§ Sean Kleefeld has the fullest CAKE indie comics expo report and it sounds stimulating:
Although the show was formally about any independent comics work, there was something of a theme around the possibilities of the art form itself. This was most clearly expressed in the “Innovative Forms” panel where they discussed comics as room-sized art installations, crowd-sourced infinite webcomics and interactive paper constructions. But at the booths, I found interesting experiments as well. An anthology of comics as poetry. A single-panel, 26-foot long, accordian folded miniature mural. A mini-comic where each page had a double-gatefold spread. A comic based on the lyrics of a song, which had been recorded and included as a flexidisc. And, naturally, Ware’s Building Stories which I have yet to find an adequate way to describe succinctly.
There was almost a tacit discussion of the very form of comics — what they could do and what one could do with them beyond a straight-forward narrative. Further, it wasn’t limited to the printed page. The show was filled with creators who were doing a lot of work digitally. Some were webcomickers who’ve been bringing their work to print, others worked more traditionally first and began serializing other works online in order to broaden their reach. And some were equally happy doing different works in different venues just because they thought it would work better one way over another. There didn’t seem to be any concern or issue regarding what kind of comics anyone produced, or what their aims were, or what they used to produce their comics; the only concern was whether or not they achieved what they set out to accomplish.
§ Tom Spurgeon interviewed James Vance whose KINGS IN DISGUISE is an early (meaning like 20 years ago) graphic novel classic—he has a sequel to that and an forthcoming wap-up to Omaha the Cat Dancer coming out:
VANCE: When Kings was reprinted in 2006, and recently when On the Ropes was released, a lot of writers started referring to Kings with words like “classic” and “ground-breaking” and I found myself thinking, Gee, I wish somebody had told me that at the time. For years, whenever that book came up in conversation, my standard little gag was “My footnote is secure” [Spurgeon laughs] and that’s really the way I thought about it. I’d love to believe that we might have inspired somebody to do good work of their own, or shown some publisher that it’s possible to take a chance on something that isn’t just the same old basic genre tropes. If anyone can ever show me that was the case, I’d be thrilled.
The current landscape? In some ways, I think it’s better than it’s ever been. More people in general have at least some idea of what graphic novels are, and there’s a real chance that a talented creator can publish something that will really speak to people both outside and within the regular comics readership. For that matter, most of the mainstream reviews of Ropes have treated it more as a story than specifically a comics story. Subject matter has gotten more and more varied, and it seems to me that the creative people are taking more chances and occasionally speaking more from the heart. It feels at times that there’s more effort being put into the art and the production values than the writing, but I have to believe that’ll come, too. The more important your subject matter is to you, the harder you’ll work to realize it in both the art and the writing.
§ Speaking of graphic novelists, only the other day I was wondering what had happened to Danica Novgorodoff, an artist whose A Slow Storm and Refresh, Refresh five years ago or so established her as a talent to watch. She’s back March with The Undertaking of Lily Chen, which concerns a young Chinese may who accidentally kills his brother who mind find an unwed female corpse to burty with his brother, in accordance with tradition. This is not made up and Novgorodoff did a good bit or research, she tells Whitney Matheson:
Not long after I returned from that trip, I read an article in the Economist (quoted in the epigraph of my book) about a black market for female corpses that has sprung up in some rural areas of China to supply brides for “ghost marriages — -ceremonies to wed two dead people so that they can be together in the afterlife. The custom is fascinating and a little bit horrifying-the perfect premise for a good story, I thought.
In 2009, I returned to China in order to do visual research for the book. I traveled through the rural areas and small cities of Shanxi province, where the story takes place, and then spent the next several years drawing!
§ Marc-Olver Frisch fans Kreminologists will enjoy this video interview with artist Lee Bermejo (Before Watchmen: Rorschach) where at about 22 minutes in from the audience, MOF quizzes Bermejo about the ethics of the book. BTW, MoF PROMISES the April DC column will be in this week.
§ Bully is one of hundreds of people bothered by the Man of Steel/9/11 references but one of the few so upset that he actually walked out.
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.