As 2020 continues at a breakneck pace, with things increasingly taking on the flavor of the third act of a John Carpenter film, one thing remains unflinchingly the same, week-in week-out: the comics news cycle. So, give into the madness, and cast your gaze downwards, into the abyss, of this week’s links.
Wolf Blitzer in Mission Impossible: Fallout… This week’s news.
• Starting off this week with a story from The Daily Cartoonist: they may have accidentally uncovered a lost Schulz Peanuts illustration in the accompanying images for a reproduced article from Miss Caroline creator Gerald Gardner, which (I guess) slightly offsets the reduced availability of the Charlie Brown TV specials this year. Good grief!
• Continuing their series of donations to creators around the comics scene, Koyama Press announced the latest recipient of their Provides project grant scheme, as they awarded $7,000 of ongoing support to Kevin Czap and L. Nichols for the Ley Lines book series, “which intends to bridge the gap separating comics and other art forms.”
• While some may look back on 2020 as the summer of coronavirus lockdowns, I’ll be reminiscing to my hypothetical grandchildren about the chaos of DC Comics’ grand experiment in devolved direct market distribution, as, in a new and (relatively) exciting twist, Midtown Comics' UCS Distribution announced they’ll be cutting ties with DC Comics a mere 7 months after DC announced they’d be cutting ties with Diamond Distribution, which will leave Lunar Distribution as their go-to shipping-partner for periodicals. Confused? You will be!
• A couple more publishers ramping up their digital release schedules, as the direct market increasingly moves with the times, with Kodansha Comics shifting their release of digital publications in western markets to the same day as Japan, and Marvel are halving the time it takes for titles to filter down to their Unlimited app from six months to three. The future is written in ones and zeroes, friends.
• On the bricks and mortar retail front, publication figures on comics and graphic novels are down from 2019 numbers, with an overall trend of 55% fewer single issues and 13% fewer graphic novels released between April to September of this year, compared to 2019 - we're coming out of a period of staggered release schedules, planned to prevent swamping of comic stores with new stock as they re-opened, and heading into the holiday buying season, so it'll be interesting times for periodical-focused publishers over the next few months.
• In other 2020 corporate moves news, Rebellion Publishing announced that, former Barnes and Noble comics and SF book-buyer, Jim Killen, is joining the company as its new Editor-at-Large for science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels, aka the holy trinity of book store departments I’m most likely to kill time in while waiting for public transport.
Prepping those end-of-the-year lists and checking them twice… This week’s reviews.
• Arbaz M. Khan reviews the partial success of Jason Starr, Will Conrad et al’s Red Border.
• David Brooke reviews the untethered baggage of Katana Collins, Sean Murphy, Matteo Scalera, et al’s Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #1.
• Rory Wilding reviews the enjoyable looseness of Naoki Urasawa’s Sneeze.
• Ronnie Gorham reviews the entertaining conveniences of Rick Remender, Lewis Larosa, et al’s The Scumbag #1.
• Nathan Simmons reviews the unfocused exposition of Eliot Rahal, Julius Ohta, et al’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Madam Satan #1.
• Lindsay Pereira reviews the interesting lightness of Valérie Plante and Delphie Côté-Lacroix’ Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics.
• Bruno Savill de Jong reviews the narrative eloquence of Jim Terry’s Come Home, Indio.
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C reviews the level-headed balance of Jenn Woodall’s Marie And Worrywart, the perfect tensions of Julia Gfrörer’s Vision, the splendid production of Josh Pettinger's Goiter #5, and the harrowing playfulness of Theo Ellsworth's Unexplained.
Journal of Anime and Manga Studies
As part of the inaugural issue of the journal (more on that below), Andrea Horbinski reviews the commendable thoroughness of Adam Kern’s Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyôshi of Edo Japan [2nd edition].
• Robbie Pleasant reviews the grimdark delights of Kieron Gillen, Jacen Burrows, et al’s Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #1.
• Christopher Egan reviews the manic manifestations of Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, Leonardo Romero, et al’s The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem #1.
• Just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, Christopher Egan looks back on the upsetting body-horror of Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, translated by Susan Daigle-Leach.
• Matthew Blair reviews the elevated accessibility of Brian J. Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Dev Pramanik, et al's Dune: House Atreides #1.
• Jodi Odgers reviews the spellbinding nuance of M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux' The Daughters of Ys.
Hans Rollman reviews the compelling innovations of Bishakh Som’s Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir.
• Ryan Carey reviews the appealing ambitions of Giorgio Carpinteri’s Aqualantic, translated by Jamie Richards.
