Riding the storm out: The Pulse checks in from Wonder Con with news from WildStorm and the U.S. editions of Humanoids. First up, The Authority: Human on the Inside hardcover graphic novel by John Ridley, who wrote Three Kings. There also was talk of the August return of Terra Obscura, by Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Yanick Paquette and Karl Story. The first 12 issues of Planetary will be collected as a hardcover edition in August called Absolute Planetary.
Friday, April 30, 2004
Dueling artists: The Oregonian covers the Comic Art Battle at Portland's Reading Frenzy, during which writers and artists faced off in a series of timed challenges:
"Mostly, they battled one-on-one. Occasionally there were tag-team face-offs, where artists worked in pairs to produce a six-panel comic in less than 10 minutes. As the evening progressed, the air grew thick with the scent of spent markers, and maybe it was a break with reality brought on by huffing pen fumes, or maybe it was the fact that Daniels and his three friends had decided to wear colorful and flamboyant costumes as they battled (Longstreth in screaming green cords, Renier in motorcycle helmet and vinyl black and red jacket that looked as if it had been rescued from Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'-era wardrobe), but soon the proceedings began to feel a bit like a comic book come to life."
Manga nation: The New York Daily News takes notice of manga's growing popularity in the United States:
"The $100 million U.S. market for these paperbacks -- focused mainly on 'tweeners and teeners, 12 to 17, but with many older fans -- is booming and drawing in new players, including mighty Random House."
Marvel sues search engine: The Naples (Fla.) Daily News reports Marvel Enterprises and Marvel Characters Inc. have sued the owner of Spiderboy.com, an Internet search engine. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, accuses Mark Pardo and Spiderboy International Inc. of trademark infringement, unfair competition and trademark dilution.
Comic art: The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal reports on "Slinging Some Ink," an exhibit of the work of eight comic book artists who live in the Hudson Valley. The show, which opens Saturday at the Art Society of Kingston Gallery, will feature work by Terry Austin, Kyle Baker, Charles Barnett III, Elliot Brown, Joe Sinnott, Joe Staton, Jim Starlin and Herb Trimpe:
''For many years, comic book people were considered the bottom of the barrel, as far as artists were concerned. there's a lot that goes into it, a lot of composition. And finally, now some of us are thought of as artists.''
Thursday, April 29, 2004
The glory days of gore: At Time.com, Richard Corliss looks back fondly on Bill Gaines' EC Comics and the golden era of horror:
"The horror comics offered grown-up, or at least adolescent fare — which is why it was popular with kids; they wanted a passkey to the forbidden, the extreme, and in these campfire tales they could feel scaredy-brave both by subjecting themselves to horror tales and by daring to read something that might be condemned by their parents. Which suggests a financial oddity: EC’s main audience was teen and young adult males — the target demographic for today’s advertisers. Yet the average New Trend magazine contained no more than three pages of outside advertising. The revenue came almost entirely from readers."
The revolution will be televised: Franklin Harris writes about Tokyopop's planned TV-ad campaign, and talks to John Powers, the company's vice president of marketing:
"If publishers have traditionally shied away from TV advertising, perhaps it's their methodology that should be questioned rather than the medium."
So, the sky's falling? I realize owning a comics shop must be tough. But sometimes it seems retailers are just desperate for something to harp about. Case in point: retailer Mike Boze's complaint at ICv2.com about the "superstores":
"I would like to point out an event that happened yesterday. I had two high school age males in the store yesterday looking through the Magic: The Gathering commons and uncommons. As they were preparing to leave, one of two asked me if a new Punisher was out. I informed him that Punisher was a monthly comic and was out pretty regular. His reply, and I quote, 'No that isn't what I mean, I'm not sure what they are called, but I go to Books-A-Million and read them and I was wondering when the new one was going to be out.'
"I guess after he saw my look he just paid for his cards and left. We all know this is a common practice. I guess I was just shocked that he was so bold about it. I just wish that the publishers really considered how good a policy this is (to invest so much effort into large chain stores) and how long before we really begin to see the effects of the long-term damage to the smaller comic shops."
From page to screen: Northern Illinois University's Northern Star takes its turn with the comics-to-film trend.
Counterfeit crackdown: Celebrity Justice reports the owners of Betty Boop, including the Hearst Corporation, are cracking down on the unlicensed use of the character's image:
"In five lawsuits filed in federal court, Betty's owners are going after 43 defendants, including companies that make electronics, underwear, t-shirts, jeans, baby clothes, jewelry and more -- all accused of illegally using Betty's image."
Distribution deal: Simon & Schuster announced it will be the domestic manga distributor for Viz, providing warehousing, fulfillment, customer service and accounts receivable collection. Viz titles previously were distributed by Publishers Group West.
In somewhat related news, Viz's Naruto, Vol. 3: Bridge of Courage and Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 4: Dual Conclusions apparently are the first graphic novels to appear on USA Today's Top 150 list of best-selling books.
Analyzing Superman: USA Today takes a look at Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen's It's a Bird:
"This hardcover comic book about comic books easily ranks with Spirit creator Will Eisner's memoirs of life in the comic sweat shops and Michael Chabon's best-selling The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay."
You can't hurry Love: The Rockford (Ill.) Register Star includes Love Fights in its "10-Second Reviews":
"Think it's hard finding love in the real world? Imagine trying in a world where the standard of perfection isn't set by movie stars and models, but by superheroes. That's the premise of Love Fights ($14.95), a romantic comedy in comic book form by cartoonist Andi Watson. Jack and Nora pursue romance surrounded by flying men, mad scientists and Jack's suddenly superpowered cat. Watson's artwork, which owes more to New Yorker cartoons than Spider-Man comics, fits the story perfectly."
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Dirty Diana: At Movie Poop Shoot, Scott Tipton delves into the origins of Wonder Woman, and the life of her kinky, kinky creator, William Moulton Marston.
Number crunching, revisited: Back at The Pulse, Marc-Oliver Frisch offers an analysis of month-to-month direct market figures for DC Comics and a handful of other titles, such as Wanted, Savage Dragon and Cerebus.
Clearasil nation: The San Francisco Bay Guardian takes a look at "teen angst" comics, including Zero Girl, Black Hole, Blankets and Demo:
"Characters in DEMO are endowed with superhuman strengths of one sort or another, but they are resistant to the notion of the superheroic gesture. These people are not in the denial stage of a story arc that will end in their saving the world. They're just trying to live their weird lives in the world as we know it, the world as it is. If their struggles can be deemed heroic, it's mostly a testament to how difficult it is to be odd in a normal place.
"Superpowers, not recognized as such, are really just enormous problems. And taken literally, DEMO's supernatural aspects somehow become starker and harder to bear. Marie's mother force-feeds her a cocktail of medications designed to shove her back toward the center of the bell curve (a detail reminiscent of the health care industry's addiction to mood stabilizers for children). Elsewhere, a young girl's speech has a terrible power over other people's, leaving her afraid to articulate anything and totally alone. A young man's superhuman strength leads him toward the thug life of a small-town criminal and the depressing knowledge that his friends are using him. None of these themes are solely the property of youth, of course. But an out-of-proportion sense of the effect your actions have on those around you is a regular event of childhood, while messages such as 'conform at any cost' tend to be sharply felt a few years down the road."
