Ziggurat Vertigo – This Week’s Links

It is, I am pleased/saddened [delete as appropriate] to inform you, yet again, a Friday, and so there are a fresh batch of links waiting just a scroll away. 

It struck me while writing this that, were these links appearing but a scant 200 years ago, or thereabouts, I would be standing on common land, playing the sound of a ringing bell from an app on my rudimentary phone, and shouting them to passers by, as our forebears did when the internet was but in its infancy, in centuries past. Ah, the wonders of history, and the unstoppable passage of time.



The truth is out there… This week’s news.

• Kicking off the week with good news for comics professionals who are also fans of completing ballots, as the Ringo Awards have announced the opening of voting for 2021’s shortlists of nominees, with winners to be awarded in October at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con. Remember to vote early, and vote often.

• Comichron’s returning analysis of Diamond sales estimates continue, as last month saw more big numbers pouring out of the House of Ideas, with Marvel Comics again taking the lion’s share of the direct market, despite a marked reduction in publishing output compared to pre-COVID figures.

• Forbes report on yet more big-money investments in the world of digital platforms, as Chinese mobile comics app Kuaikan receives a $240 million injection, valuing the company at $1.25 billion, with investors eyeing up its 50 million active monthly users, the vast majority apparently in the lucrative 25-and-younger demographic.

• In other youth demographic news, Publisher’s Weekly cover the announcement by King Features that their output will be expanding to include new works for YA and middle grade readers, based on “an enormous portfolio of classic brands” that can now engage with a young reader market that has seen a rise in sales of 123% since 2020.

• Koyama Provides have announced the latest recipient of their grant program, awarding $1,000 to Jenn Woodall, who is quoted as saying “I've been working on my graphic novel for the past year now and this grant will help me continue to focus on completing it, without needing to stop and seek freelance work to cover my bills.”

• Finally this week, ICv2 round up the latest updates in the worlds of distribution and comics industry personnel moves, as Z2 Comics join Lunar Distribution for comic store distro, and BOOM! Studios continues its recent round of hirings and promotions, and the world keeps spinning.



The name of the game… This week’s reviews.


• Anya Davidson reviews the dimensional experimentation of Alison Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength - “In spite of her affinity for his ideas, Bechdel’s approach to art-making couldn’t be further from Kerouac’s. While Kerouac wrote almost automatically and with little editing, Bechdel uses a self-described “laborious photo-based process,” to create her comics, the specifics of which are detailed in a 2012 New Yorker profile by Judith Thurman. Her first two books have the somewhat uncanny quality I associate with photo-based comics, the figures asserting an almost sculptural presence, sometimes not fully integrating with its environments.”

• Oliver Ristau reviews the vivid exchanges of Viktor Hachmang’s Bestiarium - “And while said cover's blindingly glaring thin layers of metal evoke a background texture reminding passionate heroin users who smoke god's own medicine from tinfoil of that blurry looking glass they are irresistibly driven to, Hachmang is simultaneously setting the stage for the first story, where the character depicted on it is featured, and by this driving readers into a collection of short stories celebrating strange creatures on the loose.”



• Celestia Ward reviews the murky legitimacy of Janet Harvey and Sonia Liao’s The Curie Society.

• David Brooke reviews the impressive collection of Marvel Comics’ Marvel's Voices: Identity #1.

• Ben Morin reviews the annoying missteps of Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, Mirka Aldolfo, et al’s Superman vs. Lobo #1.

• Nathan Simmons reviews the nostalgic tone of Robert Venditti, Wilfredo Torres, et al’s Superman ’78 #1.

• Colin Moon reviews the rich details of Haden Blackman, JH Williams III, et al’s Echolands #1.

• Jordan Richards reviews the slow beginnings of Kaori Yuki’s Beauty and the Beast of Paradise Lost Volume 1.

• Alex Cline reviews the layered mysteries of Yukito Ayatsuji and Hiro Kiyohara’s The Decagon House Murders Volume 1.


The Beat

• Avery Kaplan reviews the haunting brutality of Peter Milligan, Piotr Kowalski, et al’s God of Tremors.

• Gregory Paul Silber reviews the rich texture of Haden Blackman, JH Williams III, et al’s Echolands #1.


Broken Frontier

• Lindsay Pereira reviews the powerful surrealism of Zuo Ma's Night Bus.

• Andy Oliver reviews:

- The inventive misadventures of Lara Kaminoff’s How to Pick a Fight.

- The vivid emotions of Namsai Khaobor’s 60 Percent Chance of Raining.

- The disconcerting horror of Olivia Sullivan’s Mutton Chops.

