It’s been a sleepy, hot summer week for comics, barring one big ongoing news story continuing to rumble away, more on which in This Week’s Links, below. However, it was also a week wherein I read the line “I think comics are an obvious...low stakes way to keep an IP alive” spoken by a creator in an interview, and it made me react like the GIF of Antonio Banderas from Assassins, you know the one, just for how brazen it was about The Game in which we find ourselves players. Anyways, nothing we can do about that after the fact, and time’s a-wasting, so get to clicking, lest those IPs turn cold.
— Tor Freeman (@tormalore) August 3, 2021
I do not think it means what you think it means… This week’s news.
The big news story this week, from an industry perspective, was the return of Diamond Comic Distributors’ reporting of sales figures for the first time in 7 months, after initiating a pause due to consolidation of its warehouse operations, and, wouldn’t you know it, Chomichron puts June 2021’s Top 300 sales without DC above any of Diamond’s pre-pandemic sales with DC, hitting $37.5 million, beating a previous high of $31.24 million that was reached back in October 2015.
However, as it was a fairly quiet news week otherwise, and due to the reappearance of one Mr Albert Francis “Spawn” Simmons in the top 5, and the rest of those top-sellers being Marvel comics, who have a new dance partner from October, I took a trip down memory lane to when that was last the status quo, and looked back at Chomichron’s sales analyses for 1994 and 1995. These make for interesting/disturbing reading [delete as appropriate], bearing in mind what’s been happening over the last year or so with comics market changes, those stories linked to previously in this column a fair bit, as the industry struggled to mitigate the chaotic fallout of the last big round of distributor/publisher manoeuvring, and the cracks that were papered over back then never really went away.
Time remains, as ever, a flat circle, and maybe this will turn out to be a Chicken Little situation, but there could be a storm brewing, as the direct market weathers another series of hefty changes, this time while contending with the whims of the world’s first ‘megapublisher’ (now also a 'megadistributor', where comics are concerned), as well as the ongoing economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which similarly continues to affect the lucrative world of conventions, further eating into those profit margins.
i have a new short comic on horror and being BIPOC over at the lovely @RueMorgue ????
— sloane (@sloanesloane) August 2, 2021
Practically perfect in every way… This week’s reviews.
• Timothy Callahan reviews the jarring continuity of Michael Carroll, John Higgins, et al’s Dreadnoughts: Breaking Ground - “This is a cold, violent comic book, but it doesn’t abdicate its thematic responsibilities. Glover is bad but others around her are worse, manipulating an already-corrupt system the Judges were meant to fix, and while Glover’s story arc appear to be one of redemption, this volume only provides the first arc of her story. She is just getting started and there’s more to her than we yet understand.”
• Hillary Brown reviews the beautiful fantasy of Thom Pico and Karensac’s Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic - “The mythology at work in the Aster books is a huge part of their appeal and the trick that makes them go. Over and over, it combines menacing/powerful with cute/silly, and it never stops working...It's a child's way of looking at the world, one informed by finding your way through it and not knowing what's legitimately dangerous and what isn't, as well as what might be in certain circumstances.”
• Madeleine Chan reviews the compelling end of G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, et al’s The Dreaming: Waking Hours #12.
• David Brooke reviews the fun closure of Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, et al’s American Vampire 1976 #10.
• Alex McDonald reviews the transgressive normality of Paul Constant and Fred Harper’s Snelson: Comedy is Dying #1.
• Jason Segerra reviews the nuanced characters of Vita Ayala, Rod Reis, et al’s New Mutants Volume 1.
• Jordan Richards reviews the exciting changes of Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind Volume 1.
• Alex Cline reviews the delicate romance of ymz’ Key Ring Lock.
• Rebecca Burke reviews the ethereal drama of Manuele Fior’s Celestia, translated by Jamie Richards.
• Tom Murphy reviews the flawed dissonance of Wilfrid Lupano and Stéphane Fert’s White All Around, translated by Montana Kane.
