Whew, a lot to catch up on, so here’s a major link-dump.
§ Dept. of Tokyopop: More background has been coming out about how the Borders situation impacted the latest downsizing at the manga publisher. Calvin Reid has an in-depth “Rise and Fall of Tokyopop” piece that includes a long conversation with CEO Stuart Levy. Despite the layoffs, the company is going on:
He’s the executive producer of Priest, a movie based on a Korean manhua property he worked to license to Hollywood, which will be released in May. While he emphasized, “I arranged the rights to go to Sony, but had no role in shaping the story,” he said his primary role was to visit the set (along with Korean creator Min-woo Hyung) and “learn from the best people in the business.” He was excited about the new distribution deal with DBD, “They know comics, have a better feel for the material and can help us sell it in a manner more appropriate to what the market has become.” Despite the problems in the U.S. manga market, he said Tokyopop Germany is growing and profitable. “The German book market is very different from the U.S., there are more independent stores and Tokyopop Germany is doing great.”
§ MUST READ: As we’re fond of saying, digital comics aren’t competing so much against print comics as they are Angry Birds — the phenomenal game for mobile phones that has made some $80 million for Finnish parent company Rovio and whose addictiveness is such that it causes mothers to burn their turkey dinners. A lengthy piece in Wired UK profiles Rovio founders Mikael and Niklas Hed, revealing Mikael’s comics past, and some of the thinking behind conquering the app store:
When Mikael rejoined the company at the beginning of 2009, he and Niklas sat down to work out a rescue plan. The app store was the integral part. They would continue to work for hire to make ends meet, but at the same time develop their own iPhone games, abandoning other platforms. “The iPhone was a hyper-competitive environment,” says Mikael. “If we succeed there, we can go to other smartphones. And if we do well there, we can go to PC and console, and beyond. We planned this out well ahead of Angry Birds. So we decided we needed to conquer the App Store: but how do we do that?” The Heds did their homework. “We tried to profile the iPhone user and it turned out that it was everybody,” says Mikael. So their game would be for everybody, unlike the more niche sci-fi and horror titles that they had previously produced.
§ Strange but true: writer Warren Ellis is set to receive an honor previously received by Noam Chomsky and Desmond Tutu:
The University of Galway’s Literary & Debating Society’s President’s Medal. Congrats, Warren.
§ Avoid the Future chats with cartoonist T.J. Kirsch, a fine example of the skill and flexibility exhibited by the current crop of indie cartoonists:
You’ve worked on detectives, superheroes, horror characters, derby girls, and everyday Joes. Do you have a dream project?I did have this horror pitch that I want to do, but it’s going to take some tweaking before it’s ready. I’d like to explore that one more at some point. As far as a dream project, I’d love to write and draw a graphic novel in the drama side of things. Leaning toward slice-of-life… Maybe a romance thing? I read Blankets when it came out years ago and was blown away. A coming-of-age graphic novel! Every cartoonist has one of those in them right? I should do that.One of my goals is to draw for Mad Magazine, and has been for a long time. Their entire stable of artists have inspired my own goofy drawings a whole lot. I’d also love to maybe draw a story for Bongo Comics. I’ve been a Simpsons fan since the beginning and I remember drawing Bart Simpson in the margins of every school notebook when I was supposed to be paying attention.
§ Brian Heater catches up with Robin McConnell , the man behind the excellent Inkstuds podcast, and talks about a recent print interview collection.
Yeah. Research is important. I think Sammy Harkam called me out in an interview, for not having my research done right, where I mispronounced the name of a story, which I won’t pronounce right now, in case I get it wrong again. But research is what makes a good interview. I know I’ve done interviews myself where I just didn’t put in the right amount of work, and I feel bad. There’s an expectation that I should be putting in the same amount of work, and unfortunately “Inkstuds” pays nothing [laughs]. So, sometimes work takes over and I don’t have the time to put in for research.
ASIDE: You have NO IDEA how many times I hear comics pros complain about interviewers who have done no research and ask lame, boilerplate questions. With the number of websites/blogs/newspapers going after interviews with even peripheral players on the comics scene, it’s all blurring into a big oatmeal mess. As an editor, my interview guidelines always include reading AT LEAST TWO previous interviews with a subject; my own research for an interview usually takes longer than the interview (one of the reasons I don’t have as much time as I like to do interviews for this site) — and researching an EMAIL interview takes as long or even longer than phoners, because you have to work harder to make the questions sound spontaneous. Anyway people, it IS noticed, and it is annoying. Raise the bar!
We appreciate the feedback we’ve received as to the perceived dearth of female contributors to the new TCJ.com. We’re sensitive to these concerns, and simply ask that our readers not rush to judgment. We are still in the confirmation process with many great potential writers. Over the following weeks and months we will be publishing lots of content about female and male artists, written by both female and male contributors. As we said in our interview with the Comics Reporter, one of our stated goals for TCJ.com is to make the site “a place for a plurality of real, idiosyncratic, and conflicting voices.” Obviously we can’t have that without diversity in the genders of those voices. (By the way, if you have a suggestion for a contributor you’d like to see here, of any gender, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com. The e-mailbox is always open.)
As we’ve stated before, we have faith in the new TCJ team; this sort of direct, confident reply is the sort of thing which indicates that faith is justified.
