Well, well, well... Here we are, at the end of the year, and able to look back across 2020 with the kind of resigned weariness that you’d need Academy Award nominee Kevin Costner to accurately portray in a work of fiction.
But this is not fiction, far from it, in fact. What lies before you remains This Week’s Links, which you can find below, so let’s make our way through them one more time, before taking a little rest until 2021, and whatever insanity it might hold.
My prediction for next year - media companies taking their film properties straight to streaming will cause cinemas to be repurposed to show digital comics on their screens at gigantic sizes. Audiences will control the page turns/panel zooms via a majority-rule voting app. An executive will attempt to resurrect the nonsense of motion comics and will be dragged screaming through the streets. Crazier things have happened, many of them literally in the last month or so!
— Sophia Foster-Dimino (@hellophia) December 11, 2020
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet… This week’s news.
• Closing out the old year by looking forward to the new, San Diego Comic Con have announced the judging panel for 2021’s edition of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, which will comprise Marco Davanzo, Shelley Fruchey, Pamela Jackson, Keithan Jones, Alonso Nuñez, and Jim Thompson. It remains to be seen what next summer’s convention season will look like, but I’ll take a punt on it being a mix of limited-attendance in-person events and majority virtual programming, as the pandemic (hopefully) moves into a period of eradication via global vaccine initiatives. Ya gotta stay positive!
• Kimetsu no Yaiba - Mugen no Resshahen, the animated film based on Koyoharu Gotōge’s manga series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, is poised to replace Spirited Away as the top-grossing film in Japan after nearly 20 years of box-office dominance. Normally, I’d say this is a tangential comics news story at best, but the amount of revenue generated by the film, and related manga and toy sales, are helping boost the entire Japanese economy, during a period of global financial chaos, and that’s pretty fascinating, if you ask me, which you did by reading this feature!
예전에 썰 풀었던 공포영화 보러간 제이클 pic.twitter.com/xVvRB3FPT2
— SB???? (@cotton_albumen) December 13, 2020
Lumps of coal for everyone… This week’s reviews.
• Helen Chazan reviews the commercial empowerment of Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga: Collector’s Edition Vol. 1 - “Time and again in Mermaid Saga, Takahashi returns to domestic structures of entrapment built around the preservation of an image of a beautiful young woman, frozen deathless in time. In some of these stories these phantom girls are innocent, powerful victims yearning to be free, in some they are actively vicious and manipulative. In a few of the best stories the woman is neither, literally inhuman, an animal, a specter or an object with the form of life and sentimental prettiness imposed on them in abject denial of their carnality, their spiritual indefinability, or their inevitable decaying descent into the grass and dirt.”
• Hillary Brown reviews the liberated heartbreak of Yeon Sik-Hong’s Umma’s Table - “Hong’s light touch with his drawings helps us not hate his main character. He plays with panel composition, and his use of two-page spreads really opens up his pages nicely. His art is rich in sensory detail and makes strong use of exaggerated emotion in a way that adds comedy more than tragedy. Maybe it’s an obvious comparison to talk about Proust’s famous madeleines in A Remembrance of Things Past, the most famous touchstone for the power of taste memory to compress time, but it’s also an apt one. When you finally get to that section of the multi-novel series, it pays off big time.”
• Aug Stone reviews the gorgeous heartache of Juan Díaz Canales, Teresa Valero, and Antonio Lapone’s Gentlemind - “Gentlemind is one of the comics to read this year. It straddles both the Europe and America of the 1940s, with its setting and tone being New York City, while its feel is definitely European. Juan Díaz Canales & Teresa Valero capture something of the spirit of those times and their story has a soul of its own, which Lapone’s art animates to another level.”
• Alexandra Iciek reviews the self-subjective scares Michael Walsh’s The Sleep Stories.
• Christopher Franey reviews the Silver Age shenanigans of Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp, et al’s The Green Lantern: Season Two #10.
• Rory Wilding reviews the vibrant conclusion of Greg Pak, Giannis Milonogiannis, et al’s Ronin Island Vol. 3.
• David Brooke reviews the domestic commentary of Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #1.
• Alex Curtis reviews the unsubtle imperfections of Steve Skroce and Dave Stewart’s Post Americana #1.
