Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Succumbing to the siren's song: Comic World News' Ed Cunard finally joins the legion of the damned bloggers with The Low Road, his chartreuse-colored look at comics and, um, HGTV. Welcome aboard, Ed. Here's your pitchfork.

Diamond adds "manga specialist": To show it's really getting serious about this manga thing, Diamond has announced it's added a "manga specialist" to its inside sales team. I'm not sure what that means to readers, retailers or the industry as a whole, but there you have it.

It's just like Christmas: Well, sort of. I started buying all my comics through Discount Comic Book Service in June, because my local retailer is lacking, and the only good shop is more than an hour away. My August shipment arrived today -- well, most of it -- but it'd been so long since I placed the order, I'd nearly forgotten what I'd bought. Ah, the joys of preordering.

I Am Legion: The Dancing Faun (Humanoids/DC)
Gotham Central #22 (DC Comics)
The Losers #15 (DC/Vertigo)
Books of Magick: Life During Wartime #2 (DC/Vertigo)
We 3 #1 (DC/Vertigo)
Demo #9 (AiT/Planet Lar)

Delayed were Clamp School Paranormal Investigators Vol. 1, Digital Webbing Presents #17, Hot Gimmick Vol. 6 and Sylvia Faust #1. In that regard, it is like Christmas: prolonged and filled with disappointments.

Just call me Angel of the morning, Angel: Don't forget the Why Aren't You Reading Fallen Angel? contest at Cognitive Dissonance. It's fun. It's easy. And it's the law. Well, maybe not the last part. Deadline for entries is Sept. 8.

Review revue: Crows Nest reviews Wendy and Richard Pini's ElfQuest: The Searcher And The Sword.

Killing them softly: Canada's Exclaim! takes a curious look at Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers and Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis:

"Killing off important characters isn’t easy, even for Bendis. In doing so, he has paved the way for new stories, a new mansion and new characters that could easily succumb themselves to the whim of Bendis. He knows precisely how to pace a story, how to hook readers and most importantly when to deliver the goods. Especially when something needs to die."

"Killing off popular characters is difficult, but doing it properly takes skill and a devotion to the medium. There are so many characters in the DC universe that Meltzer could have chosen, but by selecting the wives of the heroes he’s accomplished something else entirely, throwing readers into a whole different emotional realm. Not since the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline has so much been at stake. The super heroes are facing their greatest challenge and by killing off those closest to them they are learning a valuable lesson. Through them, the readers are also learning that no one is innocent and no one is infallible."

Getting the word out: The Jakarta Post reports on a festival organized by the Indonesian Comic Society to promote local comics:

"I didn't realize that Indonesian comics are as good as foreign ones Why aren't they as popular as foreign ones, and why don't bookstores carry them?"

Acclaim shuts down: IGN.com has official word that Acclaim Entertainment, the game company and former comics publisher, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Review revue: The New York Times reviews Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers:

"It is a testament to Art Spiegelman's uncompromising vision that In the Shadow of No Towers -- his account of 9/11 and its aftermath -- makes no effort to contain or domesticate the surreal awfulness of that day. But while the volume seems meant as a kind of bookend to his two Maus books (which memorialized his father's experiences at Auschwitz and his own efforts to understand his father), it lacks those earlier books' hard-won intimacy, their layered complexity and metaphorical weight.

"No Towers is ultimately a fragmentary, unfinished piece: brilliant at times, but scattershot, incomplete and bizarrely truncated."

The melting pot: The Toronto Star rounds up last weekend's Canadian National Expo, which drew more than 26,000 fans of sci-fi, anime, horror and, apparently, illegal swords and nunchakus:

"The expo, the biggest event of its kind in Canada, has grown from its beginnings as a modest comic book fair 10 years ago to a lively mass of humanity — with the occasional vampire, storm trooper and animated character thrown in. And while there appeared to be no disharmony between different adherents and species (apart perhaps from the police carting away a display of replica swords, crossbows and throwing stars and arresting six people the first night of the fair) the black-clad seemed to stay with the black-clad, the comic-book enthusiasts with the comic-book enthusiasts."

In a separate article, the newspaper follows up on the seizure of illegal weapons from a booth operated by SwordStaff.com:

"Police displayed some of the haul — including metal throwing stars, wooden nunchakus, push daggers and brass knuckles — and cash seized at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where the booth had been jammed with buyers. Some $5,000 in weaponry had already been sold in the few hours before police swooped in, Inspector Rick Stubbings said."

Anime at center stage: Wired examines how the release of three major films by three titans of anime -- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence by Mamoru Oshii, Steamboy by Katsuhiro Otomo, and Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki -- finally could mean success at the box office, something that's eluded the artform in the United States:

"In the immediate aftermath of Astro Boy, anime was considered pabulum for kids. But something changed in the early 1970s. Like every nation in the developed world, Japan brought forth an impatient new generation of artists. Unlike other countries, though, Japan's music, theater, and film industries didn't welcome boat-rocking young people. Meanwhile, manga publishers were abandoning their previous self-censoring code of content. Suddenly, what had been subliterature began looking like an opportunity for creative newcomers.

"'There was tremendous energy in Japan bubbling up then,' says Masuzo Furukawa, founder of Mandarake, Japan's largest manga store. 'In your country, someone like Martin Scorsese got to make Mean Streets. In our country, somebody like Otomo went into manga.'"

Monday, August 30, 2004

Marvel announces it's moving books back to Diamond: Although ICv2.com reported the news way back on Aug. 10, Marvel now has officially announced it's moving its book distribution back to Diamond Book Distributors after just two years with Client Distribution Services. Here's Marvel's Gui Karyo:

"While we have had a great partnership with CDS, this was an important opportunity for Marvel to consolidate and strengthen our distribution as we continue to sharpen our focus on this growing segment of the business. As our key distributor in the Direct Market, Diamond is a powerful partner for Marvel, and we couldn't be happier to expand our relationship with them."

The envelope, please: The nominees have been announced for the eighth Ignatz Awards, which will be presented Oct. 3 at the Small Press Expo.

Angel, Angel, down we go together: At Cognitive Dissonance, Johanna has kicked off a great contest called, simply enough, "Why Aren't You Reading Fallen Angel?" She wants you to tell her why you want to try Peter David's Fallen Angel series (she's even linked to some reviews). First prize is a signed copy of the Fallen Angel trade paperback, along with the three most recent issues. Second prize is a copy of the trade; third is a copy of the most recent issue. Pretty good deal, if you ask me. So, go enter the contest. Deadline for entries is Sept. 8.

NYX won't go gentle into that good night: When news came of NYX's cancellation, I feared I would no longer have a chronically late-shipping book to mock. After all, what title this side of Spawn or Youngblood could run eight months behind schedule and still taunt readers with promises of a next issue? It seems my fears were unfounded, though, as Marvel prolongs NYX's death throes. Diamond's latest shipping update shows that Issue 5 -- originally set for a Feb. 11 release -- now will come out Sept. 22. Issue 6 has been resolicited for Nov. 17, with the series finale bumped to -- wait for it -- Jan. 12. Yes, that's 2005.

Too much is never enough: Also at Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien looks at Marvel's expanding Ultimate line and asks, "How much is too much?":

"There was a time when the X-books could deliver sales with pretty much anything, because they did so sparingly. The franchise crawled up to four books a month by 1991, which seems positively conservative in retrospect. And then it exploded. The turning point, for my money, was MAVERICK - a competent but unexceptional title about a Wolverine supporting character, which managed to get cancelled inside a year. For an X-book to fail that quickly was previously unheard of.

"On the other hand, compare the Ultimate books - one of the few imprints that has been diligently protected over the last few years. Marvel can release pretty much anything under the Ultimate imprint and be guaranteed that it will be received as an event. ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR was big news. ULTIMATE ELEKTRA will doubtless do respectably, despite having no connection with the other Ultimate books, featuring a lead character whose solo title was recently axed due to low sales, and having a writer unfamiliar to many superhero fanboys. True, it's got Salvador Larocca, and he's certainly a selling point. But the strength of the Ultimate brand name will play a huge part in delivering sales to this book. If the same creators had done a miniseries about the mainstream Marvel Universe Elektra, called simply ELEKTRA, I suspect it would sell rather worse."

