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Anything That’s Here

Today on the site, the irreplaceable Ryan Holmberg returns with a new installment of his What Was Alternative Manga? column. This time, he publishes a newly translated 1969 interview between manga legend Tsuge Tadao and an editor from Garo.


TS: The first story you published in Garo was “Up on the hill, Vincent van Gogh...” (“Oka no ue de, Vincento van Gohho,” December 1968). Was that something you had wanted to draw from before?

TT: The original plan was to write it as a prose novel. I did some research on Van Gogh and wrote things up as a proper text, but then I thought it’d be interesting as a comic, so I drew that. It was something I wanted to draw regardless...

TS: Was the prose version the same as how the manga turned out?

TT: No, they were totally different.

TS: For you, is there any difference in writing something as prose versus drawing it as a comic?

TT: Not really.

TS: When I first saw that work [Takano was managing editor at Garo at the time], I thought about how much it read like a novel. It also felt like someone’s “final work,” and I remember that making me shudder. Like, once an artist goes this far, what else is there left for him to do? Even if he had other stories in him, could he draw them?

TT: That story was something I was happy working on a little at a time. If Garo had rejected it, that would have been fine with me too. I had a full-time job at a company, so I worked on it slowly after coming home from work. That sure was a strange way of working.

TS: It’s not like the young man in the story is super serious or anything, and the work also has its humorous moments. However, precisely because of that, it gives the story this heavy crushing feeling. You know in the last scene where he lights a cigarette? It’s too quiet. The emptiness consumes everything... In pursuing Van Gogh, it’s like he said everything he could about himself, like it was all out in the open. That’s why it felt like a “final work.”

TT: A friend of mine who is a schoolteacher read that story and said, “Damn, that’s bleak.” I took it as a compliment.

Of course, we also have Day Five of the Cartoonist's Diary of Fiona Smyth. She rounds out the week with a trip to two-floor Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

Finally, we have Tegan O'Neil's review of the expanded reprint of Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage.

As a genre travel narratives are both necessary and problematic in equal measure. Necessary because human beings need to understand one another, and anything that bridges those gaps is worthy of celebration. Problematic because there are so many ways to communicate difference in ways that hinder rather than enable understanding. For centuries books very similar to Thompson’s Carnet were able to define the parameters of the non-English speaking world more or less arbitrarily based on poor and often malicious transliterations of cultural practices in one part of the world to another part of the world.

Thompson is aware of this, to the extent that thinking through these problems also became central to Habibi, the book that followed Carnet and inherited from the earlier volume Thompson’s interest in North African culture and design. There’s a Catch-22 here and it’s central to the book and most books like it: young men who go overseas to gain a bit of maturity from a more worldly perspective sometimes learn that real maturity only begins with the insight that other peoples’ countries weren’t created to be backdrops for the musings of sensitive young men.


Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. The Paris Review excerpts Ed Park's introduction to a new collection of the comics of Chris Reynolds.

Eight decades after the RMS Mauretania’s maiden voyage, Chris Reynolds, a Welsh-born artist in his mid twenties, embarked on what would be his life’s work, a beguiling series of loosely connected stories that he called Mauretania Comics. The work had nothing to do with that remote place or with seafaring vessels of yore, and the name was just one of its many elusive mysteries. The stories were and are easy to consume but tantalizingly difficult to characterize. Droll dialogue gives way to utterly melancholy voiceover; locales like “The Lighted Cities” and “Mouth City” are mapped on the same imaginative terrain as some version of England, one where a blasted figure out of J. G. Ballard might run across Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. Monitor, Mauretania’s signature character, always dons a helmet with a striplike visor masking his eyes. (Today he wouldn’t look so out of place: it resembles nothing so much as a virtual-reality headpiece.) The architecture alone is worth the trip: lipstick-shaped temples of music, a house like a geodesic dome crossed with a web made by a spider on acid.

At The Smart Set, Chris Mautner writes about the work of Yvan Alagbé.