• Lane Yates reviews the captivating chaos of Simon Hanselmann's daily Megg, Mogg, and Owl Instagram comic, Crisis Zone.
Women Write About Comics
• Paulina Przystupa reviews the stylish subtlety of John Allison, Max Sarin, et al’s Wicked Things #5.
• Emily Lauer and Elvie Mae Parian review the beautiful encapsulations of Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish.
• Louis Skye reviews the intimate interplay of Micah Weltsch and Andrew Wheeler’s Soldier/Sailor.
Show me how you do that trick… This week’s interviews.
• Returning with a new installment of ‘Retail Therapy’, Keith Silva talks to Pulp 716 Coffee & Comics’ Jay Berent about the team’s passion for comics, local pride in the 716, remaining open as an essential business during the early days of the pandemic, and getting new customers through the door with the lure of caffeine - “Being a bubble tea and coffee shop, we have thousands of guests per week that have never stepped foot in a comic shop before. This is all new to them. Coffee is recession proof, that fact has been established, but we found out it is pandemic proof too. People came in for their drinks and a lot of them were looking for something to read because they were out of work or school for a while. Our sales actually increased during the shutdown.”
• Ian Thomas talks to some of the people behind publishing collective Radix Media about holistic approach to printed media, sweat equity and collective ownership, eschewing the gatekeeping of traditional publishing models, and their current crowdfunding campaign for a trio of titles arriving in 2021 - “As a publisher, we offer our artists a lot more control over the final product compared to more traditional publishers, we also pride ourselves in paying fairly. While it’s not always on the higher end of the pay scale, we work very hard to compensate our authors and artists above professional rates.”
• Chris Coplan interviews Ho Che Anderson about creating in the year of COVID-19, collaborating with Ben Marra, and the extent to which terminology like ‘graphic novel’ actually matters.
• Alex McDonald talks to AHOY’s EIC Tom Peyer about Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Blood, onboarding for new readers, and making Poe funny.
• Deanna Destito interviews Paul Cornell about his writing on new book I Walk With Monsters, the big dog Stephen King, redemption arcs, and letting the pictures do the talking.
• Zack Quaintance talks to Zac Thompson and Jen Hickman about new comic Lonely Receiver, how the project came together, and the intersection of horror/tech/romance.
• Adam Karenina Sherif interviews Adrienne Resha about her theories on an ongoing new, blue age of comics, how it reflects the general global shift into the digital age, and extremely relatable disparities between reading and writing speeds.
Andy Oliver talks to Lizzie Kaye about new publishing venture Cast Iron Books, her career in the UK comics publishing scene, pursuing a creator-led ethos to putting out books, and what to expect from them in 2021.
Sam Leith interviews Art Spiegelman about Maus as the comic approaches its 40th birthday, anniversary ambivalence, the Pulitzer sword of Damocles, and what contemporary comics culture is evolving into.
Emilia Packard chats with Sophie Yanow about The Contradictions, clarity of architecture, and enduring inspirations.
Kate Kosturski talks to Nick Roche and Chris O’Halloran about their new series Scarenthood, the differences between work-for-hire and creator-owned projects, whether a pet rabbit is similar to a child, and the existential horror of 70s public safety films in Britain.
The New Yorker
Emma Allen interviews cartoonist Liana Finck about the specifics of her work routine, the misery of drawing store displays, and the subjective nature of comic strip classics.
Troy Jeffrey-Allen talks to Henry Barajas about La Voz de MAYO: Tata Rambo, the real-life inspiration for the comic, the work of MAYO (Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others), and his work in comics production outside of writing.
Brigid Alverson talks to Nachie Marsham and Blake Kobashigawa about IDW’s plans for the future, the lessons learned from the pandemic, including the necessity of a strong back-catalogue, and the ongoing book market boom.
• Maria Carvalho interviews Gabriela Gullic about whether the drawing or the text came first, Joe Sacco and Marjan Satrapi’s positions in the graphic journalism canon, and broadening the scope of comics reportage.
• Daniel Elkin talks to Birdcage Bottom Books’ JT Yost about the cumulative blows dealt to small press publishers by the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience of said publishers, and the activism of publishing.
• Karama Horne interviews Ram V about Blue In Green, freestyle jazz comics creation, and refusing to compromise on how to improvise.
• Nivea Serrao talks to Chris Grine about adapting the long-running YA book series Animorphs, staying true to the body-horror weirdness of the source material, and avoiding thought balloons.
Vermont Public Radio
Mitch Wertleib and Sam Gale Rosen interview Cara Bean about working on the Center for Cartoon Studies’ latest public information comic collaboration, Let’s Talk About It, focused on mental health and stress, and the advantages that the comic format brings to the table when conveying health information to younger readers.
