Monday, February 28, 2005

Q&A: Range Murata

Anime News Network chats with Last Exile character designer Range Murata, whose Robot anthology will be released in the United States this summer:
Sometimes my original idea turned out better in the end, but other times it wasn’t as good. In my original design for Alex Rowe, everything — the shirt, the pants, the cape — was black. But that’s very difficult to animate. To be honest, some animators are better than others. It’s not a regret, but something I learned was that sometimes I expect things to be of a certain standard, when in reality the animators may have a hard time trying to meet it, so that probably caused some difficulty with my designs.

Random acts of linking

I found a way to wedge in that link about the dearth of gossip columns in Los Angeles, but I have several other items I want to point out -- and most of them aren't comics-related. So, here we go with a collection of links on seemingly random topics:

The New York Times
has an interesting preview of Turner Classic Movies' upcoming series, "Product Placement in the Movies," which examines that relationship between Madison Avenue and Hollywood that stretches back to the 1930s. That's right, product placement didn't begin in 1982 with Reese's Pieces and E.T.

If you squint really hard you can see a connection between this link and comic books (or at least comic-book design): Thanks to Cartoon Brew, I came across this great Japanese website devoted to old jazz album covers. There's a heaping helping of some legendary Blue Note covers, as well as some lesser-known work. If you have an hour to spend, just click around on the site -- there's some really inspiring stuff.

While I'm on a design kick, I'll spotlight the website of designer Mark Simonson, whose movie reviews are very specialized (possibly even more so than the comic reviews at Polite Dissent). Simonson has focused on "the use (and misuse) of period typography in movies." He points out typographical anachronisms such as the use of Helvetica Compressed (1974) for the logo of Hush-Hush in the '50s-era L.A. Confidential. My favorite part, though, is Simonson's lengthy dissection of the use of Futura in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums.

By this point, it's probably obvious that I'm a bit of a design geek. So, I'll seal that by saying I've really been enjoying Design Observer, a wonderful blog dedicated to typography, graphic design, environmental design, and everything in between. Of particular interest are recent posts on "style" and influence/homage/plagiarism, and the decline of rock 'n' roll graphic design.

Hey, it's a comics-related link! Christopher Butcher writes about the mixed reactions to Blue Spring, a book he championed a while back. It's an interesting assessment of how critics respond quite differently to the same work.

And finally, if I weren't so distracted by Hedda Hopper's hat I might've paired this item with the entry about online fandom: Ian Brill envisions a time when publishers cut costs by producing a comic that's "all on-line reaction."

On message boards, everyone can hear you scream

Also at Ninth Art, Paul O'Brien challenges the recent dismissal of online fandom by Joe Quesada and Brian Michael Bendis:
It's easy, and understandably tempting, to dismiss a lot of internet opinion as meaningless ranting. Let's be honest, that's what most of it is. On the other hand, some people seem to have unrealistic expectations from their audience feedback. "Your comic sucks" is not a very constructive comment. It isn't a valid piece of literary criticism, because it lacks reasoning. But it is a valid opinion. The audience react how they react. If they're not entertained, if they find the book boring or incomprehensible... well, those are the facts. When bands get bottled off or comedians die on stage, they don't get to lecture the audience for giving inadequate reasons.

It's not the audience's job to tell you where you went wrong. Nor, for that matter, is the audience obliged to pore over some throwaway superhero crossover in hopes of deciphering a gratuitously oblique plot, whatever some writers seem to think.

O'Brien also touches upon their criticism of rumor monger Rich Johnston, which gives me an excuse to link to this great article in Sunday's New York Times about the surprising absence of printed gossip columns in Los Angeles. (I also get to use the photos of Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, who's wearing a great hat.)

Something wicked this way comes

At Ninth Art, Greg McElhatton gets the jump on everyone with his rundown of comics scheduled to ship in May. This month, he filters Previews through American Idol:
SUPERMAN: THE WRATH OF GOG TP by Chuck Austen and Ivan Reis
MAR05 0390, p75, $14.99

There are so many genuinely good collections that DC Comics could publish this month. Why they've chosen to instead solicit a compendium of quite possibly the worst Superman stories of the past five years is truly beyond me. "For Completists Only" doesn't even begin to sum up the badness here.

IDOL RESULTS: An audition so bad the judges openly mock it for several minutes before the show mercifully cuts to a commercial.

Creator profile: Jeffrey Brown

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin talks with cartoonist Jeffrey Brown about Clumsy, Unlikely, and distancing himself from his "broken-hearted guy" persona:

"I think the broken-hearted aspect is certainly given too much emphasis by many readers. In Clumsy especially, I was entertaining myself, and drawing that book was mostly fun and laughs for me. I guess I'm trying to get away from writing about girls so much, but at the same time, most artists tend to be obsessive and make art about what they're obsessed with, and I guess I'm a little obsessed with girls. Or at least the idea of having a girlfriend. Or maybe it's just my libido."

Quesada: OGNs 'don't make fiscal sense for us'

Update from Saturday: Comic Book Resources has a more extensive quote from Joe Quesada's MegaCon panel, which seems to indicate a significant change in Marvel's plans for the development of original graphic novels.
Original graphic novels are a weird thing. They don't make fiscal sense for us at Marvel. Let's say Joe Straczynski has a 200-page story. We could put it out as a graphic novel and it will only sell limited numbers, but if we have broken it down to singles over six to eight months, we would make a significant amount of money and we put it out as a trade and make money from it again, then as a hardcover and we make money again. Also, not everyone can afford 50 bucks and then the work is not getting exposed, only people with enough bank can get the thing.
In December, Marvel announced its earlier hiring of former Tokyopop editor Mark Paniccia as senior editor, saying he would "spearhead original graphic novel development."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Disney's Hyperion teams with Center for Cartoon Studies

Publishers Weekly (subscription required) reports that comics will have a higher profile at Disney's Hyperion Books For Children, which will team with the Center for Cartoon Studies to produce a series of graphic biographies.

The Vermont-based school will act as a packager and produce the books, using acclaimed creators as well as students recruited from its own program.

Two books a year will be published beginning in fall 2006. The first title will be a biography of Harry Houdini, written by Jason Lutes (Jar of Fools) and James Sturm (The Golem's Mighty Swing), and illustrated by Nick Bertuzzi (The Masochists). The second will be a book about Satchell Paige, written by Sturm and illustrated by an artist to be named.

Disney's popular W.I.T.C.H. franchise will release its first full-length graphic novel this spring. HBFC vice president Brenda Bowen told PW that Abadazad, acquired by Disney in CrossGen's bankruptcy, will be published as an ongoing series, utiilizing fictional diary entries, illustrated prose and traditional comics.

"We think we're expanding the form," Bowen told the magazine.

Monday update: Today's "Arts, Briefly" column of The New York Times also notes the partnership.

Column takes a closer look at minorities in comics

Pop Culture Shock kicks off its monthly column devoted to minorities in comics with a look at the books released during Black History Month, including the Birth of A Nation softcover, Black Panther, Papa Midnite and Ex Machina. And not everything is positive:
S. Akinnuso: ... Accolades notwithstanding, I'm just tired of characters like Bishop and BLADE. How about some personality with that hard edge? I'll take a side of depth with that, too. I guess if the heroes don't fit into that Sam Jackson, Benjamin Cisco, Blade feel, it's tough for white writers to relate to, I guess. Whatever. I hear there's an audience for this.

