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Rough Numbers

Today on the site we have Rob Clough’s extensive interview with cartoonist and Oily Comics publisher Charles Forsman, focusing mainly on his publishing experiences, and including a lot of surprisingly frank talk on money:

How much do you make, in both of terms gross and net, from Oily during a month from subscriptions and/or online purchases alone? How much do you make per show? How much of this gets back to the artists? In general terms, do you make enough money from Oily to partly support yourself, or does the money simply get channeled back into publishing to keep it afloat?

So I can give some very rough numbers. I think my gross is probably somewhere between $1200-$1500 per month. Take out about $500 for printing, shipping, and royalties, and I think I am left with 700 to 1000 dollars. This seems high to me as I say this. And to be honest I am a little embarrassed. It just seems weird to be making any money off of mini comics. But I have to remind myself of how much work I am putting in. If I wasn’t doing this I would be working a job making the same amount of money and Oily wouldn’t exist. This money basically helps me eat and put gas in the car. Oh, and go to the movies. Melissa and I are young and live as cheaply as we can. I feel really blessed at my current status and I do my best never to take it for granted.

I pay the artists in copies of the comics that they can sell for themselves and a 10% royalty on every copy I sell of their book. When I started I was paying a quarter to the artists, but I quickly figured out that wouldn’t work in the long run. Ten percent is pretty comparable to what most publishers pay their authors in royalties. It’s pretty funny that even at such a small scale I found that number to work. I wish I could pay them more. What publisher doesn’t want that, though? I think most of them are pretty surprised that I am paying them anything. It’s not a ton of money, but it is something. I hope to figure out a way to pay them more in the future.

Elsewhere on the internet:

—Several interviews for you, including Ron Regé at Expanding Mind, Joe Sacco at the Comics Reporter, Dan Slott at the Village Voice, Jay Kinney at Print (complete with a ton of illustrations), and Arthur Jones at Study Group Comics.

—Jeff Trexler susses out some of the meaning behind last week’s Superman legal rulings.

—Chris Mautner picks out six “criminally ignored comics” from last year, and I agree with most of them. (Though I do feel obliged to point out that the review we ran of the Burroughs Ah Pook books, by Rudy Rucker of all people, was criminally ignored itself, at least within comics circles.) The really sad thing is that Chris’s list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many noteworthy comics being released these days. We hope to continue improving in our coverage of them.

—Anders Nilsen has a new short comic online which is getting a lot of deserved attention.

—The World Socialist Web reviews a bunch of contemporary superhero comics, from an unsurprisingly political angle.

—Sean Kleefeld has interesting commentary regarding the recent announcement of Jennifer Holm to the CBLDF’s board last week.

—Here’s a spot for my periodic reminder that if you are a fan of the aforementioned Rob Clough’s work, he has a ton more of it on his own site. Today that includes notices of three new autobio minicomics, from MariNaomi, Whitney Taylor, and Margo Dabaie.

—Domingos Isabelinho reviews Fred’s Le Petite Cirque, and one of the great literary bloggers, M.A. Orthofer (who is more or less comics-averse), reviews the new edition of Osamu Tezuka’s Message to Adolf.

 

One for the Books

Today on the site:

Tucker Stone rolls in with his weekly bundle of comics.

Gabrielle Gamboa wraps up her week-long diary for us with a photo & drawing narrative combo. I’ve enjoyed having Gabby’s beautiful watercolor work grace our site.

Elsewhere:

This will, I’m sure, be sussed out in the coming days, but the Siegel family lost a major ruling in the Superman litigation.

Oldster corner: Vintage Swedish posters for Hollywood films. And some fine work by John Held Jr., who is always better than I remember him. Sometimes in my foggy brain I think “oh, the flapper stuff”, but then I see something and it’s sharp and he worked with such range. Nice examination of a Kirby/Fantastic Four sequence here.

In more current biz, Tom Spurgeon interviewed Mark Waid. And Nick Gazin does a best-to-worst round-up. I like a “Best of” list that proclaims itself the best “Best of” list. And it’s really a good list.