Reading the room… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, RC Harvey returns with a new Hare Tonic, this week, looking at Brett Dakin’s American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason (reviewed for TCJ here), and finds a surprising lack of actual comics history in Dakin’s recounting, so does the requisite legwork for our benefit - “If you want to know how Gleason Publications produced comicbooks, who wrote and drew them and whatever excitements were involved in that—how did [Norman] Maurer get his drawing assignment? How did [Charlie] Biro get his story ideas?—if that’s what interests you about comic book publishing, you won’t find any of it in this book.”
• Also for TCJ, Juan Manuel Domínguez has remembrances of Argentinian cartoonist Quino, aka Joaquín Lavado, who sadly passed away last month, creator of the endearing and enduring strip Mafalda - “While Quino was always grateful for Mafalda’s popularity, he once told me in 2013: “I’m a little bit tired about Mafalda, with all due respect to the love the strip creates and always receives. I understand a character strip creates a bond in a way that my single panels don’t. But I’m not tired of that side of comics.””
• Similarly looking back at the life and work of Quino, for Jacobin magazine, Isabella Cosse frames his work, and the global spread of Mafalda, in the context of Argentina’s changing sociopolitical landscape.
• Mentioned previously above, this month heralds the arrival of the inaugural issue of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, available as a free-to-read download, with a decent spread of topics, curated by Editor-in-Chief Billy Tringali.
• Also on the academic front, for UK Black History Month, researchers Ernesto Priego and Linda Berube have an article on the 'grand narratives' of comics academia, and how these need to be challenged in order to fully reflect the representation that's present in comics that are often ignored, or fail to be presented in homogenous (ie white) retellings of comics history.
• For Women Write About Comics, Rebecca Henely-Weiss and Kayleigh Hearn hear church bells a-ringing once more, as they look back on the wedding issue for Young Avengers’ Hulkling and Wiccan, and its surprising sincerity in this age of hyper-marketing brand synergy.
• Over at NeoText, Chloe Maveal has an essay in celebration of the horror comics of Emily Carroll, and its break from the traditions of more wrought gothic strips, bringing unique charms into the tales of bloody violence.
• Ten days to go, until something or the other happens, which is a long time and a half in politics, as editorial cartoons are wont to remind us - Mike Peterson has a grab-bag of those over at The Daily Cartoonist.
• It's days of future past for Days of Future Past, as Mike Avila looks back on the seminal X-Men story arc, and John Byrne's victory lap on the comic.
• Over at Solrad, Angela M. Sánchez writes on some recent (and not-so-recent) anthropomorphic comic faves, and their allegorical depictions of oppression, as well as the problem with Zootopia, and how comics academia tackles the coding in these stories.
• For Law Times, Aidan Macnab looks at Bryant Greenbaum’s use of comics as teaching tools for depicting racism, and framing discussions around stereotypes and bias, when leading continuing professional development courses.
• Richard W. Orange has an essay for Aeon, looking at Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking stories, as both approach their 75th anniversary, and the trauma of the second World War that is filtered through both, though in markedly different ways.
• The above essay jarring when read in light of this recent brand acquisition story from King Features, as they trumpet the licensing opportunities that await the innocent Moominfolk in North America. Oof. Tonal whiplash that’ll knock your spine out of place.
• For Polygon, Karen Han writes in celebration of Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto, and its place in the post-human pantheon.
• Over at 13th Dimension Paul Kupperberg returns with another top 13, this week looking at the heart of the Silver Age, and some top notch Batman cover treatments. ZOWIE!
• On the good ship Shelfdust, Charlotte Finn sets sights on Astro City’s water-based heroes and Kat Overland can't see the Teen Titans for the demons, meanwhile, Jay Rincher looks back at Jungle Action #10’s place in Black comic book history, and then brings us news of *checks notes* Hawaii’s bright defender, Superboy.
• For The Nib this week, Victoria Lomasko refuses to let border closures stop graphic journalism’s reporting on protests in Belarus, covering the popular movement against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime - The Nib also have a funding drive on at the moment, which you can read more on here.
• Panel Syndicate released the second chapter of Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vicente's Friday this week - the 'post-YA' comic is available as a pay-what-you-want digital download now.
A series of unfortunate events… This week’s recommended watching.
• A couple of recent book launch in-conversations from McNally Jackson to kick this week’s moving pictures section off, as Alison Bechdel and Sophie Yanow discuss ligne claire, and Alissa Bennett and Katie Skelly dig into the folie à deux of Maids.
