Alright, we’ve nearly made it through the year - just a mere 27 days to go, which is 38,880 minutes, which is… Hang on, hang on, this isn’t a healthy way of viewing life - it’s not simply a finite collection of time, constantly slipping through your fingers, yet also unending for all but the individual.
No, no, no, this isn’t going to turn into some It’s A Wonderful Life redemption arc, not on my watch - instead let’s have a good long think about comics and just what they got up to over the past seven days (10,080 minutes) instead.
Although, actually, thinking about it, you can probably write off a couple of those days, because of Thanksgiving, but who’s counting anyway? Well… Me! I am! This Week’s Links, evidence of the tallying, are below.
Support small businesses pic.twitter.com/trvw4ejOu8
— EC Comics (@eccomics) November 29, 2020
Death Race 2020… This week’s news.
• The Guardian announced the winners of this year’s Graphic Short Story Prize (with Jonathan Cape), awarding top honors to Paul Rainey for his story Similar to But Not, and second place going to Ellie Durkin for her comic The Worm. Rainey said, on winning, after entering every iteration of the competition (bar one) since 2007 - “Every year, I would always be in a really black mood at not winning. I would moan to all my friends, and vow never to enter again. But then I always would, and I’m glad I persevered. Winning is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
• Following last week’s announcement that Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster intend to merge and form the world’s first ‘megapublisher’, ICv2 has a breakdown of all the distribution and publisher services this would bring under one roof (including “almost all US manga publishers), while the American Booksellers Association (with a similar line taken by their Canadian counterpart) has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the merger for… Anyone? That’s right - breach of antitrust laws.
• Closing out a year with very few in-person comics festivals and conventions, ReedPop have announced that they are ‘retiring’ both the BookExpo and BookCon, due to “continued uncertainty surrounding in-person events” - as ReedPop are the company behind a number of media events in the US and the UK, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the mid-level comic cons on their roster facing the same fate, however, with a number of vaccines on the horizon, potentially rolling out over the new year, it leaves a lot of question marks hanging over mass-gatherings in 2021.
• DC Comics are following up their recent removal of various executives by recruiting for various executives, with some of the most sign-of-the-times-iest job descriptions you could possibly wish for, wherein “success will be measured by increased fan engagement, positive sentiment, growth in DC Universe Infinite subscriptions, and achievement of DC Comics annual publishing revenue goals.” Go Team Comics!
“The Census Predicament: Counting Americans by Race” for today’s WSJ 🗞 art direction by Linda Rubes pic.twitter.com/0gxJIq28I5
— Wren McDonald (@WrenMcDonald) November 28, 2020
Think of them as also-rans in the list of best of the year lists… This week’s reviews.
• M. Delmonico Connolly reviews the unsettling details of Julia Gfrörer’s disturbing supernatural graphic novel Vision - “Gfrörer’s lines almost seems to move, as if all the details of the old Victorian house Eleanor and her family live in, might shift at any moment when one’s back is turned. The feeling of uncertainty, of not totally being sure what one is looking at, until it moves, strengthens a narrative that is more about a world creeping in on you at the edges than about outright horror. Gfrörer finds a level of detail that is unsettling while still being bearable: medical blood-letting alongside self-inflicted cutting; a maid with a bloody nose, a couching of a cataract – one of the oldest practiced surgeries – that still makes one squirm imagining it.”
• Amy Chalmers reviews the unusual companions in MISSISSIPPI’s short story collection, Tsukiko and the Satellite and Other Stories, translated into English for the first time by Anna Schnell, and finds a common theme of dreamy melancholy - “A few of these stories take place at night, and somehow, they perfectly capture the experience of being alone on city streets in the early hours: eerie and unnervingly solitary, with the feeling that anything could happen at any moment.”
• Ryan Sonneville reviews the streamlined narratives of Eric Shanower, Skottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, et al’s Oz: The Complete Collection, adapted from the stories of L. Frank Baum.
• Justin Harrison reviews the metafictional specificity of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 3.