The cover of Yellow Negroes and other Imaginary Creatures by Yvan Alagbé shows the profile of a young African man with his eyes closed. A pair of light-skinned hands encircles his neck. On the back cover, we see an older, seemingly Caucasian man, balding and with a mustache, his mouth ajar. A pair of dark-skinned hands lies on the man’s shoulders (perhaps belonging to the figure on the front) suggestively seeming to also be inching their way up to the neck.

These two men are Alain and Mario, respectively, the two central figures in the book’s title story. This pair of images might suggest that within lies an overly simplistic story of racial animus, but “Yellow Negroes” (or “Negres Jaunes” in French) is far more complex and haunting than that fleeting impression would suggest. The story has long been regarded as a masterwork in Europe, one of the seminal French comics of the 1990s. Now it’s available in English for the first time, and, despite the considerable span of years and cultures, it — along with the other stories in this slim volume — remains as trenchant and relevant as when it was first published.

Aline Kominsky-Crumb has begun the North American promotional tour for the new edition of Love That Bunch, and has interviews everywhere, including Publishers Weekly, the Montreal Gazette, and SF Weekly. Here's a bit from Leela Corman's talk with her in PW:

“My grandfather was a great raconteur, and when I was a kid, he took me to see Jackie Mason and Joey Bishop and Henny Youngman and Don Rickles and everybody, and that's why I ended up being a cartoonist. I learned that sense of humor from them, and then from him. I was steeped in it, and I never realized what a gift it was until I sat down to try and tell my story, and all of that humor was in there.”

Kominsky-Crumb recently encountered one of her early inspirations, the veteran Jewish standup comedian Jackie Mason, on a Miami street. Starstruck, she summoned up the courage to approach him and express her appreciation of his career: “Jackie Mason, I can't believe you're just here standing here on Lincoln Road!” Mason's reply: “What, I should be lying down?

Finally, the Comics Alternative podcast talks to Hazel Newlevant.

 

Reassessment of Virtuosity

Today at the Journal we've got that TCJ Review for you, on Hope Larson's All Summer Long. It's by Rich Barrett, who is no stranger to Larson's work:

Larson is a contemporary of Raina Telgemeier – to whom all middle grade level authors are inevitably compared – in that both came from the world of webcomics in the early 2000s, each having influenced a generation of young comic creators who are just entering the industry now. Where Telgemeier’s highly relatable memoir comics are as mainstream as a Taylor Swift song, Larson has always been a little more like, say, Neko Case in comparison: a little more challenging, a little more artistic. She started out making comics like Salamander Dream and Gray Horses that showed a distinct style of fanciful drawings with hand-drawn sound effects and lighter-than-air word balloons with tails that would twist into curly q’s as they pointed towards a character’s mouth. After her Eisner Award winning adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, Larson took some time off to direct (a music video and a small, independent film called Bitter Orange) and to focus on collaborating with other artists and writing a wider variety of books.

And to celebrate the reunion of Ryan Heshka and the color pink, Nobrow has provided TCJ readers with an excerpt from their upcoming Mean Girls Club: Pink DawnShield your eyes in such a way that you can still see with them, friend.

But it wouldn't be the first week of May if we weren't talking about Fiona Smyth, who is here today with Day Four of her cartooning tour of duty. Today, she's not about to let illness stand in the way of her creativity. 

Elsewhere, a teaser trailer was posted for one of the most anticipated graphic novels of all time, and if you think i'm being hyperbolic for effect, i'm not. I do think it's weird they let Kevin teach college classes when he doesn't know what "teaser trailer" means.

And recently, cartoonist Luke Healy stopped by Pipedream Comics to talk about his upcoming graphic novel with Avery Hill. 

In preparation for Michel Fiffe's upcoming run on Bloodstrike, the cartoonist has been generous enough to prepare this history lesson on the franchise (sure!) for those of us who have never had the fortune to read an issue, to busy we were with tea in china cups, boat shirts with horizontal stripes, and other forms of listlessness. This picture is a fine representative of the narrative that awaits you.