• Andy Oliver reviews the unnerving intensity of Demitri Vassiliadis’ Memoirs of Metamorphosis, the fascinating triumphs of Zara Slattery’s Coma, and the wry subversion of Rachelle Meyer's Texas Tracts: Holy Diver.
Gary Tyrrell reviews the affecting melancholy of Mike Holmes’ My Own World.
Four Color Apocalypse
Rosemary Bray McNatt reviews the careful significance of Rebecca Hall and Hugo Martínez’s Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts.
House to Astonish
Paul O’Brien reviews the truncated strengths of Leah Williams, David Baldeón, David Messina, et al’s X-Factor #6-10.
• Joe Skonce reviews the unnecessary action of Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Adam Gorham, et al’s Dune: Blood of the Sardaukar #1.
• Robbie Pleasant reviews the entertaining focus of Tom Taylor, John Timms, et al’s Superman: Son of Kal-El #1.
• Mark Tweedale reviews the unrelenting viciousness of Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Peter Bergting, et al’s The Golem Walks Among Us! #1.
• Alexander Jones reviews the gritty safety of Brian Azzarello, Alex Maleev, et al’s Suicide Squad: Get Joker! #1.
• Christopher Egan reviews the dark satire of Mark Russell, Mike Deodato Jr, et al's Not All Robots #1.
Have capsule reviews of:
- The moving reconciliation of Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia’s Ballad For Sophie, translated by Gabriela Soares.
- The whimsical magic of Federico García Lorca and Tobias Tak’s Canciones of Federico García Lorca.
- The accessible quirkiness of Yoshiharu Tsuge’s Red Flowers, translated by Ryan Holmberg.
- The complex connections of Christophe Cassiau-Haurie and Barly Baruti’s Madame Livingstone: The Great War in the Congo, translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger.
• Ryan Carey reviews the uneven satisfactions of SelfMadeHero’s I Feel Love, edited by Krent Able and Julian Hanshaw.
• Tom Shapira reviews the befuddling imbalances of Last Gasp Comix’ Slow Death Zero.
• Carrie McClain reviews the timely elaborations of Robyn Smith’s The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town.
The Washington Post
Michael Cavna reviews the breezy deftness of Ellen Stern’s Hirschfeld: The Biography.
Women Write About Comics
• Masha Zhdanova reviews the harmonious dynamics of Magnolia Porter Siddell’s Monster Pulse.
• Sabina Stent reviews the feverish variety of Jack Mulqueen et al’s Nightlife Noir 1 & 2.
• Cori McCreery reviews the shining conclusion of G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, et al’s The Dreaming: Waking Hours #12.
• Wendy Browne reviews the slick satire of Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr’s Not All Robots #1.
Koyama Provides a $1K USD Grant to Aidan Koch!
"I fell in love with Aidan's work a long time ago and got the chance to publish her book AFTER NOTHING COMES in 2016. Her work is lyrical and gentle yet forceful and full of meaning.
— Annie Koyama (@AnnieKoyama) August 4, 2021
Smiling through the pain… This week’s interviews.
Tasha Lowe-Newsome interviews Bryan Talbot about the return of Luther Arkwright and new collections of Grandville, normal workdays, collaborative processes, and favourite story themes - “You’ve got to love looking at illustrations. And, if you do, illustrations are great, but comics are even better - every page has dozens of illustrations, hundreds in a graphic novel. And they aren't just disparate illustrations; they all come together to tell a story. For me that’s part of the fascination of comics - a sort of alchemy happens in your mind, when the pictures and words come together to give the impression that the story is flowing before your eyes. That is the magic of it for me.”
• Chris Hassan speaks with Ariana Maher about personal X-Men history, comics lettering inspirations, the challenges of arranging words on the page, and the importance of clarity and consistency.
• Chris Coplan talks to Ricky Mammone and Max Bertolini about Second Chances, cinematic inspirations, the value of individual identity, and the importance of the subconscious mind.
• David Brooke speaks with Reggie Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite about Icon and Rocket: Season One, the legacy of Milestone characters, putting Black characters at the forefront of superhero stories, and changes in costume design since the 90s.