British invasion: Newsarama reports that DC Comics has acquired North American publishing rights to all current and future comics material from UK's Rebellion, including 2000AD and Judge Dredd Magazine. The deal means DC will have access to work in those publications by Garth Ennis, Frank Quitely, Mark Miller, Sean Phillips and the like. Look for the first of the volumes in September.
Call to arms: Steve Lieber suggests the energy being devoted to "rescuing" canceled titles like Wildcats and Stormwatch might be better used supporting struggling small press and self-published comics:
"Let's say that a well-organized and sustained push could raise a book's sales by five hundred or a thousand copies. That's not enough to keep a corporate publisher from cancelling a moribund series. It simply doesn't represent a big enough slice of their expenses. But that same increase on a small press book makes an unbelievable impact. It can push a book out of the red and into the black, It can significantly increase the buzz on a title, making fence-sitting retailers more likely to order that all-important first copy, and most importantly, it can keep a cartoonist working on his or her comics instead of moving off to do commercial art.
"So, to those of you who want to make a cause of a comic, I say pick a worthy black and white title - something you can really get behind like Finder or Scooter Girl or (your favorite indie here), and make that the beneficiary of your activism. It's may be almost impossible for a small clique of fans to change the fate of a color comic from one of the big publishers, but the economics of small press publishing are such that a relatively small number of fans can make a very big difference."
With this ring ... Let the message boards rejoice. Or whatever. Newsarama reports that, according to Wizard #152, Hal Jordan will return as Green Lantern in a five-issue miniseries called Green Lantern: Rebirth, which debuts in October. The current Green Lantern series will end in September.
Number crunching: At The Pulse, Paul O'Brien works his mathematical magic on Marvel's month-to-month direct market sales. Venom, Silver Surfer and Spectacular Spider-Man continue to hemorrhage readers. Ouch.
Your CrossGen is Doomed! story of the day: The Pulse reports that artist Greg Land has quit CrossGen.
Review review, Part 2: PopImage cranks out capsule reviews of David Wiesner's Tuesday, Prophecy Anthology: Vol. 1, Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, and more.
Review revue, Part 1: UnderGroundOnline reviews Jeffrey Brown's Be A Man.
Plug pulled on magazine: ICv2.com reports that Ross Rojek's indictment on charges of fraud and money laundering has led to the folding of Games Unplugged magazine:
"The entrepreneurial bottom feeder evidently had his tentacles in many different pop culture projects including Games Unplugged magazine, which he purchased from Fast Forward. Tony Lee, the editor of Games Unplugged, reportedly had an issue ready to go to press when news of Rojek's arrest and the dissolution of The American Entertainment Group (Games Unplugged's parent corporation) reached him. Needless to say Mr. Lee is now out of work and the new issue of Games Unplugged is likely to languish in limbo."
The Tale of manga: The UCLA International Institute reprints a speech by Prof. Lynne Miyake in which she dissects the manga adaptations of the 11th-century Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji. In her analysis, Miyake provides a nice overview of manga in Japan:
"In 1995, the peak of manga publication and production, 1.9 billion -- or 15 manga for every man, woman, and child in Japan -- were sold. This figure did not include the dôjinshi (or amateur manga publications), or mawashi-yomi when one manga was passed and read by several people. Since that time the statistics have fallen to 1.5 billion in 2000, the latest figures I have, but this still accounted for one third of unit sales and nearly a quarter of the gross sales of all publications for that year.
"Perhaps in recent years, manga reading on trains has been eclipsed by people engaging in text messaging or surfing the net on their cell phones, but Japanese manga have certainly left their mark. Manga is ubiquitous in Japan: it is used for a variety of tasks, ranging from training new bank customers in the whys and wherefores of banking, on the one hand, to instructing employees on how to estimate the cost of sewer construction, on the other."
Hollywood bound: Well, it looks as if this casting rumor is true. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Charlize Theron is in negotiations to star in the film adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis' Jinx. Bendis will adapt his own work for the screen:
"This is not the traditional comic book movie, which tends to be more about concept. This is a crime novel that is illustrated so you're more interested in the voice of it. Universal understood that and has thankfully given me a fantastic opportunity bring the character of Jinx to the big screen."
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Review revue: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) takes a look at The Losers: Ante Up:
"... Diggle and Jock aim to bring the best parts of the 1980s action movie aesthetic to comics with this work, and they largely succeed. But in this first story arc, they rely too heavily on its tropes. Corrupt CIA? Check. Infiltration of a secure office building? Check. Speedboat chase climaxing with a jump off a conveniently placed ramp? Check. Diggle adds a number of fun new touches to his crew of misfits, particularly with some fresh takes on old action movie characters. For example, Jensen is the prototypical hacker, but also a barely repressed actor who patters through even the tensest scenes. Cougar, the strong, silent sniper type, epitomizes cool without saying a word. Jock’s art—with its deceptively simple, shadowed figures—is atmospheric and dynamic and shows a flair for inventive layouts. His raw talent could use a little refinement though, as his depiction of action sequences sometimes sacrifices clarity for novelty. These are small quibbles, however. With this work, Diggle and Jock have made sure readers come out ahead on the classic bang-for-buck exchange."
Your CrossGen is Doomed! story of the week: Newsarama reports that CrossGen has rescheduled Raven House, and replaced penciler Leonardo Manco with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang artist Mike Perkins. The horror miniseries, originally set to debut in June, now is scheduled for an August release. Questions from Newsarama about the future of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was conceived by Perkins, weren't answered.
Viz and fizz: It's no Tokyopop TV-ad buy, but it'll have to do. Viz has announced it's launching an ad campaign with Dr Pepper, beginning in the June issue of Shonen Jump. As part of the campaign, Shonen Jump and Dr Pepper will sponsor the -- brace yourselves -- "Be You, Be a Pepper, Be Manga" art contest. I'll let the press release explain it:
"SHONEN JUMP readers will be encouraged to draw themselves as an original manga-style character enjoying the great taste of Dr Pepper. Twenty submitted entries will be selected as finalists by the magazine’s editors based on originality, creativity and the incorporation of a Dr Pepper can/bottle/logo."
Trade secrets: At Comic Book Resources, Arthur Adams reveals DC Comics' cover-selection process:
"Usually I do about fifty different sketches for any one cover. I then send these sketches to Mr.'s Berganza and Palmer. They take the sketches to a huge staff of lawyers, scientists, and theologians. This committee then chooses the one that will be the most difficult for me to draw. Then , lately anyway (I think Eddie just can't stand to hear me cry anymore), Tom Palmer calls me to tell me which one they want. He tries to console me by saying the next one will be easier, but it never is."
Starting the engines earlier: At Comic World News, Jason Pomerantz talks to Neil Gaiman about 1602:
"What I specifically wanted to play with was the feel of the original Stan Lee (and Jack and Steve etc) characters. I wanted the simplicities. I wanted to write the characters I fell in love with when I was seven (in UK reprints, so I got the Marvel universe from the start). I didn't want to do something that was like a Marvel version of Alan Moore's 1963, though -- apart from anything because the original Marvel comics were those things that Alan was recreating, which meant that if I went that route at best I'd come up with something that was an imitation of what Stan and Jack had done.