... Another reason why it's so important for black creators to get the chance to do black characters is because we capture little important details that white artists and writers miss. Black people have three hairstyles at most when 'other' artists are doing the books. We're either bald, horrible looking dreadlocks, or fucked up 80's haircuts. One of the joys of, say, Chriscross, is that he captures the little things. Little hairs on the fadeline of a good haircut. Proper placement of slits and up-to-date apparel, and that sort. Black guys in comics ALWAYS look like they just stepped right out of a time warp...or look like Samuel L. Jackson or Blade. It's hilarious.
The columnists also pause to discuss the much-debated death of Northstar in the pages of Wolverine:
J. Chan: ... Millar warned us that a popular X-character was going to die, and if this was a movie we could probably kiss somebody's black ass goodbye. But this is comics. So of course they should kill... THE ONE OPENLY GAY MAINSTREAM SUPERHERO. RIP Northstar.

S. Akinnuso:
Yeah ... that kinda sucked, too. While none of the writers have done anything with the character since he was 'outed', it was sad to see him go. Millar is such an EXCELLENT writer, though, that at least he made the passing tolerable. I really ought to stop being a hater. Gays are HORRIBLY misrepresented. ...

Q&A: Darwyn Cooke on 'New Frontier,' deconstruction

At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Markisan Naso talks with Darwyn Cooke about DC: The New Frontier, his distaste for "superhero deconstruction," and upcoming projects.

First up, what attracted him to the Silver Age setting of The New Frontier:
Cooke: The lack of continuity that would inhibit a good story. Plus, it allowed me to watch these characters grow into who we know. Those kind of character arcs are always more compelling. The other big pull of this era was the kind of place America was at the time. I distinctly remember it all kinda gelling when I looked at the turbulent social history of the time. With Korea, HUAC, Tailgunner Joe, the Cold War, the civil rights movement and of course the Space Race, I saw an incredibly wonderful opportunity; to place the Silver Age DC heroes against the actual world they were apparently inhabiting, instead of the Leave it to Beaver world of the Silver Age DCU. Once this was established, I realized what the biggest challenge was going to be; I wanted to prove that the world was as shitty then as it is now, but this handful of people was able to acquire great power and use it altruistically. The big challenge was to show that times haven't changed all that much, but our definition of the heroic ideal certainly has.
Then, on to "deconstructing" classic characters:
Cooke: ... If you change the core character-- not the costume, or color, or powers -- if you change the core character, then you are denigrating something you didn't create. Example: taking the free world's most fearless man and best jet pilot and turning him into a drunkard who can't operate a Willy's Jeep for short end attention and sales spikes. If you're going to use that character and you have to violate that core essence, then use another character.

Naso: Why do you think deconstruction is so popular right now?

Cooke: Because its much easier to write, and it is servicing an aging, bored market that wants it.

Creator profile: Tony Harris

The Macon, Ga., Telegraph profiles artist Tony Harris, who once a month invites friends and neighbors to his Lawton Avenue home to serve as photo reference for characters in Ex Machina:
By day, Jimmy Hill is the chief financial officer at Middle Georgia Ambulance.

But he leads somewhat of a double life. Tony uses him as the model for the main character, Mitchell Hundred, in the comic book Ex Machina.

"I didn't have a clue what I was getting into, but it has been fun," he said. "It's kind of weird seeing yourself in a comic book. You have to get used to it."

Happy anniversary, Neilalien

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth! Comics' elder states-blog celebrates five years of linking, obsessing and astral projection. Congratulations, Neil.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

On 'The Incredibles': Who are you calling 'derivative'?

In The Los Angeles Times, author Michael Barrier talks with Brad Bird about The Incredibles, and considers grumblings from some comic-book fans that the Oscar-nominated film bears similarities to The Fantastic Four, Powers and even Watchmen:
Bird says he has never been much of a comic-book reader. "When fans ask if I was influenced by issue 47 of Whoeverman, I have no idea what they're talking about," he said by telephone. "I'm perfectly willing to believe that I'm not the first to come up with certain ideas involving superheroes. If there are similarities, it's simply because the same thoughts that occurred to other people also occurred to me."

... There's irony in the complaints about The Incredibles, because comic books that take superheroes seriously — even comic books as well executed as the ones Bird has been accused of plundering — are highly derivative themselves. They owe everything to Superman, a brutally simple idea that has been reverberating since 1938.

The few cartoonists who have done work of lasting value in the superhero genre — Will Eisner of The Spirit comes immediately to mind, as does Jack Cole of Plastic Man — have adapted its crude mythology to larger purposes. The same is true of Brad Bird. The Incredibles is playful where Watchmen and Powers are grim, and serious where those comic books have nothing to say. Complaints about borrowings are beside the point.
A caption with the article points out that a scene from Powers, shown above, "has a look not unlike that" of an exchange in The Incredibles between Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) and his supervisor.

(Link via Cartoon Brew.)

Mixed signals from Marvel on original graphic novels?

Although Marvel's December press release announcing its hiring of former Tokyopop editor Mark Paniccia clearly stated he would "spearhead original graphic novel development," Comics Continuum's report from MegaCon quotes editor in chief Joe Quesada as saying OGNs don't fit the publisher's "fiscal philosophies." No other details were given in the article.

At the first of his two panels this weekend, Quesada also discussed the delayed Wha... Huh? one-shot, saying an "internal" question had to be answered: "The book pokes fun at everybody. Everybody outside of Marvel was shown the scripts."

Quote of the Week(end)

Yeah, I know Tom Spurgeon already does a Quote of the Week, but I just wanted to point out this great comment by artist Brian Stelfreeze in an interview with The Pulse:

"When you take an existing character and change it slightly to make it more 'edgy,' that’s not creativity, that’s plagiarism. Personally, I don't really care for that type of creator-owned project and our industry is saturated with them."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Does the DC Universe have an SPCA?

That kind of funny stuff might be alright in Atlantis, Aqualad, but it doesn't fly around here.

Actually, freaky Atlantean-gettin'-with-a-green-dolphin-on-wheels figures aside (or is that Beast Boy?), Bandai's 2005 Teen Titans toy line is kind of neat. I may have to buy a few for my nephew.

Yeah, sure, for my nephew ...

Comics Crime Watch: Tokyo

Get Interpol on the phone. It appears as if the comics crime spree may be the work of an international ring. Or not.

Manga News Service reports that a woman suspected of shoplifting 15,000 Yen (about $143 U.S.) worth of manga from a Tokyo bookstore was slapped with criminal charges plus a 230,000 Yen lawsuit from the store owner. However, a settlement was reached for 70,000 Yen.

It's believed to be the first time a bookstore has used a lawsuit to deter shoplifting, which has become a 2.1 million Yen a year problem in Japan.

The woman, an office worker, is accused of stealing at least 38 comic books and selling them at used bookstores.

If we've learned anything at this early stage of the comics-crime epidemic, it's: a.) don't try to resell the stolen comics locally; and b.) swipe a price guide, too, so you'll know how much the hot property is worth. Six hundred bucks for $140,400 worth of comics? Come on!

I kid, I kid.

