And There Were Valleys – This Week’s Links

So far, without exception, each week of 2022 has been redefining the limits for “too much news,” which leads me to predict that, should this trend continue, a singularity of news will be reached by Friday 13th May, and humanity will ascend to its next stage of consciousness. 

It’s that or we’ll just continue to see tech start-ups twirling their moustaches like pantomime villains for the remaining 10 months of the year. One of the two. 

In the meantime, you can find the links for this week a short hop, skip, and a jump down this page.

Until the day it stops… This week’s news.

• Pie chart and bar graph season got into full swing this week, as The Beat broke down NPD bookscan numbers for 2021 and Comichron crunched the numbers from Diamond’s year-end sales figures. The key take-aways being that 2021 was a banner year overall for physical sales, with graphic novels up by 65% in the book market compared to 2020, powered in part by an ongoing anime-driven boom in manga sales, while direct market sales of GNs and periodicals were up by 36% over 2020, with House of Slaughter #1 taking the top spot with 480,679 units shipped. 2021 saw publishers continuing to diversify their distribution pathways, but Comichron projects that Diamond will retain 40% of the Direct Market distribution share, as 2022 could see another boom in bricks and mortar retail sales, with customers returning to in-person shopping, despite the potential for a dip in overall book sales.

• Continuing 2022’s unsurprising theme of digital platforms behaving badly, a frankly bizarre sequence of events played out over the weekend, as Brian “Box” Brown announced a departure from illustration duties for Gumroad, due to their alleged moves into the NFT space, which led to the company’s CEO posting via Gumroad’s Twitter account to berate Brown, sharing private correspondence, and appearing to access private user data to attack critics of the move, followed by an exodus of Gumroad’s users. Rival digital sales platform Itch.io took the opportunity to state that “NFTs are a scam,” while online retailer Topatoco may once again find a new revenue stream by filling the gap. Just another day in paradise.

• In less fractious digital platform news, Tapas announced a deal with Andrews McMeel to bring a number of webcomics to print, with Tapas calling the move “...a natural evolution for the resonant comics on our platform.”

• Moving to the direct market, and Greg Smallwood posted a thread on Twitter stating that artwork for Elektra: Black, White & Blood had been altered by the Marvel bullpen, namely the eyes of Asian characters, without Smallwood’s approval, “...so that they would be ‘within tolerance for best representation…’” as required by the publisher’s Standards & Practices - Marvel editorial later claimed that this was caused by a miscommunication error, and that the original artwork will be used in future editions of the comic, but Smallwood refuted this.

• In other Marvel editorial news, Substack’s big month for comics continued, as former Marvel Comics editor and Marvel Entertainment Head of Content, Stephen Wacker, jumped ship and joined up with Jonathan Hickman’s digital venture, Three Worlds Three Moons, as its new Editor-in-Chief.

• Comic Book Workers United, the union of Image Comics employees, announced this week that the publisher has withdrawn a legal challenge to 3 ballots submitted to the NLRB last month, thereby voluntarily allowing all 10 pro-CBWU employees to be members of the bargaining unit, as work continues to secure a union contract.

• In comics crime news, following up on last year’s discovery that almost 5,000 items had been stolen from Florida State University’s Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection, the Strozier Library’s own head of security, Todd Peak, was arrested for the thefts last week, after a series of sales in the local area, of items matching those that had gone missing, aroused suspicions.

• Elsewhere in the comics crime watch, and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler has put out a call for help, warning against an ongoing case of identity theft, which is being used to “...​​lure working artists into a fraud scheme” - a law enforcement investigation is currently active, and any potential contact with the fraudster/s in question can be shared via social media.

Finally this week, in memoriam, remembering those that the comics world has lost, as artist Ian Kennedy passed away earlier this month, aged 89, with 2000 AD paying tribute to “...a legend of British comics”; and Heidi MacDonald wrote in remembrance of artist, writer, and editor Anne D. Bernstein who passed away this week after a long illness.