 

Steam & Machinery

Today on the site, the excellent cartoonist and comics scholar Mark Newgarden interviews Justin Duerr, the man who, after becoming obsessed with the work of Herbert Crowley, the mysterious artist and creator of The Wiggle-Much, put together a giant book about him.

I never went into any of this with the expectation that there would be a book. I just wanted to connect some dots of history that seemed to be pleading to be connected. I honestly began to feel as if these spirits of the past were driving me on, compelling me to do this. I had several hair-raisingly uncanny experiences during the course of it all.

One of the most inexplicable is that Herbert Crowley and I both independently created characters named “Esmeralda de Gabrielle.” I used a character with this name in some of my artwork in 2012, two years before I was in Zurich and saw Crowley’s notebook, which contained a short sketch for a one-act play called Recitations for Frida. It begins “This story is of the 12th or late 14th Century - It was discovered among a series of Troubadorials collected by Esmeralda de Gabrielle – […] She was banished from St. Jean de Luz and went to England - She amused herself by making a collection of Ballads. There are 30,000 of them - this is one of them.” My own character was a “mystic record keeper” and a scribe, a sort of supernatural librarian deity. When I saw that notebook the hairs on my neck stood on end.

Then we have Day Three of Fiona Smyth's Cartoonist's Diary. This installment involves teaching comics and traveling to Pittsburgh.

And finally, Robert Kirby is here with a review of the reprinted, expanded Aline Kominsky-Crumb anthology, Love That Bunch.

One of the most delightful aspects of The Bunch comics is their personal, conversational touch. Kominsky-Crumb peppers her stories with little asides and footnotes, aimed directly at readers, in a touching or humorous manner. These lend her comics a genuinely intimate feel, like notes jotted down in the margins of a personal letter. In "Ze Bunché de Paree Turns 40", Bunch, finally having realized her childhood dream of visiting Paris, stares tearfully out of the window at the wondrous city below. A box of text points to her: "Overwhelmed by flood of emotion." In the same story, her self-involved mother, Blabbette, phones from America, greeting her daughter with "Aaaaa…?" A footnote explains: "My mother never calls me by my name… Instead it's this long drawn-out 'A' sound with a slight question." In "Why the Bunch Can't Draw", the young Bunch, feeling ignored as she works on a painting, says aloud, "No one cares if I do this… but I'm still gonna!" An asterisked footnote expands on this lament: "I still feel this way."

This story features another hallmark of Kominsky-Crumb's oeuvre. Namely, her fondness for splash panels featuring multiple mini-headlines, stating her themes in bold, satirical fashion. She augments her title “Why the Bunch Can’t Draw” with “Even tho she always wanted to be a ahtist!!!” & “She’s oozing mit talent nevahtheless!!” Meanwhile, the drawing features Bunch  working on a painting, assuring herself: “Oh, yes, yes those subtle nuances in the intensity of the facial expressions just right!!” Naturally, all of this contradicts the title, cleverly setting up Kominsky-Crumb as the protagonist and antagonist of her own story (which is often the case).

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Podcasts. The most recent guest on the Study Group podcast is Michael Kupperman, and the most recent guest on Inkstuds is Chris Reynolds.

—Reviews & Commentary. The British cartoonist Martin Rowson explains his history with Marxism, and the thought process behind his new adaptation of The Communist Manifesto.

The whole thing came instantly into my head. I clearly envisioned the manifesto as a kind of rolling tsunami, made up in equal parts of blood-and-iron industrialised steampunk, apocalyptic John Martin and mounting fury that builds up to a climax at the end of Section One: Bourgeois and Proletarians, before breaking on the beach of History and turning into straightforward standup comedy. It’s leavened throughout with private gags, personal score-settling and the kind of Rabelaisian filthiness Marx would have enjoyed, I hope that is what I’ve achieved.

At The New Republic, former TCJ all-star Jeet Heer talks comics and movies with Josephine Livingstone and Alex Shephard.