November spawned a monster: Writing for Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton combs through September Previews for a look at Things To Come in November.

Renovating the House of Mouse: The New York Times spotlights Andrew P. Mooney, the chairman of Disney's cosumer products division who's putting the spring back in Mickey's step by turning the company name into a lifestyle brand:
Since 1999, when Mr. Mooney joined Disney, the publishing group has inaugurated its first original comic book series - W.I.T.C.H., a collection of stories about teenage girls with supernatural powers. The series sells well worldwide, and is being developed as a television show for Disney's cable networks.
And Disney's even embracing anime. Sort of:
At Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Disney recently tested Snap watches, which have interchangeable faces and wristbands and are based on Disney characters but with a hipper, more urban appeal. In his interview at the hotel, Mr. Mooney held up a pink T-shirt from the Disney Cuties line for young girls and teenagers, introduced 15 months ago. The shirt was printed with a blue and white Eeyore outlined in thick black lines, more anime-style than conventional Disney animation.

"This is Japanese anime meets the library," said Mr. Mooney, a grin sliding across his face. "We started in T-shirts and now we're making pillows and cellphone cases. We are always looking for sustainable ideas that cross all lines of business."
Mooney also notes that the W.I.T.C.H. comics sell a million copies worldwide each month. The first W.I.T.C.H. graphic novel, which was released in June in the United States, already has sold 650,000 copies.

Marvel's teen idol: The Denver Post takes note of Anya Corazon, teen heroine of Marvel's Amazing Fantasy. Although she was created largely to appeal to a young Latina audience, one retailer notes a different readership:

"I haven't seen a rush of Hispanic girls to buy it. Our regular fans think it's a good story, and that's who is buying it right now."

Web of profits: The White Plains, N.Y., Journal News looks at how Marvel is cashing in on the current popularity of Spider-Man:

"... [T]there are skeptics on Wall Street who wonder whether Marvel can keep up its marvelous performance. Some of its more obscure characters may be tougher to turn into money machines than Spider-Man, perhaps its best-known creation. Another highly promoted movie, The Hulk, was a box-office disappointment.

"Spider-Man's novelty also could gradually diminish as more sequels come out.

"'It is always a big risk to assume that there are other blockbusters out there,' said Peter Mirsky, an analyst at Oppenheimer in New York."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Review revue (Part 2): The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reviews DC Comics/Humanoids' The Horde.

Spiegelman's looming Towers: Newsweek's international edition talks with Art Spiegelman about In the Shadow of No Towers, which is set for a Sept. 7 release.

Local boy does good: The Knoxville News-Sentinel profiles Crossville, Tenn., native Michael Turner, focusing on the popularity of his "detailed and subtly sexual work." Here's Wizard magazine's Gareb Shamus:

"Michael Turner represents the next wave of very talented creators in comics. He's been able to spark a lot of people's imaginations and create a style of art that is really appealing. He is able to draw very sexy characters, both male and female."

More manga mania: The Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press discovers that local teens are crazy about manga and anime:

"When Jim Jones opened his Comic Quest comic-book store in Evansville in 1990, he had only a few Japanese manga titles. 'By 1994 you would have been lucky to come into the store and find one shelf with 20 books.'

"Today, however, walk into Comic Quest and you'll see an entire section, front and center, with more than 1,800 different manga books, 'and that's not counting the magazines or how-to-draw books,' said Jones."

Moving into the mainstream? The Houston Chronicle uses the release of Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2 as an opportunity to trace the rise of the graphic novel:

"The near-simultaneous arrival of these two important books invites a look at the emerging art form. For years graphic novels have been seeping out of the comic-book ghetto and into the mainstream, and now the current seems to be picking up speed."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Daily News -- via the Memphis Commercial Appeal (registration required) -- chats with Satrapi, Glen David Gold, Jonathan Lethem and Sean Howe about the "acceptability of comics."

Review revue: Newsweek's international edition and The San Francisco Chronicle review Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return:

"Satrapi's comic-book style, featuring blunt black-and-white graphics that evoke Persian-style miniatures, makes the story accessible and underscores the narrative's most surprising quality: its humor. In one of the most delightful sequences, Marji is running to catch a bus when she is stopped by government-sanctioned Guardians of the Revolution (armed enforcers of Islamic codes and morality), who scold her for running because it causes her posterior to make 'obscene' movements. 'Well then don't look at my ass!' Marji replies."

Minicomics, big plans: The Kansas City Star profiles local cartoonist Scott Ziolko, who just completed the fourth and final chapter of his minicomic series, Test-Tube:

"Comic books aren't all about superheroes and spandex and good guys and bad guys. It's just another way to tell stories. I'm hoping to be a part of that."

Classical studies: The Boston Globe looks at how Gareth Hinds' comic-book adaptation of Beowulf is being used as a teaching aid at some high schools and universities:

''Gareth is a literate guy. He's read his history and his literature. He knows the culture of Anglo-Saxon England. [Hinds's book] afforded me an opportunity to re-invite their interest in a story that they may have been disillusioned by."

Somewhere, a Dungeon Master weeps: The National Post reports that nine types of illegal weapons were seized and six people arrested Saturday when police raided a booth at the Canadian National Expo. Plainclothes Toronto police officers purchased several banned weapons from a vendor at the comic convention after "someone raised safety concerns about the merchandise":

''They're targeting younger people - teenager males - they're the ones that are going to buy this stuff, take it to school and get suspended. That's what we're worried about.''

The Toronto Star provides a few more details, specifying that, "police cleared 12 tables worth of swords, double-edged knives and nunchakus, and carted away two truckloads of still-packaged weapons."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

What was I thinking? I blogged this item innocently enough on Thursday, without pausing to consider the ramifications. Who would've thought a passing, parenthetical reference to "hot shemales" would send such disturbing Internet searches my way, and in such large numbers? One sex portal has sandwiched poor, naive Thought Balloons between "Dickman's Shemales" and "Shemales-4" in its directory for "best sites for shemales."

I feel so ... violated.

Garfield sues Chinese publishers: Reuters reports that Jim Davis' Paws, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against three Chinese companies it accuses of publishing Garfield books without permission. According to China Daily, the copyright-infringement lawsuit asks that the companies stop publishing and selling the books, recall and destroy all unsold copies, and make a public apology. In addition, Paws requests more than $93,000 in compensation for legal fees.

However, an attorney for one of the defendants, Xiwang Publishing House, claims Paws has no standing because the Garfield copyright is actually held by United Features Syndicate. Paws has furnished a copyright-transfer agreement, but the lawyer asserts it's invalid because it doesn't include a signature from Paws.

Manga maniacs: Animation World Magazine discovers that the kids -- particularly the girls -- love the manga:

"What has got the public — and publishers — so enthralled with manga? Unlike many North American comicbooks currently sold in comicbook stores, manga storylines venture beyond superheroes and action/adventure. With a wide variety of themes — romance, science fiction, mystery, even non-fiction — manga has successfully migrated from comic shop shelves to bookstore shelves, and are enticing a whole new reading audience — girls."

Spiegelman's Shadow: UK's Guardian spotlights Art Spiegelman, whose In the Shadow of No Towers is released next week:

"Spiegelman's drawings are evocative, but they are seldom elaborate. They lack the frenzied inventiveness of some of his contemporaries in the underground comics movement, such as Crumb, inventor of Mr Natural, Honeybunch Kaminski ('Jailbait of the Month') and scores of other energetic creations. He describes his 'signature way of drawing' as 'really a result of my deficiencies'. It is partly modesty, but Spiegelman suffers from ambylopia, or lazy eye, 'which means that I don't have binocular vision, and have difficulty seeing in three dimensions. This might have been part of what made me a cartoonist rather than a baseball player. I was rotten at sports, but I found that if I could draw good caricatures of the teachers I wouldn't be doomed to be the butt of everybody's scorn.' The condition might help to explain the thickset nature of many Spiegelman figures, and their broad-stroked execution."