Relatively calm by comparison… This week’s reviews.


• Joe McCulloch reviews the shifting conflicts of Keiichi Koike’s Heaven’s Door Extra Works, translated by Ajani Oloye “But while Ōtomo is explicitly addressing ideas of literal and cultural colonialism–see also, inevitably, Akira–Koike is exploring the tension between the pain and grime of lived reality, and the enormity of the spiritual world. This is the shared theme of the stories in Heaven's Door, which is promoted on the back cover as "A drug in paper form!" but actually communicates a melancholic longing for something greater than sobriety.”

• Ryan Carey reviews the subjective formatting of Jaakko Pallasvuo’s Avocado Ibuprofen - “I hesitate to use the term 'repetitious' here, as it’s too pointed and overly-critical, but it’s just a simple fact that Avocado Ibuprofen was created in piecemeal fashion; to my mind, it is far more effective when consumed as such.”

• Chris Mautner reviews the frustrating errors of Jeremy Dauber’s American Comics: A History - “Perhaps my biggest problem with American Comics: A History is there’s too much advocacy and far too little analysis and criticism. While Dauber does often note the ill treatment that many cartoonists have labored under since the early days, he doesn’t hammer that point home hard enough to suit me.”



• Alex Cline reviews the solid satisfactions of Tini Howard, Francesco Mobili, et al’s Secret X-Men #1.

• Ben Morin reviews the dreary cynicism of Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, et al’s Suicide Squad: Blaze #1.

• David Brooke reviews the exciting action of John Ridley, Ken Lashley, et al’s I Am Batman #6.

• Rory Wilding reviews the building drama of Chip Zdarsky and Ramon K. Pérez’ Stillwater Volume 2.

• Justin Harrison reviews the impeccable action of Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, et al’s Wolverine: Deluxe Edition.


The Beat

• Ricardo Serrano Denis reviews the deceptive simplicity of James Tynion, Gavin Fullerton, et al’s The Closet #1; and the dark twists of Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips’ That Texas Blood Volume 2.

• Zoe Tunnell reviews the goofy comedy of Tini Howard, Francesco Mobili, et al’s Secret X-Men #1.

• Zack Quaintance reviews the deconstructivist spin of Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, et al’s Suicide Squad: Blaze #1.


Broken Frontier

• Andy Oliver reviews the eclectic joys of House of Harley’s Ugly Mug #5.

• Lindsay Pereira reviews the appealing intrigue of Lily Thu Fierro and Generoso Fierro's Vessel.


Four Color Apocalypse

Ryan C reviews the wild tapestry of Bistro Books’ Megillah #1, edited by Chad Bilyeu; the vital evocativeness of Isolated, edited by Tana Oshima; and the purposeful innovation of Kimball Anderson’s Unfolding.



Nick Smith reviews the powerful storytelling of Mariapaola Pesce and Matteo Mancini’s Rosa Parks.


Kirkus Reviews

Have starred capsule reviews of:

- The powerful unease of Canizales’ Amazona, translated by Sofía Huitrón Martínez.

- The impactful resonance of Alexis Castellanos’ Isla to Island.


Multiversity Comics

• Gregory Ellner reviews the flawed characterisations of Gene Luen Yang, Bernard Chang, et al’s Monkey Prince #1.

• Mark Tweedale reviews the quiet joys of Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Stephen Green, et al’s Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1957—Forgotten Lives.

• Jaina Hill reviews the pleasant messiness of Jed McKay, Ig Guara, et al's Magic #11.


New York Journal of Books

Marissa Moss reviews the perfect humour of Lynda Barry’s Come Over Come Over.


Publisher’s Weekly

Have capsule reviews of:

- The whimsical soliloquizing of Sophie Lucido Johnson’s Dear Sophie, Love Sophie: A Graphic Memoir in Diaries, Letters, and Lists.

- The evocative history of Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer’s Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith.

- The intense emotions of Reid Beaman and Ryan Beaman’s The Stretcher Bearers.

