April has been a month of returns for some of comics’ greats, either through fresh collections of classic works, or with long-awaited, brand-new books, delivered into the grasping hands of a hungry readership, clamoring for succour as 2021 continues to grind ahead into an uncertain future.
Also new? A whole lot of commentary relating to said works, and everything else that came out this week! A compilation of things on which to click can be found in This Week’s Links, below.
scream cry on frog rock pic.twitter.com/szNRYpQlGE
— Ibon ???????? (@birdfrogdraws) April 24, 2021
Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone… This week’s news.
• CBR reports on the banning of various graphic novels by the Leander Independent School District in Texas, which drew protests by teachers in the district last month, while authors whose books have been banned sent a letter last week, outlining their opposition to the move by the district, stating that “with the proposal to remove these stories, not only do we fear that you will be restricting students’ and families’ access to diverse stories, but that you will be sending the message that these stories have no place in the classroom, school library, or other educational settings.”
• Meanwhile, ICv2 shared recent tracking data from NPD BookScan and ComicHub that shows a jump in sales of kids graphic novels by 13% across channels, accounting for almost a third of sales in 2020, so maybe Whitney Houston was right and the children are our future after all.
• Koyama Provides have announced the latest recipient of their grant award program, with Kelly K receiving $1,000 that will be used to “experiment with screen-printing and risograph printing a currently untitled project.”
• The Pennsylvania Center for the Book have announced the winner of this year’s Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, presented “annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident”, with 2021’s award going to Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts from the World's Most Infamous Prison, edited by Sarah Mirk, and Honors given to Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops and Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan’s Welcome to the New World.
• The Ringo Awards announced their jury for 2021, which includes Amy Dallen, Dr Katie Monnin, John Siuntres, Steenz, and Brian Stelfreeze - prize nomination submissions are open until 24th of June, and this year’s winners will be announced on 23rd September, as part of Baltimore Comic Con.
• The Guardian covers ongoing efforts by author groups to fight for royalties owed by Disney, relating to media properties acquired by the cultural behemoth, with creators coming forward with claims of missed payments for past work on various titles spun off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Spider-Man, Stargate, Angel, and Predator.
• The Madefire app is apparently shutting up shop, after almost a decade of operation as a comics platform, after the parent company "entered into an assignment for the benefit of creditors...which is a state-level insolvency proceeding similar to bankruptcy" - The Beat have further coverage of the story, including a potted history of Madefire, and the knock-on effect this is having for publishers whose comics were hosted on the app. Users have until the end of today to download purchases, after which time access to the cloud-based hosting may be unavailable.
• As part of ongoing coverage of newspaper closures, and the widespread loss of editorial cartoons from those that remain, The Daily Cartoonist reports on steep rises in woodpulp prices over the last 3 months, and rising costs of paper and ink, due to pandemic-related fluctuations in supply and demand.
I am moved beyond words by the response this fundraiser has gotten. Everyone's generosity has made my last week in this hospice facility a little less scary as I believe my family will have some financial stability after I am gone.
Thank you. I love y'all. https://t.co/QAMFT80NGa
— Patrick Dean: Exhausted From Laughing at Death (@PDean_Yeah) April 29, 2021
Charting success… This week’s reviews.
• Roman Muradov reviews the confident rhythms of Jason Novak’s Joe Frank: Ascent - “The drawings in Ascent fill the space that the absence of sound leaves in the stories, and Novak approached the scripts with love and care, placing the narrative before the art, and never following the common temptation to compete with the source material. The simplicity of the drawings match the matter-of-factness of Frank’s voice, and one can imagine them projected at a reading, along with musical accompaniment, dimmed lights, sounds of a distant highway.”
