Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Exit interview: Comic Book Resources chats with Jeff Mariotte about his departure from IDW Publishing:

"[The biggest challenge has been] probably the same thing that any small publisher faces which is trying to eke out a niche in a really, really crowded marketplace. Trying to shake loose retailer dollars from the big three and get that community to pay attention to what we're doing. I very much believe in the product that we're putting out and I think it's really good stuff, but small press has to yell extra loud to be heard above the noise. We've tried to do that and at the same time, because we're an independent and don't have the deep pockets of a DC or somebody, we've had to do it on a little bit of a budget. The company is doing fine and the finances are flowing, but we don't pay top DC rates, so there are those guys who are unavailable to us that work for DC or Marvel."

Manga mania: The Calgary Herald notices Canadian teen-agers are crazy about manga:

"Part of Japanese comics' growing appeal stems from their dizzying selection of often quirky subgenres: from adventure or romance stories peopled by independent-minded heroines to science-fiction manga, Wild West manga, 'professional' manga featuring lawyer or doctor heroes, historical manga, even pornography. Instructional manga come similarly sub-divided, with entire books dedicated to designing female versus male forms, military equipment, uniforms, landscapes and so on."

"An industry success story": Canada's Georgia Straight previews Free Comic Book Day by talking with Arcana Studio's Sean O'Reilly:

"... [A] year later, O'Reilly is an industry success story. His company, Arcana Studio, currently publishes three bimonthly titles, with each averaging print runs of five to six thousand copies. (In comparison, a popular title from second-tier publisher Image might sell about 9,000.) More importantly, Arcana has been asked to participate in the third annual Free Comic Book Day this Saturday (July 3)."

Otto pilot: The Washington Times' Joseph Szadkowski talks with Stan Lee about the origin of Dr. Octopus:

"The easiest way to get a supervillain is the accident in the lab. I remembered the pictures of scientists working with radioactive material, and to keep them from becoming radioactive, they had the arms that went through the glass shelf that they can manipulate the stuff.

"So I had a guy have the accident, and four arms became grafted to him. Of course, I named him Dr. Otto Octavius, and those arms would make him look like an octopus."

Channeling the comic-book sensibility: At The New Republic Online, Adam Graham-Silverman examines the pitfalls of adapting comics to film:

"Comics are not ready-made storyboards, however, and there is such a thing as being too faithful to the source work. Mark Steven Johnson, director of Daredevil, suffered from a misplaced sense of loyalty to the comic book. He tried to stage several Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style fight scenes much as they occurred in comic book form. But the media are not the same, and even someone pleased to see the comic images come alive will tell you they slow the movie to a bore. 'He tried to tell a film with comic book language instead of telling a comic-flavored film in cinema language,' Young says. Movies such as The Matrix or even Pulp Fiction more successfully channel that comic-book sensibility. On top of that, he tries to cram about three movies' worth of plot and character development into one. By contrast, Raimi and Singer can throw in shots in homage to the artists who drew their stories, and the viewer who hasn't read the comics doesn't suffer in the least."

The short and winding road: The St. Petersburg Times looks at CrossGen's bankruptcy, and Mark Alessi's big (but brief) adventure:

"Though Marvel Comics and other industry giants long ago turned to freelancers, Alessi lured talented artists and writers from around the world to humble Oldsmar with the promise of regular paychecks, a share of profits and the chance to work together in an old-fashioned 'bullpen' environment.

"He created an alternate universe of characters that shirked capes for corsets and created story lines to which Lord of the Rings fans could relate. He brought along his own piggy bank, filled with millions of dollars from the sale of his Tampa software company to Perot Systems Corp. of Dallas. He innovated, introducing Web-only comics and DVD-based comics that included sound and other special features.

"Alessi also vowed to pursue excellence in writing and artistry, a promise many fans believe the company fulfilled.

"Or did, until the company began running out of cash, that is."

The kids, they love the comics: The University of Arizona's Daily Wildcat previews Free Comic Book Day:

"Struck said manga has changed his customer gender ratio from almost exclusively male 10 years ago to 90% male, 10% female, now. He added that manga is very popular at the college level, especially among women.

"'We sell more manga to university age and university-type crowd than anybody else,' said Struck."

South Carolina's The State gets in on the FCBD action, too.

Comics, in black and white: traces the history of African-American superheroes, and wonders how receptive readers would have been to a black Spider-Man. Here's Marvel's Joe Quesada:

"It's an interesting question, it's tough to say because often characters of a product of their times and good timing. Certainly, he would have had to had dealt with a different set of problems.

"On a consumer level, I don't know have the demographics from that time, but I would venture to say that maybe 99 percent of our readers were white maybe? And then you have a question of whether the consumer would have been ready to accept the character. Would they have been as receptive to Spider-Man if he had been drawn black? I don't know. Given what I know about the times, perhaps not. One of the beautifully universal things about Spider-Man is that the character wears a full mask. Anyone could be under that costume."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Changing of the guard: The rumor is confirmed: Movie Poop Shoot's Chris Ryall is replacing Jeff Mariotte as editor-in-chief of IDW Publishing. Mariotte is leaving to devote more time to writing.

High court blocks COPA: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Child Online Protection Act is likely unconstitutional, and upheld a lower court's injunction against the 1998 law. The New York Times has the story:

"The 1998 law makes it illegal for commercial Web sites to make available to children 16 and under material that is not necessarily obscene but could be considered 'harmful to minors' under a complex, three-part formula.

"Congress's first big effort to restrict pornography in cyberspace was the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the following year. In passing the 1998 law, Congress tried to be narrower and more specific. The 1998 law bars Web sites from publishing material 'harmful to minors' unless a site can show it has made good-faith efforts (requiring a credit card, for instance) to block out Web surfers younger than 17."

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was among the groups that challenged COPA.

Tangled web of titles: The Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald thinks the release of Spider-Man 2 will lead to a spike in Spider-Man comics sales:

"When the movie Spider-Man 2 is released Wednesday, old fans and new readers will turn to comic book stores to catch up on the adventures of the costumed hero.

"People who go looking for 'the Spider-Man comic book' will find an array to choose from.

"The Amazing Spider-Man. Ultimate Spider-Man. Spectacular Spider-Man. Spider-Man Unlimited. Who can keep track of them all?"

Octopus' garden: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer looks at the comic-book life of Dr. Otto Octavius:

"This being the '60s, of course, radioactivity in a comic book led inevitably to one thing: superpowers. And so it went, as a convenient accident bonded the waldos to Ock's pudgy torso, and gave him telepathic control over them. It also made him a homicidal psychopath.

"Despite the haircut, Dr. Octopus had 'arch foe' written all over him. He was stronger than Spider-Man. He was smarter than Peter Parker (who might've been a science whiz, but wasn't a nuclear physicist). And he had four extra arms."

Cartooning, with attitude: The Munster (Ind.) Times chats with Ed, Edd 'n Eddy creator Danny Antonucci:

"There's a lot of folks who tell will you it's important to be a good draftsman. For me, it's about attitude first, then the technical aspects. Some things can be learned and embellished on. If you have the attitude, there is that spark in you that wants to create things. ... It's like rock 'n' roll. It's all about the attitude. I've played in bands a lot of my life. I've adopted that philosophy."

Wait. They're giving away comics? Southwest Florida's News-Press previews Free Comic Book Day:

"Free Comic Book Day for us is like 'The major event of the year.' It's just a good excuse to basically pitch a big sale, pitch a big party, have a good time with people coming in and just talking comics basically."

Monday, June 28, 2004

What's ahead: At Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton combs through July Previews, highlighting Legal Drug Vol. 1, Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers, the Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom trade paperback, and others.

At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson also looks at what's shipping in September, and throws in some fun snark for good measure.

Family tradition: The Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette profiles retailer Mike Hall, who inherited Acme Comics from his father.

Global perspective: The Korea Times reports the South Korean government will open an office in Los Angeles devoted to promoting that nation's comics, animation and music. This will be the fourth international branch of the Korea Culture and Contents Agency; other offices are in Tokyo, Beijing and London.