"So I decided to do something else instead.
"The best thing for me about the 1602 conceit was the idea that I was going to simply start the engines of the Marvel universe earlier, and see how it worked.
"Some things were just sitting around in the back of my head, and had been for a long time -- I thought it might be fun to create a daredevil who was closer to Matt Murdock's imaginary brother Mike than he was to Matt himself, for example. Many of them turned up quite happily on the page. Mostly I was just impressed with how well Stan, Jack et al had built things."
Tokyohoop: Tokyopop is making headlines right and left. This time it's because of a deal with the NBA to develop an NBA Sports Manga series. Here's how ICV2.com describes the books:
"The fumetti-style volumes will utilize full color digital images freeze-framed into action-packed spreads and peppered with manga style word balloons and captions."
Top 300, winners and Losers: In this week's "Pipeline," Augie De Blieck Jr. offers his own take on Diamond's Top 300, and reviews The Losers: Ante Up. (How Augie can describe Jock's art as a "shortcoming" is beyond me, but I'll let it slide ...)
More Indy: The spring edition of Indy Magazine is online, with an analysis of David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik's adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass, interviews with the creators, and the introduction by Art Spiegelman. There's also an interview with Françoise Mouly about Little Lit, reviews and more.
War stories: The Seattle Times takes another look at the recent storylines in Doonesbury and Get Fuzzy, and turns to The Comics Journal's Dirk Deppey for comment:
"Trudeau is in many ways a trailblazer when it comes to subject matter in his strip. Because he tends to blaze these trails, he doesn't set it up with Howard Stern-style shock-jokes. He tends to approach it with some gravity."
Manga's Lolita complex: The Japan Times examines whether the "eroticization" of children in many manga and anime is just a pop-culture quirk, or a greater societal problem:
"Cute characters and 'lolicom' (Lolita complex) themes are a staple of the Japanese pop culture consumed at home and abroad. Many otaku anime and manga products feature sexy school-girl heroines. Some extreme varieties of lolicom manga are clearly pedophilic pornography. Some pressure groups and NGOs suggest a link between a 'lolicom culture' that idolizes young girls and social problems such as child prostitution and sexual abuse."
While the main story quotes politicians, activists and culture critics, the sidebar turns to people on the street for rather mixed views on "lolicom" manga.
Women and comics: Friends of Lulu/New York is relaunching the "Women and Comics" series on May 5 at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. First up is Marvel's Teresa Focarile, who will "describe how to submit writing samples and speak about Marvel's interest in comics written by women for new audiences."
Marvel's all up in your grill: Marvel Enterprises, that "global character-based entertainment licensing company," and hip-hop clothing company AST Sportswear have announced a deal to produce a line of Marvel urban streetwear. "The new apparel will combine the fresh, street vibe of the hip-hop world with several characters from the Marvel Universe, to produce edgy clothing with a distinct flare."
Wait, it gets better. Here's AST's Larry Zimmer, on Marvel's street cred:
"There is an evident connection between the hip-hop community and the Marvel brand. We began to realize the immense connection through our conversations with top creators in the hip-hop industry and many of our consumers who referenced the Marvel mythos time and time again. By combining our popular urban apparel line with the many Marvel characters we will bring these two cultures together through a line of affordable, high-quality clothing."
And Marvel's Tim Rothwell is keepin' it real:
"Marvel is quite simply one of the premiere entertainment brands available in the market today. Our characters have a 21st Century edge and hipness to them and nothing speaks louder to these same values than hip-hop. This will also function on a truly symbiotic level where we will work with AST in developing specifically tailored designs for the line and crossovers in our comic books and various forms of music can be expected."
Monday, April 26, 2004
Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt! On the 30th birthday of Dungeons & Dragons, BBC News wonders whether anyone still plays the grandfather of geek games. Joshua Turton, 29, says yes:
"I get to be braver, stronger, wiser, smarter, faster, handsomer, and just generally more than I am in real life. I can perform miracles, save damsels, slay dragons, cast spells, right wrongs, raid tombs, drink ale, and live dangerously."
Small town life: The North Adams (Mass.) Transcript profiles Stuck Rubber Baby creator Howard Cruse, who moved with his partner to the city last August:
"It would not have been possible 15 years ago. Because, professionally speaking, one needed to be in New York City. But, everything's changed because of the Internet. I can do the same things here that I was doing in New York City in the last six or seven years."
Looking at Valentino's Image: At Newsarama, Jim Valentino dances gingerly around the question of his removal as publisher of Image Comics:
"The Publisher is an employee of the corporation, even if he is also a shareholder/partner. California is an 'at-will' employment state. That means the employer can terminate an employee for no reason whatsoever. So, it's perfectly okay to dismiss any employee. I was not voted out as an Image partner or Board member ... yet. I may be after this interview, however, I'll keep ya posted -- I'm kidding ... sort of. Bottom line, they wanted a change. All I can do is wish Erik the best."
Money matters: Also at Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien takes another look at Marvel's emphasis on licensing, and what that approach means to its comic books:
"... Spider-Man has value because he's already a household name, not because of today's comics. Less well-known characters such as Blade have value (if they have it at all) because somebody thinks there's a good central idea. It's vaguely useful to have ongoing comics for the major characters to stop them turning, like Mickey Mouse, into historical relics. And for the second tier characters, the existence of a comic is totally irrelevant to the success of the film. But really, the value in these characters is already there -- and once they become the multimedia juggernauts Marvel seem to be hoping for, the comic becomes a bit of a side issue."
"A fools' game?" At ICv2.com, retailers Calum Johnston and Ilan Strasser respond to news of Tokyopop's TV-advertising plans:
"How is it that Tokyopop has already made the wise and potentially far-reaching decision to use low cost cable advertising to promote its products while all Marvel and DC have said for years was that advertising is a fools' game?"
Not enough hours in the day: The L.A. Daily News reports on the 24-Hour Comics Day event at Newhall's Brave New World Comics:
"Unlike film or many other media, the only thing you need to create comics is a pen and an idea. This artistic marathon has given creators an opportunity to see what they're capable of."
Becoming a legend: The Orlando Sentinel wonders whether Zorro and James Bond should be classified as "legends," and turns to MoCCA trustee -- and former comics editor -- Jim Salicrup for the lowdown on the swashbuckler:
"There's nothing outrageous about him. There have been revolutionaries who would possibly wear masks and strike at night and leave marks behind."
Philadelphia, in Focus: The Philadelphia Daily News (registration required) talks to writer David Tischman about Fraction, part of DC Comics' new Focus line. Oddly, the newspaper refers to Fraction, which is set in Philadelphia, as Tischman's "first creator-owned monthly book." I don't recall seeing anything about the Focus line being creator-owned; does anyone have any idea about this?
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Charlie Brown, existentialist: The Toronto Star examines the legacy of Charles M. Schulz, and focuses on Fantagraphics Books' planned 25-volume The Complete Peanuts.
