Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 isn't over yet ...

At, Hannibal Tabu presents the 2004 Smackdown Awards, which may have more oddly named categories than the MTV Movie Awards or that video-game thing that Spike TV does.

Requiem for a calendar year

Here are 10 things I've learned from reading all these depressing eulogies to the year in comics, and from spending the past 365 days on this, the Internets:

1. Identity Crisis and Avengers Disassembled apparently* were dog shit, signaling the end of civilization as we know it (or else heralding the beginning of some arcane and arbitrary era that geeks later will dub the Tin Age or Copper Age or Looked Silly In Leather Anyway Age).

2. Manga still isn't a fad. (Is anyone outside the occasional Spandex disciple on a comics message board still claiming that it is one? I think we can safely retire this item before our 2005 in Review.)

3. DC and Marvel canceled some really, really good titles but let some really, really bad ones continue. **

4. Waiting for the trade is killing the industry, but graphic novels are its future.

5. Likewise, superhero movies and "mainstream respectability" will either save every one of us, or ruin the medium. Or maybe both. (5a. Catwoman is the new Ishtar.)

6. No one seems to know what the "New Mainstream" is, but that doesn't prevent them from using the term. A lot. (Still, it's not GnuMarvel, and for that I'm grateful.)

7. Eventually, every man, woman and child will interview Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi and Joe Quesada.

8. The world can be divided into two groups: people who love Grant Morrison's work, and people who think he destroyed the X-Men.

9. Craig Thompson has received every award possible, except for a Tony, a Nobel Peace Prize and a Wizard Fan Award. Don't hold your breath on the last one.

10. When 35-year-old guys on message boards announce with authority that comics need to be "fun" again: a.) they are usually talking about very specific DC and Marvel superhero books (more often than not Superman, Batman and Spider-Man); and b.) they really mean they want to experience the same emotions they did when they were 12.

* I say "apparently" because I didn't even consider buying Disassembled, and only read the first issue of Identity Crisis, which, if nothing else, served as a testament to Brad Meltzer's ability to skillfully manipulate readers' emotions.

** See also "2003 in Review," "2002 in Review," "2001 in Review," et al.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

2004 winds down

Heidi MacDonald provides an in-depth look at the Year In Comics, while Johnny Bacardi rattles off his favorite books of 2004.

Cartoonists' (dead) body of work

Alaska's Juneau Empire profiles cartoonists Pete Morrissette and Sam Roberts, creators of the Smitty Fisher webcomic:

"I wanted to do a corpse murder mystery, one where the corpse disappears. It was a nonsensical strip. But then I thought, 'What if I could find a way to make it make sense?'"

Marvel finally announces Paniccia hire, OGN role

Why is Marvel only now "officially" announcing its hiring of former Tokyopop editor Mark Paniccia as senior editor when that news has been well-known since mid-October? (Paniccia even was interviewed in November about plans for the revamped Amazing Fantasy.)

As Newsarama points out, the release does contain at least one piece of new and potentially interesting information, in that the headline indicates plans for Paniccia to "spearhead" the development of original graphic novels.

Comic shop focuses on that 'elusive' girl market

The Oregonian spotlights Sweet Eddy's Comics in Wilsonville, which hopes to appeal to young girls by carrying more manga and "girl-centered" titles:
"My father read comic books, and my brother read comic books, and I always hated comic-book stores because there was nothing for me," [co-owner] Deanna Nelson recalled, adding that comic-book stores are traditionally dominated by men. "I call them gyms without jocks."
Marvel's Joe Quesada also is quoted about the "elusive" girl market, and the industry's attempts to recapture a younger audience that he claims was lost in the 1990s:
"It was a time when they were working hard on creating collectible comics, and they forgot about the fact that the core of what makes comics great is fantastic stories."
Thank goodness we learned our lesson about creating "collectible comics." No more variant covers and the like for us. Nosireebob!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

For Sherlockian, The Game is a footnote

The New York Times profiles Leslie S. Klinger, an attorney and noted Sherlockian who has edited The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a 10-pound collection of all 56 Holmes short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle, complete with Klinger's footnotes:
Few literary figures have been scrutinized as assiduously as Sherlock Holmes and his Boswell, Dr. Watson. Holmes, who made his debut in Conan Doyle's novel "A Study in Scarlet" in 1887, was the perfect detective for a rationalist age, an intuitive and learned investigator who applied techniques from the emerging science of forensics to solve the most intractable crimes. Long before "CSI," there was Holmes. "Sherlock Holmes was very gratifying to a public who thought that the application of science could conquer crime," Mr. Klinger said.
Neil Gaiman, himself a Sherlockian, is quoted in the article:
"I really enjoyed what Klinger did in his annotations," said Neil Gaiman, author of the "Sandman" comic book series, who, it turns out, is a major Sherlockian. "As we move further and further away from the period in which the Holmes stories were set, the country in which they are located becomes increasingly foreign, and Klinger's annotations become a sort of guidebook to the territory, if only to learn what a gasogene is." (It is an apparatus for aerating liquids.)

'Comics 101' takes a look at 2004

At Movie Poop Shoot, Scott Tipton takes a look at the year that was, noting such categories as "Material Most Worthy of Reprinting" (The Complete Peanuts), "Best Bang For Your Buck" (Superman/Batman), "Best Book You're Not Reading" (Fallen Angel) and others.

For next week, Tipton promises to cover "Best New Series," "Book of the Year" and more.

Getting a jump on March

The Official DC Comics Newsletter, which I don't remember signing up for but receive regularly, points out there are PDF sneak peeks for these March titles: Lex Luthor: Man of Steel #1, The Human Race #1, Otherwold #1, and The Razor's Edge: Redbird #1.

'Fake' as a genuine GLAAD contender

Lyle of Crocodile Caucus offers a glimpse at the nomination process for the GLAAD Media Awards, and explains why, as a member of the comic book committee, he'll be pushing for Fake to make the cut:
This year, I am taking a stand that Fake is worthy of consideration. Publishing Fake was a daring move for Tokyopop. With the exception of Banana Fish (where our heroes' relationship is limited to the two heroes saving each other from danger while the villains are pedophiles with no regrets about who they've hurt in the past) shounen-ai stories hadn't made it to American shores. Before Fake's success, the idea that there was a mainstream audience that would cheer for two guys to work out their differences and fall in love seemed like one most publishers weren't ready to try out.