Drawing out kids: The Portland Oregonian attends Steve Lieber's cartooning workshop for kids at the Tigard Public Library:

"Keep drawing, and you can get good at it. And if you feel under the gun, then you know what it's like to be a cartoonist!"

The lure of Spandex: Oregon's Mail Tribune looks at the appeal of superheroes:

"[Retailer Eric] Jannsen says he can’t tell by looking at a customer which superhero he favors. But he thinks the superhero attraction varies with educational background. Superhero fanciers often have math and science backgrounds, he says. Those who gravitate to fringe comics tend to be English majors and liberal arts types."

By the power of Greyskull: The Stockton (Calif.) Record spotlights Lori Scott, whose childhood love of He-Man has led to her first comics job -- writing Masters of the Universe for MV Creations.

Bakshi's tangled web: Canada's Globe and Mail talks with legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, whose stint as executive producer of the original Spider-Man cartoon (1968 to 1970) cost him dearly:

"Can you imagine a young man staggering home from the studio burnt out every night of the week? My girlfriend left me, my cocaine dealer left me. ... I lost more girls to Spider-Man than I can count -- I wouldn't do it again no matter what I was paid."

Sunday, June 27, 2004

xxxHolic Vol. 1
Del Rey

Watanuki Kimihiro is burdened with a family curse: Spirits, which appear as large, amorphous clouds, are drawn to him, at times dogging his every move. While fleeing his spectral pursuers, Watanuki stumbles into the curious store owned by Yuko, a seductive and amoral witch who offers to lift the curse if he’ll repay her by working in her shop.

Watanuki agrees, and is thrust into a world of swirling magic and slipping mores in which Yuko’s customers seek her costly solutions to their physically and psychologically crippling problems. One woman is being paralyzed by her pathological lies, while another is destroying her life with her online addiction. Although the premise may seem to border dangerously on After-School Special territory, Yuko’s ambiguous ethics turn the vignettes into intriguing lessons in “be careful what you ask for” (giving a sense that Watanuki may be getting off easy with indentured servitude).

There’s a lot going on in xxxHolic, and CLAMP does a good job of pushing the story forward while introducing subplots and asides. We meet Maru-Dashi and Moro-Dashi -- the odd little girls who are part Greek chorus, part annoying parrots -- but are not yet told who, or what, they are. In-jokes and references to other manga are cleverly woven throughout the story, but the reader is never quite sure whether they’re throwaway gags or clues to something more. It’s fun, intelligent storytelling.

Unfortunately, the story is hampered occasionally by the inconsistent art. Beautifully detailed panels sometimes give way to jumbled messes in which it’s unclear what, exactly, is being depicted. Still, even when the art is at its weakest, it’s easy to see why CLAMP is so popular.

True Story, Swear to God: 100 Stories
By Tom Beland
AiT/Planet Lar

Lucky for us, Tom Beland sweats the small stuff. Nude beaches, Beanie Babies, Big Macs, comics -- they're all fodder for True Story, Swear to God: 100 Stories, a warm and funny collection of his comic strips.

But Beland is at his best when he tackles his relationship with his wife, Lily, and memories of his childhood. Even here, it’s the small things that matter: a comical exchange with his father about Jesus’ middle name, or a bored evening on the sofa with Lily. They’re fleeting moments that most of us would be at a loss to describe, but Beland manages to capture them expertly.

How Loathsome hardcover
By Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane
NBM Publishing

In the hands of other creators, How Loathsome might have become a “shocking” tale of drugs and sex set against the seedy backdrop of San Francisco’s S&M scene. But Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane deliver a complex, sensitive and often humorous exploration of the fluidity of sexuality, the ambiguity of gender and the nature of love.

Originally published as a four-issue series, How Loathsome centers on Catherine Gore, a jaded Sandman lookalike who thinks she’s seen it all -- until she sets eyes on Chloe, a stunning pre-op transsexual who seems to enchant everyone she meets. The two launch into an intense, high-octane fling, the kind that can only end badly. With their affair over, Catherine turns to more drugs and alcohol, and friends like the young, heroin-addicted Alex (“a good kid”) and the creepy, drug-dealing Nick (“just repulsive enough to be charming”). They’re both well-formed characters whose stories are nearly as fascinating as Catherine’s.

Naifeh and Crane don’t coddle their readers; we’re thrown into the deep end. Thankfully, there’s no awkward exposition or painful primers on the various subcultures. No, the creators presume the audience is smart enough to figure things out as they go.

Those who’ve read Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin series will recognize some familiar artistic elements in How Loathsome, especially in his depiction of men. But here Naifeh’s work is more detailed and expressive, particularly during the fantasy interludes, such as the haunting “Nanshoku” fairy tale or Nick’s drug-induced, Kafkaesque adventure.

How Loathsome is a powerful and, at times, profound work that deserves a larger audience and wider recognition.

Harvey winners: The Pulse has the winners of the 2004 Harvey Awards. The big winner was Craig Thompson, with three awards.

Drawing on manga: The Straits Times of Singapore looks at the increasing popularity of manga-drawing courses.

Comics primer: The Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel has a curious overview of comics, highlighting Maus, Persepolis, Amy and Jordan, Identity Crisis and Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and the American Comic Book Revolution.

Bad to the bone: New York Newsday finds that behind every great superhero there lurks a great supervillain.

Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada: "Some of the best villains, at least within the Marvel universe, have always been the villains who are almost identical in character structure as the hero. The hero took a step to the right, and the villain took a step to the left."

DC's VP-editorial Dan DiDio: "The greatest supervillains are the ones that exploit the weaknesses of our superheroes. Batman is a very structured life. The Joker's about complete chaos. It forces [Batman] to think in new and varied ways to meet the challenge head-on. That's something we've always done in all our storytelling."

Writer Brad Meltzer: "The more you can ground your villain in reality, the scarier he or she will be. What is scary to me is not a villain who throws a car at you. What's scary to me is I go into an empty house and I walk into the bathroom and hear a squeaky noise from behind the shower curtain. The more I can put you in that moment, the more you're going to be terrified. That's the most important key to writing an effective villain."

Girl power? While every other media outlet in the free world focuses on Spider-Man 2, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required) turns its attention to Marvel's girl-focused Amazing Fantasy, drawn by Kirkwood resident Mark Brooks:

"[Marvel publisher Dan] Buckley freely admits that Marvel is eager to tap into this girl genre of comic books that has exploded recently with sales of manga, the Japanese books translated into English, which have become one of the hottest trends in publishing. Paperback manga compilations accounted for about $100 million in sales last year, a 50 percent jump from 2002, according to ICv2, a Wisconsin company that analyzes manga sales in the United States.

"The prime purchasers: young women.

"'The thing that we've noticed is that manga sales have proven females will read graphic-novel fiction,' Buckley said. 'If we can develop the content and get it into the right retail, we'll have a chance.'"

The man behind the mask: The New York Times profiles Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad. Here's Michael Chabon:

"I was expecting someone more interested in leveraging and marketing. But the guy knows Spider-Man backward and forward — all the minor super-villains and their secret identities. I found myself totally able to talk to him on this ridiculous, wonderful level of, `Who's tougher, the Lizard or the Rhino?'"

Moving beyond "young adult": The Binghamton, N.Y., Press & Sun-Bulletin discovers teen-agers aren't just reading the old standbys, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, anymore:

" ... [S]ummer reading has evolved a lot, to include a slew of books by new authors and the now ubiquitous graphic novels, outgrowths of the comic book that offer up a taste of great art, literary writing and modern-day adventure."

The article then turns to the prose books popular among teens, and runs down "the top 10 books ever" and "the best books to read for fun" (from a survey of teens conducted by the American Library Association).

Money matters: The New York Post looks at the comics industry's financial roller-coaster:

"By 1998, Marvel had filed for bankruptcy protection, and comic stores were going out of business in droves. Overall revenues dropped to $255 million by 2000.

