Sunday, February 29, 2004

Uhhh ... surprise? Newsarama reports that at a signing in London, Mark Millar said The Ultimates Vol. 2, #1 will be at least a month late, and will not ship in April as originally planned.

Chartier's legacy: A day after the burial of Albert Chartier, the Montreal Gazette looks at the cartoonist's life and work.

This just in! Comics aren't just for geeky kids anymore! It says so in the Indianapolis Star. Okay, to be fair, while the Star does talk to a couple of middle-aged comics fans, it also interviews ICv2's Milton Griepp to find out about the growing market for graphic novels, as well as Mile High Comics' Chuck Rozanski, writer John Jackson Miller, and Denis Kitchen.

Novel concept: Florida's Sun-Sentinel reports on the Boynton Beach High School library's 600-book graphic-novel collection, which accounts for 50 percent of the books students check out. Other area schools soon may follow suit with graphic-novel sections of their own:

"We don't frown upon them at all. The content level is pretty high. The words are often hard and the pictures help students decipher what the words mean."

Today, manhwa -- tomorrow, the world: The Korea Times profiles Dugoboza ("Wait and See"), a group dedicated to drawing readers in the "the world of comics." The group's first major effort is the publication of Manhwa Sekye Jungbok ("Comics World Conquest"), an introduction to the Korean comics scene -- the first of its kind:

"... comics have the biggest charm among the genres of mass culture. People love stories, and comics are the most improved form of narratives. And it is also the very genre where the distance between producers, consumers and the industry itself is the smallest.

"That means comics fans, unlike those of movies or music, can join in a more direct way, like forming creative groups to produce their own works. Comics is the field in which the readers can enjoy the most actively.''

Saturday, February 28, 2004

It's Brian Wood Month: Brian Wood provides the cover and three interior illustrations for the Feb. 25 issue of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the alternative weekly. At his Delphi forum, Wood points out that the Guardian provides him with "probably my widest exposure to date." According to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the Guardian has a weekly circulation of almost 150,000.

A long and twisted road: Canada's Exclaim! magazine takes a look at Dave Sim and Cerebus, tracing the book's path from a sword-and-sorcery parody to an often-baffling pulpit:

"It’s clear that Cerebus has been a vehicle for Sim to work out some personal rage issues; many have wondered what will happen when his vehicle for doing so comes to an end this month. Some have speculated that without the grounding demands of the book — and a page-and-a-half per day workload he’s maintained for a quarter-century — that Sim might take his own life. Others maintain that his misogyny and other eccentricities are merely dressing for a story behind the story. Regardless, the mental toll brought on by his intense and prolonged dedication to his goal means that, in the end, the accomplishment has been tainted. But despite the ranting and hatred, Sim has contributed greatly to comics. At the end of a journey no one believed he could ever complete, one has to wonder whose story is really finished: that of Cerebus or of Sim himself."

Political targets: Peter Bagge contributes an article to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about an exhibition of the work of political cartoonist David Horsey.

Things are bad all over: The People's Daily reports that China's first "adult" comic magazine has been met with a lukewarm response. That may be, in part, because of confusion about whether "adult" means mature or porn:

"Adult comics do not always imply more sex and violence. They are about the lives of grown-ups, such as jobs, relations and marriage which are seldom covered by comic books for teenagers."

Friday, February 27, 2004

Ups and downs, part 2: As promised, The Pulse offers up an analysis of DC Comics' monthly sales through January, courtesy of Marc-Oliver Frisch. Note: Toward the bottom, Frisch also looks at a few non-DC titles, such as Wanted, which dropped 43.5 percent between issues 1 and 2, and Powers, which has seen just a 4.7 percent drop-off over the past six months.

For that supervillain on the go: In its minute-by-minute coverage of Toy Fair 2004, trots out the latest Rhino figure from Toy Biz. Where's Rainbow Randolph when you need him?

Ups and downs, part 1: At The Pulse, Paul O'Brien and Marc-Oliver Frisch offer a terrific analysis of Diamond's monthly charts (using's figures), following the sales roller-coaster for Marvel's top titles over several months. We're promised a look at DC numbers sometime today. It's great reading for anyone who follows the Diamond charts with the obsessiveness of a stockbroker.

Online vampires: IDW Publishing and America Online have announced they're teaming up to offer comics content on AOL's new teen-oriented RED service. First up is a weekly strip based on IDW's CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations.

That's 60 days of night: The Anchorage Press looks forward to Return to Barrow, the latest installment of Steve Niles' 30 Days of Night vampire franchise -- even though the comics get some of the facts wrong:

"Niles has the latter fact wrong in his comic book. He says the sun goes down for only 30 days. Alaska readers can catch other inaccuracies, such as when Niles describes Barrow police as sheriffs. Then again, only the Simpsons' The Comic Book Guy would find that much to complain about, considering the real Barrow isn't infested with vampires, either. Niles said he's gotten positive feedback from Alaskans. 'I've tried, at least in the names (of characters), to include Native culture, things like that. I've gotten nothing but support.'"

Going Hollywood, by way of Canada: I can't help but think this has "straight to video" written all over it. Lions Gate Entertainment and Marvel have announced a deal to make movies based on "popular characters" -- definitely their words, not mine -- Iron Fist and Black Widow. The new agreement expands the relationship between Marvel and Artisan, which was purchased by Lions Gate in December.

The Weekly Planet? The University of Alabama's Dateline Alabama is, oddly enough, running a weekly column on all things Superman:

"Once again, I don't review the comics, movies or television shows associated with Superman. I simply gather up interesting, but ultimately useless information on an American icon."

Thursday, February 26, 2004

And that, as they say, is that: I get to go to a good comics shop about as often as a mountain man goes to a trading post. That's to say not very often. Luckily, today is one of those days. (Yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere.) So, this is probably it for blogging until tonight or tomorrow.

But how will it play in Peoria? Oh, the places you see comic book stories nowadays. The Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun talks to writer Andy Diggle about relaunching Swamp Thing for DC/Vertigo:

"Alan Moore has a brain the size of a planet. He's the Shakespeare of comics To follow in his footsteps is daunting. I'm well aware I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. But I'm not going to pretend I'm Alan Moore. A man has got to know his limitations, as Dirty Harry said."

Drawing crowds: Toronto's Eye Weekly checks in on the Toronto Comic Jam, which runs through the end of the month:

"It's the garage rock of drawing. If you know three chords and can yell real loud, you can draw comics."

Winsor ties: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, the industrious Tim O'Shea talks to Checker publisher Mark Thompson about Winsor McCay: Early Works, Vol. III:

"The material is so rare that we were kinda shocked as we discovered more sources. I came across a collection up at the cartoon library at Ohio State while we were researching Milton Caniff. The more I looked into it the more I discovered just how lucky we might get. The source material and the large stockpile of cartoons he did prior to Little Nemo made for a potential of several volumes. Since this material has been collected VERY sparingly we were thrilled to be the publisher that undertook this critical reclaiming of a part of comics history that might have been lost to the ages."

And even more: While we're on the subject of McFarlane (it helps if you read entries from bottom to top), Dave Intermittent points to Todd VerBeek's interesting analysis of the Gaiman-McFarlane case. It's a good interview for anyone who can't figure out what the hell is going on.

Yes, more McFarlane: Ol' Todd's been all over the news this week. Today, though, it has nothing to do with baseballs or lawsuits (at least not yet). Arizona's AZ Central checks in briefly with Tempe-based McFarlane Toys, and learns about the new Elvis and Gene Simmons figures.

They should've asked if there were any plans for, say, new Medieval Spawn merchandise ...

Some comics-style discipline: The Miami Herald reports on a third-grade teacher who has turned to comic book characters to keep his students in line:

"Now, students have their names written on a small cut-out of Spiderman or Spidergirl.

"One strike, and the names are lowered to an illustration of Scorpion, receiving a warning from the arch-villain.

"The second time students misbehave, they answer to Dr. Octopus, who makes them copy a page out of a dictionary.

