§ According to a recent interview, Norman Reedus and his fellow Walking Dead crew mates have their own little Comic-Con ritual, just as do you and I. Like, mine is going to the CVS in the mall and eating the berry pancakes at the Hyatt. Yours may be breakfast at Cafe 322 or buying a piece of original art from a favored booth. But because celebrities aren’t really just like us, they are god-like being made of light and peach nectar, their Comic-Con rituals are epic and recall ancient Norse manhood rites:
“We all do actually. All of us do that. I was doing it [the other] night with Greg [Nicotero] and Steven [Yeun] and Andy [Lincoln] and Chandler [Riggs], because I found all these pictures that when we were in Comic-Con, in San Diego, we have this ritual where we get up super early, and we meet down on the beach in bathrobes and then we just run into the ocean and it’s freezing, but it’s like, it’s become a tradition now, so I found all these photographs, and we had a little text chain going on,” Norman told Access. “Yeah, we do it all the time.”
The ocean in San Diego in July isn’t exactly “freezing” though, so maybe it’s all a terrible terrible lie?
§ I think the most consistently well written site about comics that I check every day is Women Write About Comics. And not just one or two writers but the whole site. I was happy to see Claire Napier get some mentions in the Comics Spire best comics writing list, but I also greatly enjoyed Megan Purdy’s piece on est em’s manga version of Carmen.
em est’s Carmen, an erotic, gay manga, is a story that works on the heart more than it does the head, but her reinterpretation is clever too — and not just because she found a way to put a new spin on it. In her Carmen, Jose is in a relationship with the toreador, here called Lucas, after the character in the Prosper Mérimée novella, rather than the opera which calls him Escamillo. Oh yes, did I fail to mention that Carmen is also a novella? It’s the source for the opera and leans quite heavily on Carmen’s unfaithful nature and Jose’s meanness. (So hard out here for a man.) In em est’s Carmen, she’s still the object of Jose’s obsession, but rather than being possessive of her, he is fixated, befuddled, and frustrated by her: “I envied her. She was everything I’m not. Perhaps I even wanted to be Carmen.”
§ Liz Prince had a heck of a year, and her Tomboy got all kinds of attention. And now an interview on Comics Alliance with the also excellent Juliet Kahn:
CA: What do think is the “state” of autobio comics today? It has very DIY roots, but with creators like Lucy Knisley, Alison Bechdel and yourself growing in prominence, it feels like a whole different ballgame than even a few years ago.
LP: I actually think that there have been ebbs and flows as far as autobio comics, and their visibility is concerned. In the early 2000s there was Craig Thompson‘s Blankets, and American Elf by James Kolchalka was very popular. Jeffrey Brown became astronomically popular because of Clumsy and Unlikely. Incidentally all of those books are Top Shelf, and that’s why I felt like my work fit with them. Then it seemed like there weren’t that many autobio comics being published, although there were a lot of diary comics online. I think the focus now is on “graphic memoirs”, and it’s really great to see that women cartoonists have been leading the charge; some of my favorite books in the genre are Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole Georges, Smile by Raina Telgemeier, and Tangles by Sarah Leavitt.
§ TCJ spotlighted a book that I had not heard of or even received a galley of: Funnybooks: The Improbable Glories of the Best American Comic Books by the noted comics historian Michael Barrier which examines the cozy, security-inspiring world of 50s funny animals comics.
In mid-20th century America, the comics published by Western Printing & Lithographing Company under the Dell label were inescapable. It had the market cornered on non-superhero licensing: comics with characters from the Disney, Warner Bros., MGM and Walter Lantz animation studios; Marge Buell’s Little Lulu; Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann; Tarzan; the Lone Ranger. Popular characters were the pull, but master cartoonists and storytellers like Barks, Walt Kelly and John Stanley were the reason people kept staying and kept certain titles’ circulation up to a million copies.
I think Barks, Kelly and Stanley inspired the most readers, but it’s instructive to recall that THIS is the era that the folks who ran comics in the 80s and 90s grew up surrounded by. It wasn’t all Carmine Infantino.
§ Many people linked to this piece on the dearth of mid-level moviemaking that I alluded to the other day. It’s a must read for laying everything out in a clear, numbers-oriented way. But the ascendance of superhero movies looms large. Steven Spielberg went on record with some dark foreboding thoughts a while ago, even if hearing the guy who INVENTED huge summer blockbusters with Jaws fret about their takeover was being hoisted on a box-office blasting petard. But, cycles end eventually:
How long, then, will the current filmmaking model hold? No less an authority than Steven Spielberg predicted last year, “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm again.” Ted Hope agrees. “You look at the worst summer attendance [in 2014], box office dropped 15 percent, people like [DreamWorks Animation CEO and former Disney chief Jeffrey] Katzenberg saying that movies aren’t a growth industry, everything pointing toward the collapse of the foreign sales model.”
So, where does he think it’s going? “It feels incredibly vulnerable to me,” he says. “Look, I’m surprised the superhero stuff has the legs that it does, but you look at what Warner Brothers and Marvel have mapped out, you add into it all of the Universal monster movies and all these others platform plays, and you better hope that nobody’s taste changes for the next five years, you know? That’s not a diverse portfolio!”
Some suggest (hopefully???) that the studio system will implode as it did in the 60s, leading the amazing blossoming of the 70s. Certainly, Sony has to be reeling from having all its dirty knickers aired for everyone to see, and we haven’t seen the last of that drama. I don’t think Disney and WB are going to implode, though. BUT…people may get sick of superheroes sooner than you think.
§ Autostraddle had this list of 25 Queer and Trans Women Comic Creators to Support this Holigay Season!, but really these creators would all be good even if they were straight white men.
§ I asked for reports on Comic Arts LA and there were several, generally painting a sanguine picture.
§ It seems that Winter Con was also a hit, prompting some to seek the freedom of the outside world:
Among the numerous attendees dressed as their favorite comic book characters was Rafael Vargas, 30, an employee of Brookdale Hospital and resident of Ozone Park, who was in character as Venom, one of Spider-Man’s fiercest enemies. “This is my first show dressing up, but it’s great. I’m nervously excited,” said Vargas, whose words were muffled by his mask. “It’s awesome to see all these artists come together. It gives people who are into comics and sci-fi a reason to leave their house.”
§ In all the excitement of late, I neglected to link to this charming video of Dick Cavett & Al Jaffee talking about cartooning in a limo.
§ A terrible crime was committed in Wichita when someone stole $300,000 worth of old comics. Police continue to hunt for the culprit.
Mark Rowland, owner of River House Traders, says he lost more than $300,000 in the theft. But Rowland says he’s more upset because he’s owned some of the items for more than 50 years. KAKE-TV reports there is no description of the suspect, only that he left in a dark-colored car. Rowland now has a security system and says he will store some of his more valuable collectibles elsewhere.
BEWARE THE DARK CAR.
§ I link to The Digital Comic Museum every coupe of years, but here’s a longer appreciation of this repository of public domain comics.
The Digital Comic Museum knows that feeling and has obliged by making a vast quantity of vintage comics available for download free of charge. These are not just ordinary comics, but rather genuine vintage editions, many of which are exceedingly rare and obscure. That’s because all the comics featured are in the public domain and copyright free — which also means they’re old. The cutoff copyright date is December 1959, for example. Not surprisingly, many comics represent the mindset, politics and concerns of their era and some are not particularly politically correct, at least by current standards.
These comics are also the source of many reprints from Dark Horse, IDW and elsewhere. It’s a trove of treasure!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.