The end of summer draws ever closer, as comics’ May-December love affair with tech platforms, more on which can be found in This Week’s Links, below, ambles along.
In the consistently chaotic confines of the real world, this weekend sees the arrival of another odd iteration of Free Comic Book Day, with many stores’ planned events muted or postponed, thanks to COVID-19, or, from where I write in the UK, thanks to the books just not arriving due to shipping delays.
Squint hard enough and the silver linings may eventually become apparent.
— Deb 정진 Lee @ double fisting two graphic novels (@jdebbiel) August 12, 2021
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan… This week’s news.
• Starting off the week with one of this summer’s big ongoing news stories in the comics sphere, as a number of high-profile creators announced that they were launching projects, including new comics, essays, and how-to guides, on digital newsletter platform Substack, as the tech industry strives to satiate its eternal hunger for content and engagement, in order to keep potential investors on the hook. Various follow-up announcements regarding the nature of these deals, and whether they mean a departure from print media, were then entered into, and said creators will presumably need to eventually come up with a standpoint on Substack’s business ethics and platforming of anti-trans commentators, as they accept lucrative Substack Pro packages in exchange for their promotion of the newsletter service. Just another day in paradise.
• Meanwhile, in “wait, is this story connected to that previous one?” news, the thorny issue of Marvel and DC failing to compensate creators for the intellectual properties they’re mining into the ground for transmedia business ventures rumbles ever on, as The Guardian canvassed high profile creators of corporate content, to sum up decades of Big Two malfeasance, and a litany of fans of billion dollar franchises crowed “...but they signed a contract”.
• Rounding out the trifecta of industry stories involving big numbers preceded by a dollar sign this week, as King Spawn #1 pre-orders hit 497,000, buoyed by a rampant speculator market, and canny use of retailer incentives, which I’m sure will have no lasting negative side-effects in the middle- to long-term.
• In business personnel move news, The Beat shared the announcement that Tony Lutkus is joining Diamond Book Distributors as the company’s new President, coming in from a senior post at Penguin Random House, who incidentally take over from Diamond as Marvel’s new distributor in 2 months; and ICv2 have a comprehensive rounding up of the week’s other hires, for those who, like me, are keeping a meticulous spreadsheet of such moves.
• Koyama Provides announced the latest recipient of their grants scheme, as M.S. Harkness is awarded $1000, which will contribute “financial assistance towards organizing a small retreat for Midwestern cartoonists and a small press tabling event at the Blockfort art gallery in Columbus, Ohio.”
• Finally this week, Variety covers a brewing legal squabble over naming rights between Jed Mercurio and Warner Bros (via Ed Brubaker) regarding who may call their comic Sleeper, which I mention purely so I can state for the record that the only Sleeper I recognise is the 90s British rock outfit.
I’m concerned about his bowels pic.twitter.com/dHlodYGOjm
— Julia Wertz (@Julia_Wertz) August 11, 2021
Moebius strips… This week’s reviews.
• Edward Haynes reviews the consistent beat of Ram V, Anand RK, et al’s Blue In Green - “Slippery instead of firm, you tumble through the panels and pages, further down the hole that traps old music and its protagonists. The style gives the art an improvised feeling, bouncing from page to page with a fluidity like the music it depicts.”
• RJ Casey reviews the perfect peculiarities of E.A. Bethea’s Francis Bacon - “The art feels marinated in some underground tradition, but removed from any outright obvious inspirations. It’s warm, but not totally inviting, which is a positive. You could see someone saying the linemaking and portraiture in Francis Bacon are too expressive, too raw, too messy. You could also, rightly, see someone calling the book termite art.”
• Timothy Callahan reviews the subtle humanity of Guy Delisle’s Factory Summers - “It feels like we are present in these brief social interactions, experiencing their fleeting nature, knowing that each moment is dotted with passersby in story that doesn’t really concern anyone outside the author. This is not a diary comic with a series of episodic events. It’s a memoir of a youth engaged with work and the sights and sounds of the reality of that work.”
• Julian Coupal reviews the unsettling imagery of Jacques Tardi’s Farewell, Brindavoine, translated by Jenna Allen.
• David Brooke reviews the fascinating introduction of Brandon Thomas, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, et al’s Hardware Season One #1.