"The ultimate penalty is to face the Green Goblin -- which students have to call their parents and tell them they have to serve a detention."

Your daily dose of Spiegelman: The Daily Californian covers Art Spiegelman’s "Comix 101" lecture.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Law review: With his lawsuit against Todd McFarlane decided, Neil Gaiman moves on to address some questions about the ownership of Miracleman:

"I used to think that McFarlane actually had some rights in Miracleman. He told me he had, after all -- he'd bought what was left of Eclipse from a bankruptcy court. He never sent me any of the papers, though, after the 97 character swap, when he sent me the film for several issues of Miracleman, and then, a month after having told me that he had transferred his rights in Miracleman to me, he sneakily filed an application for the trademark on Miracleman. Then he abandoned the trademark application."

Yes, today it's all McFarlane, all the time ...

Insert old "Todd's balls" joke here: Todd McFarlane's name pops up again -- and this time it has nothing to do with a lawsuit. No, this time it's in connection (again) with Mark McGwire's 70th homerun ball, which McFarlane bought in February 1999. names it among the Top Five all-time pieces of baseball memorabilia.

That's probably the only time you'll see sports-related news here, so don't get used to it.

Four years and counting: What's the traditional gift for a four-year anniversary? Paper? Brass? The Eye of Agamotto? In any case, blogging legend NeilAlien marks his fourth year chronicling comics and Dr. Strange. Congratulations, Neil. And I don't think "weirdo" is such a bad thing.

Truce Story, swear to gods: The International Olympic Truce Center is using a comic book to tell the story of the Olympic Truce to children around the world:

"In a nutshell, the story is the following: In 2003, the Greek gods of Olympus have long abandoned hope of humankind ever living in peace. But the news that the Olympics are coming home to Athens in 2004 and that the ancient Olympic Truce tradition is being revived causes quite a stir. The people on earth embark on an olive branch relay to herald the approach of the Games. But Aris, the god of war, has other plans. Who will prevail in the end, the healing power of sport or war?"

Marvel's May solicitations (pssst act surprised): Let's try this one more time, with feeling! Marvel has released its solicitations for May, along with cover images.

"I just keep stuff": This is only vaguely comic-related, but I'll link to it anyway because I liked these quotes from science fiction writer (and former comic collector) Octavia Butler in a Q&A with The Africana:

The Africana: "What is it that fascinates you about books?"

Butler: "My big problem is my mother gave me this gene — there must be a gene for it, or several perhaps. It's the pack rat gene, you know, where you just don't throw things out. I haven't thrown books out since I was a kid. I gave some books away when I was a little girl. My mother said I could give some to the Salvation Army. I gave some to a friend, and her brothers and sisters tore them bits. That was the last time I gave books away in large amounts. I just keep stuff. I still have books from childhood."

The Africana: "That's a blessing."

Butler: "It comforts me. I imagine when I'm dead someone will have a huge yard sale or estate sale and I don't care! Some of them are worth something. Even my comic books — I have first editions of this and that, the first issue of the Fantastic Four. I used to collect them, not in the way that people collect things now. I didn't put them in plastic bags and never touch them. I read them and they looked pretty bad, some of them. But they're still worth something just because they are what they are."

The great APE report: At Simply Comics, Babar checks in after last weekend's APE 2004:

"All the publishers you would expect to be there were there, and they seem to be settling into regular spots on the floor plan. Slave Labor's booth looked kind of empty since they had an open browsing area without the usual tables for some of their books and shirts and there was no Jhonen Vasquez to draw in the hundreds of Goth kids. In fact, I didn't see any significant lines at any of the tables this year, which was a first. No offense to this years guests of honor, but I don't think there were any real indy superstars to draw those lines this year, because it seemed like there were certainly enough people in attendance. (There were enough people to buy up all the copies of Optic Nerve #9 that D&Q brought on Saturday, at least!)"

Begging the question: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, "The Panel" turns to what I thought was a rhetorical question: "Is there such a thing as a bad comic book?" The distinguished panel answers anyway, but it's creator Gary Spencer Millidge who's the first to recognize a bad question when he sees it:

"Is this a serious question? Good lord, of course there is such thing as a bad comic book! The whole history of the industry is full of bad comic books. Terrible, awful comic books. The vast majority of comics produced are weak in some, if not all departments. That’s not to say that you couldn’t find one tiny redeeming feature somewhere in any given book, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worth 20 minutes of your life."

Fish story: Okay, there's still more legal news. Reuters reports that a French judge screened Disney's Finding Nemo on Monday, the opening day of a trial concerning accusations by a children's book author that the company stole his idea.

If you can't Beat 'em ... The Pulse's "The Beat" column handicaps the race -- real or imagined -- to fill Dirk Deppey's shoes. I like how one of my finer points is that I have a subscription to Publishers Weekly. Let's hear it for subscriptions!

On the plus side, I did get a nice picture of Sherman Hemsley and Isabelle Sanford beside my "scouting report."

Case closed: In other legal news, Neil Gaiman writes in his online journal that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court's decision in his lawsuit against Todd McFarlane, giving Gaiman copyright interest in characters Angela, Cagliostro and Medieval Spawn.

Gaiman writes: "You know, if I were Todd McFarlane, I would simply have apologised a long time ago. Instead, Todd threw a lot of money at lawyers, and lost the legal case in every way he could lose it, and then threw a lot more money at lawyers to appeal and just lost it again, for good."

The full text of the court's amusing ruling can be read here.

Pay up, Pooh: The Chicago Tribune (registration required) reports on the latest chapter in a 13-year-old battle between the Walt Disney Co. and Shirley Slesinger Lasswell over the merchandising rights to Winnie the Pooh. Disney had acquired the rights in 1961 from Lasswell, who had inherited them from her late husband who, in turn, had purchased them in 1930 from Pooh creator A.A. Milne:

"Over the years, Disney paid the Slesinger family more than $66 million in royalties; Disney's marketing machine roared into gear in the mid-1990s, turning the befuddled bear into a $1-billion-a-year business at its peak.

"Shirley Slesinger Lasswell and her daughter Patricia Slesinger became suspicious that the company wasn't paying all they should. Patricia Slesinger said Pooh products she purchased during her travels around the world didn't always show up on royalty statements."

The Baltimore Sun has a shorter report on the lawsuit.

On Fire: Minneapolis' City Pages reviews Alan Moore's 1996 novel Voice of the Fire, which has been released in the United States by Top Shelf Productions:

"Moore's habit in his comics, almost a tic, is to make important dialogue scan as iambs: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. He maintains that rhythm for virtually all of Voice of the Fire (although a chapter in the voice of an 11th-century nun switches to the da-da-DUM rhythm of anapests: 'On the day of the feast I awake with such words in my mouth as to frighten the wits from my poor sister Aethelflaed, there in her cell next to mine.') Luxurious and portentous, and lacking the visual support of Moore's comics, the novel's language is word-drunk nearly to the point of purpleness."

Posthumous attention: Canada's National Post notes that French-Canadian cartoonist Albert Chartier (not Arthur as the article says), who passed away on Saturday at age 91, finally may be getting the recognition he deserved:

"Chris Oliveros, publisher of Drawn & Quarterly, says the best way to honour the late artist would be to give his work better exposure. 'It's sadly typical of Canadian culture that a lot of people don't find out about such great talent until the person dies,' he said. Oliveros had planned to nominate Chartier for an Order of Canada."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Making a statement: Nearly a week after "stepping down" as publisher of Image Comics, Jim Valentino makes a statement in the Image Central forum supporting Erik Larsen:

"In an effort to try and calm some things, I will say publically what I've said privately: Philosophcally, Erik Larsen is closer to me than anyone almost anywhere. I trust his intentions implicitly and I urge everyone else to.

"No book that I have green lit will be canceled (so, relax, Doc). He's a good man. He believes in creator's rights. He believes in self-determination.

"And, most importantly, he believes in Image's commitment to same.

"While I'm here, I would like to thank all of my well wishers for their support. Please forgive if I am not on here as often as I was in the past.

"I now return you to your regularly scheduled nonsense."