...there is a distinction between comic books and superheroes. This is actually my second experience with this debate. As a young comics fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I loved all sorts of cartoons—comic strips, New Yorker cartoons, underground comics, and, yes, superhero comics. There was a big debate at the time in places like The Comics Journal about the way superheroes had come to dominate the field. After all, in the 1950s there were all sorts of genres in comic books: horror, funny animals, westerns, romance. But the late 1970s, all were in poor health except superhero titles. A critic in The Comics Journal hailed RAW, an art journal edited by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman, by saying it was the only thing standing between us and “an eternity of the Incredible Hulk.”

Now what was true of comics is becoming true of movies. Are we facing an eternity of the Incredible Hulk?

 

It’s Neither A Balm Nor A Gel

Today at the Journal, we're pleased to share an interview with Hope Larson, whose latest graphic novel with First Second sees release this week. Hope's career has seen her showing up with quite a few different credits under her belt--and it sounds like that was the plan all along.

Do you think about your career in quite a calculated way?

I think I’m pretty calculating. But that said, I’m calculating so I can continue doing this. I want to be able to keep making books, and part of that is you have to achieve a certain level of success and financial stability. I do books that are passion project books, and I do books that are paycheck books, and hopefully I can learn something from them along the way. Batgirl would be a good example. I really needed a job when I got that one. Like, I needed it to survive. But I also thought: I’ll be able to play in a different sandbox for a change, and play with different characters, and it is totally unlike anything I’ve done before. I’d been wanting to move into more of an action-y direction anyway in some of my work. And it really was awesome. It’s what I hoped it would be.

We've also got the newest installment in Fiona Smyth's Cartoonist Diary. Today's entry features a walk-on appearance by Annie Koyama, who Fiona depicts Michael Zulli style.

And that's not all. Today's Review sees Matt Seneca taking a look at the latest installment in Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca's long running series of Street Angel stories, Street Angel Goes To Juvie

Rare indeed is the still-relevant creator that can lay claim to having been a darling of Wizard magazine; rarer yet is to see a title that was one of the five or six non-mainstream comics those dudes felt comfortable recommending still flourishing. But flourish Street Angel has, for coming up on fifteen years - long enough for the book to elbow its way into a place in the new kind of mainstream that's emerged in response to Act II of Marvel and DC's ongoing commercial and creative collapse.

Elsewhere, Alex Dueben has an excellent interview up at Smash Pages with Eleanor Davis that I happened to miss when it first dropped, so maybe you did too. Remedy that, or read it again.

That's not the only interview I liked reading--I was also pretty into this overview conversation with Jim Rugg about Street Angel. I'm also jealous of whoever does their photography, or at least, whoever covers their photography budget.

And finally, one of the most tired claims that a certain kind of comics writer (but rarely an artist) spent a good portion of the mid 00's making was that "movies couldn't pull off what comics could do", and the reason it got so tired was because the follow up examples were always things like "a Bryan Hitch spaceship", which movies actually do a very fine job of, and have since at least the 1970's. So while my eyes involuntarily rolled in nostalgia when Matt Zoller Seitz dusted that old chestnut off, he then went to deliver a pretty astute observation about how comics actually can do movies better in his review of the latest super-hero picture. 

 

Maybe Just Steam Them

Today on the site, a brand new Cartoonist's Diary begins, this time from Fiona Smyth, and on day one, it concerns online chess, back pain, and art shows.

We also have Greg Hunter's review of Michael Kupperman's All the Answers, a surprisingly straight graphic memoir from a cartoonist who specializes in absurdist comedy.

All the Answers documents Michael Kupperman’s efforts to learn more about the years his father, Joel Kupperman, spent as a child performer on Quiz Kids, first a radio game show and later an early television program. Throughout the book, he contends with both the hastening of his father’s dementia and a reticence about Quiz Kids that predates that diagnosis. The program had been a "forbidden subject” during Kupperman’s own childhood, and he devotes much of All the Answers to exploring how the experience might have damaged his father. This means also turning toward a curious intersection in US history.