Review revue: Writing for The Washington Times, Joseph Szadkowski reviews The Flash: Blitz, Tales From the Bully Pulpit, Spaghetti Western, Aria: The Enchanted Collection and Witches #1-2.

"Superman" clashes with police: The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Man of Steel finally has met his match: the St. Paul Police Department. John Fillah, who for the past five years has dressed as Superman and charged visitors to the Minnesota State Fair $5 to have their photos taken with him, ran afoul of the law when his sidewalk sign violated his peddler's permit. When police approached Fillah on Friday, he was anything but mild-mannered:

"He became extremely argumentative with the officers and began to use vulgar language. He was warned to stop and settle down."

However, police spokesman Paul Schnell notes, Fillah "never invoked any Superman powers with officers." So, the Last Son of Krypton was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Going nuclear: The Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune previews a lecture by University of New Mexico professor Ferenc Szasz called "The 60-Year Saga of Atomic Comics," which looks at how comic books have depicted "the peril and the promise of the atom" over the past six decades:

"The atomic bomb invented by Donald Duck in a 1947 Disney comic book causes no apparent damage - except that 'invisible rays' spreading outward cause passers-by to lose their hair.

"Donald's nuclear adventure also includes a couple of academic experts - Prof. Mollicule, who says the addition of 'two cat hairs' might make the bomb more powerful, and Prof. Sleezy, who turns out to be a foreign spy eager to steal the secret of the bomb."

Comics, in the raw: The Chicago Sun-Times still loves "Raw, Boiled and Cooked: Comics on the Verge," which runs through Oct. 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center:

"The basic premise of the show, inspired by Art Spiegelman's 1980s underground comic book Raw, is that comics are an art form that until the 1960s was confined to a limiting repertoire of subjects and styles. Liberated by the iconoclastic mood of the era, artists began to use the medium to tell other stories, and what had been a frivolous entertainment for children became an adult art form."

Going digital: Animation World Magazine examines how comics publishers -- particularly manga publishers -- are experimenting with cell phones, Internet streaming and video on demand as ways to market and distribute their titles:

"In general, manga and anime property owners are ahead of the leading U.S. comicbook publishers — Marvel, DC Comics and Dark Horse — in experimenting with these technologies. The main reason for this is that the core manga/anime customer tends to be an early adopter of advanced technologies such as broadband, digital television and smartphones, all of which make transmission of graphics-driven and animated content possible. For example, virtually 100% of U.S. anime/manga distributor Central Park Media's customers already had DVD players two years ago, according to John O'Donnell, CPM's managing director, while only about two-thirds of the populace at large owns such a device today. Traditional comicbook publishers tend to target a more mainstream, younger audience, which is less likely to have the technological capability to receive comics through nontraditional channels."

Road work hurts retailer: The Detroits News reports on construction delays on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, and talks with Green Brain Comics owner Dan Merritt, who says his business is down more than 25 percent since April, forcing him to take out a loan to pay bills:

“I’m at my wits’ end in terms of believing anything ... I can only trust in their inability to get the job done.”

Life, unscripted: At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea chats with Neil Kleid about his Xeric Award-winning Ninety Candles:

"I’ve gone on record saying that Ninety Candles began as a journal comic, me wanting to draw one thing a day, keep myself drawing. When I realized 'Um, I’m a cartoonist. Who cares that I spent half the day drawing demons and the other catching up on Six Feet Under?' I had to alter my plan. I still wanted to draw something every day, but decided that I would attack a larger narrative. Around that time I was heavy into improvisational acting- you know, acting without a script. I trained at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in NYC and was running a troupe of my own called Straight Jacket Required. So, as I sketched with no goal or story to tell, I realized that what might be cool would be too apply improvisation to comics. A viable, printed comic book created with no script, no net. Each panel would depend on the panel before. And as I started to form the experiment in my mind, I realized that I could explore other devices such as timing, space and gutters between panels and so forth."

One hell of a play: The Boston Globe reviews Say You Love Satan, the latest play by comics writer/playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Marvel Knights 4, Nightcrawler):

"Aguirre-Sacasa's creativity is the star here, with the Zeitgeist cast delivering performances that occasionally fall short of the sharpness the text requires. The playwright proudly weaves his creative influences into the script and infuses each scene with twisted humor, no matter what the source material. Whether the dialogue is based on The Amityville Horror or The Brothers Karamazov, Aguirre-Sacasa provides a unique perspective."

Fitting tributes: The New Haven (Conn.) Advocate takes note of DC Comics' series of tributes to Julius Schwartz, and recommends his 1987 autobiography, Man of Two Worlds

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Morrison's magical mysteries: The September issue of Arthur magazine, which hits newsstands Aug. 31, features a profile of Grant Morrison, "the 21st century's Philip K. Dick":
Magic works, says Morrison, and he would know--he's been exploring it for 25 years. He talks with Jay Babcock about what he's experienced, and What It (Maybe) All Means.
The cover illustration is by Seaguy artist Cameron Stewart.

The dating game: At Newsarama, Comic Buyer's Guide's Maggie Thompson lobbies for a May 7 date for Free Comic Book Day 2005, while DC Comics' Bob Wayne makes the case for June 18 -- the opening of Batman Begins.

Manipulation examination: Just when you thought we were done with the controversy surrounding the treatment of Sue Dibny in Identity Crisis, Sequart's Julian Darius weighs in for the defense:

"Is Sue Dibny’s rape manipulative? Well, yes. But no more than an image of Aquaman crying.

"Put another way, 'manipulative' has two definitions. The first is simply to manipulate in the sense that we manipulate a pencil when we write with it. There’s no negative connotation here. A good work of art is manipulative in this sense. The pieta is manipulative. Showing that a character is a good person may be characterization, but it’s also manipulation -- getting you to identify with that character. Apocalypse Now showing a boar sliced to ribbons instead of Kurtz is manipulative, but it is also one of the most powerful sequences on film.

"The way most people use 'manipulative,' however, is in the sense of 'crassly manipulative.' The same characterization of a woman as a busy but good person, preparing food and petting her dog, becomes crassly manipulative when the wide-eyed serial killer enters, stabs the dog to death in a scene with copious spurting blood, and then brutalizes her. Whether we’re shown the brutalization or it occurs off-panel or off-screen is by itself irrelevant: saying that the sweet wife in Seven has been beheaded can be even more manipulative than showing her death. The question is whether the 'manipulation' is artistically crass.

"And whether something is artistically crass -- or 'cheap' or 'easy' -- is entirely contextual. Few would be so crass as to condemn a drama about a woman who was raped coming to terms with that abuse and learning to relate again to men. Although, it is worth pointing out, such a drama would more than likely be staged in the vein of Lifetime’s original movies, which notoriously play with the line of crass manipulation in order to advance emotionally a particularly fact-starved version of feminism. But using rape casually, particularly to escalate the emotional stakes of a story, would be artistically crass."

Fuzzy memories: Newsarama talks to Nightcrawler writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who reveals that, like many comics readers, he'll be ignoring Chuck Austen's recent origin for the character:

“I read ‘The Draco’ — but it just doesn’t fit in with the kind of stories were going to be telling in Nightcrawler - at least not at first. Also, it’s really important for all of us working on the book that people who haven’t read ‘The Draco’ don’t feel like they’re missing some essential part of Kurt’s history when they pick up our book — which they won’t be. Although we’re not ignoring continuity, it’s going to be dealt with on ‘as needed’ basis. And whatever you’re going to need to know to enjoy the story will be there in the pages of our book.”

"Hot" comics: Also in Eye Weekly, sex columnist Sasha heads to Toronto's The Beguiling to find comic-book porn:

"Gilbert Hernandez, who did the brilliant Heartbreak Soup series in the comic Love and Rockets (co-created with his brother Xaime Hernandez), made an independent collection called Birdland for Eros that is really sexy, and features very powerful women. I would also recommend The Adventures of a Lesbian College School Girl by Petra Waldron and Jennifer Finch, Casa Howhard (hot shemales) by Roberto Baldazzini and Small Favors by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin about Annie, 'a bisexual, masturbation-crazy nymphomaniac.'"