Thanks to the success of Fake (and, sigh, Gravitation) other manga publishers are putting out shounen-ai and even YAOI titles. Manga has seen a huge growth in the past few years, bringing non-comic readers to the hobby and finding an audience and Toykopop has been one of the format's leaders, reaching a large number of readers who mostly buy their graphic literature in a place more accessible than the specialty shop.
He also rattles off a list of other gay-themed comics and storylines that caught his eye in 2004.

'Peter' principle: Innocent story or harrowing tale?

The Times of London revisits longtime questions about J.M. Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies children, and wonders how the darker elements of the author's "fractured" psyche may have tinted his "terrible masterpiece," Peter Pan:
For a work inspired by (and ostensibly written to amuse) children, it is astonishingly full of lurid Oedipal overtones, even if they were frequently obscured by candyfloss sanitisation (as in Disney’s 1953 cartoon) until the groundbreaking 1982 RSC staging by Trevor Nunn and John Caird. For instance, Peter professes to hate his own mother, yet desires to turn the virginal Wendy into a mother-figure; while Captain Hook, whom he destroys, is specifically associated with the abducted boys’ father by the play’s simple expedient of casting the same actor in both roles. As for the persona of Peter himself, only the tradition of casting an adult actress in the role cloaked Barrie’s audacity in creating a stage-hero who was both a pubescent child and also dangerously charismatic, even sexy.

To modern eyes, in short, the whole play reads like the work of a man determined to cram into one seemingly innocent night in the theatre every titillating fixation and fetish to be found in Sigmund Freud’s casebook. Yet in 1904 Barrie could not have known Freud’s work. And that makes Peter Pan even more disturbing. For if Barrie was not tapping into an external source to create this peculiar dramatic world — one that deliberately teases away the distinctions between adulthood and childhood — then there is only one other place from which he can have drawn his inspiration: his own fractured psyche.

Comics' Great (Talent) War

At Comic Book Resources, Steven Grant considers the comics industry's new "talent war":
... The thing that's weird these days is all the exclusive contracts being cut. Exclusives are nothing new to the business either, and these days, when talent poaching between companies seems at an all-time high (though that's deceptive, the perception exacerbated by an endless barrage of Internet press releases; most people stay put), it makes some sense. What's unusual about this go-round is who's being signed. Traditionally, companies went after talent who'd shown sales muscle, or, as mentioned above, had a reputation for getting attention regardless of overall sales (companies like attention). The array of talents offered exclusive deals lately, though, has been... well, baffling, particularly at Marvel. I'm not saying any of the talents involved don't deserve contracts - they're all talented guys, even if most as unrecognized by the market and rarely mentioned by the press - it's just hard to figure out what Marvel gets from it, aside from a guaranteed pool of warm bodies to make sure books come out on time. Or maybe they're planning to make them into the next generation of stars. (Companies have tried to do weirder things, though most of the top talents in comics are chosen by the audience and not promoted to them, which is why no one can guess who's going to end up a 'top talent' and who isn't, why some basically untalented people have made it to those rarified heights, and why some incredibly talented people have never reached market critical mass. So 'creating' stars is usually an egotistical, delusional practice.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Mason, Ryall offer their year-in-review lists

At Movie Poop Shoot, Marc Mason assembles a list of the 10 most "essential" comics he reviewed in 2004. Street Angel, Madrox and Same Difference and Other Stories are among those to make the cut.

Also, Poop Shoot (and IDW Publishing) editor-in-chief Chris Ryall looks at "The Year That Was" in film, television, music, DVDs, video games, books and comics.

Hollywood's DIY superheroes

The Hollywood Reporter notes that the success of The Incredibles -- it's already grossed $243 million domestically -- shows you don't need comic books as source material for a superhero movie. Still, it sometimes helps:
Starting in 1981, The Greatest American Hero took to the skies for two seasons on ABC. In that instance, Hero was riding on the familiarity its audience had with Superman thanks to the success of the Christopher Reeve-as-Superman movies that began in the '70s.

More recently, though, attempts to create original superheroes have been problematic.

M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, released in 2000, was a realistic superhero movie that left many audiences scratching their heads. Many viewed its domestic gross of $95 million as a disappointment.

Mystery Men, starring Ben Stiller, might as well have been a superhero original because the comedy was based on a relatively obscure comic. Playing satirical riffs on superhero conventions, it grossed a weak $29.7 million in 1999.

Even Iron Giant, the film Bird made before The Incredibles, struggled. Although the Warners release about a giant robot received critical praise, the 1999 release earned just $23.2 million.

"An argument could be made that Iron Giant didn't succeed because it was a comic book movie too early," [New Line's Jeff] Katz said. "Same as Mystery Men. Look at what's happened in the interim."

Times notices manga explosion

The New York Times takes its turn with an article about the girl-fueled manga boom, focusing on manga publishers like Viz and Tokyopop, but also look at efforts by DC, Marvel, Random House and Disney to make a grab for the market:
American comic book companies could not be happier about manga's popularity. It helps make people comic book conscious. "It's very exciting to us because it's helped grow a readership base and a distribution chain," said Dan Buckley, the publisher of Marvel Comics. Mr. Buckley said that manga's appeal to girls was exciting "because it means that graphic fiction is something they want to look at." Marvel has experimented with enticing girl readers, including issuing manga-size collections of "Emma Frost" and "Mary Jane," its series with strong female leads.
However, The Times doesn't note that Marvel's clumsy manga experiments haven't been very successful.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Looking back at 'Demo'

Newsarama talks with Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan about wrapping up Demo and, of course, the possibility of a collected edition:

"I think that's a question for AIT. I think the possibilities are high, but as far as when, it's not up to me."

Eisner recovering from surgery

Tom Spurgeon passes along word from Denis Kitchen about Will Eisner's open heart surgery on Wednesday:
... He didn't want anyone to know until he came through OK, but all signs are that he is recovering terrifically. He's already joking with the nurses and "biting his lip" over delayed deadlines.

... He's not supposed to return to work for 6-8 weeks (I'm making side bets), so it'd be nice in the interim if the industry deluged him with warm words while he's recuperating.

Please encourage fans and friends to send Get Well cards to:

Will Eisner Studios, Inc.
8333 West McNab Road,
Suite 131
Tamarac FL 33321).

Something wicked this way comes

At Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton combs through January Previews for books shipping in March. Highlights include Process Recess: The Art of James Jean hardcover (which I desperately want, but can't decide whether I should shell out the $25), The Milkman Murders trade paperback, Hipira: The Little Vampire hardcover, 100% trade paperback, Flight Vol. 2, and Naruto Vol. 6.

