Monday, January 31, 2005

Creator profile: Robert Kirkman

Canada's Exclaim! spotlights Invincible and The Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman:
In addition to the creator-positive independence Kirkman enjoys at Image, he’s also done a chunk of recent work for more controlling bosses at Marvel; he’s careful when comparing the atmosphere between the two. “They both have their upsides and downsides, and I enjoy them both equally. I like Image for the freedom, but it’s a hell of a lot of work to manage and basically be the editor on the books I do there. With Marvel, I’m as involved as I want to be, which in most cases is a lot, but it’s nice to know that if I really wanted to, I could just turn in a script and move on. It’s nice to know that there are qualified and dedicated people looking over your shoulder. I enjoy the safety net. With Marvel, I feel like if I do anything too stupid or crazy, someone will tell me. So I go all out. At Image, I can fall flat on my face and it’ll be all my fault. But I can do anything in my Image books and that gives me the freedom to really explore the characters.” previews Stan Lee interview teases Wednesday's 60 Minutes II interview with Stan Lee, who says it was a difficult decision to sue Marvel:
"It was very emotional," says Lee. "I was really hurt. ...We had always had this great relationship, the company and me. I felt I was a part of it."

"... Don't forget I've written about superheroes all my life. And they're the good guys and they always do the right things, and I always thought our company is the good company and we always did the right thing...and suddenly I felt I wasn't being treated well, and it really hurt."
The interview will be broadcast at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.

The site also features a photo essay chronicling some of Lee's most famous co-creations.

Something wicked this way comes

At Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton sifts through February Previews, and highlights some of the books you might otherwise overlook -- The Dark Horse Book of the Dead, Thirteen, Temporary #2 and 20th Century Boys Vol. 1, among them.

Manga: a threat to superheroes?

Agence France-Presse looks at the rapid growth of manga in the United States, spurred, of course, by genre variety and female readers:
Linda Pfeiffer, 15, never got hooked on her brother's comic books, which glorify muscular heroes complete with superpowers. Instead, she is absorbed by Japanese comic book characters to whom she can relate, "even if they live far away from here".

Unlike US comics, "mangas don't always have a happy ending," Pfeiffer added as she scoured a Washington area comic book store.

Credit where credit is due?

The New York Times uses Stan Lee's victory in his contract dispute with Marvel as an opportunity to pose that age-old question: Who really deserves the credit for creating all of those superheroes -- Lee or his collaborators?
"It's amazing that he walks away with all the credit and all the money for some of the creation of these characters," said Robert Katz, a nephew of Jack Kirby, the illustrator who worked with Mr. Lee on the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the X-Men and others. "The artists who did the lion's share of the creation have walked away with absolutely nothing." Mr. Kirby died in 1994.

"I only wish that Jack Kirby had Stan Lee's lawyer," Mr. Katz added.

Lisa Kirby, Mr. Kirby's daughter, agreed. "I don't know how they live with themselves," she said. "The estate gets no compensation from Marvel at all."

Sunday, January 30, 2005

A whole lotta shakin' goin' on

Time magazine spotlights "four daring young artists" who are "shaking up the world of cartooning": Paul Hornschemeier, Marjane Satrapi, Rieko Saibara and Joann Sfar.

Newsweek takes notice of 'Black Panther'

The return of Marvel's Black Panther series, this time by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr., pops up on Newsweek's list of "top picks for the week ahead."

First The New York Times, now Newsweek. Will this be the time that mainstream media attention translates into actual comic-book sales? Eh, probably not.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Nobody ever expects a Magneto resurrection

Since Graeme isn't blogging today, I feel obligated to field this one. At The Pulse, Chris Claremont addresses Excalibur, the return of Magneto, and the writing craft.

First, on the Master of Magnetism:
We thought it would be a great idea. And just as importantly, as regards his entrance at the end of #1, nobody would see it coming. For me, from a characterizational perspective, there was a lot of his story left to be told -- aspects of his relationship with Xavier, with his “Cause”, with his family, with his role in the Canon. And he makes an ideal foil for Xavier.
Then, on his approach to tone and pacing:
... As for pacing, maybe I’m old school. My sense of story-telling derives from what enlivened my own youth, writers like Robert Heinlein, directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks. I strive for a measure of comprehensibility — set the stage, give the reader a sense of the physical space, try to make that space as contributory a player in the story as the characters themselves. To me, especially when writing a full script as opposed to a plot, that takes a certain amount of time. The blocks have to sit stably one atop the other. In the recent past, with X-Men and Uncanny in 2000, there was a body of opinion that felt I was rushing too quickly through the stories, there was no opportunity to slow down, catch your breath, take stock of what was happening. So, you adapt, you try to find a pace that’s appropriate to the series and the stories, and ultimately hope you know what you’re doing.
In related news, 15.4 percent of primary and junior high school students in Japan's Nagasaki Prefecture believe the dead can be resurrected. Why do they believe this? Because they've seen stories about resurrection on TV, or read about it in books.

DC's crisis of 'tonality'

At Newsarama, DC's Dan Didio discusses Identity Crisis, Countdown, and the change in "tonality" of the DC Universe:
When we got Identity Crisis in from Brad, I knew what we wanted to do with the DCU and where we wanted to go. I knew what the tone I wanted to see come into the DCU was – I wanted to put a level of danger and of consequence to the DCU and the characters. We had been addressing that piece by piece, but realistically speaking, you can only change tonality on the individual books incrementally without turning off too many people, or confusing people along the way.

So, when we got to Identity Crisis, and I saw that the story basically hit the nail on the head in terms of the number of characters that we wanted to address as well as changed the whole feel and perception of how people saw the DCU characters – I felt that was a great starting point from which we could move out from.

... A lot of this actually came following September 11th. After everything that occurred in New York City, I was coming to work at DC, and going through the Port Authority. At that time, you would walk into the Port Authority, and you would have National Guardsmen standing there with machine guns. He’s standing there holding his machine gun, and is supposed to be making me feel better and more protected, but somehow, that gave me a greater sense of dread – it put me more on edge.

Reviewing a graphic novel, no apology required

At last, The New York Times runs a review of a graphic novel without devoting five paragraphs to justifying why it's running a review of a graphic novel. Posy Simmonds' Gemma Bovery gets the honor. (Of course, the review does mention Art Spiegelman, so it's not a total victory.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Quiet Moments In Comics History (Part 2)

Ever wonder what Aquaman and his young ally, Aqualad, do when they're not fighting Black Manta or Ocean Master or, uh, Black Manta?

They spend a "relaxing morning at their chores," of course!

Aquaman No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1962) opens on a perfect quiet moment, as the superhero and his faithful sidekick cheerfully tidy their undersea lair with the help of Topo the feather-dusting octopus, a few anglerfish, and a sawfish that appears resigned to a fate of hacking through a ship's hull.

The sea king seems a little perturbed that his career has kept him from more important things -- namely, housekeeping: "I've been meaning to saw away the ragged edges of this old ship's figurehead for a long time ..."

Aqualad, meanwhile, feigns interest: "Uh-huh ... And it's time I assembled this dinosaur fossil for our private museum."

Luckily, he only has two more years until the Teen Titans form. Then he's so out of here.

But the best part of the scene is the caption in Panel 2 (shown at left): "Suddenly, strange things start to happen ..."

I suppose when you have a feather-dusting octopus and a man using a large fish as a power tool, "strange" is a relative term.

Peter Cuneo and The Motley Fool, Takes 3 & 4

The Motley Fool continues its five-part conversation with Marvel vice chairman Peter Cuneo, who talks a little more about the box office:
David Gardner: One more question for you as we look at the movie landscape for 2005. You have to have your eye a little bit on DC Comics' Batman character. Batman has a movie coming out that I am sure they are hoping is a big deal this summer. Are you rooting for the success of Batman, or is that your direct competitor and you are rooting against them?