"Usually, gigantic merchandising phenomena and art-house concerns never collide, but I would argue that, in this instance, they do. When Peanuts appeared in 1950, it really was something of the avant-garde. It dealt with all kinds of existential issues that comic strips did not deal with. So really, Peanuts is an art-house comic strip. It just so happened to appeal to the general public."
Animated fantasies: Malaysia's The Star interviews cartoonist Butch Hartman, creator of The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom:
"Danny is pretty much me at age 14 -- a skinny, black-haired kid in high school. That’s what I always wanted to be in high school-- a kid with super powers -- but I never was."
Review revue, Part 1: New York Newsday reviews Buddha, Vol. 3: Devadatta and It's A Bird.
Doing it himself: The Gwinnett (Ga.) Daily Post spotlights Lawrenceville retailer Joseph Lawson, owner of Yojo's Comics:
"I was displeased with the service I got at nearby comic book stores and I decided I could do a better job. I was still in high school when I rented the space and had a grand opening one month after graduation. I was 18 years old."
Screen gems? The Las Vegas Review-Journal talks comic-book movies with Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad, Blade creator Marv Wolfwoman and Movie Poop Shoot columnist Scott Tipton:
"'People expected popcorn and they got steak,' Arad says of The Hulk. While 'I think steak is better than popcorn,' he acknowledges that the sequel 'will be more popcorn.'"
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Review revue: Laura Gjovaag reviews Batman Adventures #13, Astro City/Arrowsmith, and Digital Webbing Presents #11, which contains my first published story. (Thanks for the review, Laura.)
Blunt and critical: The Los Angeles Times (registration required) profiles The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder.
Retailer indicted: The Sacramento Bee updates the story of Ross Allen Rojek, owner of the Comics and Comix chain, who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bilking investors out of more than $1.3 million. Rojek, who is being held in lieu of $1 million bond, was indicted on eight counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.
Responding to tragedy: The Guardian looks back at Marvel Comics' response to 9/11: Heroes and A Moment of Silence:
"Among the Marvel characters who make an appearance in Heroes, there are two who figure more prominently than the rest, both for a good reason. Captain America had been invented as Marvel's superweapon against Nazi Germany in 1941, leading the way a whole year before the US finally went to war. The Hulk, meanwhile, would unfold his devastating superhuman powers only if he was 'made angry'. Together, these two seemed a good choice for driving home the notion of yet another historic cause, stressing the connection between anger and justified violence without having to depict anything more than a well-known and well-respected protagonist."
Comics' foothold in India: Outlook India uses the release of Sarnath Banerjee's Corridor as a chance to examine graphic novels and the fledgling comics industry in India:
"The direct inspiration to develop a distinctly Indian style may be the success of manga, or Japanese comic art, which is not only read by nearly every Japanese citizen, but also rivals traditional American comics in markets worldwide. With distinctive artwork based on centuries-old traditions and a cinematic narrative structure currently in global focus thanks to films like Kill Bill, manga (capricious pictures), especially shojo manga aimed specifically at girls, is the biggest growth area in international publishing."
Friday, April 23, 2004
Comics odyssey: Archaeology magazine talks to Age of Bronze creator Eric Shanower about trying to sell a Trojan War epic in a market largely populated by superheroes:
"I knew it was going to be a hard sell, this is not something that people generally thought of as comic book material, telling the story of the Trojan War. But I was confident that it was a story that would be fascinating for people to read, once they gave it a chance. I ran the idea by many different publishers. I had originally a small publisher who was interested, they were just starting up their public publishing program, but it was taking a long time for them to get going, so finally I realized I just better look for some other opportunities. The publisher that I ended up with, it was actually quite easy. A friend in the comic book industry, who I had met many years before, was now in the position that he could give me the green light, whether he would publish this or not, and he saw some of my samples. I wasn't even showing them to him, trying to get it published by him, I was just showing him because this is what I was working on. And he looked at it and he goes, 'Oh, I'll publish this.' So that's how it happened, it was just sort of serendipity."
(Link via Newsarama.)
Good market news, for a change? A year ago, Diamond started using a new method to calculate its order indexes. So today, ICv2.com combs through the data to compare sales from last month to those from March 2003. And the news is, well, not bad: Single-issue sales saw a 13 percent increase in March '04 over March '03, while graphic novels saw just a 2 percent increase (keep in mind these are direct market figures, not book market).
Dark Horse grew by 78 percent, due largely to the Hellboy trade paperbacks, followed by Viz (75 percent), Tokyopop (39 percent), Dreamwave (36 percent), DC Comics (18 percent) and Marvel (12 percent).
Manga for the people (Part II): I must've been asleep at the wheel this morning, because I missed this news, courtesy of ICv2.com: Tokyopop will begin advertising some of its titles on television beginning in May. The ad spots, which will run on Cartoon Network, MTV, Spike TV, G4 and Tech TV, will feature Saiyuki, D.N.Angel, Tokyo Babylon, Princess Ai and Tokyo Tribes:
"Although comic publishers have produced television ads for use in co-op programs in the past, and Hasbro paid for television ads for comics featuring its toy properties in the 80s, this is the first time in our recollection that a comic publisher has borne the full cost for television advertising for its products. Retailers have asked for such publisher support for comic sales for decades; Tokyopop is to be applauded for taking this bold step."
(Thanks to Shawn Fumo for the heads up.)
Word play: Newsarama examines how one word in the Gaiman v. McFarlane decision -- "compilation" -- could have a broad effect on creator's rights.
Jewish parallels: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on a lecture at Case Western Reserve University about the similarities between comic-book superheroes and Jews:
"There have always been strong Jewish undercurrents in comic books. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish boys from Cleveland, wrote a story about parents who feared their child would be killed. In order to save him, they placed him in a vessel and sent him off, hoping that a kind person would rescue him. That is the story of Superman, but it is actually the story of Moses."
Celebrating comics: The Moscow Times previews Russia's third annual ComMission festival, which celebrates comic strips, graphic novels and manga with classes and exhibits. The 150 participants come from more than a dozen countries:
"Comics were completely forbidden during Soviet times. The government told us that they were an American propaganda tool designed to make Soviet youth stupid."
Retailer reopening: The Lawrence (N.J.) Ledger reports on the reopening of Comic Relief in its new location, an event the store marked with signings by area creators Fabian Nicieza, Michael Avon Oeming and Michael Gallagher.
The newspaper also speaks more in-depth with Nicieza about his career and those halcyon days of the mid-'90s:
"I miss the big checks. I also miss (my) hair, but I don't know if that had anything to do with the 'boom.'"
Drawing customers: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration required) profiles retailer Kyle Puttkammer, who's begun teaching comics-drawing courses at his Galactic Quest stores:
"One of those enrolled in the class is Lawrenceville resident Mac King, 41, who is retired from the Navy. He decided to accompany his soon-to-be-stepson, Tyler Shope, to the class so that the 9-year-old would feel more comfortable. Comic books have helped them bond — Tyler's bedtime stories usually involve Marvel Comics' Wolverine character, King said.
"'Kyle did a really good job of talking about the history of comic books and why it is that some people just have to draw them,' King said. 'It's certainly not as easy as everyone says it is. If you think you're going to have the next big thing, you better think otherwise, because it takes years of practice.'"