Retailer profile: Coliseum of Comics' Boyle brothers

The Orlando Sentinel profiles brothers Phil and Brendan Boyle, CEO and general manager of Florida's Coliseum of Comics. (Warning to sensitive readers: The article contains the phrase "ZAP! POW! BOOM!')
"They are businesspeople, top to bottom, front to back," says Frank Dowler, who for 25 years was the Boyle brothers' competitor at Enterprise 1701, an Orlando store he owned for 25 years before selling it and retiring in 2001. "Phil's built himself a little empire in Central Florida, and he runs a tight ship."

Tokyo's Mandarake store 'a complete experience'

In a piece titled "Insiders' guide to the world," Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Deborah Cameron (scroll down) writes about one of her favorite places in Tokyo -- Mandarake, the world's largest manga and anime shop:
Mandarake is such a complete experience that you could walk out of the place wearing the full costume of a favourite character and have in your bag other purchases: the pages from the original script, a story board, some rough sketches from the animators' desk, a cell from the finished film, the DVD, a kit model and a copy of the original comic that started it all.

Comics Crime Watch: Hickory, N.C.

OK, maybe there is a comic-book crime wave after all.

The Hickory, N.C., Daily Record reports that someone broke into Time Tunnel Comics and Toys early yesterday, and made off with $17,000 in comic books. Store owner Edwin Price said the thief took nine boxes containing some 1,800 comics from the 1950s and '60s.

“This was surgically done,” Price told the Daily Record. “He went straight past the computers and the cash, and straight to the collectibles.”

Local police are examining the video-surveillance tape, which shows a man wearing blue jeans, a dark hood and dark gloves. A $1,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thief.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Déjà who?

It appears as if Sean Collins (yes, that Sean Collins) has launched a new blog -- but one that won't tackle politics or the comics industry.

Comics Crime Watch: Council Bluffs, Iowa

First Arizona, now Iowa. Is the country caught in the grip of a comic-book crime wave?

Eh, probably not. But there seem to have been a lot of comics-related thefts lately. The latest, according to the Council Bluffs, Iowa, Daily Nonpareil, has police looking for the two teens (one of whom is shown at right, Dumb Donald-style) who broke into Comic City on Feb. 6 and stole more than $6,000 in merchandise.

Video surveillance shows the two were inside the store for roughly 20 minutes, stealing DVDs, Playstation 2, Gameboy Advance, an LDC television, cameras, RPG cards and two swords, among other items.

"It would have been one thing if they would have just grabbed a few things and left," store owner Chris Kline told the newspaper. "But they took their time."

Farrago (special TV & sci-fi edition!)

I'm hooked on just two TV shows -- Battlestar Galactica and Lost (well, three if you count The Shield, but that doesn't start back up until March 15). Oh, sure, they're just soap operas with special-effects budgets and otherworldly settings. But I don't care. I'm hooked, and I'm apparently not alone.

In this week's Los Angeles City Beat, Mick Farren watches the new Battlestar Galactica and ponders the meaning of the Cylon menace, and the socio-political implications of science fiction and fantasy:
The new Battlestar Galactica was conceived, produced, and aired during the Bush II era. The old show may have debuted under Carter, but it was canceled as the Reagan revolution dawned. It aired in a time of transition, in both society and sci-fi itself. The last great conservative debauch was heralded by no less than the movie Alien, and, in very empty space, the silent screaming started. In that film, humanity had been traversing the cosmos for maybe a century and had failed to find a single alien life form. On the mining vessel Nostromo -- named for a Joseph Conrad plague ship -- Harry Dean Stanton's character smoked dope to maintain his equilibrium, Yaphet Kotto argued union contracts, and, when first contact was finally made, the ET turned out to be bug-nasty, ultra-lethal, and bleeding corrosive acid. We were not alone but suddenly wished we were. (And the alien was only brought on board at the underhanded instigation of a mega-greedy corporate conglomerate. What could be more Reagan era?)
Meanwhile, the San Diego Union-Tribune's science-fiction blog, The Disembodied Brain, wonders whether J.J. Abrams' Lost is losing its way, and moving too far into the realm of the supernatural.

Also of note: Executive producer Ron Moore answers questions about Battlestar Galactica at the show's official blog, and in one of its stranger moments, USA Today whips up an imaginary soundtrack for Lost.

Update: At his Happy Nonsense blog, Marc Mason praises Moore for "wisely jettisoning the campy barnacles" of the original series, and reimagining Galactica as a complex, dark drama.

Okay, that's enough TV-show nerdiness for me for one day.

Comics sales skid, with most top titles seeing decline

ICv2 assesses direct-market sales in January, and finds a 3-percent drop from the same period last year. Comics were down 4 percent, while graphic novels were up 8 percent from a year ago. The retailer website also points out that Marvel held the top 13 spots, "with the top title from any other publisher selling less than 70,000 copies":
Top titles were more down than up, with 16 of the top 25 titles declining compared to the previous issues. At the top of the list, two #2s held the same positions the first issues did, but the numbers, of course, were lower. New Avengers #2 dropped 36% compared to the first issue in December, and Ultimates #2 dropped 22%.
Top 300 comics for January, actual sales
Top 100 graphic novels for January, actual sales

While everyone else seems fixated on how many copies the Top 10 titles move, I'm always fascinated by the sales of the #300 slot.

In January, the cutoff for the Top 300 was a mere 680 copies (Belly Button #2). In December, it was 1,821 (Archie Double Digest #157), in November, 1,505 (Jughead's Double Digest #108), and in October, 867 (reorders of Ultimate Nightmare #2). That's quite a rollercoaster ride for the bottom spot.

Interestingly, the #300 position in January 2004 (Raijin Comics #41) , sold just an estimated 668 copies. What does it mean? Probably nothing at all. It does, however, illustrate the wide gulf between the top of the chart and the bottom.

At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has his own fun with ICv2's sales archives.

Update: At Love Manga, David gets all fancy with a chart highlighting the manga on Diamond's graphic novels list.

Bizarro -- but not TOO bizarre

Surprised that DC Comics would allow indy creators to give its characters the Bizarro World treatment, the Kansas City Star wonders whether the publisher set any limits.

The answer, according to Dan DiDio and Evan Dorkin, is yes. The heroes couldn't be denigrated, and mentions of liquor and the word "pervert" weren't permitted.

A spokesman for the Dibny Estate couldn't be reached at press time.

Burglar caught after selling stolen comics

The Arizona Daily Sun reports that $140,400 worth of stolen vintage comics were recovered on Feb. 1 after the burglar sold them to a used-books store for $600.

"Pretty much every red flag went up when these kids came in with these comic books," Gene Roberdeaux, manager of Bookman's Used Books, Music & Software, told the Daily Sun. "They didn't know what they had in their hands."

The comics, which include the first five issues of Amazing Spider-Man, the first six issue of Incredible Hulk and the first 10 issue of Fantastic Four, were stolen from a Flagstaff home in late January while the owners were on vacation.

An 18-year-old Flagstaff man has been indicted on four counts of second-degree burglary, one count of felony theft and one count of trafficking in stolen property. A second suspect, a juvenile, already has been sentenced on an unrelated matter.

