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What Are You Reading? with Beth Scorzato

Hell Yeah

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Beth Scorzato, managing editor of the excellent comics news and commentary site Spandexless.

To see what Beth and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Robot reviews | Three neat kids books: Leo Geo, Pandemonium and The Shark King

Leo Geo

Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth
By Jon Chad
Roaring Brook Press $15.99.

This is a clever, literally slim book, designed as skinny as possible in order to highlight its central conceit. You see, the running gag here is that you have to turn the book sideways to follow Leo on his downward trek to the Earth’s core, and then turn it another 180 degrees as he heads back up.

The book combines science with fantasy, with Leo discovering lost worlds filled with crazy monsters while spouting out science facts like “Some countries like New Zealand and Iceland harness the awesome power of lava for their own uses in heating and generating electricity. Though the juxtaposition of fantasy and hard facts seems a bit jarring, it actually adds to the book’s charm. There’s something about a guy standing on a giant underground ogre while discussing thermal generators that’s too silly to dislike.

Though Leo himself is one step up from a stick figure, Chad fills the pages with as much detail as possible and his ornate underworld scenes take on a “Where’s Waldo”-like mania at times, especially as he eschews panel borders to instead depict various versions of Leo crawling across a wide (but narrow) vista. Basically, it’s a fun introduction to geology that the elementary-school set will really dig (sorry, couldn’t help the pun).

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Robot Reviews | Two kids’ comics that make you think

I spent the weekend reading big piles of children’s graphic novels, prepping for my Eisner judging duties. There were two that stood out to me for the same reason: They demanded more of the reader than just following along. While they are clearly intended for young readers, both are interesting enough to hold an adult’s attention and would definitely make good gifts for a child who will immediately demand that you read them aloud.

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R Kikuo Johnson captures The Shark King

Russ Manning- and Harvey-winner R Kikuo Johnson’s (Night Fisher) new, all-ages graphic novel is coming next month from TOON Books. It was announced last fall, but now we finally have some details.

One thing that seems to have changed from the previous announcement: at the time it was thought that Johnson would only be writing The Shark King while Trade Loeffler provided the art. Now, Johnson is listed as the sole creator. Like his previous comic, The Shark King is set in Hawaii, but this time presents Johnson’s take on the shape-shifting shark-god Kamohoalii by putting it in the context of a story about a young boy “who has to balance his yearning for Dad’s guidance with his desire for Mom’s nurture.” TOON has sample pages and they look wonderful.

{via Blown Covers)

Comics A.M. | Alibi witnesses testify in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial  Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]

Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki's Twitter, The Beat]

Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]

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R. Kikuo Johnson (finally) announces follow-up to 2005′s Night Fisher

After bursting onto the scene full-formed with 2005′s Night Fisher graphic novel and scooping up the Russ Manning Most Popular Newcomer Award just a year later, it’s taken a while for R. Kikuo Johnson to work up his feature-length follow-up.

But now we know.

Jumping from Fantagraphics to New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s Toon books, Johnson is passing off the art chores in favor of writing for artist Trade Loeffler, who drew the Zig & Wiki series for the publisher as well. Details are non-existent on the book itself, but now we know what to look for.

Although it’s been six years since Johnson’s last major book, he’s kept busy doing magazine illustrations and short comics for a variety of outlets including Marvel’s Strange Tales anthology, The New York Times and The Believer.

Carry a Toon (book) in your pocket

Little Mouse Gets Ready, and he teaches French as well!

Toon Books, the early-reader comics imprint helmed by Francoise Mouly, is relaunching three of its iPhone apps: Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons, by Agnes Rosensteihl; Jack and the Box, by Art Spiegelman, and Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith. Yes, you can get comics by the creators of Maus and Bone for free! All are worth a look on their own merits, and they also make an excellent distraction should you find yourself in the company of bored, fidgety children.

Of course, the free app is just the start—as soon as you open it up, you get the option to purchase an audio version in English or a variety of other languages.

I looked over the Little Mouse app, and it looked good, although the automated page turns are a little disconcerting. (You can turn that off from the start menu but not once you are reading the book.) All three books were originally published in a landscape format so they fit nicely on the screen, and the resolution is good even when blown up to double size for the iPad. And compared to $12.95 for the hardcovers, the free app is a steal.

“This doesn’t exist, but I can make it happen”: Françoise Mouly explains it all

To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word in Françoise Mouly’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben is fascinating, including “and” and “the.” It’s a marvelously insightful look at nearly every aspect of the legendary RAW, New Yorker, and Toon Books editor’s multifaceted career: The status of Toon Books, the challenges of producing educational books for children that are also fun to look at and read, her personal history with comics, the importance and legacy of her and husband Art Spiegelman’s seminal alternative-comics magazine RAW‘s production values, the shift among underground/alternative cartoonists’ careers from character-focused (a la Zippy, Jimbo, and Adele Blanc-sec) to creator-focused, her duties and work style as The New Yorker‘s art editor, working with visual artists from across the comics and illustration spectrum, her dream of an increased presence of actual comics in the magazine, R. Crumb’s apparent New Yorker beef, Toon Books’ upcoming slate…pure gold from one of comics’ most influential figures.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Renée French

H Day

There’s a horrific beauty to the art of Renée French. With her most recent work, H Day (published by Picturebox and set to ship on October 15), the beauty is built on pain, given that the book’s creation was partially fueled by French’s struggles with migraines. The last graphic novel that both challenged and engaged me in such a manner as H Day did is likely Joshua Cotter‘s Driven by Lemons. I’ve been interviewing French for a number of years, and I never tire of discussing her craft with her. Back when I last interviewed her, we briefly discussed a (then upcoming) project, Towcester Lodge, and I was glad to find out the fate of that project (as well as how H Day grew out of that creative effort). French is one of the special guests at this weekend’s APE 2010. My thanks to French for her time, and to Robot6 6′s own Sean T. Collins as well as Picturebox’s Dan Nadel for helping make the interview happen.