• David Brooke reviews the satisfying craft of G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, Mat Lopes, et al’s The Dreaming: Waking Hours #5.
• Benjamin Novoa reviews the concise familiarity of Mike Mignola, Tiernen Trevallion, et al’s Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Her Fatal Hour.
• Keigen Rea reviews the thoughtful intricateness of NK Jemisin, Jamal Campbell, et al’s Far Sector #9.
• Christopher Franey looks at the current best friend of comic resale speculators, reviewing the continuity-bait of Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checchetto, et al’s Daredevil #25.
Gregory Paul Silber reviews the uneven fascinations of Steve Orlando, Ricardo López Ortiz, et al’s The Pull.
• Andy Oliver reviews the thoughtful intensity of Dominique Duong’s The Dog and the Cat.
• Tom Murphy reviews the confident cartooning of Steven Ingram’s Holly.
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C presents a Devon Marinac twofer, reviewing the unique grotesqueries of Mix Yourself A Dead End, and the engrossing freshness of Pussycats, Paperbacks, Pennants, And Penance, as well as a look at the impressive refinements of Evan Salazar’s Rodeo Comics #2.
• Gregory Ellner reviews the entertaining brevity of Eliot Rahal, Dike Ruan, et al’s Bleed Them Dry #5.
• Christopher Egan reviews the confidence and convenience of Paul Cornell, Sally Cantirino, et al’s I Walk With Monsters #1.
• Jacob Cordas reviews the joyful cuteness of Ryan North, Nico Lean, et al’s Power Pack #1
• Mark Tweedale reviews the tonal swings of Mike Mignola, Tiernen Trevallion, et al’s Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: Her Fatal Hour and The Sending.
• Kate Kosturski reviews the gentle darkness of Tracy Lynne Oliver, Rebecca Kirby, et al’s The Sacrifice of Darkness, adapted from the work of Roxane Gay.
• Christa Harader reviews the heartfelt emotions of Eliot Rahal, Mattia Monaco, et al's Knock 'Em Dead #1.
• Ryan Carey reviews the sharp supernatural satire of Christopher Sebela, Ben Sears, et al’s Dead Dudes.
• Edward Haynes reviews the earnest positivity of Zoe Thorogood’s The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott.
• Oliver Arditi reviews the disciplined dystopia of Tom Kaczynski’s Cartoon Dialectics 1 & 2.
• Alex Hoffman reviews the powerful explorations of Elliott G's Ebb Tide.
Women Write About Comics
• Paulina Przystupa reviews the approachable critiques of Carolyn Cocca’s Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel: Militarism and Feminism in Comics and Film.
• Melissa Brinks reviews the nasty fantasy of Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, et al’s John Constantine: Hellblazer #11.
• Paulina Przystupa reviews the rushed cessation of John Allison, Max Sarin, et al’s Wicked Things #6.
• Emily Lauer takes a look at DC's recent crop of YA graphic novels, including Anti/Hero, Shadow of the Batgirl, Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, and Victor and Nora: A Gotham Love Story.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) November 30, 2020
Close the door on your way out of the building… This week’s interviews.
• Joe McCulloch presents a preview of dōjin manga collection Glaeolia 2, published by Glacier Bay Books, and speaks to the editors of this new publication, Emuh Ruh and zhuchka, getting a directors’ commentary on what’s to be found within its pages, and the work involved in editing such a collection - “There are a lot of unique difficulties with this kind of project, which I guess could be summarized by, like: this is a really big book in terms of the physical restrictions of printing it on the risograph. It's not a complicated book to print, because the internal pages are just one layer, so they don't really have to worry about a lot of alignment issues, or color mixing, but there's just the physical difficulty of printing and collating and preparing all the books, because they do that by hand, and then send it off to be bound.”