Q&A: 'Atomic King Daidogan' creator Nathan Maurer

Comic Book Bin chats with Nathan Maurer, grand prize winner of Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga 3, and creator of the upcoming Atomic King Daidogan series:

"Because (for the most part) manga doesn't focus so much on obsessively detailed artwork, it's far more effective at conveying movement and expression than, say, most superhero comics. It feels much more like animation put to the page, and I find that very appealing. Eiichiro Oda's One Piece is a perfect example of this. The art is absolutely bursting with energy, and it's a hilariously entertaining story to boot. Awesome."

Profile: 'Star Wars' artist Brian Ching

Star Wars: Expanded Universe interviews Star Wars comic artist Brian Ching (Republic, Obsession, Empire):

"Drawing technical things like the ships and weapons is a real challenge for me. I am so impatient with rulers and ellipse templates that drawing that stuff some times drives me nuts. I much prefer to do everything freehand but I am working on my patience. However it's extremely rewarding drawing a page that I'm really satisfied with. I do a bit of planning with layouts and roughs but sometimes I just don't know how the page will turn out until I am done. Sometimes you're able to be spontaneous and go in a direction where every line you put down seems to work -- it's quite exhilarating. There is no feeling like it when a page comes out okay."

Yeah, yeah, we already know: Superman is a dick

The "Superman Is A Dick" craze has hit the mainstream press, as the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal talks with Mike Miksch about collecting the covers that reveal the Man of Steel's more prickish nature:

"It started when I saw some Lois Lane comics. I started poking through the whole series and made the 'Superman is such a (jerk)' crack in response to two covers, and it sort of just took on a life of its own."

The article also points to I-Mockery, which devotes space to the wackier covers from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen and Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane, and to the far less quirky Golden Age Batman and Suffering Sappho, It's Wonder Woman!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Q&A: 'Teenagers From Mars' writer Rick Spears

At PopImage, Rick Spears discusses Gigantic Graphic Novels, a sequel to Teenagers From Mars, and response to the original book:
We knew the book worked and we were confidant that if we could get it out to the kids and find the right audience we’d be okay. There was one brief moment of doubt right as I paid that first fat printing bill. A sort of uh, "maybe all those publishers that rejected us were right and we’re crazy," but it was too late at that point. But we got the book out and it was mainly good word of mouth that sold the issues. I can’t tell you how many orders I’ve gotten from kids who tell me they lent the books to a friend only to have the “friend” keep/steal them and now the kid needs to order new ones. So, if anything I’d say the response has been better than we ever expected.

Marvel revises ratings system (again)

Newsarama reports that Marvel is revising its comics rating system, dropping somewhat confusing labels such as "PSR" and "PSR+" in favor of those similar to what Tokyopop and other manga publishers use.

The new ratings will be "All Ages," "T+ Suggested For Teen and Up," "Parental Advisory" and "MAX: Explicit Content."

In the definition of the ratings, Marvel emphasizes that, "MAX titles will NOT be sold on the newsstand, and they will NOT be marketed to younger readers."

Farrago (review edition!)

I stopped regularly linking to mainstream media reviews some time ago, but these may be worth noting, if only for the variety and number of books covered:

Toronto's Metro reviews a gaggle of comics: Bone Vol. 1: Out From Boneville, PVP Vol. 2: Reloaded, Bizarro World, Small Gods Vol. 1: Killing Grin, Wet Moon Book 1: Feeble Wanderings, Noble Causes Vol. 3: Distant Relatives, and Seaguy.

Ohio's Columbus Alive considers Marvel's Young Avengers and Runaways, then briefly reviews A Bag of Anteaters, Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, Son of the Gun Book Two: Saint, and Promethea #32. (Thanks, Dara, for the link.)

Telltale's Annable tells more about 'Bone' game

Adventure Gamers gets a little more information about the Bone video game from Telltale Games artistic director (and comics creator) Graham Annable:
Bone is known to have both funny and serious sides to it. How will that be reflected in the game?

We’re working closely with Jeff Smith to make certain that we stay true to the books and keep that great balance of humor and drama in the game. The dialogues that are presented, either interactively or in cutscenes, will be carefully written to support the appropriate themes and mood of Bone.

Q&A: 'Owly' cartoonist Andy Runton

At Silver Bullet Comic Books, Tim O'Shea talks with Andy Runton about Owly:
... I get wonderful reactions from kids and usually their parents. I'm just so overwhelmed that somebody can relate to Owly. These stories are very personal to me so I guess I never really expected it. I did have one funny story. When I was first drawing Owly, my friends told me he needed an accessory ... like a hat or something. Well, in North Carolina I was explaining the different minis that I had for sale to a little five-year-old girl and I told her to check out "the way home because that's where Owly meets his best friend Wormy." And she said, "What's he look like," and I said, "That's him on Owly's head, he's a little worm." And she said, "Oh, I thought that was a funny little hat!" That one stuck with me because it was so unbelievably cute. But every encounter touches me. When people buy the book I do free sketches, and I had an older gentleman specifically ask for a drawing of Wormy and his family. It's little things like that. Or when people bring their copy of Owly that they bought somewhere else, for me to sign and it's really been read. That almost takes my breath away.

Publisher forced to pull legitmate products in China

Via Anime News Network comes word that the publisher of Crayon Shin-chan was forced to remove merchandise from Chinese store shelves because a bootleg manufacturer had registered a trademark for the Chinese equivalent of "Crayohn Shin-chan," then released unlicensed products.

The publisher, Futaba, has requested termination of the false trademark.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

ABC ... It's easy as 1-2-3

DC Comics is offering free PDF downloads of complete issues of some of its America's Best Comics line: Alan Moore's Tom Strong #1, Top Ten #1, and Tomorrow Stories #1. Previews of Top Ten: The Forty-Niners and Top Ten Vol. 2 also are available at the ABC minisite.

Farrago (manga edition!)

Here are a few interesting manga-related tidbits that deserve mention:

Immelda at Love Manga points out that ComicsOne DrMaster has rolled out its new website, which features a breakdown of upcoming releases.

Manga News Service (no permalinks) notes that Japan's Sankei Shimbun places the manga market in the United States at $140 million. The newspaper, whose website appears to be in Japanese only, notes that market has tripled in the past four years.

ShoPro Entertainment's press release announcing its TV, video and merchandising license for Naruto came out last week, so that's not "news." But as I was skimming through the release, this figure jumped out at me: According to ShoPro, the 26 volumes of Naruto have sold nearly 49 million copies in Japan since 2000. I realize there are manga that sell more than Naruto, but the number still floors me.

This may be nothing more than a matter of limited space, but the March edition of Newtype USA doesn't include "Bagged and Boarded," its regularly appearing page devoted to American comics.

Catwoman: Now with fewer crotch shots!

Although I enjoyed Ed Brubaker's writing on Catwoman, I fled screaming from the title once Paul Gulacy came onboard as artist. I can handle only so many crotch shots and anguished faces in my comics. So, of course, I was happy to see news that Pete Woods would be joining Will Pfeifer on the book, signaling an end to the Spandex-porn era.

At Newsarama, Chris Arrant talks with Woods about his interpretation of Catwoman:
I intentionally avoided looking at previous artists on Catwoman so I wouldn't be overly influenced. That said I am a big fan of everything Darwyn has done. The costume redesign was a stroke of genius. He managed to reinvent the character and yet keep her recognizable as Catwoman - quite a feat.

I'm going for a look I think is unique in the history of the book so there's just not that much to pull from.