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Phantom jacked: For those cursing the loss of American Power, here's a preview of the cover to Phantom Jack #5.
Manga for the people: The April 19 issue of Publishers Weekly features on its back cover the above ad from Tokyopop (minus the scuff marks, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service). Now that's how comics advertising to mainstream outlets should look.
(Of course, I just noticed the typo at the bottom, so maybe that isn't how comics advertising should look.)
Confronting continuity: David Fiore has a nice essay about comics continuity (I mean, awareness of tradition).
March figures: ICv2.com posts its estimates of Diamond's Top 300 for March 2004. In its overview, the retailer website notes that DC had a stronger month than usual, with 10 of the top 25 books. Fourteen of the top 25 titles saw a sales increase over previous issues.
Hellboy, helped by the release of the film adaptation, held seven of the top 25 graphic novel spots.
I'd hesitated writing this, because it might come across as crass. But I'll do it anyway: What does it say -- if it says anything at all -- that Phantom Jack #1, a comic that was promoted online virtually every week for a year, sold an estimated 7,020 copies? Granted, that's pretty good for an Image book. But after all the hype (and drama), I'd have thought the first issue would have garnered a little more interest. Of course, I didn't buy it either ...
The thrill is gone? Also at Silver Bullet Comic Books, Regie Rigby laments that many comics just don't excite him like they used to:
"Perhaps it’s a reliability thing. I was quite excited by Ministry of Space when issue one came out. But issues were so far apart I forgot the story in-between editions. That’s been known to happen in ongoing books, which I can just about forgive, but in a limited issue series there’s no excuse surely? Why not wait until the whole thing is finished before putting out the first issue? If it’s good enough for Peter Jackson, it’s good enough for us surely?
"There seems to be a slightly slapdash attitude amongst some creators (and in spite of the previous example I’m not actually having a go at the Min of Space team here) which does kinda take the gloss off for me at the moment. Sort of a 'well, if they don’t care, why should I?' attitude, which might well suggest that although I’m not growing out of comics, I am growing up a bit and as I get older I get less tolerant."
Voice from the past: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Clifford Meth reprints part of an interview he conducted with Stan Lee some 18 years ago. The passage of time makes for a jarring and surreal disconnect:
Meth: "How is your relationship with Jack Kirby these days?"
Lee: "I don't think we’re as friendly now. He isn't as friendly toward me as I wish he were. I'm not really 100% sure that I know what the reason is. Maybe he feels he is not as well known or he feels that I've achieved a little more something than he has. I don't know. He has never told me. Jack is certainly one of the most talented if not the most talented guy that the comic book industry has ever produced. He is the most imaginative, most creative guy I have ever known in this business. His mind is an endless source of stories, concepts, and ideas. He was a fantastic artist with one of the most powerful, dramatic styles you could ever find. I've always said that. I've always felt that about him and I still do."
A Cannes first: The Hollywood Reporter notes that Mamoru Oshii's Innocence is the first "manga film" In Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and just one of two animated features in this year's lineup (the other is Shrek 2).
Animated memories: At Animation World Magazine, legendary animator Gene Deitch discusses the difficulties in bringing Elzie Segar’s Popeye and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat from the comics page to the TV screen:
"With Krazy Kat, we did at least get to come up with an unambiguous gender. At that time, any hint of a homosexual relationship between Krazy, (who was always referred to as 'he' in the original comic strip), and Ignatz mouse, an obvious male, was a loud no-no. Even in the old strip Krazy always wore a ribbon around his/her neck — whatever that meant — but it did give us the final reasoning. So we declared Krazy a girl cat, and that was that!"
French connection: CBC Montreal reports on an exhibit that recognizes the first French-language comic strips were published in Montreal, not in France.
Cooler than Gene Simmons? Maybe we've misjudged Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad. The L.A. Daily News talks to NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, who caught the Hollywood premiere of The Punisher:
"John Travolta and Kelly Preston were there. Gene Simmons from KISS was there. Tom Jane and his fiance Patricia Arquette were there. The coolest guy in the world is the guy from Marvel Comics. His name is Avi, and I don't know his last name, but he was the only guy I wanted to meet. He's the neatest guy, and he's a big race fan. I had my Kodak with me, and I took his picture. He's going to come to Fontana and hang out with us."
Not lost in translation: Taiwan's Taipei Journal reports that Japanese has become the most popular "second foreign language" -- defined as any foreign language other than English -- taught in the nation's high schools, largely because because of students' overwhelming interest in Japanese manga, anime and video games.
Hawaii, by way of Hollywood: Comic Book Resources chats with Hawaiian Dick co-creator B. Clay Moore about yesterday's announcement that New Line Cenema will develop a movie adaptation of the series, starring Johnny Knoxville:
"And fingers crossed that it helps the book reach a larger audience. Hawaiian Dick is not a superhero comic, and it's not published by Marvel or DC, so it has to fight for readers. We've done well so far, but we want to do even better. Massive critical acclaim, Eisner nominations, a Hollywood deal. All things we hope bring new readers into the fold when Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort debuts."
Behind the scenes: The Oregonian talks with Matt Wagner, who will give a lecture about comics at the Beaverton City Library with Jacob Pander and Greg Rucka:
"'When I was growing up, art schools I went to really pooh-poohed comics,' he said. 'The only comic worth aspiring to was to be a cartoonist for The New Yorker.'
"Now, like mysteries, science fiction and other genres, comics are gaining acceptance, he said, because they contain 'complex ideas and social commentary, internal reflection -- all the things you think of when you think of true literature.'"
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Central character: The Pulse has an interview with Michael Lark, who talks about Gotham Central, his Eisner nominations, and the challenges of producing a monthly comic:
"The reality of producing a monthly comic makes that [not getting trapped in one style or genre] a fine line that I, or any other artist, have to walk. As an artist, I have to balance the need to get the book done on time with the need to experiment. So there are times when I have to rely on formula. Thankfully, with this book, our intention was to make it seem like a television cop drama, so it's ok sometimes to rely on grids or fairly formulaic page layouts to get the style across. I can use the same few establishing shots of the police headquarters or the squad room every time, just like they would in a TV show. If that's the best way to get the story told, then so be it. That being said, I don't want to bore the reader by doing the same type of scene the same way every time. And I don't want to bore myself either. So I look forward to, and rely on, those times when I'm in a good groove and those inspirations strike, when a new way to tell a certain sequence occurs to me. It's hard to plan on those, so it's always nice when it happens."
Troll, but not the message board variety: I don't usually write about prose fiction, but this blog already has gone to hell today with entries on movies, television, toys and the euro, so I might as well throw this into the mix. The April 12 issue of Publishers Weekly contains a review of Troll: A Love Story, by Johanna Sinisalo. It apparently comes out in May, but I find it listed at Amazon and other places, so I don't know. At any rate, it sounds delightfully bizarre. I must have it:
"A young Finnish photographer makes a pet of an orphaned troll in this strange, sexually charged contemporary folk tale, a hit in Europe. Mikael, nicknamed Angel for his stunning blonde good looks, finds the troll behind some dustbins after a night of drinking, and feels compelled to bring it home ('It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen... I know straight away that I want it'). The troll is small and black, thoroughly wild but also oddly human, with an overpowering, arousing juniper-berry smell. ... Sinisalo's elastic prose is at once lyrical and matter-of-fact, but this is not a comfortable novel. The troll brings out Angel's animal instincts, representing all the seduction and violence of the natural world. As the troll becomes ever more unmanageable, the sense of doom grows; the ferocious ending is thoroughly unsettling."