"Things finally started to turn around in 2002, when the first Spider-Man movie hit theaters.

"Comic book sales rebounded slightly, and Marvel posted a modest profit.

"But publishing only accounts for 21 percent of Marvel's revenues, or $73 million in 2003.

"That has some analysts worried about what would happen if Hollywood's appetite for Marvel characters, and the accompanying licensing and toy revenues, dries up."

Nerve central: New York Newsday talks with Adrian Tomine about Scrapbook: Uncollected Work: 1990-2004:

"Unlike the sweaty intensity of R. Crumb or Harvey Pekar, or the obsessive (and at times exhausting) intricacy of Chris Ware, Tomine's drawings are clean and minimalist. Imagine the crisp, angular bodies and buildings found in the drawings of an issue of Highlights for Children, circa 1960, if the stories had been penned by Ann Beattie. What makes Tomine's work so highly readable - I've studied each of the stories in the Summer Blonde collection about six or seven times now - is the psychological acuity in his figures' postures and expressions, and his ear for our most confused, painful conversations."

Do's and don'ts of adaptation: The Seattle Times offers six rules for turning a comic book into a film:

"Don't buy the rights to a title just to change what made it popular. Last year's disastrous League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (DC) is the greatest recent case study. The jury's out on Constantine, based on DC's long-running Hellblazer series about a blond English rogue of an occult investigator. Due in February, the film has been moved from the U.K. to Los Angeles and stars dark-haired Keanu Reeves."

Friday, June 25, 2004

Chaka con: Jeff Parker files his report from Heroes Con 2004, and becomes my hero with this drawing:

I'm still laughing.

Band of Brothers: The Pulse reports that Dabel Brothers Pro has left Devil's Due, marking the second change in publishers in two years.

Buffy, back from the grave: Animation Insider passes along an item from this week's TV Guide, which reports the Buffy, The Vampire Slayer animated series has been resurrected, and once again is being developed by Jeph Loeb, and Joss Whedon's Mutant Enemy:

"A few of the original cast is slated to return, with Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) instead deciding to focus on her blossoming film career. Giselle Lore will instead fill the vacated role. Nicholas Brendon (Xander), Alyson Hannigan (Willow) and Anthony Head (Giles) will be voicing their respective characters on the new series. The is no word yet on whether David Boreanaz (Angel), Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn), Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase) or James Marsters (Spike) will be involved with the show at all."

Legal brief: Wisconsin's Capital Times notes that the July issue of Corporate Legal Times will have a wrap-up of the Gaiman v. McFarlane legal battle:

"Gaiman's Madison attorney, Allen Arntsen, is quoted: 'What was critical is that the characters first came to life in (Gaiman's) mind and script. He described them in sufficient detail to give him a copyright interest in them.'"

The horror! The horror! In his column for The Decatur (Ala.) Daily, blogger Franklin Harris provides a nice overview of the work and influence of horror writer Steve Niles:

"Although other companies, including Marvel and DC, published horror titles, most of these post-Code books were bloodless imitators or, by the late 1980s, a mix of horror and fantasy. Old-fashioned, blood-splattered horror was hard to find.

"But in 2002, everything changed. Niles released a miniseries called 30 Days of Night. At first, no one noticed. But Niles had worked some seriously potent black magic, and soon word was spreading about his comics. The first, hard-to-find issue shot up in value. (Today, copies go for about $30.) Hollywood came knocking. And like Dracula with a transfusion of virgin blood, comic-book horror was back in all of its gory glory."

Weighing in on comics: Newsday reviews Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers: Writers on Comics, a collection of essays about comics by the likes of Jonathan Lethem, Brad Meltzer, Greil Marcus and Lydia Millet:

"Atomsmashers contains only three pieces by women. Aimee Bender writes about the virtues of flatness, extolling the 'clean direct lines' of Chester Brown's Yummy Fur comics. Lydia Millet describes the dreamy world of Little Nemo in Slumberland, first published in 1905 and still trippy today. Myla Goldberg contributes a piece titled 'The Exquisite Strangeness and Estrangement of Renée French and Chris Ware,' which is about just that.

"The women remain resolutely outside of the Marvel-vs.-DC matrix that preoccupies many of their fellow contributors. They devote themselves to either archaic or indie comics, comics that are irreproachable in their excellence and tastefulness and general cultural value. The women's choice of subject matter reinforces the book's refusal to acknowledge a truth of comics reading. That truth shaped my early life, and I feel it must be uttered, if not between the covers of Atomsmashers, then at least attendant to its publication. The truth is this: Girls love Archie comics."

Split Identity: The Star of Malaysia reviews DC's Identity Crisis and Marvel's Identity Disc.

Can Spider-Man save the day? UK's Manchester Evening News reports that the Kirsty Appeal charity hopes to raise £1 million in just three months by selling Spider-Man pin badges at £1 each. The money will help fund the Francis House Hospice for terminally ill children.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

PW's convention peek: The June 21 issue of Publishers Weekly arrived today, complete with a preview of Comic-Con International. Most of the content also appears on the PW website, but it's interesting to see what publishers bought ads in this issue: Tokyopop takes out a full page for Courtney Love's Princess Ai, while Viz devotes the same amount of space to Shonen Jump (highlighting Yu-Gi-Oh!, Rurouni Kenshin, Mega Man and InuYasha).

Other publishers bought smaller ads, with ibooks promoting its 2004 Harvey and Eisner nominees, Last Gasp pushing Tintin adventures in English, DC Comics hyping Elfquest: The Searcher and the Sword, NBM publicizing The Jungle and The Silk Tapestry, and Diamond Book Distributors devoting space to books from six publishers, including Image's The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye.

PW's coverage also includes an overview (subscription required) of Marvel's "big movie year," Fantagraphics' collection of Jaime Hernandez's Locas, a look at McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #13, and a summary of comics reprints, including DC's archive editions and The Complete Peanuts.

Review revue: PopMatters updates its comics section with reviews of Exit 13, Quantum: Rock of Ages #2 and the Sojourn Vol. 1 DVD.

Meanwhile, RobotFist looks at The Filth and Hysteria.

Look, ma! I'm pimping again: Yeah, yeah, I know. Well, if you don't care about my adventures into comics writing, just skip down to the next entry. This will be over in a minute.

Digital Webbing Presents #17 (JUN04 2442), which comes out in August, features my 16-page story "Bad Elements: Good For the Soul." The issue's standard cover, by Bob LeFevre, Kevin Conrad and James Offredi, showcases another story in the anthology. However, now it's been announced there will be a "Bad Elements" alternative cover (above) by Nick Marinkovich and Nick Postic (IDW's Underworld), which will go out to subscribers, and be available at conventions and through the DWP website.

October's DWP #19, which will feature a cover story by a certain well-known horror writer, also will include a little something I co-wrote with Ian Ascher; art is by Scott LeMien (Moonstone Monsters). More on that later.

Gray matters: Comic Book resources also talks with John Romita Jr. about partnering with Glen Brunswick on The Gray Area for Image:

"I'm not in my element to write this, but I can draw the shit out of it. I had a neat idea from a couple tequila highs, a couple technicolor nightmares. Then Glen and I ran into each other at a movie premier, I found out he had a comic book fascination, so we started to discuss it. He had an immediate creative impact on this story -- he has got a lot of panache."

Mojo rising: Comic Book Resources talks with William Harms (Abel) about Bad Mojo, his upcoming graphic novel with Steve Morris about, well, car wrecks, curses and nightly resurrections:

"Somewhere in Texas, things get strange. Well, stranger than usual for Texas. Bruce falls asleep at the wheel and ends up crashing into a car driven by a man-hating witch named Judy Gardner. Angered by the damage he's done to her Volvo, the witch puts a curse on Bruce - every day at dawn he dies, only to be resurrected when the sun goes down. Talk about being a night person. In order to lift the curse, and get to spring training on time, Bruce and his three friends set off to collect arcane objects for the witch."

I should have pre-ordered this. Bah.