I am, like a few other people I know, excited for the return of Girls. And here’s Lena Dunham’s ideal bookshelf, complete with Doucet (underrated choice) and Clowes, as every bookshelf should be. I’ll always have a soft spot for her work since she featured Multiforce in Tiny Furniture. What can I say.

 

And Another One Gone

Today on the site we bring you a review by David Mandl of the new collection of Jay Kinney and Paul Mavridres’s Anarchy Comics. It looks fascinating — I’d read most of the contributors on anything.

Kinney and Mavrides’s creation brought together an irreverent-bordering-on-nihilistic punk sensibility, serious (but never dry or pedantic) lessons in anarchist history, freshly illustrated texts by such infamous revolutionaries as Emma Goldman and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and that favorite anarchist sport, satirical potshots at mainstream leftists.

Anarchists have always prided themselves on their internationalism—not surprising, since being anti-government is about the only thing all anarchists agree on—and Kinney took that attitude to heart, assembling a far-flung coterie of artists for his comic and emblazoning the catchphrase “International Anarchy!” (or “International Comix!”) on the front cover of every issue for good measure. In its lifetime Anarchy Comics featured contributors from the Netherlands, Germany, England, France, and the US, including Clifford Harper, Spain Rodriguez, the team of Yves Frémion and François Dupuy (aka “Épistolier and Volny”), Gary Panter, Ruby Ray, Gilbert Shelton, Donald Rooum, Melinda Gebbie, and more than twenty others. The majority of the work appearing in the comic was original, but Kinney also commissioned translations of several pieces not previously published in English—most notably the series “Liberty Through the Ages” by Épistolier and Volny.

We also have day four of Gabrielle Gamboa’s Cartoonist’s Diary of her recent residency at ACA in Florida. Today’s entry involves a road trip to Gainesville and SAW.

Elsewhere, as usual, there is more comics-related material to read and listen to on the internet than is good for you.

—The aforementioned Jay Kinney appears on Boing Boing’s Gweek podcast.

—Other cartoonists whose interviews you can read or listen to include Jaime Hernandez at EW, Steven Weissman at The Writing Disorder, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story author Sean Howe at The Comics Reporter, and Chris Wright (whose Black Lung was one of last year’s best surprises) at Inkstuds.

—Yesterday brought the announcement of the end of the Comics Buyer’s Guide after 30+ years of publication. John Jackson Miller has commentary. Longtime readers of the Journal will know that there’s a lot of history between CBG and this magazine; if you’re a subscriber, today might be a good day to read our very first issue in the archives, which includes a long attack from Gary Groth on CBG and its founder Alan Light. (Actually, Gary himself warns in his recent introduction to the issue that it “should only be read by those with a borderline pathological interest in the histories of comics fandom, The Comics Journal, Fantagraphics, or me; may there be few such unfortunate souls out there.” So use your best judgment.)

—In other news I’m not sure what to make of, Brigid Alverson reports that Tokyopop has relaunched its website, and Bart Beaty passes comment on a new presidential selection procedure introduced for the Angoulême festival.

—Misc.: Gary Panter writes a brief appreciation of Dick Briefer, Dangerous Minds resurrects a sadly prescient 20-year-old New Yorker cover from Art Spiegelman, and Eleanor Davis wins a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators.

 

It’s a Test

Today on the site, Matthias Wivel writes about Norwegian comics group Dongery, which have recently released an enormous collection of its publications. That book is a site to behold and a thumper of a book.

Now, since it’s been, what, fifteen years?, the originators have somehow managed to rope in what may be Norway’s friendliest comics publisher to collect more or less every scrap and scribble ever made by the Dongery hive mind into two huge volumes, slipcased and extensively annotated, retailing at a price point over $100. To recap: some 1,400 pages of improvised nonsense, with nothing redacted, given the full luxury treatment. I’m tempted to say, only in Norway.*

But wait, it has actually done really well! Released in the spring, it sold out quickly and it is now making waves in its second printing. OK, I should think that’s because these comics are actually a ton of fun—it seems to me a confirmation that Dongery has been on to the right idea from the beginning, even if the scuzzy fanzines they were hawking in 2004 or whenever didn’t in themselves necessarily suggest so.