• Irene Velentzas reviews the enchanting joy of Cale Atkinson’s Simon and Chester Super Detectives! - “The characters’ simplistic design demonstrates Atkinson’s visual narrative mastery. Atkinson’s visual style allows him to manipulate each character’s expression to maximum comedic effect, crafting emotions that are somehow both exaggerated and precise. Through Simon and Chester’s facial expressions, Atkinson transports the reader into the unbearably keen and ever-changing emotional landscape of childhood: boredom, scandal, fury, joy, triumph, surprise, and confusion change from one moment to the next.”
• Kendra Reed reviews the time-consuming vibrancy of Colleen AF Venable and Kathryn Hudson’s Maker Comics: Build a Robot!.
• Daniel Berlin reviews the demystifying accessibility of Darryl Cunningham’s Billionaires.
• Franco Giacomarra reviews the gripping action of Joshua Williamson, Gleb Melnikov, et al’s Robin #1.
• David Brooke reviews the unconventional hooks of Kurt Busiek, Yildiray Cinar, et al’s The Marvels #1.
• Sam Rutzick reviews the formulaic sins of Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Dev Pramanik, et al’s Dune: House Atreides #6.
Oliver Sava reviews the meticulous horror of Barry Windsor-Smith's Monsters.
• John Seven reviews the passionate construction of Nate Powell’s Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest.
• Avery Kaplan reviews the spellbinding thrills of Matthew Erman, Lisa Sterle, et al's Witchblood #2.
• John Trigonis reviews the well-paced horror of Chip Zdarsky and Michael Walsh’s The Silver Coin #1.
• Bruno Savill de Jong reviews the grounded elegance of Ram V, Filipe Andrade, et al’s The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1.
• Andy Oliver reviews the meticulous nuance of David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson’s The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History.
• Tom Murphy reviews the playful mysteries of Tyler Boss’ Dead Dog’s Bite #1 & 2.
• Rebecca Burke reviews the marvellous treasures of Peow's Ex.Mag #3, edited by Wren McDonald
Four Color Apocalypse
Ryan C reviews the effective delicacy of Jooyoung Kim’s World Ceramic Fair, the brazen delirium of Martin Lopez Lam’s BLINK, the singular experience of Ana Simões and Ana Matilde Sousa’s Einstein, Eddington And The Eclipse, the uncompromising evidence of Michael Hill’s According To Jack Kirby, and the curious fun of Maya Durham’s Blooolight.
Rob Salkowitz reviews the transcendent details of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters.
Rachel Cooke reviews the generous warmth of Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength.
• Johnny Hall reviews the precise fascinations of James Romberger’s Post York.
• Kobi Bordoley reviews the grungy cool of Ram V, Filipe Andrade, et al’s The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1.
• Robbie Pleasant reviews the engaging methodology of Jason Aaron, Torunn Grønbekk, Mattia De Iulis, Erica D’Urso, et al’s The Mighty Valkyries #1.
• Elias Rosner reviews the playful reverie of Kay Leyh’s Thirsty Mermaids.
• Gregory Ellner reviews the meaningless experiment of Greg Rucka, Andrew Wheeler, Leandro Fernández, Jacopo Camagni, et al’s The Old Guard: Tales Through Time #1.
• Mark Tweedale reviews the fun interplay of Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Peter Bergting, et al’s Cojacaru the Skinner #1.
• John Schaidler reviews the dense vibrancy of Henry Barajas, Rahmat M. Handoko, et al's Helm Greycastle #1.
The New York Times
• Parul Sehgal reviews the modest flourishes of Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength.
• Hillary Chute reviews a trio of graphic novels that depict resilience of the human spirit, including Marc Ellison and Didier Kassaï's A House Without Windows, Nate Powell's Save It For Later, and Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu’s Shadow Life.
Zachary Rondinelli reviews the poignant challenges of Michael DeForge’s Heaven No Hell.
• Ryan Carey reviews the delicate textures of Gonçalo Duarte’s Parícutin.
• Charles Hatfield reviews the artful tenderness of Mikaël Ross’ The Thud, translated by Nika Knight.
