Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So read on to find out what we thought about Superman, Tropic of the Sea and more.
Publishing | John Jackson Miller dissects the latest sales numbers and finds July 2013 to be the second-best month for comics sales in the direct market so far this century—actually, since 1997. Combined comics and graphic novel sales were up almost 17 percent compared to July 2012, and year-to-date sales are up almost 13 percent compared to last year. [The Comichron]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs, one of the founding members of the direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO, has left the group “because of the reactions of the Board to recent DC moves.” He revealed his decision in the comments on his blog post about DC’s allocation of 3D covers for Villains Month: “The org that I formed was intended to look out for the little guy; the current Board seems much more interested in keeping the big guys big. Democracy in action, I suppose, so I vote with my dollars.” [ICv2]
Awards | Slate Book Review and the Center for Cartoon Studies have awarded the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Graphic Novel of 2012 to Chris Ware for Building Stories, and the prize for Best Web Comic to Noelle Stevenson for Nimona. Each winner receives $1,000. [Salon.com]
Comics | Tom Spurgeon talks at length to Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics and editor-in-chief of The Comics Journal, about the prospects for young creators today versus years ago, changes at The Comics Journal, and Groth’s own interview with Maurice Sendak, which runs in the latest issue of TCJ. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Vertical Inc. announced Sunday at Otakon in Baltimore that it has licensed Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s 23-volume Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin and Mitsuhisa Kuji’s Wolfsmund. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | A year after the launch of Kodansha Comics, general manager Kimi Shimizu and Dallas Middaugh of Random House Publisher Services discuss their re-release of Sailor Moon, Kodansha’s fall line and the state of the manga market in the post-Borders landscape. “Manga numbers have been in decline for the past couple years, but what we’ve discovered in the past year or so is that decline is dramatically slowing,” Middaugh said .”So the simple fact of the matter is that most manga readers —usually when they’re committed, they’re committed—are reading a series. I actually believe that it takes more than the loss of a retail outlet to keep them from pursuing the manga that they want to read.” [ICv2]
Brigid Alverson will have her own MoCCA report up soon, no doubt, but I thought I’d share my own reminiscences of last weekend’s show, via some pics I took while wandering around the aisles.
Dust off your shoes and pull your tote bag out of the closet kids, it’s MoCCA time once again. The annual indie/small press comics show hosted by the Museum will take place at the Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City this weekend. It promises to be a grand affair, with tons of publishers, minicomics, books and panels to choose from. Underneath the link we’ve put together a quick rundown of some of the more notable and interesting (well interesting to us any way) goings-on at the show this weekend.
Like you, I’m all a-twitter about the release of those Carl Barks books from Fantagraphics later this year. (you are a-twitter, aren’t you?) Not to mention Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, Chester Brown’s Paying for It and that Grant Morrison Multiversity mini-series. And, hey, maybe we’ll even see the first volume of Pogo! Yep, by any yardstick, it seems like 2011 promises to be another year of really great releases.
But, even beyond the big-name titles and huge company crossovers, there are a number of comics and graphic novels arriving in stores this year that warrant further attention. They may have not have garnered much of your notice, since they’re not attached to a well-known creator or license or come from overseas. Here then, are six such books, all due this year, all of which I’m willing to bet good money aren’t on your radar, but should be. As usual, be sure to note any books you’re excited about but haven’t generated much buzz yet in the comments section.
1) The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre. This is the first American collection of Schrauwen’s work and I’m really excited to see him reach a potentially wider audience. Actually, I’m just excited to read more of an artist I’ve only been able to catch in dribs and drabs.
Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con drew a lot of attention from mainstream media for the appearance on Saturday of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who charged $80 for photos and $50 for autographs (more than Star Trek: Deep Space Nine star Avery Brooks, the Chicago Sun-Times points out, but less than William Shatner). Blagojevich, who was convicted last week of lying to the FBI, told Fox News he didn’t receive an appearance fee, and that the event wasn’t all that lucrative for him: “I didn’t really get any money from any of the photos I took, because I took probably hundreds of them and couldn’t bother to ask anybody for any money for that. Those were free. I did sign some signatures. I was there because I was invited at the last minute by the promoters, and it was an opportunity to get out there among the people.”
For non-Blagojevich convention news, turn to Maggie Thompson, who posted daily coverage (noting the event was well-attended, with a lot of first-time attendees), and Rich Johnston, who rolled out video after video. Time Out Chicago has a report from the floor, as well as photo galleries from Friday and Saturday. [Wizard World Chicago Comic Con]
The first official day of Comic-Con International in San Diego was dominated by excitement over Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, confirmation (at last) that Joss Whedon is directing The Avengers, and nerd response to the feeble Westboro Baptist Church protest. Yet still there was plenty of comics news.
• At its “Mondo Marvel” panel, the publisher revealed the October debut of a sequel to its acclaimed Strange Tales anthology, this time featuring an impressive roster of indie/alternative creators that includes Harvey Pekar, Alex Robinson, Dash Shaw, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Jeff Lemire, Jeffrey Brown, Jhonen Vasquez, Jillian Tamaki, Kate Beaton, Nick Gurewitch and many more.
Vertical, Inc., is probably the smallest manga publisher in North America right now, but it’s also the most interesting, with a smart, quirky line that encompasses titles as diverse as Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo, the cute cat manga Chi’s Sweet Home, Keiko Takemiya’s science fiction classic To Terra, and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha. They had just one license to announce at Comic-Con International, but it’s an intriguing one: Lychee Light Club (Litchi Hikari Club) by Usamaru Furuya. Viz had announced another Furuya title, Genkaku Picasso, at Anime Expo on July 3. CMX Manga had planned to publish Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her but the imprint was shut down by parent company DC Comics before the book was released. Viz published his two-volume gag manga Short Cuts, and his work ran in the early manga magazine Pulp and the anthology Secret Comics Japan, according to Baka-Updates.
The plot of Lychee Light Club sounds like a mashup of manga elements with a few twists thrown in: The students at an all-boys school create a robot to track down beautiful women, a robot that for some reason runs on lychee fruits. Everything gets complicated when the machine develops self-awareness, however, and stops being quite so compliant.
Like Drawn and Quarterly, Vertical Inc., publishes manga for people who think they don’t like manga. Its best-selling titles include the Osamu Tezuka classics Black Jack and Buddha, and it also publishes a variety of series that go beyond the standard shonen/battle and shoujo/romance genres; upcoming titles include the all-ages cat manga Chi’s Sweet Home and the action-packed Peepo Choo, a series created by American creator Felipe Smith for a Japanese publisher.
Vertical’s marketing director, Ed Chavez, showed up at Anime Boston over the weekend with an aggressive schedule to announce. Although it’s a small company, Vertical plans to release a volume of its manga series every two months. Chavez took the opportunity to promote the company’s previously announced series and also tease the audience about some potential new licenses. Noting that Black Jack will end next summer, Chavez said, “We will be working with Tezuka productions to see if we can add another Tezuka series next year. … I want to get an actual series that is provocative and hopefully not too lengthy. If we can find something around the Buddha range, six, seven, eight volumes, that will please many of you Tezuka fans out there.”
Chavez also flashed a slide for a mysterious “Manga Series R,” by a creator whose work was once published by Viz Media. That’s all he would say, but the book will be a 320-page hardcover volume, which looks like a prestige format.