Ah, October, when the leaves change to a delightful golden red, and illustrators o’er the land come together to celebrate the season of Inktob-
BUT… UH-OH! A LAWYER!*
Inktober™️ is now a trademarked term, and while it’s “totally cool”** to use the word in association with daily drawings on a theme, people don’t really like the squares over at corporate muscling in on the game. In response to this you’ve now got your secular celebrations like Drawtober, or Artober, or Illustrationtober Presents: Ink Time Funnies, and the rules have gone out of the window.
It’s anarchy on the streets, in the sheets, and on the page, and it’s made for a whole mess of Instagram hashtags, that presumably some people are clicking on? If you’re not one of those people then you can click on this week’s links instead, which can be found below.
*with apologies to Kupperman
**this entire intro mostly an excuse to link to my all-time favorite legal note - “Is this cool, legally speaking? It’s way past cool!”
Drumroll, please… This week’s news.
• The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the direct market continue to reverberate, and ICv2 report on the sales and publication numbers of monthly periodicals for August, with releases down 19% compared to 2019, thanks to decisions to stagger printing of new titles during the Diamond Distribution shutdown, and a cumulative fall between April and August of 55% compared to last year’s figures. Ultimately, we’re on track to end up with 2020 likely being the quietest year for fresh monthly reading material in quite a while, with a lessened impact on graphic novels released to book channels, but figures remain hard to definitively nail down due to Diamond’s lack of consistent sales reporting.
• Speaking of graphic novels, this year’s call for applications to the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries scheme is now open, offering funding for collection development and programming, with recipients being awarded $4,000 and a selection of Eisner’s work and biographies along with winners of the 2021 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - the deadline for application is February 7th 2021, and applicants (or their institute) must be ALA members located in the US, Canada, or Mexico.
• Somewhat putting the cart before the horse, The Harvey Awards have announced this year’s winners, ahead of this afternoon’s presentation ceremony, so you can now watch along safe in the knowledge of who’s already won - Gene Luen Yang being 2020’s big winner for Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes the Klan.
• The Daily Cartoonist report on the winners of this year’s Association of American Editorial Cartoonists awards, announced more traditionally than the above during the prizegiving ceremony, and there’s also a spotlight article on the winner of this year’s Rex Babin Memorial Award for Excellence in Local Cartooning, Pittsburgh Current’s Rob Rogers.
• As part of their ongoing month of festival activities, the Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo have announced the 32 recipients of this year’s $100 mini-grant program, with guest judge Nate Powell selecting Ingrid Pierre’s Do Not Resuscitate as the winner of the MICE Mini-Grand Prize of $500 - you can see a creator showcase of all the winners, with promo videos for each comic, right here, with hearty congratulations to all involved.
• In other funding news, Koyama Press have announced the latest recipient of their Provides grant program, awarding $1,000 to Ness Ilene Garza, who’ll be using the funds for printing “[comics] about my experience as a substitute teacher, how I navigated the education system as a student and my experience of working at Amazon.”
• In hot, hot merger action, as every publisher’s ears prick up at the mere hint of multimedia adaptation rights, AfterShock Comics and reality TV distributor Rive Gauche, which both have the same CEO, presumably makes things easier all round, have joined forces to form AfterShock Media - most excitingly, this opens the door to the potential for Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan comics, which you can probably expect to see hitting shelves in Q3 of 2021.
In the top one… This week’s reviews.
• Derik Badman reviews the enjoyably unusual mysteries of Borja González’ A Gift For A Ghost, which eschews the norms of conventional storytelling - “This is a fantasy... not exactly a portal fantasy (no one goes to another world), not exactly an urban fantasy (no vampires or monsters in the “real” world), and not exactly a time travel fantasy. It is in its way a kind of surreal time travel ghost story, where the “ghost” of the title may not be someone who was alive and died, but rather someone who isn’t alive yet.”
• Brian Nicholson reviews the cohesive sterility of Haejin Park, Sophie Page, and Paige Mehrer’s tripartite comic anthology Mirror Mirror 3, but finds that the reflections have been dulled - “The world is hard, of course. A book can provide a respite from the tiresome conflict found everywhere outside. However, by not acknowledging the existence of conflict within its bounds, the book-object ends up functioning simply as another product for sale. Avant-garde art should feel like an act of resistance to market forces; this doesn’t. The gesture communicated here is not profound enough to answer the question “Why not just make children’s books, you’d make a lot more money?””
