DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
Comics | In an excerpt adapted from his new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, Glen Weldon delves into the long history of the gay subtext in the relationship between Batman and Robin, noting that it’s been there from the Boy Wonder’s 1940 debut: “Remember: Queer readers didn’t see any vestige of themselves represented in the mass media of this era, let alone its comic books. And when queer audiences don’t see ourselves in a given work, we look deeper, parsing every exchange for the faintest hint of something we recognize. This is why, as a visual medium filled with silent cues like body language and background detail, superhero comics have proven a particularly fertile vector for gay readings over the years. Images can assert layers of unspoken meanings that mere words can never conjure.” [Slate.com]
Legal | The trial began Monday in San Diego for Matthew Pocci, the driver who plowed through a crowd of pedestrians, injuring one, last year at the annual ZombieWalk, held during Comic-Con International. He;s charged with felony reckless driving. Pocci, who’s deaf, said he was frightened by the crowd, but prosecutors say he was angry and impatient. New video shows the car moving through the crowd and running over one woman. [NBC San Diego]
Political cartoons | J.J. Sedelmaier shows off some political cartoons by Winsor McCay on the topic of Prohibition, taken from a compilation, Temperance—or Prohibition?, that Sedelmaier picked up in a used bookstore. [Paste]
This week not only marked the 109th birthday of Little Nemo in Slumberland, it saw the debut of Winsor McCay’s revolutionary strip on Universal Uclick’s GoComics.
“Little Nemo in Slumberland was the greatest comic strip of its day, perhaps the greatest of all time,” the announcement states, “acclaimed the world over for its artistic majesty, unbounded imagination and groundbreaking techniques that helped define a new art form.”
Digital comics | ICv2 estimates the size of the digital comics market at $90 million in 2013, not counting subscription services such as Marvel Unlimited or Crunchyroll — so presumably the tally is limited to single-issue sales. It’s also not clear whether the number includes comics sold on eBook platforms such as Kindle or just those sold through specialty channels such as comiXology or as direct downloads. The $90 million number represents a 29 percent increase over 2012 numbers. [ICv2]
Creators | As the first issue of his new series The Life After is released, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov talks about why he prefers creator-owned work: “I want to treat every book I do as though it’s 100% owned by me, because, at the end of the day, nobody is blaming an editor if that book sucks. They’re blaming me. Even if the art is sub-par, I take the blame for that. So, for my money, being thorny and vocal to get work I’m proud of is worth it, no matter what doors it shuts, because, as the saying goes, nothing shuts doors and costs you audience faster than producing junk.” And, he says, he is making as much money doing creator-owned comics as the corporate ones. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Nearly a year ago, ROBOT 6 reported on a graphic novel anthology being created in tribute to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo. Now that dream is closer, but the publisher needs some help to make it a reality.
Locust Moon Press’ Little Nemo: Dream A Little Dream boasts an undeniably impressive contributor list, with marquee names like Peter Bagge, Paul Pope, J.H. Williams III, John Cassaday and Craig Thompson. More than 100 artists are involved with the 144-page book, with contributor J.G. Jones describing it as “perhaps the most stunningly ambitious comic project I’ve ever seen.”
As we reported in July, West Philadelphia retailer turned indie publisher Locust Moon is putting together an impressive-sounding (and -looking) anthology called Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream that pays tribute to Winsor McCay’s pioneering comic strip. The talent roster includes such names as John Cassaday, Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Pope, Becky Cloonan, Mark Buckingham and David Petersen — and it’s the Mouse Guard creator who brings us to this post.
Locust Moon has debuted Petersen’s contribution to the book, a strip that — fittingly enough — features helpful mice (“royal field mice,” we’re told), an aggravated goose and a gramophone-carrying locust. As you can see, it’s beautiful.
Age of Bronze creator Eric Shanower and Locke & Key artist Gabriel Rodriguez will produce a series for IDW Publishing based on Winsor McCay’s pioneering early 20th-century comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland.
Debuting in 1905, and unquestionably decades ahead of its time, the surreal Sunday strip initially followed the nightly dreams of a little boy named Nemo as he attempted to reach the realm of King Morpheus, who wanted him as a playmate for his daughter. Each installment ended with Nemo abruptly waking just as he was about to experience a mishap in dreamland. The strip, later retitled In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when it changed newspapers, ran until 1914 before being revived from 1924 to 1947. (ROBOT 6 contributor Chris Mautner provided an overview of McCay’s work in a March installment of “Comics College.”)
Titled Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, the IDW series will launch next spring, with Nemo setting out on a new voyage. “However,” the publisher’s press release states, “everything else is different, even Nemo himself—in search of a new playmate for the princess of Slumberland, King Morpheus enlists the Candy Kid to help bring the latest playmate, our titular Nemo, into the dream realm. There, Nemo embarks on a visceral journey full of adventure and danger.”
“There are people like Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki and Winsor McCay that can grasp what dreams are made of, transform them, and share that with all of us,” Rodríguez said in a statement. “I think we’re lucky that McCay not only left us his wonderful stories, but also created a whole universe filled with windows opened for every one of us, inviting us to explore it, too. And Eric and I are taking the challenge, not trying to redo what he previously did, but trying to invite kids and adults from today to enjoy and have fun in of the Land of Wonderful Dreams.”