It's like Namor all over again: Igor Kordey tells The Pulse he was fired from Marvel's relaunched Excalibur after completing a cover and one-and-a-half issues:

"As far as I know somebody new will start from scratch with new drawings."

Excalibur was scheduled to come out in May as part of X-Men: Reload.

Hawking Hawkman: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray talk to The Pulse about DC's Hawkman. I've never read the comic, and have no interest in the character, but I'm linking to this anyway because I'm a fan of Ryan Sook's art.

The shipping news: Christopher Butcher and Scott Robins update Previews Review with their typical panache:

On Marvel Knights 4 #2: "Nice art, but absolutely terrible first issue. I’m all for a little of suspension of disbelief for these superhero-comic-things, but, yowch. Children could poke-holes through the immense logic gaps here. Heh. I was just about to type “I pity the writer who took this job and was saddled with this creative decision,” but… nah. Fuck it. I mean, he knew what he was getting into and he cashed the check. I hope the job was worth it to him. Really nice art though."

Sea change: Does Tim O'Shea ever sleep? At SBC, Tim also has an interview with Superheroes and Seamonsters creator Scott Mills:

"I just thought the title had a nice ring to it. Seamonsters is a cool word, and the name of my favorite album by my favorite band The Wedding Present. I like other words too, but most of them are dirty."

More on Julius Schwartz: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) notes the passing of Julius Schwartz:

"A legendary and much-loved figure credited with nurturing the beginnings of science fiction publishing, Schwartz was also a seminal editorial figure in the comic book industry, spanning the Golden Age (1930s to 1956) and Silver Age (1956 to about 1970) as well as contemporary comics publishing. Born in the Bronx, he was the co-creator of the Time Traveler, the first science fiction fanzine, in 1932. Shortly after that, along with his collaborator Mort Weisinger, he founded Solar Sales Service, the first literary agency specializing in science fiction, with such clients as Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, H.P. Lovecraft and many others. He joined All-American Comics (one of the predecessors of DC Comics) in 1944, editing scripts for such comic book heroes as the Green Lantern, the Flash and others. In 1956, Schwartz introduced a redesigned Flash in an effort that marked the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics and a new wave of popularity for the character. Schwartz often used science fiction concepts to revitalize old comics characters, and his success continued throughout the 1960s with his revamping of Batman and Green Arrow. He retired in 1986, but continued to influence the industry as the editor of DC Science Fiction, a series of seven graphic novels adapting the works of Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and others. In 1998, the Julie Award was established in his name, honoring recipients for achievements in multiple genres."

Mundi, Mundi (Bah da bah da da da): Comic Book Resources talks to Rex Mundi creators Arvid Nelson and Eric J. about the release of their first trade paperback:

"As far as it's effect on sales is concerned, we've seen and heard a lot of people saying that they're waiting for the trade, and I have a lot of confidence that they not only will pick up the book, but when they do they're just going to be totally sucked in to the story. I anticipate a lot of them translating into monthly readers. I mean, the things, especially in this second chapter that we're working on just beg for that instant gratification that you can't get waiting months and months for trades, you know? I'm really excited to see how it goes over because I think it's going to be big."

Slowly he turned ... So far this is shaping up to be an incredibly slow (and dull) news day. Can't somebody break an embargo or leak some state secrets?

War stories: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea talks to writer-editor Peter J. Tomasi about the four-part supernatural war series The Light Brigade, which seems to be surprising reviewers.

Campaign financing: Yesterday, Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau offered a $10,000 reward in his comic strip for anyone who "personally witnessed" President Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Alabama between May and November 1972. The Kansas City Star has the story.

Life stories: Alan David Doane has Five Questions for Chester Brown.

Step right up: Speaking of Sean Collins ... NeilAlien takes issue with something Sean wrote yesterday: "However, I'll admit that I was a little alarmed at the lockstep we all seem to be in regarding manga."

Here's Neil: "Neilalien sees a lot of lockstep in the 'comics blogosphere'. Oh, Neilalien ain't callin' y'all out, so calm yourselves. And he isn't asserting right now that manga is or is not a fad, or that the direct market is or is not doomed and why or why not, what the bookstore market means and what the newsstand market meant, etc.- his own views probably aren't that far off the lockstep. He's remarking that the blogosphere sure has its industry crystal balls all in a nice little row, doesn't it?"

Update: And ... Sean responds. It's like tennis!

Blogging in the round: The hot topic among the bloggerati is Tim O'Neil's review of The Filth in The Comics Journal #258, in which he asserts that superheroes are inherently stupid, and essentially undeserving of critical analysis. David Fiore fired off the first response, which Tim replied to at his blog (his permalinks don't seem to work, so you'll have to scroll down to the Feb. 22 entry). Jim Henley followed suit, as did J.W. Hastings and Sean Collins, who's far better than I am at following the back and forth of inter-blog discussion. And this morning, Rose at Peiratikos weighs in with her thoughts on superheroes as metaphor. I'm sure I'm missing someone. As I said, Sean is better than I am at keeping score in these things.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Levitz in the spotlight: DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz talks to The Pulse about changing editorial philosophies, the company's planned manga line, and the growth of the bookstore market:

"... I think where we're misspeaking as an industry is in the emphasis on the bookstore 'market' as opposed to the book 'format'. When we look back at – I think we did the exercise over a five year period – and you chart growth of the book format in each of the two channels of distribution we use, they're almost exactly parallel. And the comic shop, at least for us, stays at well over half of the distribution. When I did my year end estimates for market share analysis and all of that, even with all of the explosive growth of manga, which has been predominantly in the bookstore business, you're still selling more book format comics through the comic shops than you are through the bookstores. And I think what's happening on a human level underneath it, is that the same kind of person is buying it in both [channels]. I don't think we're selling most of the trade paperback collection we do in a comic shop to someone who's coming in every Wednesday to buy the new releases."

Secret wars: At Broken Frontier, Graeme McMillan looks at Marvel's love-hate relationship with the Internet, particularly when it comes to keeping "secrets":

"The fact of the matter is, Marvel dropped the ball on these two 'secrets', and big style. There was, for awhile after the X-Men Reload solicits broke, speculation that this was all a planned leak to try and generate excitement for the books again, after more than half a year’s predictions and rumor had taken its toll on the fans’ expectations and patience (not that that was the reaction from many places, outside of already-existing Marvel fan strongholds; many online reactions to the news were more of the 'Well, that’s kind of duller than I’d been expecting', especially when Newsarama put up a couple of covers from the books in question, featuring the return to superhero costumed status quo that’s been expected for awhile), only to be replaced by stories of Marvel aggressively trying to find out where the leak had originated, including threats of websites that didn’t co-operate being cut off from future press releases and previews."

From Hell: Ninth Art chronicles the career of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

This has potential: Christopher Butcher points out a new website, The Cultural Gutter, dedicated to the intelligent discussion and criticism of comic books, science fiction and video games.

More manga: reports that Tokyo-based DH Publishing, through its Cocoro Books imprint, will release a series of horror graphic novels by Hideshi Hino beginning this spring. Diamond and SBC will distribute the books, which will include The Red Snake and The Bug Boy.

Hollywood's calling. Again: Last week, Sword of Dracula creator Jason Henderson announced a video-game deal for the Image series. Today, the news it that the series' feature-film rights have been acquired by Prime Universe Productions. Newsarama has the story.

Challenging The Protocols: The New York Times (registration required) talks to 86-year-old comics legend Will Eisner about his latest work, The Plot, which tells the story behind the creation of the infamous "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" forgery:

"I was surfing the Web one day when I came across this site promoting 'The Protocols' to readers in the Mideast. I was amazed that there were people who still believed 'The Protocols' were real, and I was disturbed to learn later that this site was just one of many that promoted these lies in the Muslim world. I decided something had to be done."

