Book Expo America happens every year, and I take time off from work to wander Javits to see what’s new and interesting (this year’s Zeitgeist: mustaches). [Read more…]
The Young Protectors has been running as a webcomic for a little over a year now in the hands of an experienced creative team including writer Alex Woolfson (Artifice), artist Adam DeKraker (Marvel/DC penciler), and Harvey-award nominated colorist Veronica Gandini (Marvel/Image/Boom!). It’s an impressive comic for many reasons, not least of which that it features the journey of a young gay superhero, Kyle, as he makes his first steps towards self-acceptance, and includes gay romance elements. Gay heroes are not absent from superhero comics, but they aren’t particularly well-represented either, often appearing as token characters or handled in ways that don’t speak fully to the real world struggles of the gay community. Woolfson, DeKraker, and Gandini produce a beautifully rendered comic which handles universal themes with a strong sense of humor and commentary on the superhero comic tradition, and it’s not surprising that they’ve engaged a voluble fan community in doing so. Their success as a webcomic led, less than a week ago, to the launch of their Kickstarter campaign to fund a print volume of the first arc of the series, The Young Protectors: Engaging the Enemy.
What happened next revealed all the positive forces at work in creator-owned comics right now: they met their goal in less than 24 hours, and have since blown past that goal with more than double numbers and the better part of a month still to go on the campaign. It’s clear that the fan base established through the webcomic has translated firmly into crowdfunding support, and the factors that led to their success are bound to interest readers tracking the vicissitudes of webcomics and crowdfunding right now. Woolfson and DeKraker speak to The Beat today about the origin, development, and successes of The Young Protectors and the lessons they have to share about their experiences.
By Paul Mellerick
Mark Millar’s relentless conquering of the entertainment world continues, as his new book Jupiter’s Legacy sets records and charts in the top three of the chart. Walking Dead, Saga, Adventure Time and newbies My Little Pony, East of West and Star Wars all have excellent months. Elsewhere the real story is that almost a third of this month’s indie titles increased in sales, when the usual trend is downwards. Only a few new titles chart in the top 200, but there’s a definite trend of consolidation across the top books, while many of the books towards the bottom are reaching the end of the line.
Did anyone tell creator Don McGregor they were remaking Lady Rawhide? UPDATED with Dynamite’s Response
Dynamite has been reviving the fertile pulp coffers of late for such characters as the Shadow and the Spider and so on, and even Lady Rawhide, a female sidekick for Zorro who starred in several Topps comics back in the 90s.
Dynamite Entertainment proudly announces the August 2013 debut of LADY RAWHIDE #1, the first chapter of a five-part miniseries that will dynamically reintroduce the iconic Western heroine to comic book fans. Written by Eric Trautmann (RED SONJA,VAMPIRELLA) and featuring interior artwork by Milton Estevam, LADY RAWHIDE #1 features cover artwork by the preeminent “good girl” artist, Joseph Michael Linsner (DAWN).
But unlike those other pulp characters, Lady Rawhide does not date back to the misty pre TV days of cheap magazines: she was created by writer Don McGregor and artist Mike Mayhew for Topps—as her skimpy “Bad Girl era” attire (and Linsner version) suggests. And McGregor is writing on Facebook that he wasn’t even consulted about the revival:
From CARL BOOTH:
Damn, glad to see Lady Rawhide is back, but no mention of the creator, Don McGregor!!!
From DON McGREGOR:
First I’m reading about it. I created Lady Rawhide, and wrote every Topps comic featuring her. Zorro Productions has a contract with me that I get a percentage of anything done with characters I created. Are Zorro Productions and Dynamite now screwing creators?
Uh oh another older creator who signed a bad contract? McGregor says he actually negotiated a royalty deal with Zorro Productions and when asked “Does it ever stop?” replies:
Apparently not. Not even when you meet personally with the head of Zorro Productions and have it put in writing. I was weary of creating characters and then people who could not create would see ALL the money derived from them. Marvel wanted me to come back, at the time I was just starting to research Zorro, and create an alien world for Professor X. I preferred working with Jim Salicrup, and was so invested by that time in creating Lady Rawhide, Machete, Moonstalker, Star Wolf, Scarlet Fever and the others that I didn’t have time to even do a series for Milestone. I had a strong story that I told Dwayne McDuffie when he approached me, and he never flinched. But I never would have been able to keep his deadline, especially when Zorro Vs. Dracula came along.
In a later post he writes:
I would not have written the Zorro series without creating Lady Rawhide. As Jim Salicrup can tell you I could not commit to a monthly book that that did not have any women in the series. I did not do Lady Rawhide in the newspaper strip, and created Eulalia Bandini, because Lady Rawhide’s character was such a source of contention with some people at Zorro Productions until she became so popular.
I fought hard for her character through-out the series
At press time, Dynamite had not responded to inquiries.
Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci has responded with this comment, which as one Beat commenter points out that the book hasn’t even been published yet, let alone become profitable enough for royalties.