Festivals | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has opened in Angoulême, France, and that’s where all the cool kids are. Bart Beaty surveys the scene for the rest of us; the president of this year’s show is Jean-C Denis (last year it was Art Spiegelman), and there will be an exhibit of his work, but Beaty says the big draw will be the exhibit of work by Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix. [The Comics Reporter]
Editorial cartoons | Rupert Murdoch has apologized, on Twitter, for an editorial cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times that depicted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu bricking Palestinians into a wall with blood-red mortar. Many commentators were concerned that the cartoon, which Scarfe intended as a commentary on the recent elections in Israel, came too close to old anti-Semitic blood libel. Making things worse, the cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day. [The Guardian]
According to SF Weekly, the pieces dating back to the turn of the 20th century include just one of Robinson’s own comics, a 1954 installment of Jet Scott, a sci-fi strip about an adventurer with the Office of Scientifact who’s called in to tackle strange threats. Among the highlights of the donation are Wash Tubbs by Roy Crane, Li’l Abner by Al Capp, Baron Bean by George Herriman, Pogo by Walt Kelly and two pieces by Winsor McCay, including a hand-painted installment of Dream of the Rarebit Fiend.
Curator Andrew Farago, who became friends with Robinson and his family, said those are the first McCay originals to be included in the museum’s permanent collection.
Robinson, who co-created Robin and the Joker, and later became widely respected for his work has a comics historian and creators’ rights advocate, was presented with the Cartoon Art Museum’s lifetime achievement award in 2011.
Manga | Eight manga creators, including Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Maison Ikkoku), will create new comics featuring the characters they are known for and donate the royalties to the effort to rebuild the Tohoku region of Japan, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The fund-raiser is being spearheaded by Gallery Fake creator Fujihiko Hosono. [The Japan Times]
Awards | While we were all busy at New York Comic Con, the Frankfurt Book Fair was going on in Germany, and Torsten Adair rounds up the comics awards that were given at the fair to German and international creators. [The Beat]
Conventions | Christopher Spata talks to some of the attendees at this past weekend’s Tampa Bay Comic Con, including the parents of a 1-year-old who was in costume—and already has a room full of superhero items. [Tampa Bay Online]
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
As visitors to the Google homepage have already noticed, the company is celebrating the 107th anniversary of Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland with an amazing interactive Doodle.
Debuting Oct. 15, 1905, the surreal Sunday comic — much like McCay — was years ahead of its time, initially following the nightly dreams of a little boy named Nemo as attempted to reach the realm of King Morpheus, who wanted him as a playmate for his daughter. Each installment ended with Nemo abruptly waking just as he was about to experience a mishap in dreamland. The strip, later retitled In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when it changed newspapers, ran until 1914 before being revived from 1924 to 1947.
Michael Cavna of The Washington Post has more on McCay, Little Nemo and the Google Doodle.
Movies | National Public Radio commentator John Ridley critiques Hollywood for being even less diverse than the Big Two when it comes to diversity in lead characters, and demolishes their blame-the-audience theory that white people won’t go to see a movie with a black lead by pointing to a study by Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver: “Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers.” [NPR]
Creators | Becky Cloonan talks about the joys and the hardships of being a full-time comics creator: “Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into its eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” [Becky Cloonan: Comics or STFU]
Part of Robert Crumb’s website includes a series of observations called “Crumb on Others,” in which the cartooning legend talks about a diverse spectrum of people from Mozart to Martin Luther King Jr.
Take this musing on Little Nemo‘s Winsor McCay as an example and then click the link above for the others:
The guy’s not even human. I don’t know how he did it. It’s unbelievable what he did, week after week on those Little Nemo strips. It’s incredible. His son said he was a workaholic, that he didn’t pay any attention to his kids or anything, he just worked all the time. And that’s the only way he could have done those strips, just worked constantly. God, just the conception of those strips, and every week? He did those for years. Omigod, I don’t know how he did it. It’s beyond anything I could even imagine doing. I guess he was a man of his time, you know, people conceived things differently then. It’s like a tiffany lamp. I look at that thing and I can’t even imagine how they did it. Or some ancient Egyptian gold leaf figure on a throne, you know, some pharaoh — have no idea how they did it. That’s how Winsor McCay is to me. And then guess what? He made his own animated cartoon and drew every single cell himself! How about that?
Thanks to Chris Mautner for pointing this out.
Little Nemo in Slumberland, February 2nd 1908. By Winsor McCay.
Comics and animation have an interesting relationship. Both can be broadly designated “pictures that move”, both have the same typical end goal of visual storytelling, and both rely on frame after frame of closely considered progression to push themselves forward. Someone smart (I can’t remember who right now, apologies) once said that animation is comics at 24 frames a second, which is basically true, especially when the physical medium — film strips — that animation resides on is considered. A stretch of animation celluloid is a comic, maybe a weird, incredibly slow-moving one, but a comic nonetheless. A litany of great comics artists, from Alex Toth and Jack Kirby to Matt Groening and Ben Jones, have done serious time in animation. The skill set isn’t the exact same thing by any means, but there’s plenty that translates.
Probably the artist whose works blur the boundary between comics and animation most severely is Winsor McCay. An early virtuoso in both media, McCay came closest to a fusion of the two with the page above, which finds its animated parallel in this video. The strange, funhouse-mirror distortions of anatomy are the same on the screen and on the page; by 1908 McCay possessed such an intimate knowledge of the character-forms he’d been drawing for years on end that he could stretch them out and squash them down perfectly, elongating and impacting their lines and contours without ever betraying the fundamental shapes behind them. It’s interesting to note the difference between the printed and projected versions of this scene. On screen, the focus is on the continuous transmutation from form to form to form, the flowing and ebbing of lines that never disappear, the characters’ interaction with the fixed borders of the frame. On the page, it’s all about the remarkable difference between fixed forms, the way the lines change disappear and reappear in immensely different form between panels without changing what they depict in the slightest.