• Paul Tumey talks to Pete Maresca about his work on the books of Sunday Press, and the publisher’s latest volume, Gross Exaggerations: The Meshuga Comic Strips of Milt Gross, as well as their distribution deal with IDW, and the importance of preserving classic cartoons via reproduction in their original formatting - “Some people disagree and think that a bright printer's proof better displays what the artist intended, but no comics lover ever saw that, so I had to believe the better artists were always thinking about how it would look in the funny papers. Certainly, the early artists felt this way as there were no color printer’s proofs way back when. My first experience with classic comic strips —a divine revelation by the way— was from a large collection of the original sections, so that is what I wanted to see reproduced and what I work to preserve for a future long after the newsprint has dissolved.”
David Brooke talks to Tiernen Trevallion about joining the Hellboy crew, monster favorites, process chat for telling stories about Big Red, and longbois.
Zack Quaintance continues Tiernen Trevallion’s welcome into the Mignolaverse, as they discuss when he first became aware of Hellboy, changing pace for changing atmosphere, and creepy puppets.
Rob Salkowitz interviews Ayudeji Makinde and Somto Ajuluchukwu about the growing Nigerian digital comics scene, Lagos Comic Con, African Afrofuturism, and building platforms for homegrown comics.
Jevon Phillips talks to John Ridley about the allure of the DC universe, changing the heroes that younger readers can expect to see in superhero periodicals, and how the character of Batman can change when divorced from the trappings of Bruce Wayne.
The New Yorker
Françoise Mouly talks to Adrian Tomine about his latest cover for the New Yorker, obsessive messiness, Zoom meeting lighting, and reactive paralysis.
Calvin Reid catches up with John Jennings about new(ish) Abrams ComicsArts imprint Megascope, using pop culture to keep important moments of history front and centre, the realities of the Tulsa race massacre, and market interest in Black speculative fiction finally catching up with creator output.
Alex Dueben interviews Sophie Yanow about The Contradictions, its place in her wider body of work, and changing processes; and Jesse Lonergan about Planet Paradise, reassessing career priorities, and sparing readers from the written word in comics.
Daniel Elkin interviews Kelly Sheehan about Earth’s End Publishing’s work during the pandemic, the collaborative process of putting out books as a going concern, showcasing the work of New Zealand creators, and the accessibility of comics with a spine.
Women Write About Comics
Elvie Mae Parian talks to Bernie Mercado and Nissie Arcega about their work on Penlab, an online platform for Fillipino ekomiks, the drive for a centralized portal of Pinoy komiks during the pandemic, and standing out in an already crowded market.
Climate change strategies. pic.twitter.com/hwUfQodj8G
— Rosemary Mosco (Bird And Moon Comics) (@RosemaryMosco) December 2, 2020
Preferable to a thread of 327 tweets… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ Eleanor Davis looks at Patrick Dean’s new edition of Eddie’s Week, how much of the author is present in its characters, and his wider body of work (more on that below in this week’s video section) - “Patrick drew Eddie’s Week mostly at night, after his day job and after putting his kids to bed. He finished it shortly before being diagnosed with Bulbar ALS. Within a couple months of his diagnosis he couldn’t talk, the following year he couldn’t walk, now he is almost completely immobilized and in a wheelchair. Because his left thumb locked up and he lost the ability to text on his phone he can now only communicate using eye-gaze text-to-voice technology. I am baffled by how he does this, but with a tremendous amount of effort and set-up he still manages to draw with a pen and paper, and his drawings are still extraordinary. His drawings aren’t very funny or melancholy now. Most of them are harsh, smart political commentary.”
• Also for TCJ, Tom Shapira looks at the history of everybody’s favorite space-chaplain, Dan Dare, the quintessentially British nature of the character’s Eagle comics appearances, including the jingoism inherent in them, and the evolving storytelling each iteration of the character represents, with the less said about Grant Morrison’s tenure the better - “There’s going to be more Dan Dare comics, and there’s even more we didn’t touch on because space is finite. Dan Dare’s name evokes too much for the notoriously nostalgic comics industry to give up on him. If anything, the fact that he’s been revived so many times just gives him more power – he’s not a character, he’s an icon (even if only on one small Island), an all-purpose symbol of that can be reshaped by the whims of the storytellers.”