Tim O’Shea: How early in the development of H Day did you realize the bed scenes would play such a pivotal part?

Renée French: I’d been doing line drawings and diagrams of the inside of heads, sort of diagrams of the pain that comes with a migraine, and once I decided to try to draw the stuff I visualize when I’ve got a headache, (the city drawings) the diagrams progressed into the sequence that is in the book (the bed drawings). How confusing is that?

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Comics college: Art Spiegelman

Maus Vol. 1

Maus Vol. 1

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Today we’ll be traipsing through the body of work of one of the most significant (if not exactly prolific) American cartoonists of this modern age, Art Spiegelman.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

IDW's Transformers app

IDW's Transformers app

Publishing | BusinessWeek looks at how companies like Marvel, Panelfly, ComiXology and Graphic.ly are promoting comics apps for Apple’s just-released iPad, and notes that a cautious DC Comics is still “assessing that tablet and other devices.” It’s a general overview, touching upon the “Is it a game-changer?” theme, but it offers one tidbit I don’t recall seeing previously: Apple takes 30 percent of sales, leaving publishers with — in the words of Panelfly’s Wade Slitkin — “the lion’s share” of revenues from comics purchased through iPhone apps.

The magazine also reports that Apple may have sold as many as 700,000 iPads in the debut weekend, more than double early estimates. In other iPad news: The Marvel Comics App, officially announced on Friday, is ranked at No. 14 on the list of free apps offered through Apple’s iTunes store. And on Saturday, IDW Publishing announced its entry into the iPad arena with four free apps. [BusinessWeek]

Legal | Bestselling Japanese author Manabu Miyazaki, son of a yakuza boss, last week sued police in Fukuoka prefecture for asking stores to remove underworld comics and magazines from their shelves. The police request was meant to enforce an ordinance designed to curtail the influence of the crime syndicates. [New Straits Times]

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This contest is totes awesome

R. Sikoryak's Strand bag

R. Sikoryak's Strand bag

Get it? I said “totes” and it’s a tote bag contest! Oh, I slay myself.

Ahem. Anyway, The Strand Bookstore has teamed up with Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Toon Books and the School of Visual Arts to offer the Strand Tote Bag Design Contest. All this month, until March 31, aspiring artists are encouraged to send in their design for famed New York book shop’s next “artist tote bag.  Judges for the contest include  previous bag designers Art Spiegelman, Adrian Tomine, R. Sikoryak, Françoise Mouly and Steven Heller.

The prizes are pretty impressive. The grand prize winner not only gets to see their art printed on the store’s bag, but also gets: an afternoon with Mouly; D&Q’s complete set of books from 2009; $450 worth of recent Fantagraphics books; a complete set of Toon Books; and more.

Second prize nets you a class at SVA, a collection of signed D&Q books; more comics from TB and Fanta, and a $100 coffee gift card. Third prize is the same, but less so.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to enter by just drawing a couple of stick figures.

Rules and details for the contest can be found at that fifth link. A look at past Strand tote bags can be found here.

Robot reviews: Two from Toon Books

bptoy_sample_01

Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker
by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95

This is my favorite of the Benny and Penny books so far. It isn’t that I’ve disliked the previous two books in the brother/sister series as much as this new entry, about an unruly cousin that comes over to play, seems a bit more lively and playful, both in the layouts and in the art itself, which has a frenetic and loose — but never sloppy — quality. It’s a pretty energetic and fast-paced book, even by young reader standards. You sense Hayes had a lot of fun putting this together and his good humor is infectious. Obviously it’s not going to challenge anyone over the age of seven, but I’d easily recommend it for it’s intended audience.

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Benny and Penny, Little Mouse and Stitches win Youth Media Awards

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

Three graphic novels were honored at the Youth Media Awards, presented this morning during the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Boston.

Geoffrey Hayes’ Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, published by TOON Books, received the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award, which recognizes authors and illustrators of books for beginning readers. Jeff Smith’s Little Mouse Gets Ready, also from TOON, was one of four Geisel Honor Books.

David Small’s Stitches: A Memoir, released by W.W. Norton & Company, earned an Alex Award, given each year to 10 adult books that appeal to young-adult readers (ages 12 to 18).

Spend some time with Toon Books

Panel from 'Zig and Wikki'

Panel from 'Zig and Wikki'

Speaking of kids comics, Toon Books has a few news items worth noting. First of all, the company has upgraded their Web site, adding a number of interactive features, including Toon Readers, which features creators like Jeff Smith reading their books aloud as you virtually flip through the pages; and Cartoon Maker, which lets you build your own comic using the Benny and Penny characters.  (via)

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