“… 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]
Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]
Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
Conventions | Thousands of fans were locked out of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo after the local fire marshal declared that the building had reached capacity. The big draw was not actually comics but a reunion of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. [Calgary Herald]
Awards | The Thrill Electric, an online comic created by Leah Moore and John Reppion, Emma Vieceli, Windflower Studio and LittleLoud for the U.K.’s Channel 4, has been nominated for best website in the 2012 Broadcast Digital Awards. [Broadcast]
Creators | Jay Faerber talks about his early ambitions, his current comic Near Death, and what is so special about being published by Image: “The thing about Image is you have absolute creative freedom. Once Near Death was approved, I just wrote it. There were no notes from Eric or anyone else at Image telling me what they think I should do, which is awesome. But it can also be a burden, because if a book sucks, I can’t say, ‘Well, if I had been able to do it my way…’ – because I did do it my way. So working at Image has made me become my own editor. The buck stops here, you know?” [Broken Frontier]
… given the shower of riches the industry has seen, the fact that the families of the primary creators have been reduced to seeking legal redress or making threats of same for four decades now is a total embarrassment for comics, and any company seeking a press high-five on their latest win in an ugly, pathetic spectacle like this one should be stared at as if they’re crazy rather than given one back.
It’s impressive that neither writer is calling for a massive boycott of anyone’s comics. That’s got to be tempting, but those kinds of calls can end up taking the conversation off the problem by putting it on the consumer. People on the fence about the issue can feel judged and resentful and even those who agree with the reasons for the hypothetical boycott often despair that it won’t do any good anyway, so what’s the point?
What Brothers and Spurgeon are doing is simply refusing to shut up about it. That gives the rest of us room to think and consider our own courses of action without shoving us into a corner and declaring that there’s only one appropriate way out of it. But it also doesn’t let us off the hook to pretend there’s not a huge problem.
Comics | Bryan Young talks to Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about the attempted boycott of Life With Archie #16, which featured the marriage of Kevin Keller, as well as the changes that have taken place within the company to make that marriage possible. “When I got to Archie my first mandate was to talk to the staff and creators and say ‘Change things up. Try new things. Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.’ If there was an idea I felt was out of line or too crazy, I’d nix it. But for the most part, people like Dan Parent came to me with excellent ideas and suggestions. Kevin Keller is a perfect example of that. I don’t think you would have seen the previous regime publish Kevin.” [The Huffington Post]
Awards | Cartoonist Alison Bechdel has won the 24th annual Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. [GalleyCat]
Conventions | Wim Lockefeer lines up the exhibits he’s looking forward to at the 39th Angoulême International Comics Festival, which begins today in Angoulême, France. [The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log]
Legal | Cartoonist Albert Lekgaba was sketching the proceedings of the Botswana Court of Appeal when security officers asked to step out of the courtroom, confiscated his work, and told him he could not draw in court, “especially if the judges were present.” When the judges learned of this, however, they informed the court registrar that sketching is indeed allowed, and they ordered that Lekgaba be readmitted to the courtroom and his sketches returned to him. [The Botswana Gazette]
Passings | California newspaper cartoonist John Lara has died at age 56. [Coastline Pilot]
Creators | Heidi MacDonald sums up a number of recent posts on piracy and the creative life in one mega-post, and a lively discussion follows in the comments section. [The Beat]
I don’t mind the jokes at my expense. I’m used to it. Seth and Joe [Matt] have teased me about paying for sex for years. I’m used to it.
—Chester Brown tells Tom Spurgeon that people can crack all the jokes they want about him and his patron-of-prostitution memoir Paying For It. I guess it stands to reason: “Gets emotional about things” isn’t high on a list of ways to describe Chester Brown, if that book is any indication. What’s more interesting to me is that Brown’s fellow Drawn and Quarterly-published Canadian cartoonists Joe Matt and Seth are the tough customers who hazed Brown into developing this hardened exterior. It’s a dog-eat-dog world up there.
In all seriousness, please read Spurgeon’s excellent interview with Brown, which largely eschews discussion of the book’s central topic/argument and focuses on the impeccable craft with which that topic/argument was deployed. And check out Spurgeon’s entire run of Holiday Interviews, featuring creators ranging from Colleen Coover to Stephen Bissette to Art Spiegelman to Jeff Parker to Jeff Smith, plus critics, journalists, activists and more. His comics-related New Year’s resolutions are worth considering as well.
Publishing | Four months in, the DC Comics relaunch seems to be a success. The most recent sales figures show Justice League #1 selling more than 360,000 copies since August, and Batman #1 and Action Comics #1 selling more than 250,000. By contrast, Marvel’s strongest seller was Ultimate Spider-Man #160, which was in the 160,000-copy neighborhood. These figures seem to reflect sales in the direct market only; it would be interesting to see how many digital copies have been sold. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Awards | Nominations are open for this year’s Eagle Awards. [Eagle Awards]
Retailing | San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs shares the top-selling graphic novels in his store for 2011, by units and by dollars. [Savage Critics]
Retailing | Christopher Butcher looks back on the events of the past year in the comics store he manages, Toronto’s The Beguiling. [The Beguiling blog]
Hello and welcome to a special birthday bash edition of our weekly “What Are You Reading” feature. Typically the Robot 6 crew talks about what books we’ve read recently, but since it’s our anniversary, we thought we’d invite all our friends and colleagues from Comic Book Resources and Comics Should Be Good! to join in the fun.
To see what everyone has been reading, click below …
Crime | A drunken Coventry, England, man was arrested for selling drugs outside a nightclub while dressed as the Incredible Hulk. According to the article, “Police were alerted by his costume which was based on the TV and film character who becomes green and superhuman when angry.” [Coventry Telegraph]
Creators | Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North discusses his work on BOOM!’s upcoming Adventure Time comic. [ComicsAlliance]
Creators | Colleen Doran posts some character designs she worked up years ago for a never-completed animation project written by Warren Ellis; she admits to using Star Trek actor George Takei as the model for the main character. [A Distant Soil]
Trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, lighting the menorah, setting up the Nativity scene, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged back to back: The holidays are all about tradition. And two of the best comics websites around have holiday traditions of their own.
First up is Inkstuds, the comics interview podcast and radio broadcast hosted by Robin McConnell, and its annual Best of 2011 Critics Roundtable. This year McConnnell is joined by The Comics Journal‘s Tim Hodler, Joe McCulloch (aka Jog the Blog), and Robot 6′s own Matt Seneca for a truly enjoyable and insightful discussion of such titles as Big Questions, Prison Pit, Thickness, Paying For It, and Kramers Ergot 8, among many others. Radio turns out to be a terrific format for each participant, so much so that I was compulsively using every spare moment to finish the podcast — I even opened up my laptop in the passenger seat of my car and played it on the way to the drugstore. Give it a listen.
Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter has kicked off his much beloved by me Holiday Interview series. His inaugural interview with Art Spiegelman tackles his new book-cum-documentary MetaMaus, his stint as the Grand Prix winner of France’s massive Angoulême comic con, and his take on the legacy of the underground comix movement, while the series’ second interview examines the future of the small-press publisher Sparkplug after the death of its founder Dylan Williams with the company’s new triumvirate of Emily Nilsson, Virginia Paine, and Tom Neely. Spiegelman and Sparkplug are both vital institutions in their own ways, having put their money where their mouths are with respect to the kinds of comics they’d like to see in the world, and Spurgeon makes for a great interlocutor as they articulate their respective visions. Go and read.