Peter Cuneo:
I don't think we have a point of view on that. I think that there is room for everybody as long as the creative content is quality. It is all about quality. If there are no quality fantasy movies put out in a year, then in fact you will have a lot of failure. If everybody is putting out quality films, there will be a lot of success. We don't view it as competition on the movie side. It is all about just making a quality film.
Update: Part Four has been posted, with Cuneo chatting about difficult decisions, his reputation as a turnaround specialist, and his other business interests.

'Rent Girl' gets two nods from Lambda Literary Awards

Rent Girl, by Michelle Tea and Laurenn McCubbin, is among the finalists in the Memoir/Autobiography and Visual Arts/Photography categories for the 17th annual Lambda Literary Awards. The winners will be announced June 2 in New York City.

Public to decide new book awards; GNs included

Had enough of those snobby book awards that honor works and authors you've never heard of? NBC Universal Television and Reed Business International (publisher of Variety and Publishers Weekly) have announced plans for a new national book award, with winners to be selected by the public voting online and in bookstores.

The awards, called The Quills, will include some 15 categories, from Book of the Year and Literary Fiction to Suspense/Mystery or Thriler and Graphic Novel of the Year.

Selections will begin in May, with a board of 6,000 booksellers and librarians choosing the nominees. The awards will be broadcast in October on NBC.

Profile: Bryan Lee O'Malley

In Toronto's Eye Weekly, Guy Leshinski talks to Bryan Lee O'Malley about Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life:
Seated at a booth at Kalendar, his radiant sketchbooks spread open on the table, O'Malley looks every inch the modern cartoonist. He even resembles Optic Nerve artist Adrian Tomine, with his black-framed glasses and Asiatic features. The restaurant is an old haunt where much of Scott Pilgrim took shape. "I did a lot of writing for the second book downstairs in the kitchen," O'Malley says, flipping his portfolio to a page of doodles for the series' next volume, due out this winter. "I'd be scribbling dialogue and sketches in my sketchbook. People would walk into the restaurant and I'd sneak away to draw their outfits, their shoes, their hairstyles."

Comics as a recruitment tool

The Eugene, Ore., Register-Guard reports the University of Oregon is using personalized comic books as a way to make an impact with potential football recruits, some of whom receive hundreds of pieces of mail a week from colleges.

In a comic sent to junior college wide receiver James Finley, coach Mike Bellotti agonizes on the sidelines during a close game before Finley catches the winning touchdown. Finley signed with Oregon.

A press release wrapped inside a press release ...

I love that in this press release announcing a (surprise!) variant cover for the second printing of X-23 #1, Marvel actually teases another press release -- this time for big NYX news. Does anyone still remember NYX?
Says Sales and Marketing Manager David Gabriel, "Going back to press on X-23 #1 is an absolute no-brainer. The issue blew right out, even with a significant overprinting on issue #1, and unfilled backorders are already mounting. Thanks so much to the fans and retailers for such strong support of this 'Marvel Next' title. On a related note, we'll also have some news on fan-favorite NYX within the next few days. "
So, yes, Marvel is issuing a press release about a press release.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Quiet Moments In Comics History (Part 1)

While digging through the attic recently, I uncovered several boxes of comics from the '60s and '70s that I'd evidently picked up during childhood excursions to garage sales and flea markets.

As I flipped through these tattered treasures, I came to realize that for all the living planets, leopard pirates and undersea fire trolls that drove the plots in that era, it was the "quiet moments" -- those scenes between the action -- that were perhaps the most surreal.

Take, for instance, the above panel from Giant-Size Defenders No. 4 (April 1975). Dr. Strange and Valkyrie have gone into "a West Side hospital" to visit millionaire jet-setter Kyle Richmond (a k a Nighthawk), who barely survived a car bomb.

Outside, the 7-foot-tall Incredible Hulk tries to look inconspicuous, wearing a trenchcoat, fedora and purple pants, and holding the reins of Valkyrie's winged horse, Aragorn. Everything might have been fine, too, if only the emerald giant hadn't been loitering in a no-parking zone.

Damn the blue man, always keepin' Hulk down.

Profile: 'Family Guy' creator Seth MacFarlane

The Onion A.V. Club talks to Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane about the show's return to Fox, early comparisons to The Simpsons, and the rise of Haley Joel Osment:
You know what was funny — at one point, I think The Sixth Sense had come out, but he was still coming into Family Guy to say the line, "Oh no, Cavity Creeps!" In retrospect, it's like, "God, why was he wasting his time with us?" Family Guy has this weird thing of attracting people. People either hate it or can't get enough of it. There's really no one in between. There doesn't seem to be any group that can take it or leave it. It's either, "I laugh my ass off start to finish, it's my favorite show," or "You guys are pathetic." Ken Tucker, for example, would be one of [the latter]. He would write these venom-spewing articles about Family Guy in Entertainment Weekly that, oddly enough, I could never figure out where it was coming from, because there was never a specific argument beyond "This show sucks and it's not funny." But what's nice is that at this point, there are a lot of high-profile actors who are fans of the show, and it's a little easier for us to bring those people on than it used to be.

If you build it, they don't always come

In this week's "Permanent Damage," Steven Grant has some interesting thoughts about how publishers launch and market new titles:
... You'd think, after a few decades in the business, comics companies would have a better grasp on how to launch titles. Not that the readership makes it easy. But (not to pick on Dan Jolley or suggest anything about the book, it just happens to fit the thesis) why take a book like BLOODHOUND and simply dump it onto the market? On the surface -- and that's as far as most people who go with anything -- it wouldn't appear to be a particularly salable property, at least not without some marketing muscle behind it. Neither writer nor artist have big followings (that I'm aware of, and, again, that's no reflection on their skills if they don't), DC has tried and failed with the basic concept - a non-superhero hunting superbeings - before at least once with a pretty decent book (CHASE), and it sits merely on the cusp of superhero comics when the direct sales market has skewed strongly toward superheroes since its inception. But it got the standard half-push: a splash for the first issue involving internet interviews and a little in-house promotion, and then DC cast its bread upon the waters, with predictable results. Not that DC's the only company that does such things; the anomaly is the company that doesn't. A friend in magazine marketing refers to this as the "Field Of Dreams" approach, after the slogan in the Kevin Costner film of the same name where he erects a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield on the promise from apparently God that "build it and they will come." Anyone paying attention noticed the people who marketed the movie didn't follow their own advice. It was promoted and promoted and promoted -- as the feelgood film of that year, with an "inspirational" message that also happens to be a fairytale. For the comics market, a Biblical equivalent might be more appropriate: cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you.

Manga growth continues, but anime market is flat

ICv2 notes that while the North American manga market continued its "robust growth" in 2004 -- an estimated $110 million to $140 million, up from $90 to $110 million in 2003 -- the anime market remained relatively flat, at an estimated $500 million to $550 million.

The information is reported in ICv2 Retailers Guide to Anime/Manga #9, which was released this week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

'Beano' publisher pulps print run over cartoon

The London Daily Telegraph reports that publisher DC Thomson scrapped the entire 200,000-copy press run of the Jan. 8 Beano because a character in a "Ball Boy" story was too similar to Arsenal player Thierry Henry. The character, named Henry Thierry, was French, wore a red jersey and had a shaved head.

Here's Beano editor Euan Kerr:
"In the cold light of day we felt it might cause offence and we did not want to do that so we replaced it. We thought it was safer as we always try not to offend anyone. There were certainly similarities to Thierry Henry. The 200,000 comics never went out of the offices and I think they have been pulped by now."
Thomson printed a new edition using a "Ball Boy" story planned for a future issue.