Dark Horse gets boost from manga, movies carries a profile of 18-year-old Dark Horse Comics, which is experiencing another growth spurt thanks to manga and the "Hollywood comic book nexus." The article also touches upon the company's inroads into bookstores, competition for licensing, and its new M Press and DH press imprints.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Bringing Marvel to the mountain

California's Daily Breeze spotlights Tyler Sports' new licensing agreement with Marvel Enterprises, which will result in a line of snowboards featuring Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four and other characters. The boards will be launched next month at the SnowSports Industries America trade show in Las Vegas.

Here's Tyler Sports president Rob Shiff, spouting a sales figure I've never heard (and, frankly, have trouble believing):

"Marvel is selling 40 million comic books a year, and they have a new movie coming out every six months for the next four or five years. It's easy to see why this is a hot item.''

Ode to an author behaving badly

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of "Rangergate," Chicago Sun-Times columnist Henry Kisor remembers it in his list of events that "helped keep 2004 from boredom":
MISBEHAVING AUTHOR NO. 2: Micah Wright, a popular comic book writer, was dropped by his publisher, Seven Stories Press, after he admitted he lied about being a U.S. Army Ranger in the jacket copy of several of his books.

'Tokyo Godfathers,' 'Incredibles' among best of year

Takoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers and Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles cracked The New York Times' list of 10 Best Films of the Year:
8. "TOKYO GODFATHERS" The anime master Takoshi Kon's third film transplants a mawkish John Ford western into modern Tokyo, a city Mr. Kon renders with breathtaking vibrancy and precision. A heartwarming Christmas fable, a candy-colored film noir, a magical-realist cartoon tear-jerker - no description of this movie can do justice to its captivating, virtuosic strangeness.

9. "THE INCREDIBLES" An almost-great movie about the dangers of mediocrity, and a drama of midlife frustration cleverly dressed up as kid-pleasing action fantasy.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence also makes critic Manohla Dargis' list.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Looking 'Past the Front Racks' at 2004

At Comic World News, Shawn Hoke runs down his favorite books from 2004, swiftly pushing past DC and Marvel to focus on independent publishers and minicomics.

Dispatch from 'Manga Island'

Comic Book Resources joins sites like Newsarama and Comic World News in adding a regular manga column. This time it's the bimonthly "Calling Manga Island" by Tony Salvaggio, who quickly dispenses with introductions and dives into a lengthy overview of Nausicaa.

Manga series enters abduction fray

While Japan threatens political and economic retaliation against North Korea unless the Communist country returns Japanese citizens it has kidnapped or gives a "sincere response" on their fates, publisher Futabasha is telling the story of a 13-year-old abductee in a manga series.

Megumi Yokota, who was abducted in 1977, is probably Japan's most famous kidnap victim, and now appears in a nine-part story in Manga Action. Futabasha also publishes Lupin the 3rd and Crayon Shin-chan. Here's chief editor Katsushi Minoura, who has met with Megumi's parents and visited the site of her abduction:

"Comic books are popular among the Japanese. It's a favorite media. Using manga expressions, I thought it could pave the way for people to think and reflect about the incident and her fate."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

'Next' stop, confusing solicitations

Although Marvel's solicitations for March were "leaked" on Dec. 14, the official versions are now posted, complete with cover images.

Someone apparently forgot to tell the solicitations guys about the big "Marvel Next" initiative, because those titles have been scattered to the winds: Spellbinders #1 appears under "Marvel Next," but X-23 #4 is under "Marvel Knights" and Arana #3 is under "Spider-Man," while Livewires #2, Runaways #2 and Young Avengers #2 are under "Marvel Heroes." It's tough to make an impact with a new "line" when the books don't appear together in the same listings.

I wonder why the Mary Jane: Homecoming miniseries isn't included as part of "Marvel Next." Publisher Dan Buckley described the initiative as "a way for us to promote these teen focused stories to their core readership." One would think the second try at the "teen-focused" Mary Jane could benefit from the extra promotional push.

On the plus side, Jo Chen's cover for Runaways #2 (pictured above) is quite nice.

... And Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for TMP

In a case of interesting timing, Inc. magazine profiles Todd McFarlane in its"Things I Can't Live Without" feature.

Those things, for anyone keeping score at home, are: Mark McGwire's 70th home-run baseball, purchased for $3 million; the Braveheart DVD, purchased for $15; and Action Comics #1, valued at $500,000.

For the Spider-geek who has everything

The New York Times spotlights the new 11-disc CD-ROM set, 40 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man, which features high-resolution scans of every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from #1 to #500. Amazing Fantasy #15 also is included. The collection is priced at $40.

Retailer pushes reading, offers free comics

The Arlington, Mass., Advocate profiles retailer Bob Howard, who takes a reading-advocacy approach to running the newly opened Comicazi:
"If a child comes in here and wants to buy just a toy, I won't take their money unless they take a comic," said Howard, 34, who gives children free comics to encourage them to read. "One of the big things I'm learning is most children really don't read. They're not really excited to read about things. They're quick to grab a toy. Here, it's really nice to find a large percentage of children who are excited to get the free comic and they come back for more adventures."

Looking at the virtues and vices of superheroes

The Waterbury, Conn., Republican-American -- where I worked right out of college -- chats with the Rev. H. Michael Brewer about his book, Who Needs A Superhero? Finding Virtue, Vice and What's Holy in the Comics:

"Brewer isn't trying to whitewash superheroes, and his book focuses as much on their weaknesses as their strengths. Iron Man, for example, dates lots of gorgeous women but is a loser in love because he's afraid to reveal his true self. Spiderman struggles with frequent failure in his everyday life.

"Brewer said the religious overtones of comic-book story lines sometimes are put there intentionally by the writers and artists, while at other times the messages are unintended."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rock the vote, and all that

Wizard has posted the nominees and opened the voting for its 12th annual Wizard Fan Awards. I don't think there are any big surprises -- most of the names on the ballot are standard Wizard fodder -- but I find it funny that a magazine that routinely spoils plot "secrets" lists one of the Favorite Villain nominees as "ID Crisis Villain."

If you're interested, you can cast your votes here. (Don't worry, Wizard allows write-ins.)

Viz looks to art books, 'ani-manga' in 2005

At Publishers Weekly (subscription required), Viz's Liza Coppola discusses the manga publisher's plans for 2005, which include expanding "beyond traditional manga" into art books, character-profile books and "ani-manga" -- books created using anime cells:
The line of art books (among them the Art of Inuyasha), Coppola said, will be released under a separate Viz imprint. Hot titles for 2005 include several manga adaptations of the works of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro) as well as Descendants of Darkness by Yoko Matsushita, Full Metal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu and ani-manga adaptations of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Feb.) and several Inuyasha titles (Nov. and Jan.)