See? I must have this.
The envelope, please: Nominees have been announced for the 2004 Harvey Awards. Particularly interesting nominations go to Mark Waid for Best Writer (Fantastic Four), George Perez for Best Artist (Avengers/JLA), Jeff Smith for Best Cartoonist (Bone), Andi Watson for Best New Series (Love Fights, not Namor), Dave Sim for Best Letterer (Cerebus), and Tomer Hanuka (BiPolar) and Dave Johnson (100 Bullets) for Best Cover Artist. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark also were nominated for Best Single Issue or Story (Gotham Central #6-10).
Con games: Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker file a belated report from Wizard World LA. Sure, it's late, but it's worth the wait for observations like this:
"Brent Irwin and Brenda Cook were doing their usual fine job of getting the pros their badges and pointing them to tables. I know they have to put up with a lot of people who swear they registered and bought artist alley space when in fact they only found out about the show days earlier. So they deserve medals for that. Also for using humor when placing people in Artist Alley; in between the two porn stars (now, are they all really stars?) was talented Brad Rader with some of his extremely gay comics, and a guy with a Christian comic book. Randomness does not generate that kind of placement, it's too good."
... And for the heartwarming tale of "The Little Porn Boy."
Cancellation meditations: In this week's "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant takes another look at the cancellations of Wildcats 3.0 and Stormwatch:
"By now you may have recognized that comics companies do a crappy job of promoting, particularly with new 'untested' concepts. Comics companies, like most other American entertainment media these days, are geared toward The Franchise, that 'iconic' product that can generate sales on name alone and will, theoretically, continue to do so for the indefinite future, from a variety of sources. (With a big enough franchise, like Superman, the actual comics sales become irrelevant to the secondary market money.) New properties have a major liability: they aren't franchises and most aren't likely to be, and no one has yet figured out the formula for deciding what the next big franchise will be, try as they might to pretend they do. ... Generally, promotion consists of a blurb (sometimes an ad) in PREVIEWS, some house ads in the other comics they publish, if you're lucky a puff piece or two designed to make the book sound like the answer to the unified field theory on news sites that understandably give equal weight to everything from the death of a giant in the field to a minor character guest-starring in some other character's minor book."
Nightwing-ing it: Newsarama chats with Devin Grayson about Nightwing, and staying away from online forums:
"It's impossible not to wonder and worry about what people think of your work, but honestly, that's not what I get when I go to message boards anyway - I get what they think of my status and their perception of me as a professional and as a person. Am I interested in what the readers think of Nightwing? Definitely. Am I interested in hearing strangers mouth off about my personal life? Not even a little. Staying away from comic message boards has made me much saner and happier, but I do get a lot of feedback on my work, particularly from my editors and other pros."
The man behind The Shield: This is only marginally connected to comics, but today's blogging is turning into such a hodgepodge that I don't think it matters anymore (where's the news, dammit?). UnderGroundOnline talks to Shawn Ryan, creator of that fine TV show The Shield, about the necessary evil of Vic Mackey, and getting David Mamet to direct an episode:
"The 11th episode will be directed by David Mamet. He did a movie Spartan that is out right now. One of the stand-ins on our show worked as a stand-in on that movie. David got to know him and talked to him, and the guy talked about working on The Shield. David had seen a couple of episodes, liked it, and mentioned causally that it looks like it would be fun to direct that show. Word filtered down to us, and by the time it got to me, it was like fourth generation. So I wasn't sure if he meant it. Fortunately, we're both at the same agency, so I asked my agent to talk to his agent to see if he would be interested. It turned out he was interested, and we talked on the phone a little. We talked about how directing for television is different from film because he had never directed a TV series before. As it got closer and closer, I expected it to fall out, so I kept having these contingency plans, but he never fell out. You expect some gruff, profane guy to show up, and he could not have been more intelligent, sweet and respectful of what we've done. He came in and told us he loved what we do with the show, and he didn't want to do anything different. He made me feel at ease. I was so tongue-tied; ever since my college days he's been such a hero of mine. It was such a scary day to hand him the script he was going to direct. He loved the script and made one or two suggestions. It really turned out to be one of our creepiest and best episodes ever."
Tintin on a coin: The Montreal Gazette reports that Tintin has been honored with a 10-euro coin. Two Belgian newspapers and France's Le Figaro are producing special editions to mark the occasions.
Shopping for toys: Toy designer Jakks Pacific is looking to acquire the Play Along, which makes Lord of the Rings figures and playsets, and Batman and Justice League MiniMates and C3 sets. Reuters has the story.
In vaguely related news, ICv2.com reports that in a depressing first quarter for Mattel, Batman and JLA toys were the only bright spot. Sales in the company's "licensed" category were up 16 percent.
Tropical noir on the big screen: Don't tell me this is going to be Movie Day at Thought Balloons. Anyway, The Hollywood Reporter (subscription required) has news that New Line Cinema will develop Image Comics' Hawaiian Dick as a "starring vehicle" for Johnny Knoxville. Coming Soon has a few of the details.
Old Boy's new gig: Korea Times reports that Old Boy, the film adaptation of a manga about a man who is kidnapped and imprisoned for no reason, has been invited to compete in the 57th Cannes Film Festival.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Just because I can: Digital Webbing Presents #16 is solicited in May Previews for July release. I don't have anything appearing in this issue, but there are plenty of quality, and diverse stories in the 32-page anthology (that's 32 pages of content). You can get a sneak peek here. How's that for pimping?
Cover me: The "official" Marvel solicitations for July have been posted (they were actually "unofficially" leaked last week at Millarworld).
Since I already commented on the listings on April 13, all that's left is to look at the pictures. It's nice to see Marvel is starting to inch away from those dull "iconic"
Star-spangled banter: Robert Kirkman talks to Comic Book Resources about bringing the fun back to Captain America:
"After the tragedy of the Sept. 11th attacks, an unfortunate side effect on comics was that Marvel was sitting on a character called Captain America, so they decided to deal with America's emotions in the book. For a while it worked, but after a while you have to get back to the Serpent Society -- to jumping off buildings."
Script discovered: Japan's Daily Yomiuri reports that a complete comic script written by prominent novelist Kenji Nakagami, who died in 1992, has been found in his family home, and will be published this week in Shingenjitsu magazine. He's probably best known for his book The Cape, and Other Stories from the Japanese Ghetto.
The shipping news: Previews Review updates with a rundown of the comics shipping in June.