Well, somebody likes Chuck Austen: The Humane Society of the United States has announced the winners of the 18th annual Genesis Awards. In the category of Artistic Achievement, the winner is X-Men Unlimited (first series) for the story "Can They Suffer?" by Chuck Austen (I'm not digging up the issue number):

"For expanding the signature X-Men message of empathy toward living beings from this planet and beyond to include the most abused species of all -- animals, whose suffering the heroic and popular X-Men will not tolerate!"

"Can't talk now -- Hagar's calling": Remember all the buzz last year about having comic strips -- and possibly even comic books -- "beamed" to your cell phone or PDA? Well, it looks as if somebody may actually be making some money from it. The San Mateo County (Calif.) Times checks in with FunMail, a company that has licensing agreements with United Media, King Features, Tribune Media Services and Creators Syndicate to deliver some of their syndicated strips to the cell phones of six major carriers.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Hey! It's the Internet! The Lompoc (Calif.) Record discovers webcomics:

"Even with the ever increasing popularity of webcomics, comic books are not in danger of disappearing or subject to decreasing sales. 'Comic books usually have much higher production values and are less hit and miss because they don't usually come out as often as webcomics,' said Kimbrough. 'Comic books are much more "professional" than webcomics.'"

Spiegelman's "Comics 101": The San Jose Mercury-News talks with Art Spiegelman about his 9-11 graphic novel, and the cultural acceptance of comics:

"It's a done deal. There are museum shows that will include comics without blinking an eye. And bookstores all have their sections for comics or graphic novels or whatever they're calling them. Universities are teaching comics. It's now part of the culture without having to be something to apologize for. All of that changes the economics of making comics and makes it more possible for more people to do it. That's the up side.

"But there's a Faustian price to pay. Part of the vitality of comics came from the fact that they were considered lowbrow trash. There is something pleasurable about being able to fly below the radar. It meant you could work without having to keep a critic on your shoulder. ... You could allow that id monster prone to inhabit this medium to be free."

Saturday, February 21, 2004

High expectations: Newsday looks at how High Times has broadened its focus, and talks to the magazine's editor-at-large Annie Nocenti, better known to comics fans as the former writer of Kid Eternity, Daredevil and Longshot:

"We want to elevate our argument beyond 'Yo, babes, bongs and the right to smoke.'"

Weekend blogging: I think this is it for blogging today. There's seldom any pressing comics "news" on weekends, and the blogosphere usually comes to a screeching halt. It's just as well. It's gray and raining, and a script is begging for my attention. I'll pick up with more tomorrow, and maybe even bang out a review. I know, I know: You're on the edge of your seat.

Something's fishy: The Scotsman reports a French court on Monday will hear claims by a children's book author that Disney stole his ideas for Finding Nemo:

"Pierrot le Poisson Clown is the story of a baby clown fish whose father is eaten up by a hog fish. In a similar plot to Finding Nemo, Pierrot gets separated from his mother but after many adventures finds her again at the end of the book. Mr Le Calvez said he was forced to take legal action after French bookshops stopped stocking his books because of fears they might be sued by Disney, even though his books were on sale before the film."

Ant man: The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal talks to local artist Mario Gully about the release of his comic book Ant. I'm guessing part of this sentence is a misquote:

"When I was younger, I really liked an artist named John Byrne, who drew the SheHulk books and a Superman series known as Secret Wars."

The cultural divide: Let me get this straight. In Taiwan and Japan, folks who dress up as comic-book characters are cool, but in the United States, they're barely a step above furries in the geek food chain? It would seem so. The Taipei Times gives us the scoop on "cosplay":

"Cosplay, a contraction of the words 'costume' and 'play' attracts mainly students, who choose a character they admire from popular culture, then dress in that person's clothes and pose at cosplay and comic-book conventions, or more recently at computer gaming shows. The cosplayers, in turn, attract photographers. There is no competition, no prizes, just the pleasures of showing off, watching and preserving a certain look for posterity.

"... Some of the cosplayers become minor stars and you can tell who the popular ones are because they attract the most photographers, with the heaviest equipment. When a cosplayer's photo is published it often offers a small amount of information along the lines of: 'Character: Pia, sweet carrot type,' followed by something about the cosplayer, how long she's been doing it, why she likes it and what other hobbies she has."

Friday, February 20, 2004

The company line: Image Comics has released an official statement about the changing of the guard:

"Jim Valentino remains an Image partner and may play a more creative role in the new Image scheme.

"'I'm hoping Jim can do some more creative stuff instead of being the guy sitting behind the desk. I hope we'll see some good stuff out of him,' said Larsen."

Uh-oh, it's Mandrake: The Globe and Mail reports a French court has ordered MandrakeSoft, a Paris-based software company, to surrender its trademark and domain names and pay almost $90,000 in damages to Hearst Holdings and King Features Syndicate, which hold the rights to the comic strip character Mandrake the Magician.

Stop the presses: Comics are more expensive than they were when we were kids. Oh! And they're not just for kids anymore. So says the Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs, Iowa:

"'Kids don't buy comics these days; it's mostly adults. Kids want the video games,' said Chris Kline, owner of Comic City, 1720 N. 16th St. 'Most of my customers are about 26 on the average. A lot of them are single, too. Once you have a wife and kid, you can't afford this hobby, and most wives wouldn't allow it.'"

Spaced Invaders: Perhaps I should file this under "Be Careful What You Wish For." As a kid, I'd found ratty copies of Roy Thomas' Invaders series at a yard sale, and for whatever reasons, loved the title. From time to time, elements of Marvel's World War II-era team have cropped up in Captain America or the stray miniseries, igniting nostalgia and involuntary thoughts of "wouldn't it be cool if ...?"

When Marvel's May solicitations were leaked earlier this week, there was mention of the Avengers #82-83 storyline spinning off into an "all-new Invaders series!" Now word is out that Chuck Austen will be co-writing the series with fellow King of the Hill writer Allan Jacobsen (link via Newsarama).

Here's Jacobsen: "I think one of the true strengths of the project is the blending of Chuck's modernist approach and my traditionalist orientation."

All Image, all the time: reports on the Image Comics shakeup, using Comic Book Resources as its primary source. However, Cinescape also quotes from an anonymous email (which I also received late last night):

"Jimmy V. did not step aside, he was voted out by secret ballot at a meeting of the partners he was not aware of (wrap Corporate Law 101 around that and you've got a lawsuit). It's also rumored that several major creators are willing to follow Jim if and when he [starts] up his own publishing division."

Crowd control: Erik Larsen tries to calm the crowds at the Image Central forum, and throws in a dig at Newsarama, just for good measure:


"Chill out.

"I won't be axing a gazillion books or tossing folks out on their ear. The partners decided it was a time for a change so--there you go. And as far as I've heard--NOTHING in the Newsarama article was researched at all--It came straight out of the writer's ass.

"I respect what Jim has done over the years and I hope to uphold the tradition. I wish him nothing but the best."

Preach it: At Ninth Art, Alex Deuben tells us what's wrong with the comics industry. You know: most comics are adolescent but not marketed to adolescents; quality standards are too low; many are derivative of other (better) works, etc.

Profound reactions: Joe Kubert talks to The Jewish Journal about his graphic novel Yossel:

"I feel that if I had lived under the circumstances of the Holocaust, I would have used any scrap of paper I could get my hands on to draw what I would have experienced."

Screen gems: The Hollywood Reporter checks in with an update of the nearly 70 -- could've sworn it was 700 -- comic book-based movies in development. The Reporter asks why comics are so popular in Hollywood, then answers its own question:

"For openers, the comic book genre translates really well to the screen because it's the literary form that is closest to what action adventure movies are or at least have become in recent years in terms of style. Comic books are a highly visual medium with stylized graphics, sparse dialogue, brief storylines, unique costumes and well drawn heroes and villains. Moreover, filmmakers tend to be very comfortable with the genre's format because it's basically what they use when they create storyboards for action sequences. If you've ever visited a production office for an action film and looked at the storyboard drawings tacked up on the walls you've found yourself looking at the rough equivalent of a comic book. In particular, these storyboard drawings emphasize camera angles and the camera's point of view much the same way that the artists who draw comic books have done for years in terms of their use of perspective to put the reader right into the scene."