When East meets West: Newsarama's "Your Manga Minute" looks at some recent results -- both good and bad -- of manga's influence on Western comics:

"Last year’s turmoil surrounding Marvel’s Tsunami titles would seem to indicate this. Marvel launched a bevy of new books, supposedly influenced by manga and employing many of the familiar visual cues. The characters were largely teens and/or outsider characters from other popular series. The intent was to draw teens into buying these titles in much the same way that they’re making Chobits disappear from the mall. With a tide of cancellations, changes in format, and general fan confusion even before the first 'manga-sized' trades come out, Tsunami sort of washed up.

"Still, with all the perceived elements in place, why didn’t it take off? In a somewhat familiar analogy, Shiver in the Dark creator Stuart Sayger, who has also worked as a retailer, notes, 'To me, Marvel’s product smacked of major record labels trying to capitalize on the punk rock craze of 20 years ago. It was right in front of them, they looked at it and studied it and tried to replicate it, but they never understood it.'"

Exclusive Trigun: reports that Barnes & Noble will offer an exclusive hardcover edition of Dark Horse/Digital Manga's Trigun Book 1 for $11.95 -- $3 less than the trade paperback. The special edition should be available in August.

Tintin to debut in India (again): Agencyfaqs! tries to get to the bottom of ZEE English's "Tintin in India" campaign, but is disappointed to learn it doesn't include any new adventures for the eternally youthful reporter:

"Abhijit Saxena, business head, ZEE English, said: 'Tintin is going to make his first appearance in Indian television through ZEE English'. The statement didn't really make much sense as Cartoon Network has been airing Tintin adventures since August 2000 in English as well as in Hindi. And the programme continues even today."

Aging at the speed of sound: UK's Games Domain points out that today is the 13th birthday of Sonic the Hedgehog, star of video games, television shows and comic books:

"Sonic's debut in the Sega Genesis title Sonic the Hedgehog marked a new era for Sega, as it gave them both a mascot and began a prolific series of games that continues to this day. Though his most recent adventure, Sonic Heroes, was not received particularily well by critics, the game has performed well commercially. With the recently released Sonic Advance 3 and a Nintendo DS title in development, Sonic the Hedgehog is still going strong over a decade after his conception."

Getting in on the action: The Oklahoman notes that Pioneer Library System libraries will participate in Free Comic Book Day, giving a Spider-Man comic or poster to anyone on July 2 and 3 who checks out a book for a child or teen-ager.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Ruiz leaves Metron: Mario Ruiz has announced he's no longer with Metron Press, a division of the American Bible Society that's dead in the water, at least for now:

"Ruiz cites a decision by the ABS to reorganize the Metron Press division and to editorially refocus the material to a dedicated Christian readership as the reason for the split."

Jock's Dark Knight: Andy Diggle posts Jock's cover for October's Detective Comics #799. Not that I'd want Jock to stop drawing The Losers, but I would actually start buying Detective if the series were illustrated by him. Well, probably.

Distribution deal: Image Entertainment has announced a partnership with Dark Horse Entertainment "to produce, distribute and share ownership of theatrical features, direct-to-video projects, animated content and soundtrack albums for worldwide distribution." This next part is interesting, if not entirely clear:

"The deal with Dark Horse is particularly important. Historically, Image has licensed content for distribution under the content provider's ownership. This agreement is a major step for Image in that Dark Horse and Image will now share ownership of the content. It is part of our natural progression in evolving from distributing licensed content to distributing content that is owned. This represents what I envision will be a model for future agreements."

Manga scoop: At Grotesque Anatomy, John Jakala has what appears to be the official press release announcing the launch of DC's CMX Manga line.

Anime planet: Animation World Magazine attends the Licensing International trade show, and discovers anime isn't just a fad:

"The anime craze is here to stay, judging from a walk down the aisles. Even more Asian licenses — from Japan, Korea and China — were on display this year than in the past. Some of the properties exhibited are already on the air in the U.S., mostly on Cartoon Network or the Fox Box programming block, while others are about to launch and still others are established in Europe or Asia but just being introduced to North America. Properties ranged from cute animals for young kids (such as Korea’s Mashimaro) to fashion-driven tween girls series (4Kids’ Winx Club) to action-adventure properties for male teens and tweens (Warner Bros.’ Megas XLR).

"Some examples of note included Warner’s Hi Hi Puffy Ani Yumi, which will debut in late November 2004. Based on a popular Japanese music group, the half-hour comedy will feature three 7-minute animated segments with two 30-second, live-action bookends. Fashion and publishing are among the licensed products planned. TokyoPop highlighted its Rave Master; the series airs on Cartoon Network and has spawned a DVD, Cine-Manga titles published by TokyoPop, and a master toy line from Hasbro."

Ring cycle: The Village Voice reviews Spiral, Koji Suzuki's sequel to Ring:

"Spiral's principal pleasure lies in the invention with which Suzuki works variations on the motifs of the original novel. Even as the English word ring fluctuates between noun and verb, so both a videotape and a virus occupy 'a point between the animate and the inanimate' -- they need humans in order to reproduce. And indeed, it turns out that exposure to the images infects the body with a virus looking remarkably like a wedding ring, which performs its own alchemic marriage of opposites. The viewer is impregnated with the storyteller herself: a hermaphrodite."

Meet Pavitr Prabhaker and Meera Jain: Canada's National Post catches up to last week's news that Marvel's Spider-Man comic will be recrafted for an Indian audience:

"India seemed like the perfect place to try an experiment like this, where the market is considered very friendly to 'globalization.' The sitcom Friends has been very popular dubbed in Hindi, while McDonald's mcaloo tiiki (potato) burger has been a big success.

"The new Spider-Man India will be dressed in traditional Indian attire, wearing a dhoti (a wrap-around worn by men) around his waist and jooti (traditional shoes) on his feet. 'As well, a lot of the traditional U.S. names are going to be changed to real Indian names to give it more of a flavour,' notes Devarajan. Spider-Man's love interest, Mary Jane, will become Meera Jain, while Aunt May will be renamed Aunt Maya and she'll trade in her floral print dresses for a sari."

Not to be outdone, Newsarama also chases the story, and speaks about the project with Gotham Entertainment's Sharad Devarajan.

Update: Comic Book Resources also chats with Devarajan.

Along came a Spider: USA Today wonders whether Spider-Man 2 can live up to the hype, and notes Sony executives are discussing spinoffs and a least six installments of the franchise:

"Certainly, no one is predicting that the saga of Peter Parker will sell as many tickets as the original. When it opened May 3, 2002, Spider-Man set at least 15 box office records, including largest debut with $114.8 million. By the time it left theaters, the superhero had netted $820 million worldwide. It remains the fifth-biggest film of all time."

Drawing readers, raising money: North Carolina's Up & Coming Magazine previews local Free Comic Book Day activities, which include a benefit for the Cumberland County Autism Society ... and an appearance by Adam West as Batman?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Exceeding expectations: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) talks with's Milton Griepp about the rapid growth of the graphic-novel market, which is exceeding earlier estimates. It comes as no suprise that manga is the fastest-growing category:

"Griepp also noted that manga titles aimed at boys have been doing better than before in bookstores, and shoujo, manga aimed at girls, has seen sales increase in boy-dominated comics stores. And, although some retailers are starting to worry that the manga market will eventually hit a glut, 'we don't see any signs of one in sales,' Griepp said. 'The underlying trend seems very strong, and it's continuing.'"

Mall rat: There are two bookstores in my little town: One sells primarily used books out of a beautiful old Carnegie library, where the temperature reaches 115 degrees on the most pleasant of days. The other is a tiny Waldenbooks in the area's sole shopping mall.

This afternoon's errands took me by said mall, so I popped into "America's Bookstore" to root through the graphic novel and manga section. Wait. Let's call it The Manga Section (featuring Western graphic novels). The store had been rearranged since my last visit several months back, with the manga and graphic novels pushed closer to the front, and away from the humor and sci-fi ghetto.