Coppola also hinted that, like Tokyopop, Viz may start experimenting with original manga creators. "But we want to be smart about it. We've been approached, but we want the right fit. There's still so much content available to us from Japan.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A man and his manga addiction

Blogger David Welsh kicks off "Flipped," his weekly column at Comic World News devoted to manga, and explains his addiction:

"My gateway drug was SGT. FROG. Like all good starter addictive substances, it was green, easily consumed, and made me laugh. A lot. I can't tell you what a welcome experience that was at the time, given that comic-induced laughter was generally of the bitter, ironic variety. When I was finding what I traditionally think of as comics- which I still read, don’t get me wrong- repetitive and insular and depressing, here was something fresh and funny and entirely unexpected. In short, it was precisely what I hope to experience when I pick up a comic."

(Link via Ed Cunard.)

Turning comics into prose

Publishers Weekly (subscription required) looks at the comics industry's tradition of prose fiction, from a Superman novelization in the '40s to plans next year for tie-ins based on the Constantine and Batman films (yes, that's a novel based on a film based on a comic book).

In the article, Greg Rucka and Oni editor-in-chief James Lucas Jones talk about A Gentleman's Game, the novel based on Rucka's Queen & Country comics series. Here's Rucka:

"The comics readership falls to novels much more freely and easily than the novel audience falls to comics. I know a couple of mystery bookstore people who said they tried to carry the Queen & Country graphic novels for a while, and people just wouldn't pick them up—although they might have more success now."

PW also touches upon Marvel's new prose line, Marvel Press, and ComicsOne's experiment with the two novels based on the
Onegai Teacher series.

On a related note, interview
s Ruwan Jayatilleke, editorial director of Marvel Press.

'Tis the season for contests

First, Johanna was giving away Andy Runton's Owly. Then Dave was making matching donations to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Now Mike Sterling is offering a chance to win a copy of Swamp Thing: Bad Seed, by Andy Diggle and Enrique Breccia. Go to Mike's blog to check out the specifics.

Update: Kevin at BeaucoupKevin has thrown his hat into the virtual ring, offering a chance for you to win a copy of Julius, by Antony Johnston and Brett Weldele.

The shipping news

At Previews Review, Christopher Butcher highlights some of the books hitting shelves tomorrow, including Bipolar, Black Hole #12 and the DC: The New Frontier Vol. 1 trade paperback. Christopher also echoes some of my puzzlement about fan response to JLA: Classified #1:

"I'm truly baffled by people who didn't enjoy this. I can only assume that after so repeatedly having their critical senses dulled by the onslought of Avengers Dissassembled and Identity Crisis that folks can simply no longer tell good from bad. 'Ugh, this first issue didn't feature any rape at all! And something actually happened! No, no, this is all wrong. It's that damned wacky Grant Morrison and his space drugs again!' No, bad comics have simply made you stupid. It's not your fault."

Comics' Hollywood cred

Wired News eyes the march of comics properties to Hollywood, noting adaptations such as Ghost World and Road to Perdition, but focusing largely on superheroes. Here's Comics2Film's Rob Worley:

"I never envisioned Marvel becoming the entertainment powerhouse it has become in the last four or five years. Back then, comic-book movies were such a ghetto topic. There weren't many movies, and most were terrible."

'Mirror,' 'How Loathsome' make Advocate's Top 10

The Advocate lists Alan Moore and José Villarrubia’s The Mirror of Love and Tristan Crane and Ted Naifeh's How Loathsome among its Top 10 Books of the Year.

Land of the rising 'Shaun' (or some other bad pun)

This is probably one of those things that everyone else already knows, but I'll link to it anyway: In an interview with the Des Moines (Iowa) Register, Shaun of the Dead co-writer/co-star Simon Pegg confirms he and collaborator Edgar White plan to write the film's sequel as a graphic novel titled From Dusk Till Shaun.

Stan Lee thinks of the children

New Jersey's Asbury Park Press chats with Stan Lee about his new children's Christmas book, Superhero Christmas:

"I've been wanting to do a children's book for the longest time. ... I want to show that there's no reason you can't tell a story with a little action, with a little excitement, with a hero who is in trouble. And you can do it for children where it's not violent, it's not objectionable -- in a sense, like the old fairy tales that kids love. I think we accomplished what we set out to do."

AK Comics' 'homegrown heroes'

Lebanon's Daily Star spotlights the Middle Eastern superheroes of AK Comics. Here's publisher Ayman Kandeel, an economics professor at Cairo University:
They are Middle Eastern heroes, period. We didn't want to start identifying them with one culture -- I think that's one of the problems in this region, it's a symptom of the social decay that has set in.
The article points out some of the "constraints" the company faces publishing in the Arab world:
The company had to make some allowances for the cultural conservatism of the region when it reprinted the first few issues initially released in the U.S. For instance, whereas in the American version Jalila's body-molding outfit reveals her chiseled abs, in Egypt her midriff is covered. Certain sensitive topics, such as religion, are also avoided.

"We avoided completely talking about religion," says Marwan al-Neshar, AK Comics' general manager. "You never know the religion of characters."

This avoidance can seem a bit odd at times considering the omnipresence of religion -- and external signs of religious belonging -- in Egypt as well as the rest of the Arab world.

"The whole point is that people's religious beliefs are between themselves and God," Kandeel argues, "and that people need to stop focusing so much on these labels."

As their main target is the 8-13-year-old market, sexuality also doesn't feature -- even if AK Comics has borrowed the American conventionality of depicting its characters as brawny and shapely. The heroes do not even seem to have love interests. What they do have, though, are troubled families, with siblings drafted into fanatical movements or becoming addicted to drugs. Sometimes the character itself offers a moral lesson: Rakan, who was paralyzed as a child, manages to overcome his disability and develop super-human strength through persistence and training.

More McFarlane news

I missed this yesterday, but Tom Spurgeon has a good analysis/roundup of the Todd McFarlane Productions bankruptcy filing. Spurgeon looks at potential for "backlash," and asks a couple of good questions.

On his blog, Neil Gaiman addresses what effect the bankruptcy may have on the Gaiman v. McFarlane decision:

"My understanding is that it only marginally affects me, as the court judgment on the copyright violations was against both TMP and Todd personally, and he's not personally bankrupt, so that's where we would collect from. Now that Todd's primary appeal process is over (and he lost) we're waiting for the final accounting to figure out how much Todd owes, and for the judgment to then be made final. It may be the TMP bankruptcy will slow that up a bit, but, I'm told, probably not too much..."