The article goes on to state, "In addition, movies that are rooted in comic books are something Hollywood really knows how to market effectively."

Going to the source: Christopher Butcher comes down on Newsarama for basing most of its initial story about the Image Comics shakeup on Comic Book Resources' coverage, but originally attributing the first six paragraph to nebulous "sources":

"Galling, pathetic, and a shameless and unprofessional attempt to steal readers from CBR. At the bare minimum, he links to the originating article at CBR, but in true Newsarama style, he does so in the Seventh Fucking Paragraph."

Update, of sorts: There's an exchange in the Newsarama forums between Ron Phillips and Matt Brady regarding the website's reporting of the story:

Ron Phillips: "It's nice to see Newsarama is the center of Journalistic integrity. Not only did the original story not cite CBR's break of these events as the source, but changes were made to the original content to correct the error. When you make an editorial mistake and release it, you do not change the original copy. You either issue a correction or write an addendum."

Matt Brady: "The link to, inclusion of, and quote from CBR's interview was there from the beginning. Newsarama's source on the story was not CBR, though. It came from an independent source prior to me being aware it was on CBR - hence the "Newsarama has learned." I've cited CBR as a source for breaking stories before, and will more tha likely do so again, but in this case, they were not the source of the reportage for Newsarama's story.

"When I saw that CBR had it as well, I linked to their interview, as I knew it was too late in the day to contact Larsen for an interview."

Firing line: The Comics Journal message board is abuzz with an email executive editor Gary Groth sent to Journal free-lancers explaining why managing editor Milo George was fired (Link via Tim O'Neil):

"... The main reason he was ultimately fired was very simple: if you cultivate an antagonistic and adversarial relationship with the executive editor/publisher and push it as long and as hard as Milo did, this is what's inevitably going to happen."

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Bookstore ping-pong: Sean Collins follows the back-and-forth between retailer Brian Hibbs and blogger Dave Intermittent over Hibbs' recent column about bookstores and manga. Sean, of course, also has his own take on the topic.

New Image: Erik Larsen has replaced Jim Valentino as publisher of Image Comics. Comic Book Resources is first with the story.

Larson: ""Well, jeepers, I just got a new job. I'm really, really pleased to be doing it and I hope I can make it work. I'm taking over as the publisher of Image Comics. Jim Valentino is stepping aside and we're going to try and make some cool comic books. That's about it."

Newsarama has a few other details, including a weekend meeting between Image partners Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri.

Comics revival: The Miami Herald discovers Christian comic books:

"This religious comic movement faces obstacles. Some church leaders view comic books as the work of the devil because of the violent, sexually explicit material often found in secular comic books. And many publishers and retailers, particularly Christian bookstore chains, have not been persuaded of the marketability of religion- based comic books and graphic novels."

Bat signals: Weekly World News debuts Peter Bagge's The Adventures of Bat Boy in its March 2 edition (it's the one with the cover headline, "Second Bigfoot Shot Dead By Cops!"; you can't miss it). You can see a scan of the first installment here.

He's a great villain. Really! The DC Comics PR Machine, with some help from The Pulse, tries to convince us that Hush was more than just a lame plot device. Here's Gotham Knights writer Andy Lieberman on the return of the Bandaged Bandit:

"Originally Hush's return was supposed to be somewhat of a surprise. By the way, that's the other thing I learned about the comic industry, it's hard to keep a secret. Anyway, the idea was to tease readers with the return of a major character. But after some kind of leak it was painfully obvious that readers had found out our plan and it became the worse kept secret in comics. So, here we are talking about GOTHAM KNIGHTS big surprise villain. Fortunately the realization of who we were hyping didn't effect the plotting of the first story line."

Lieberman also offers this unintentionally funny assessment of Batman: Hush: "I believe the Loeb/Lee story line was about half way done at this point."

Animal magnetism? Warner Bros. Animation unveils its, um, Bestiality Boy Humping Green Leopard action figure at Toy Fair 2004. PETA promises protests.

"Humping Green Leopard: Now with satisfied smile and bedroom eyes!"

Now there's a president: The Korea Times looks at President Roh Moo-hyun's efforts to expand the country's cultural and economic influences:

"The administration is even looking at comics and games with fresh eyes, not regarding them as simple pastimes but as promising industries. A five-year-plan to promote the comic book industry was set in last May to develop the comic book market, which supplies contents for games and movies. It will also nurture the game industry, which could employ 100,000 people and take 5 percent market share in the world market."

Green genes: At SBC, Tim O'Shea talks to Dan Slott -- writer of the entertaining Arkham Asylum: Living Hell -- about ending Batman Adventures with #17, relaunching She-Hulk, and how that character was depicted in Uncanny X-Men:

"... That wasn't She-Hulk. That was a robot. A slutty sleep-with-the-guy-who's-tried-to-kill-your-cousin-many-times robot. All sincere apologies to Mr. Austen, but that's just my take. That said, I loved all of Austen's She-Hulk scenes in Avengers #78."

Do they have to be so mean about it? Here's a punch in the gut, courtesy of an Associated Press story about the academic examination of computer games as metaphor, and attempts to move gaming beyond "boy power fantasies" (I'm not making this up):

"Some in the industry, however, are not so sure that games will ever mature. They fear games could be a dead end like comic books -- valuable as a social phenomenon, but outside a select few titles like Art Spiegelman's Maus, not worth a great deal of individual study."

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Re: Reload: Simply Comics provides some tongue-in-cheek solicitation copy for Marvel's next wave of X-Men reboots:

Written & Penciled by BATTON LASH
Superstar creator BATTON LASH (Supernatural Law) brings his unique combination of humor and lawyers to the world of mutants! Dark Justice meets Ally McBeal! Martin Constible is New York's District Attorney, but how long can he keep his mutant identity a secret?
32 PGS./ALL AGES …$2.99

Written & Penciled by RICK GEARY
"HOOVERVILLE" pt. 1 (of 6)
Hot on the heels of blockbusters like 1602 and X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS, now we get to examine the lives of mutants in 1920's New Jersey with the expert historical cartoonist RICK GEARY (TREASURY OF VICTORIAN MURDER). See the Roaring 20's meet murdurous mutant menaces! Can the Historical X-Men keep the stock markey going up? Featuring an all-new team of BOOKBINDER, THE GENTLEMAN, FLAPPER GIRL, ELECTRICAL MAN, and GREYHOUND.
32 PGS./MARVEL PSR …$2.99"

Funny stuff. (I'd buy Historical X-Men, and probably the others, too.)

Welcome to the '90s. Here's your pitchfork: It appears as if Secret War #1 is "completely sold out." But fear not! A second printing is being cooked up with a gold-foil cover. Yes, you read that right: a gold-foil cover.

Mixed signals: Warren Ellis. Stuart Immonen. Ultimate Fantastic Four. Newsarama runs with the story:

"In regards to confirmations or denials, Warren Ellis has been quite active recently on his Bad Signal mailing list, with two recent installments being seen by some as laying the foundation for his arguments in favor of his return to mainstream superheroes with a titles such as Ultimate Fantastic Four."

Review revue, Part ... whatever: Jim Henley goes on a tear, reviewing Pop Gun War, Sleeper: Out in the Cold, Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place, The Furies and ... Captain America?

Milestones: In this week's "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant marks the passing of Julius Schwartz, the ending of Cerebus, and the return of word balloons to comics covers:

"It's usually argued there's something inherently unsophisticated about word balloons on covers, which is what Micah finally succeeded in pushing through. That's sort of true. There was a time when word balloons appeared frequently on covers, and often injudiciously. A lot of badly written cover balloons led to a general perception that there was something dull and unsophisticated – juvenile – about comics that used them. As with most things, it's not the technique itself that's automatically good or bad, but the way it's used."

Taking a leak: As you know, Marvel's May solicitations were leaked yesterday -- more than a week before the embargo -- taking some steam out of the big X-Men: Reload revelation, and forcing the "news" sites to play catch-up.