Women Write About Comics
• Kay Sohini reviews the seamless inquiries of Meghan Parker’s Teaching Artfully.
• Louis Skye reviews the diverse successes of Marvel Comics’ Women of Marvel #1.
• Melissa Brinks reviews the exquisite destruction of Witchblood #2.
• Wendy Browne reviews the comforting emotions of Greg Gustin, Kaylee Rowena, et al's Dr. Love Wave and the Experiments #2.
hm hmm pic.twitter.com/KtylzCBHHi
— Meredith Gran (@granulac) April 27, 2021
Rattle ‘em off, quick now… This week’s interviews.
Walter Scott and Michael DeForge share an online conversation covering the embarrassment of the author shining through in the work, obfuscation of the barrier between life and fiction during the pandemic, and moving away from autobiography - “[Michael DeForge:] I have a lot of stories where I’m really just trying to work out my feelings about something on the page. In my comics with big casts, I think that’s much less present. Like, they all obviously have some shreds of me because they come out of me, but I’ll populate those stories with characters that are pretty dissimilar to me in a lot of ways. I’ve been finding those types of characters more enjoyable to write lately.”
• Chris Hassan has a two-part interview with Louise Simonson and Walter Simonson about X-Factor, the lure of working together, historical consistency, Robert Heinlein, favorite characters, and constructive criticism.
• Chris Coplan chats to Eric Powell about Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, making the move to non-fiction work, and sticking to the factual record for inspiration.
• David Brooke speaks with Laura Knetzger about Bug Boys, design shifts from zines to book, and making sure characters are cute enough for print.
The Arts STL
Jason Green interviews Christina 'Steenz' Stewart about a year on the daily comics beat with Heart of the City, establishing a tone with long-running characters, and what goes into putting out a new strip every day.
• Dean Simons talks to Christine Larsen about ORCS!, pitches and book design, zine origins, and balancing the time devoted to narrative threads and painted covers.
• Ricardo Serrano Denis speaks with Eric Powell about Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?, telling a story of isolation, serial killer history, and focusing on the psychological aspects of horror.
Hanna Flint talks to Mark Millar about the upcoming Jupiter’s Legacy adaptation, fraternal comic origin stories, Netflix deals, and the core of superhero tales.
Brigid Alverson interviews JuYoun Lee about Yen Press and JY Books, growing the kids comic market in bricks-and-mortar retail sites, and making books stand out from the crowd in popular genres.
The Los Angeles Times
• Jevon Phillips talks to Afua Njoki Richardson, Joseph Illidge, Brandon Easton, David F. Walker, and Geoffrey Thorne about their comics work, and the ongoing changes in the publishing industry with regards to the visibility of Black creators.
• Dorany Pineda speaks with Sheena Howard, John Jennings, Kwanza Osajyefo, and Frances Gateward about the boom in comics that celebrate Black characters and culture, and the history that contemporary titles are building on.
Brian Salvatore chats to Ivan Reis about Batman/Superman, collaborating with Gene Luen Yang, and the joys of designing villains; and speaks with Duncan Jones and Alex De Campi about MADI: Once Upon A Time In The Future, comics origin stories, and storytelling as a mixtape.
• Michael Moccio interviews Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan about Let’s Talk About It, the failings of sex-ed, and choosing the topics for their book.
• Cheryl Klein talks to Rosanna Bruno and Anne Carson about The Trojan Women, going off piste when adapting the work of Euripides, and organic contemporary parallels.
The Seattle Times
Paul Constant interviews Shary Flenniken about Trots and Bonnie, the history of the Air Pirates and comics muses, and Seattle connections.
David Harper speaks with James Tynion IV about scheduling all his comic work, creator-owned models and manifestos, and the raw id of comics appeal.
• Gabriela Güllich presents a longform comic interview with Julienne ‘Hulyen’ Dadivas, discussing discovering comics through the local scene in the Philippines, the glory days of Tumblr, and learning by trying to learn.