• Avery Kaplan interviews Justin Roiland and Tess Stone about Trover Saves the Universe, avoiding writing in circles, virtual reality tech, and being a bit obsessed with death; and Andrew Aydin about Run: Book One, comics origins, some great memories of Rep. John Lewis, and the importance of showing both the victories and setbacks on the road to sociopolitical progress.
• Joe Grunenwald speaks with Jeff Lemire about Mazebook, exploring the heavy stuff, labyrinthine storytelling, and balancing page counts with narrative tension.
• Deanna Destito talks to Cassandra ‘Elvira’ Peterson and David Avallone about Elvira: The Wrath of Con, a year (or two) without conventions, crowdfunding campaigns, and the importance of a good wig and a dress.
Andy Oliver chats with Norm Konyu about The Junction, writing a story backwards, layers of process, and crowdfunding advice for first-timers.
Amy Fleming speaks with Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah about Sleeper, former lives as medics, testing character hypotheses, and making things rewarding for readers.
The Hollywood Reporter
Borys Kit interviews Jim Lee and Daniel Cherry III about DC Comics’ rebuilding phase, the challenges of 2020 and how to future proof about what might come next, and just a whole loft of good old-fashioned corporate outreach.
Kyle Welch talks to Justin Roiland and Tess Stone about Trover Saves the Universe, keeping IPs active, fun creative freedoms, and getting character voices right.
Alex Dueben interviews Dave Roman about Astronaut Academy, younger readers’ disinterest in publishing contracts, hiding easter eggs in the details, and increasing acceptance that kids like to read weird stuff.
The Washington Post
Michael Canva speaks with Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, and L. Fury about Run: Book One, the legacy of Rep. John Lewis, depicting the realities of protest, and the emotional nature of illustrating accounts of racist violence.
Women Write About Comics
• Kate Tanski talks to Lauren O’Connor about Robin and the Making of American Adolescence, the importance of a good dissertation committee, the frustrations of mainstream views on comics, and the successes and failings of various iterations of Batman’s young ward.
• Paige Lyman interviews Steve Urena about Zombie Date Night, changing seasonal settings to mix things up, keeping character creation fun, and learning by doing.
You open your eyes and see the unusual room before you. do you:
A-Climb the Ladder
B-Go out onto the terrace on the right
C-Venture forward and into the furthest doorway
D-An option of your own choosing pic.twitter.com/Rx03qiNll8
— Patrick Kyle (@_patrickkyle) August 3, 2021
Alliterative qualities… This week’s features and longreads.
• Here at TCJ, Co-Editor Joe McCulloch introduces this week’s contributors at the Journal, and compares and contrasts the world-views of Bryan Talbot and Rick Veitch - “The central joke of Veitch's comic -- the structural joke -- is that the advertising-mandated existence of the mind-made endures a ways past everything else, inviting you to treat yourself to a restaurant in the midst of rubble. I recall the strange, paralyzed state of commercials online as COVID really broke loose in the States, and I think Veitch's vision of the end is unusually prescient.”
• Also for TCJ, Lane Yates writes on the work of Tom King, engaging with the dual aspects of the former intelligence operative’s professional history, and the recurrent themes that can be found in his superhero stories - “Considering the outcomes of King’s protagonists and the culpability they avoid in the course of their narratives, there’s sufficient evidence to say that he isn’t transparent about the implications of his military involvement. What I believe is that the presence of the author in these stories creates a matrix with which we can evaluate this honesty and is, consequently, much more intriguing than the basic portrayal of Iron Man as a repentant technocrat, of Batman as a bleeding heart aristocrat, or of Green Lantern as a really well-intentioned police officer.”
• Finally for TCJ this week, Anya Davidson visits the Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now exhibition, at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary art, and reports from the scene, speaking with Dan Nadel about its conception - “Cartoonists are not used to institutional representation. We tend to feel most comfortable operating under the radar. That’s the devil’s bargain of cartooning. There’s no money in underground comics but, conversely, there are no rules. We can say whatever the fuck we want. Comics are cheap to make. The barrier to entry is unbelievably low and we like it that way.”