Following the money with Marvel's Peter Cuneo

Marvel Enterprises vice chairman Peter Cuneo talks movies, money and comic books research and development in the first two installments of a five-part interview with The Motley Fool:
"From a profitability point of view, about 20%, 15-20% of our earnings come from the comic book business. The comic book business of course is very important to us. Not only is it highly profitable. We have about a 35% profit margin on our comic book business and growing very nicely if you look at our track record. But also this is our R&D function. This is where we try out new characters, where we ... rework, re-cosmetize, if you will, other older characters, and try to see what kind of story lines work and so on. The nice thing about the comic book business is, and we publish over 60 titles every month, is we can experiment here and really actually lose very little or no money."

I'm not just linking to this because my name is mentioned

Really. In this week's installment of "The Basement Tapes," Joey Casey and Matt Fraction tackle that inevitable topic -- the comics blogosphere:
Blogs are awesome when someone, somewhere, for whatever reason, decides to soapbox it and throw their two cents out there just to see what happens. Unconventional perspectives and ideas, unencumbered by the need for hits, ad dollars, approval, endorsement, or anything other than pure communication. And it seems to me that there are a lot more women in Blogopolis than in the pages of Wizard or The Journal, which is good.

... I think it's great when someone writes a killer piece on NEW FRONTIER or SCOTT PILGRIM because they absolutely loved (or hated) it. I think it's okay when some people write pieces responding to that. I think it sucks when the blogatorium become choked by a sense of duty to review or comment on NEW FRONTIER or SCOTT PILGRIM because 19 other blogs have done it. I hate the enforced blogcycle-by-obligation. We're dealing with two mediums already prone to becoming a little club-housey-- comics and the 'net-- so anything that reinforces that sort of thing bums me out a little.

Tokyopop to release 'Beck'

This makes me very, very happy: ICv2 has word that Tokyopop will publish Beck beginning in July.

That sound you hear is the collective sigh of countless scanilators ...

ShoPro Entertainment and Viz to merge

Anime licensor ShoPro Entertainment and manga publisher Viz announced today that they'll merge this spring to form a new entertainment company. The two companies previously had collaborated on such properties as Inuyasha and MegaMan NT Warrior, and share a parent corporation.

ShoPro Entertainment is an affiliate of ShoPro Japan, which is a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc., one of Japan's largest publishing companies. Viz is a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc. and Shueisha Inc.

Here's Osamu Kamei, executive director of Shogakukan Inc., on the creation of the still-unnamed company:

"In order to nurture and grow the worldwide exposure of Japanese manga and animation, we have decided to step beyond the corporate framework that exists in Japan, and form a new globally oriented company by merging VIZ and ShoPro Entertainment. I strongly believe that the partnership of the three companies, Shueisha, Shogakukan and ShoPro Japan, will be a major step forward for the Japanese contents business."

Because you demanded it -- Ring Starr, superhero?

The Hollywood Reporter has word that ex-Beatle -- and star of Caveman -- Ringo Starr has signed a deal with Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment to develop a multimedia franchise in which the musician will play (wait for it) a superpowered version of himself. The project will start off as a 60- or 90-minute DVD, but there are plans for television and feature film.

Words fail me.

Monday, January 24, 2005

At Ushicon, cosplay is the thing *

The University of Texas' Daily Texan covers this weekend's fourth annual Ushicon anime and manga convention in Austin. First up, the cosplayers:
(* Yes, yes, I know it's bad. But I couldn't think of a better headline.)

Coming to cell phones: a talking, 3-D Stan Lee

Washington's King County Journal spotlights Bellevue-based Vidiator Technology, which recently signed a deal with Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment to develop "entertainment offerings" for mobile phones and other wireless devices. In the works is an electronic "greeting card" featuring a 3-D animated talking-head image of Lee announcing the partnership:
In his trademark hyperbolic style, Lee calls Pow!'s partnership with Vidiator one of "Earth-shaking importance'' for his fans because they will now be able to "see my newest and wildest thrillers right on your mobile phone or PDA (personal digital assistant).

"We're working on a whole kazillion superhero epics, the like of which you've never seen before,'' Lee said.

He also describes Wong's company as "the amazing wizards of wireless,'' adding: "Wouldn't Vidiator be a great name for a hero?''

A 30th-century refuge from the Cold War

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin looks at DC's relaunched Legion of Super-Heroes from a historical perspective:
Comic book columnist-historian Andrew A. Smith of Scripps Howard News Service said that the Legion's legend began about 46 years ago in Adventure Comics No. 247, starring Superboy. The Teen of Steel meets three super-powered teenagers from 2958 -- Lightning Boy (later "Lad," with super-lightning), Saturn Girl (super-telepathy) and Cosmic Boy (super-magnetism) -- who had traveled back in time to invite him to join their ever-growing club.

Smith wrote that "reader reaction to these three super-powered youths -- with the obvious implication that there was an unseen legion of them awaiting 1,000 years in the future -- had letters flooding the DC Comics offices. There was something about the concept that was really appealing. Not only did it present the possibility of tons of super-characters, but it also suggested a high-tech, utopian future completely unburdened by Cold War worries."

Eisner: 'the wizard behind the curtain'

Writing for The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, biographer Bob Andelman remembers Will Eisner's life and legacy:
Will Eisner didn't create Superman, Batman, Spider-Man or even Archie and Jughead. Even some comic book fans may scratch their heads when asked to describe his work. But every artist and writer in comic books, as well as graphic artists across the spectrum of modern illustration, television and film, owe a debt to him.

Toronto Metro tackles 'Epileptic,' 'Invincible' and more

I more or less stopped linking to comics reviews in mainstream media a while ago, primarily because they'd become ubiquitous these past six months or so. But today's edition of Toronto Metro is worth noting, because it contains two articles reviewing some nine comics, from Epileptic to Invincible.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dave McKean talks 'Mirror Mask'

Utah's Salt Lake Tribune talks to Dave McKean about Mirror Mask, his collaboration with Neil Gaiman that premieres Tuesday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Profile: James Sturm

The Boston Globe briefly profiles cartoonist James Sturm, founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies:
"I just think because they [comics] are so immediately accessible, they are easier to dismiss. Somehow we associate them with juveniles, that they're for kids. I don't know. . . . People were a little bit afraid of comics for a while. In the '50s they would throw them on the bonfires and burn them because they thought they were rotting the brains of America's youth. There were Senate subcommittee hearings, and comics were seen as an impediment to education, whereas today comics are [seen as] a great way to get kids excited about reading. In the '50s, they just thought that there were all these horror comics, and that there were homosexual underpinnings to Batman and Robin, and there was this backlash against them. The comics industry started self-policing, self-censoring, and it really put the medium back quite a bit in terms of its development. "

You're a wonder, Wonder Wo ... man?

Australia's Melbourne Herald Sun reports that passersby are puzzled by enormous banners on the town hall depicting bearded men squeezed into Wonder Woman costumes. The banners, paid for by city council, are designed to promote the annual Midsumma gay and lesbian festival:
One Spaniard, who'd stopped to take a photo, said: "Er, is Wonder Woman, yes? Why so hairy?"

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A matter of opinion

For those law geeks (like me), Tom Spurgeon has the full text of Judge Robert W. Sweet's opinion in Stan Lee v. Marvel.