• Nick Kazden reviews the lean predictability of Steve Niles, Salvatore Simeone, Szymon Kudranski, et al’s Lonesome Days, Savage Nights.
• Bruno Savill de Jong reviews the shallow struggles of Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, et al’s Crossover #2.
• Holly Raidl reviews the refreshing reality of Emma Hunsinger’s She Would Feel the Same.
• Rebecca Burke reviews the metatextual overkill of Ryan North and Albert Monteys' adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.
Four Color Apocalypse
House to Astonish
Paul O’Brien reviews the odd interruptions of Benjamin Percy, Joshua Cassara, Bazaldua, et al’s X-Force #10-12.
• Christopher Egan reviews the shocking exposition of Clay McLeod Chapman, Jakub Rebelka, et al’s Origins #2.
• Jacob Cortas reviews the tragicomic perspectives of Tom Peyer, Alan Robinson, et al’s Penultiman #3.
The New York Times
Grace Lin reviews the straightforward satisfactions of David Bowles and Charlene Bowles’s Rise of the Halfling King: Tales of the Feathered Serpent, Vol. 1.
• Ryan Carey reviews the provocative complexities of Katriona Chapman’s Breakwater.
• Kay Sohini reviews the compelling storytelling of Kiki Hughes’ Displacement.
• Tom Shapira reviews the claustrophobic nightmare of Andi Watson's The Book Tour.
Women Write About Comics
• Nola Pfau reviews the aesthetic delights of Matthew Colville, Jody Houser, Olivia Samson, et al’s Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins, vols. 1 and 2.
• Lisa Fernandes reviews the glorious body-horror of Christopher Cantwell, Filipe Andrade, et al’s Fantastic Four: Road Trip #1.
• Melissa Brinks reviews the turbulent finality of Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, et al’s John Constantine: Hellblazer #12.
The energy of live music is captured in the punk essays of @comicnrrd in BE YOUR OWN BACKING BAND, published by @ssbcpunk! Full color autobio that will have you singing along! https://t.co/TTxAcx7WHD pic.twitter.com/rtm67sKcQb
— Radiator Comics (@RadiatorComics) December 13, 2020
The lost art of conversation… This week’s interviews.
• Steve Brower presents a lost interview between Dylan Williams and Marvin Stein, the only published interview of Stein’s career, wherein they discuss learning from everyone you meet, bowling with the greats, newspaper strips that never made the grade, and a career spanning decades - “Advertising. I started with advertising, I was strictly TV storyboards. I looked through my stuff, I said “Christ’ I did a hell of a lot of stuff. The industry realized the value of the ex comic book artists when it came to storyboarding because all of the commercials were pre-sketched. I imagine even today. In those days I met some crackerjack artists when I was doing that.”
• Frank M. Young interviews James Danky about curating Wisconsin Funnies with Denis Kitchen, an anthology and exhibition of the same name, its 30-year gestation, 21st century views on 20th century creations, and showcasing the diversity of creators in the comics medium by focusing on a small geographical subset - “Our goal was to show the breadth of work and how different artists intersect. A good example is Lynda Barry, the doyen of autobiographical comics and now the author of books that explain why you need to pick up a pen and start drawing, had Jeff Butler, creator of “The Badger,” in one of her classes. When Lynda went on leave, she asked Jeff to teach the comics course for her. You compare their work and they’re so different—in gender and in style. But what is true is that they’re both Wisconsin cartoonists. As we were planning this show, I looked around for other examples, and I feel sure that this is possibly the first time someone has done an exhibit and a book about the comics produced in a state. You would need multiple volumes to do New York or California, or Seattle. “
• Joe Grunenwald talks to Eric Peterson and Joe Aubrey about new series Space Bastards (with Darick Robertson), devising combative postal systems in 2020, crowdfunding and Humanoids, and sticking the artist collaboration landing.
• Matt O’Keefe chats with Tony Fleecs about talking animals, the possibilities of alternative POVs, the perpetual inspiration of pets, and writing for artists as a writer/artist; and then catches up with Ed Brubaker about his latest collaboration with Sean Phillips, Reckless, crime narratives, some more crime narratives, and then just a few more crime narratives as a treat.