Just as noticeable was the reappropriation of shelf space. Where once manga was wedged into a single disorganized bookcase, now it fills three and spills over into a fourth. In contrast, the graphic novels have been downsized and relegated to three-quarters of one case.

Needless to say, I took advantage of the expanded manga selection and picked up the first volumes of Chobits, xxxHolic, Get Backers and Sgt. Frog (I also snatched up Criminal Macabre).

Class act: The Canadian edition of Time features a two-page interview with Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros about being "the classiest comic publisher in North America." There's also a sidebar with Chester Brown. To read a PDF version of the article, go here. (Link via The Pulse)

Marvel CLAMP-down? seizes on word from Anime on DVD that the CLAMP manga collective is working on a top-secret project for Marvel, due out sometime next year:

"While Marvel initially pioneered among U.S. publishers with manga-versions of some of its key characters, DC Comics leapt in front of Marvel in the manga derby by announcing its CMX manga line (see 'DC Launches Manga Imprint') in February. Marvel's Clamp project should at least keep the U.S.'s highest profile comic publisher in the race."

Frank talk about HIV: Glasgow's The Herald reports that Healthy Gay Scotland has produced a safer-sex comic aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds in hopes countering a feared explosion of HIV in that country:

"The comic, designed by the Scottish Cartoon Arts Studio, cost £14,000 to produce.

"Called Cock Tales, the free publication carries the warning 'Do not read if easily offended' on its front cover and is labelled 'for the 16-plus'."

Bucking the trend: Marvel's habit of relabeling ongoing series as limited series is turned on its head with the announcement that Thor: Son of Asgard will become a continuing monthly. Originally solicited as a six-issue limited series, Son of Asgard chronicles the adventures of a young Thor, Balder and Sif. Here's Joe Quesada:

"This is a testament to Marvel's commitment to taking chances on new talent. Here was a series featuring a classic Marvel hero in a new light, done by a cast of relatively unknown creators. We believed in the book, supported it, and are now enjoying a nice bit of success."

Monday, June 21, 2004

"Eclectic" San Diego preview: Writing for Publishers Weekly (subscription required), Heidi MacDonald previews the July 22-25 Comic-Con International, which she says, "promises to be the biggest, most eclectic show ever":

"As always, San Diego's guest list is wide-ranging; this year it includes everyone from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola to veteran classic comics master Will Eisner (whose next book will published by W.W. Norton) to Jean Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. Special tributes and spotlights for 2004 include the 90th birthday of legendary animator Bob Clampett; the 75th anniversaries of both Popeye and Tintin; and the 20th anniversary of comics creator Stan Sakai's acclaimed funny animal samurai tale, Usagi Yojimbo.

"While guests from the world of literary science fiction and fantasy have always attended, this year's line-up is, yet again, bigger than ever. Whiz kid Christopher Paolini (Eragon) will be appearing, and Del Rey Books is sponsoring a sizable contingent that includes authors Stephen Barnes, China Mieville, Terry Brooks and Timothy Zahn. Bestselling book author Brad Meltzer will be appearing at the DC booth to tout his new comics miniseries, Identity Crisis, a tense superhero murder mystery."

PW also notes the increased manga presence at this year's convention, including rare appearances by creators Santa Inoue, Monkeypunch and Park Sang Sun.

CrossGen update: Newsarama has acquired a copy CrossGen’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which reveals the publisher is more than $3 million in debt -- with $1 million-plus owed to printer Quebecor alone. Other notable creditors include Wizard Entertainment, Diamond Comic Distributors, Reed Business Information (owners of Publishers Weekly), and creators Luke Ross, Fabrizio Fiorentino and Hyde Park Capital.

The story is developing.

Inside Image: Comic World News concludes its two-part interview with B. Clay Moore, Image Comics' PR and marketing coordinator, who addresses the move of Powers to Marvel's Icon imprint, among other topics:

"It is a concern that Powers moved away. It’s not like a physical concern of Image’s but you worry about people’s perception when stuff like that happens. But literally nobody knows what the motivation was for Brian [Bendis] to do that. And that’s his business. Obviously he’s got a good relationship with Marvel and they treat him well, I’m sure that we’d rather have Powers and Kabuki still doing new stuff for Image. We are still doing the trades. And they’re on the back list. And we still have relationships with both of those guys. But I have not seen any indication that Icon is going to be an open door for creators. It’s two or three creators that are going to be doing stuff through Marvel instead of through Image. That’s about what it amounts to. ...

"... I actually came on board right after that had been done. I wasn’t aware of what was going on. But, because the way comics are and especially with the internet, there was about 5 or 6 days where it was the big buzz on the internet, and people then started speculating on what Icon was and what it wasn’t and this and that. And the next week it was pretty much old news, there’s something else for people to worry about. Rich Johnston moves into some other controversy. Then Micah Wright was the new story now. That’s what everybody was concerned about. You do worry about how people perceive things because people operate so much on innuendo and rumor and don’t really understand the nature of Image or what goes on. But with Powers, I hope it does extremely well at Marvel. The reason it’s at Marvel, the reason it exists, is because, because of Image. I mean in that respect, it’s an example of a success story. More power to 'em."

Marvel, retconned: At Broken Frontier, Graeme McMillan (not a permalink) tries to make sense of Marvel's 65th anniversary, and uncovers this jarring statistic: The publisher has launched 67 titles since the beginning of the year.

I realize that must include limited series, but damn, that's a lot of books. Now, how many of those ended prematurely?

The shipping news: Ninth Art also sorts through the books shipping this week, and highlights the second Sleeper trade, Savage Henry: Powerchords, John Romita Jr.'s Gray Area, and the current fascination with witches.

It tolls for thee: While we're sounding death knells, let's go to Ninth Art, where Paul O'Brien examines what went wrong with DC's expiring Focus line:

"Somebody, somewhere, is presumably thinking along these lines. We publish loads of superhero comics. We want to expand the market. Let's play it safe and produce these strange and slightly experimental superhero hybrids. This way, we'll cover all our bases and maximise our audience.

"If that's the reasoning, then it's obviously not working. Instead, these books appear to be disappearing into a demographic black hole where only the hardest of hardcore comics fans venture - the ones who'll pick up the first issue of practically anything. The fact that the DC Focus line were all ordered so closely together should be an obvious alarm bell, indicating that retailers expected it to sell to DC completists, and pretty much nobody else. It would seem unlikely that they were envisaging an audience of DC Focus fans who would buy all four titles, especially given that they have nothing whatsoever in common with one another."

Well, that was fast: Newsarama also reports that the American Bible Society's venture into comics, Metron Press, is dead in the water due to internal problems:

"I think in hindsight the American Bible Society was committed to the Metron Press publishing imprint, but only to a certain degree. They were trying to run a for profit imprint with a non-profit mentality. The investment to take these books and the product line to the next level wasn't sitting too well with ABS upper management. They wanted a huge return on their investment without a decent distribution and sales vehicle in place. When it came time to really step up and make an impact, it became about not really wanting to serve the secular market and protecting their bottom line. It takes a certain amount of passion, risk, capital, and good old fashion elbow grease to make it work in any business. These were qualities that the American Bible Society lacked to a great degree."

Metron had planned to publish titles by several well-known mainstream creators, including Brian Augustyn, Dick Giordano, Terry Austin, Barbara Kesel, Bill Sienkiewicz, Christopher Priest, Dan Jolley, Jason Alexander, John Ostrander, Jim Krueger and Sanford Greene.

CrossGen post-mortem: Newsarama catches up on this weekend's news that CrossGen has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy:

"Chapter 11 protection allows for the business to continue operating while it reorganizes its financial picture, keeping the business alive, while paying off creditors over time. Sources reported to Newsarama that CrossGen founder Mark Alessi hopes to find investors to bring the company out of Chapter 11 and relaunch at a later date. Reportedly, many inside CrossGen advised Alessi to file Chapter 11 months ago."