And here’s another: a long analysis of Grant Morrison’s INVISIBLES by someone named Amy Poodle called Bomb Light in Faraway Windows: The Invisibles and Hauntology:
The Invisibles, Grant Morrison’s hyper-sigilic magnum opus detailing the final phase of the primordial war between the forces of Order and Chaos, ended eleven years ago and with it an age of conspicuously politically motivated popular comic books, a trend beginning in the early eighties with the advent of 2000AD, which briefly flourished in the early nineties with comics like Crisis and Animal Man (another of Grant’s books) and was finally killed off by Mark Millar and his CNN-infused but ultimately apolitical Ultimates run, where the news leader of the day was employed as entertainment as opposed to the starting gun for real critique. I was obsessed with The Invisibles at the time, but as my twenties wore on and even Morrison began distancing himself from many of the book’s conclusions, as good as admitting in recent interviews to their retrospective naivety, I became aware of an increasing disconnect between myself and the book. Revolution is a young man’s game, isn’t it?
Now THAT is how you do it, dawg! Setting aside Poodle’s gender identity, a thoughtful piece using Derrida as a touchstone which analyses one of the few truly meaningful mainstream comics of the last 20 years, the type of comic usually ignored by the comics lit crowd? YES and YES!
§ And so is THIS Ryan Holmberg’s history of alternative manga which goes way beyond the Wikipedia summaries we’re usually given:
Garo itself inspired a number of magazines. Most important of these was COM, inaugurated by Tezuka Productions in 1967. Its impact on the course of Japanese comics has been no less than that of Garo, though of a very different sort. Though, like Garo, seeking to cultivate experimental form and new talent, COM was unique in its particular commitment to amateur manga circles. The bulk of its pages were given to Tezuka’s grandly planned “The Phoenix.” Ishinomori Shōtarō’s near-wordless fantasy “Jun” was meant to show that COM would not be outdone when it came to experimentation. Nagashima Shinji’s stories about hippies and artists in Tokyo, whom he had been writing about since early ’60s kashihon, would not have been so popular had the magazine not been read by so many young aspiring manga authors. One thing that distinguished COM was its female authorship and readership, including shojo stalwarts like Yashiro Masako and Hagio Moto. Garo, in contrast, was narrowly male and conservatively masculine, and stayed that way until it folded at the end of the century.
DAMMIT! I am LEARNING from this new Comics Journal! That is the magazine I fell in love with as a girl!
§ BUT, there are still a few things gone but not forgotten. I do miss Comics Comics and its more casual blog format, with its transitional thoughts and often personal subject matter. That was like an afternoon hanging out ice fishing, not like the college lecture of the new format.
ALSO, I miss the comments of Comics Comics. The new TCJ has some kind of sign-in commenting system that stymied even The Beat! I seems I had to log in with WordPress, but I was registered with some long forgotten password for an experimental blog and so I had to make a new one and then I forgot and…well, I never got around to commenting. And it seems that others have had the same problem. Lively comments are also a Journal trademark, and they shouldn’t be lost.
Still, the new site seems to have solved more problems in three days than the old one did in its entire existence.
§ The toy company Monster worship is offering a Cannibal Fuckface toy based on Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit. Nuff said.
§ Speaking of alternative manga, an INTERVIEW and preview ofYuichi Yokoyama’s GARDEN. The near-abstract cartoonist lays out a bit of his philosophy:
I didn’t intend to choose to make them so monumental and intimidating, but I would like to enjoy such common and familiar objects by giving them other different meanings of existence. Also, I always yearn for large scales, massive spaces, and huge objects.
§ We should have noted here the passing of Arthur Magazine, which was, as we recall, originally part of the whole Invisibles/Barbelith axis of the ’90s. It was also a great place for cartoonists:
The Arthur comics pages were edited by Jordan Crane and Sammy Harkham, then Tom Devlin, then Alvin Buenaventura. In the last two years as online-only, Jason Leivian of Floating World Comics has been the comics editor. Among the artists presented are David Lasky, Megan Kelso and Souther Salazar. Some kind of an incomplete history is on the Wikipedia. Arthur was a very influential magazine during it’s few years run in the mid-00s. It was sort of a bold fusion of 80s fanzine* and new journalism sensibilities fused to whatever was going on in the middle of the century’s first decade. Good stuff.
Indeed. We salute its passing.
§ This is an old link, but with con season kicking off, Douglas Wolk offers an excellent primer for how to attend:
Plan to buy stuff you can’t find elsewhere; budget for surprises. Most of the big conventions have dealers blowing out graphic novels for half-price or less, and purging big, disorganized collections of old comics at get-’em-outta-here prices. (I can’t guarantee that you’ll find autographed copies of Neil Gaiman’s Miracleman run for fifty cents a pop, but I can testify that it has in fact happened.) If you like longbox-digging, by all means, dig. But the wisest use of your convention dollar is buying stuff directly from creators, especially original artwork, books and art objects you’re never going to see at your local comic store. Skip the long lines; a scribble on a cover from the big name of the moment is never going to mean as much as a conversation with someone in Artists’ Alley whose work you’ve loved for decades. Walk the aisles of the show floor and have a look at some comics you’ve never seen before–you might find something great.
§ This piece about Chris Eliopoulos selling his graphic novel for $2 online is quite informative.
§ Arnold Schwarzenegger is back among hoi polloi and he, of course, planning some kind of comic book project:
Schwarzenegger added that there’s “also a lot of original stuff too. But I am also packaging a comic book character right now. I’m going to announce that sometime by the end of March or the beginning of April.”
Given the horrors of his last turn as Mr. Freeze, we can only hope he will make amends.
§ Two more X-MEN FIRST CLASS posters have been released, and they show that the designers are not only having fun with Photoshop’s level sliders, they have advanced to that masking technique everyone is talking about.
I feel sorry for director Matthew Vaughn; he’s a talented, thoughtful filmmaker, but the promo materials released thus far are severely lacking in oomph aside from Emma Frost’s décolletage. The studio’s lackluster efforts don’t bode well.
§ Finally, crime blotter A youth attempted to rob an Ypsilante comics shop by threatening to blow it up with a pretend bomb. That’s what we call escalating violence.
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.