'Epileptic,' and the popularity of the graphic novel

In The New York Times Sunday Book Review, author Rick Moody sets out to critique David B.'s Epileptic, but instead devotes the first half of the article to assessing the status of graphic novels in literature:
People are devouring the graphic novel across the whole range of human I.Q.'s. It's not uncommon now for readers of literature to admire Chris Ware or Julie Doucet or Joe Sacco or Joe Matt with a partisan vigor formerly reserved for renegades like Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan. Among the reasons for this popularity is that comics are currently better at the sociology of the intimate gesture than literary fiction is. Literary fiction, obsessed on the one hand with defending itself against the popularity of cinema, is too preoccupied with story. On the other hand, in competing with poetry, it is occasionally dazzled by abstraction and cerebral firepower. Between the two once lay the novel of manners, in which we found Henry James perfectly depicting the way an American ingenue wore a gown or entertained a suitor. You read this kind of social observation only infrequently today. But Chris Ware is great at drawing it. So is Chester Brown, for example, in his bittersweet graphic novel ''I Never Liked You.''

Discovering morality in comic books

Can comic-book characters have good morals? Sure, the Religion News Service discovers when it talks to the unlikely trio of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, The Simpsons comics writer Chris Yambar and Who Needs a Superhero? author H. Michael Brewer:
"Batman has a choice when his parents are killed," Brewer said. "He can be crippled for life or deal with tragedy in a way that makes the world a better place. Superman loses everything - his world, his family, his home. Instead of remaining a stranger, he decides to adopt Earthlings as his own."

Another example can be found in the pages of the Green Arrow comic. Green Arrow has recently taken on a sidekick named Mia, who was once a teenage runaway. During her days on the street, she contracted HIV.

"Having faced the trouble in her life," Brewer said, "she wants to make a difference in the world. I can't think of a more heroic thing to do."

Friday, January 21, 2005

'Stray Sheep,' 'Karma Club' headed to U.S. TV

ICv2 notes that Tokyopop is developing Stray Sheep and Karma Club as animated series for U.S. television.

Read the official press release here.

Profile: Tony De Zuñiga

The Stockton (Calif.) Record spotlights 70-year-old artist Tony De Zuñiga (Jonah Hex, Conan the Barbarian), who's opening a gallery/restaurant with his wife on Saturday:
These days, De Zuñiga attends comic-book conventions and is often asked to do "reconstructions." That's where fans request old Jonah Hex or Conan covers. De Zuñiga said 40 percent of his requests are for a female character that came out of the Conan series, Red Sonja.

"She's a barbarian girl, a fantasy character just like Conan," he said. "But I wanted them to do more with her. She's always underplayed."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Amityville, 90210

Warning: Uncharacteristic television-related entry dead-ahead.

For some reason, I was actually looking forward to Fox's Point Pleasant. I'm a sucker for the supernatural, and I have an inexplicable weakness for teen-angsty dramas (hello, Life As We Know It). Unfortunately, the local affiliate preempted last night's premiere because of some basketball game; Ed is kindly sending me the pilot, though.

But as I sit some 16 minutes into Episode 2, I can't believe how utterly terrible it is: It's as if The Omen were written by the editors of Jane.

GLAAD announces Media Awards nominees

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has announced the nominees for its 16th annual GLAAD Media Awards. Nominees for Outstanding Comic Book are:
Ex Machina (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
Hard Time (DC Comics)
Luba (Fantagraphics Books)
My Faith in Frankie (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Strangers in Paradise (Abstract Studio)
The award ceremonies will be held March 28 in New York City, April 30 in Los Angeles and June 11 in San Francisco.

Marvel vs. 'City of Heroes' update

Remember Marvel's trademark-infringement lawsuit against the makers of City of Heroes? Terra Nova notes that attorneys for NCSoft have filed a motion to dismiss in U.S. District Court. The motion reads, in part:
"Kids with wandering imaginations have long decorated school notebooks with pictures of fantastic and supernatural beings of their own design. The ingenuity of individuals, as expressed through the creation of characters incorporating timeless themes of mythology, patriotism, 'good,' and 'evil,' has been a source of entertainment in the form of role-playing games for ages. In the face of technology that enables individuals to engage in such activities in a virtual, on-line context, Marvel Enterprises, Inc. and Marvel Characters, Inc. (collectively, 'Marvel') have taken the unprecedented step of attempting to appropriate for themselves the world of fantasy-based characters ..."
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Feb. 7.

(Link via Slashdot.)

Profile: Bill Messner-Loebs

The Detroit News profiles artist Bill Messner-Loebs (The Flash, Wonder Woman), who lost his house in 2001, then had his mobile home stolen a year later. He speculates that he hasn't worked in comics since 2000 because of leadership changes at Marvel and DC:

"There are very few people in comics who remember who I am -- it's been over four years."

Court to Marvel: Pay the Man

As you've likely read by now, a federal judge ruled yesterday that Stan Lee is entitled to 10 percent of the profits that Marvel has made from film and television productions since 1998.

The decision could mean tens of millions of dollars for the 82-year-old Lee, whose lifetime contract with Marvel guarantees him $1 million a year and "participation equal to 10% of the profits derived during your life by Marvel (including subsidiaries and affiliates) from the profits of any live action or animation television or movie (including ancillary rights) productions utilizing Marvel characters."

Marvel released a statement underscoring the court's rejection of Lee's claim to a share of profits from third-party licensees of movie merchandise. Here's John Turitzin, Marvel's general counsel:
"We intend to appeal those matters on which we did not prevail and to continue to contest vigorously the claims on which the court did not rule. We do not expect this decision to have an effect on our financial guidance for 2004, 2005 or our future prospects."
At The Pulse, Tom Spurgeon takes a closer look at the 1998 lifetime contract that was at the root of this lawsuit.

At The Beat, Heidi points out that Marvel stock plunged a full point yesterday, while Lee's POW Entertainment jumped up almost 25 percent.

BBC News looks at the comic-book genius of Stan Lee.

And wins for this headline: "Stan Lee Gets Spidey Cents."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Depiction of smoking in manga comes under fire

I can't find the English-language version of this story, so I'll link to the Manga News Service summary:

Research conducted by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare found there was some 8.7 smoking scenes in an average boys' manga, leading some health officials to accuse the comics of encouraging smoking. The health ministry's research group studied five boys' comics magazines with high circulation figures that were sent to elementary, junior high and high schools:
Titles released from 94-02 were looked at and 426,350 pages were examined in the National Diet Library. 1608 pages were found that included smoking scenes and 7328 places on those pages. Broken down to the individual magazine, 1 of the five examined contained as many as 15.6 smoking scenes. There were only 0.2% of smoking scenes containing a message cigarette were bad for the body.

The kids love manga (Part 103)

The San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Tribune takes note of the rapidly increasing popularity of manga:
Lincoln Krautkraemer, general manager for the San Luis Obispo Borders store, remembers how obscure manga was when he started working in bookstores six years ago.

"It was a footnote in the graphic novel section, which itself was a subset within a subset," Krautkraemer said. Now, he and his staff consider manga to be on par with romance novels, science fiction and thrillers -- and they treat it accordingly.

"I have several people on staff now, who are specifically devoted to this section," he said. "It's amazing to see how many people will come in looking specifically for manga -- and looking for specific titles. The audience for this is everyday -- as frequent as those folks coming in for the latest David Baldacci book."

FCBD sponsors and books announced

Details have been released for Free Comic Book Day 2005, including the list of sponsors and what books they'll be offering.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The good, the good and the ugly

Holy hell, that's a terrible cover for Action Comics #826. Superman's legs are roughly the same length as Captain Marvel's left arm -- about 6 feet. Luckily, James Jean more than makes up for it, as does Jock.

That's all a back-assward way of saying DC's April solicitations have been released. They include PDF previews of Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1, Seven Soldiers: Klarion the Witch Boy #1, and Batman: Jekyll and Hyde #1.