... One of the problems I have with a lot of comics out there is the way women are portrayed both visually and story wise. The major challenge for me will be to make Selina look attractive and powerful without being exploitive. I want Selina to look believable - like someone you could see in the real world, yet someone who is capable of doing the things Catwoman does. My wife Rebecca does a lot of posing to help ensure I get things right.

Looking at BookScan charts, and seeing a field of manga

At Newsarama, retailer Brian Hibbs provides an exhaustive and eye-opening look at the BookScan report for 2004 (covering book market sales), paying special attention to the gains by manga and the losses by DC and Marvel:
Manga is clearly the category killer. So much so that, were I a publisher, I’d be screaming that BookScan devised a way to separate Manga out from the rest. Nearly 70% of the titles making the BookScan list are Manga! Manga sold (at least, remember all of the caveats) 1.3 million more books in 2004 than 2003.

Optimistic about the future, but still a little bitter

A columnist for Portland State University's Vanguard returns from Emerald City ComicCon feeling optimistic about the future of comic books. But that doesn't mean he's let go of his issues with the current crop of creators -- you know, the ones who are "destroying" the characters he loves:
In 2000, I went to work for Excalibur comics on Hawthorne, and learned to really hate comics. Not just the paper things either - the entire sub-culture that surrounds them. It wasn't a great time for the spandex heroes anyway; a new crop of writers who had no grasp of the heroes they were writing had filtered into the industry. Guys like Judd Winnik (from MTV's "The Real World") were writing comics with the sole agenda of making characters gay. Novelist Greg Rucka found his way into comics and started one of the worst runs on Batman that had ever been done. His current run on Wonder Woman includes some of the worst, most amateur comics published in the last decade. These guys who had been brought into the industry on a good old boys system were destroying the characters that I had loved. I quit working at the store, realizing I couldn't handle working for people who only cared about screwing people out of a buck, and left the hobby behind for good.

'Black Panther' publicity juggernaut continues

Marvel's relaunched Black Panther gets more mainstream coverage, courtesy of the Kansas City Star (registration required). Here's writer Reginald Hudlin:

“A lot of superheroes didn't catch on right away; look at X-Men and Daredevil. When I look at a character like the Black Panther, he is really right for today's times. People are into powerful, rich characters, whether it's Donald Trump or P. Diddy. These are guys who make things happen their way. ... One of the things I love about the Black Panther is he doesn't fight the power. He is the power.”

A sidebar, titled "More black superheroes," features a list of, well, more black superheroes: Luke Cage, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Blade, Storm, Cyborg, Bishop and Spawn.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Adventure Gamers reports that Telltale Games will release a video game based on Jeff Smith's Bone.

On its website, Telltale writes the game will bring "you all the humor, charm and mystery of Jeff Smith's acclaimed comic book series Bone. Fans of the comic and adventure gamers alike will find a new home in the valley, as they explore familiar locations and interact with its residents in this character driven adventure." No release date is given.

The Queens College Knight News (registration required) talks briefly with writer Brian K. Vaughan about Ex Machina.

Asians In Media takes note of Grant Morrison and Philip Bond's Vimanarama.

Creator profile: Ron Garney

The Lowell, Mass., Sun chats with artist Ron Garney (Captain America, JLA) during his weekend appearance at Larry's Wonderful World of Comics Show in Chelmsford:

"It's all modern-day mythology. Superman is just as viable as Achilles. I'm just fascinated by our whole need or instinct for myth. It's part of our makeup. The Greeks believed in many gods to explain life, and we still have gods, just now it's for entertainment."

Dynamic changing between game makers, movie studios

The New York Times (registration required) looks at the changing relationships between movie studios and video-game developers, triggered by the unpredictable performance of licensed games.

Spider-Man 2
sold more than 2.5 million copies in the U.S., while Catwoman sold less than 150,000. The Hulk performed moderately at the box office but fared poorly in the game market, yet The Chronicles of Riddick Xbox game sold fairly well despite the film being a theatrical disappointment.
Projects that command big advances now almost always have a track record in another medium, such as comic books or Tom Clancy novels, as well as the potential for sequels. Electronic Arts has turned the James Bond franchise into several top-selling games not directly based on individual films.

"Because of the cost of making the games, the more trump cards you have, the better you sleep at night," said Avi Arad, chief executive of Marvel Studios, which makes movies based on the company's comic book characters. "We are the suppliers of the trump cards."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Yes, yes, the kids love the anime and the manga

Agence France-Presse attends Katsucon 11 in Arlington, Va., and discovers that, yes, the previous 987 articles are true: American kids love manga and anime.

Although by this time even my parents know what manga and anime are, AFP does its darnedest to explain them:
Anime art is characterized by heroes with oversized eyes and small noses, and is drawn with sharper lines and less detail than Western animation.

Japanese comic books, or mangas, are drawn in the anime style. The word however is commonly used as shorthand for animated TV series and movies.

The vast anime universe encompasses everything from Yu-Gi-Oh! trading cards to Hello Kitty! paraphernalia to Gundam robots and Dragonball Z superheroes. There are also hyper-cool detectives, futuristic bounty hunters, lots of teen romance, and fantastical samurai adventures.

Anime story lines are more complex than Western cartoons. They often cover mature themes and routinely include nudity and violence. And unlike in US cartoons, people die in anime shows.

Why aren't there more minorities in comics?

With the relaunch of Marvel's Black Panther and the release of Fantagraphics' biographical King timed to coincide with Black History Month, The Seattle Times asks the age-old question, "Why haven't there been more comics by and about minorities?"

The answer is fairly straightforward, according to Fantagraphics' Gary Groth: "It's a real white-bread industry."
One possible reason why there haven't been more minorities in comics is obvious. Groth figures: "The comic reading public is probably mostly white, middle class." As for mainstream comics and superheroes, Groth says, "The experience is so bland and generic and massified, most of the black people who work in comics, you couldn't tell the difference in their work if they're white or black."
DC's Dan DiDio doesn't dispute that comics is a white-bread industry, but he contends that "a lot of people are working hard to change that as we speak":
"We're getting a lot more diverse characters, but also a lot more diversity of creators in the business. Each one of our super teams has an African-American character in it. Green Lantern in the 'Justice League' cartoon is John Stewart [not the white Hal Jordan of the comics]. Firestorm has been relaunched as new black character."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

'... And I know what's happening'

Yes, I believe I'll be buying a Superman comic for the first time since roughly 1985.

On a vaguely related note, Newsarama has coverage from the DCU panel at WonderCon, at which Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman was briefly mentioned.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Mercury, rising

The Oregonian pays a visit to Portland's Mercury Studios, and chats with members David Hahn, Drew Johnson, Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker:
It's a colorful, riotous place that seems a bit like a comic book universe itself, where shelves groan beneath art reference books and model cars and stuffed piranhas, the stereo blares "Eaten by the Monster of Love," and on a recent afternoon, one member was scanning photographs of his own face being ground into a carpet, so that he would have a photo reference for the latest fight scene he needed to draw.

And yet, this quirky little studio occupies an important place in the multimillion-dollar comics industry: One editor once joked that if all Mercury's members were to fall sick, at least one major comic-book company would be forced to shut down.