More than meets the eye: In Toronto's Eye Weekly, Guy Leshinski previews this weekend's Canadian National Comic Book Expo with a look at Pat and Roger Lee and Dreamwave Productions:

"This September marks the 20th anniversary of the Transformers, which began airing in the US in 1984. With their crotchety transforming noises -- a favourite DJ sample -- the Transformers were a phenomenon, pioneers of what today is the commonplace collusion of cartoons and toys. Like sci-fi Rubik's cubes, each character/figurine was a fierce robot that folded into some random object: a fighter jet, say, or, improbably, a portable stereo (complete with transforming cassette). From '84 to '88, the Transformers turned their young, TV audience into devout consumers, clamouring to be the first kid on their block to own the red and blue semi-trailer Optimus Prime or, if the block was especially solvent, the two-foot-tall Fortress Maximus.

"The ground is still fertile, a generation later, and the Lees have tilled it with skill, sowing far more than simple nostalgia. They've updated the rusting source material, taking great care to make their artwork painterly and modern. Their Transformers comics apply some of the most sophisticated digital design tools on the market, and the work achieves a breathtaking theatricality."

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

"This Land" does belong to you and me: Wired News reports that Ludlow Music has dropped its demand that JibJab.com stop using Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" in a satirical Flash-animation cartoon. Jason Schultz, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represented the website, says Ludlow doesn't own the rights to the song, which apparently has lapsed into the public domain:
While researching the case, the EFF discovered that Woody Guthrie published a songbook in 1945 that included "This Land Is Your Land." The EFF found a copy of the songbook at the Library of Congress. At that time, copyright holders owned their work for 28 years, and could renew the copyright once during the first term, for another 28 years.

When Guthrie published the songbook, that "started the clock ticking on the 28 years," Schultz said. Guthrie never renewed it, meaning the terms of the copyright expired in 1973.

Ludlow, meanwhile, registered the song in 1956 as an original copyright, not the renewal. The company was apparently unaware that because Guthrie had already published the song, the terms of copyright began in 1945, not 1956, Schultz said.
Ludlow's attorney disputes the idea that the copyright has expired, and contends the music company settled with JibJab "to avoid the expense and difficulties of litigation."

Under the terms of the settlement, JibJab agreed to donate 20 percent of proceeds to the Woody Guthrie Foundation, and link to the original lyrics.

Return of the teen detectives: Newsarama also checks in on the new Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series from NBM Publishing's Papercutz division:

“Creating original graphic novels for the tween market featuring popular established characters. When the opportunity presented itself for Papercutz to obtain the graphic novel rights to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, we jumped on it! We've got a few other properties in development and hope to announce those in the months ahead.”

The Hardy Boys will be released first as a monthly comic, beginning in November, while Nancy Drew will debut in February as an original graphic novel. The Hardy Boys collected edition also will be released that month.

Go West: Newsarama chats briefly with Brian Azzarello about his upcoming Western series from Vertigo, Loveless, which re-teams him with Hellblazer artist Marcello Fruisin:

“This is Marcello’s dream project. He’s bringing so much more to this than he was to Hellblazer. There are certain parameters you have to work within when you’re working with a company-owned character -- we don’t have those here, so we’re both really, really excited to get this thing off the ground.”

Ten years in Paradise: Silver Bullet Comic Books talks with Terry Moore about a decade of Strangers in Paradise:

"I went through a lot of ideas over a five year period until I decided to stop ramming my head against the wall of syndication. So I looked over what I had made in that time, pulled out the original ideas and characters, put them all in front of me and made them into a cast. Because they came from different ideas, they didn't have a lot in common and the natural friction between them made it easy to come up with story ideas. They were tumbling around in my head and I wasn't sure where to begin. I could picture their day to day life and interaction, but I wasn't sure where to jump in. I was thinking about them all the time, imagining moments and scenes, taking notes, when I decided to begin with the scene of Francine, my clean-cut girl next door type, stripping in the park. I built the first up around that moment, the entire first mini-series actually."

Tracking otaku: Japan's Asahi Shimbun reports on a new study of otaku that found the obsessive fans of manga, anime, video games and young female singers spend 260 billion yen each year on their hobbies. The report, released Tuesday by the Nomura Research Institute, places the number of otaku in those four areas at 2.8 million people:

"Although the term otaku has negative connotations such as 'reclusive' in Japanese, their lavish spending habits mean they are 'no longer a target of niche marketing only,' says the report.

"The research institute defines otaku as 'people who spend much of their time and money on a focused area of interest.' Based on the definition, NRI estimated the number and spending habits of people with a hard-core interest in the four areas, all typical otaku pursuits."

Getting theatrical: The Lansing, Mich., City Pulse chats with local artist Scott McKowen, an illustrator of theater posters, magazines and newspapers, and designer of Canada’s 2001 silver dollar -- but best known to comics fans as the cover artist for Neil Gaiman's 1602 miniseries.

Taking shots at video games: The Seattle Times spotlights Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, and previews this weekend's Penny Arcade Expo:

"About 1,400 people have registered, a testament to Penny Arcade's rabid fan following. Even some companies the comic has shredded will be there, a testament to Penny Arcade's influence. The site gets about 175,000 viewers a day.

"'Penny Arcade is very well-respected in the gaming industry,' said Larry Hyrb, director of programming for Microsoft's Xbox Live service. 'They poke a lot of fun at us, which is OK because we poke a lot of fun at us as well.'"

Taiwan comics exhibit: Taiwan's Central News Agency notes that a five-day comics exhibition kicked off today at the Kaohsiung Business Exhibition Center in Kaohsiung City. Organized by the Chinese Comic Publishing Guild, the exhibit gives fans an opportunity to view the latest and most popular titles, and to meet Taiwanese and Japanese creators.

For McCubbin, sexy sells: The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Laurenn McCubbin, illustrator of Rent Girls and co-writer/illustrator of the Xeric Award-winning XXXLiveNudeGirls:

"A naked girl can't help but be sexy -- there is something inherently sexy about a girl wearing lingerie, in certain poses ... but I don't draw them to get men off. I've had a male friend say, 'Damn you, Laurenn, you've ruined girl-on-girl action for me!' I don't know. I do want people to think about what they're looking at. "

"... "You know, I don't just draw sexy girls. I am a little obsessed with underpasses, old neon signs. Drawing women is a moneymaker. ... I mean, I don't use models that aren't real girls. My models are rounder or skinnier or somehow unconventional, although to me, of course, they are pretty."

The newspaper also spotlights Rent Girl writer Michelle Tea.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Marvel, from the top: Last week, ICv2.com interviewed DC's Paul Levitz. Now it's Dan Buckley's turn for a two-part sitdown, in which he discusses the state of the market, and Marvel's editorial strategies and policies on overprints and retailer exclusives, and more:

On creator exclusives: "There's an equal amount of investment going on with both parties, writers probably a little less [than artists], except for some guys that are very important to our business like Brian Bendis, and JMS, and Mark Millar. That's more to protect what we've got going on. For pencillers, especially if you're talking about the Young Guns and things along that line, we're going to spend some time and effort investing in their careers and their names, and there's a limited amount of good output that you can get out of these folks. You want to make sure they're comfortable with what they're doing; you want to make sure that everything looks great and you want to make sure that we get a little bit of return on it too.

"So it has more to do with stabilizing our plans and our lines. It makes it a little bit easier to plan out a year to two years in advance for projects, and allows us to have a little bit of a market lever. Because we can elevate names, we can match up creators with projects and help manage things. It's been a fairly good strategy. It's been one of the biggest dynamic changes in the comic book publishing business over the last ten years. How publishers have been managing that has been one of the biggest changes in the last two or three years. When I was here the first time, I don't think Marvel did a very good job of that. The creators and the publishers seem to have a pretty good relationship, and see the value of it for both sides. Will we have creators stay exclusive for the next ten years? I doubt it; people will come and people will go, but hopefully both parties will be the better for it at the end of it."