- The entrancing experimentation of Mereida’s Quivertree.


Multiversity Comics

• Matthew Blair reviews the dense complexities of Jackson Lanzig, Colin Kelly, Carlos Magno, et al’s Kang the Conqueror #1.

• Kobi Bordoley reviews the fast-paced fun of Haden Blackman, JH Williams III, et al’s Echolands #1.



Thúy Đinh reviews the subtle dreamscapes of Zuo Ma's Night Bus.


Publisher’s Weekly

Have capsule reviews of:

- The amusing poise of Tom Gauld’s The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess.

- The graceful intensity of Molly Naylor and Lizzy Stewart’s Lights, Planets, People!.

- The aching emotions of R. Kikuo Johnson’s No One Else.

- The unusual intrigues of Paolo Javier’s O.B.B..



• Ryan Carey reviews the literate sensibilities of Mat Brinkman’s Teratoid Heights.

• Edward Howard reviews the organic claustrophobia of Masamura Jushichi’s Children of Mu-Town.


Women Write About Comics

• Stephanie Burt reviews the excitable drama of Leah Williams, Lukas Werneck, et al’s The Trial of Magneto #1.

• Kate Tanski reviews the comforting satisfaction of Robert Venditti, Wilfredo Torres, et al’s Superman ‘78 #1.

• Wendy Browne reviews the inappropriate untruths of John Zuur Platten and Atilio Rojo’s St. Mercy #1.

• Ariel Godwin reviews the fast-tracked poignancy of S.A. Foxe, Daz, et al's Cheat(er) Code.



Polyglot enterprises… This week’s interviews.


Tiffany Babb interviews Shing Yin Khor about The Legend of Auntie Po, inspirational trips into nature, the role of tradition and ritual in the human experience, and avoiding inflicting further trauma on already marginalised groups - “I think my brain is actually more practical than poetic. I like maps, infographics, things that explicate and categorize and convey information clearly and concisely. And I think that as storytelling mechanisms, they establish place and geography much clearer than exposition can, but I also think they lend a certain scale to a story, whether it is a grand scale like Tolkien’s world maps or just a logging camp as in my book. They establish that “yes, this story is going to take place here, specifically” even if that space never really expands past the boundaries of a logging camp.”



• David Brooke talks to Alina Pete about The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories, permissions needed to include Indigenous legends in printed works, crafting a playlist of stories, and COVID limitations to storytelling reach.

• Chris Coplan speaks with Peter Milligan and Sally Cantirino about Human Remains and monster metanarratives, and Bob Fingerman about Dotty’s Inferno and the humour permeating his work.



Amy Taubin interviews Dash Shaw about Cryptozoo, contrasts between comic and movie ideas, moving from Dungeons and Dragons to an art history perspective, and the meanings of colours.


The Beat

• Joe Grunenwald speaks with Alina Pete about The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories, co-editing and cultural consultation roles, showcasing the diversity of Indigenous storytelling, and cover concept design.

• Heidi MacDonald talks to Jordan Plosky about funding platform Zoop, company acquisitions, targeting comics industry pain points, and crowdfunding marketing realities.

• Avery Kaplan chats to Dave Scheidt and Miranda Harmon about Mayor Good Boy, ideas arriving fully-formed, engaging young readers about activism, and laughing at your own jokes.

• Nancy Powell speaks with Shanon Hale and LeUyen Pham about Friends Forever, middle school memoirs, collaborative processes, and book recommendations.


The Los Angeles Times

Carlos Aguilar interviews Dash Shaw and Jane Samborski about Cryptozoo, inspirations from Winsor McCay, bringing together physical and digital images, and the humour of alternative comics.


Multiversity Comics

Kyle Welch talks to Simon Hanselmann about Crisis Zone, experimentation with techniques to speed up the creative process, the primal nature of comics, and giving the people what they want.



• Karama Horne speaks with Mohsen​​​​​​​ Ashraf and Patrick Meaney about Syphon, following storytelling dreams, creating provocative heroes, and exploring the impact that empathy can have on people.

• Mike Avila talks to Jim Mahfood about Grrl Scouts: Stone Ghost, expanding mythologies, tentative convention returns, and digital platform horizons.


Women Write About Comics

Wendy Browne interviews Diane Darcy about an enduring love of The Huntress and the character’s various guises; and Alina Pete and Kate Ashwin and Kel McDonald about The Woman and the Woods and Other North American Stories.



Nothing but net… This week’s features and longreads.