• Matt Seneca reviews two recent works from CF (aka Christopher Fogues) and Anthology Editions, Pierrot Alterations andWilliam Softkey & the Purple Spider finding his subtle grace intact and cutting as enigmatic a rug as ever - “CF's comics have long invited readers to contemplate the idea that the medium's construction of narrative is determined as much by the organization and proximity of pictorial elements as it is by things like continuity or language. The weird, structure-questioning creatures from earlier in the book flit through the backgrounds of some of these pages, providing a tenuous tether to the first half's story. Maybe the society being constructed there has now been built, and what we're paging bewilderedly through is an evocation of urban chaos? No answer is provided.”
• Tegan O’Neil reviews the brisk enthusiasm of Simon Roy, Daniel Bensen, Artyom Trakhanov, et al’s post-post-apocalypse adventure First Knife - “Trakhanov uses a number of different lines, and the result can often seem like illustrations from different kinds of comics coming into conflict. There’s sci-fi monsters and space gods, post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherers, and crusty old dudes with vintage army surplus knives. There’s a great deal of energy on display. This book is clearly a labor of love, with all the good and bad that implies.”
• Lisa Allison reviews the happy diversions of Sophie Escabasse’s Witches of Brooklyn.
• David Brooke reviews the satisfying return of Scott Snyder, Rafael Alburquerque, et al’s historical hemophile series, American Vampire 1976 #1, the rich expositions of Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, et al’s Norse Mythology #1, and the thoughtful textures of Howard Chaykin’s Spider-Man: Marvels Snapshot #1.
• Keigen Rea reviews the compelling pulp adventures of NK Jemisin, Jamal Campbell, and Deron Bennett’s Far Sector #8.
• David Mann reviews the bold stylization of Steve Orlando, Davide Tinto, et al’s Commanders in Crisis #1.
The AV Club
Oliver Sava reviews the continuity crises of Geoff Johns, Jason Fabok, et al’s Batman: Three Jokers #1 & #2.
• Ricardo Serrano Denis reviews the unsettling seasonal scares of Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan, et al’s The Autumnal #1.
• Morgana Santilli reviews the aristocratic abolitionism of Ryosuke Takeuchi, Hikaru Miyoshi, et al’s Moriarty the Patriot: Volume 1.
• Avery Kaplan reviews the delightful complexity of Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright’s Twins.
• John Seven takes the Indie View and reviews the helpful engagement of Valérie Plante and Delphie Côté-Lacroix’ Okay, Universe.
• Bruno Savill de Jong reviews the digestible economy of Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, et al’s Norse Mythology #1; and the evasive plotting of Patrick Kindlon, Paul Tucker, et al’s Nobody Is In Control.
• Tom Murphy reviews the taut vibrance of James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds, et al’s The Department of Truth #1.
Gary Tyrrell reviews the twisty parallels of Box Brown's Child Star.
Four Color Apocalypse
House to Astonish
Paul O’Brien reviews the curious exquisite corpse of Giant Size X-Men: Tribute to Wein and Cockrum.
Have starred capsule reviews of:
- The casual delights of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper: Volume 2.
- The snarky grittiness of Jonathan Hill and Xan Drake’s Odessa.
- The compelling provocations of Lauren Redniss’ Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West.
- The unnerving intensity of Abby Howard’s The Crossroads at Midnight.
• Kate Kosturski reviews the disproportionate relationship of Shiromanta’s My Senpai Is Annoying Vol. 1.
• Jacob Hill reviews the gimmicky juxtaposition of Giant Size X-Men: Tribute to Wein and Cockrum.
• Christopher Chiu-Tabet reviews the gruesome lavishness of Pénélope Bagieu’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
• Kobi Bordoley reviews the familiar auras of Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, et al's Norse Mythology #1.
The New York Times
Chanelle Benz reviews the entertaining historical dismantling of James Otis Smith’s Black Heroes of the Wild West.
• Ryan Carey reviews the venerable relatability of Walter Scott’s Wendy, Master of Art.
• Rob Clough reviews the cohesive epistemology of Leslie Stein’s I Know You Rider.
Women Write About Comics
• Adrienne Resha reviews the jarring distractions of Eve L. Ewing, Kim Jacinto, et al’s Champions #1.
• Lisa Fernandes reviews the anemic stereotypes of Dan Panosian, Marianna Ignazzi, et al’s An Unkindness of Ravens #1.
• Melissa Brinks and Alenka Figa review the middle school body-horror of Chris Grine's adaptation of KA Applegate and Michael Grant's Animorphs Graphic Novel #1: The Invasion.