Early in All the Answers, Kupperman looks at the concept of the child prodigy and its rise in popularity during the first half of twentieth century. As waves of immigrant families arrived in the United States, a prodigy in the family meant a possible shortcut to upward mobility. Kupperman’s father, who came of age in the 1940s, grew to see himself as having been groomed for the role. Although he did indeed have an exceptional talent for math, there were other forces at work.

The book describes Quiz Kids creator Louis Cowan’s plan to combat World War II-era anti-Semitism by spotlighting gifted Jewish youths, even taking them on tour. “So was my father propaganda?” Kupperman asks. “I now think he was.” All the Answers suggests a measure of success for Cowan and Quiz Kids, but at the expense of Joel Kupperman’s childhood. “By 1943, he was receiving 10,000 pieces of fan mail a week,” Kupperman writes. “He was soon the most famous prodigy in America.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. The Guardian talks to Frank Miller about his new book, and the various controversies he's stirred up in recent years with books like Holy Terror! and his political attacks on Occupy Wall Street. Miller says he wasn't "thinking clearly" during that period. They also talk to Miller's friend Neal Adams:

In his last conversation with Miller, Adams says he told his protege he was going to die. “I told him he was white trash, and I’d be surprised if he makes it for six months, because he’s taken his life and ruined it, and he said, ‘Well, I’d like to show you I’m not that way,’ and I said, ‘If you recover, I’ll see you in six months, maybe a year.’”

“‘I think of you like a son,’” Adams remembers saying, “‘and I’m gonna lose you.’” Now he believes Miller “will mend”.

The Los Angeles Review of Books interviews John Porcellino.

By the time I started King-Cat I had a pretty clear idea of the way I wanted to approach things. Coming from punk rock, I was interested in paring things down, leaving them unpolished, looking for the essence of things, instead of getting bogged down in the superficial. So I wanted my comics to reflect that. They were very spontaneous. It was interesting to me to throw ink down on paper and see what came out. Even the vagaries of using cheap photocopiers, the kind of distortion and unpredictability of it — it was all thrilling to me! Putting a page of comics on the glass and seeing what came out of the machine.

In the early days I didn’t edit things or worry about them or plan them too much. I’d make a comic and print it and then wonder why sometimes I was able to achieve what I’d set out to do and why sometimes I’d failed. But I wasn’t interested in making “perfect” comics. I figured there would always be a next one, and hopefully that next one would work a little better than the last.

—Reviews & Commentary. For her first New York Times column, Hillary Chute reviews new books by Eleanor Davis and Porcellino.

Just like Magritte’s famous caption, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” Davis underlines in a fond, joking way how the representation of an image can dominate the image itself. The “blue” category also offers what looks to be a small toy pig (what other kind of pig would be blue?) standing near an amorphous monochrome blob. Davis wordlessly switches between images that are realistic and those that are abstract, a move that endows the book with an appealing tension from the outset, as well as with a kind of gag reel of effects that unfurls alongside nuggets of wisdom about art and audience.

She shifts in this way from the didactic to the fabulist — and at her best moments melds the two.

Caleb Orecchio writes about how cartoonists such as Connor Willumsen and Chris Ware use setting in their comics.

Every character, object, and environment is paired down to bare essentials visually. Everything is a symbol. There is very little confusion in a Chris Ware comic despite its intricacies due to the use of the symbolic rendering of the environment therein. When a character walks in and out various rooms, we can easily follow them. In fact, I feel I have actual awareness that is lacking in other comics because Ware often will show the reader the sum of the parts before exploring the individual pieces.

—Misc. The cartoonist Milton Knight has been evicted, and has various health issues, and is asking for help.

 

Hi Jeet!