Sleep-deprived: SBC's Mike Storniolo talks to ubiquitous writer Robert Kirkman (Invincible, The Walking Dead, et al) about, among other things, his upcoming Reaper, and the ill-fated Sleepwalker revival for Marvel/Epic:

"... I went from having a guaranteed five-issue run to having one issue published as part of an anthology, with future issues on shaky ground at best. I was very, VERY upset about the whole thing when it happened. The thing is, Marvel isn’t new to this game. They know what they’re doing. I know they had good reason to restructure the line. I certainly don’t blame them. I really can’t complain. I’m getting some more work there now and there should be more on the horizon. They seem to be making it up to me and that’s pretty cool. They certainly weren’t obligated."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Bill Oakley, RIP: At The Pulse, Chris Eliopolous notes the passing of comics letterer Bill Oakley:

"Bill Oakley was one of the best damn letterers ever, but to me, he was a great person who treated me with respect and who I consider a friend."

Well, that was fast: File this one under "Big Surprise." Comic Book Resources reports the ill-fated Epic Anthology has been canceled. The first, and now only issue hit the stands last week.

Political rampage: I may be intruding on Graeme's territory, but I don't think he visits the Digital Webbing forums. In any case, a forum member criticizes Micah Wright's depiction of the fictional president in Coup D'Etat -- StormWatch: Team Achilles -- particularly, the dialogue:

"'Because they're EVIL! The think just because they can fly and laserify things with their eyeballs, they can get away with this kind of power usurpatude. But they're wrong! And America will show them wronger still!'

"... No President has ever nor will ever be elected speaking like that. Worse yet is the follow up dig by another character in the book:

"'Laserify? Usurpatude? Wronger? Since when is English as a first language not a requirement to be president?'

"That was the best you could do? #1 the president, in fact NO president has ever been that stupid. #2 the president is elected, so that means a majority voted for the man, if the man is that stupid you only have your selves to blame, and there have been worse presidents then bush so don't put it off on Republicans.

"I think it's sloppy. I know the writer doesn't like the war, so why not say so? Why not have the fictitional president argue FOR the war in the book in his own way, but as intelligently as he would in real life... THEN have the character show him why he's wrong? So far, all I'm reading is a bunch of whining saying war is bad but no one shows us another way. Why? Maybe because that would require real creativity and originality?"

Wright responds in kind:

"Oh? Really? Here are a few choice quotes from George W. Bush Junior, current President of these United States:

"1. We're in for a long struggle, and I think Texans understand that. And so do Americans.
2. Sometimes when I sleep at night I think of 'Hop on Pop'.
3. I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here.
4. And one of the things we've got to make sure that we do is anything.
5. We're making the right decisions to bring the solution to an end."

And he goes on from there, banging out 15 more Bush quotes before, finally, pointing out that the StormWatch president -- brace yourselves -- isn't real:

"The President in the Wildstorm Universe was one Patrick Kent. NOT GEORGE W. BUSH. Do you see a strange resemblance between Patrick Kent, a Klansman murderer and George W. Bush? I certainly didn't intend one. It's very telling that you think that I could possibly be insinuating this about George W. Bush. In fact, it kinda says that YOU secretly suspect such things could be true of Bush because I certainly went out of my way to avoid using Bush's name or actual words."

Spanning the globe: Now this is interesting. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government organization, bangs the drum for the nation's economic growth and global influence, and cites Shonen Jump as further proof of Japan's commercial grip on the U.S.:

"Commercially, Japanese culture is gaining further traction within the U.S. Japan's most visible pop icon Sanrio's Hello Kitty, presently generates worldwide sales estimated to be almost $1 billion and has up to 15,000 product licenses. More recent successes include the introduction last year of Shonen Jump, a leading Japanese comic book, which has already achieved a monthly U.S. circulation exceeding 500,000. Japan-oriented video games, such as Tenchu and The Way of the Samurai are also worldwide best sellers."

The press release also positions Japan as a pop-culture trendsetter:

"Japanese 'anime' (Japanese for animation) or 'manga' (illustrated book of drawings that tell stories) are quickly gaining in popularity around the world. One analyst Ichiya Nakamura, a visiting scholar at the Stanford Japan Center and M.I.T. Media Lab was recently quoted in Time Magazine stating 'Japan has changed from being a manufacturing and industrial society to a pop-culture society.'"

Rough trade: checks in with CrossGen's crippled trade paperback program, noting the publisher will release Sojourn Vol. 4 on Wednesday -- its first collected edition since July:

"CrossGen, which has had its share of financial difficulties lately ... did not print many extra copies of Sojourn Vol. #4 TPB. While direct market retailers are receiving their full orders through Diamond, regular bookstores and trade accounts received only a portion of their orders. Retailers that sell out of Sojourn Vol. #4 TPB or want more copies for whatever reason should reorder immediately, since remaining quantities from this edition are very limited." (Note: Corrections made to quote, because ICv2 can't seem to spell Sojourn)

Horror stories: Back to SBC, where Tim O'Shea talks to Nicolas Mahler about Van Helsing's Night Off, which will be released next month by Top Shelf.

The shipping news: At Previews Review, Chris Butcher and Scott Robins take a look at what's shipping this week in their usual fashion, but a little heavy on the superheroes:

Butcher, on ABADAZAD: "The long-delayed series from Crossgen bows. On the minus side, it’s a Crossgen fantasy comic. On the plus side, it doesn’t really look like a Crossgen fantasy comic, it looks like something else entirely. The marketing guy described the lead as 'plucky' earlier today. This is really, really excellent, because I think it shows a clear understanding of their demographic: people old enough to use the term ‘plucky’ to describe 14 year old girls."

Review revue, Part 3: ADD posts "Short, Sharp Shocks" of James Kochalka's Sketchbook Diaries Volume Four, Chosen #1 and others. I'm still not sure I understand the title of his minireviews, though.

Veiled references: At SBC, Tim O'Shea talks to sci-fi novelist Kevin J. Anderson about The Saga of the Seven Suns: Veiled Alliances graphic novel, and his upcoming Justice Society: Lord Dynamo collaboration with Barry Kitson. Unfortunately, O'Shea didn't ask him about the supposed resurrection of Starjammers for Marvel.

Monday, February 16, 2004

"May, she will stay": DC Comics' May solicitations are up on the website, a good five hours before the embargo:

In an unusual blast from the far-flung past, DC resurrects the DC 100-Page Super Spectacular, billed as "a stunning facsimile of the classic 1971 collection," and featuring reprints of Justice League of America #21-22, The Brave & The Bold #34, More Fun Comics #55, Adventure Comics #190, Action Comics #146, and a previously unpublished Wildcat story. The $6.95 price tag may make a few folks flinch but, come on, it's 100 pages (well, 96)! And it's spectacular! It says so right on the cover.

The new Firestorm series launches, minus Ronnie Raymond (for now), plus a new costume. Expect rioting.

Eeking in under his exclusive contract with Marvel, Alan Davis debuts Justice League of America: Another Nail, the cleverly titled sequel to The Nail.

Who will be the new Robin? I don't know (and don't really care), but she's blonde.

The mystery of the new Supergirl continues in Superman/Batman #10 as the action moves to Paradise Island -- so Michael Turner will have an excuse to draw Wonder Woman and other scantily clad Amazons.

The new creative team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Ryan Sook starts with Hawkman #28. I don't really have an opinion of the writers or the character, but I love Sook's art.

Remember the old Super Powers comics, which were just an excuse to sell Kenner action figures? Two decades later, we have the newest in toy tie-ins: Batman: Cyber Revolution, a five-part miniseries that's linked to "Mattel's newest, most innovative toy line ever!"

I'm excited about this, as much for Cameron Stewart's art as for Grant Morrison's writing: The three-issue Sea Guy debuts. One of the main characters is a cigar-smoking tuna. How can you top that?