• Some recent virtual events from the last couple of weeks, as the Fashion Institute of Technology took this year’s Diversity Comic Con online with a series of panels and Q&As; Brooklyn Book Festival hosted a conversation between Leslie Stein and Adrian Tomine; and Twin Cities Book Festival presented a panel on graphic non-fiction with speakers Derf Backderf, R. Sikoryak, and James Otis Smith, with moderator Kim Todd.
• The Museum of Estonian Architecture, as part of the Obscure World of the Urbatect exhibition, which focuses on the Obscure Cities graphic novel series by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, hosted a lecture by Peeters about his work on the series, his history with Schuiten, and an audience Q&A.
• Noah Van Sciver welcomed Anders Nilsen to his cartoonist chat show this week, as the two discuss deadline stress, the fun part of creating, and how to compartmentalize being an author.
• Taken from earlier this year, Comix Experience presented June’s Kids GN Club discussion, as Gene Luen Yang and Gurihuru discuss Superman Smashes the Klan, and discuss the difference between single-author books in the manga tradition and the team-efforts of western comics.
• The Museum of Wisconsin Art hosted a panel talk with contributors to The Nib this week, as Eleri Harris, Matt Bors, Niccolo Pizarro, Matt Lubchansky, and Chelsea Saunders discussed works from the museum's collection and their own comics, looking at the social relevance of political cartooning.
• Mike Avila presented a new episode of SYFY Wire's Behind the Panel, looking back on Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley's The Dark Knight Returns, talking to Miller and Janson about its creation, and current DC creators about its influence on superhero comics.
• This week’s episode of Inkpulp saw Shawn Crystal and Jim Mahfood chatting with DJ Mike Helm about what their jobs actually entail, and the intersection of creative spaces, along with some live-drawing.
• Another spooky, scary week of books on Cartoonist Kayfabe this week, as Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg turned the flashlight onto Jim Steranko’s At The Stroke Of Midnight, the EC Comics Jack Davis Artist Edition, Charles Burns’ modern classic Black Hole, Eclipse Comics’ Alien Encounters #6 aka the book that inspired They Live, Bernie Wrightson’s work on Creepy and Eerie, Suehiro Maruo’s Mr Arashi’s Amazing Freakshow, and the final chapters of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell.
• The latest of The Believer and the Black Mountain Institute’s online art workshops saw Marguerite Dabaie taking viewers through creating comics to start a dialogue, and how they’re a great medium to share your experiences and social issues with an audience that may have no prior knowledge of these.
That’s just noise… This week’s easy-listening.
• Comic Books Are Burning In Hell managed to leave the hot, hot Three Jokers chat to the end of the episode this week, prefacing the question of whether you can really have a holy trinity of Jokers with a discussion of two recent Fantagraphics books with brutal intimacies at their core - Katie Skelly’s Maids and Julia Gfrörer’s Vision.
• 2000 AD’s Lockdown Tapes heralded the return of Stickleback to the comic’s pages this week with a chat with its creators, Ian Edginton and D’Israeli, before welcoming Kelly Kanayama to the show for a chat about Judge Dredd: Origins, and the path it set for everyone’s favourite fascist.
• House to Astonish returned with a new episode as they tried to get to the bottom of DC’s Future State event, now 5G isn’t happening, definitely not related to conspiracy theories surrounding the signal format, and all the Marvel business that’s safe to shake a stick at.
• Shelfdust Presents covered one of the biggest first issues of them all this week, as Matt Lune and Rosie Knight looked back on Giant-Size X-Men #1 - possibly one of the most reprinted periodicals in the medium? I don’t have any evidence for that, I’m just making wild guesses based on anecdotal observations of many, many reprints of it in any vaguely related backmatter that Marvel could possibly fill out a slim trade paperback with.
• Matt Fraction and Elsa Charretier joined the War Rocket Ajax crew this week, to discuss new book November, and how one keeps busy during the timeless passage of the quarantine.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come hits one of the bigger weekly comic stories of recent memory, as Heidi MacDonald talks to King Features’ Tea Fougner about her career in digital comics syndication, and that Mark Trail reboot that has the squares of the comment sections all het up.
• Gil Roth welcomed Merrill Markoe to The Virtual Memories Show this week, to discuss her new book We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe, the enduring influence of Lynda Barry, and why ctrl-z is a wonder of modern technology.
That’s it for this week, back again soon, when we’ll be brushing right up against the thinning of the membrane between this world and the next, so bring some sage and a black candle, and maybe some treacle toffee, because I will stand by British traditions, when they involve tooth-endangering snacks.