• Ricardo Serrano Denis interviews Mirka Andolfo about Sweet Paprika, and the upcoming animated adaptation, tropes in erotic comics, and trying to keep the funny when it comes to moving pictures.
Andy Oliver interviews Zain Dada and Kumail Rizvi about Khidr Comix Lab, their creative backgrounds, the need for publishers focused on supporting the creative output of Black, Brown and Muslim storytellers, and building-in sustainable distribution systems to such endeavors.
The interdisciplinary journal for narrative research presents an interview (that will open as a PDF, fyi) with Frederick Luis Aldama about narratological favorites, developing a focus in US ethnic and postcolonial literature, and desert island narratives.
Something a little different, as Pierre Lebeaupin presents translated recaps of virtual events from the Plein Page Festival, including:
- An interview between LiseF and Pénélope Bagieu, covering adapting The Witches, Harvey and Eisner Award wins, and lockdown-induced creative blocks.
- A panel discussion, hosted by LiseF, with Marie Spénale, Cy, and Sita discussing whether being well-known is a pre-requisite to being published, and the importance (or lack thereof) of a social media presence in the bande dessinée market.
- A panel discussion, hosted by Aurélien Fernandez, with Yatuu and Lisa Mandel on moving to self-publishing for recent projects, publishers playing it safe when it comes to book deals, and in-depth discussion of the legal entities self-publishing ventures can take.
Joshua Dudley interviews Method Man about his comic book collecting, HOXPOX criticisms, price guides and Wizard magazine, and the value of stories.
Teddy Jamieson talks to Peter Bagge about the deluxe Hate collection, ephemera becoming historic documents, characters that are fun to write (and those that have no room to evolve), and comics as a medium of communication.
The Hollywood Reporter
• Aaron Couch talks to Rob Liefeld about rebooting Archie Comics’ Mighty Crusaders, getting to the meat of legacy characters, and drawing while negotiating.
• Graeme McMillan interviews Phillip Kennedy Johnson about taking charge of the Man of Steel, compassion at the core of the character, and building (and building on) mythologies.
The Middle Spaces
Osvaldo Oyola interviews Anna Peppard about the absurdity of spoilers, anthologies as a way to overcome the limitations of individual subjectivity, the eroticism of collecting physical comics, and the complexities of comic book excess.
Elias Rosner talks to Ed Brubaker about new book Reckless, ongoing collaborations with Sean Phillips (and Jacobs Phillips too), speeding up the publishing cycle, and the eternal allure of throwback crime stories.
Brigid Alverson talks to Wendy and Tyler Chin-Tanner about A Wave Blue World, ambitious publishing plans, sustainability in an age of disposable publishing, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nitish Pahwa interviews Ward Sutton about the memeification of his cartoons for The Onion (under the guise of Stan Kelly), his alter-ego’s view of the world, the competitive nature of memes and their source material, and the double-edged sword of online platforms.
Daniel Elkin talks to Peow Studio’s Patrick Crotty about publishing during 2020’s pandemic, the balanced costs of a year without festivals, Kickstarter and mail-carrier scares, and being the Drunken Master(s) of comics.
Matthew Jackson chats with Kieron Gillen about returning to the Marvel superhero beat, the proper definition of ‘eternal’, Thanos as a Byronic figure of passion, and what Tolkien brings to the table.
Susanna Schrobsdorff talks to Allie Brosh about new book Solutions and Other Problems, grocery store socializing, muddled self-help messaging, and fortuitous pandemic relatability.
The anthology collects over 100 pages of comics that were published in China from January to March, 2020. Ranging from autobiography to science fiction, the work by these cartoonists captures the anxiety and resilience of those living through the first wave of the global pandemic pic.twitter.com/OfK8mpYHDH
— Paradise Systems 格物天下 (@para_systems) December 13, 2020
A bright red nose, like a bowlful of jelly… This week’s features and comics.
• Here at TCJ, David Roach has an obituary for the late, great Richard Corben, who sadly passed away earlier this month, leaving behind a wonderfully diverse body of work - “Corben was, above all else, a unique voice in comics, whose work seemingly existed in its own universe; even when drawing other people’s creations, he somehow always made them his own. While he remained something of a cult figure in his later years, his standing in Europe as a major figure in comic art was never in doubt.”