• Kayleigh Hearn reviews the explosive pulp of Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson's Dracula, Motherf**ker!.
They spell and pronounce their names differently… This week’s interviews.
Alex Dueben interviews Jacen Burrows on the pros and cons of art school, the path to Avatar Press and beyond, meeting with ‘The Beatles’ of Brit-comics, the influence of Steve Dillon, and drawing Lovecraft’s ‘indescribable’ horrors - “I was definitely not capable of producing mainstream quality work initially. I had a lot of bugs to work out and Avatar was happy to keep me employed, doing what I love. And they actually paid me when they said they would, which was not something I was used to with indie publishers...I even got health insurance for a time, which was unheard of for freelancers in American comics, especially indie comics.”
• David Brooke interviews Scott Snyder about the return of American Vampire, revisiting 1976’s Bicentennial celebrations, and viewing history through the horror lens.
• Erin Brady talks to Mr Boop creator Alec Robbins about risograph problems, the catch-22 of turning fun into profit, and turning the drill on IP-mining corporations for material.
• Deanna Destito talks to Ryan Harby about the new collection of Honey Dill comics, the relatability of silly nonsense, the enduring influence of newspaper strips, and making the shift to working with a publisher.
• Matt O’Keefe chats with Rory McConville, Joe Palmer, and Chris O’Halloran about Write It In Blood, getting the thing out there rather than waiting on publishers, American crime comics from the English and Irish perspective, and ramping up the textures for 4K screens.
Andy Oliver interviews:
- Lawrence Lindell about The BAYlies, having a pretty busy summer, anthology autonomy and inspirations, and the BAYlies Art Grant award scheme;
- Tal Brosh about her artwork in Flat Filters, dual-classing in comics and graphic design, and collaborating with Chino Moya;
- Nic Mac about the difficult business of freelancing, illustration inspirations, and the visceral emotions of graphic medicine.
Frederick Luis Aldama presents a new ‘Anatomy of a Panel’, this time around talking to David Schrader and Peter Murrieta about Rafael Garcia: Henchman, choosing comics as a way of life, stepping up to plug the representation gap in the Big Two, and the intricacies of the collaborative process.
Speak to Mark Trail's new hand on the tiller, Jules Rivera, about what she has planned for the strip going forward, the gateway drug of Saturday-morning cartoons, and handy surfing tips and tricks in comic form.
Brigid Alverson chats with Jerry Craft about new graphic novel Class Act, the importance of representation in YA books, poking (gentle) fun at teachers, and a hardcore work schedule to get the book into print.
• Kyla Smith interviews Allisa Chan about publishing new comic Interim with Shortbox, juggling schedules post-design school, the mystery of Blaseball, and drawing for drawing’s sake.
• Daniel Elkin talks to Paddy Johnston, Samuel C. Williams, and Rozi Hathaway of Good Comics about their status quo (or lack thereof) during the pandemic, the importance of passions and spreadsheets, the UK small press scene, and good ol’ crowdfunding.
• Karama Horne interviews Johnnie Christmas about Tartarus, the joy of elemental magicks and coffee, real-life influences on fantasy world-building and less fantastical stories, and collaborating with artists on recent projects.
• Mike Avila looks at the importance of comic book colorists, and talks to Kelly Fitzpatrick about why the role shouldn’t be overlooked when talking about the medium, breaking computers, the deadliness of deadlines, and needing the vital information of what time of day a scene is taking place during.
• Henry Barajas interviews Peter Murrieta about crowdfunded comic series Rafael Garcia: Henchman, childless dad-bod, going the static image route with this project, and the confidence that a couple of Emmy awards bring.
Women Write About Comics
Wendy Browne talks to AHOY Comics EIC Tom Peyer about upcoming comic Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Blood, mixing ingredients of classic comic anthologies together, and uncertain futures in the publishing industry; and interviews Aron Wiesenfeld about his journey into and back out of comics, the inspiration that cartoonist have on his fine art work, and his new book Travelers.
All mimsy were the borogoves… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, Dirk Venderbeke swerves off the well-trodden road for comics’ origins discourse, instead driving through Medieval times, to take in the delights of block books and nascent broadsheets, and the lurid tales depicted therein - my main question though is whether Bayeux Tapestry the 11th Century equivalent of Punisher MAX? I will say “yes” with little more supporting evidence than a feeling in my gut. Far better researched, however, is the essay from Dirk - “Caricatures had been around since the early woodcuts, but now they became a dominant form. The reason can possibly be found in the rise of journals and newspapers aimed at a strictly literate audience. Images were no longer needed and used to transmit stories and serious information, they became an addition to the written word and, in the form of caricature, commented on the news and political or cultural events. This does not indicate a loss of importance; political satire and humor is a very serious matter, and the 19th century was the age of brilliant caricatures.”