What's 'Next'? Don't ask me

Looking over Marvel's "leaked" solicitations for April (via Fanboy Rampage, naturally), I'm still puzzled by the "Marvel Next" moniker. It was touted as a way for the publisher to promote some of its new "teen-focused" titles to their "core readership," but solicitations don't reflect that.

I realize I grumbled about that last month, but this time things get even more confusing. According to the original press release, Arana, Livewires, Runaways, Spellbinders, Young Avengers and X-23 would be the first titles to launch under "Marvel Next." However, as I previously pointed out, only Spellbinders was listed under the banner in the March solicitations; the other five books were scattered throughout the other imprints.

For April, Spellbinders gets bumped to the "Marvel Heroes" section, where it joins Livewires, Runaways and Young Avengers. Meanwhile, X-23 is moved from "Marvel Knights" to "X-Men," while Arana remains under "Spider-Man."

So what qualifies for the "Marvel Next" treatment? The rejiggered Amazing Fantasy #7, and the first two issues of the relaunched Power Pack miniseries, originally set to debut in February as part of the defunct "Marvel Age" line.

The initial idea behind "Marvel Next," at least as it was explained in late December, is a solid one -- certainly better than the ill-conceived "Tsunami" line-that's-not-really-a-line. The "young heroes" or "next generation" angle carries through the titles with little effort and, perhaps more importantly, without obvious editorial heavy-handedness. But where's the follow-through? Where's the "promotion" to the "core readership" that publisher Dan Buckley heralded not even a month ago?

Maybe I'm nitpicking; after all, they're only solicitations. But if Marvel has any hopes for the supposed "Marvel Next" books to outlast those launched as part of "Tsunami," "Marvel Age" or "Necromancy Month," the promotional push needs to begin with cohesive listings for an initiative that can be easily explained to retailers and readers. Follow through with well-designed shelf talkers to reinforce the branding, and offer incentives to comics shops to prominently display the line.

Then, instead of launching a second wave of books a month after the imprint debuts, give the core titles some time to establish themselves. (The current practice of rapidly expanding a new line until it implodes hasn't been working all that great. How about giving the wait-and-see approach a whirl?)

The inconsistent solicitations make it clear that Marvel doesn't understand the purpose of "Marvel Next. If the publisher doesn't get it, how can we expect the readers and retailers to do any better?

Milligan: 'Almost two years feel about right'

At Comic Book Resources, Peter Milligan discusses the cancellation of Human Target:
"The positive is that we will have done about 21 episodes, which is a fair amount for this kind of book, and if I'd been told I'd write that many at the outset I'd probably have been a little surprised. Almost two years feel about right. That said, it has been strange, as there's been so much positive reaction to this title. I have heard that one of the things that's stopped it being more commercially successful is that Vertigo readers are more interested in seeing new characters and creations rather than what is, when all's said and done, a rehash (albeit a brilliant one!) of an old an old title, and one that might not have exactly set the world alight the first time around.

"I'm not sure how much longer we would have wanted to keep the series going. The major stories that I'd wanted to tell had been told so this would have been led by how many good and fresh new stories I could come up with. I would have hated to have limped along, keeping this title going for the sake of it, with stories that dropped in quality, or with story that I wasn't really compelled to write."

Marvel signs deals with four publishing houses

Marvel has announced licensing agreements with DK Publishing, Harper Collins, Meredith Books and Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books, which will mean a larger presence for its superheroes in "adult novelizations," children's storybooks, coloring books and more.

DK Publishing will continue its popular Ultimate Guides series, and develop a line spotlighting Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-Men and The Avengers. HarperCollins will handle movie tie-ins, including Fantastic Four, X-Men 3 (May 2006) and Spider-Man 3 (May 2007). Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books will develop a line of "adult paperback novels" with new stories featuring Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Ultimates characters, among others. Meredith books will concentrate on children's books, such as sound storybooks, coloring books and picture storybooks.

The great comics giveaways

It's shaping up to be the Year of the Comics Contest, with Comic Book Galaxy and Polite Dissent now offering some pretty good, and pretty fun, giveaways.

Comic Book Galaxy is focusing its attention on the blogger-adored Street Angel, offering a chance to win autographed sets of Issues #1-5 of the series, plus the original minicomic. An identical set will go to the store where the winner buys his or her comics. Plus, the grand-prize winner (and the shop) will get a one-of-a-kind piece of Street Angel original art. Entering is simple: Just email the required contact information no later than Feb. 28. Complete contest details can be found here.

Meanwhile, at Polite Dissent, Scott is pushing the Nikolai Dante: The Romanov Dynasty trade paperback in a contest that requires a little ... imagination. There are three avenues you can take to win: "Quality," in which you're asked to create a tale of a Russian noble using four of six narrative elements -- a bottle of vodka, a river otter, a copy of The Annotated Alice in Wonderland, an ice cream sandwich, Spiro Agnew, and the island sounds of Don Ho; "Quantity," in which you must use as many items as you can from Scott's Big List (which, of course, includes Hawk & Dove and Brother Voodoo); and "Pure Luck," which entails just emailing your contact information. Complete details can be found here. Deadline is Jan. 31.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Delay of blogging

Blogging will resume this afternoon tomorrow.

'Negima' top bookstore sales list reports that Ken Akamatsu's Negima Vol. 4 is the No. 1-selling graphic novel in bookstores so far this year, according to BookScan, which curiously placed the volume on its children's book list.

The latest installment in Akamatsu's series sold some 5,700 copies when it debuted two weeks ago. In its second week, it sold more than 3,400 copies. The Top 10 bookstore graphic novels for the week ending Jan. 9 are:
  1. Negima Vol. 4 (Del Rey)
  2. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 10 (Viz)
  3. Fruits Basket Vol. 6 (Tokyopop)
  4. Imadoki (Viz)
  5. Hellsing Vol. 5 (Dark Horse)
  6. DN Angel Vol. 5 (Tokyopop)
  7. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie Ani Manga (Viz)
  8. Naruto Vol. 5 (Viz)
  9. .hack: Legend of the Twilight Vol. 3 (Tokyopop)
  10. Saiyuki Vol. 6 (Tokyopop)
The first non-manga title on the list Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, which came in at No. 29.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Chronicle highlights Miller and creators' rights

The San Francisco Chronicle breezes by the requisite Jennifer Garner profile to concentrate on Elektra creator Frank Miller, and the comics industry's struggles with work-made-for-hire agreements and creators' rights:
Miller himself has nothing riding on the movie. He introduced Elektra in 1980 as a character in Marvel's Daredevil comic on which the Affleck movie (co-starring Garner) was based, and has a screen credit as the character's creator, but Miller has no ownership rights to his brainchild. Any work he did for Marvel was considered "work for hire" and is owned by the company, as has been standard practice ever since Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold all rights to Superman for $130 in 1938.
The article also touches upon the lawsuits filed by Marv Wolfman and Stan Lee.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bringing home the bacon

The Portland, Ore., Tribune spotlights cartoonist Ovi Nedelcu, whose Pigtale debuts this month from Image Comics:
Financially it’s hardly a high-stakes game. Publisher Image Comics in San Francisco must sell 2,500 copies of each issue at $2.95 for Nedelcu to see any income. (Image was formed in 1990 by disaffected Marvel artists who wanted more creative freedom.) It’s like a band releasing a single: If it flops, “Pigtale” might never get finished.

CrossGen message board returns

Curiosity of the day: The CrossGen website and message board are up and running again, and a handful of forum members seem puzzled, but grateful for the return.

ICv2 picks anime phenomenon and flop of the year

It's apparently Manga & Anime Day at Thought Balloons. continues its 2004 Anime Awards with Anime Phenomenon of 2004 ("Anime Goes Late Night") and Flop of the Year (retro anime):

The Cartoon Network remains one of key anime venues in the U.S., but it is the Network's Toonami block, which currently airs on Saturday nights and especially the late night Adult Swim block that are the key TV sales drivers for anime. Inuyasha, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf's Rain, .hack//SIGN, Full Metal Alchemist and Case Closed have all benefited from late night exposure on the Cartoon Network.