May, by the numbers: takes a look at the direct-market sales for May, and notes a 12 percent overall increase over May 2003. The retailer site reports that three titles -- Astonishing X-Men #1, Superman #205 and Superman/Batman #10 -- each sold more than 175,000 copies.

ICv2 also breaks down the Top 300 comics and Top 100 graphic novels, with sales estimates.

Guest-starring Invincible: Comic Book Resources gets to the bottom of the Invincible stand-up that appeared in the season finale of The Shield:

"Kirkman told CBR News that back around the second episode of the season, the production crew for "The Shield" called up the Image Comics offices, located just outside Los Angeles, looking for some super hero stuff to decorate the comic shop with. Image gave them a selection to choose from and Invincible was amongst their choices. The Image folk called Kirkman to get his approval, and being a big The Shield fan himself, he was more than happy to oblige. Kirkman said the image seen in the show is actually a large sized Invincible stand-up, one Kirkman is trying to get his hands on for the upcoming convention season. Kirkman also said somewhere in the store is a poster featuring the comic Capes."

Movin' on up: The Salem (Ore.) Journal notes that the Danger Zone Entertainment comic store has relocated and expanded:

"Nick and Laurie Coffey have owned the store since 1999 and credit the move to their new 1,500-square-foot location to Hollywood’s increasing fascination with fantasy and science-fiction movies."

"Valid forms of literature": The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at the Bucks County Library's selection of Maus: A Survivor's Tale for its inaugural "One Book, One Bucks" series:

"We are the first to use a graphic novel, and some people are going to say, 'Why is Bucks County Library promoting a comic book?' One of our objectives is to show graphic novels are valid forms of literature. The time is right, and this is a powerful story."

More Marvel licensing: JAKKS Pacific announced it has expanded its worldwide licensing agreements with Marvel to produce TV Games of the Fantastic Four and Iron Man.

Move over, Spider-Man: Time takes stock of the manga and anime characters heading to the big screen in Japan:

"Exactly why remakes of classic cartoons are booming is open to debate. Some cite nostalgia, others a lack of imagination. 'People have special feelings for the older animé. They're simpler and more innocent,' says Cutie Honey star Sato, a longtime fan of the heroine she plays. Her director, Anno, takes a crankier view. 'Japanese people can't grow up,' he says. 'When they're not reading comics and watching cartoons, they go to see movies about cartoon characters. It's sad.'"

Sunday, June 20, 2004

More on CrossGen: The Pulse chimes in on yesterday's news that CrossGen has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and summarizes the publisher's ongoing financial problems.

The birth of an industry: The Times of India reports that India's first graphic novel, Sarnath Banerjee's Corridor, soon will be joined by Rohit Gupta's graphic novella, The Doppler Effect:

"In India, however, comics are just beginning to be taken seriously. While comics for children, published by houses like Diamond, Raj and Amar Chitra Katha are widely sold and read, the graphic novel as a form is just starting out.

"Banerjee, whose novelhas sold out of its initial print run of 2,000 copies and is now being reprinted, spent two years seeking a publisher willing to take the book on before Penguin signed it.

"But Gupta, who has formed his own comic publishing house, Apollo Bunder Comics, is undaunted. 'People will take it seriously,' he asserts of The Doppler Effect."

The McSweeney's affair: At, Andrew Arnold falls in love with McSweeney's Quarterly Concern No. 13, "The Comics Issue" edited by Chris Ware:

"The book itself stays true to Ware's high standards, being printed on heavy paper stock and in full color for at least half of the works. The contributors are a jaw-dropping list: every single major North American cartoonist of the last two decades, plus several key historical artists, some newcomers and even a few prose pieces by the likes of John Updike, Chip Kidd ('Peanuts: the Art of Charles M. Schulz') and Glen David Gold ('Carter Beats the Devil'). The works have been loosely organized by genre. Early in the book appears what may be considered the world's first comic strip: Rodolphe Topffer's 1839 'The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck,' about a despondent bachelor who perpetually fails at both love and suicide. A major revelation, in its charming way it lays the groundwork for both the jollities and existential torments of comix to come. This becomes the first in a strange triptych of early suicide-related strips. Other genre groups include fiction, journalism, biography, autobiography and as Ware says in the introduction, 'the uncategorizable.'"

Manga-inspired serial rapist? Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reports that police have arrested a man suspected of raping and robbing more than 70 women in a manner similar to the controversial Rapeman manga of the late 1980s and early '90s. The 36-year-old man is accused of telling the women he was asked to rape them. In the manga, a mild-mannered school teacher worked as a rapist for hire.

Tutoring, and a grappling hook: The New York Times reports on the opening of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, which will feature workshops for adult and student writers, drop-in tutoring, English-as-a-second-language classes, and self-publishing seminars:

"'If you put "free tutoring" on the banner, nobody's going to come in,' said Scott Seeley, the director of operations, who established the center with Doug Bowmen, its educational director. 'But if you put "superhero" - we're already getting a constant flow of people asking questions.'

"The store has everything a modern, well-equipped superhero might need: leotards, boots, tights, magnets, chain ladders, nets and other tools of the villain-fighting trade. 'We don't sell comic books or figurines,' Mr. Seeley said. 'It's literally what a superhero would use.'"

Anime attraction: The Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram (registration required) visits the Anime Store in Arlington, which owner Raymond Vo reopened in January. To compete with the larger chain stores, Vo tries to carry hard-to-find merchandise:

"I sell a lot of fan-based anime, which means these are titles that only really dedicated fans know about."

Thinking of the children: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch examines the growing backlash against advertising aimed at children:

"Cover Concepts Inc., based in New York City, offers schools free textbook covers, bookmarks, notebooks and other supplies emblazoned with corporate logos and cartoon characters. Cover Concepts is owned by Marvel Enterprises Inc., one of the world's leading comic-book publishers.

"Its materials are in 400 schools in the St. Louis area, reaching 225,000 to 230,000 students here, said Anita Murrmann, executive director. 'We found out that the average teacher spends over $700 out of their own pocket to provide their students with (such) materials,' Murrmann said, so the company is simply filling a need."

Students get creative: The Springfield, Mass., Republican looks at efforts by the Brookings Middle School Comic Club to create its own comic book. Card & Comic Co. has donated preprinted art board, while Dark Horse Comics has sent prints of characters and autographed memorabilia that are displayed in the classroom where the club meets.

Love in the time of Spandex: Orlando CityBeat discovers Andi Watson's Love Fights:

"It's all pretty lighthearted, but the story is far from a piece of fluff. Watson has obviously thought out a plot here that will sustain plenty of tension well beyond the first story arc. He's mentioned the Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy school of romantic comedy as an inspiration, and there's certainly that kind of feel to Love Fights -– the tug of war between love and ambition. The super-powered backdrop is taken for granted, essential to the story but treated in such an offhand way that it becomes a seamless part of the scenery."

Bipolar twins: Israel21C profiles twin brothers Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, who work separately as editorial illustrators and comic artists, and together on projects like Bipolar:

"Bipolar is the work that is the most important and personal for us. Both because we collaborate on it and because characters in the stories are our friends and family and the background are the backgrounds of my life. But overall, both of us are just thrilled that we are able to make our living doing something we love so much."

Saturday, June 19, 2004

CrossGen files bankruptcy? Citing "anonymous inside sources," Comic World News reports that all remaining staff at CrossGen has been laid off, and the company has filed for bankruptcy.

Darling artist: Japan's Asahi Shimbun profiles artist Saori Oguri, whose Darin wa Gaikokujin 2 (My Darling is a Foreigner 2) was published in March:

"To her surprise, the book has remained on the best-seller shelf in major Tokyo bookstores since its release in March. Thanks to the second book's popularity, the first in the series, Darin wa Gaikokujin 1 (My Darling is a Foreigner 1) published in 2002, has also jumped in sales, according to Media Factory. There were 300,000 copies of the first volume printed and 260,000 of the second, the publisher said."