• Also for TCJ, Tom Shapira looks back at Plastic Man, as Kyle Baker's celebrated run on the title returns to print in omnibus form (no doubt stretching the limits of superlatives applied in pull quote form), and DC’s general lack of any semblance of a clue as to how the character should be utilized (I'd, personally, like more “He could kill us all. For him, it’d be easy.” energy from The Dark Knight Strikes Again, pahleeeease, DC) - “The mistake made by creators following Jack Cole...is to miss that seriousness of the character is an essential part of the gag. A good straight-man can make or break a comic-routine. Instead, the minute he bounced into the DC universe Plastic Man became ‘the funny one’ often written by people who don’t really know how to write good gags and artists whose style fails to convey the right sort of energy.”
• As a reminder that TCJ’s latest print edition goes on sale next week, you can read previews from recent issues, including a profile of veteran cartoonist Roz Chast by Gary Groth from the upcoming #306, and an excerpted interview between Rebecca Kirby and HTML Flowers moderated by RJ Casey from last issue, #305.
• The sad passing of Argentine cartoonist Quino generated a fair amount of coverage over the last week, with tributes pouring in from around the world, Associated Press’ Christopher Torchia had an article looking back on Quino’s life and work, the Buenos Aires Times ran an obituary that also looked back at his most famous creation, Malfalda, and NPR reported on his death as fellow cartoonist Miguel “REP” Repiso paid tribute by leaving his own comic strip blank.
• American Imago, the journal of scholarly psychoanalysis, founded by Sigmund Freud and Hanns Sachs, this week asked comics to lie down on the couch, with an edition devoted to the ninth art - it’s paywalled, as per, but you can generally track down individual articles via the authors, if they take your fancy.
• Also on the academic front, The Lancet has a (free-to-read) piece by Brian Callender, Shirlene Obuobi, M K Czerwiec, and Ian Williams on 'COVID-19, comics, and the visual culture of contagion', as the authors look at instances of graphic medicine coming out of the current pandemic, and the collective memory-making they represent.
• While Twitter dot com said it is most definitely not de rigueur for people to make light of a white supremacist and his inner circle contracting a deadly respiratory disease, editorial cartoonists looked down at their drawing devices and whispered “no”.
• For Women Write About Comics, Kay Sohini presents their second essay on graphic dissertations, and comics as academic discourse, this time looking at the controlled space for trauma reenactment that the medium presents, and the retrospective act of exploring this on the page.
• Over at Broken Frontier, EIC Andy Oliver puts together a step-by-step guide for getting coverage of a self-published comic, including the apparent secret truth that always drives me completely insane when it’s absent - have a website with a bio and examples of your work, ya dingus, it’s for your health!
• The Best American Comics is dead - long live The Best American Comics - 2006-2020.
• For NeoText, Chloe Maveal looks at the history of British horror comic Misty, and its eponymous fictional host, modeled after her creator, Shirley Bellwood; and Benjamin Marra has a short introduction to a rather lovely gallery of Bill Sienkiewicz Conan art - what is best in life, Bill?
• Over at SYFY Wire Sara Century looks at superhero comics’ favourite heel turn that usually involves a bondage glow-up - the good girl gone bad - won’t somebody think of the children &c &c.
• For The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly and Genevieve Bormes have a brief profile of Milt Gross, accompanying excerpts from the upcoming Gross Exaggerations: The Meshuga Comic Strips of Milt Gross, edited by Peter Maresca, including some prime slapstick cartooning.
• For The Carletonian, ‘Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877’, Nicole Collins presents an exegetical look at everyone’s favorite lasagna loving layabout, Garfield, and the strip’s three themes - “Impotent critiques of bureaucracy; friction and miscommunication with the State; and solipsism and marginalization of the Other.”
• A couple of pieces from 13th Dimension as Archie Comics' Alex Segura looks back at Roger Stern's run on Spectacular Spider-Man; and there's a re-run of Rob Kelly's piece on Atom Man vs Superman, to celebrate what would have been Superman actor Kirk Alyn's 110th birthday.
• Shelfdust continues forward unto dawn, as Steve Morris checks in with Peter Parker’s BFF, Captain George Stacy, in Amazing Spider-Man #59, Charlotte Finn considers how powerful is too powerful in Astro City #40, and Graeme McMillan considers how many Maxwell Lords are too many Maxwell Lords in Infinite Crisis, while Elena Levin figures out how many mans you need to make an OMAC.