Update: Todd McFarlane Productions has issued an official statement about the bankruptcy:

"The filing does not involve and will have no impact on McFarlane Toys, one of the nation’s largest toy action figure manufacturers, or any of the other companies in which Todd McFarlane is an officer.

"TMP International Inc. (doing business as McFarlane Toys); Todd McFarlane Entertainment, which helps create animated programming, feature films and other products; and Image Comics, publisher of various comic books, were also defendants in the St. Louis case, but the jury found all three innocent of the charges. All companies will continue business as usual.

"'Only one company is involved in this action, and it will continue to operate and create comics,' said McFarlane, chief executive officer of Todd McFarlane Productions. Filing for protection under Chapter 11 will enable Todd McFarlane Productions to propose a plan of reorganization while its appeal of the judgment to the Missouri Court of Appeals proceeds. The company will continue to produce comic books, without impact on any customers, partners or fans. "

Monday, December 20, 2004

Cover Artists of the Year (Part 2)

And so concludes my list of whom I consider the 20 Cover Artists of the Year. (The list is in alphabetical order; for Part 1 and for a lengthier-than-necessary explanation of what this all means, go here.)

Later in the week, I'll post other, individual outstanding covers from 2004.

Alex Maleev
for his work on Daredevil

Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez
for their work on Green Arrow

Tara McPherson
for her work on Thessaly: Witch For Hire and The Witching

Sean Phillips
for his work on Sleeper, Legends of the Dark Knight and Hawkman

Eric Powell
for his work on The Goon

Frank Quitely
for his work on Bite Club and Books of Magick: Life During Wartime

Jim Rugg
for his work on Street Angel

Tim Sale
for his work on Detective Comics, Catwoman: When In Rome and Grendel: Devil's Reign

Kelsey Shannon
for his work on Batman Adventures

Andi Watson
for his work on Love Fights

Cover Artists of the Year (Part 1)

I never feel as if I read a large enough cross-section of comics to select a proper Best of the Year list. I mean, I haven't read a Spider-book since junior high, I've never in my life picked up an issue of Spawn, and I don't read as many manga and small-press titles as I'd like.

How can I speak with any authority on whether a certain book is heads and shoulders above everything else published this year? I suppose it can be argued that most any compilation isn't as much a Best of the Year list as it is a Best of What I Read This Year list, but that's another issue.

But I do like to pretend I know a little something about design (I make my living, such as it is, as a graphic designer). I appreciate a well-designed comics cover, even if it's for a title I'd never buy in a million years, and wince at the scores of poorly executed ones.

So, I figured while everyone with more diverse reading lists than mine were compiling their lineups of the Best Comic Books of 2004, I'd focus on what I think were the Best Comic Book Covers of 2004.

As I was sorting through the countless cover images, I began to notice some artists whose collected body of work made them stand out from the rest. These were the creators who consistently produced outstanding cover art that, in most cases, helped to define the book on which they were working. These were the 20 creators I selected as the Cover Artists of the Year; they are, to my mind, the best of the best.

Some of the names came as a surprise to me. For instance, I'd unfairly written off Tim Bradstreet as overrated and predictable. But once I began combing through his covers from the past year, I came to appreciate the subtleties of his work. Similarly, I'd paid little attention to the now-canceled Batman Adventures or the work of cover artist Kelsey Shannon. Now I realize I really missed out by not giving his wonderfully designed covers a second, earlier look.

Although a handful of "independent" creators appear, you'll notice the Cover Artists list is pretty "mainstream"-heavy. That's not necessarily a statement about the quality of indy covers; instead, it likely has more to do with the frequency with which many indy books are published. It's difficult to amass of body of cover work in 2004 when only a couple of issues are released.

Still, more indy work will appear later in the week when I post a selection of great individual covers.

So, after all of that, I post for your amusement, bemusement and scrutiny the 20 Cover Artists of the Year (in alphabetical order, broken into two parts for easier viewing)

Tim Bradstreet
for his work on Hellblazer and Punisher

Dave Bullock
for his work on Teen Titans Go!

Jo Chen
for her work on Runaways and Thor: Son of Asgard

Darwyn Cooke
for his work on DC: The New Frontier

Tomer Hanuka
for his work on DC's Focus line and Midnight Mass: Here There Be Monsters

Tony Harris
for his work on Ex Machina, Sword of Dracula, Reign of the Zodiac and others

Adam Hughes
for his work on The Ride and Rose & Thorn

James Jean
for his work on Fables and Batgirl

for his work on The Losers, Detective Comics and Legends of the Dark Knight

Dave Johnson
for his work on 100 Bullets, Batman and Captain America

The best of 'Scottish' film

Ah, December ... a time for family, giving, and putting together "Best Of" lists. In keeping with the season, The Scotsman compiles its 10 Best Scenes In Scottish Film. The newspaper notes that it has "stretched the definition of 'Scottish' to include anything with even a tenuous connection," so Trainspotting appears alongside Braveheart. But what I'm really pleased to see is the inclusion of Robin Hardy's 1973 classic The Wicker Man:

"Robin Hardy’s weird horror movie centres on the religious battle between evangelical Christian policeman Neil Howie, played by Edward Woodward and the pagan community of an isolated Scottish island led by Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle.

"The Wicker Man's plot does stretch credibility slightly with the notion that what the inhabitants of remote Scottish islands love best of all is getting their kit off at every available opportunity despite the weather. The reality is also that you would be more likely to find an evangelically Christian island and a pagan copper from the mainland than the reverse. Nevertheless, as what must be one of the world’s only serious musical horrors, the clash of styles would be worth a viewing alone even if it produced no memorable moments.

"And so to the reviewer’s dilemma, because what is undoubtedly the best scene from this film is the ending. Suffice to say, the theological battle between hedonistic paganism and puritanical Christianity is resolved in a suitably symbolic way. Just seems bad form to spoil it for you with further details, so you will just have to watch it yourself."

TMP bankruptcy: What does it all mean?