Crisis center, revisited: The Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun (registration required) and The Oklahoman also chat with Brad Meltzer about DC's Identity Crisis:

"It's sort of like that kid in your neighborhood who had the best toys, so you wanted to go to his house to play. Well, DC has the best toys. I love my novels, and I love my characters, but DC has Superman. And sometimes, you just want to play with Superman."

Review revue: The Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun (registration required) reviews Green Lantern/Green Arrow Vol. 1.

From screen to page: FilmForce takes a seven-page look at Joss Whedon's move from screenwriting to comics writing.

Graphic novel paradigm: The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News profiles local artist Brett Wood, who recently released the first installment of his six-part graphic novel series, Paradigmino.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Convention planning: Newsarama chats with Top Shelf's Chris Staros about the importance of the convention circuit:

"Conventions are an absolutely vital part of our cash flow, probably more so than other publishers, as I think we do more conventions than any other publisher out there. This year we're publishing 36 books, mostly graphic novels, to the tune of about $400,000 in printing costs alone - ouch! Do you have any idea how many books you have to sell in the small press to generate that kind of money in a year? It's staggering."

Angel, Angel, down we go together: At Grotesque Anatomy, John Jakala is holding a nifty contest to promote Jim Rugg's Street Angel:

"Since I'm going through squid fight withdrawal (and Rugg only made it worse by taunting me with this enigmatic teaser: 'rest assured, you will be surprised by issue 3's, ahem, competition') I figured you readers could help me out by chronicling some of Jesse's undocumented battles against the giant squid. The person who composes the best 'untold tale' will win the first two issues of Street Angel -- FREE! I'll even cover shipping (in the U.S. only; but if you're outside the U.S. and don't mind paying international shipping, feel free to enter the contest)."

Squid-fighting enthusiasts should go enter. Now!

Zombie-licious: Rampaging Fanboy Graeme McMillan is illustrating Zombie! Zombie! Zombie!, a graphic novel written by Jim Massey (Death Takes A Holiday). Get your preview here. The Pulse has the press release.

Spreading the love: Also at, Dark Horse's Michael Martens responds to Ilan Strasser's manga sermon, and assures direct-market retailers that they are important:

"Ilan, we still love you and feel the direct market always will be an important part of our business!"

Space invaders: has word from Tokyopop that manga retail display space is increasing, primarily in chain stores:

"Behind a 250% increase in year-over-year weekly manga sales, Hastings is doubling its manga display space and moving the section to a more prominent location. Musicland has added a new manga fixture, increasing space by around 75%.

"In test mode, Best Buy will try out anime-related manga titles this July and Tower is testing Tokyopop's permanent 40-pocket display now."

Missing: Kalle Anka: South Africa's Independent reports that a rare copy of the first Donald Duck (Kalle Anka) comic published in Swedish has gone missing from the Comicland Museum in Koinge, Sweden. The comic, published in 1948, is estimated to be worth more than $19,800.

Won't someone think of the children? Australia's Big News Network reports that Vietnamese parents and educators are calling on writers and producers to create comic books and video games more suitable for children:

"Vietnamese publishers are printing more children's books than ever. But educators and parents say many of the most popular books, especially translated versions from overseas, are unsuitable, the report said.

"More than 600,000 comic books are printed in Ho Chi Minh City each week and 80 percent of them are foreign comics with many depicting violent stories with rampant killing, the report said."

Comics in the margins: Canada's Georgia Straight looks at Drippytown Comics and Stories and the state of "alternative comics":

"The acceptance of comics in the wine-and-cheese milieu has its good and bad points, Bell says. 'Comics are getting more acknowledged, but then the art gets more elitist. The audience becomes more savvy and the work less mainstream, and less appealing to a wide audience. But that opens it up to a book crowd, people who take literature seriously.'

"The comic-book form itself -- the easily carried, stapled item --is under threat from the more visceral pleasures of video games and, to some extent, graphic novels. Which makes Drippytown one of the last of a dying breed: the anthology in its traditional form. Bell also notes the book's 'community feel', a quality that reflects Lawrence's efforts. The cartoonist first brought his comics-loving friends together in 1990 in an anthology titled Cartoon Party, and in 1999 and 2000 he showcased their work again in The Drippy Gazette. That broadsheet also introduced teardrop-shaped Drippy the Newsboy, who would become the mascot of Lawrence's latest venture."

Spider-Man, by way of India: Now this is interesting. The Times of India reports that Marvel plans to adapt Spider-Man for an Indian audience. This isn't just a dialogue translation, though; it's what Marvel's partner in the endeavor, Gotham Entertainment Group, calls a "transcreation":

"Spiderman India interweaves the local customs, culture and mystery of modern India, with an eye to making Spiderman's mythology more relevant to this particular audience."

Peter Parker will be replaced by an Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar, while Green Goblin will become a Rakshasa, the Indian mythological demon:

"Unlike traditional translations of American comics, Spiderman India will become the first-ever 'transcreation,' where we reinvent the origin of a Western property like Spiderman so that he is an Indian boy in Mumbai and dealing with local problems and challenges."

The Indian Express has a few more details, including that Pavitr Prabhakar gets his "magical powers" from a yogi.

Nexus, animated at last: Animation World Magazine talks with Steve Rude about his 16-year effort to animate Nexus, which finally makes its debut this year at Comic-Con International in the form of a two-minute promotional DVD:

"I wanted Nexus to reflect my own personal vision because I felt that was the only way it would look like Nexus and not some watered-down, committee-produced kiddie version of what the comic book was all about. ...

"You may be surprised to know that, to me, Nexus is very traditional, in that he goes after bad guys and destroys them. That what superheroes do."

They, robot: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Astroboy will be among the inductees this fall to Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame. He'll join fellow fictional automatons Robby the Robot and C3PO, and two real-world counterparts.

Crisis center: Make way for the DC Comics promotional machine. Today, the Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel (registration required) talks with Brad Meltzer about Identity Crisis:

"This story is basically a murder mystery set in the DC Universe, with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. This is my chance to play with the biggest characters that exist in comics.

"I write mysteries for a living anyway, and DC let me write a story using the characters in their toy box, which is obviously a dream come true for someone like me."

Marvel's merchandise: The New York Daily News looks at Marvel's bumpy financial road and the company's focus on licensing and merchandising:

"Spider-Man 2 is expected to perform even better than the first film because of the popularity of the original franchise.

The cushion of the first movie and the fact that Spidey-related items are already on the market is 'heightening consumer awareness of Spider-Man 2' even before the movie opens, said Elizabeth Waikesnis, director of the the annual Licensing International Show at the Javits Center.

"Both Sony and Marvel declined to comment for this story, but the film's official Web site alone boasts 18 different promotions and tie-ins."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Expo reality check: Christopher Butcher checks in with thoughts from Book Expo Canada:

"The big change at Book Expo, and it’s a huge change if you’re only reading about comics on the internet or visiting a very, very superhero-centric store, is how artificial and to be honest, unhealthy, the direct market really is. Out in the real world (and, yeah, I know, I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all dick, but…) the distinctions between comic strips and comic books, between ‘mainstream’ and ‘indy’, between tradition and otherwise are greatly diminished. The Complete Peanuts Vol 1 is regarded (and I think rightly-so) as a Graphic Novel, despite the fact that it’s a collection of serialized strips. Comic strip reprints have just as much respect, if not more-so, than comics and graphic novels."

A manga moment: At Cognitive Dissonance, Johanna has a nice entry about the appeal of manga, overcoming the format obstacle, and the naysayers who dismiss it as a fad:

"It had been a long time since I'd been that excited about any corporate American comics. Sure, there's a lot of crappy manga, but overall, it's so much more diverse than what the comic industry calls 'mainstream' that I'm still surfing on the crest of the good stuff. What do I care if there's a bookcase full of manga I'd never be interested in at the store if there's also one of stuff I'm dying to read? ...

"... I'm excited about the medium again because there are stories for ME -- lots of romantic comedies with imagination and heart."

