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Tony Cliff didn’t have to escape jail, run from enraged armies or travel in flying ships to complete his debut graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he had. The energy he invests in his story of a globetrotting, devil-may-care adventurer and the reluctant but noble soldier who inadvertently ends up tagging along suggests Cliff has a bit of the thrill-seeker in him, or at least in his pen.
Wanting to learn more about this former Flight cartoonist and his new book, I lobbed a bunch of questions to Cliff, who was nice enough to lob the answers back my way.
Robot 6: How did Delilah Dirk come to be? What was the original idea behind the character, and how did it change from the initial webcomic to Turkish Lieutenant?
Tony Cliff: It started off as a 30-page comic that I thought I’d put together just as a fun thing to do. I’d been reading a lot of Napoleonic War-era novels and wanted to make something in the same time period, with the sort of spirit I’d enjoyed in Indiana Jones and James Bond movies. Something fun, with a bunch of action and a variety of colorful settings.
I combined that first comic with a short story from the Flight anthologies, added a hundred pages to combine the two, and that became The Turkish Lieutenant as it appeared online. The print edition is more or less the same as the webcomic, though some of the text’s been finessed and there are roughly a dozen new pages of what has been described as “Delilah and Selim being cute in the woods,” a description whose accuracy I cannot dispute.
Conventions | The fourth Cincinnati Comic Expo kicks off Friday, just a week after the inaugural Cincinnati ComicCon, but administrator Matt Bredestege says he thinks his show has a broader appeal: “We are more of a multigenre show. We have a lot of celebrities and vendors that aren’t comic-related. There’s also more cosplay (costuming) and activities for the kids.” Still, he says, local comics creators are the backbone of the show. The comics guest list includes Dough Mahnke, Art Baltazar, Eddy Barrows, Andy Bennett, Heather Breckel, Rich Buckler, Mike McKone, Yanick Paquette and Thom Zahler. [Journal News]
Creators | Writer Geoff Johns talks about the DC Comics crossover Forever Evil and how it will upend the publisher’s superhero universe while making an unlikely hero of Lex Luthor. [The Detroit News]
Following the release of Tony Cliff’s 19th-century adventure Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, First Second has announced a second book, tentatively titled Delilah Dirk and the Blades of England.
As ROBOT 6 contributor Tom Bondurant recounted in Monday’s “Cheat Sheet,” the thief whose wit is as sharp as her sword debuted in 2007 in the self-published 28-page Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople, which earned an Eisner nomination and a devoted fan base, leading Cliff to continue the character’s adventures online. That material was then collected in graphic novel form by First Second.
Manga | The recent move by a Japanese school board to restrict student access to Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen has resulted in a surge in sales of the book — so much so that the publishers had to increase their reprint numbers by a factor of three, bookstores are reporting shortages, and an e-book distributor expects it to make the Top 10 this month. As we noted Monday, the board has reversed its policy. [The Mainichi]
Digital comics | Marvel has updated its Marvel Unlimited app for iOS and Android, addressing the two chief user complaints by doubling the number of comics that can be downloaded and read offline from six to 12 and improving searchability by allowing users to search by publication date. [PC Magazine]
Since its launch in 2006, First Second has built a solid reputation as a publisher of high-quality graphic novels: Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Emmanuel Guibert’s The Photographer, Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain, and Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware testify to both the breadth and the quality of the company’s line.
I was offered the opportunity to interview editor Calista Brill and designer Colleen AF Venable about the past year at First Second and what we can expect in 2013, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak in some questions about the nuts and bolts of working with creators and editing graphic novels.
Conventions | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mothballed plans for a giant convention center in Queens, leaving the unlovely, unloved, but well-situated Javits Center as the home of New York Comic-Con for the near future. [The New York Times, via The Beat]
Publishing | Alex Klein sees the “outing” of Green Lantern Alan Scott as a desperate move to boost sales by a publisher whose market share is dropping: “Switching up sexual orientation is a cunning way of compensating for flagging sales and aging characters. In the meantime, the industry is rebalancing: toward independent publishers, author ownership, and cross-platform digital tie-ins. As small studios sap talent from the giant conglomerates, comics are changing—and there’s a lot of money to be made in the process—just not in the comics themselves.” And he talks to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and Image publisher Eric Stephenson about what they can do that the Big Two can’t. [The Daily Beast]
Though the full-color print version of Tony Cliff’s popular webcomic, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is still a ways off, Cliff has announced an all-new, black-and-white Delilah Dirk comic for the Toronto Comics and Arts Festival in May. Delilah Dirk and the Seeds of Good Fortune will be 36 pages and will feature a slightly different art style to take advantage of the detail allowed by the black-and-white format. In it, “Delilah seeks to extract a signature from a tyrannical property owner while coping with an obnoxious merchant and a handful of Turkey’s sourest apples.”
For those anxiously waiting for The Turkish Lieutenant, Cliff promises that it’s coming, but is “still a little further off. I know you are probably tired of hearing that. If it takes the sting out, know that I am much more frustrated to know that people are so eager to have this book and yet am unable to provide a satisfactory answer to the question. However, I am hoping to have some good, solid information to give you very shortly.” In the meantime, The Seeds of Good Fortune seems like a gorgeous way to wait. Cliff will make it available online and at other conventions shortly after TCAF.
By interesting coincidence, both Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant and Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys concluded their online runs on Saturday. The latter will be released as a slightly longer print edition this week by First Second Books, while the latter … well, Cliff is teasing that something is coming next.
You can still read both comics online in their entirety — Delilah Dirk clocks in at 158 pages, and Friends With Boys at 206 — or purchase Hicks’ graphic novel, in stores Tuesday.
Publishing | Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson talks about the ups and downs of the past year, including getting Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn on a tighter schedule and the difficulties of selling all-ages comics: “There’s this really blinkered mentality in comics that “all-ages” means only for kids, despite the relatively easy to understand implication that all-ages books can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Diamond even has this graphic they use for all-ages comics in Previews and it’s these two children that look like toddlers or whatever. People seem to miss the point that most the comics we love from the ‘60s or ‘70s or even the ‘80s to a large degree, were all-ages comics. Stan & Jack’s Fantastic Four was an all-ages book. And it was brilliant.” [Multiversity Comics]
Digital | Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the United States, began releasing its graphic novels on Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet and Nook Color devices today. As on the Viz iOS app and website, the manga are priced from $4.99 to $9.99 per volume, and they read from right to left, in authentic Japanese fashion. 107 volumes from 18 series are available at launch, although the selection skews a bit older than what’s available on the iOS app, with no sign of the Shonen Jump blockbusters Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece, at least in the initial announcement. [press release]
Only four pages in, Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant already has me hooked. The art is absolutely gorgeous, taking the ligne claire style a step beyond simplicity — just look at the drawing of boats in the water lapping on the second page to see what I mean. The story is exotic and promises to be filled with adventure; here is Cliff’s capsule description: “In 19th-century Turkey, an officer in the Janissary army must struggle to repay a brash adventuress for saving his life, even though she was the one who endangered it in the first place.”