Today is Analysis Day for Todd McFarlane Productions' Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. At Newsarama, Matt Brady kicks things off by putting to rest some of the message-board speculation:
First, despite other, misleading reports, Todd McFarlane has not personally filed for Chapter 11, but rather Todd McFarlane Productions Inc., the company responsible for publishing the Spawn comic book issue #140 recently shipped, making it the longest running title published by Image Comics), as well as other comics and magazines that come out from the McFarlane empire. According to company information, its assets include the rights to more than 250 intellectual properties and characters. The distinction is an important one, as McFarlane is the head of a large entertainment empire, of which, TMP is only one facet. McFarlane himself is not bankrupt, and his other companies (though some are rumored to be struggling) are in no way affected by the filing.
At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald provides a handy-dandy timeline of the Tony Twist case, and calms bulletin-board fears that this latest turn of events might somehow affect Image Comics.

2004: Comics' annus horribilis?

At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien takes a grim look at The Year That Was:

"... Manga is here to stay, and the major American players are finally waking up to the prospect of a future where they don't matter. DC has taken an outright move into manga reprint territory with CMX, presumably calculated to get them a foothold in the market. Marvel, on the other hand, have tried producing their own material in digest format, presumably reasoning that a genuine American alternative is more distinctive in that audience than mock-Japanese imitation. It's not an unreasonable theory, but they've had a lot of trouble finding the material to make it work - leading to the Marvel Age imprint undergoing a shake-up over the next couple of months.

"... 2004 saw the deeply unpleasant return of the Big Event. IDENTITY CRISIS? Avengers Disassembled? Sins Past? Overhyped crap, the lot of it. DC's touching faith that IDENTITY CRISIS was somehow marketable to mainstream audiences because it happens to be written by Brad Meltzer was wince-inducing. These are direct market products if ever there was one - histrionic, incoherent melodramas sold on their Big Event status rather than the quality of their writing. We'll doubtless get many more of them next year, a prospect that makes me want to stab my eyes out with knitting needles."

Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon wonders, "why are the particulars of American comics industry maneuvers more worthy of analysis than the specifics of manga company strategies? There was a time in the 1990s when DC was treated less as their own company and more as 'Not Marvel'; are we becoming guilty of treating manga more and more as 'Not Comics'?"

But at Comic Book Galaxy, Alan David Doane puts 2004 behind him, and instead looks at the most anticipated graphic novels of 2005.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A series of unfortunate questions

This is a few days old, but enjoyable, nonetheless: Daniel Handler's alter ego, Lemony Snicket, answers questions from readers of The Independent. Although he offers several good responses, these are probably the best:
What is your opinion of Harry Potter?
Yvonne George, London

Harry Potter seems like a very nice young fictional man. If I were in the habit of befriending fictional people, I'd be happy to make his acquaintance, but the trouble with fictional friendships is that you tend to find yourself sitting in a café, talking excitedly to an empty chair. After several hours, the staff will probably force you to leave, even if there are still uneaten madeleines sitting on your plate, all ready to be covered in strawberry jam. Normally, if you were being treated unfairly, you could count on a friend to help you, but a fictional friend - even one with fictional magic powers - will probably just stand there with a confused and fictional look on his or her face.

You warn children against reading your books. Would you advise me not to ask you a question?

Lily Cook, London

I would advise you not to ask me a certain question - "Are you aware of any sinister plans afoot involving Ms Lily Cook of London?" - as the answer just may not please you.

Romanticizing the '50s, and demonizing the present

Writing for the Baltimore Sun (registration required), Richard Walter of the UCLA film school scrutinizes the 1950s, and wonders whether these are coarser times. His answer? Of course not:

"In those days, as now and always, the older generation saw the culture as already debauched. They saw its destruction in the availability of over-the-counter literature such as Lolita. They heard it in the 'jungle rhythms' of black artists such as Little Richard importuning white teenagers, 'Let's ball tonight!' If video games and violent films threaten to destroy moral character today, 50 years ago it was comic books. Fantasy and horror comics were viewed as part and parcel of the communist conspiracy. Even early editions of Mad magazine were pulled from news racks across the land.

"Today's movies are viewed as uniquely violent, but are they truly so? Conflict has resided at the center of dramatic expression since its earliest days. Oedipus kills his father, and you know what he does to his mother. Medea butchers her children and feeds them for dinner to their faithless, philandering father. By the end of Hamlet there are nine corpses onstage, some poisoned, some run through on swords. Richard III slays his nephews, boys 9 and 11.

"Ugly, bloody dramatic confrontation was not invented a week ago last Thursday by a coven of Hollywood evildoers in a dark chamber at Paramount Pictures. Audiences continue to crave conflict. The movie theater is a gymnasium for the senses, a safe place to experience that violent aspect of the human condition so that it can harmlessly be purged. Rational discourse, consensus and intelligent agreement have their rightful place in our lives to be sure, but art ain't it."

Playing catchup

I've been busy with free-lance work, a new comics script and my so-called real life, so I haven't been johnny-on-the-spot with all the links lately. So, allow me to catch up on a few items:

You've likely seen this by now, but Dave at Yet Another Comics Blog is holding a PBS-style pledge drive to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Through Dec. 24, if 10 people make first-time donations of $25, Dave will donate $250 to the CBLDF. It's a great offer that benefits a great organization. Go to Dave's blog to read all the details regarding donations, confirmation, etc.

Something else everyone likely has seen by now, but I'll link to it for future reference: Todd McFarlane Productions filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors Friday in Federal Bankruptcy Court. The Associated Press reports that McFarlane is citing the $15 million jury award against him in the Tony Twist lawsuit.

One of my favorite comics creators, Ted Naifeh, is interviewed at The Pulse about Courtney Crumrin, Gloomcookie and Death Junior, but not so much about his upcoming fantasy epic, Glimmer. Naifeh mentions on his website that the first issue of the delayed Death Junior is finished, and should be released in April.

The St. Petersburg Times attends OtakuCon, the manga and anime convention in Florida.

The San Francisco Chronicle looks at how so many Americans are being swept up in all things Asian, from films and literature to food and medicine.

And lastly, Newsarama has a preview of The Amazing Joy Buzzards #2, which looks like loads of fun. I'm glad I went with my gut and pre-ordered the first few issues of the series.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I couldn't think of a good 'hoot' headline ...

Johanna at Cognitive Dissonance is hosting another contest, this time for Andy Runton's delightful Owly. All you have to do to enter to win an Owly graphic novel or minicomic is email Johanna your version of a cute owl. That's it. I suppose that means you could send a drawing, photo or even an audio file of you immitating the sound a cute owl makes.

Anyway, go enter. Good luck.