And Gabby Gamboa continues to chronicle her residency in her Cartoonist’s Diary.

Elsewhere:

Tom Spurgeon interviews Shannon Watters of BOOM!

You know it’s a new generation when First Kingdom gets a shot. What’s First Kingdom? My first thought was that only Joe McCulloch, the man who reads comics I only own and stumble over some time, must’ve written about it. But I can’t find a trace of that. Joe! You failed me. Luckily here’s Derek Badman on the case.

Here’s an interview with the great Jon Lewis, whose True Swamp is back in print.

It’s Douglas Wolk on Peter Bagge’s Reset over at The Washington Post. Bagge remains an MVP cartoonist for me, so I’m glad to see his new work getting some attention. We’re behind on that.

And, great comic book store and publisher Floating World posts a most popular comics of 2012 list.

 

 

Look It Up

And now 2013 has begun in earnest. Joe “Jog” McCulloch is here with another peek into the comic-shop window to see this week’s new books, prefaced by a typically unexpected comparison between the work of Aidan Koch and Sergio Toppi:

Toppi, of course, is a fairly prolix narrator, while Koch avowedly considers “what is the minimum information needed to move the story along?” Here, we see a rather cinematic pull-back from a darkened window, although it’s as impossible a portal as Toppi’s hanging tower. Shoots of vegetation grow around it, and we enjoy an isolated image of the greenery as the Blonde Woman’s telltale hair sweeps by again, accompanied by her lingering night. I find this beautifully evocative of movement, though not depictive of such; rather, the juxtaposition of images details those sensory pickups — nature’s little “cues” — that approximate the interior and exterior stimuli of motion.

Gabrielle Gamboa is back again too, with the second day of her week writing the Cartoonist’s Diary column.

And finally Kristian Williams is here with a review of the first volume of The Graphic Canon.

Elsewhere:

7 Miles a Second creators James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook get profiled over at Publishers Weekly. One interesting thing to note is that Van Cook, who worked as a colorist on the book, is given equal billing on the new edition. James e-mailed me to point this out, saying, “I fought very hard to get Marguerite co-author status; which I have finally accomplished with this edition. I came up against a lot of resistance to the idea that the work of a colorist in comics could deserve co-authorship status.” (Related: I missed this Romberger interview regarding his Post York at CBR last month.)

—The same New Year’s e-mail and link cleanup that brought to light that last link also reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Dueben’s short essay on the eclectic nature of Art Spiegelman’s career, published by Fortune magazine.

—Which leads me to this recent review of Scene of the Crime, a Brubaker/Lark/Phillips crime comic, which appeared in The New Statesman, and is notable mainly simply for being quite obviously the work of a writer deeply familiar with the publication status of various cultish comics, and unafraid to display that insider’s knowledge in an article aimed at mainstream readers. No big deal — it just struck me for some reason.

—I know that Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy has often been touted as the dictionary definition of the comic strip, but I didn’t know that this was ever in fact literally the case.

—Daniel Best has reprinted “Truth, Justice, & the Corporate Conscience”, a long essay on Siegel, Shuster, and creators’ rights written by Steve Gerber in 1975 for Rolling Stone magazine (which never ran it).

—Huib van Opstal wrote a long illustrated piece for Yesterday’s Papers about the early international history of comics.

—Paul Gravett interviewed Nina Bunjevac, and Tom Spurgeon interviewed Tom Hart.

—Finally, Matthias Wivel points us to a short profile of Shigeru Mizuki, which includes a translated reprint of a major story, “War and Japan”.

 

Looking at the Stuff

Welcome back. It’s a busy week here!

Here’s one I’m excited for Arthur Magazine‘s Jay Babcock interviewing Ron Rege Jr. about Ron’s latest book, The Cartoon Utopia. I interviewed Ron for TCJ almost 10 years ago, and the time spent since then has been fruitful for the artist. It’s unusual to see a cartoonist translate metaphysics to the page with so much wit, poetry and clarity.  Jay does a great job here sussing out Ron’s process and studies.