Sigh Don. Just sigh. I’m running around the city in meetings. Funny coincidence – Last night I had a meeting with two comics creators, and the interesting thing about when they talk about royalties. They get them after the book ships and after the end of the reporting period. You know, the way the world works. They don’t seem to get paid based on an announcement. Now, a book gets announced and Don is already being screwed out of any financial compensation that he has an agreement on? I doubt it. I’ve worked with the Zorro Property Owners for 4 years, and they always honor not only their contracts, but their word. I’m not speaking for them, but saying what in my experience and what I can comfortably say for the experience that I’ve had with Matt Wagner and others.
Don talks about “honest failure” to the audience. I guess it’s ok if he lets them down. I have a lot of respect for Don. But this was unfair to Zorro Properties to go out there and make these claims without asking anyone what the release schedule was, the book ships, etc.
It would have been nice if Don would have been professional and asked honest questions before making wild assertions. And then complain if he’s not happy. Which he is happy to do.
Don – feel free to drop me a line directly to answer any questions – [email protected]
§ Dave Itzkoff profiles Karen Berger, now departed from Vertigo, and the changing face of risk-taking at DC. Of course everyone will be quoting this part, so I will too:
Ms. Berger said she noted changes in DC’s priorities in recent years. “I’ve found that they’re really more focused on the company-owned characters,” she said. DC and its Disney-owned rival, Marvel, “are superhero companies owned by movie studios.”
Dan DiDio, the co-publisher of DC Comics, said there was “some truth” to these feelings of a shifting landscape, which he said were industrywide. For comics published by Vertigo and by DC, he said: “There’s not a challenge to be more profitable out of the gate. But there is a challenge to be more accepted out of the gate.”
Mr. DiDio said it would be “myopic” to believe “that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.”
“That’s not what we’re in the business for,” he added. “We have to shoot for the stars with whatever we’re doing. Because what we’re trying to do is reach the biggest audience and be as successful as possible.”
Oh man, I’ll toss that one over to Tumblr and watch the fur fly. But in the meantime, as has been pointed out here, nearly a third of DC’s “Essential Graphic Novels” are Vertigo or proto-Vertigo books, so there is a path to earning out—but it isn’t a quick one.
§ Across the nation, Kim Masters looks at one of the biggest question in showbiz: is WB Studios head Jeff Robinov on the way out? As everyone has been saying, it all depends on MAN OF STEEL, but there’s a lot of inside baseball stuff as well:
Another factor in this equation: rumors about Robinov’s prickly behavior in the wake of Tsujihara’s appointment. Many suspect — fairly or not — that those are part of a strategy to portray Robinov as unfit for the Warners culture. And there may be other subtle signs that Robinov’s prerogatives are being sapped. In Tsujihara’s recent restructuring following Rosenblum’s departure, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson went from being a direct report to Robinov to being a direct report to both Robinov and Tsujihara. And despite Robinov’s previous opposition, Warners is in talks to change its position on the Producers Guild of America’s certification program.
Masters’ piece is inconclusive—it could go either way, it seems, although everyone I’ve spoken with seems to think Robinov is on his way out no matter how far the Man of Steel soars.
Meanwhile, Diane Nelson isn’t in a terrible position in all this. She’s also been made President and CCO of WB Interactive Entertainment, so her duties are expanding beyond DC Entertainment.
On a hopeful note, the Heroes for Hope campaign using the JLA to raise money to fight hunger in the horn of Africa—an effort spearheaded by Nelson—has won two Halo Awards for excellence in cause marketing. The DC campaign won Silver in both Best Cause Marketing Print Campaign and Best Cause Marketing Video. Exxon Mobil’s “Let’s Solve This” won for print campaign and Ford’s “Warriors in Pink” won for video.
A couple of Kickstarters by Industry vets and one by a relative newcomer have crossed my desk and deserve some attention:
§ Batton Lash, one of the true gentlemen of comics, has a Kickstarter for a new Wolf and Byrd GN. it’s called The Werewolf of New York and it’s already funded but check it out, there are sure to be some good stretch goals.
§ The great and underrated Carol Lay is Kickstarting Murderville:
A semi-retired mobster and his family face down a sexy villain on a quaint Maine island in this 28-page full-color comic by Carol Lay.
This one has a ways to go and it’s a bit pricey but Lay is an industry treasure and hasn’t been heard from nearly enough of late, so go for it.
§ Finally, Ursula Murray Husted is Kickstarting The Lions Of Valetta: “An original full color graphic novel about cats, Malta, art history, philosophy, and the meaning of life. DISCLOSURE: Husted is an advertiser on this very site, however this book looks adorable and its already funded.