Cross-cultural appeal: Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Bill Virgin looks at Japan's latest pop-culture export, Tare Panda, and wonders why such cartoon characters appeal to American youth:

"The appeal also stems from products that create of 'an entire universe unto themselves,' Thompson says, 'one that requires a degree of dedication to understand which often, appealingly, separates it from standard adult popular culture.' Remember Pokemon and Pikachu? 'Kids can be experts about Yu-gi-oh while their parents and teachers remain completely oblivious to its meaning, and toddlers right up through adolescence can immerse themselves in the ever-more-populated world of Hello Kitty.'"

Enjoyed worldwide, ignored locally: The Korea Times notes that while South Korean animated films are being received well internationally, they're virtually ignored by audiences in their own country.

Not-so-secret Identity: The Boston Herald hops aboard the promotional bandwagon for DC's Identity Crisis:

"Though DC is billing the miniseries as the comics event of the year, Identity Crisis differs from previous summer projects, which have tended to focus on monstrous villains and galactic emergencies. Meltzer's work squarely focuses on the people who enter the public spotlight by fighting evil."

Con game: Writing for Toronto's Eye Weekly, Guy Leshinski previews this weekend's Toronto Comicon:

"It's the Artist's Alley -- a section slightly removed from the bins and bulletproof glass, where many of Toronto's best independent cartoonists will be nursing their work -- that the keen attendant should beeline toward. Its tenants are misfits in the kindest sense, whose talent and bald optimism can make the same old show an interesting, even enlightening, event."

Baseball cartoon a hit: The Korea Times profiles Choi Hoon, whose MLB Cartoon webcomic series draws more than 100,000 clicks a week:

"(I'm surprised) since most baseball fans here focus on the domestic league, and most contents of the series are somewhat for advanced MLB fans, who have a better-than-average knowledge on it. I feel lucky with the MLB Cartoon. I can do whatever I want and unleash it online and many people support me for that."

Werthem was right, revisited: In its "Yesteryears" feature, the Modesto (Calif.) Bee looks back 50 years, to when the largest distributor of comic books in Stanislaus County announced it would not carry horror comics or those that "contained lewd or sexual themes":

"Joe Saletta of Nichol News, which supplied about 115 dealers, said he would write to the comic book publishers and pass on customers' complaints about the violent material. He said that up to 150 comics would be taken out of stock."

Superman on display: It's apparently Museum Day at Thought Balloons. The Greenwood (Ark.) Democrat reports that the popular Superman Case Exhibit has been extended through July 25 at the Museum of Discovery:

"The items in the Superman Case Exhibit are from the personal collection of Mike and Carole Curtis of Greenbrier. Mike has been collecting the Man of Steel memorabilia for 30 years; Carole 'learned in self-defense!' Currently the collection boasts 16,000 items, hundreds of which will be on display at the Museum."

Japan, by way of Iowa: Iowa's Quad-City Times reports on the arrival of the $50,000 Jump to Japan traveling exhibit at the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center:

"Visitors can learn about animation that made the film, My Neighbor Totoro, by watching snippets of the show through a projector box and then creating their own animations in an 'animation station.'

"Another part of the display focuses on manga, which are comic-book-type characters with huge eyes that are featured in oversized books and large wooden puzzles. Visitors can draw their own manga creations."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Teen beat: The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch talks with local writer Sean McKeever about Mary Jane:

"I’ve never found any difficulty writing teens, because I don’t think I’ve grown up yet. If it feels honest to me, it seems to work for everyone else."

(Link via Sean McKeever)

Fall reading: And while we're on the subject of solicitations, Oni Press and Fantagraphics have announced their offerings for October.

Marvel in September (offically): Although they were leaked yesterday, Marvel's official solicitations for September are up now, with cover images. Some of the highlights:

* J. Michael Straczynski's long-promised Strange project finally debuts under the Marvel Knights banner. Isn't there some artistic rule of thumb for covers stating the character's back shouldn't be turned to the reader? Anyway, the solicitation doesn't list Strange as a miniseries, so perhaps Marvel is hedging its bets. If it performs well, maybe co-writer Samm Barnes will be turned loose on an ongoing?
* Although the world doesn't need another sexy female spy series, I'm actually looking forward to Richard K. Morgan and Bill Sienkiewicz's Black Widow.
* Five Marvel Knights 2099 one-shots seem a bit ... unnecessary.
* Peter David's Madrox series debuts with a cover by David Lloyd that's a marked improvement over Marvel's typical pin-ups (actually, it reminds me of something you'd see for DC/WildStorm's Sleeper).
* What's this? NYX #6?
* It's the attack of the X-Men solo series continue as Gambit, Jubilee and Nightcrawler debut.
* Uh, Warlock #1? (Adam Warlock, not the weird character from the old New Mutants series.)

Otto's Coffee Shop has an interesting look at the solicitations, noting average prices, the number of titles in each line, and the series that weren't solicited: Thanos is absent, but that comes as no surprise. Venom is also gone, but it had been hemorrhaging readers for the past year. The big mystery is Iron Fist which only launched in March. Has it been canceled already?

Legal notice: At Newsarama, Matt Brady takes a closer look at Carmine Infantino's $4 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. and DC Comics:

"As viewed in today’s light, the idea that Infantino would even think that he would be able to lay any claim to the characters he created while working as a freelancer for DC would seem ridiculous, but the time frame in which he created for DC was much different from today. Cronyism was rampant, as were handshake (and backroom) deals. In fact, one of the first things Infantino is credited with doing when he came on at the wheel of DC’s ship was to end many of the less straight business practices of the company. The work for hire contracts that are a staple of the modern comics industry weren’t in place, and, as other legal cases have shown, there was plenty of wiggle room in regards to meanings when a creator was asked to create a character."

Russ Manning nominees: Nominations have been announced for the 2003 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, and Invincible artist and all-around nice guy Ryan Ottley made the list. Winners will be announced July 23 at Comic-Con International as part of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards ceremony.

Other nominees are Bosch Fawstin, Derek Kirk Kim, Phil Singer and Eric Wight.

Planet Larry, revisited: At Comic Book Resources, Rob Lavender talks with longtime friend Larry Young about AiT/Planet Lar and Planet of the Capes.

Concerning McSweeney's: Minneapolis City Pages looks at McSweeney's Quarterly Concern No. 13, "The Comics Issue" edited by Chris Ware:

"Ware's curatorial tastes are generally quite broad: The issue includes Richard McGuire's 'ctrl,' which has been rendered entirely through flat and spare overhead views; a selection of Mark Beyer's hilariously tormented art brut 'Amy and Jordan' strips; and a suite of concentrated, hyper-stylized pieces from Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez's Love and Rockets series. Even so, you can see his particular selectivity in the McSweeney's picks. Ware prefers minimal, iconic, impressionistic drawing to the more deliberate rendering of the European school (Blacksad artist Juanjo Guarnido, say), and his introduction is quick to dismiss the comics aesthetic that's grounded in old superhero comic books."

Werthem was right? In its "50 Years Ago" column, the Franklin County (Ala.) Times looks back at a June 11, 1954, fire in Chicago that took the lives of seven locals. The blaze was set by an 11-year-old boy, "who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day and drinks 100 proof whiskey":

"The young arsonist told police he got the idea of setting the fire from a comic book entitled The Human Torch. He was place in segregation at a children’s home.

"Police found a stack of lurid comic books along with five empty whiskey bottles in the boy’s bureau drawer."

Vote and get a free comic: Speaking of Brian K. Vaughan (and we were), the writer of Ex Machina is following through on earlier comments by announcing the Ex Machina Voter Registration Day. Any U.S. citizen who registers to vote on June 19th, then forwards the confirmation to Isotope Comics, will receive a free copy of Ex Machina #1.

Superman's English spin: briefly notes the coming of Superman: True Brit:

"Cleese plans to re-name Superman as Colin Clarke instead of Clarke Kent and make him a tabloid reporter instead of the hard-hitting reporter he was till now. Superman who worked for a paper called 'Daily Planet' will now write for the 'Daily Smear.'"