Another key late night anime venue is Anime Unleashed, begun by Tech TV and continued on the G4 video game-oriented network that acquired Tech TV. G4 has a built-in tech-savvy, teen-and-older audience that is a great fit for anime. In 2004 Anime Unleashed really hit its stride with a number of hot series (primarily from Geneon) including Last Exile, Gungrave, Read or Die the TV, and Gad Guard.

Hey, kids love the manga and the anime

The Dallas Morning News (registration required) reports on the Bedford Public Library's new monthly how-to-draw-manga class and, yes, the growing popularity of manga and anime in the United States:
Anime conventions also are becoming popular, said Ben Quasnitschka, co-owner of Shotokan, an anime shop in Hurst. There are two anime conventions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said Mr. Quasnitschka, former president of the anime club at the University of Texas at Arlington.

"It used to be heavily male, but I've noticed especially in the last four years the female ratio has gone through the roof," he said. "It started with younger females who watched Sailor Moon, which just didn't appeal to guys, and now they're growing up."

Losing the female market, but struggling to get it back

In The Washington Times, Joseph Szadkowski looks at how the comics industry lost female readers, and what some publishers are doing to try to get them back:
"An older generation of comic book executives has been pushed aside, and younger people more in touch with real popular culture have come in," explains Colleen Doran, a veteran of DC Comics and Marvel Comics best known for her science fiction epic A Distant Soil (Image Comics).

"It was a little strange to work with a man born in 1928 who is older than your grandfather," she says. "That group never did believe women could draw comics or would ever read them."

The allure of anime

While we're on the subject, the Chicago Sun-Times traces the history of anime, and looks at its growing popularity in the United States. Those interviewed include Manga Entertainment's Marvin Gleicher, Cartoon Network's Sean Akins and The Anime Encyclopedia co-author Jonathan Clements.

The most interesting part may the sidebar, which addresses the attribute that so many people associate with anime: big, round eyes.
"[Osamu] Tezuka really set the mold for anime," said Sean Akins, creative director of Cartoon Network's anime programs. "It is possible he was influenced by Disney. His character Astro Boy's eyes look like Donald Duck's."

The shape of the eyes isn't just a reflection of Western influence, argues Jonathan Clements, co-author of The Anime Encyclopedia (Stone Bridge Press, $24.95).

"It is a feature of low-budget animation," Clements wrote in an e-mail from his home in London. "They have big eyes to convey the maximum amount of emotion, since the eyes convey expressions better than any other part of the face."

Anime store provides place to lounge, learn

The Portland, Maine, Press Herald stops by Westbrook's Weekend Anime store, which initially operated in a tiny storefront and open only on weekends. In October, owner Julie York moved into a 2,000-square-foot space, and has seen her customer base nearly double:
The move also has allowed the store to use one room as a classroom, where it has begun offering weekly Japanese classes. [Store manager Dave] Lister plans to soon offer drawing lessons as well, so that customers can learn to emulate the style they so admire.

Now that more customers can comfortably fit into the store, they're staying for longer periods of time. Lister said some arrive when the store opens at 2 p.m. and stay until closing at 8 p.m. While this might be considered loitering in some stores, at Weekend Anime it's encouraged.

"We really wanted to make it a loungey place," he said, where customers can sit and read manga, watch anime, play video games or related card games. "We have a lot of regulars."
The article includes an "Anime Facts" sidebar.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Bring out your dead

DC Comics has canceled three long-struggling titles: Bloodhound, Human Target and, apparently, Fallen Angel.

Marvel prepares for return to TV advertising

Newsarama gleans some interesting news from the recent Diamond Dateline: For the first time since the early '80s, Marvel plans to turn to television commercials -- this time to cross-promote Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four and a ToyBiz toy in anticipation of the Fantastic Four movie.

Here's what David Gabriel, Marvel's manager-sales and marketing, told Diamond Dateline:
"There will be a new Marvel Adventures title closely related to upcoming blockbuster Fantastic Four film, due in theaters next summer. This title will be aggressively targeted as part of a multi-million dollar ad campaign for ToyBiz, which will, for the first time, showcase the Marvel Adventures comics as part of a nationally televised 60-second commercial spot. Last time this happened the result was Marvel's hugely successful G.I. Joe comic."

Dark Horse to publish 'Vampire Hunter D' novel also notes that Dark Horse will publish an English-language version of the first Vampire Hunter D novel, written by Hideyuki Kikuchi. The novel, which is the first of 13 in the influential series, was published in Japan in 1983. The Dark Horse edition, set for a May 4 release, will feature a painted cover and eight black-and-white interior illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano (Sandman: The Dream Hunters).

ICv2 names top anime company and property

Retailer website has named its Top Anime Company of the Year (Bandai Entertainment) and Anime Property of the Year (Inuyasha), based on their impact on retailers:
Amazingly enough Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, which was our Anime of the Year in 2003, very nearly won again. It occupied the second spot on the VideoScan YTD list (and Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke from 1999 was #5). At least part of the lackluster anime sales in 2004 can be blamed on the fact that key anime movies released in Japan in 2004 including Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, Otomo's Steam Boy and the Shirow-based Appleseed won't be released in the U.S. until 2005 -- and three older Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki features, which were never released in the U.S. and were scheduled for 2004, were also delayed until 2005.

Marvel sets 'fists to teats on its fattest cash cow'

In Toronto's Eye Weekly, Guy Leshinski has kind words for Whedon/Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted. But that doesn't prevent him from first getting in a few good jabs at Marvel and its X-franchise:
Letting, as Comics Journal managing editor Dirk Deppey calls it, "the Hidden Hand of the Marketplace" guide its affairs, Marvel last summer set fists to teats on its fattest cash cow (X-Men), milking its glorified franchise in a campaign of reinvention dubbed X-Men: Reload. With the X-movie buzz dying away between sequels, the object of the campaign was to strafe the marketplace with product -- a handful of new titles and reshuffled creative teams (including diarrheal X-writer-in-residence Chris Claremont) on the half-dozen extant X-books -- in the hopes of lodging a few in people's regular reading lists. The move also extended an olive branch -- hell, a whole jar -- to new readers, opening an entry point (in the parlance of the marketing X-ecs) that wasn't crammed with backstory and didn't reek of stale ideas.

Vertigo sampler offers 'First Taste'

In one of the smarter moves made by either of the Big Two, DC Comics is releasing Vertigo: First Taste, a 160-page trade paperback that collects six issues from six Vertigo titles. And the price? Just $4.99. The sampler features the first issues of current series 100 Bullets, The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime and Y: The Last Man, and delves into the Vertigo backlist for Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, Death: The High Cost of Living #1 and Transmetropolitan #1.
"For those readers who haven't gotten a taste of these incredible titles, your excuses are up!" says Karen Berger, VP - Executive Editor, VERTIGO. "This is the perfect opportunity to get the first bite of some of VERTIGO's definitive and popular series, and experience the first sensation of some powerful and riveting work."
The sampler will be solicited in February Previews for an April release.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Profile: Chicago-area cartoonists

Chicago's Newcity profiles the area's "next generation of graphic novelists," Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown, John Hankiewicz and Paul Hornschemeier.

(Link via Bookslut)

League of extraordinary gentlemen (and Snapper Carr)

At Movie Poop Shoot, Scott Tipton begins his epic exploration of DC's Justice League of America, and confronts the enigma that is Snapper Carr:
Snapper, by the way, received his nickname for his incessant habit of snapping his fingers in appreciation of anything he liked. I think nowadays that's considered a mild form of autism?