- The bawdy thoughtfulness of Gipi’s My Badly Drawn Life, translated by Jamie Richards.

- The illuminating surprises of Jon Chad’s Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball.

- The charming chuckles of Nero Villagallos O’Reilly’s The Poorcraft Cookbook.



• Isabelle Ryan reviews the dynamic relationships of Peyo’s Boy Meets Maria, translated by Amber Tamosaitis.

• Alex Hoffman reviews the relatable dissatisfaction of Guy Delisle’s Factory Summers.


Women Write About Comics

• Wendy Browne reviews the incohesive approach of Lili Sohn’s Vagina Love: An Owner’s Manual, translated by Sara Sugihara.

• Louis Skye reviews the cohesive product of Marvel Comics and WEBTOON’s Eternals: The 500 Year War.

• Bishop V Navarro reviews the jam-packed fun action of Jed MacKay, C.F. Villa, et al's Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond #1.

Presented without comment… This week’s interviews.


John Kelly presents an interview with Tony Millionaire, originally published in TCJ #215, August 1999, covering the creation of other worlds, familial comics history, and having the wackiest suits - “I like the idea of digging back to your farthest memory and trying to recreate it. I remember–the comics that I remember or that I dream about, the ones like the old Sunday newspaper comics, I don’t even know–the memory of them is better than when I actually go back and I try to–I really love to be able to recreate the memory of them, more so than actually looking at the old comics themselves. And that’s why I don’t read very many comics nowadays.”



• Chris Hassan talks to Benjamin Percy about X Lives of Wolverine and X Deaths of Wolverine, the physical trials of the frozen north, and Wolverine family team-ups.

• David Brooke speaks with Cian Tormey about Superman: Son of Kal-El, designing superhero suits, digital workflows, and breaking down creative processes on social media.

• Chris Coplan chats with Si Spurrier about Suicide Squad: Blaze, creative freedoms within superhero IP, deconstructing genre, and the act of horrifying the consumer.



Rob Salkowitz interviews C. Spike Trotman about Iron Circus’ move away from Kickstarter, reasons behind the move to crowdfunding independence, and what went into the new setup.


The Guardian

Luke Winkie talks to Art Spiegelman about bannings of Maus and the Garbage Pail Kids, free speech radicalism, and the days of the Comics Code.


NeoText Review

Avery Kaplan speaks with George C. Romero about Cold Dead War and The Rise, the origins of origin stories, and working with veterans.



Susana Polo interviews C. Spike Trotman and Nero Villagallos O’Reilly about The Poorcraft Cookbook and favourite recipes, and Iron Circus’ move to independent crowdfunding.


Publisher’s Weekly

• Rob Kirby talks to Eric Orner about Smahtguy: The Life and Times of Barney Frank, subject revisions, and political nostalgia.

• Antonia Saxon chats to Matthew Forsythe about Mina, familial inspirations, the editorial process, and eschewing art school.


Smash Pages

Alex Dueben speaks with Sarah Winifred Searle about The Greatest Thing, revisiting the relationships of high school, zine memories, and 00s slang.



Gabriela Güllich illustrates an interview with Rutu Modan about Tunnels, Academy of Art discoveries, physical creative processes, and running a publishing house.



• Matthew Jackson speaks with Jamie McKelvie about Captain Carter, getting to the story meat, societal nostalgia, and flying the flag for Marvel UK.

• Ernie Estrella chats with Steve Foxe about Archer & Armstrong Forever, the commonality of immortality, and balancing comedy with dramatic stakes.


Women Write About Comics

Wendy Browne interviews Christa Faust and Priscilla Petraites about Hit Me and BDSM dynamics, and Brittany Matter about Dead Dreams and personal inspirations.

Chronicling the storm… This week’s features and longreads.