On pursuing the manga market: "We're still struggling with the young girl readership, and we're developing it and we're working on it and it might be that we don't know how to do it internally. We see the digests as a first step in going after the younger readers or providing product that can be available for younger readers. That's one of the first strategies, because the format's comfortable and we can get racking. I don't think there's a lot of investment being done by bookstores and other folks for the racking of those products. That was our first step. For the next step, it's going to take a little bit more work and we're still formulating it."

Distribution woes: India's Calcutta Telegraph reports on a two-month comics drought triggered when Gotham Comics changed distributors:

“We have changed distributors, which has resulted in delay and unavailability in certain areas. But by the month-end, things should be normal again.”

Monday, August 23, 2004

The shipping news: Ninth Art also looks at the books shipping this week, highlighting The Losers, Ultimate Elektra, Singularity 7 and Flight Vol. 1.

Comics roundtable: At Ninth Art, Alex De Campi chats with Laurenn McCubbin, Tristan Crane and Lea Hernandez about Comic-Con International and the state of the comics industry:

McCubbin: "It was the same shit, over and over! I mean, I barely know anything about comics, and even I can see it. Everyone is talking about the X-Men getting their old costumes back, like that is an important plot point, somehow. I have gotten to the point where if I even see the words 'Green Lantern', I just tune out. My eyes glaze over. There is so nothing for me there.

"Sometimes, comics are so embarrassing. Rampant misogyny and homophobia aside - far, far aside, please - the short-sightedness of the industry is just stunning. Comics is ten years behind all other media, and it's starting to show. Everything about comics is so behind the times; the stories, the politics, even the way most of y'all dress. Get some new clothes, people!"

Hernandez: "The tits and ass factor's still there at San Diego, and popped up in some surprising places this year - like the cheerleaders at the AD Visions booth. Cheerleaders in a setting other than a school are about fetish. Considering that ADV's grown into a company that puts out a broad range of anime and TV show collections, and a lot of that product is for kids and women, the addition of adult women dressed as cheerleaders was bizarre and disappointing."

Faster than a ... The Detroit News reports that, rather appropriately, Greg Biffle's Flash Ford won Sunday’s GFS Marketplace 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. Six cars were painted with DC's Justice League characters Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter:

"What a neat deal — Flash on the car, fastest man alive, and he paid off."

Comics relief: The New York Post spotlights the work of Michael Bitz, founder of the Comic Book Project after-school literacy program.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The case of the missing comic strips: The New York Times looks at moves by newspapers across the country to cut some of their comics to try to combat sagging ad revenues and rising paper costs. Here's Dilbert creator Scott Adams:

“I think newspapers need some percentage of attraction to young readers to get them interested, get them hooked, get them off the Internet. The comics page is their portal. And right now, they risk having no portal.”

I've worked at a daily newspaper that dropped some comic strips while shrinking others; reader response isn't pretty. Don't think anyone could possibly read -- let alone enjoy -- Mary Worth? Leave it out of the paper one day, and see how many angry phone calls, letters and emails you get. Heck, some devotees will even show up at your office. The only greater offense, I think, is cutting the bridge column. Do that and you sign your own death warrant.

Rall against the machine: The San Diego Union-Tribune catches up with political cartoonist Ted Rall at, of all places, Comic-Con International to discuss his latest works, Wake Up ... You're Liberal: How We Can Take America Back From the Right and Generalissimo El Busho: Cartoons and Essays on the Bush Years:

"I don't do very well at these shows. I'm not, like, the inker for Iron Man #38."

Towering figure: UK's Sunday Herald talks with Art Spiegelman about his new book, In The Shadow Of No Towers. The best part of the article, though, is novelist Philip Pullman's take on Spiegelman and his work:

Maus is a work that should be firmly in any canon of great narratives. It is at once familiar and deeply, permanently strange. If this world were run properly, there would be international awards for ‘Artistic Treasure Of The Human Race’ or ‘International Living Supreme Master,’ and among the first winners would be Art S.

“Also, he is a smoker of Olympic class. I was talking to him on the stage of the ICA in London, and his cigarettes actually set off the fire alarm.”

The Aug. 30 edition of Newsweek also previews In The Shadow of No Towers:

"In the Shadow is the strangest book you'll pick up this year. It's a 32-page board book, like the ones babies teethe on — only bigger. The idea, Spiegelman says, was to get pages almost as big as the ones that held the Sunday funnies. Then he filled them with scenes from his own life cross-pollinated with comics characters — Happy Hooligan and Little Nemo, right alongside Osama bin Laden and George Bush. It's a crazy quilt of cartoons, real-life headlines, humor and horror. There go the Katzenjammer Kids wearing hats in the shape of burning towers. Here comes Spiegelman as Ignatz toting a brick (in the shape of a tower) to toss at Krazy Kat. You don't have to be a comics aficionado to see that Spiegelman has done a superb job of capturing the tragic absurdity of life in New York City on 9/11 and for months thereafter."

Review revue: Following in the heels of The New York Times, the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram reviews Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return:

"Satrapi shows the side of Iranians we in the West aren't usually shown -- the irrepressible life underneath the veils and the persecution. She takes us behind closed doors, where there are intellectual discussions and aerobics classes, parties and love affairs and satellite TV. Her clean, clear drawings illuminate without oversimplifying; her characters communicate with one facial expression what might take pages using words alone. Hers is an important voice to hear at a time when Middle Eastern life is portrayed simplistically to Americans as a foreign, strange, 'axis of evil' existence."

Saturday, August 21, 2004

They're dropping like flies: I missed this on Thursday, but it looks as if Shawn Fumo is rethinking comics, and re-evaluating his blog, Worlds Within Worlds:

"... [I]t is time to refocus and figure out what is really important to me. All of you in the comics blogosphere are really great, and I've enjoyed being a part of it, especially back when the bookstore and manga issues were just starting to become noticed. I'm not going to drop out of things completely, and would still like to meet a lot of you in person, get to a comic convention, and all of that. But I think I really need to scale things back until I can find a happy medium. People have mentioned in the comments and e-mail about how they've found the blog to be informative, and I hate to cut those people out, but I also feel like I can really contribute more to the yo-yo world right now, and also that the amount of information I was trying to absorb before was starting to overwhelm me. I was starting to feel kind of lost at times, trying to squeeze into my head every little thing going on in the comic/manga world. ...

"... I'm thinking for the near future, the blog will be somewhat light, with hopefully reviews of the comics/movies/manga that I'm reading, but I wouldn't expect much in the way of industry news commentary and linkblogging for a while."

I hope Shawn's change of focus doesn't take Worlds Within Worlds too far afield; he's one of the most knowledgeable manga bloggers out there.

Going Vertical: Vertical, American publisher of Ring, Buddha and Dark Water, now has a blog. (Thanks to "Anonymous" for pointing it out to me.)

Amelia rules the air waves: Johanna points out that the Amelia Rules! TV commercial has begun airing on WABC in New York during the station's Summer Ticket series. The comic is a favorite of my mother and niece. (How's that for "all ages"?) Here's creator Jimmy Gownley:

“We made an outreach in the last issue of Amelia for people to support an ongoing campaign to promote kids’ comics to the general public. The opportunity to air a commercial in a major market became available because of networking to people and businesses that also believe in our mission. This is the type of program we want to make happen for more creators in the kids’ comics community.”

Learning with manga: The Japanese Language Center in Bellevue, Wash., is offering a "Manga Course" that uses popular manga to supplement the textbook Japanese for Busy People:

"This course is open to teens and adults. It is designed for those who love Manga and have a beginner's level of Japanese skill. This course is perfect for those who wish to learn casual Japanese language. You will learn standard Japanese conversation including grammar for one hour using the regular textbook and for another hour using Manga as alternate text for each lesson. This course is designed to cover reading (Hiragana/Katakana and 100 Kanji), writing, listening, and speaking the Japanese language."

Review revue: The New York Times continues its comics love affair with a review of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2, complete with excerpts.

Meanwhile, Toronto's Globe and Mail takes note of Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers: Writers on Comics.