• Nathan Simmons reviews the delightful action of Sam Hamm, Joe Quinones, et al’s Batman ‘89 #1.
• Holly Woodbury reviews the diverse treats of Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, et al’s Cheer Up: Love and Pom Poms.
• Alex Cline reviews the perfect finish of Haruichi Furudate’s Haikyu!! Volume 45.
• Avery Kaplan reviews the engaging realism of Jade Lagardère, Butch Guice, et al’s Amber Blake: Operation Dragonfly; and the heartwarming relatability of Crystal Frasier, Val Wise, et al’s Cheer Up: Love and Pom Poms.
• Ricardo Serrano Denis reviews the surprising storytelling of Harold Schechter and Eric Powell's Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?.
• John Trigonis reviews the disheartening confusion of Cullen Bunn, Andrea Mutti, et al’s Parasomnia #1.
• Andy Oliver reviews the profound irreverence of Rick Trembles’ Represented Immobilized, and a triple bill of mini kuš! Offerings with the subtle poignancy of David Collier’s Before the Pandemic There Was a Touch Football Tourney, the oblique elegance of Matt Madden’s Bridge, and the distinctive surrealism of Martín López Lam’s BLINK.
Gary Tyrrell reviews the terrific romp of Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, Tony Cliff, et al’s Bubble.
House to Astonish
Paul O’Brien reviews the shallow entertainment of Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto’s Cable #7-12.
Erin Langner reviews the nuanced remove of Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness.
Have capsule reviews of:
- The universal brilliance of Thomas King and Natasha Donovan’s Borders.
- The inclusive vibrancy of Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay’s ¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge.
- The touching importance of Damian Alexander’s Other Boys.
Joe Skonce reviews the compelling mysticism of Al Ewing, Javier Rodriguez, et al's Defenders #1.
Have capsule reviews of:
- The perceptive analysis of Greg Hunter’s New Realities: The Comics of Dash Shaw.
- The brilliant richness of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim’s The Waiting, translated by Janet Hong.
- The splendid wit of Jason’s Good Night, Hem.
- The meticulous surrealism of Theo Ellsworth and Jeff VanderMeer’s Secret Life.
• Ryan Carey reviews the elliptical interplay of Keren Katz’ The Backstage Of A Dishwashing Webshow.
• Craig Fischer reviews the exuberant distractions of Steven Christie’s Turtlenecks.
• Sydney To reviews the wondrous storytelling of Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish.
Women Write About Comics
• Wendy Browne reviews the exquisite techniques of Reibun Ike’s Dick Fight Island Volume 1, translated by Adrienne Beck.
• Lisa Fernandes reviews the delightful creativity of Austin Walker, Evan Narcisse, Daniel Bayliss, et al’s WWE The New Day: Power of Positivity #1.
• Latonya Pennington reviews the swoon-worthy maturity of Okage Machino's Chéri My Destiny.
Popeye commission https://t.co/NseGiJpvaZ pic.twitter.com/kbiedbYgD6
— ben sears (@bensears) August 5, 2021
Trenchant wit… This week’s interviews.
Ian Thomas interviews Brannon Costello and Brian Cremins about The Other 1980s: Reframing Comics’ Crucial Decade, finding contributors to cover an entire decade of comics’ past, the ascendance of the direct market, and comics journalism of yore - “[Brannon Costello:] The central idea for us was to recover these lost, neglected, or understudied works both because they are interesting on their own terms but also because each of them offers a different way of thinking about comics history, a way of defamiliarizing the conventional narratives that organize our understanding of what comics is and how it came to be.”
David Brooke chats with Kieron Gillen about The Eternals, telling stories of scale, Thanos as warrior-poet, and when it is time for art and when it is time for commerce.
• Sajida Ayyup talks to Bill Groshelle about Operation Dragon, personal influences, artists being scooped, and how to make action engaging.
• Avery Kaplan speaks with Mary Pope Osborne, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews about Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark, multimedia adaptations, favourite books, and visual inspirations.
• Ricardo Serrano Denis interviews Jaime Hernández about Queen of the Ring, female wrestlers and Love and Rockets history, showing private illustrations to the public, and having an eye for visual details.