• Also for TCJ, Bart Hulley writes on the boom and bust (and boom) of English translations of European comics, the whys and wherefores of publishers and independent artists getting their work into English, and a continuing digital/analogue dichotomy - “Generally speaking, there are two ways to get a European title published in English, and both basically boil down to who pays for the translation. The preferred option for European publishing houses is to sell translation and territorial rights to US editors, at the Angouleme International Comic Con for example, and leave them to then invest in producing their own translations. While this places most of the financial risk on the purchasing editor it also guarantees editorial control over the translation for the target market. The second option is for European editors to translate their own titles and sell them as ready-to-publish products.”
• Well, the popular vote and the electoral college have spoken, along with various courts, but apparently the election is still rolling on, so that means more editorial comics (including some fairly jaw-droppingly racist syndicated illustrations), rounded up by The Daily Cartoonist.
• Over at 13th Dimension, Joe Jusko presents an appreciation of John Buscema, on what would have been his 93rd birthday, looking back at the inspirational body of work he left behind, and its enduring legacy.
• Solrad have a piece from Lane Yates, exploring the distribution methods that Jack Chick established for his Tracts, resulting in market saturation, but not so much the reader engagement part, and the juxtaposition this has with the American periodical market and its economics of scarcity.
• For Shelfdust, Charlotte Finn hits the big 5-0 of a year in Astro City, as the series follows-up one of the greatest single issues of all time, and the intrigues it presents; Wendy Browne looks back at Bertram A. Fitzgerald’s Fast Willie Jackson and Golden Legacy, for Black Comics History, and why the former fizzled out on the stands, while the latter had an enduring publication life; and august (in the wake of) dawn looks back on WildC.A.T.S. #1, and Jim Lee's bad-cover-version of counter-culture paradigm shifting.
• Not content to go with the tried-and-tested ‘Best of 2020’ article of years past, Multiversity Comics instead goes granular, and presents a cavalcade of 2020 round-ups, including best reprints, best translated comic, best limited series, best anthology, best licensed comic, best breakout artist, best cover artist, best colorist, best letterer, and best breakout writer. There’s more to come of these, but we’ll check back in with them in 2021, for an arbitrary sense of completion on the whole thing.
• Also taking the granular road less travelled, Publisher’s Weekly break down their own best graphic novels of the year list, detailing their panel’s voting and reasoning behind the final decisions.
• For NeoText, Chloe Maveal presents an appreciation of the work of Erica Henderson, presenting the argument for conferring Hall-of-Fame status on the artist, and taking a whistlestop tour through Henderson’s career thus far; and Benjamin Marra provides an introduction to a gallery of the works of Frank Frazetta.
• A couple of pieces from David Harper, as he provides a recap for Polygon on just what went down over the last ten months in terms of comics and the direct market snafu, before heading back to home turf on SKTCHD, and asking a selection of comics creators what they've learned about petting burning dogs in 2020.
• Colin Stokes presents The New Yorker’s most-liked-on-Instagram cartoons of the year, the only metric that matters now, and it’s a weird list to read through, if, like me, you spent most of the year just reading Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions, or those of Bill Hader, instead.
• For The Nib, Bianca Xunise reflects on popular media’s portrayal of toxic relationships, and tropes that do way more damage than good, in the long run; and Ivan Brunetti documents 2020's series of increasingly red red-flags.
• Platform Comics have chosen the winners for this year's Short Comic Competition, and you can read a digital anthology of those entries now; and the Center for Cartoon Studies presents a gallery of upcoming thesis project posters from the class of 2021, who've been making their comics during an intensely weird time to be in education.
Psychodrama Illustrated #3 by @BetomessGilbert is in comic shops today! Strange and surreal, funny and eternally relevant. Pick it up from your local comic book shop today! #NewComicBookDayhttps://t.co/OlFU5llfX5 pic.twitter.com/e7S6jOjJfW
— Fantagraphics Books (@fantagraphics) December 16, 2020
Die Hard is a movie… This week’s recommended watching.
• Making up for a year with no in-person comics events, Don Rosa beamed out to the world from his comics vault, as a festive treat, with a tour of his comics collection, including every EC comic published since WWII, the realities of visiting Europe as a ‘Duck artist’, views on Donald (Duck) as a character, whether it’s Scrooge McDuck who’s the sidekick, and the joys of copious research.
