, and much slower. You’d have to get your comic passed around via e-mail, or posted in forums or linked to by other big artists. The whole crazy gag/meme/weird fandom social media comics thing didn’t really exist back then, so maybe people were doing more original stuff, but that’s just from what I remember and might not be true. I’ve never been a big fandom person. I feel like online comics nowadays are perhaps more mainstream, whatever that word means. Like everyone’s making comics and everyone’s passing comics around and comics are just this one part of the Internet, like cat pictures or whatever, rather than this specialized section, which was how it felt when I first started making them. Comics back then felt… I guess kind of niche. Now they’re part of the rainbow of fun that is the Internet. It feels like a good thing to me, but I’m sure there’s a downside to it. I guess people could complain that the craft of online comics is slipping, like, ‘Oh, this stupid gag comic about He-Man gets a million tumblr notes, but this impassioned comic about one’s state of being only gets 400.’ But I don’t even really see that, because it seems to me that the good stuff is always rising to the top. Sure, stupid He-Man comics will always get popular play, but whatever, that’s the Internet.”
– Faith Erin Hicks, in a thoroughly entertaining interview with Tom Spurgeon about how she got started in comics, her latest project Friends with Boys and much more. Maybe what we need is an impassioned comic about He-Man’s state of being.
Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. [TCJ.com]
Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]