• Here at TCJ, Brian Puaca writes on the parallels between the decision to remove Maus from the curriculum in Tennessee and 1950s censorship of comic books, as well as the wider spread of book bannings that have been taking place across the US in recent years - “Arguing that Maus promotes murder is akin to suggesting that John Lewis’s March encourages segregation or George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy endorses racism. This tactic of willfully equating content with support has a long history and is only one of many ways in which the recent McMinn County School Board meeting contained echoes of 1950s comics censorship.”

• On the same topic, for The Washington Post, Viola Burlew examines why comic books are such a popular target for censorship, and the effect of the Comic Code Authority on the medium’s development.

• Jason Mojica feature series, recounting the experiences of launching a kids comics shop during a pandemic, continues for The Beat, as power tools and tricycle accidents lead to a first sale.

• Over at The Guardian, Jennifer Rankin covers the addition of various comics characters to Belgian passports, including details visible only under the UV light of a security check.

• For Publisher’s Weekly, Calvin Reid looks at Iron Circus’ move away from Kickstarter to independent crowd-funding, the reasoning behind this, and fields Kickstarter’s response to this recent blot on their copybook.

• AIPT convenes a team to look back over Jonathan Hickman’s blueprint for the last couple of years of Marvel’s X-Men line of comics, and whether what was built added up to more than the sum of its parts.

• It’s a week of balance at Shelfdust, as Kelly Kanayama puts forward the case for the prosecution over the failings of Frank Castle’s new logo, while Jean Brigid-Prehn puts forward the case for the defence regarding Hope Summers’ place at the top of the mutant hierarchy.

• The first in a triptych of looks back at comics’ past, for Multiversity, Drew Bradley checks the calendar and shares what Februarys of years gone had in store for the industry.

• Meanwhile, in 1978, Joe Muszynski’s series on The Mighty Thor for Sequart continues, as the religious themes continue to flavour the adventures of the God of Thunder.

• 1997. Star Wars returns to theatres. Wolverine leaves for pastures new.

• Mike Peterson rounds up the editorial beat for The Daily Cartoonist, as winter continued, political discourse took on new meaning, and border issues shifted polarity.

Do you hear what I hear… This week’s audio/visual delights.

• Starting this week’s selection with a new episode of Thick Lines, as Katie Skelly and Sally Madden sang the praises of Steven Weissman’s Champs, Don't Call Me Stupid!, and White Flower Day, and where they fit in the all-time comic strip pantheon.

• Jeet Heer presented a new comics-focused episode of Morbid Symptoms, this week welcoming Charles Hatfield to the show to discuss the recent removal of Maus from the curriculum in Tennessee, and contextualise that move in the wider history of censorship of comics and literature for younger readers.

• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come also covered the censorship of Maus, as Calvin Reid, Heidi MacDonald, and Kate Fitzsimons also discussed the wider wave of book bannings that is ongoing in the US, as well as the recent rash of comics-related litigation.

• The Beat’s Graphic Novel TK returns with a special episode on publishing during COVID, as Benjamin Wilgus and Gina Gagliano spoke with Shannon Wright about Twins, and the unique situation of releasing a first graphic novel in the tumult of 2020.

• Fantagraphics and Secret Headquarters hosted an in-conversation between Ron Regé, Jr. and Annie Mok, celebrating the launch of Halcyon, and the realities of comics-making scheduling.

• Deb Aoki hosted this week’s edition of Mangasplaining, as the team discussed Tsubasa Yamaguchi’s Blue Period, art about making art and going to art school, and the various types of art teachers one might meet.

• David Harper welcomed First Second’s Mark Siegel to Off Panel this week, as they spoke about the history of the publisher, having a European view towards comics, and the Five Worlds graphic novel series.

• Closing out the week with what Cartoonist Kayfabe got up to during theirs, as Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor took a look at X-Force #116, Classic X-Men #44 (X-Men #138), Tales to Astonish #82, RanXerox, Marvel Knights Daredevil #1, and Mesmo Delivery, plus some McFarlane testimony, and a shoot interview with Brian K Vaughan.

That’s it for this week, back again soon with more, and presumably even more news, just constant news, tramping through my nightmares like pink elephants on parade. The horror.