On hold: The Detroit News reports that Michigan's 83 county prosecutors have agreed not to enforce part of a state law prohibiting bookstores from displaying material "harmful to minors" until a federal judge rules on a challenge. (Link via Newsarama)

The one and Oni: Newsarama talks to Oni Press' Jamie S. Rich and James Lucas Jones about the publisher's success stories, and what it has planned for 2004:

Jamie S. Rich: "I think Oni Press has been as it always has been. We tend to do our thing and grow and adapt and we don’t make a big stink out of it. We let the books speak for themselves. The most obvious shift for us was going downsizing the amount of serialized comics we were doing and have been doing a lot more original graphic novels. It seemed the right time to start making that shift, and it’s definitely paid off."

James Lucas Jones: "Yeah, I don't think we really worry about what everyone else is doing. We do what we think is best for our creators, the books, and the company and go from there. The general trend towards graphic novels didn't matter to us so much as the trends we were seeing on our own books. It made sense for us, so we started to move more in that direction."

The big cover-up: At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien bemoans Marvel's generic pin-up covers, and looks at what some books are doing to stand out on the shelves:

"The good news, however, is that when the general standard of covers is this monotonous, it shouldn't be all that hard to stand out. A good strong design idea that takes the comic out of the norm has a good chance of getting noticed. The DC Focus books at least have a distinct look to them, and don't have the appearance of normal superhero comics. I'm not quite sure what specific message they send, but at least they say, 'I'm different'. WILDCATS has had some clever, pseudo-corporate covers - not that they've done much good when it comes to sales, admittedly LOVE FIGHTS stands out a mile, through a combination of minimalism and recurring design themes (the hearts, the limited colours) - from that point of view, it's got some of the best covers around."

Sabbatical at Wolf Manor: Marv Wolfman's column at SBC has been sporadic, at best, for the past several months, slowing from weekly to biweekly and finally to whenever. But this week, Wolfman officially ends his column -- at least until he has the urge to say something:

"... the urgency that prompted me to do this column has somewhat abated. I don’t read enough comics these days to comment on them specifically, and, frankly, I was getting a little tired of having to have something to say each and every week, or even bi-weekly. There are times when there is literally nothing big to talk about. Oh, there’s little things, but to say everything I want to say about them would take little more than a paragraph and not 1500 to 2000 words."

Themyscira? Is that near Lesbos? In time for the 200th issue of Wonder Woman, Newsarama provides an overview of the Amazon princess' history, and a glimpse at her immediate future. Of course, no Wonder Woman story is complete without a tittering reference to lesbianism. And if Matt Brady and Mike San Giacomo are anything, it's predictable. Just ask Greg Rucka:

"Oh God, that again. Why is it that only guys ever ask about the sexuality of the amazons? My answer is imagine whatever you like. There was one scene where two amazons were holding hands, okay? Take that any way you like. I don't think it's important."

Changing channels: At Artblog (no permalinks), Peter chimes in on Brian Hibbs' column comparing the book market and the direct market:

"... the direct market has *never* been a sales channel that serviced kids or teens, who traditionally bought their comics from the primarily defunct newstand. the dm was basically a place for comics enthusiasts -- fanboy geeks and art comix elitists alike -- to get their weekly comics fix. it was purely a niche play. but when the newstand market essentially walked away from comics, publishers panicked and put all their marbles into the dm. this resulted in the dubious "maturization" of super-hero comics that we see today; a repositioning of books that were once created for kids and teens to an aging fanboy base of thirty-forty somethings. the problem that the dm faces is that without the existence of the newstand market to create new fanboys, there won't be any more aging fanboys to service in the future. perhaps that's an issue hibbs will address in a future column. i'll try to egg him on the next time i'm in his store."

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Review revue, Part 2: Paul O'Brien updates The X-Axis with reviews of the usual X-suspects, plus the first issues of Chosen and Deep Sleeper (I'm going to have to try that one).

Tilting at Hibbs' Windmill: Sean Collins challenges Brian Hibbs' latest column, in which the retailer uses BookScan stats to bolster his argument in the ongoing comics/manga/bookstore debate.

There's also some interesting back-and-forth on the column between Hibbs and others in the comments section of Fanboy Rampage.

Review revue, Part 1: Johanna Draper Carlson updates Comics Worth Reading with reviews of Abadazad #1, Aquaman #15, Avengers #78, and other titles lower in the alphabet:

"Heh, even the 'story so far' page is making fun of Austen's writing, describing a 'strangely loquacious Thunderball'."

Sunday tribute: This week's CBS Sunday Morning marked the passing of Julius Schwartz with a nice "Sunday Passage" segment, noting his enormous contributions to the industry. Transcripts don't seem to be available yet on the website, but those interested may want to check back in the next day or two.

Didio economics: Christopher Butcher is back to semi-regular blogging -- though his permalinks are screwy -- with an interesting look at DC Comics, its new CMX manga line, and making money in the world of publishing:

"So why is DC trying to make money with comics, after fiddling away off in the corner for so many, many years now? I mean, it’s not just the CMX manga line. They’ve started getting competitive salary-wise with Marvel for creators on their books, they’re pushing in a ton of different ways and formats, and it looks more and more like creators, and not characters, have become the priority when it comes to big-promotion. NEIL GAIMAN, JIM LEE, MICHAEL TURNER! MORE! This is very un-DC behaviour. So, again, what changed?

"Well, Dan Didio, obviously."

Eh, at least some of the rage: This week's "All the Rage" has a couple of interesting items (well, interesting to me):

Markisan suspects Marvel is playing a shell game, of sorts, with X-Men creators, moving David Mack to New X-Men instead of Ultimate X-Men, as the publisher had previously announced. Mack is mum on the rumor.

The other item is culled from Grant Morrison's newly updated website, which announces the release of the three-issue Seaguy in May, with Cameron Stewart as artist.

Her father's daughter: The New York Times (registration required) profiles Belly Button Comix cartoonist Sophie Crumb, daughter of Robert Crumb:

"She decided to leave her last name off her first comic — despite her publisher's pleas — hoping that at least some people would read it without knowing who her father was. 'If you compare me to him, I'll stop drawing right away,' she said. 'He's the best, so how can I be like that?'"

Friday, February 13, 2004

Salem's lot: Dark Horse releases its solicitations for May, which includes B.P.R.D.: A Plague of Frogs #3 and, possibly even better, The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft hardcover:

"By Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, Scott Morse and others.

"Following the success of The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, Dark Horse returns with another collection of bizarre tales by Eisner Award-winning artists Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, and Scott Morse. Mignola returns with another Hellboy story, and Thompson and Dorkin return to the characters in their stunning 'Stray' story, the surprise hit of the first volume in this series. Morse presents a haunting tale of old Salem, digging into the madness of the accusations leveled there, which ended more than thirty lives in a few short months. Filled with other stellar comics offerings, as well as a classic witch tale by Clark Ashton Smith and illustrated by cover artist Gianni, The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft conjures up weird tales of horror and magic the likes of which one seldom sees in the comics medium.

"96 pages, $14.95, in stores on June 23."

"... The unreachable star": In the latest "Tilting at Windmills," Brian Hibbs divines some BookScan numbers, and compares them with what we know about the direct market:

"Humor kicks the most ass in the bookstores. The number one book for the year? Nearly 77k copies of Get Fuzzy. Huh, it was also #2. FoxTrot, Boondocks, Zits, Far Side, and Dilbert all sold better than almost anything else. Even Calvin & Hobbes, which ceased publication as a new strip eight years ago, devastates most of the competition.

"What I love about this is how the pundits say we should be more like manga, while no one ever suggests we should move more towards humor comics format. Why not? They rip up everything else in sales. If only we were to switch everything over to a four panel gag format, we’d solve all of our problems, right?"

Mixed blessings? Dirk Deppey announces that Journalista! will go on temporary hiatus because of his promotion to managing editor of The Comics Journal. It seems Milo George was fired yesterday by Gary Groth because of "professional and interpersonal differences with management.

