Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what’s been on our nightstands lately. Our guest this week is Jay Faerber, writer of Dynamo 5, Near Death and Noble Causes. The second Near Death trade just came out this week, and his new comic, Point of Impact, comes out Oct. 10.
To see what Jay and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Tyler Page (Nothing Better, Chicagoland Detective Agency) got his start in comics by self-publishing the first volume of Stylish Vittles, an autobiographical love story set on a college campus. That was 10 years ago and, as you’d expect, Page has grown a lot as an artist during that time. As I posted in February, I love Page’s attitude about his early work: He’s not embarrassed by it, but a decade of distance has also brought him some perspective that he’s willing to share with readers.
Page announced this week that the Stylish Vittles 10th Anniversary Collection is now available as an ebook. Better — as a free ebook.
There are three variations to download, depending on your preference. The 10th Anniversary Collected Edition includes all three volumes of the series, plus a later addition called Stylish Vittles 4 – Behind the Page: The Saga of Rob Harvard. There’s also a Director’s Cut in which Page trimmed his original version “to present a shorter, simpler narrative.” And if you want it all, there’s the Deluxe Collection that includes both other versions, plus two appendices. Page writes, “Appendix One is almost one thousand pages of process material — outlines, scripts, sketches, layouts, etc. Appendix Two contains all of the material I did which led up to the creation of the Stylish Vittles books.” All of it is free.
He’s also been celebrating on his Tumblr by pointing out parts of the book that he still finds fascinating,” whether it’s the best, the WORST, or just plain ridiculous, silly, or stupid.” He’s shared a couple of moments already, and it’s a very cool, and extremely rare, look inside an artist’s head as he revisits old work and talks about his growth.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
It’s a week of familiar faces for me this time around. If I had $15, it’d go on Action Comics #8 (DC, $3.99), which completes Grant Morrison’s first story arc on the title — even though we’ve already had the second one; thanks, fill-ins! — as well as Supreme #63 (Image, $2.99), with Erik Larsen illustrating the final Alan Moore script for Rob Liefeld’s Superman knock-off (I’d love to see a well-done collection of all of these issues one day, now that the Moore run is completed). Also on tap, the final issue of OMAC (#8, DC, $2.99) and the long-awaited return of Busiek, Ross and Herbert’s Kirby: Genesis (#6, Dynamite, $3.99), because a man needs as much well-done Jack Kirby-inspired comics as possible, goshdarnit.
If I had $30, I’d add Hulk #50 (Marvel, $3.99) to once again celebrate what Jeff Parker had managed to do with a book and concept that, by all rights, should’ve disappeared a long time ago. (In all honesty, I much prefer the Red Hulk to the classic version these days, and it’s all Parker’s doing, along with his various artistic compatriots on the title.) Everyone who isn’t reading it: This is a jumping-on point issue! Try it and see if you don’t love it, too. And, despite the unevenness of earlier issues, Matt Fraction’s Casanova: Avarita #3 (Marvel, $4.99) is also a must-read; I really didn’t like the first issue, but loved the second. We’ll see where the book goes next.
Should I be splurging, then this week the splurge is on Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery Deluxe HC (DC/Vertigo, $22.99). One of my favorite comics of all time, I’m likely going to end up getting this over-sized, recolored reprint just because I genuinely can’t resist the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book and its love of superheroes.
With the 10th anniversary of the college romance/drama Stylish Vittles, Volume 1: I Met A Girl approaching, Tyler Page (Nothing Better, Chicagoland Detective Agency) is thinking about ways to celebrate his debut work while also acknowledging his growth as a cartoonist. In a recent blog post, Page shared some potential cover designs (there are more at the link), but talked about handling what he calls “the deep flaws of the work.” He’s currently working on an ebook collecting the original versions of all three Stylish Vittles volumes, but is considering a Director’s Cut to trim out what he considers to be problem areas.
I can’t help but think about George Lucas as I read that, but Page’s approach is different in a couple of important ways. First, he’s approaching the anniversary spruce-up from a position of humility; looking back at an early work with the eyes of a more mature artist is different from saying that the new version is “what I always intended the old one to be.” More importantly though, Page is keeping the original available for long-time fans (like me) and side-by-side comparison. I need to remind myself that the Director’s Cut is just something Page is thinking about and not a done deal, but I hope he goes through with it. Offering both versions sounds like a perfect way to both celebrate and offer a critical retrospective of an early work.
Since 1992, the Xeric Foundation, founded by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, has awarded grants to comic creators that allowed them bring their comics to the world. Late last week Laird announced that the foundation would stop providing grants to amateur creators, noting that “the advent of essentially free web publishing has forever altered the way aspiring comic book creators can get their work out into the public eye.” The foundation will instead devote its grant funds to charitable organizations.
The barriers to entry for getting your comic work out in front of people may have changed, but as Sean Kleefeld points out, the Xeric Foundation provided another benefit to comic fans. “…here’s why I’ll miss the Xerics: they have been an incredibly powerful shorthand for identifying great comics,” he wrote on his blog. “Oh, there’s other comic awards out there, of course, but those always come across as hit or miss for me. Just because a comic won a Harvey or an Eisner or whatever doesn’t mean I’ll really enjoy or appreciate it. But the Xerics, I’ve found, are consistently high quality and enjoyable. I have yet to read a Xeric-winning book that I didn’t enjoy, a claim I can’t make regarding the Eisners.”
So when I threw out the idea to do a Six by 6 list highlighting some of our favorite Xeric Foundation recipients over the years, I didn’t realize what I was asking; it didn’t register just how many completely awesome creators out there have benefited from the grant. So, when I say “Six Xeric Foundation grant recipients we love,” that’s not to say that they are the only ones we love. Hell, just throw all the names in a hat and pick out six, and you’ll have a list just as legitimate as this one.
Also, it was interesting to see how my fellow bloggers interpreted my request for entries for this list; while some, like Chris Mautner, did what I was expecting and talked about what one of their favorites went on to do after receiving the grant, others reached out to some of them to get their thoughts on the discontinuation of the grants. So the content of the list is … varied.
As always feel free to share thoughts on some of your favorites in the comments section. You can find a list of all the recipients here.