Conventional wisdom: The Toronto Star previews next weekend's Canadian National Expo, the country's largest sci-fi/fantasy/comics convention, and focuses on guests such as George Romero, Patrick Stewart, Ty Templeton and Jill Thompson. Here's Thompson:

"It's great to be able to actually speak to someone who may be able to critique your work, or give you pointers. When I started in comics, it was even more male-dominated. So the people that I met (at conventions) were mostly men. But I just wanted to be a comic-book professional. To do good comics. I really tried to pick their brains, to find out what I was doing wrong, doing right. And now I try to return the favour."

Pacific's legacy: San Diego Reader examines Bill and Steve Schanes' Pacific Comics, which grew from one store in 1974 to a distribution company in the late '70s, then to a ground-breaking publisher in the early '80s, releasing books by the likes of Jack Kirby, Mike Grell, Dave Stevens, Mark Evanier and Bruce Jones:

"In many ways, Pacific formed the template for Image Comics, today's most successful San Diego­-based comic company. Image began in 1992 as a publishing imprint where creators could own and profit from their characters. It was founded by Todd McFarlane (who'd made his name drawing Spider-Man and the Hulk), San Diego illustrator Jim Lee (known for an acclaimed run on the Punisher comic), and several other mainstream Marvel artists. Others joined up to form a staff of creators, including Jim Valentino, who'd once worked as a shipping clerk at Pacific's San Diego warehouse (I'm told I was hired at Pacific as Valentino's replacement). Sales of Image titles, such as Spawn and Wildcats, quickly rivaled Marvel and DC in numbers that nobody before them, not even Pacific, had ever managed to pull off. Once again, the Big Two were forced to play catch-up with an upstart new indie publisher. Reportedly over a million copies of Todd McFarlane's Spawn #1 were printed and snapped up in multiples by eager comic consumers who made Image comics the best-selling independent titles of the past quarter century."

(Thanks to Matt Maxwell for pointing out the story.)

Friday, August 20, 2004

Battle of the art-board stars: Canada's Mote Magazine reports on the Fourth-Ever Comic Art Battle held Aug. 14 in Portland, Ore., which pitted Team "Alternative" -- Bwana Spoons, Nathan Beaty, Nicole George and Aaron Renier -- against Team "Mainsteam" -- David Hahn, Drew Johnson, Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker:

"A big part of these events for me is putting the decidedly reclusive pursuit of making comics into a very interactive, and exciting public arena. People really get into these things. At Saturday's battle, there was a whole section of people who came with giant foam fingers to help cheer on their team."

Team "Alternative" won.

Cartoons, in contrast: The Portland (Ore.) Tribune chats with singer Aimee Mann, whose latest CD, Lost in Space, includes a "gift with purchase" in the form of cartoons by Seth:

"I love the work of Ghost World artist Dan Clowes and wanted to do something in the same vein. The cartoons provide the contrast to the music that I was looking for. Because even when things are serious and you’re trying to talk about intense feelings, there’s can be a lightness and irony at the same time."

Review revue: At Time.com, Andrew Arnold reviews Mark Beyer's Amy and Jordan, and Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane's How Loathsome.

Meanwhile, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald takes a look at Joe Sacco's The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo.

That's, what, 210 in cat-years? Australia's The Age examines the cultural impact of 30 years of Hello Kitty:

"As a trend, it's all about being pink, soft and vulnerable. But the girlish sweetness is micro-managed by her creators who have strict rules.

"For example, they license the sale of all-pink kitty-endorsed kitchen appliances but refuse to allow her image to be used for anything sexy or even vaguely violent. Yes to microwaves, no to paring knives."

You can go home again: Greater Milwaukee Today profiles Wisconsin native Sean McKeever, who returns to his old stomping grounds on Saturday for a signing at Neptune Comics:

"There’s a lot more to comics than two guys in tights beating each other up."

... and party every day: At Newsarama, Chris Arrant talks with comics wonder twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá and brothers Kako and Bruno D’Angelo about Rock'N'Roll:

"Most of the fans in the U.S. keep being fans of comics when they grow up, so you see a lot of old guys with the entire collection of Action Comics and such. With the exception of Maurício de Souza, who has a big enterprise studio and makes comics for children, we have mostly mature reader material being made by Brazilian creators. Unfortunately, the overall idea of comics is that it’s for kids and most of the comics still comes from outer seas, mainly super-heroes and, of course, manga.

"Comics grew in variety and improved in quality over the years, but they are not as cheap as they were in the past, so it has become more difficult to reach a broader audience in a country with economic problems like Brazil. So, the same way we see happening in the U.S., comic creators are looking to bookstores and doing graphic novels, what puts the price up."

Good-bye, All Too Flat: Sean Collins takes a new job, and bids farewell to comics blogging:

"I’ve recently accepted a professional position that I’m pretty sure precludes me from running a blog of this kind. Believe me, I’m happy about the gig, which is great for me in nearly every conceivable way… except this one. I’ll miss the medium, I’ll miss the regular freestyle exercise of the old criticism and commentary chops, I’ll miss my fellow comicsbloggers (a ton), I’ll miss the sense that a decent number of people regularly read and enjoyed what I was writing here, and I’ll miss talking about comics (which I’ll still be doing, I assure you--just not here)."

Shipping blunders: In the latest installment of "Tilting at Windmills," Brian Hibbs addresses "market responsibility":

"Do you want to know why it is so hard to launch new books into the market? Why we need 'comics activism' for She-Hulk or Fallen Angel? It’s precisely because we get weeks where there are 9 X-Men books and 5 Batman titles, and that is when those books ship. Of course, that’s also the week that someone at DC thinks it’s a grand idea to ship two of the struggling 'Focus' titles. 'Uh, but why doesn’t this sell?' they then ask.

"Rocket. Science.

"It’s really easy to kill the golden goose – as we’ve been busy proving again and again through the years. Not only have we strangled existing franchises by not having the slightest thought for market forces, but we’ve created a circumstance where it’s almost impossible to launch new works because they arrive into weeks where all of the consumer’s cash has already been vacuumed out of their pockets."

Welcome to Sin City: For those wondering what all the hype is about, UnderGroundOnline provides a guide to Frank Miller's Sin City:

"At the end of the day, the entire Sin City franchise of graphic novels is worthwhile (except for Hell and Back, which is a drastically weaker affair than its predecessors), but it's the original that probably holds up the best. Sin City is an ugly, visceral tale about a disturbed man's blood-soaked quest for revenge, but at the same time, it's a moral story. Marv knows he'll do prison time, at the very least, for what he's planning, but he does it anyway simply because he genuinely believes it's the right thing to do."

Satan's little helper: The Boston Globe profiles Marvel Knights 4 writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who discusses his latest play, Say You Love Satan -- and reveals he's working on a cartoon series for Nickelodeon with singer Jewel:

"In Say You Love Satan, a Johns Hopkins graduate student meets a handsome, charismatic stranger who (he discovers when they start dating) has a 666 on his forehead. Who is this guy? The devil's son? Or something worse?

"Aguirre-Sacasa describes Satan as both a relationship comedy and an occult comedy. 'It nods to the movies I grew up with, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, and The Omen,' he adds. The play was written five years ago, and while Aguirre-Sacasa says he has a lot of 'ex-plays' (ones he's 'broken up with'), this isn't one of them."

The art of comics: The Seattle Times takes a look at an exhibit of hand-knitted superhero costumes and beaded-and-embroidered comic-book covers at Greg Kucera Gallery:

"The 'Superheroes' hang limply on the wall or, in a few cases, are suspended from the ceiling. Thus, Spiderman, Ironman, Daredevil and others come alive with the brittle colors of the acrylic yarn and slightly oversize dimensions. Tallest of the lot at 10 feet high, 'Fantastic Four (Reed Richards)' (2003) goes beyond normal human size to a weirdly stretched effigy that delights and disturbs at the same time."