• Heidi McDonald talks to Scott Snyder about his recent digital platform deals, the realities facing creators that are driving exploration of alternate revenue streams, and balancing the economics with the myriad ethical problems that tech startups seem to amass.
Hosted a press junket with Brandon Thomas and Denys Cowan speaking about Hardware: Season One, the legacy of Dwayne McDuffie’s stories, the challenge of bringing back classic characters, and the experiences of Black creators working in the comics industry - pick your transcription flavour from SYFY Wire or The Beat.
• Brian Salvatore talks to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino about Primordial, the mystique of the space race, the core of good adventures outside of the atmosphere, and playing to one another’s strengths.
• Elias Rosner speaks with Evan Dahm about fantasy webcomic epics and Island Book, the relative strengths of different process paths, the limitations of the contemporary internet for growing readerships, and the visual logic of Dragon Ball.
• Christopher Egan interviews Troy Nixey about Bacon and Other Monstrous Tales, keeping oddball material in its unfinished form, maintaining a sense of whimsy about work, and 80s schlock influences.
Alex Dueben speaks with Lynsey G. and Jayel Draco about Pack, high concepts and social movements, asking questions with genre fiction, and impact versus intent; and with Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki about Lucy in the Sky, comic book and collaboration origins, shifting from prose to scripting, and the inspiration of music.
Michael Pina interviews Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez about Transition Game, the perfect fit between basketball's energy and the sports manga format, the influence of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk, and the joys of the Paddington films.
• Mike Avila talks to Jaime Hernández and Katie Skelly about Queen of the Ring, drawing when not drawing comics, releasing illustrations into the world rather than destroying them, and drawing on the back of posters.
• Karama Horne speaks with Cavan Scott about Shadow Service, supernatural spy stories, musical inspirations, and Britain’s history with blackmail.
Women Write About Comics
Wendy Browne interviews Jordan Hart about Ripple Effects, narratively reflecting the struggles faced by people with chronic medical conditions, and combining graphic medicine with a superhero story.
— 浦沢直樹_Naoki Urasawa公式情報 (@urasawa_naoki) August 7, 2021
The old curiosity shop… This week’s features and longreads.
• Here at TCJ, co-editor Joe McCulloch laid out the week’s plans for the Journal, and considered the various aspects of corporate superhero output available to the casual reader in 2021AD - “If contemporary superhero comics are sometimes derided as official fanfiction, [The Other History of the DC Universe] is a particular type of critical fanfiction (and, to be clear, I like fanfiction) that seeks to comment on the work by giving primacy to subtextual or peripheral character traits - or, simply the traits of characters made peripheral by the assumptions of salability and audience taste.”
• Also for TCJ, Tegan O’Neil considers the linework of Albrecht Dürer, and how consideration, and appreciation, of these classic works can help frame critical thinking regarding modern works, such as Barry Windsor-Smith’s magnum opus, Monsters - “Virtuosity is found here in Windsor-Smith’s most exacting creation, the Bailey’s late 40s home in Providence Township, Ohio. It’s not monsters or the military hardware that stays, it’s claustrophobic walls and hardwood floors, deep shadows hiding inside the ubiquitous crosshatching smeared across every panel like cobwebs. The clear comparison here is the indefatigable Gerhard, otherwise known as the other guy who did Cerebus. He drew backgrounds, which didn’t just mean nature and cities but also extended - very extended - domestic sequences.”
• Yesterday at TCJ saw an essay from Professor Natsume Fusanosuke, originally published in 2018, and translated by Jon Holt and Teppei Fukuda, examining the legacy of Taniguchi Jirō, and placing his work in the wider context of how manga is consumed by Japanese and European readers, and the respective book industries those readers engage with - “Japanese manga publishers are so big these days and their particular markets vary but people recognize that each market has some connection to and continuity with each other. There are manga for children, for teenagers, for adults; then, you also have the distinctions in gender. In other words, no one thinks it is weird to have two very different works like Taniguchi’s The Walking Man and Toriyama’s Dragon Ball existing in the same manga marketplace. This is actually the main characteristic of the comic market in Japan, but people do not realize that and they also do not know enough about what the publishing industry is like in foreign countries.”