• Visual AIDS, an arts organization that raises AIDS awareness and dialogue around HIV issues, have released a new series of Strip AIDS comics for 2020, along with a blog post explaining the use of comics for education, and the history of Strip AIDS anthologies.
• If you’re looking for webcomic material with a beginning, a middle, and (all importantly) an end - Fleen has a trio of stories that may be worth your time.
• Just in time for the spookiest month of the year, Abby Howard’s The Last Halloween rises from the grave, to scare anew.
• For The Nib, Victoria Marcelino documents the difficulties faced by close-knit families, during periods of lockdown and social distancing, and the myriad factors leading to higher risk of COVID-19 exposure for Latinx communities.
• Rest in peace, Mr Edward Van Halen.
Xander Berkeley’s cardigans in Candyman… This week’s recommended watching.
• A couple of comics-related film oddities to start the section this week, as the BFI in merrie olde London Towne announce that they’re funding an experimental AR project based on Nick Abadzis’ Laika comic, due to touch down sometime in 2021; and while Alan Moore may be done with comics he’s still in the storytelling game, as the first trailer for his new film The Show has arrived, so please be seated and/or upstanding.
• As part of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus’ virtual programming, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of their archives, featuring a slew of guest stars, including an audio spot from Bill Waterson on the enduring appeal of Cul de Sac - don’t forget that there’s still ongoing digital festival programming from Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo for the next few weeks, and this weekend sees the arrival of NYCC’s Metaverse, may gods have mercy on us all.
• The Believer and The Black Mountain Institute presented their latest virtual comics workshop last week, as Chris Russell took viewers through mini-comics making with naught but a sheet of paper, a pen, and a whole lot of enthusiasm.
• Something of a seasonally spooky theme threading through this week’s Cartoonist Kayfabe output, as Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg took a look at From Hell (the B&W version), Mike Mignola’s work on Legends of the Dark Knight #54, Bernie Wrightson’s work on the Creepshow adaptation, Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer, Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, Oesterheld and López’ The Eternaut, and the spookiest of them all… Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics [ghost emoji].
• It’s teacher and student week on Inkpulp, as Shawn Crystal catches up with two former students, Cara McGee and Domo Stanton, to discuss the realities of art school, and the pressures of professional comics work, while indulging in some casual inking, naturally.
• Noah Van Sciver chatted with Tim Lane this week, discussing his new book Toybox Americana, some topical Mad Men chat, EC comics hypotheticals, steady paycheck hypotheticals, and revisiting one’s own work.
• John Siuntres interviewed John Romita Jr on the Word Balloon this week, looking back across his career with a who’s who of collaborators worked with and superhero characters worked on.
The Monster Mash 24/7… This week’s easy-listening.
• I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but there’s trouble a-brewing on one or more earths on this week’s Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, as a crack superhero squad of Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner, and Matt Seneca try in vain to untangle the coruscating plotlines of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’ magnum opus, Crisis on Infinite Earths, all watched over by a dispassionate and immortal Joe McCulloch.
• 2000 AD's Lockdown Tapes this week look at the work of Steve Sampson, as he talks with host MOLCH-R about his diverse career, the pop art inflections he brought to the Galaxy's Greatest Comic (TM), and the joys of sheet metal working.
• It’s time for some Jack Kirby kraziness on Shelfdust Presents, as Graeme McMillan and Matt Lune discuss the general insanity of OMAC #1, as the King accidentally nails where this reality was unfortunately headed, which is somewhat depressing to think about.
• David Harper welcomed John Weddleton, owner of Bosco’s comic shop in Alaska, to Off Panel this week, to discuss his history in retail, the effect of COVID-19 on sales and running a store, and how the industry has changed over the years.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come had another stargazing special this week, as Calvin Reid and Meg Lemke discussed three recent graphic novels that garnered star reviews - David Chisholm’s Chasin’ The Bird: Charlie Parker in California, Katy Skelly’s Maids, and Sophie Yanow's The Contradictions.
• Back to comics this week for Salt and Honey, as Sloane Leong and Leslie Hung discussed Kris Bertin and Alexander Forbes’ Hobtown Murder Mystery comics in spoilerific fashion, and the mysteries contained therein, including why they should have been on more book of the year lists.
That’s it for this week, may your daily drawing exercises ever be fruitful, and your horror movie choices schlocky. Back in 7 rotations of the earth with more content.