I gotta be meme

I always intend to do these things, but never get around to them -- primarily because I'm easily distracted. So, I will do this latest meme (via Crocodile Caucus via Yet Another Comics Blog via Johnny Bacardi via Jen Contino), because it requires no heavy lifting or long-term commitment:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

"The youthful Sammy, dressed in light-blue trousers, gamboge [bright yellow] waistcoat, and pink coat, is throwing his arms in raptures at the 'stylish appearance' of his sweetheart Matilda, who, like Sammy himself, is decked out in all the chomatic elegance of these three primary colors, while the astonished swain is exclaiming, by means of a huge bubble which he is in the act of blowing out of his mouth, 'My gracious, Matilda! how ever did you get that beautiful new dress?'"

Whew! That's one very long sentence, quoting journalist and playwright Henry Mayhew's description of an 1865 print ad, from Judith Flanders' Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England.

Yes, I do lead a very exciting life. Why do you ask?

Scholastic sells a half-million SpongeBob Cine-Manga

This is impressive ... and a little disturbing (if only because it's SpongeBob): Tokyopop tells that Scholastic Books has sold nearly a half-million units of SpongeBob SquarePants: Bikini Bottom's Most Wanted Cine-Manga. Yes, a half-million copies:

"Previously [June 18] ICv2 had reported that Scholastic had moved 250,000 copies of the SpongeBob Cine-Manga, but the doubling of that already impressive number indicates the immense potential of the Scholastic Book Club, and the appeal of the Spongebob property to the school-age demographic."

Goyer set to chase down The Flash

I don't usually mention much about comics-related movies news because, well, I don't really care about it. But David Goyer apparently is determined to have his hand in every second superhero film. UK's Empire Online reports that Goyer now is set to write, produce and direct a film version of DC Comics' The Flash for parent company Warner Bros.:

"Flash is my favorite of the properties. I think the character of the Flash, who moves faster than the speed of light, opens itself up to rich cinematic and story ideas."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What's this? ANOTHER comics store opens?

The Muncie, Ind., Star Press takes note of the Saturday opening of Alter Ego Comics, located at 422 E. McGalliard Road in the McGalliard Square Shopping Center. Here's co-owner Jason Pierce:

"We'll have plenty of things that are geared toward kids, but there are things for all ages at our store. Even intelligent adult readers are recognizing this as a very fun source of entertainment."

'If Betty and Veronica were Latina punk lesbians'

Salon (relatively painless click-through ad required) talks with Jaime Hernandez about Locas and the 20-year-old "alt-comics phenomenon" that is Love & Rockets:

"... When I was a teenager, I was still doing superhero comics for myself, trying to create a universe of characters. I noticed that I really got into character interaction, people just talking and bouncing off each other, getting hot and cold -- and I wanted to create two characters like Maggie and Hopey that I could do that with forever, who could talk about anything. As their characters progressed, my whole universe revolved around them. Because that's what interested me most in storytelling: characterization.

"... When I first started doing it, I didn't really think about it. I just thought, they're two friends. They have fights, they get along, they back each other up. I just wanted my own Charlie Brown, my Betty and Veronica, my Batman. My own characters that would one day stand right next to Charlie Brown and Lucy, that kind of thing. But, you know, I wasn't holding my breath. I was thinking, Well, it'll be fun trying."

Actor remembers time spent as original Robin

The St. Joseph, Mo., News-Press profiles 80-year-old Johnny Duncan, who played the Boy Wonder in the 1949 Batman and Robin movie before moving on to bit parts in films such as The Caine Mutiny, Spartacus and Plan 9 from Outer Space:

"At 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds, Duncan is 15 pounds lighter than his crime-fighting Robin weight. The filtered Vantage cigarettes he chains smokes haven't yet slowed his quick, nimble pace. His mind is still detective sharp as he recalls a past Hollywood and comic-book story life.

"... 'When you wear tights and a mask for like three months at a time every morning till night, by God you begin to think you are Robin,' he said. 'You get off at night, take your mask off, you think you're in the Bat Cave when you come home.'"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Times on 'diverse' superhero trades, 'Crisis' conclusion

Today's New York Times highlights some new trade editions that "show how diverse stories with the cape-and-cowl set can be": Invincible Vol. 3: Perfect Strangers; She-Hulk Vol. 1: Single Green Female; The New Frontier Vol. 1; and Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 2: Doom.

In its "Arts, Briefly" column, The Times also notes the conclusion of Identity Crisis:

"Readers have witnessed the rape and murder of one hero's wife, the murder of Robin's father and a death threat against Lois Lane. But the bigger shocks have come from the Justice League, whose members made a secret pact to brainwash villains to keep their identities secret and their families safe. Today, the murderer is revealed, and Mr. Meltzer could not be happier. 'I can't tell you what it's like to keep a secret going for this long.' he said. 'When I write one of my novels, the book comes out all at once and people can react to it all at once. It was like releasing the work and waiting seven months for people to give you a full review.'"

Powell's picks best of year; comics get slight nod

Instead of dumping another Top 50 list on us, Powell's Books continues its tradition of having 22 employees each select their Top 5 books of the year. Comics have a limited presence, with Daniel Raeburn's Chris Ware, Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage, and Koike Kazou and Goseki Kojima's Samurai Executioner Vol. 1 cropping up as staff picks.

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell receives a couple of mentions. (I was also pleased to see Sara Wise's wonderful The Italian Boy, which has nothing to do with comics or fantasy, at the top of one employee's list. It's a gripping historical narrative that's difficult to put down.)

Online sales, more manga from Random House?

The New York Daily News reports that Random House CEO Peter Olsen hinted yesterday in a letter to employees that the publisher may begin selling its books direct to consumers via the Internet, and increase the number of manga from its Del Rey imprint.

"We have begun seriously evaluating -- and in some cases preparing business plans -- for many potential initiatives," Olsen wrote.

However, executive vice president Stuart Applebaum told the Daily News that there are no immediate plans for online sales: "The key thing is we're not ruling it out."

Comics folk among 'Pop Candy's 100 People'

Ah, more the-year-that-was reflections ...

Comics creators get some ink in USA Today, in "Pop Candy's 100 People of 2004," compiled by columnist Whitney Matheson. Garry Trudeau is No. 90; Art Spiegelman is No. 64; James Kochalka, No. 53; Chip Kidd, No. 51; Marjane Satrapi, No. 39; Jeffrey Brown, No. 27; and Chris Ware, No. 18.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Abbreviated blogging

This is probably it for blogging today. I need to finish up a free-lance project and actually, you know, make some money.