Rogue, that meddling kid? Robert Rodi tells The Pulse his plans for the Rogue solo series, which may or may not include the Mystery Machine:
"We’re going to try for a different tone from the other X-books; a more Southern Gothic kind of feel. Rogue will be spending a lot of time down south, pursuing more supernaturally inclined menaces -- for a very specific reason, which we’ll reveal in the first arc. I’d like to use WOLVERINE as my template here; everyone connected with that book does a great job of making it as different as possible from the character’s X-Men adventures, while still honoring what originally made him stand out there. That’s my goal with ROGUE."
The incorrigible Peter Bagge: UnderGroundOnline talks to cartoonist Peter Bagge about Hate, and learns some of the story behind the still-unpublished The Incorrigible Hulk:
"My editor at Marvel keeps asking me not to whine too much about it because there is still a chance it might come out. It all has to do with corporate politics. ... About three or four years ago, a few guys were put in charge of Marvel when they were in really bad shape. They figured they had nothing to lose so they asked some people who don't normally do superhero comics to do them. They went kind of nuts, which is great, but if you ask me they didn't go nuts enough. Since then, Marvel has huge a string of huge blockbusters recently, especially Spider-Man. Now the company is worth a fortune, which has next to nothing to do with the comics. But what the comics sell is peanuts compared to the movies and the merchandising. Some new board members, who are trying to protect their investment, very carefully manage their more valuable brands. When the editors asked me to do Spider-Man, they were thinking the exact opposite because people who wouldn't normally buy it would buy it. But now the new people running it don't want Peter Bagge f**king around with their characters. My vision of the Hulk doesn't match with theirs."
Redemption and sympathy: The Orlando Sentinel reviews Garth Ennis' Pride and Joy:
"It's ultimately a story of redemption, a common theme for Ennis dating back to his work on Preacher. Pride and Joy, however, is a great deal more grounded, free of any supernatural sidelines or religious musings. It's also one of the author's most mature stories. Fans of The Punisher's over-the-top bloodletting should know that this is a story about family with violence as a backdrop and not the other way around. Admittedly, there is an obligatory disembowelment and an empathetically painful knifing, but this is Garth Ennis. For anyone who's gotten through his later stuff, Pride and Joy will seem incredibly tame.
Building a comics empire: The San Jose Mercury News profiles Steve Mortensen, who runs Mortensen's Colossus Comics, an Internet-based company that caters to "serious" collectors and the speculator market:
"For $33 a month, send serious collectors packs of two brand-new comics of the same title. One is in all-but-perfect condition (as rated by a company that is universally accepted as the authority on comics) and sealed in hard plastic. The second is unsealed and meant to be read by the subscriber."
War comes to the comics page: The Associated Press reports on Garry Trudeau's plans to have Doonesbury regular B.D. lose a leg while fighting in Iraq. B.D. was injured in yesterday's strip, and will wake up later this week to find his leg amputated.
Fair warning: This is shaping up to be a painfully slow news day. Unless something major happens -- say, Bendis pulls up stakes and moves to Avatar -- this ain't going to be pretty. Consider yourself warned.
Monday, April 19, 2004
The other Sleeper agent: Ed Brubaker talks to The Pulse about Sleeper, and addresses the possibility of a television adaptation:
"I hope so. I was approached by two different big name producers last year about the book at San Diego, and told them to talk to DC about it, since Sean and I just have creator-participation, not ownership. I don't know from that point if anything has happened or not, though. I think it would make a great show for cable, even on Sci-Fi or FX. If FX can do the Shield, they can handle Sleeper."
He also reminds us that he'll be writing The Authority, "which should finally announce an artist sometime soon."
Anyone want to wager that it's Dustin Nguyen?
Sleeper agent: The Pulse chats with Sean Phillips about Sleeper:
"I'm constantly disappointed with my work. It's never as good as it was in my head, but with Sleeper, I think I've gotten better over the issues. I think overall, I did quite a good job. Over the years, the actual drawing have become less important to me compared to the storytelling."
Man of tomorrow: Broken Frontier talks to Jim Lee about Superman, Batman: Hush, and the differences between Jeph Loeb and Brian Azzarello:
"Both are great writers to work with. Jeph stages things more elaborately, very cinematically. Brian has a lot of the tension come through dialogue, through silent beats. I’m drawing a lot more shots where the camera is cutting back and forth between the characters or holding still on one character while he ‘acts’ out his lines. They both have a flair for the dramatic though and I consider them both not only to be some of the top writers in the field today but also good buds."
Lee also tries to put at least one rumor to rest:
Broken Frontier: "Rumor has it that the three Superman books will have separate continuities before coming to a head at the end of 2004, with the three Supermen squaring off against each other. Is there any truth to that gossip?"
Jim Lee: "I have no idea how this rumor got started but it’s a funny one. No truth to it at all. Every element of the rumor is incorrect. There will be three different Superman titles, each handling a different aspect of Superman, not always set in the same time period, but it is all about the one and only Superman."
The good, the bad and the canceled: In this week's installment of "The Comic Pimp," James Sime looks at what went wrong with WildStorm/Eye of the Storm, boiling down the problems to advertising, trade dress and market penetration:
"... [T]hat's the thing about the comic business. It's one part comics, and one part business. And sometimes it just doesn't matter how much as I enjoy these books. And sometimes it doesn't matter how much the Isotope customers also appreciate the titles. And sometimes it doesn't matter how many times I've easily used Wildstorm titles as an introduction to modern American comic books to new readers. And sometimes it doesn't matter how often these titles were successful at getting these readers to return to my shop time and again to pick up more Wildstorm books and ask what else they might like reading."
Hitching our wagons to Hollywood: At Ninth Art, Bulent Yusuf wonders what long-term effect "celebrity writers" like Kevin Smith, Bryan Singer and Joss Whedon will have on the comics industry:
"In the short term, there is positive publicity, yes, and both the die-hard fans and the casual reader may well snap up the first couple of issues. There's a crossover appeal, where the TV/film audience for the work of the celebrity wordsmith might be tempted to check out their work in comics. Sales go up, and the industry lives to fight another day.
"In the long term, however, we should be asking how qualified these celebrities are to determine the futures of our favourite characters. It sounds pompous, but writing funny books is a serious business, and they have a sophisticated audience. If one of these celebrities underestimates the workings of the medium, then their book will be an embarrassing failure, and the market gets cheapened that little bit more (if that's possible)."
ICON-ography: Silver Bullet Comic Books talks to Brian Michael Bendis about ICON, Powers, and his 127 other monthly titles:
"People who are wait for the next big thing that is going to revitalize the industry are mistaken. The business is actually in the process of a slow and gradual recovery. DC and Marvel’s job is to print comics that people want to read, and to make sure they're worth reading. They know that, and that’s what we all keep trying to do. Creators put their names to books so they all want to do their best."
"If it's Japanese, it's in": While we're on the subject, the Cox News Service looks at how elements of Japanese pop culture, such as anime, manga, video games and music, are being embraced by "the young and the hip around the world." Here's Tokyopop's Kristien Brada-Thompson:
"The influence of 'all things Japan' on American culture has hit an all-time high. Manga (and especially its animated counterpart, anime) is everywhere ... and I believe we're just now seeing the start of it."