DMP announces 'girls-only sanctuary,' new titles

Digital Manga Publishing has redesigned its main website, and launched its "girls-only sanctuary" at

Along with the website news comes word of upcoming books: Robot Vol. 1, a full-color anthology compiled and edited by Range Murata, character designer for Last Exile (a personal favorite) and Blue Submarine No. 6; yaoi series Alone In My King's Harem; and the instructional Let's Draw Manga -- Fantasy.

A press release also confirmed the October publication of the yaoi Our Kingdom.

'Fruits Basket' debuts on USA Today's Top 150

Tokyopop's Fruits Basket Vol. 7 cracked USA Today's list of Top 150 Best Sellers, debuting at a respectable No. 93. As the newspaper explains, the list is based on computer analysis of last week's sales nationwide, drawn from about 4,700 booksellers.

Meanwhile, ICv2 has BookScan's list of best-selling graphic novels for the week ending Feb. 13. Immelda at Love Manga takes a closer look at those rankings.

'Fullmetal' racket

ICv2 reports that in addition to debuting the manga series in May, Viz plans to roll out novelizations and an art book based on the insanely popular Fullmetal Alchemist.

Himoru Arakawa's manga originally was published in the Shonen Gangan magazine in 2000, and spawned the anime series that now airs in the United States as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block. FUNimation released the first DVD, The Curse, in the U.S. last month.

The manga will be rated "T" for teen, and have a $9.95 cover price.

The first novelization is set for an October release, followed by the full-color art book in November.

More on 'Honey Room' obscenity case (maybe)

At The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has an admirable summary of a confusing item from Manga News Service apparently updating the obscenity case involving Honey Room publisher Montonori Kishi of Shobunkan. I couldn't make heads or tails of the MNS entry, either, but this certainly isn't the first time.

'No Towers' as required reading proves divisive

Art Spiegelman, whose In The Shadow Of No Towers is required reading for new students at Lafayette College, will speak this fall at the school's freshman orientation. Needless to say, response is a little mixed:
Patrick Cartier Jr., who lost his brother in the World Trade Center, said he is disgusted by the book.

Cartier, of Palmer Township, said he has not read the book but has viewed some images from it online. He said the book is not a stepping point for a discussion; rather, it pushes an agenda by equating Bush to the terrorists.

"Why do we have college students studying comic books when they should be studying more important things, like actual factual history?" said Cartier, an outspoken Bush supporter.

Creator profile: T.J. May and Jason May

The Boston Herald spotlights brothers T.J. May and Jason May, who formed SUMM Publications to release their horror comic, Ill Conceived:

"Don't be doing it because you want to make a lot of money. Do it because you have to do it, because you love it and have a passion for it. "

Giordano to appear at S.C. Book Festival

South Carolina's The State points out that Dick Giordano will be among the authors at this weekend's S.C. Book Festival, and provides a brief profile:
A little about him: Giordano is a comic god. He started in the industry in 1951, moving through all the big comic publishers (DC, Marvel, and on and on). He was artist for DC’s Batman series in the 1970s and was vice president of DC, guiding groundbreaking comics such as Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and “Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” in the 1980s.

How many books:
Hard to count

Latest book:
He’s working on an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” with collaborator Roy Thomas.

What you won’t know from the book jacket:
“I have illustrated a comic book-style adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula,’ which Roy and I started 30 years ago in episodic form. Our publisher pulled the plug on us way before we were finished, and we tried for a good deal of the time since to find another publisher to complete our faithful adaptation, with no success. Last year, ironically, the original publisher called and said he was now ready to complete the project."

UK comic-store chain hires fired blogger

The Edinburgh Evening News reports that Joe Gordon, an employee fired by Waterstone's for occasionally mentioning bad work days on his blog, has been hired by Forbidden Planet to deal with the comic-book chain's online business. As part of his new job, he'll maintain a weblog to update customers on company business. Here's Forbidden Planet co-founder Kenny Penman:

"He’s used to blogging, so he should be good at it.

"It’s a good way of showing people what goes on in your business. It will be a sort of daily diary talking about what is happening in Forbidden Planet.

"Instead of doing less blogging, he’ll be doing more, but I don’t think he’ll be calling us the same kinds of things he called people at Waterstone’s."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cellar Door's DIY review column

Newly launched Cellar Door Publishing apparently is cutting out the middle man: It's starting its own review column:
"Competition exists in every industry," states [publisher Jade] Dodge. "But this industry is unique in its strong sense of community and support. The review column focuses on books our reviewers feel have been overlooked. All reviews are positive, making them more like recommendations than reviews."

In addition to books published through Cellar Door, the column will also feature books published by competing companies.

"Some people might view this as an odd business practice," states Dodge," but to me it was just common sense. Having this element of cohesiveness between publishing companies can only help to strengthen the industry, which benefits everyone."
Ed, are you paying attention?

'Fallen Angel': NOT The End?

Although DC Comics has canceled Fallen Angel with May's Issue 20, writer Peter David suggests on his blog that we've not seen the last of Bête Noire:
As anyone who has read the DC solicits knows, issue #20 is slated to be the last one for DC. At this point, DC has no plans to do trade collections of the remaining books in the run.

We are [not], however, quite dead yet.

Watch this space for further updates.

Misty, water-colored memories of 'Batman: Hush'

It's far too soon for a Batman: Hush retrospective, you say? Not so, says, which looks back at DC Comics' Big Event of 2003. Included are reviews of the two collected volumes, an annotated guide, and an interview with writer Jeph Loeb:
UGO: A few years ago, there was a television series called Murder One, in which a mystery was spread over an entire season. Though I can't be sure, I'll go to my grave convinced the writers changed their minds about who they would have the killer turn out to be in mid-season. This may be asking you to give away some writing secrets, but with an epic like Hush, spread over twelve months, did it unfold exactly as planned from day one? Or did you tweak it as it went?

A lot of it I couldn't tweak, because the pages were drawn, inked and lettered. For me, that's fairly frustrating because I like to see where the story goes with the reader and find new ways to explore endings. But, despite anyone's supposition, the end of Hush was done before we started. It's in the original proposal. The same holds true for Long Halloween and Dark Victory. Whenever anybody takes on a yearlong story, you run the risk that the readership is going to abandon you, but you can't stop! I trusted Jim and he trusted me. We're thrilled it worked out as well as it did.

Animerica to shift to convention distribution

ICv2 has word that Viz's 13-year-old anime and manga monthly, Animerica, will end its run as a newsstand, direct market and subscription magazine with its June issue, and will be made available only at anime conventions.

The retailer website notes that the presumably free distribution at conventions, which begins in July with Anime Expo, will allow Viz to make the magazine available "to a larger fan audience, while keeping the majority of its current readers, who are already attending at least one major anime convention anyway."

Creator profile: Christina Z.

GameSpy chats with BloodRayne: Seeds of Sin writer Christina Z.:
GameSpy: Is Majesco giving you free reign when it comes to dealing with its most popular character, or is it pretty strict about what you can and can't do with her?

Z: They're very open … except for the water, heh heh. I loved the idea of using a limitation and pushing the envelope of it. I love pushing them envelopes you see. Sony knows she's a character that has many possibilities, so it's letting me create some dimension here. Thank you Majesco!