JB: Where do you see your personal spiritual practice going, outside of art?

RR: I don’t know right now. I’m at a point of mystery with it, at this exact moment.

JB: But you don’t find yourself drawn to a certain school, or lineage? Or… ‘you know what, I think it’s really the Alchemists for me.’

RR: No, I don’t.

JB: Like, ‘Now I really want to head to the east…’ Or, I want to go deep on this one.

RR: No, I don’t think there’s any one in particular that I want to delve more into. I wanna keep being open to all of the different aspects. I didn’t attach to any one. I’m not like gonna get into Zen now, or any particular one. From what I know, there’s probably even more obscure aspects that I’d like to look into, but I still am very generally fascinated by the wide gamut of everything. And I want to keep that enthusiasm. To me, it’s important to not pick one little thing. If anything, it’s about the unity of everything and everyone into one thing. It’s weird to me to go and talk to somebody who’s into one thing and doesn’t know about another thing. To be like this weird little section. Which seems weird because it’s all so interconnected.

JB: What about going beyond belief and speculation? What about practice?

RR: That’s something that I definitely struggle with. I don’t have a very great practice of anything. My practice has come through my personality and the way that I approach other people, and deal with other people, and then issues with my life. I’m very interested in my dream practice right now: the differentiation between waking life and sleeping life.

JB: You have a strip in there about the Tibetan dream yogas.

RR: Yeah. But… I definitely am going through a period of really ultra fascination with everything. Life seems like — and I don’t know if it’s the life that I’ve created for myself, or if it’s just experiences that I have — I’m just fascinated all the time. The lights look brighter. The colors on the trees look more green. The things that people say seem way more significant. The vibes that I’m getting from people…the give-and-take, the push-and-pull with other human beings. And then I’m just amused and fascinated by they way that people act. Usually if I go out in a social situation, at one point during the night I’ll be just like, ‘Humans are ridiculous creatures! Just ridiculous!’ And I’ll think about all the interplay in social structures, different people I know — just what we’re eating and drinking, and the way that we’re… I feel like I’m a squirrel [watching the humans]… Suddenly I have this weird awareness of how utterly ridiculously fascinating everything that we’ve created is.

-Over the weekend we posted Tucker Stone’s “19 Best Comics of 2012“. It’s a healthy and eclectic list that, whatever you agree or disagree with, is pretty reflective of the incredibly broad spectrum of the medium right now.

-We’ve posted the 2003 TCJ interview with Keiji Nakazawa by Alan Gleason.

-And today Gabrielle Gamboa begins her week-long residence as our cartoon diarist.

Elsewhere:

-Tom Spurgeon interviewed Sammy Harkham.

-The calculus here is simple: Bob Oksner art + “The Brat Finks” = Gold. We have no Bob Oksners anymore, though Johnny Ryan is close, and so, it turns out, is Benjamin Marra.

-And now I want you to hold your breath, count to 20 and watch this film by Yellow Submarine co-director (Heinz Edelmann never gets enough credit for his directorial role) George Dunning.

 

 

Shiny & New

Ah, a new year, and another opportunity to take an arbitrarily determined change of calendar and use it as an excuse to get out of ruts. My personal biggest resolutions mostly have to do with replying to e-mails more consistently. In the meantime, I’ve spent most of the past two weeks offline, so there’s a ton to catch up on.

First, Tucker Stone does have a column for us today, but is running a bit late, so check in in a few hours for that. [UPDATE: Make that twenty-four hours—it’s up now.]

We also have Rob Clough’s first review of the year, his take on Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig:

Piskor clearly has his work cut out for him in drawing a book that features a lot of sitting around. He always has the reader in mind when illustrating a scene, breaking the book up into easy-to-digest vignettes, man-in-the-street features, look-ins on other characters, and flash-forwards to Phenicle’s prison experience and railroading by the justice system. […] Piskor is mostly about moving along the story. That said, he always adds a certain decorative touch even in talking head scenes; he always goes the extra mile to give us interesting people to look at. I especially like the way he draws hair–scraggly hair and beards on men, odd curls and swoops on women. He revels in the grotesque, creating characters with slumping postures, unkempt hair, shaggy eyebrows, and bad skin.

