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‘Hark! A Vagrant': Those broadsides were asking for it

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Kate Beaton remains one of the most recognizable names in webcomics. Hark! A Vagrant began as humorous doodles posted to LiveJournal but has since become one of the most-loved webcomics in the world. It’s been nominated for several awards, winning the Harvey twice for Best Online Comic. In 2011, Time named Beaton’s collection (published by Drawn & Quarterly) one of the Top 10 fiction books of the year.

It’s not difficult to see why Beaton’s comics are popular: Her style is unmistakable; it’s loose and deceptively simple, as if she just had a funny notion only seconds ago, and yet manages to be successfully comedic with its goofiness, bug-eyed faces and rubbery body language. Her love of history helps, too (she has a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology from Mount Allison University). There’s a lot of life that goes into both the caricatures of royal dead dudes and the attention to detail on the period costumes. And then Beaton has them act and talk like a bunch of teens. It’s a magical formula that combines goofiness with an air of respectability… like, say, a classy Victorian lady smoking a cigarette and talking like an urban tough guy. It’s the sort of thing that gets her invited to participate in a diverse array of projects, from Marvel’s non-canon superhero anthology Strange Tales to the notoriously sophisticated (and sometimes inscrutable) pages of The New Yorker.

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Read more fairy-tale horror from Emily Carroll

carroll-fox-cropped

Cartoonist Emily Carroll, who has entertained (and unnerved) with such haunting webcomics as “His Face All Red,” “Margot’s Room” and “Out of Skin,” is back with another chilling tale called “The Hole the Fox Did Make.” I won’t say anything to spoil the story, except to say that it includes those dark fairy-tale elements you probably already love about her work.

It’s been a particularly good year professionally for Carroll, who won both the Cartoonist Studio Prize and a Doug Wright Award. The first print collection of her work, Through the Woods, will be released next month by McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.

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Penny Arcade’s reality game show Strip Search prepares for launch

We warned you about this a few weeks ago: Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the duo behind the ultra-popular webcomic series Penny Arcade, are looking to cultivate the next generation of comic artists with a web TV series titled Strip Search.

It’s a reality competition series in which 12 aspiring webcartoonists are locked in a house and pitted against each other in a Thunderdome-like scenario (minus a mohawked Tina Turner) in which their talent, skills and dedication are tested with the ultimate prize of $15,000 in cash and a year working in Penny Arcade‘s offices and taking advantage of the company’s resources. Even the break room.

The show is set to premiere later this month, with the cast members cartoonists already announced. As we await the first episode, scan through the artists’ bios and choose your early favorites.

Cameron Stewart previews his new digital-first fantasy NIRO

Eisner Award-winning artist Cameron Stewart (Batman & Robin, Sin Titulo) has announced his digital-first fantasy NIRO with a 19-page preview that delivers a gun-wielding black-clad cleric, menacing masked attackers and a spunky girl in danger, all against a beautifully rendered landscape.

Stewart plans to debut the first digital chapter in early 2013, with readers paying what they want (a 99-cent minimum) to download each installment in DRM-free formats. After several chapters are serialized, he’ll collect them in a print edition.

Here’s his description for NIRO: “Inspired by the works of Moebius, Hayao Miyazaki, Sergio Leone and Alejandro Jodorowski, NIRO is the story of a gunslinger cleric and a young girl who becomes his unlikely companion as they search for The Nomad — a roaming fortress that may hold both the girl’s captive family, and answers to NIRO’s mysterious past.”

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Comics A.M. | Media scrutinize Marvel CEO’s role at Disney

Isaac Perlmutter, in his only known public photo

Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]

Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]

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Comics A.M. | That’s Doctor Mark Millar, thank you

Mark Millar

Creators | Mark Millar received an honorary doctorate of letters from Glasgow Caledonian University. [Daily Record, Scotsman]

Webcomics | Philip Hofer, the creator of the ComicPress WordPress theme used by many webcomics artists, discusses that and his new WordPress product, Comic Easel. [The Webcomic Beacon]

Creators | Peter Bagge talks about his comics and his relationship with Robert Crumb as both a contributor to and editor of Crumb’s anthology Weirdo: “With the style of work that I do, I like it to look on the surface like it’s shallow and stupid, but when you read it, the context is really sweet; [Crumb] saw that right away. I remember telling him ‘I have some story ideas, using fictional characters that are stand-ins for me, and I’m remembering things that are embarrassing and hard to write about. Even though I’m hiding behind a fictional character, I’m nervous talking about embarrassing events from my past. I’m a little bit afraid. He said ‘Those are exactly the stories you need to tell, especially if it won’t go away, and are always in the back of your head.’” [Graphic NYC]

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