In a real key exemplar of my personal conception of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” I’ve spent the last couple of weeks soundtracking my days with the triumphant return of test match cricket commentary - and am doing so while writing this, as England takes on Pakistan - which is oddly soothing, and goes on for 8 hours at a time (weather permitting), so it’s perfect for floating unmoored from the passage of time during a global pandemic. Highly recommended.
I could try and tie this back to comics, and this week’s links, because I read a cricket-themed issue of Giant Days yesterday, or something along those lines, but it would be a stretch, I'm just glad that sports are back, baby.
Extry, extry... This week’s news.
• Following the release of record sales figures for comics and graphic novels in 2019 last month, 2020 (somewhat unsurprisingly) has seen periodical publication drop by 63% in April-July, compared to the same period in 2019, with graphic novels down by 18% over the same period, ICv2 reports - a number of direct market-focused publishers shuffled their release schedules during lockdowns to later in the year, so this is to be expected, but it’s a somber indicator of the ramifications of COVID-19, which aren’t going away anytime soon, as Diamond Distribution are still facing operational issues, thanks to pandemic-related restrictions.
• In the UK, Hannah Berry, current Comics Laureate, has released the results of a survey of over 600 creators, bringing the data together in anonymized format, with a comprehensive analysis of the financial realities of working within comics and attendant publisher behaviors - the full survey can be found here, and there’s a handy infographic with the key takeaways, and… well, again, somewhat unsurprising, to someone who’s worked in that particular market, but still… oof.
• NBC News reports on an installment of ‘Six Chix’, penned by Bianca Xunise, complaints against which resulted in the syndicated strip being pulled from a number of newspapers last week, replaced by an apology for the cartoon that was issued without Xunise’s approval - I included the cartoon itself in last week’s column, because it summed the last 5 months pretty succinctly, and you can see it here.
• The deadline to apply for the second round of mini-mentorships with Jillian Tamaki is fast approaching - running for 6 months, with a submission cut-off of September 1st, there’s a spot available for a Toronto local and one that’s completely open - you can see the work of mentees from the first round here.
• ShortBox has announced the recipients of last month’s round of £100 mini-grants, so congratulations to/social media engagement with - plæst2k, Arantza Pena Popo, G Romero-Johnson, Catarina Azevedo, and Kelsey Liggett.
• On a similar note, Koyama Press have announced the next recipient of the publisher's 'Presents...' grants scheme, awarding $1,000 to Michael Comeau, who'll be using the funds to print the first issue of SLOMEAU, "an ongoing collection of short and longer serialized comic works."
• Last weekend saw the 2020 Hugo Awards take place via virtual ceremony, as is 2020’s wont, and the award for Best Graphic Story or Comic was won by Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, and James Devlin’s La Guardia, beating out the winner of the past three years - Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress - with a presentation that, hey, it’s 2020 everybody, so say it with me now... was not without controversy.
• Finally, comes the sad news that mangaka Jiro Kuwata, best known for his work on 8 Man and the 60’s Batman manga, passed away last month, aged 85.
Standard deviations apply... This week’s reviews.
• Tegan O’Neil reviews the lovingly-crafted ancillary media tie-in pleasantries of Noah Van Sciver and Chris Miskiewicz’ Grateful Dead: Origins.
• Brian Nicholson reviews the gently rhythmic punchlines and muddled ambient humor of Walter Scott’s Wendy Master of Art.
• Tim Hayes reviews the laconic spectacles and organized congestion of Will Sweeney’s Grok.
• David Brooke casts the net wide and reviews the imaginative adventures of G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, et al’s The Dreaming: Waking Hours #1; the haunting hyper-futurism of Cristiano Seixas, Guilherme Balbi, et al’s Alien: The Original Screenplay #1 (adapted from Dan O’Bannon’s script); and the runaway adventures of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra’s The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides #2.
• Christopher Franey reviews the lively musicality of Noah Van Sciver and Chris Miskiewicz’ Grateful Dead: Origins.