And Jay Kinney has turned in a late contribution to our page of Spain Rodriguez tributes, and explains the reason for its tardiness therein.

And here is a brief list of highlights from elsewhere on the comics internet over the past couple weeks:

—Jacques Tardi refused the Legion D’Honneur.

—Paul Karasik ate some Fletcher Hanks cookies.

—Bright Lyons took pictures of Brian Chippendale’s studio in Providence.

—Maurice Sendak was profiled in the New York Times.

—Paul Gravett wrote about Diabolik and other comics in the Italian “fumetti neri” tradition.

—Interviews were given by Jamie Hewlett, Nate Bulmer, Charles Burns, Dean Haspiel, Matt Kindt & Brian Wood, Heidi MacDonald, Jenny Robb, Rob Clough, Mark Siegel, Marc Sobel, Alex Cox, Derf, J. Caleb Mozzocco, and Ellen Forney.

—Abhay Khosla summed up the year in comics as only he can.

—Jeff Trexler speculated on the state of Marc Toberoff’s Siegel case.

—Comics writer Peter David had a stroke on vacation. His wife Kathleen David has been posting updates as to his condition.

—Pappy posted an old ACG comic story that features (my favorite) writer/editor Richard E. Hughes as an actual character.

Dylan Williams’s 1994 interview with Chris Ware, right after the release of Acme Novelty Library #1, was reposted.

—Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes won the Costa award, and The Guardian awkwardly stretched for ways to use “graphic” instead of comics. Hayley Campbell talked about it all for Channel 4.

—Michael Cavna wrote a great piece about Richard Thompson.

—Chris Ware drew a New Yorker cover, and described the inspiration he drew from recent horrific events.

 

Welcome back. We’re planning a packed 2013 on the site. So we hope you enjoy the year with us.

First up — while we were on vacation the sad news came that Keiji Nakazawa, known for his Barefoot Gen graphic novels, passed away. Matt Thorn wrote an impassioned obituary.

It is important to remember that when Nakazawa came to Tokyo, he did so with the dream of creating boys’ manga in the simple, cartoonish style that was popular in the early 1960s. Although he occasionally slipped into a more “adult” gekiga style, it was the style of the children’s adventure he was most most comfortable with, and virtually all of his anti-war works from “I Saw It!” onward adhere more or less to this style. The effect when applied to the most extreme horrors of real war is jarring and haunting, and arguably more powerful than a more realistic or slick drawing style would be, and in this sense can be said to be precursor to such works as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

And today Joe McCulloch catches us up on this and last week’s releases, including work by Herriman, Wood, and, a collection of the mostly forgotten 1970s serial, El Cid.

As Consulting (reprint) Editor Dan Braun notes in his foreword to this 96-page Dark Horse hardcover, El Cid — published in 1975 and 1976, mainly in a single dedicated special issue of Eerie (#66) — was among Warren’s responses to the popularity of the Conan magazines and other fantasy comics of the time. Interestingly, unlike some of the Warren serials, El Cid boasted a dedicated artist: the supremely gaudy Gonzolo Mayo, whose decorative, ultra-’70s edge-of-comprehension style lends a rare flamboyance to scripts plotted out by seemingly everyone in the Warren offices (if always dialogued by publisher mainstay Budd Lewis).

Elswhere:

Tom Spurgeon posted a ton of interviews over the holidays and capped it all off with 50 Comics Positives. He’s a machine! I particularly enjoyed his interview with Carol Tyler.

Comic book writer Warren Ellis has published a novel, and the NY Times liked it very much.

You know when it’s a new era when you turn on the radio and there’s a piece on Jacques Tardi. A good one, too!

Self-promo alert: Robot 6 previewed the Blutch book I’m releasing, So Long, Silver Screen.

And I’ll leave you with a clip of the animated Barefoot Gen.