And so begins the 2004 post-mortems

Comic Book Galaxy kicks off the year-in-review onslaught in fine fashion with a rundown of the Best of 2004, and a roundtable discussion featuring Chris Allen, Christopher Butcher, Dirk Deppey, Shawn Hoke, Jason Marcy, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Eric Reynolds, Jim Rugg, Tom Spurgeon, Rob Vollmar and Brett Warnock.

I think I prefer Spurgeon's description: "Alan David Doane asks the questions; a crack team of like-minded cranks provides variations on the same answers."

Monday, December 13, 2004

'I shot an Arrow into the air ...'

Have I mentioned lately how much I love James Jean's work? No? Then let me direct you to his beautiful cover to Green Arrow #48, which features Oliver Queen battling "the rustic robotic menace known as The Duke of Oil." (You can see the cover to #49 here.)

DC needs to collect Jean's cover art in an oversized hardcover edition. Now. I just wish he'd work on titles that I actually read.

Oh, in case you didn't see, DC's March solicitations have been posted.

Big plans for Gigantic

Writing for Publishers Weekly (subscription required), Heidi MacDonald draws attention to Rick Spears' new venture, Gigantic Graphic Novels. The Brooklyn-based publisher plans to release six to eight books a year, beginning with a collected Teenagers From Mars, by Spears and artist Rob G.

That will be followed by Dead West, a graphic novel by the same creative team, as well as the sequel The Curse of the Teenagers from Mars, and original projects by "an array of fresh young talent."

Gigantic announced last week that it had signed an exclusive agreement with Publishers Group West for bookstore distribution.

Batman, Robin and ... The Question

Usually, when a columnist ponders that age-old question, "Is Batman gay?," it means he's run out of material. But Ninth Art's Andrew Wheeler fearlessly tackles the topic anyway, summoning the ghost of Fredric Wertham, and making a couple of decent points in the process. It's better than most columns on the Batman/Robin relationship.

Such speculation about fictional characters is silly. But I do wonder why supposition invariably focuses on Batman and Robin. No one seems interested in what may have gone on in the foxhole between Captain America and Bucky, or how Sandman and Sandy the Golden Boy wiled away the hours.

Is it because Wertham seemed so fixated on the Dynamic Duo's relationship, or simply because they're the best-known hero/sidekick combo? Or maybe it's Burt Ward's fault.

Yeah, let's blame Burt Ward ...

(Note: The second item in Wheeler's column, anticipating the onslaught of "year in review" articles, is worth reading.)

Creator profile: Sonny Liew

The Malaysia Star spotlights Sonny Liew (Malinky Robot), who's surprisingly candid about money matters: The Star notes he was paid about $15,000 for his work on Vertigo's My Faith In Frankie.

A related article takes a closer look at each of Liew's comics projects.

'Can puny human hear Hulk now?'

MFORMA and Marvel are trumpeting a licensing agreement that will bring Marvel's stable of characters (except the Punisher, for some reason) to geeky mobile phone users worldwide (except for Japan, for some reason):
The MFORMA/Marvel product lineup runs the full gamut of mobile entertainment products, including action, adventure, RPG and trading card games, images, screensavers, graphics, ring tones, voice tones, mobile greeting cards, mobile comic books, phone functions, virtual character simulations, and community and lifestyle applications.
I'm not sure what "virtual character simulations" and "community and lifestyle applications" are, but I'm dying to hear the Luke Cage voice tone: "Sweet Christmas! Sweet Christmas!"

Retail realities

The Boston Globe talks business with George Suarez, co-owner of New England Comics:
Only 1 to 2 percent of a comic book retailer's annual budget goes toward marketing, according to John Jackson Miller, editorial director of Comics and Games Retailer magazine.

Suarez has seven retail stores in Greater Boston, and he said they continue to attract new customers despite a tiny marketing budget.

"I'm not going to get into numbers," said Suarez. "But it's not one of my bigger expenses to do advertising."

Maryland tests statewide comics program

I sense a trend developing. The Washington Post looks at a planned statewide program in Maryland to use comics to reach reluctant readers in public schools:
"In America, people have loved comic books, but nobody has looked at the value of it as a reading material," said Darla Strouse, executive director of partnerships for the Maryland Department of Education. "What we're saying is, this is an outstanding approach to teaching reading."

Pilot programs are underway in some parts of Maryland. Fifth-graders at an elementary school in Harford County, northeast of Baltimore, are reading a comic book featuring Donald Duck and another about women in science. High school students in Carroll County are creating cartoons in art class and studying Batman: The Dark Knight Returns for an English course in mythology.

... "You see kids reading comic books, buying comic books, and they seem totally engrossed," State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said. "It looks like there's really some potential here." She said comic books are not meant to replace traditional reading materials but rather to be used as a supplement.

Superman voted top superhero; Hulk demands recount

Superman has been voted the most popular superhero of all time in a survey of moviegoers conducted by Britain's poll-happy UCI Cinemas. The poll of 4,985 people was conducted to mark the release of Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles, but the timing did little to help Mr. Incredible, who came in fifth behind the Man of Steel, Spider-Man, Batman and the Hulk.

Daredevil, The Mask, Wolverine, Catwoman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rounded out the Top 10.

The Scotsman chimes in with some facts about Superman.

In other movie news, Coming Soon picks up on a Variety report that 20th Century Fox has picked Sheldon Turner (The Longest Yard) to write Magneto, the second X-Men spinoff. Here's Turner:

"I pitched a film that is almost The Pianist meets X-Men, about a guy who, after watching his family slaughtered, has an awakening of his powers and seeks revenge."

Uh ... great?

Friday, December 10, 2004

For you, a lump of coal -- and 'Wolverine: Weapon X'

The Boston Herald, which can't resist a "Holy stocking stuffer!" headline, offers gift suggestions perfect for the comics fan. Among them: Dark Knight Archive Vol. 1 and other DC Archive editions, X-Statix vs. the Avengers, The Complete Peanuts - 1953-1954, the Wolverine: Weapon X prose novel and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel.

Anime magnetism

The Miami Herald previews the Dec. 17-19 OtakuCon, which is expected to draw some 4,000 anime and manga fans to Miami Beach.

Graphic novels as a learning tool

The Orlando Sentinel (registration required) notices that more schools and libraries are turning to graphic novels in hopes of reaching struggling or disinterested readers. And it seems to be working.

Although graphic novels constitute less than 1 percent of the books in Boynton Beach Community High School's library, they sometimes account for half the books that students check out. The library has built a collection of 1,400 graphic novels in the past two years:

"If I get a new load of graphic novels, I can't even get them out and they're all, like, attacking them."