Manga News Service launches

Anime News Service has launched a sister site, Manga News Service, devoted to -- you guessed it -- reporting news of the manga industry:
ANS specializes in exclusive content on new properties and trends directly from Japan and delivers it to English readers before it can be incorporated into the monthly news cycles of most popular magazines on either side of the Pacific (or Atlantic) on many occasions. Manga News Service will capitalize upon the unrivaled resources and experience of ANS, being solely dedicated to covering the pop Japanese print industries: Manga, Doujinshi and Light Novels. The site's content umbrella will also cover the strongly emerging realm of Korean Comics (Manwha).
It's good to see another site devoted to manga coverage. The only down side is that MNS is saddled with the same clunky design that often makes ANS a tough read.

The sounds and the fury

Here's something near and dear to the hearts of longtime comics fans: onomatopoeia. Seriously.

In a curious article, The Malaysia Star focuses on "the aesthetic values of sounds," and "comic onomatopoeia" -- words like kaboom, zoom and kerplunk that are most often seen in comic books.

The best part, though, is "selection of weird but rare gems for sound effect and symbolism":
gweek-gwak: the squeaking noise made by someone walking in leather boots or in shoes with rubber soles.

the sound of a car running over a manhole cover.

the whirring sound of birds scurrying into flight.

rattling or clattering sound made by spinning or moving rapidly up or down; also, to make a string vibrate by plucking it.

to flow with a gurgling sound out of a vessel with a narrow aperture.

the sound made in swallowing; also, to make a swallowing sound.

Get your free comics over there

Dara & Co. at Ferret Press are upping the contest ante with plans to give away comics every month this year. This month, they're offering a chance to win the Strangehaven: Arcadia trade paperback, by Gary Spencer Millidge. To enter, tell them in 50 words or less, " What was your first experience with 'independent' comics (if any), and why would you like to read Strangehaven?" Follow the link for more details.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Comics chain gang

Michigan State University's State News checks in on East Lansing's 21st Century Comics & Games, which was bought in late November by The Fantasy Shop Inc. The company owns seven other stores in the St. Louis, Mo., area. Here's owner David Wallace:

"There are no national chains in comics -- it's definitely a small-market business. We'd like to believe we can become the first (national chain)."

What about Mile High? I suppose it depends how you define "national," and "first," for that matter.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Norton acquires Eisner backlist

Publishers Weekly (subscription required) notes that W.W. Norton, which will release Will Eisner's The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in May, has acquired most of his graphic novel backlist from DC Comics.

The deal, struck shortly before Eisner's death, leaves the rights to The Spirit collections with DC. Norton will rerelease the 14 graphic novels it acquired in hardcover and paperback over the next three years. The publisher also plans to package three of the graphic novels into The Contract with God Trilogy, set for November.

'Foul Play!' showcases E.C. artists reports that Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins, on March 1 will release Foul Play! The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C. Comics, which will include a previously unpublished E.C. story titled "Wanted for Murder" that features art by Al Williamson. The 272-page trade paperback will retail for $29.95.

The book features individual chapters on 14 E.C. artists -- including
Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman and Wallace Wood -- each accompanying a reprinted story by that artist.

Ninth Art hands out Lighthouse Awards

Ninth Art announces the winners of its fourth annual Lighthouse Awards. Categories include Best Publisher (DC Comics), Best New Series (We 3) and Talent Deserving Wider Recognition (Becky Cloonan).

Derek Kirk Kim on 'All Things Considered'

The Jan. 8 edition of National Public Radio's All Things Considered features an interview with Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories).

'Appleseed' distributor hopes for 'Akira-type numbers'

The Long Beach, Calif., Press Telegram spotlights the locally based Geneon Entertainment (USA), which is distributing the Appleseed anime that opens Friday nationwide:
"Appleseed" cost a mere $10 million to make, a comparative drop in the bucket to the $70 million "Dreamworks" spent to make "Shrek," Pixar's $90 million on "The Incredibles" and the $200 million Warner Bros. invested in "Polar Express."

"For the cost of an average episode of 'The Simpsons," you could make an entire season of an anime show," said Carl Horn, manga editor for Dark Horse Comics, which published a printed version of "Appleseed."

Talking about Miyazaki

In the Jan. 17 edition of The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot writes about famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. For the magazine's online edition, Talbot discusses Miyazaki's films, influences and distinctive style:
Miyazaki is rather different from a lot of his contemporaries in anime, such as Mamoru Oshii ("Ghost in the Shell") and Katsuhiro Otomo ("Akira" and "Steamboy"), and, certainly, from the makers of shows like "Pokémon," "Digimon," and "Yu-Gi-Oh!" His characters don't have that big-eyed, anime look. His themes are less often science-fictiony or futuristic. Like a lot of the great British fantasy writers—C. S. Lewis or J. K. Rowling or Philip Pullman—he's very dedicated to realism in the service of fantasy, meaning that he makes little details (the way Chihiro kicks her toe into her shoes, or the way Haku the dragon falls when he's wounded) internally coherent and naturalistic. He's not into “Matrix”-like experimentation with the laws of time and space, which a lot of anime is. There's a great deal of human warmth in his films and, in “Totoro” and “Spirited Away” (2001) in particular, some nuanced attention to the psychology of children. At the risk of sounding just kind of besotted, his films are uncommonly beautiful. He has a very painterly sensibility. Finally, unlike a lot of animators, including his good friend John Lasseter, of Pixar, he isn't a fan of computer animation. He really favors the (now) old-fashioned method of hand drawing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Slowly he blogged ...

The scarcity of posts these past couple of days can be attributed to a free-lance project -- I'm editing and designing a 220-something page handbook/workbook -- and a short comics script that I'd planned to have done a couple of weeks ago (curse you, fates).

Somehow, I overlooked Laura Tegan's Colonia contest. I don't know much about the book, other than the cover looks really interesting, but go check out the giveaway. While you're there, read Laura's "Flipping Through Previews."

Before I forget, Sam Costello at Little Terrors is doing some solid horror blogging this week with his daily "Wishlist 2005" entries: On Tuesday, it was "More Manga for Adults"; on Wednesday, "More Danielewski" (House of Leaves); on Thursday, "Less Zombies, Less Vampires"; and today, "More Junji Ito, and then some."

And since we're on the subject, Chris Arrant and Shane Bailey point out Nate Southard's essay about the problem with depicting horror in comics. Specifically, Southard contends "you just can’t scare people with comics":
Why? Because comics are a visual medium, but not an auditory one. It’s next to impossible to frighten someone with a drawn visual. The visual will never be as horrific as what your mind can conjure. What were Lovecraft’s creatures like? They were unnamable creatures from beyond the stars that defied human description. How could an artist ever draw that? Why do think we’ve never seen a good “Call of Cthulhu” film?
I may comment on some of his points this weekend, if I have the time. Although these issues certainly have been addressed before, I'm curious to hear (see?) thoughts from other folks (particularly, say, Sam, Rick and Dorian.)

Spotlight: Peter Kuper

The Cleveland Plain Dealer spotlights illustrator and comic-book artist Peter Kuper, whose works include adaptations of The Metamorphosis, The Jungle and Sticks and Stones. His solo exhibition, "Peter Kuper: Blue Planet," opens tomorrow at Heights Arts in Cleveland Heights.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Reviewing the year-end reviews

At Bookslut, Karin L. Kross scrutinizes Salon and's best comics lists:
Salon's Scott Thill was willing to note that at least one of the Big Two published some worthy material. Granted, The Originals and Son of the Gun were not from the main DC publishing lines (being Vertigo and Humanoids, respectively), but at least he doesn't appear to be quite as obsessed with his hipster credibility as Time's Andrew Arnold. Here it's not "comics" or even "graphic novels", but "comix", and McSweeney's #13 (a worthy feature on any list, let me emphasize), Seth, and Jaime Hernandez are writ large. I'm glad that they included Bone, mind you; the publication of the one-volume anthology was one of the happier events of the last year.