• For Broken Frontier, Owen Michael Johnson provides an obituary for Marleen Starksfield Lowe, who sadly passed away last month, aged 40, and looks back at a small, but influential, body of work from a singular artist.
• Some weekend editorials, courtesy of The Daily Cartoonist, from a Thanksgiving that had the CDC asking people not to travel, and a sitting President (still) refusing to concede a lost election, while the President-elect faced betrayal from Canis lupus familiaris.
• We’re firmly into December now, which can mean only one thing - best of the year lists, thousands of ‘em - so you can get your fill on this week’s crop from The Guardian, The Library Journal, NPR, and the finalists of Goodreads’ readers’ choice awards, which give a general idea as to what’s hot in the book market/which authors have the biggest fanbase to mobilize.
• Over at Shelfdust, Charlotte Finn nears the end of Astro City, as issue 48 brings with it the singular grief of an animal companion passing on; Nola Pfau considers the fairly boring narrative sledgehammer wielded by Savage Dragon; Lachlan Redfern puts forward the argument that Barbathos’ gothic machinations represent Batman’s fiercest foe; and Kelly Kanayama asks the most pertinent question one can of premier gothamite Jim Gordon, why the long face?
• For Sequart, Michael Hoskin has a history of Christopher Priest’s comics work, pre-Black Panther, his career at the Big Two, and a mid-90s move to Valiant in the nascent days of online fandom.
• Alex Segura continues 13th Dimension’s look back at the history of Amazing Spider-Man, this week swinging into the seminal 80s superhero-saga Kraven’s Last Hunt, as J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck deliver a generation-defining take on the character.
• Over at Comicosity, Allen Thomas looks at Dustin Hansen’s young-readers graphic novel My Video Game Ate My Homework, and its representation of dyslexia, as the narrative reflects increasingly positive outcomes for students with learning disabilities, and their inclusion in the classroom.
• Continuing the 50th birthday celebrations for Doonesbury, Gary Trudeau writes for The Washington Post on ten strips he thinks define the comic, along with some commentary on their inception and history.
• Some recent longform comics (with nice use of scrolling in the format) from Believer Magazine, including Bianca Xunise’s ode to Silly Love Songs, Leslie Hook’s childhood experience with the xenophobia inherent in ‘invasive’ species in The Vine and the Fish, Jonathan Hill shares the realities of dialysis and the inherent Expiration Date of kidney transplants, and Amy Kurzwell embraces the coming AI singularity in (Me)chanical Reproduction.
• For The Nib, Caitlin Blunnie and wetesify.org presents a comic looking at the realities of abortion in the US, and how the difficulties facing those who need one have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Over at The New York Times, Ben Katchor asks the question we've all been thinking - what about the worst-selling books of the year?
I made a comic for @sunrisemvmt based on @kayla_nikayla’s fears and hopes about California as she lives through the state experiencing worse and worse fire seasons due to climate change (1/3) pic.twitter.com/zF5jgObO3k
— Jackie Ferrentino (@jckieferrentino) December 2, 2020
Start making sense… This week’s recommended watching.
• Continuing Peter Bagge's virtual launch tour for the deluxe collections of Hate, Fantagraphics' Bookstore hosted an in-conversation with Tom Kenny in the driving seat, as the two discussed downsizing comic collections, being informed of Hate's cultural impact after the fact, and what makes a good letters page.
• As mentioned in Eleanor Davis’ feature, above, last week saw Avid Bookshop hosting an in-conversation with Patrick Dean, celebrating the new graphic novel edition of Eddie’s Week, talking to Eleanor Davis, Robert Newsome, and Hillary Brown (starts in earnest around the 3 minute mark).
• The Kubert School have made a treasure trove of classic World of Cartooning correspondence school videos with Joe Kubert available on their YouTube channel, and, even if you’re not interested in making the dang things, they’re a very relaxing watch, which I heartily recommend - (free) videos are available on story graphics, horror comics, inking, pencilling, villains, and heroes.