• TCJ co-editor Joe McCulloch opened the week with a look at what’s selling during an apparent boom period for comicked books - “This an elementary observation, but this market has developed enough to grow its own preferences and biases; it is not enough to look at brief summaries and think ‘wow, comics are doing great,’ you have to question the information you receive, and understand that all of these things are only giving you a partial idea of what comics is, as a set of particular conditions.”

• Also at TCJ, Sommer Browning recounts the delayed gratification involved in submitting to the author’s wishes while reading Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène Schrauwen - “To recognize your vulnerabilities in someone else’s feels meaningful. It is a little like holding the Grand Canyon in both of your hands and gazing into it. A lot of you wants to jump in and a lot of you feels like you already jumped in. That feeling is longing. How it feels to be in two places at once. On the edge of it and deep inside of it. How it feels to be in two times at once. About to and already done. I wave up at and down to myself.”

• Finally for TCJ this week, RC Harvey prepares a fresh dose of Hare Tonic, this time out looking at the work of Sam C. ‘Scrawls’ Rawls, and lessons learned along the way - “Doing a daily editoon and a daily comic strip translates into monumental seriousness. And Scrawls didn’t stop there. He illustrated several books about “Southern” culture. How to Speak Southern is one of them; and it’s still in print, his wife Janet told me. His other titles include How to Speak Fishing, How to Speak Bulldawg, More How to Speak Southern, and The Willie Nelson "Cooked Goose" Cookbook and IRS Financial Advisor. And he both wrote and drew The Redneck Instruction Book.”

• Over at NeoText, Cole Hornaday writes on the enduring influence of Vaughan Bodè’s comics and illustrations, and the picking up of the torch by Mark Bodè in the wake of his father’s passing; Sean Dillon has an in-depth essay on Grant Morrison’s presentation of Superman and the atomic bomb in ideological opposition as the unstoppable force and the immovable object; and Chloe Maveal presents celebrations of the work of Sean Phillips and Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

• For The Beat Heidi MacDonald rounds up the latest in an apparently never-ending series of ‘hectic weeks’ for the comics market, looking at just what it is that first attracted comic creators and publishers to the multibillion dollar tech industry.

• A double bill from Steve Morris at Shelfdust, writing on New Mutants #42’s dive into duelling Lokis and the Garfield strip of November 23rd 2002’s dive into toxic masculinity, while Vishal Gullapalli puts forward the argument that Sam ‘Cannonball’ Guthrie’s character growth is the making of the best of all mutants.

• Over at The Daily Cartoonist, D.D. Degg has a profile of Barry McWilliams, following his passing earlier this month; and Mike Peterson rounds up the editorial beat, as, once again, Afghanistan dominated the week’s headlines.

• On the open-access academic front, for Japanese Psychological Research, Yoshito Tanaka and Reiji Sasaki present findings from a study looking at individuality of story generation, arising from comic prompts including only the first and final panels of a narrative.

• Also in the comics academia space, Graphic Medicine’s 2021 UnConvention took place last weekend, and you can access a trove of resources from the event, along with sample videos from presenters in (virtual) attendance, here.



Biff, Pow, Kablammo… This week’s This week’s audio/visual delights.

• Looking ahead to the changing of the season, and the New York Comics & Picture-story Symposium have released the line-up of virtual events for Fall 2021’s programming, which you can peruse at your leisure here.

• A fresh Lockdown Tape arrived from 2000 AD’s Thrill Cast, as MOLCH-R spoke with Gary Caldwell, Chris Blythe, Simon Bowland, and Annie Parkhouse about the subtle intricacies of colouring and lettering comics.

• Calvin Reid welcomed David Hajdu and John Carey to Publisher’s Weekly’s More to Come this week, as they discussed A Revolution In Three Acts: The Radical Vaudeville of Bert Williams, Eva Tanguay, and Julian Eltinge.

• Dan Berry invited Tor Freeman to Make It and Then Tell Everybody, as they discussed Instagram comics, improvisational narratives, and workflows.

• Another day, another dollar for Cartoonist Kayfabe, as Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, and Jim Rugg took a look at Comics Scene #25, Jack Kirby and Wally Wood’s work in Sky Masters, David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp, Ditko’s work on Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, and Chester Brown’s Yummy Fur.

• The doors to House to Astonish opened once more, as Al Kennedy and Paul O’Brien took a trip to the direct market, with a whole lot of news involving the Big Two needing to be discussed.

• David Harper welcomed Chip Zdarsky back to Off Panel this week, as they too discussed the big industry news of the last couple of weeks, just what it is that a Substack deal entails, and why it is more enticing than superhero fare.



That’s all for this week, join me in the future for yet more!