Creator profile: Robert Kirkman

The Lexington, Ky., Herald-Leader profiles Invincible and The Walking Dead writer -- and local guy -- Robert Kirkman:
Kirkman, 26, is a hot property in this small, colorful world. (Fewer than 100,000 people -- mostly guys in their 20s and 30s -- read most comics, but they're a passionate bunch.) He has been interviewed on various Web sites, nominated for industry awards and given ovations at comics conventions.

"Man, the conventions are an experience," said Kirkman, who is tall and stocky, with shaggy, brown hair and a beard. "I don't want to say I'm like a movie star, but -- you know, you've got thousands of people there. They want my autograph, they ask me questions about my next project while I'm standing at the urinal.

"Then I come home," he adds, grinning, "and I'm nobody. It's great."

Arana's sooo last month; let's talk Black Panther!

It appears as if Black Panther has replaced Arana as the darling of the mainstream media -- at least this month. I wonder whether the increased attention will mean increased sales this time? That's a rhetorical question.

Anyway, the Philadelphia Daily News asks Reginald Hudlin and Joe Quesada the usual questions. But here's the funny part:

"Hudlin's first issue of Black Panther, released on Feb. 2, has already sold out in most of the country. Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada said the book has been such an overwhelming success that Marvel may take the unusual step of doing second and third printings."

In a sidebar, the newspaper runs down some of the Marvel Universe characters that will pop up during Hudlin's run: Luke Cage, Storm, Photon, Brother Voodoo (who's described as being in "comic-book limbo," despite appearing in Gambit) and Blade.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

'Sin City' movie site goes live

Well, it does.

I'm just full of movie tidbits today.

Um ... 'don't panic,' or something?

I'm one of approximately 17 people who has never read Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so you'll forgive me if I'm not squealing with antcipation. But most everyone else seems excited. Anyway, today has some sort of exclusive "world premiere trailer" for the movie, which opens April 29.

It stars Martin Freeman -- Tim Canterbury from The Office -- so that's kind of neat.

James Jean's cover story, Part 2

At Newsarama, Chris Arrant continues his interview with artist extraordinaire James Jean:

"So many people have turned to comics as a means of self-expression, rather than a form of entertainment. Art students and illustrators are doing comics and bringing exciting new energy to the medium. The accessibility of art and design online has increased the culture's visual acuity to an insane degree, and I'm starting to see work from 17 year-old cartoonists that are mature beyond their time."

DC at the movies: 'We're stepping back up to the plate'

Related to this item, but not really fitting with the "Hell" headline, USA Today takes a look at DC Comics' bid for a box-office comeback with this Constantine and Batman Begins, and next year's Superman Returns and The Flash. Let's not speak of Catwoman.

Here's publisher Paul Levitz:

"I like to think of it as the rise, the rest and the rise again of DC Comics. We're stepping back up to the plate."

'Why can't the Middle East have its own heroes?'

A few months behind the curve, The Washington Post discovers AK Comics' line of Middle Eastern superheroes. Here's managing director Marwan Nashar:

"I grew up reading Spider-Man and loved him. But I couldn't get into Peter Parker. I mean, he lived in New York. I always wondered why there weren't any Arabs leaping off buildings."

The (superhero) hordes of Hell

In a sidebar to the 935th story about Keanu Reeves and Constantine, the New York Daily News (scroll down) offers a roll call, of sorts, of Hell's "superhero" populace: Constantine, Hellboy, Spawn, Ghost Rider and Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan.

Sadly, no Etrigan the Demon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

James Jean's cover story

Have I mentioned lately how much I love James Jean? No? Then let Newsarama count the ways:

"I have to read the script, which makes my job easier and the covers more interesting. If all I get is a short plot, then obviously the story I'm able to tell with one picture is limited, and I'm forced to reach into a shallow sack of tricks to make the cover 'pop'. But the key to merging story and art is composition. There's a hierarchy to its construction, where you have a big idea that spirals outward into moments of incidence."

Countdown to May (Where Have All the Spinoffs Gone?)

After two or three months of impressing me, DC Comics finally hits a bit of a flat note with its May solicitations. Worth pointing out, for good or bad:

DC rolls out the big-ticket $39.99 "oversized, coffee-table extravaganza" Batman: Cover to Cover.

What? There's a Batman movie coming out? You jest!

Speaking of which, DC wisely gives the digest treatment to the cartoon-based The Batman Strikes! Vol. 1 and Justice League Unlimited Vol. 1. Now if they'll only get the big book-market push.

And before we leave the Batman Begins feeding frenzy, I have to point out Year One: Batman/Scarecrow #1, only because it features art by Sean Murphy. Last year, Ryan Sook was my penciling fixation; in 2005, I think it'll be Sean Murphy.

What do you do to bolster falling sales? Why, you bring in Metamorpho for a cameo, of course!

Curiously, Will Pfeifer is no longer listed as co-writer on Blood of the Demon.

Fallen Angel ends with Issue 20.

Villains United debuts, spinning off of DC Countdown which, in turn, spun off of Identity Crisis. I would give anything if this were a throwback to the old Secret Society of Super-Villains, but I just know it's all going to be all doom and gloom. "Expose the new face of evil"? Yeah, doom and gloom ...

Oh, and also spinning out of DC Countdown and Adam Strange comes The Rann/Thanagar War. What I wouldn't give for a bunch of Martians to swoop in and mop up the floor with them. What? All the Martians are dead, except for J'onn J'onzz? How about zombie Martians, then? I would so buy that miniseries. But this one? No.

And don't forget the second issues of Day of Vengeance and The OMAC Project, which also -- ahhh, nevermind.

Olympus, by Geoff Johns and Kris Grimminger, looks interesting. More importantly, it appears to have no ties to DC Countdown.

At Vertigo, the usual suspects plug along, with striking covers by Dave Johnson, Frank Quitely, Jock and, of course, James Jean. The Losers also gets its third trade.

At WildStorm, Devin Grayson and Brian Stelfreeze unveil Matador, which pits a police detective against a serial killer. I enjoy reading Grayson discuss her work, but I've never been impressed with her actual writing. Still, I'll check this out.

Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III debut an ongoing bimonthly series, Desolation Jones. I'll take this for a spin, too.

And, finally, Sleeper Season Two comes to a close.

Definitive runs and inconclusive endings

In this week's "Basement Tapes," Joe Casey and Matt Fraction tackle "definitive runs," and the industry's problem with Endings:

Casey: "Y'know, now that I think about it -- before Miller and Moore, you could have a definitive run on something that didn't exactly wrap up in a blaze of glory. Certainly, Lee & Kirby's last issue of Fantastic Four wasn't some spectacular finale to their run. Englehart's Marvel work in the '70s tended to get cut off prematurely or fall victim to some editorial bullshit, but his collective work on Captain America, Dr. Strange and Avengers are all considered classics.

"But Miller and Moore changed all that. Those guys, and others who were of their mindset, wanted the satisfaction of an ending to their stories. But these days... I don't see that kind of passion for providing endings. Maybe because, collectively as an industry, we're so bad at it that we've just given up on it as a skill worth possessing...? Maybe publishers don't want those kinds of endings for fear of killing interest in the franchise. If that's the case, God help us all, because I don't think anything ever did more good for the Batman franchise than Dark Knight and Year One�"

Fraction: "I've never understood, honestly, the compulsion to keep trotting a character out if nobody is really saying anything with it. I mean, it devalues the brand more to dilute it with crap than to rotate it in and out of circulation -- look at the Batman franchise of movies, I mean, or Star Trek or James Bond, you know? Like, imagine if there was a new James Bond movie every month, you know? Who would want to go see it? Or "Star Trek," which has just been put out to pasture. Again.