• Just in time for the character’s 40th birthday, Tegan O’Neil continues looking back at the history of Rogue, this time around taking the macro view of how superhero comics will always, inevitably, fall prey to the greater needs of corporate editorial mandates.
• For Shelfdust, Kelly Kanayama writes on The Other History of the DC Universe #3, and how John Ridley’s writing in the comic fails to accurately engage with historical, and ongoing, anti-Asian racism in the US, and the absence of any engagement with the linked issue of anti-Asian misogyny, failures that are endemic in superhero comics in general.
• Over at Publisher’s Weekly, Brigid Alverson writes on the slow burn boom of manwha in North America, as the popularity of Korean print comics with readers begins to catch up with their digital counterparts.
• Chloe Maveal writes in celebration of José Ortiz, for NeoText, charting his ocean-spanning career in comics, and putting forward the argument for his receiving more recognition in the comics world.
• 1991. Goodbye to Chris Claremont. Hello to Larry Hama. A very pleasant evening to Wolverine.
• A new issue of Bubbles graces us with its presence tomorrow, as issue 11 goes on sale, featuring interviews with Dash Shaw, Amanda Vähämäki, Eike Exner, and Tim Hensley. Form an orderly queue.
— Bjenny Montero (@bjennymontero) August 3, 2021
DVR’d for your convenience… This week’s audio/visual delights.
• If you read this column as soon as it goes live (and why would you not), and are swift with your typing fingers, then you could most likely still register for this year’s Comics Studies Society conference, which hopes to “spark thoughtful conversations about the intersections surrounding comics and communities of all sorts”.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More To Come returned with a report from this year’s virtual Eisner awards, recapping all the goings on from 2021’s Comic [email protected], and recent big news stories in the world of digital comics deals and bad times for Disney.
• Ted Brandt joined Matt Lune for this week’s Shelfdust Presents, as they discussed Superman Secret Identity #2, and how it presents an exemplary Superman story without really being a Superman story.
• It was a solo SILENCE! outing this week, as The Beast Must Die presented the pledge, the turn, and then the prestige format of DC Comics, with a lot of Batmans (Batsman?) and more pages than you could ever hope to count in a single lifetime.
• Another triple trouble week at Comics Kayfabe as Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor, and Tom Scioli took a look at Mike Mignola’s Quarantine Sketchbook, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and an interview with Miller mid-Dark Knight Returns from Comics Interview #31, Mark Evanier’s The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, and Jack Kirby’s The Demon #1.
• Noah Van Sciver welcomed Pascal Girard to his channel for a cartoonist chat, as they discussed the differences between English- and French-language press, childhood comics reading, and convention signings.
• Dan Berry invited Joey Weiser to Make It Then Tell Everybody this week, as they spoke about Dragon Racer, different heads, coming up with new ideas from old ideas, and future selves.
• MOLCH-R escaped 2000 AD’s Lockdown Tapes this week, seeking refuge on War Rocket Ajax, to speak about the humble bundle currently running for The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, and all the Brit-comics anecdotes you could ever want.
• Season 1 of Mangasplaining drew to a close, as the team ended at the beginning by returning to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and diving into volume 2 of the classic series, and its improving on already pretty great comics art.
• Mex Flentallo returned from a brief hiatus, as Ramon Villalobos and Daniel Irizarri were joined by Michelle Perez and Jake to discuss Hart Fisher and Nelson Danielson’s Rush Limbaugh Must Die, engaging your neurons, Louis Theroux documentaries, and Fisher’s wider, uh, body of work.
tfw ur a big strong man pic.twitter.com/uyDsTP3GiF
— bidu panguinhas (@flavushh) August 4, 2021
That’s it for another week, don’t forget to support your favourite IP this weekend, be that at the box office, or the voting booth, or however it is you might decide to dedicate your life to doing such a thing.
— JOHNNY RYAN (@JOHNNYRYAN101) August 3, 2021