Today at The Journal, Leonard Pierce is here, and you'll want to pull up a chair: it's time to talk about continuity, corporations and comic books. There's no better way to roll into the weekend than to get your blood all fired up about the moneyed class, and all that they're taking:

In any form of narrative storytelling with an element of continuity, there was the built-in problem of age: What happens to the world you’re trying to build when the people who live in it get older? Here is where commerce and art butted heads the most painfully: While readers were more than willing to take a chance on new characters, or throw old ones into extreme situations from which they might not ever emerge, the corporate gatekeepers were typically risk-averse. There was no reason that an alien like Superman or an immortal like Wonder Woman had to grow old, but Batman was fair game, and no matter how good a story a writer might come up with, nobody was willing to screw the pooch by killing him off. You don’t slaughter that golden goose.

But on the flipside, one wants to ask, can't these corporations get it right some time? Marc Sobel would say that yes, yes they do, and when you ask him for evidence, he's probably going to point right at Ed Piskor's X-Men: Grand Design, which he's provided A Comics Journal Review for, this very day.

Reading Grand Design is like binge watching an entire Netflix series on fast forward. Given its ambitious scope, Piskor powers through a lot of ground very quickly, abruptly jumping from one milestone to another. In many cases, an entire issue’s worth of plot is reduced down to a single page. Recognizing that the series is unusually dense for a Marvel comic, Piskor sought inspiration, in terms of storytelling economy and narrative compression, from a variety of classic newspaper strips. “I created each page to function as its own unique and complete episode/strip that, when read in total, would tell a bigger story.” Though his influences are broad, close inspection of his studio in the author photo reveals bookshelves filled with Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, and Peanuts hardcovers, as well as a complete set of the entire EC Comics line. Yet, even with Piskor’s diligent efforts, there’s a lot to absorb in Grand Design and the plot summarizations feel a bit relentless by the end. The best moments are those that focus on the main characters’ backstories.

Ah, but from the balconies, I can hear them, our very own Statler, our precious Waldorf: "I don't care about super-heroes," they say, "I prefer my companies less rapacious, less cruel". Well, we've got you covered there too: Jessica Campbell's back, or at least, she will be soon, thanks to Koyama Press. But don't take my word for it--just click through and read this excerpt of XTC69, her upcoming graphic novel with that stalwart Canadian publisher!

Elsewhere, the word is out: after ten years of putting in the work, I can officially say that my wife and I have been together for a decade. Was it really that long ago that I said "I do" while wearing a baggy pair of pants that made me look a 12 year old street urchin, all because the tuxedo place had given all the pants in my size to a junior high school prom? Yes, it was, ten years ago today. That's not all though--yesterday, I also found out that this very publication was nominated for an Eisner. Huzzah! But enough about us: here's the list for you. I've got other fish to fry, and I mean that figuratively.

(Nina likes her fish grilled.)

 

Pack Your Bags

Today on the site, the indefatigable Sloane Leong is back again to interview Nivedita Sekar, an animator and cartoonist who has a new comic out through ShortBox.

I feel like road trip stories are a classic American genre but one that mostly features adventurous young white men. It’s cool to see the lead character in your story, a young brown woman, upend that convention. How does her identity play into this story?

Ah thank you! The Instagram comic is very much actually a fairytale and was a ton of fun.

I mean — 100% the “freedom of the road” belongs to those safest in America, right? If you can walk on the highway hitchhiking, if you can sleep in your car or camp by yourself... There’s a bravura in being a woman alone (especially a brown woman) and I’m certainly drawn to accounts of solitary travel from perspectives outside the usual. And given all that, it felt only right that my main character have someone to travel with, someone big and old and more sure-footed.

And of course her identity plays into so many aspects of the story. It’s a bit of a diaspora narrative, I think (to use the term loosely) and — not that it’s made explicit in the text — there’s some tension over her sexuality. And she’s seen immediately as an outsider, or a curiosity, in some towns.

Rob Clough is here as well, with a review of Jaime Hernandez's new children's comic, The Dragon Slayer.