• Rory Wilding reviews the compressed characterizations of Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s The Walking Dead: The Alien.
• Morgana Santilli reviews the uplifting happiness of Yoru Sumino, Idumi Kirihara, et al’s I Had That Same Dream Again, translated by Beni Axia Conrad.
• Deanna Destito reviews the layered meta-adventures of Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Nathan Gooden, et al’s adaptation of Brandon Sanderson’s Dark One.
• Andy Oliver reviews the playful juxtapositions of Jesse Lonergan’s Hedra, the mind-bending weirdness of Norm Konyu’s The Junction, the compelling narratives of Anna Sommer's The Unknown, and the confident accomplishments of Isabel Greenberg’s Glass Town.
• Lindsay Pereira reviews the poignancy and accuracy of Claire Fauvel’s Phoolan Devi: Rebel Queen, translated by Montana Kane.
• Rebecca Burke reviews the refreshing antithesis of Owen D. Pomery’s Victory Point.
Gary Tyrrell reviews the remastering results of Faith Erin Hicks’ One Year at Ellsmere.
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C has a double bill of double bills this week, reviewing the horrifying existential humor of Josh Simmons’ Ghouls, and the visceral bloodshed of Simmons’ Micky; and the unpretentious trashiness of Jeremy Rogers and C.J. Patterson’s Mondo Groovy Issue 1 and Monodo Groovy Horrorshow #1.
• Mark Tweedale reviews the focused revisions of Faith Erin Hicks’ One Year at Ellsmere.
• Christopher Chiu-Tabet reviews the powerfully personal comics of Noelle Stevenson’s The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures.
Hans Rollman reviews the sumptuous feasts of Zao Dao's Cuisine Chinoise, translated by Brandon Kandor and Diana Schutz.
Ryan Carey reviews the ambitious navel-gazing of Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, which Alex Hoffman follows up with a discussion of the book’s humor and form.
Women Write About Comics
• Wendy Browne reviews the domestic mystery of Christa Faust, Mike Deodato Jr, et al’s Bad Mother #1.
• Adrienne Resha reviews a double bill of comics written by Nadia Shammas, looking at the family histories of Shammas, Natasha Alterici, and Aditya Bidikar's No Olive Branch for Me, Shammas, Sally Cantirino, et al's Summer In Brooklyn.
Who are they to question me, really... This week’s interviews.
Alex Dueben talks to Joe Sacco about his new book, Paying the Land, the origins of the project, the importance of context and taking the broader view, cultural genocide, and storyboard avoidance.
Dan Greenfield and Steve Englehart continue the ‘Inside the Batman’ series of interviews, this week looking at Englehart’s reintroduction of Deadshot to Gotham, and why editorial mandate can sometimes be a good thing.
Chris Coplan talks to Marco Finnegan about his new book, Lizard in a Zoot Suit, and the social history the graphic novel draws from.
Matt O’Keefe interviews Adrienne Bazir about balancing creating comics with a full-time animation job, social media followings, hosting comics on itch.io, and the labour-intensive nature of visual novels.
Frederick Luis Aldama breaks down the anatomy of a panel with Søren Mosdal, looking at Mosdal and Julian Voloj's graphic biography, Basquiat, and discussing Mosdal's decision to choose comics, learning by doing, and flows of consciousness.
• Scott Thorne talks to Ken Murphy, coordinator of Cape Comic Con, about the realities of holding an in-person event during a global pandemic, but doesn't really go into the "wherefore?" at the heart of it.
• Milton Griepp interviews Viz Media's Kevin Hamric about the publisher's experience during the pandemic, the status of the manga market, and recent direct market disruption.
Elias Rosner and Michael Mazzacane interview Nick Marino and Nils-Petter Norlin about their new webcomic KUTE Crew, designing pages for print and vertical scroll, puns, and designing koalas.
Daniel Elkin and Sarah Wray present a new installment of 'Knowing is Half the Battle', this week talking to Ant Sang about publisher expectations, free work as red flags, and the importance of good posture.