§ Ever since Valerie Gallaher left MTV Geek and relaunched her own blog, her writing there has been so much more interesting and informative than those pictures of a new Transformer that Geek runs. I mean, I like MTV Geek, and it’s obviously a very successful site, but it’s telling that a mainstream “nerd culture outlet” doesn’t have a place for a sharp piece like How Working In Comics Is Like Dating:
Young and Sexy Rule
This editor told me that the big publishers are literally looking for new talent who are “young and sexy.” What it’s all about is Image (yes, and the pun is appropriate). It’s more than just publishers wanting to rebrand Comics as a hip, “youth-oriented” industry; they want to have cool dudes at the cons and industry parties representing them…not “schlubs.” (Quote: “schlubs”)
And that’s not really very shocking, when you consider that though sometimes they don’t act it, Comics are Big Entertainment—and the entertainment industry as a whole has an obsession with youth and looks. Do you think a major entertainment outlet is going to want to focus on “the old guys” from a particular publisher’s stable of talent? Hand-to-God, I can assure you they don’t; instead, wishing to focus on the “hipster” and the “heavy-metal looking guy.”
Gallaher runs through many more of the courtship rituals of finding comics talent, and it’s all so sad that it’s funny.
§ Case in point. Kevin Melrose calls out Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett and I will take the liberty of quoting it all in full because it should be read.
“The Big Two don’t like Rick’s work. It’s as simple as that. In the last ten years, he’s gone from being able to work steadily at Marvel Comics and DC Comics to not being able to get hired. They just won’t give him the time of day.
Rick is one of the most accomplished artists I’ve ever worked with. He’s known primarily for winning Eisners doing Batman & Robin Adventures where Rick himself says that he was paid to draw like Bruce Timm. So, I think for a lot of people there is a sense that he’s too cartoony, his style doesn’t fit in with what the big two want; it’s not sexy or flashy enough. He has a very distinct comic book style, he doesn’t do photo-realistic. Everything he draws, he can draw it. It’s not light-boxing here.
I know at least one editor who went to great lengths to make sure he wouldn’t work at one company and really set him up to fail and did so gleefully. Comics are like any other industry; there are wonderful people in it and there are crappy people in it.”
Burchett, just as a reminder, is the guy who draws like the above page from Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, the webcomic he creates with Rucka.
§ And for the trifecta, Laura Sneddon looks at the capitalist legacy of superheroes:
It would be ludicrous to suggest that Downey Jr is as ill-treated as Joe Shuster, but when contrasted with the billions that Marvel and Disney are making from their image it is a stark reminder of the profit-at-any-cost approach that these superheroes have come to stand for. And if the star-studded cast is being squeezed despite the first team-up film’s phenomenal success, one wonders how the background crew and special effects team are faring.
§ Wait a QUADfecta! David Brothers writes on his time with Comics Alliance and the economics of writing work for hire:
But, and I say this with no animosity or judgment whatsoever, I do realize that the pay wasn’t great and signing over my rights wasn’t wise. I became aware of it a couple years back, and if I was writing something that was too personal or important to me, I kept it for 4thletter! instead of donating it to AOL. I didn’t hold back on my AOL work, but the things I loved beyond belief or wanted to keep control of, like my Black History posts or the various Frank Miller explorations, I kept to myself.
I think there’s no shame in getting well paid to write work for hire material in any medium..but you should be well paid for it. That’s kind of a crazy idea in 2013, but I like to think big.
§ Continuing today’s theme: Paul Jenkins has gone exclusive at BOOM! and it’s for the freedom:
I'm going to remove myself from working for the foreseeable future with Marvel or DC, and I’ll be working exclusively from now on with BOOM! Studios. I'm finally going to make myself happy again in the process. The first and most understandable question may well be, "Why make it a public affair? Why not simply go quietly and work wherever you like without feeling the need to shout it out to the whole world?" Well, the answer is that I have something to say, and I feel the subject is important enough to initiate some debate. I hope those reading this will agree the discussion will be worth their time. I feel that we are once again moving in the wrong direction, creatively. I’ve been down this road before, and it’s a road we can and should avoid. I don’t need to tell you what Greg Rucka and numerous other respected creators have already told you – that the Big Two have removed their focus away from the creators and towards the maintenance of the characters. I don’t blame Disney or Warner Brothers. After all, Avengers made a lot of money, didn’t it?
§ ON THE OTHER HAND: Comic books offer escapism for all ages
Artez Jiles spends most of his time working three jobs to support his two children. But nearly every Wednesday for the majority of his life, he’s made time for his favorite hobby: reading comic books.
§ The Wyoming News profiles indie cartoonist Noah van Sciver:
Van Sciver estimates he spent about two years publishing his comics and leaving them in the free flyer piles at coffee shops and bars around Denver before anyone started to notice. Influenced by books like “Bone” and “Ralph Snart,” Van Sciver also admits a love for Robert Crumb, whose drawings dominate underground comics to this day.
Van Sciver’s drawings hold a definite similarity to Crumb’s, from the stylized black lines and cross hatching to the figures with every blemish and sweat droplet highlighted in detail. Van Sciver said the biggest lesson he learned from that artist was that you could tell all kinds of stories with comics, not just superhero tales with bold crisp lines, but stories about everyday life with complex drawings that aren’t perfect.
§ And the Venture Brothers are coming back after a two year break!!!
§ I know I was just putting down superhero movies, but the news that Glenn Close has been cast in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY got me intrigued.