The fact that Hernandez chose stories that aren't strictly morally instructive, but instead convey other kinds of information, simply make people laugh, or act as shaggy dog stories makes this volume especially enjoyable. Seeing his work in color is a special treat (the colorist is Ala Lee) that likely allowed him to work a little looser here than in his usual Love and Rockets stories. Hernandez has always used women as his protagonists, so it seems natural for two of the three stories to focus on female characters. Throw in the historical context behind each of the stories in the afterword, and you have yet another alternative cartoonist make a smooth jump to the Toon Books line.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—The podcast pipeline remains open, with new episodes of Process Party featuring Josh Simmons and Mindkiller featuring Gina Wynbrandt. (New York City area fans of Wynbrandt should take note that the Scott Eder Gallery in Jersey City will be showing her work in a show opening tomorrow, also featuring works by Gabrielle Bell, Trina Robbins, Mary Fleener, Lauren Weinstein, and Tommi Parrish, among others.)

—The Universal Fan Con debacle is still very difficult to figure out, but this report by Jazmine Joyner and Rosie Knight is the most thorough and sober one I've seen so far.

Universal Fan Con was meant to be a celebration of inclusivity and fandom. But as the show was unceremoniously canceled a week before it was expected to occur, fans are asking what happened. Many find themselves left out of pocket, having backed the Kickstarter and booked often non-refundable flights. We, Rosie Knight and Jazmine Joyner, have compiled a comprehensive investigation into Universal Fan Con and what went wrong. We’ve utilized the now-deleted Fan Con website, Twitter, Kickstarter page, interviews, and emails that were shared with us to put together this piece which we hope will help people gain a better understanding of what happened.

 

Houston, We Have A Dog

Today at The Journal, we've got the newest installment in Retail Therapy--this time around, Jared Smith from Big Planet Comics has the goods for you. Here's a taste of the goods in question:

How do you decide what titles you are going to carry in the shop?

Lots of input from lots of employees. We have a computer that tracks sales so we can guesstimate regular weekly comic book sales, so that's a little easier. But only if it stays with a consist writer and artist or creator, and there isn't a crossover no one likes, or the comic isn't late, etc etc etc. Other than that, it's learning what creators you like, and what the customers like, and how can you bridge the knowledge there to show people things they would enjoy reading. But it all comes down to sales. There are some amazing books and creators that just don't sell in our area, or will sell in one of our stores because every employee there is enthusiastic about it, and won't in others where it's not the thing they're into. But even that can get swamped in the massive output of things coming out. It's hard to remember your favorite new comic from 3 weeks ago when you've had to try to deal with 300 new comic books and graphic novels since then. Especially the graphic novels. It's not like reading a 20 page comic book #1 issue to see if a new series is worth recommending, a 300 page graphic novel is a whole other commitment. And there a lot of those coming out every week now. Even some of my favorite creators have put out stuff I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

The other thing we do it try to keep our eyes open at conventions and online. We're lucky that the Small Press Expo (SPX) is our hometown show, partly started by the founder of Big Planet Comics, Joel Pollack. The original SPX site was 3 blocks from our Bethesda store. We can walk around SPX and buy boxes of comics to sell at our stores, and be surprised how many local people didn't see them at the show, or didn't have time to make it around and see every comic. We just ordered Zainab Akhtar's ShortBox comic line, since it's a bunch of great comics published in the UK that might not make it over here easily. One of our employees, Kelly, got into those. Another employee Kevin, first spotted Peow! Studio in Sweden. A lot of these we order since they look great and we might want some for ourselves! But it's having a diverse store that will have something different. If you visit a lot of comic book stores, sometimes you can walk out without buying anything since it's the same as every other comic book store you've been to. 

Elsewhere? Elsewhere is a lot of articles about the Josh Brolin movie coming out. Lots and lots of those. The only one I've finished reading is this Groovy one.  It features the following page, which is as perfect a page of Marvel Comics. Who hasn't been assaulted by fists of shattered illusions and broken promises? That's one of the more apt definitions of growing up fiction has ever produced.