• Daniel Elkin talks to Isabelle Melançon about Hiveworks Comics, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital ad revenue, and the necessity of smaller publishers in the comics ecosystem.
— peony gent ???? (@peonygent) April 25, 2021
Ok, start the presses… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, Tegan O’Neil writes on Michael DeForge’s Heaven No Hell, and the ephemeral consistency to be found within its pages - “Namedropping stylistic referents can be lazy shorthand that, in announcing the critic’s ample understanding, further obscures that of the audience. It can feel cheap. I struggled with the impulse while reading Heaven No Hell, because DeForge is so clearly trying to inspire that kind of reaction, by leapfrogging so assuredly across technique and style. It’s a book to scratch the critic’s chin, certainly, but what are you getting out of it, dear reader?”
• Also for TCJ, Austin Price pulls the starter cord on Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man, unpacking the comic’s bodily maximalism, and the pop-culture redwoods that it fells to build its walls with - “It’s not that Fujimoto lacks for the understanding of subtlety, the depth of psychology, or the technical restraint and expertise necessary to tell this story some other way - it's more that there is no other way to tell it. To present any single element in more rarefied form, with a self-conscious classiness, would be to undermine Chainsaw Man’s insistence that there are delights to be found down among the muck.”
• Writing for The Middle Spaces, Vincent Haddad looks at the depiction of conspiracy theories, and those who seek to perpetuate or prevent them, in The Department of Truth, Right State, and American Carnage, and the successes that the comics medium has had in representing a fractured corner of the human psyche.
• Celebrating the publication of Shary Flenniken’s Trots and Bonnie, Emily Flake has an essay on the comic’s history for The Paris Review, and the shift in perspective on comics depicting the anarchy of adolescence that comes with time’s unstoppable march.
• PopMatters has a piece by Andrew Spiess on Al Ewing’s writing on The Immortal Hulk, and the comic’s dipping into the troubled history of Bruce Banner to dredge up the Devil Hulk and complement the body horror at the centre of the tale.
• Ken Eppstein continues Solrad's examination of the economics of the comics industry, this time around providing a number of graphs in an attempt to support the hypothesis that more special (read, paid-to-attend) guests at a comic convention impacts negatively on sales for other exhibitors at the show. Your mileage may vary.
• For NeoText, Gregory Paul Silber sings the praises of Kyle Starks, finding much to like in his unpretentious dry wit, while Chloe Maveal looks back over the storied career of Jules Feiffer, and Benjamin Marra presents the work of Esteban Maroto.
• Over at The New York Times, George Gene Gustines looks at the history (and possible future) of Black characters taking on the mantle of Superman, while Eve L. Ewing and Evan Narcisse share their experiences of creating Black superheroes and where the genre’s heading.
• On the academic front, writing in The Lancet, Shirlene Obuobi, Monica B Vela, and Brian Callender present a paper on using comics in medical education to advocate for anti-racism in clinical setting, the deconstruction of marginalizing systems, and confronting white supremacy that can be present in health-care providers attitudes towards patients with different conditions.
• Mike Peterson rounds up the week’s daily cartoons for The Daily Cartoonist, as justice remains blind, and transphobic legislation remains in vogue, as do bad faith arguments, the stock in trade of one Tucker Carlson, plus some run of the mill partisanship.
• 1987. A time for fresh looks. A time for rebuilding. A time for Wolverine.
• A selection of longform comics from the week, as here at TCJ Breakdown Press present a preview of Leomi Sadler’s Tummy Bugs; Max Loh shares the COVID-related isolation caused by the closure of the Johor-Singapore Causeway for The Nib; Anthony Del Col, Josh Adams, et al look back at the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for Insider; over at NPR, Connie Hanzhang Jin explores the emotional numbing caused by the pandemic, and Eda Uzunlar shares the story of librarians delivering books to students; Leela Corman documents the welcoming generational healing taking place in Poland for Tablet Magazine; and Sage Coffey shows why it’s easy (and necessary) to get vaccinated against COVID-19 for The Lily.