Good luck to Dirk in his new position. But I'll certainly miss his daily doses of links, news and commentary.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Flight of fancy: Scott Lobdell, writer of the relaunched Alpha Flight, thinks the idea of a superhero team leader is just silly:

"... I have always had a problem with the whole concept of a super hero team 'leader'. I know there's always been long running debates about who is a better team leader, CYCLOPS or STORM -- and that HAWKEYE and CAPTAIN AMERICA still seem to be butting cowls forty years after AVENGERS #16 as two who should lead -- but the whole point of a leader among a super hero team always struck me as being a bit absurd. A bit high school.

"Let's be serious, if a team of super heroes shows up at a burning building with people trapped inside, does anyone really need for the 'LEADER' to shout 'SUPERSPEED MAN, go in get any people trapped inside! WEATHER MANIPULATING PERSON, use your weather manipulating power to summon storm clouds to put out the fire! STRONG GAL, use your strength to keep the building from toppling over on those FIREMEN!' Umm... no. No one needs to hear that - and no super hero worth their salt needs to be told how to function as a group to their best advantage."

He doesn't seem to have as much of a problem with a big orange Sasquatch fighting evil ...

Ch-ch-ch-changes: At Newsarama, CSN's Cliff Biggers checks in with DC's Dan DiDio and Bob Wayne:

Dan DiDio: "In the last six to eight months, we've made a creative change on every one of our monthly books-you might not have seen them all yet, but we've made them! Change doesn't mean that something is broken; it's not a question of the current creators not doing the job... We can't use nothing but superstars in fifty or fifty-five books a month, so one of the things we're trying to do is to bring in fresh creative visions, to stop books from becoming predictable. We think it's good for the creators and for the books."

Cliff Biggers: "The downside of this approach may be 'creative churn.' That is, you don't get as many long-term commitments that go on for years-instead, you get shorter arcs. Will that become the new norm, do you think?"

Dan DiDio: "What's funny about that is defining what, to answer the question, we have to determine what long-term creative continuity is. We're making a change on Legion, and Abnett and Lanning have been on the book for five years-that's a pretty good run. I guess to answer that, I could go back to an old sports analogy; some people say it's better to trade a player one year too early than one year too late. We're looking to get as many good stories from a creative team as they have in them. I'd rather seek out creators that have stories to tell than use people who are just filling time to get a check."

(Biggers' question was better when I initially read it as "creative chum" instead of churn. I think I may need to define creative chum and begin using it on a semi-regular basis.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The unfunnies: Last week, SBC's "Zach S." conducted a fictional interview with comics writer Geoff Johns. This week, he moves on to ... a fictional interview with Rose and Thorn artist Adriana Melo?

Zack S.: "... Speaking of hotness, I’ve talked to some female comic readers and they’re of the opinion that you cater too much to “The Man.” How do you respond to that?"

Fictional Melo: "Again, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Who is 'The Man?'"

Zack S.: "Okay, what they mean by that is you draw your women rather, how do I say this, incredibly busty."

Fictional Melo: "Oh. It sells. People buy comics in the same way they buy anything else, with their crouch. Characters in comics should be beautiful, it’s fantasy."

Zack S.: "Yes, I understand that, but at the same time many people feel that you represent women as nothing but sex objects."

Fictional Melo: "Well, I don’t. I am a woman, so I am in a better position to judge whether or not I am drawing with any misogyny."

Zack S.: "So, you don’t feel like you’re setting a bad example for other girls who want to be comic book artists?"

And the laughs continue ...

And starring Jaclyn Smith as Kitty Pryde: At Dynamic Forces, "inspired by" apparently is shorthand for "looks vaguely like the original, but not close enough for Marvel to have to pay John Byrne royalties":

And it's only $295!

This should make Neilalien happy: At Movie Poop Shoot, this week's "Comics 101" focuses on the Master of the Mystic Arts, Dr. Strange.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Minority voices: At UnderGround Online, Rich Watson talks about the representation of blacks in mainstream comics with Eliot Johnson, webmaster of Stop Trying to Eliminate Ethnic Legends (STEEL):

"The fans make a huge distinction between white and black characters. The myth of something called a 'black book' has somehow popped up in mainstream comics. 'Black books are only for black people' seems to be the opinions of the mainstream comic fans, looking at the sales of many books starring black and minority characters. First of all, a 'black book' is a myth. Even books that deal with some of the issues that black men and women face today are not at all totally centered on those issues. Secondly, even those issues should be relevant to and understood by everyone. It's not intentional racism on the part of the fans, certainly, it's just that they don't think they can relate to 'black books' and therefore don't give them a chance. If they would give these books a chance, then I think that they would see there is no problem."

The best defense ... At SBC, Michael Diaz tries to explain why his "What Looks Good" column is so DC- and Marvel-centric:

"... I try to make sure that I am covering more than just the 'Big Boys', namely Marvel/DC/Image and even Dark Horse. It’s not the easiest task in the world because, well the Big Boys are the big boys for a good reason: lots of people are buying what they put out, which in turn means that they have lots of money to spend on things like advertising and marketing, which in turn means that their books are a lot more visible than some of the smaller publisher, leading to more sales, meaning that lost of people are buying what they put out ...

"It’s a vicious cycle, I know, but really, that’s the nature of the beast. Every so often some upstart comes around and starts making waves, but for the most part the Big Boys will always be the big boys, right or wrong. So yeah, most of the picks that I make from a week-to-week basis are going to cover titles that they, the Big Boys, put out."

Now if he could only explain how Emma Frost and Iron Man invariably make their way into his column ...

Unusual suspects: Variety (registration required) lets the mutant cat out of the bag by revealing that X-Men director Bryan Singer will write a year's worth of Ultimate X-Men, along with screenwriters Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty. (Via Newsarama)

On a sadder note, Rich Johnston claims Chuck Austen will be the new permanent writer on New X-Men. That seems about right.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Julius Schwartz, 1915-2004: On his blog, Mark Evanier sadly reports the passing early this morning of legendary editor Julius Schwartz:

"Julie died this morning at Winthrop Hospital in New York -- around 2:30 AM. It was not a surprise and it was one of those deaths that, and everyone reading this will understand what I mean by this, provides a certain amount of relief. He had been in terrible shape the last few weeks. His hearing was almost gone and I had to shout to be heard in our last phone conversation. He had been proud and fiercely independent in his apartment but he had begun falling down and had come to the very sad realization that he could no longer live alone. He'd been in and out of Winthrop, staying with his granddaughter during the 'out' parts, and plans were underway to move him to a senior home. The last thing I said to him about a week ago was to promise, because he was afraid he'd never see his friends again, that I'd round up half the comic book biz and come see him in his new digs."

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Weird and wonderful: You can't go wrong with Hellboy (even if it is the uneven Weird Tales) and a Phil Noto cover. Anyway, Hellboy: Weird Tales #7 comes out next week.

Millar lite: This morning at his message board, Mark Millar confirmed his planned project with Ashley Wood, Run, has been canceled (link via Newsarama):

"Run has been cancelled because there's no art. This isn't really Ashley's fault because drawing a comic for no money upfront (the Image deal) is a big commitment and it's understandable if he has to do paying work instead. Nobody's been able to get hold of him for quite a while on this subject, but we're hoping to resolve the matter soon. As this is the first in a series of shorts, everything else has been held up until we figure out what to do about this."

He also explained the delays on his other projects, blaming Dark Horse and Avatar, respectively, for the lateness of Chosen and The Unfunnies. Things were a bit more vague about Wanted.

Manga's millions: Publishers Weekly talks to's Milton Griepp about the manga sales explosion in the United States, citing a 75% to a 100% growth in the past year -- mostly in the bookstore market.

"Griepp said annual sales in the U.S. of manga alone are estimated at about $100 million for 2003. This figure, he said, does not include nonmanga graphic novels. The new report does not break out figures for general bookstores and the direct market (comics shops), which will be provided in another report on graphic novels that will be released in the spring for this year's BookExpo America."

Largest sales growth was in national bookstore chains, followed by independent stores, music and video chains, "and now mass market chains are starting to get involved," Griepp told PW.

The article also mentions manga's demographics -- roughly 60% women -- noting that it's "unprecedented for the American comics market, which has never been able to attract a sizable audience of girls or women."