Women Write About Comics
• Alenka Figa interviews Jenna Freedman, zine archivist and librarian, about her collection of quaranzines, zine-making during the COVID-19 pandemic, the practicalities of zine commerce, and defining “zine-y-ness”.
• Wendy Browne talks to Marco Finnegan about the genre-mashing LA noir and autobio inspirations of Lizard in a Zoot Suit.
Reading, and I don't mean the town in England, material... This week’s features and comics.
• As 2020 continues to stretch the definition (and sustained usage) of “unprecedented” to breaking point, TCJ sees the return of Abhay Khosla with ‘The 2020 Report(s)’, looking at recent allegations that have come to light regarding the behavior of, in these opening editions, Cameron Stewart and Warren Ellis, in what I think is fair to call his 'unique style'.
• On a related note, for The Hollywood Reporter, Graeme McMillan, Sharareh Drury, and Aaron Couch look at the systemic failings that allow abuse to propagate through the comics industry.
• For TCJ, Tom Kaczynski has an essay on that most DC of comics events - Crisis on Infinite Earths - including a scatter plot chart for narratives (nice), history of crossovers in periodical comics, and the business context of the sales event, with analysis of the major players (both real and fictional), as well as the paradigm shift the comic caused for the business (and fictional narrative) models of the Big Two - you can also read his companion piece on 'hyperobjects' here.
• For Comicosity, and serving as a good companion piece to Tegan O’Neil’s recent essays on the legacy of the Doom Patrol here at TCJ, Jude DeLuca looks at DC’s erasure of Rachel Pollack’s run from the title’s wider narrative.
• Over at The Middle Spaces, Nicholas E. Miller has an essay on Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä’s Abbott, looking at its continued relevance to readers in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, from the perspective of having taught it in university classes, and the power structures the story depicts.
• Sequart has another giveaway this week of one of their books, this time bringing readers a free digital copy of Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen, edited by Richard Bensam, in exchange for a retweet.
• Writing for The Atlantic Gabrielle Bellot has an essay on Kuniko Tsurita, looking back at her life and work, as The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud looks set to introduce a new generation of English-language readers to Tsurita's manga.
• NeoText has a trilogy of mini-essays from (writers room pseudonym) Otis Whitaker this week, looking at Dracula Magazine, Berni Wrightson’s illustrations based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and Roy Krenkel’s illustrations of the seven wonders of the ancient world, all with some lovely high-def accompanying artwork.
• One thing I’m learning from House to Astonish’s ‘The Incomplete Wolverine’ is that the beclawed mutant must have been really good at erasing his traces from historical events, because he seems to have shown up for a whole load of them.
• Shelfdust has a new piece, uh, series of pieces on that other most DC of comics events, Infinite Crisis, this week, and regular features on the smash-hit Spider-Man villain Morlun (???) by Steve Morris, and Charlotte Finn’s ‘A Year in the City’ looks at Astro City #31 and what maketh a villain.
• Writing for SYFY Wire, Juan Michael Porter II take a look back at the X-Men’s Sunspot, and Marvel’s ongoing erasure of the character’s Afro-Brazillian identity, as the (definitely this time, for sure) soon-to-be-released New Mutants film casts a white actor in the role.
• The Nib has a couple of long-reads this week, as Victoria Lomasko reports on the Russian political response to the pandemic; and the latest edition of the In/Vulnerable series by Thi Bui, Anjali Kamat, and Sarah Mirk shares the experiences of Baltimore kindergarten teacher Tawanda Jones, whose brother, Tyrone West, was killed by police in 2013 - The Nib EIC Matt Bors was also interviewed recently regarding the hell-year that is 2020, and his decision to move to Canada.
• If you’re missing being able to visit galleries and museums during this pandemic, then the recent collaboration between Rhymes with Orange and Mental Canvas is worth a look, and even if you’re not missing them then it’s an interesting example of what a comic can ‘be’.