Something From My Run 4/28/2021 pic.twitter.com/435pDvuhhn
— Tom McHenry (@tommchenry) April 28, 2021
One billion frames per second… This week’s recommended watching.
• Taking place this evening, at time of publishing, Melanie Gillman is hosting a crash course in comics making for UC Riverside, including a Q&A and drawing exercises, which you can join here.
• On a similar note, The Believer and The Black Mountain Institute continued their weekly series of free comics workshops, as Danny Noble took viewers through drawing their inner voice, and visualizing your inner monologue.
• Institut Français hosted a panel discussion on comics’ history with representation of diversity, or lack thereof, as SelfMadeHero’s Emma Hayley spoke with Woodrow Phoenix, Lucie Quéméner, and Barrack Rima about the UK and French comics scenes.
• Marvel and Penguin Random House sought to calm speculation on their distribution operations by releasing a 12 minute video answering some of the questions that store-owners and customers may have - if you can't handle watching business execs reading off cue cards for that long (I wouldn't personally recommend it), then The Beat have summarized the salient points.
• It was Barry Windsor-Smith week at Cartoonist Kayfabe, as Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg took a look at Monsters, before diving into some older works, including X-Men, Storyteller, Adastra in Africa, and XO Manowar.
• Noah Van Sciver hosted a fresh cartoonist chat this week, speaking to Steven Weissman about learning from peers, evolving processes, and a life in comics, before opening up the phone lines to an anarchic dial-in livestream.
LEGALIZATION NATION part 2 of my comic about @MycoSymbiote a PA resident who has the talent and drive to be a big part of PA medical and recreational cannabis, but is locked out. #legalizationnation pic.twitter.com/h5u4HLzG9g
— Brian Box Brown (@boxbrown) April 27, 2021
Everybody, please, buy a pop shield… This week’s easy-listening.
• Starting this week’s selection with a segment from WNYC’s All of It, as Alison Stewart spoke to Gary Panter and Nicole Rudick about Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise, and the book’s genesis and return.
• Shary Flenniken joined Gil Roth for this week’s Virtual Memories Show, as they discussed selecting strips for the Trots and Bonnie collection, laughing at your own jokes, and lessons learned through a career in comics.
• Comic Books Are Burning In Hell returned this week, as Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, and Matt Seneca discussed the many feuds of one Alan Moore, plus a Doonesbury treasure hunt, and the correct venues through which to contact comics creators and/or publishers.
• 2000 AD pressed play on a new Lockdown Tape, as MOLCH-R talked to Charlie Adlard about his work in the UK and abroad, hitting it big with creator-owned series, and avoiding the Hollywood machine.
• Louie Stowell joined Dan Berry for this week’s Make It Then Tell Everybody, as they spoke about the publishing spectrum, paring down the jokes, and obscure references.
• Mangasplaining returned with David Brothers in the driving seat this week, as the team discussed the cultural phenom that is Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, and how the first volume holds up as an intro to the series and its various adaptations.
• David Harper welcomed Christopher Cantwell to Off Panel this week, as they discussed writing for comics and TV, big-name licensed characters and continuity, and the collaborative process with artists.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come dug into some comics economics this week, as Calvin Reid, Heidi MacDonald, and Kate Fitzsimons discussed periodical price hikes, sales boosts from vertical integrations, and the business of funging tokens.
Some close-ups. I was very pleased with that woven plastic tote pic.twitter.com/uC2hko82Dz
— Eleanor Davis (@squinkyelo) April 26, 2021
That’s all for this week - a new month is on the horizon, so we’ll have to wait and see what May will bring. Tenterhooks for all!
Just another beautiful day pic.twitter.com/JSKoYTVn4W
— ????????Mai: (5/6 comms)???????? (@marmastry) April 29, 2021