There are two glaring omissions in both lists, however:

1) No women.

2) No superheroes, or anything that could even be construed as superheroes, or hard science fiction.

'Comics 101' looks at 2004 (Part 2)

At Movie Poop Shoot, Scott Tipton wraps up his look at the year in comics, with categories such as "Best Miniseries" (DC: The New Frontier), "Best New Series" (She-Hulk), and "The Comics 101 Book of the Year" (Identity Crisis).

Dreamwave, in one paragraph or less

Tom Spurgeon succinctly summarizes Dreamwave Productions:
Dreamwave was a Toronto company best known as a lead actor in 1980s "nostalgia comics," when comic shops and many customers were convinced they wanted to buy comic books featuring licensed characters from poorly animated afternoon TV shows made 15 years earlier. The company's most successful run was with a Transformers license that moved the company to the top of the direct market in 2002.

Miller returns to the Dark Knight with 'All-Star'

It seems The New York Times' "Arts, Briefly" column has become the new place for DC and Marvel to release big news. In today's column, it's revealed that Frank Miller will write DC's All-Star Batman and Robin series, which will be illustrated by Jim Lee:
Frank Miller, an acclaimed comic book artist and writer who helped revolutionize the comics industry in 1986 with "The Dark Knight Returns," a grim vision of an elderly Bruce Wayne, is taking on Batman again. Mr. Miller has been announced as the writer of "All-Star Batman and Robin," which will be published by DC Comics in July as part of a new group of titles in which top artists and writers will create stories not bound by decades of continuity. (In this case, Batman's partner is Dick Grayson, the first and best-known Robin, not Tim Drake, the third boy in the role.) "All-Star Batman and Robin" will be illustrated by Jim Lee, a fan-favorite artist of Batman and Superman titles. Mr. Miller has another feather in his cap this spring: in April, Disney's Dimension Films will release "Sin City," the live-action version of his violent crime-noir comic book, starring Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro and Jessica Alba.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mainstream coverage of Eisner's passing

With the afternoon news cycle, the mainstream media have begun to report on the death of Will Eisner:

The Chicago Tribune quotes Neil Gaiman, Jules Feiffer and Paul Levitz. "Will Eisner was our Orson Welles," Gaiman told the Tribune. "He came into comics when everybody else saw them as cheap and disposable. Will perceived comics as an art form. Not only that, he had the chops and skill and vision to create comics that showed other people that they were an art form. There's a reason the Oscars of comic books are the Eisners."

The Associated Press has Eisner's obituary, and quotes Denis Kitchen: "
He was absolutely the greatest innovator the industry ever saw."

Update: The New York Times (registration required) carries his obituary.

Tom Spurgeon has collected links to media coverage and personal rembrances.

Connecting Sontag, tsunamis ... and Sue Dibny

In The Washington Post, columnist Jabari Asim ponders the death of Susan Sontag, the conclusion of Identity Crisis, and, well, the human condition:
... As the team struggles to identify and capture a slippery opponent, they are seen grieving, feuding and lying to each other just like ordinary mortals.

In the course of their efforts, a debate emerges between those in favor of striking first against their enemies with overwhelming force -- a shock-and-awe kind of thing -- and those more comfortable with a cautious, coalition-building approach. Green Arrow, who favors the first option, portrays the conflict as a war on terror: "They'd love nothing more than to know where our wives are ... where our children sleep. If they knew where your mother lived, they'd slice her throat, then go out for a beer." Flash, on the other hand, argues for kinder, gentler crime-fighting techniques.

A gifted synthesist like Sontag would know how to draw a profound connection between the mysteries confronted in a comic-book series and the massive, unpredictable mysteries of the real world. As for myself, I can only put down my reading and wonder: One day, 100,000 people are going about their daily tasks. The next day they are gone.

Dreamwave shuts down

Financially troubled Dreamwave Productions apparently has officially closed, shutting down its website and issuing a press release that, Newsarama notes, came from an AOL account rather than the usual channels:

Toronto, Ontario – January 4, 2005 - Dreamwave Productions announced today that after eight years in the comics industry, four of which they were self-published, they will be ceasing operations.

Established in 1996 by brothers Pat and Roger Lee, Dreamwave infused a stagnant comic book market with art and design that effortlessly combined the then dominant “American” art style with the newly emerging Japanese “Manga” art style. Since then, the company had grown to become one of the comic book industry’s premiere publishers, producing a variety of original titles.

In 2002, Dreamwave firmly established itself in the comic industry as a force to be reckoned with when it launched an all-new Transformers comic’s line. The return of the 80’s icons shattered industry sales records, skyrocketing the book to the number one sales slot for an impressive six months. The Toronto-based company’s other successful licenses included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Duel Masters from Japan, as well as properties like Devil May Cry and Mega Man from video game giant Capcom Entertainment.

President of Dreamwave Productions, Pat Lee stated “there are a number of reasons for my decision to close Dreamwave”, citing that “the shrinking comic book market combined with a weak U.S. dollar and unsustainable monetary commitments has finally proven to be too financially taxing.”

As the only Canadian independent comics publisher, Dreamwave Productions has struggled in recent years to maintain its status within a relentlessly shrinking comic book market. Unfortunately, consistently diminishing sales totals over the last several years have taken their toll on the small publisher and made it impossible to continue.

The specific details for closure have not yet been released but Lee assures both fans and clients alike that “although this is the end of Dreamwave as a comics publisher, I will still be penciling a number of new exciting projects in conjunction with other studios in the upcoming years.”

ComicsOne replaced by DrMaster?

Eagle-eyed Heidi MacDonald combs through an otherwise run-of-the-mill press release announcing a distribution deal between Diamond and a company named DrMaster, and discovers this little nugget:
“ComicsOne was one of our best clients and we are elated to welcome its newest incarnation into the fold,” said Diamond Vice President of Purchasing Bill Schanes. “This latest agreement will help us continue making sure these brilliant books from Asia reach the widest American audience possible.”
So, it seems as if manhua and manga publisher ComicsOne has been, in Heidi's words, "folded back into" parent company DrMaster.

Go to The Beat for more details and the full text of the Diamond release.

Update: DrMaster marketing manager Shawn Sanders tells Anime News Network that ComicsOne isn't ceasing operations, and is expected to continue releasing its Kung Fu comics line and some of its older manga. Sanders clarified that DrMaster, ComicsOne's Asian printer -- not owner -- is expected to take over publication of newer manga. However, ComicsOne will not release new titles.

Will Eisner, 1917-2005

Will Eisner passed away Monday following complications of quadruple bypass surgery performed on Dec. 22. He was 87.

Newsarama has his full biography, and an obituary written by Eisner biographer Bob Andleman.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Cartooning school 'geared more towards the auteur'

The Boston Globe spotlights James Sturm and his White River Junction, Vt.-based Center for Cartoon Studies, which will focus on the integration of all aspects of the artform:

"Traditionally the greatest comics, whether Spiegelman's Maus or Herriman's Krazy Kat are generally the result of one person's vision. When you are teaching comics, you can't separate the writing and the drawing. I think other programs try and do that, so you have a course that is called 'comics script-writing.' I don't think we'd ever have a course called 'comics script-writing' because when you are writing with pictures and doing thumbnail drafts, you can't separate those two things."

(Thanks to Christopher Butcher for the heads up.)