The geek games: Toronto's Globe and Mail looks at Hollywood's courtship of the geek market, perhaps best illustrated by the enormous film presence at Comic-Con International:

"Hollywood has long been called 'high school with money,' and it's hilarious that these days, the cool kids are so actively courting the nerds -- the Pradas wooing the Pocket Protectors. The powers that be thank geeks for the $2.9-billion (U.S.) earned worldwide by The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and for Spider-Man 2's $650-million gross, not to mention I, Robot's $150-million so far, The Day After Tomorrow's $535-million, Van Helsing's $269-million, and even the $700-plus-million brought in by both Shrek 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They also credit geeks with starting Internet buzz, streaming to opening weekends, and shelling out for movie merchandise.

"And, perhaps most importantly, they pin the failure of hyper-hyped films like Catwoman and King Arthur on negative Internet buzz. Contributors to Catwoman websites, for example, dissed the kitty costume and script long before critics, and eventually audiences, did. The reaction on King Arthur websites -- a big yawn -- was also echoed in its sleepy grosses."

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Elf quest: At Comic Book Galaxy, Alan David Doane attends the book-release party in Burlington, Vt., for James Kochalka's American Elf collection.

That's me in the spotlight ... At Comic World News, Ed Cunard thought I might make an interesting interview, so I did my best to prove him wrong. We discuss my involvement in Scryptic Studios, my comics work, and blogging.

Finding Paradise: ICv2.com has word that Hero Video Productions will release Terry Moore: Paradise Found, a two-hour DVD documentary about the life and work of the creator of Strangers in Paradise. The DVD will be solicited in September Previews.

The king of all media: Reuters reports that Spike TV has ordered 13 episodes of a new animated series tentatively titled Howard Stern: The High School Years, based on the radio personality's teen-age years growing up on Long Island. Stern will serve as executive producer of the series, set to launch next summer.

Rule Britannia: Silver Bullet Comic Books talks with editor George Khoury about True Brit, which celebrates the work of UK comics artists like Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, Bryan Hitch, Dave McKean, David Lloyd and others:

"The main reason I did this book was because I was always surprised that most of my favorite comic book artists were Brits. To a degree, I've also felt that UK artists were a bit under-looked in comparison to the recognition writers like Moore, Morrison and Ellis received. This book is for every British artist of any generation, because I hope they never forget the contributions they've made in comics. Another thing I wanted to capture was the beautiful heritage of British comics, remembering some of those who are lesser known in the States because they deserve that right to be exposed to artists like Mike Noble or Syd Jordan, both of who are simply fabulous artists. At over 130,000 words and 250 images, I feel that this is easily the essential book on English comic art."

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Scott Pilgrim's precious little site: Bryan Lee O'Malley has launched the sharply designed scottpilgrim.com to help promote the equally sharp Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. Go there now.

This is a job for -- oh, wait: The Associated Press reports that police in Austin, Minn., are searching for more than $2,400 worth of Marvel comics stolen from a man's home. James Jones told authorities that he returned from vacation yesterday to find someone had broken into his house and taken between 600 and 800 comics stored in four large boxes.

By the power of ... Powerade: In an announcement that triggers memories of The Adventures Of Kool-Aid Man, DC Comics and Powerade have teamed up for a Powerade Flava 23 promotional comic starring NBA player LeBron James and featuring 10 different covers by the likes of Damion Scott, James Jean, Udon, John VanFleet, Jock and Ariel Olivetti. Four of the covers will be available only through mail-in redemption, four only at Kroger grocery stores, one only at military commissaries, and one at retail and via mail-in redemption. Here's David McKillips, DC's vice president of advertising and custom publishing:

"DC assembled a talented team of comic book veterans and rising stars to create a universe of new villains, competitors and, of course, a new hero named King James that will appeal to athletes, sports fans and superhero fans. With ten different covers and three million copies in print, the King James project is the largest sports-related custom comic book DC Comics has ever created."

ESPN.com has more on James' $2 million endorsement deal with Powerade and Sprite, and makes mention of the King James comic:

"Both Powerade and Nike appear in the promotional cartoon, which could grow into something much bigger for LeBron, who, after seeing the first proof, requested that his character be portrayed with larger muscles."

Crisis management: At Movie Poop Shoot, Scott Tipton turns his attention to the history of Ralph and Sue Dibny, and to the controversial events of Identity Crisis:

"The biggest problem I have with the story is that, dramatically, it’s still something of a cheat. The reason the murder of Sue Dibny is so shocking is because of the emotional investment that longtime readers like myself have in the character, thanks to the fine work of others, and to first cash in on that for shock value by brutally murdering her, and then to taint the older appearances by inserting this horribly degrading assault years into her backstory, making it hard to re-read those appearances without recontextualizing them through the prism of this brutalization, seems to me at best a cheap and lazy manner in which to generate an emotional response in the reader, and at worst an outright slap in the face to all of those writers and artists who came before you. Without cashing in on the readers’ investment in Sue Dibny, it’s hard to say that the story would have any impact at all. As the late great Mark Gruenwald said, 'Every character is somebody’s favorite.' You shouldn’t kill them off lightly, or worse, ruin their old appearances in retrospect.

"Still, even though I disagree with the decision, I have to admit that the story is gripping and well-told, and at least DC isn’t reveling in the murder and torture of its characters the way Marvel is nowadays, with the gleeful stripmining of the proud, four-decade-spanning Avengers heritage (complete with a ghoulish 'check-‘em-off-as-they-die' chart at the Marvel Web site – no thanks, Marvel, I don’t need to pay that close attention as you disembowel my childhood), all so they can replace the team with a slapped-together mishmash of top-selling Marvel characters that have little to do with the Avengers concept. Feh."

Windy City memories: At Comic Book Resources, Augie De Blieck Jr. files the first installment of his report from WizardWorld Chicago, including audio recordings of the much-discussed Bendis panel. He also attended the Wizard Fan Awards:

"Most awkward moment of the night came when JLA/AVENGERS won an award. Dan DiDio and Joe Quesada got up on stage to accept the awards, each receiving a little statuette. Quesada talked first, with DiDio noticeably hiding in the back corner of the stage. Then Quesada retreated to the opposite corner of the stage while DiDio gave his acceptance speech. After that, Quesada waited for DiDio to leave the stage first, then let award presenter John Cassady follow him before walking off himself. If it's anything like the Eisners, they usually like to take winners' pictures backstage after the award presentation. I'd love to see what that picture looked like."

The H.E.A.T. is on: At The Pulse, Lee Barnett examines the return of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, and who, exactly, determines the destiny of corporate-owned characters:

"In the appearances in recent years of Green Lantern outside comics, one had Guy Gardner as his alter ego, in an abysmal movie that is only saved from utter helplessness by saying that the recent Thunderbirds movie was worse. And, of course, the Justice League cartoon uses John Stewart as their Green Lantern. So there’s no reason for DC to bring back Hal Jordan ... other than that the ‘fans’ want him back. It’s worth remembering at this moment that the word fan is an abbreviation of ‘fanatic’. A group of fans of 'Hal Jordan as Green Lantern' have maintained a campaign, ever since his replacement made his debut, to get rid of the new guy and get Jordan back in the costume that they love.

"It's also worth remembering that Hal Jordan doesn't actually exist. But that's a huge advantage in one way, since because he's a fictional creation and his adventures have been published for so long, his fans appear to have feelings of ownership in the character that doesn't seem to exist in any other field of entertainment.

"I guess in some way it's an understandable sentiment. After all, some of these fans have been reading the adventures of Jordan as Green Lantern far longer than any individual creator had actually worked on them. Unless you're talking about creator-owned characters, it's likely that with any company owned character, there will be fans that have read the character long before the creator came on board."

DC, from the top: ICv2.com sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz and Vice President Direct Sales Bob Wayne, in which they discuss the state of the industry, the impact of movies on comics sales, and the company's recent partnerships with European publishers:

"I think the connection between the Catwoman film's creative and most of our publishing program is so tenuous that I'd be shocked if there were any direct connection on anything beyond the movie adaptation. We put out one trade paperback, Nine Lives of the Feline Fatale, to tie in with it. We'll sell a few of those. I don't think you'll see anything much more than that.

"When we get to Batman Begins next year, I think that will be really interesting. Constantine will be very interesting. That's a movie that will, in some ways, have the potential to have the same effect the first Batman movie had in that people will not have seen anything like it, and they may come out of it and say, 'This is cool! You mean this comes out of comics? Maybe I should check out some of these.' That may drive people in an interesting way."