• Cartoonist Kayfabe kept the stone moss-free, as Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg looked through the Steve Rude Sketchbook, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories, the famine-fighting X-Men: Heroes for Hope, the Dark Knight Returns gallery edition, Tim Vigil’s unpublished Batman parody comic, Hulk vs Spider-Man, and the rolling references of Image Illustrated.
• First Second had a couple more classes of Sketch School in session for budding creators over the last week, as Ben Hatke took viewers through how to draw the title character from Julia’s House Moves On (sound mix is a bit low on that one), and Sara Varon introduced us to the inspiration for the character Sweetpea from My Pencil and Me.
• The Beat and Comix Experience presented September’s edition of the Graphic Novel of the Month Club’s Classic Selection series (GNMCCSS), as Brian Hibbs spoke to Robert Kirkman about The Walking Dead’s shambling rise to immortality, art-rejections from Diamond, learning not to force characterization, and working banker hours.
• A busy week in the Word Balloon to wrap up the year’s viewing, as John Siuntres spoke to Kevin Maguire and J.M. DeMatteis about the 80s/90s Justice League run, James Tynion IV about Future State’s new Batman, Ed Brubaker about crime comics (natch), and welcomed the NeoText team to the show to discuss the publishing initiative.
— Anna Haifisch (@anna_haifisch) December 15, 2020
Banging the drum… This week’s easy-listening.
• It was an all-DC week on Comic Books Are Burning In Hell, as Tucker Stone, Chris Mautner, Matt Seneca, and Joe McCulloch went old school and listed the top ten best kills by The Spectre, Jim Aparo style, looked at some of the Vertigo titles DC should really reprint and keep in print, and there's a re-cap of The Comics Journal's days in the witness box. *Extremely Kryptonian Council of Elders voice*: GUILTY.
• Mex Flentallo were covering what remains of the comics news outlets this week, rounding up the usual suspects, checking whether any go outside the usual corporate press release cycles, and generally bemoaning the loss of the previous generation of sites and blogs, plus: new microphones and early comics career chat.
• Doug Gordon interviewed Adrian Tomine for Wisconsin Public Radio, chatting to the author about The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, stylistic simplification to streamline the creative process, and owing the readers some humour.
• Shelfdust Presents closed out its first season with a bang, as Matt Lune and Oliver Sava looked back at Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s Saga #1, its giant-sized page count, and why it won the list of Shelfdust’s best first issues of all time.
• House to Astonish returned with a new episode, as Al Kennedy and Paul O’Brien discussed all the direct market news that’s fit to print, the sad passing of Richard Corben, and why sometimes you just need to stab Batman to cut through visual confusion.
• Dan Berry welcomed Chris Gooch to Make It Then Tell Everybody this week, as the pair discussed looking back on one’s own mistakes, narrative chronology in comics, and jump scares in comics.
• Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come hit all the big corporate comics news stories this week, as the team discussed big companies making bigger moves to be the biggest fish in the pond, and looked back on the demise of two big comic shows, and some of the best book of the year lists making the rounds.
• David Harper spoke to Sean Phillips for this week’s Off Panel, ahead of the release of Reckless, as they discussed the various stages of his career, including his fruitful partnership with Ed Brubaker, keeping the creative juices flowing, and Image Comics publishing deals.
We’re all in this ~~together~~ pic.twitter.com/0faaPNvn3M
— Sarah Mirk (@sarahmirk) December 15, 2020
Okay, that’s a full lid for 2020, so I hope that you have a peaceful end to the old year, and an enjoyable start to the new one.
I’m going to retire to my four poster bed and await visitation by the three ghosts of comics, to remind me of the true message of the medium - spandex clad vigilantes upholding a paramilitary status quo and/or sad-sack shut-ins regaling me with the ins-and-outs of their failures in life. Perfect.
— samanthuel????B*L*M (@splendidland) December 15, 2020
It seems fitting, given how dutifully he acknowledged ours, that we comics folks acknowledge that today would have been Tom Spurgeon's (aka @comicsreporter ) 52nd birthday. Miss you big time, buddy.
— Eric Reynolds (@earinc) December 16, 2020
You're still here? It's over. Go home.