• Continuing VanCAF’s virtual programming for 2020, last week saw Robert Dayton interviewing Fiona Smyth about her formidable body of work, discussing Somnambulance’s collecting nearly 4 decades of work, looking back on comics from the 80s, the parallel evolution of gallery and comic book work, and educating students on the visual shorthand of cartooning.
• The Beat and Comix Experience presented a new episode of the Graphic Novel of the Month Club, as Brian Hibbs welcomed Adrian Tomine to the show to talk about his latest book, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Cartoonist, the conundrum of choosing to create comics, D&Q’s editorial style, and various viewer process questions.
• Cartoonist Kayfabe took a trip through some classic Marvel comics this week, as Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor looked between the covers of John Byrne’s first Fantastic Four issue, Jack Kirby and Alex Toth on X-Men, and Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek’s classic MARVELS, before spoiling the theme by looking at GI Joe.
• A real TIL episode of Inkpulp this week, as Shawn Crystal welcomed Good Charlotte’s Billy Martin to the show, who I’d never put two and two together as the same Billy Martin who’s a comic artist - more fool me - so this was an interesting chat/live-draw session to watch, with stories of hitting deadlines while on tour with the band.
• Noah Van Sciver’s latest cartoonist chat was with Bubbles’ editor Brian Baynes, discussing the important home safety issue of which 6 comics to grab when your house is burning down, and whether cool choices or basic choices are the way to go - run!
• Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou presented a new Strip Panel Naked video this week, looking at the 9 panel grid of From Hell, and the juxtaposition of the mundanity of the rigid formalism with the brutality it contains.
• A couple of big interviews on Word Balloon this week, as John Siuntres spoke to Chris Claremont about the history of Marvel’s Mutants, and an interesting interview with Alex Ross where it turns out that Disney aren’t the only globo-corp welching on their royalties.
Another one I like too much not to share: pic.twitter.com/hSdoR6eCfd
— Mwoun 🔞 (@celineorelse) December 1, 2020
May your bells always be jingling… This week’s easy-listening.
• Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, but this week the spotlight was turned on Joe McCulloch by Tucker Stone, Matt Seneca, and Chris Mautner, as the topic came from inside the house with a discussion of comics criticism vs advocacy (extremely pertinent to a column like this), and the age old question of What Would Gary Groth Do?
• Shelfdust Presents hit up one of Marvel’s hot multimedia properties this week, as Matt Lune and Zachary Jenkins discussed the first issue of Matt Fraction, David Aja, et al’s Hawkeye, and the comic’s eye for details.
• Mex Flentallo addressed the Dan Slott in the room this week, as thanks were given by Ramon Villalobos, Daniel Irizarri, and Emma Houxbois for the various controversies of Monsignor Slott, his aggressive presence on social media which is now the subject of an official documentary, a crash course on Judith Butler, and the dismay of discourse in the year 2020.
• 2000 AD’s Lockdown Tapes have begun the preparations for Christmas, as this week MOLCH-R spoke to Rob Williams, Laurence Campbell, Michael Carroll and Henry Flint about working on returning characters for the comic’s festive issue, including Strontium Dog’s first story since the passing of Carlos Ezquerra.
• Dan Berry welcomed Hannah Berry (no relation) back to Make It Then Tell Everybody this week, as the pair discussed why comics really need unionizing, surveying the British comics scene in a quantitative style, and putting the ‘are comics valid educational reading material’ debate to rest.
The Biden Vision pic.twitter.com/BCJCJBKHYB
— Eli Valley (@elivalley) November 30, 2020
That’s it for this week, the comics news river has run dry, as it does every Friday afternoon, like clockwork, but I’ve checked my almanac and it’ll start up again pretty soon. Check back next week for more! The power of comics compels you!
It's the last regular Prog cover reveal of the year, earthlets, and it's this DREDDfully good art by the fantastic partnership that is Steven Austin and Chris Blythe!
— 2000 AD Comics (@2000AD) December 3, 2020