Thinking of the children: Also at The Onion A.V. Club, a collection of celebrities -- including Frank Miller, Harvey Pekar and Dave Sim -- is asked, "If you could send one message to the children of the world, what would it be?" Miller gets right to the point with "Shut up," while Pekar and Sim predictably meander a bit.

Review revue: The Onion A.V. Club reviews Jeff Smith's Bone: One Volume Edition:

"Bone began with deftness, but, like the Star Wars franchise, it devolved into arcana. ... Or so it seemed to a lot of readers. The devoted stuck with Bone for the 13 years it took Smith to complete it, often waiting for the trade-paperback collections and reading the story in larger, smoother chunks. Those more patient souls had the right idea. Within months of releasing the final issue, Smith has put the whole 1,300-page monster in one heavy, bound volume. What seemed numbingly dense in 22-page installments now has a magnificent shape, and a momentum that carries the narrative from its light comic beginning to its light comic ending, while seamlessly encompassing the darkness between."

Death Jr. becomes him: GameSpy chats with Courtney Crumrin creator Ted Naifeh about the upcoming Death Jr. comic book, based on the PlayStation 2 game:

"It's hard to say how much freedom I get. I was picked to do it because my style was perfectly suited to the look and feel of the game. Most of the decisions to bring the look of the comic closer in style to the game are my decisions, such as the color scheme, etc. However, Death Jr. is Backbone's baby, and they hold onto it pretty tightly. I know that sounds a bit oppressive, but let me explain further.

"If I were working on, say, Batman, and I decided to change the costume a bit, I'd have a committee of editors looking at previous comics and saying, 'No, no! We have a brand to service. We've got to maintain brand recognition.' But with Death Jr., it's different. I deal directly with Terri, who's responsible for the look and feel of the game. So if I make changes, she has a look at them and decides if they suit the overall vision. She has a strong personal attachment to the character and reins me in when I get too far away from the original design.

"As an independent comic creator, I find that characters created by committee never have the impact of characters created by a unique vision. It's a danger that every company falls into when trying to develop new brands -- the creation of ideas that try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Too many chefs spoil the broth.

"Death Jr. was created along with a whole slew of characters as possible concepts for the next Backbone project. The original sketch of him became the template. He hasn't changed much at all. Terri's job is to be keeper of the vision, so that it doesn't get watered down. I have the utmost respect for her opinions. After all, I wouldn't want someone coming in and redesigning Courtney Crumrin. Without someone like Terri, a character like Death Jr. could end up mutating into a goddamned Care Bear, and no one wants that. It's not about branding … it's about purity of vision."

Pret-a-porter: Seattle Weekly spotlights an exhibit at the Greg Kucera Gallery featuring Mark Newport's hand-knit superhero costumes. Among the outfits on display are Spider-Man, Aquaman, Batman, the Fantastic Four, the Escapist, and Newport's own creation, the Patriot. The exhibit runs through Aug. 28.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

DC in November: DC Comics released its November solicitations last night. Highlights include:

*Detective Comics hits the 800th-issue landmark with a 48-pager that includes the prelude to David Lapham's upcoming arc.
*I love Tim Sale's cover for Catwoman: When In Rome #3.
*JLA: Classified kicks off with a three-part story written by Grant Morrison.
*John Ostrander writes Aquaman #24, which guest-stars the Sea Devils. Is this simply a fill-in, or is Will Pfeifer no longer writing the series?
*Because you asked for it: a Firestorm/Bloodhound crossover! Okay, Dan Jolley asked for it.
*Marcos Martin's cover for Green Arrow #44 is striking, but unusual for the series.
*H-E-R-O ends with Issue 22.
*Know how you can tell Justice League Elite is "edgy" and, um, "gritty"? By the bloody head on the cover. I guess that's so no one will confuse it with Justice League Unlimited.
*In another case of a striking-but-unusual cover, check out J.H. Williams' piece for JSA #67.
*Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards resurrect The Question.
*The CMX Manga line expands with Musashi Number Nine and Swan.
*WildStorm's The Intimates -- not to be confused with The Ultimates -- launches, with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Sandra Hope and Jim Lee. You know, the guy who drew Batman: Hush.
*Gary Phillips' Angeltown miniseries kicks off.

Late-shipping shocker, revisited: Are you sitting down? Good. Diamond reports that NYX #5, resolicited just last week for Sept. 1, now is scheduled for a Sept. 15 release. Yeah, we've heard that one before. For those keeping track at home, Issue 5 originally was scheduled for Feb. 11. Meanwhile, at DC, Enginehead #6 is listed as "TBA." That doesn't bode well for the final issue of the miniseries, recently cut from eight because of horrendous sales.

July, by the (not-so-good) numbers: ICv2.com reports that dollar sales on comics were flat in July, increasing just .2 percent overall -- and that's thanks to a 1 percent increase in graphic-novel sales. The retailer website contends, "The market improved by even that amount only because of an increase in the average cover price of comics from $2.80 to $2.91 per comic." July also saw a drop in piece sales, with just two titles in the Top 25 -- Avengers #500 and Spectacular Spider-Man #17 -- seeing an increase. Sales of the No. 1 book, 143,712 for Superman/Batman #11, were the lowest for a No. 1 title since February.

Another telling sign of a weak month is that the bottom title on the Top 300 list sold an estimated 1,187 copies, down from 1,332 in June. A breakdown of the Top 100 graphic novels can be found here.

Recounting Hiroshima: Japan's Daily Yomiuri talks with translator Namie Asazuma about the publication of the English-language version of Barefoot Gen, a manga depicting the horrors of nuclear warfare:

"I really want Americans, who dropped the atomic bombs, to read the comic. I believe if more people read it, the threat of nuclear weapons and the horror of war would be understood worldwide."

What condition my condition is in: The Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at Comics Guaranty LLC, the industry's arbiter of all things mint and near-mint:

"Out of the nearly 500,000 comic books graded by CGC since its founding in 2000, only 641, or about one-tenth of 1 percent, have merited a perfect 10, a rating known as 'gem mint.' But rating alone does not determine a comic book's market value. Rarity factors in. For example, while a Spider-Man Number 53 given a 9.8 might fetch a few thousand dollars, a Spider-Man No. 1 in the same condition would go for about $200,000, Haspel said."

Monday, August 16, 2004

Vertical to tweak focus: Publishers Weekly (subscription required) spotlights changes being made at Vertical, American publisher of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha and Koji Suzuki's The Ring:

"Despite being a small house (a staff of five that includes Vertical president Hiroki Sakai), [publicist Anne] Ishii said, 'we didn't act like a startup,' pointing to a lavish advertising campaign, pricey hardcovers and cutting-edge book jackets by noted designer Chip Kidd. Now the house is doing some cost cutting, said [marketing director Micah] Burch, and taking a closer look at the kind of fiction it publishes. ...

"... Originally, Burch said, the house published 'a little bit of everything.' Now it plans to focus more on 'general fiction, with some genre, horror, psychological thrillers and crime. We're not trying to be literary.' With The Ring in mind, Burch said the house is on the lookout for titles with a U.S. movie hook, like the forthcoming thriller Naoko by Keigo Higasino, which is slated to be made into a film."

This fall, Vertical will publish seven new prose novels.

Stunt drivers? At Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien takes a skeptical look at the Bendis/Wayne/Batman/Daredevil brouhaha:

"The question is why anyone would think this was a sensible way to do business. It attracts attention, to be sure. But it doesn't attract attention to the books, and it just makes all concerned look like squabbling brats. I realise everyone in the industry is supposed to be looking for ways to appeal to children, but does that have to mean acting like them? To be honest, the main argument against it being a publicity stunt is that it does nothing whatsoever to build appeal for a BATMAN/DAREDEVIL book. All it does is build a spurious Marvel/DC feud. Where's the money in that? Publish another MARVEL VERSUS DC series, with a photostrip of Joe Quesada and Paul Levitz mudwrestling in thongs?

"(Please don't. Not even for charity.) "