• Finally at TCJ this week, Short Run Festival’s Kelly Froh shares a statement on the event’s future in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as the delta variant gives widespread cause for concern - “We’ve always looked at Short Run as an opportunity to build community among people from all over the country and the world — to put into conversation all the different perspectives they bring to comics. Though the US has declared itself “open for business,” many other countries continue to be in crisis. We don’t want to exhibit American arrogance by just proceeding as if the pandemic is over, and put on a festival with no international guests.”
• Over at Shelfdust, Steve Morris has a pair of essays, as the power fantasy presented by Batman becomes increasingly convoluted in an age of actual billionaires firing themselves into space, and takes a look at the also-rans of the Marvel universe present in Journey Into Mystery #637.
• Also throwing the spotlight on Marvel’s God of Mischief, Tiffany Babb writes for The Middle Spaces on Loki’s portrayal in Journey Into Mystery, and how Kid Loki subverts the canonical expectations placed upon the character.
• For NPR, covering one of the big superhero development beats of the week, Glen Weldon writes on the core aspects of Tim Drake’s character, and how these factor into his coming out of the closet, in the pages of Batman: Urban Legends #6, after decades of subtext.
• Over at ICv2, Rod Lamberti writes on the retail experience gained from a decade of running Iowa’s Rodman Comics, and the chaotic ups and downs of the last year and a half.
• Mike Peterson rounds up the week’s political beat for The Daily Cartoonist, as Andrew Cuomo defended his character and then succumbed to it; and climate change doom reporting is apparently a surprise during a summer of heatwaves, fires, and flooding.
— nylso (@nylso3) August 9, 2021
Booming back at you… This week’s This week’s audio/visual delights.
• Kicking off this week’s selection with a date for your diaries, as this year’s virtual Autoptic Festival begins on Monday 23rd of August, with a series of podcast releases in partnership with Gutter Boys and Thick Lines, coming in audio and video form for whichever takes your fancy.
• Calling a shot for next week, as Wednesday 18th of August sees Ryan Holmberg giving a free virtual talk on the 'demon ball' as depicted in in sports manga, and taking a research journey through the history of Japanese baseball comics, presented as part of Queen's University Belfast's Naughton Gallery's exhibition 'VAMOS NIPPON!'.
• A fresh, live cartoonist chat from Noah Van Sciver this week, as Paul Tumey joined proceedings for a discussion on Van Sciver’s 2012 book The Hypo, comics scenes of a decade ago, book sequencing choices, and some Honest Abe history; and engaged in a pre-recorded conversation with Josh Cotter on the Nod Away series, building a home, self-publishing comics, and sticking with an analog process (even if it means drawing a book twice).
• A couple of trips up in the Word Balloon with John Siuntres, as Michael Kronenberg, Steve Kronenberg, and Nathan Kronenberg took a deep dive into EC Comics history, and Ed Gatto got involved for a look back at 90 years of Dick Tracy.
• Another week another selection of Cartoonist Kayfabe flick-thrus, as Jim Rugg, Tom Scioli, and Ed Piskor took a look at Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury’s The Leather Nun and Other Incredibly Strange Comics, a David Mazzucchelli interview from Amazing Heroes #102, TCJ’s 100 Best Comics of the 20th Century #’s 100-50, The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Jack Kirby adapting The Black Hole, and Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte covers.
• Dan Berry invited Matt Madden to Make It Then Tell Everybody, as they discussed Ex Libris, the difference between teaching and cartooning, and the importance of geography.
• Solrad’s Enemy of the State podcast returned, and this time out Alex Hoffman, Sarah Miller, and Daniel Elkin were discussing Hagiwara Rei’s RIPPLES, and what the reader’s experience brings to books about grief and loss.
Okay 3, 2, 1: Let's Jam. #CowboyBebop #digitalpainting pic.twitter.com/80i16njHAt
— Daniel Irizarri???????????? (@Danielirizarri) August 10, 2021
That brings us to the end for this week, time enough to make lemonade from lemons until the next batch of links arrive, thirsty for engagement!
Hi we just made our first "game", it's up on our webshop. plz be nice we have never done this before, but we think it's cool.
ALSO, watch the trailer with sound on loud bc we paid a lot for the song ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/swStUteLIB
— Peow. we safe (@peowstudio) August 8, 2021