Fashion pioneers? The Baltimore Sun also looks at "under-employed" youths in Tokyo who try -- perhaps a little too hard -- to set fashion trends:
"Many looks are tested here that wouldn't make it in the West. The looks often emerge from the imaginative artwork of manga comic books and anime movies, distinctive and popular forms of Japanese entertainment, resulting in colorful, ultra-cute, futuristic or otherwise outlandish cartoon styles."
Gun-safety comics: The Baltimore Sun reports that Eddie Eagle, a gun-safety mascot created by the National Rifle Association, may be used in Frederick County, Md., schools. The program uses comic books and other materials to educate children in pre-K through third grade about guns.
Mmmm ... money: USA Today explains the contract dispute involving The Simpsons cast.
A story of India: The Calcutta Telegraph checks in on Sarnath Banerjee, author of "India's first graphic novel":
"In Corridor, a 112-page paperback comic book from Penguin, Banerjee tells 'stories emerging from living in an urban space.' There are characters as varied as Jehangir Rangoonwalla, a know-all bookseller in the heart of Delhi’s Connaught Place, Digital Dutta, a software expert who lives in his head 'exploding the midfield alongside Garincha' or 'climbing Mount Everest several times,' and newly-married Shintu looking for aphrodisiac drugs in the bylanes of old Delhi."
Monster mash: The Nashville City Paper sits down for a quick Q&A with The Goon creator Eric Powell.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
Reanimating Mickey: The New York Times (registration required) examines the decline of Mickey Mouse who, at 75, is being described as "boring," "embalmed" and "irrelevant." Children's book author Maurice Sendak even calls him a "lifeless fat pig."
The ubiquitous Avi Arad notes, without a hint of irony, that indecision and uncertainty are largely to blame for the fading of corporate icons like Mickey Mouse:
"Companies at times let a character linger because they are not sure what to do with it and fear going the wrong way. So they do nothing. Mickey right now doesn't have a dialogue. He's not carrying any banners. Maybe right now he doesn't stand for anything but nostalgia. Nostalgia is fine, but it is not enough."
Art Spiegelman has his own take on jump-starting the mouse: ""How would I renovate Mickey for our times? Easy. Make him gay. He's half way there anyway. You keep the voice the same as it's been; beyond having him take a passionate interest in Broadway musicals and occasionally wearing pink shirts, you don't have to do much. You just have to change the world around him."
The Times also asked several artists to "reimagine" Mickey Mouse. So, Marvel editor Nick Lowe, along with Andy Kubert, Danny Miki and Frank D'Armata, turn in a Spandex-clad mouse (above) with a Captain America-esque shield.
Convention as fund-raiser: Silver Bullet Comic Books carries a nice press release from students at Hawthorne High School in Hawthorne, N.J., who are holding a comic book convention on May 8 to raise money for their school's art program. More than two dozen pro creators, including Evan Dorkin and Sara Dyer, are scheduled to attend.
Screen time: Writing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Michael Sangiacomo runs down the list of comic books heading to the big screen within the next few years, and speaks with Marvel's Avi Arad, who assures us, "There are no second-string superheroes. They are all first-string when done right."
Anime legions: The Boston Globe checks in on last weekend's AnimeBoston, which drew more than 3,300 anime fans, including 18-year-old Rachel Bernfeld, who dressed as Sagashite from Full Moon:
"I'm a geek. I go on the computer, I study Latin, and I go to anime conventions."
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Back to the Future: Comics Worth Reading points us to the Future Comics website, which heralds the company's return ... as Future Entertainment. First on the agenda: Deathmask: Vol. 1, a digest-sized trade paperback priced at $9.95. However, it looks as if Future is side-stepping Diamond, and going the self-distribution route.
Favorite Son: In The Washington Times, Joseph Szadkowski reviews Superman: Red Son, along with Tales of Ordinary Madness, Scooby-Doo: The Essential Guide and Punisher #1-2.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Comic shop blues: From time to time, I've mentioned how, shall we say, sub-par my local comic shop is. This is going to be one of those times. I went there today for the first time in about two months to pick up some comics goodness, and walked away with just four books (and I didn't really want two of those, but picked them up anyway to help justify the trip).
DC: The New Frontier #3, She-Hulk #2, Planetary #19 and Bite Club #1. That's all I have to show for my visit. Now, I have no illusions about my local store. If I were a Spider-Man fanatic or a Superman completest, I'd be in hog heaven. However, I'm neither of those things.
Maybe I should move.
Fantasy life: Writing for NYU's Washington Square News, columnist Eric Kohn uses Danny Fingeroth's Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society to examine why Hollywood -- and the film-going public -- is so drawn to comic-book heroes:
"In general, cultural phenomena seem to respond to societal needs. If Fingeroth is right about the durability of the superhero resulting from an intriguing fantasy - and the logistics of his argument suggest that he is - then the desire for said fantasy has reached a high point. It is in this troublesome day and age, when war and collective corruption have returned to the forefront of Western consciousness, that people desire something promising that they can look up to, regardless of its manifestation in reality.
"Consider, as an analogy, the arrival of Jesus. Whether or not you accept that this rabbinic scholar was indeed the Messianic figure he claimed to be, it is an indisputable fact that his teachings and promises provided a sense of redemption for some of those who suffered under the oppressive Roman rule. During times of turmoil, a sense of hope abounded.
"In the same vein, Superman battled Nazis during World War II. How difficult, then, to imagine the Green Goblin (Spider-Man's main foe in his feature film debut) as a metaphorical stand-in for al-Qaeda?"
Going global: Meanwhile, London's Evening Standard talks to Bruno Maglione, president of Marvel International, about the corporation's efforts to beef up its foreign marketing and licensing:
"The main thing is to understand what Marvel is. We are not a comic book and we are not a toy company. We are an entertainment licensing company that owns a fabulous catalogue of proprietary characters."
Movie madness: The Philadelphia Daily News gets the lowdown from Avi Arad about Marvel's film plans for the next few years, which include sequels to Daredevil and Hulk, as well as early discussions for a Punisher follow-up.
Blogger, interrupted: I have errands and other real-world things to do this morning, so I'll resume blogging early this afternoon.
Holding out for a heroine: The Hartford Courant (registration required) looks at comic-book superheroes and asks, Where are the women? For answers, the newspaper turns to Trina Robbins, Dan DiDio and Tom DeFalco.
Autobiographical art: Lebanon's Daily Star profiles 26-year-old cartoonist Riad Sattouf, who's begun to make a name for himself in France with his first two graphic novels Manuel du Puceau (Handbook for a Virgin), and Les Jolis Pieds de Florence (Florence's Pretty Feet), which which won the 2003 Rene Goscinny prize for best BD writer. His next work is the autobiographical Ma Circoncision (My Circumcision), recounting his youth as the son of a French mother and Syrian father:
"In Ma Circoncision, Sattouf recounts how one day his cousins notice that he isn't circumcised. He is immediately accused of being an Israeli, the worst insult the children can think of. Sattouf, who was blond as a child, lies in bed wondering if he is adopted. 'Perhaps I really was Israeli?'
"From the very first day my difference was apparent. I was the only foreigner in the village ... I went to the Muslim school and studied the Koran. We traveled to France sometimes so I knew there was another way of life. But the village was a place out of time, in a parallel dimension."