• What anthologies lose out on, denizens of the internet gain, and you can read Jon Chandler and Makiko Furuichi’s short-comic A Game of Hats now.
• Pokémon designer James Turner has a wordless comic that’s currently posting on his Twitter, which has a very soothing colour palette.
• Finally, Twister continues to be the best.
Sight beyond sight... This week’s recommended watching.
• The Believer and The Black Mountain Institute have a new comics workshop this week, as G.B. Tran (streaming from the bridge of the USS Enterprise, I think) takes viewers through the creative exercise of ‘comics bingo’ - the workshop proper begins at the 6m30s mark - and you can see the schedule for the next month’s upcoming Friday streams here.
• Another classic Cartoonist Kayfabe week as Warren Bernard took everybody through a December ‘97 edition of New City with some primo Chris Ware cover action, there’s some classic Marvel chat looking at the work of Jim Lee and Sam Kieth, and Adrian Tomine is the shoot interview guest-of-the-week looking back through his career and also at his new book, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist.
• A double-bill of feature-length Inkpulp episodes this week, as Shawn Crystal talks and draws first with Jim Mahfood and Dave Crosland on everything Doom (and DOOM, but not id Software’s DOOM), and then there’s a Batman inking masterclass with Tim Sale, Klaus Janson, and Jim Mahfood (again) all inking Frank Miller pencils.
• Noah Van Sciver was joined by Stephen Bissette for a new cartoonist chat this week, not to be structurally confused with those of Cartoonist Kayfabe, as they cover hustling for work at Heavy Metal, local historical artifacts, and the ever-important topic of dinosaurs and how cool they are, plus paleontologist feuds.
• Mike Avila has a new edition of ‘Behind the Panel’, this time around looking at the career of John Romita Sr. and his work on romance comics serving as a suitable training ground for taking on Spider-Man art duties, and talking to the man himself about his body of work, and developing his style.
• A busy Big Two week for John Siuntres’ Word Balloon, as he spoke to Chip Zdarsky, Sanford Greene, Rod Reis, Cecil Castelluci, and Steve Orlando about their work in the wacky world of superheroes.
Sound beyond sound... This week’s easy-listening.
• While this section may suggest otherwise, there’s still only one comics-focused podcast in the world, and this week it finally got around to covering the only topic that matters - Marvel vs DC and the Amalgam Comics universe.
• 2000 AD’s Lockdown Tapes focused on comics fare a little less bloodthirsty than its usual content, as this week MOLCH-R spoke to Rachael Smith and RAMZEE about their stories in the upcoming Tammy & Jinty Special, which are titles I haven’t heard in a long time.
• Dan Berry spoke to Hope Larson on Make It Then Tell Everybody this week, covering parenthood, editorhood, and Keeping Things Interesting Then Telling Everybody.
• David Harper got in the Christmas spirit this week (only 139 days to go!), as Stephen Mooney joined Off Panel for a chat about crowdfunding and his new comic, the Half-Past Danger Christmas special.
• Multiversity Comics' Robots From Tomorrow welcomes Iron Circus' C. Spike Trotman to the show this week, talking about crowdfunding colossi, maintaining a healthy creative/commerce balance, and the most important word in the English language - "no".
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come opens with a tribute to Rep. John Lewis from hosts Calvin Reid, Heidi MacDonald, and Kate Fitzsimons, and then takes a look at recent industry happenings including SDCC 2020 (and the Eisner Awards), as well as the comics publisher debacles that have taken place the last couple of weeks.
• Shelfdust Presents this week covers Justice League #1 (the Giffen and DeMatteis helmed iteration), as Chloe Maveal joins Matt Lune to discuss the introduction of the most dysfunctional DC super-team, and there’s a companion essay from Maveal making the case for the prosecution against the current crop of grimdark capes and spandex titles.
Those are the links for this week, with more arriving next Friday (weather permitting) - if you’re in a position where you’re able to, there are various Lebanese aid organizations looking for donations, following the explosion in Beirut earlier in the week.