"It makes more sense to me that Marvel, after something like Born Again happened, put Daredevil away for a little while. Let people sit with Born Again and be satisfied and give it a year or two and start to build anticipation and bring him back when the title, character, franchise, and brand-- all four separate things, in my mind-- are rested and ready. It's not as though the comics world will forget Daredevil if Marvel retires the title and character for a year or two when Bendis is done with him, you know? Comics are a culture in which people remember how many circles were on the front of Thor's chest in Avengers #17 vs. Avengers #63.

"Which is all a long way of saying that the perpetual cycle of publishing makes the definitive run and a meaningful and coherent ending irrelevant."

Proof of manga and anime's grip on Middle America

From the "corrections and clarifications" column of today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

"An illustration of a character with a story on Page E1 Saturday about the popularity of manga books incorrectly identified the gender of the character. Inu Yasha is male."

Science, meet comics; comics, meet science

National Public Radio's Morning Edition looks at the intersection of science and comic books with Jim Ottaviani (Suspended In Language), Jay Hosler (Suspended In Language, Clan Apis) and publisher Jack Chick. The NPR site also features Hosler's "Killer Bee" and an excerpt of Ottaviani's "Full Circle."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Everybody else is doing it, so why can't I?

This meme has been making the rounds, thanks to Fred Hembeck and Alan David Doane, so I figured I'd take a stab at it. So, for Valentine's Day, I give you -- in no particular order -- "100 Things I Love About Comics":
  1. Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland
  2. “Discovering” a great new book
  3. Neil Gaiman
  4. Who’s Who and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Deluxe Edition)
  5. Manga sound effects (“huru huru,” “glommmmmmmm,” “poit”)
  6. David Michelinie and George Perez’s run on The Avengers
  7. Small Press Expo
  8. Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld
  9. The old Comics Feature magazine
  10. Grant Morrison
  11. Airboy
  12. Fans who have a near-religious devotion to esoteric characters
  13. Planetes
  14. Finding tattered, goofy and obscure ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s comics at flea markets
  15. Roy Raymond, TV Detective
  16. Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil
  17. Ted Naifeh
  18. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew
  19. Alex Raymond
  20. How Loathsome
  21. Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
  22. Jack Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown
  23. Debra Winger as Drusilla/Wonder Girl
  24. The Kindaichi Case Files
  25. Atari Force
  26. The Marvel Family (except for Uncle Marvel; I hate him)
  27. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  28. Jill Thompson
  29. Patsy Walker’s bizarre evolution from ’40s funny girl to ’50s romance queen to ’70s Daughter-in-Law of Satan
  30. Andi Watson
  31. Dr. Strange
  32. Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron and The Invaders
  33. Sandman Mystery Theater
  34. The Sea Devils
  35. James Jean
  36. The roll calls from the old JSA/JLA team-ups
  37. Jo Chen
  38. The enthusiasm and thoroughness of Scott Tipton’s “Comics 101”
  39. Darkseid and Galactus, cosmic badasses
  40. Hiroyuki Asada
  41. Monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service
  42. James Robinson and Tony Harris’ Starman
  43. Bob Haney
  44. Annotation websites
  45. Mike Wieringo’s sketch blog
  46. The Demon (the character, if not always the comics)
  47. Thriller, by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden
  48. Steven Grant's "Permanent Damage"
  49. John Byrne’s Alpha Flight, oddly enough
  50. Jock's covers
  51. Eric Shanower’s passion for The Age of Bronze
  52. Prez Rickard
  53. Bill Sienkiewicz’s 14-issue run on The New Mutants
  54. Jeff Parker
  55. J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars
  56. Carla Speed-McNiel
  57. DC’s multiple Earths
  58. Scanilation sites
  59. Jessa Crispin
  60. Catwoman, as depicted by Ed Brubaker, Darwyn Cooke, Cameron Stewart, Brad Rader, Javier Pulido and Guy Davis
  61. The old Shazam! and Isis TV shows (“Oh Elders, fleet and strong and wise, appear before my seeking eyes!”)
  62. Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans
  63. Reading reviews of titles I’d never actually buy
  64. Gail Simone
  65. Spinner racks
  66. The Legion of Super-Heroes, with or without the continuity baggage
  67. Neptune Perkins
  68. Dark Horse Presents
  69. Dick Giordano’s “Meanwhile …” column
  70. DC’s short-lived 1973 series, Champion Sports, which featured stories like “Horse Story: What Can You Say About A Three-Year-Old Stallion That Has To Die?”
  71. Steve Lieber
  72. Agatha Harkness, particularly when she’s playing nanny
  73. Forced and incomprehensible acronyms like S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R.
  74. Eduardo Risso’s page layouts
  75. Anthologies
  76. Creators who speak intelligently and passionately about their work (even if I don’t particularly like their work)
  77. Western comics from the 1960s and ’70s
  78. The Duke of Oil
  79. Letters pages
  80. Reading comics to my nephew
  81. Blue Devil
  82. Louise Simonson
  83. No-prizes
  84. Detective Comics #455 (Batman in “Heart of a Vampire,” by Elliot S! Maggin and Mike Grell, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl in “Battle of the Backfiring Weapons,” by E. Nelson Bridwell and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez)
  85. Annuals
  86. Mike Mignola
  87. 100 Bullets
  88. Golden Age sidekicks
  89. Digest-sized collections
  90. Oni Press
  91. The Metal Men
  92. Paul Smith
  93. Editor’s notes
  94. The Brave & The Bold
  95. C.C. Beck
  96. Isaac Christians
  97. Night Force
  98. Script books
  99. Jeff Smith
  100. Occasionally seeing my own stories published

It's trying to communicate with us!

Via Cartoon Brew, has Surface to Air's crop circle that Sanrio commissioned to celebrate Hello Kitty's 30th anniversary.

'Shojo Beat': a little something for everyone

In this week's "Flipped," David Welsh takes a closer look at Viz's newly announced Shojo Beat magazine:
... Shojo Beat skews a bit older than Shonen Jump with a T+ (older teens) rating in comparison to Jump's T (teens). Beat also has a wider range of subject matter than Jump's collection of young men with a dream.

Kaze Hikaru
(by Taeko Watanabe) features gender-bending period swordplay. Absolute Boyfriend is girl-meets-robot romantic comedy. Crimson Hero (Mitsuba Takanashi) holds up Bend It Like Beckham as an inspiration, with a budding volleyball star facing resistance from her ultra-traditional family. NANA tracks the urban adventures (personal, professional, and sartorial) of two different women with the same name. Godchild follows the gothic doings of a Victorian youth surrounded by mystery and murder. In Baby & Me (Marimo Ragawa), a young man faces the heavy burden of helping raise his toddler brother after the death of their mother.

So in 200-300 monthly pages, readers will have action, comedy, sports, fashion, sleuthing, and soap opera. There's a mix of male and female protagonists, periods, and settings. That's a pretty impressive sampling of the kind of stories manga offers in general, beyond just the shojo sub-genre.