Welcome back from what I trust was a wonderful holiday that did not result in too much indigestion for all of you. I’ve spent the holiday eating and sleeping and then doing some much needed maintenance around the virtual Stately Beat Manor. Probably not enough, but a good few important projects for 2014 got at least past the blueprint stage. More to come.
One task I assigned myself was pruning my RSS reader, left a shambles in the wake of Google Reader’s death. Why did I even spend time on such an obsolete technology? Well, nostalgia mostly. It gave me a good chance to look back to view the carnage left behind. So many who started out strong and then petered out, so many who never had a chance. It also led me to observe in a tweet that print comics journalism isn’t exactly going strong.
Four years later and nothing has replaced this. pic.twitter.com/WhtX4W87CX
— Heidi MacDonald (@Comixace) December 1, 2013
One casualty whose remains I stopped to offer a proper burial was Con-news.com that just gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, but not before offering a list of comic, video game, pop culture and anime cons more than 1000 entries long. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. No wonder there are so many Con Wars–and more to come! I’ve transferred the list to a page here for reference, although I’m not really equipped to maintain it.
In case you are wondering, the other site that covers con news is Convention Scene. As extensive as both sites are, they don’t even list more CAF-like events — for instance this weekend’s Short Run in Seattle wasn’t included, so the total number of comics-esque events is even bigger.
Anyway, where was I. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits.
§ Y’all saw this bit where actress Jaime Alexander, who plays Sif in the Thor movies, visited a chidlren’s hospital in costume, right? Nice story.
§ Supporting Small Business Saturday, President Obama visited Politics and Prose, a much liked bookstore in DC and one where many a comics person has signed. Among his purchases: Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, which prompted Eric Reynolds on FB to urge the President to look into Fantagraphics’ Barnaby reprints.
§ I know Comics Should be Good has been running this Top 100 Comic Book Storylines Master List for a while now, but does it have to be SO superhero-centric? Ugh.
Did they really rethink this’d get into an issue of Batman? “Love that Joker” pic.twitter.com/g6KGKNaAgH
— Billy Hynes (@BillyHynes) December 1, 2013
§ One of those stories is doubtless The Killing Joke, and comic store employee Billy Hines posted the ORIGINAL version of the page where Jim Gordon is shown photos of his daughter Barbara being tortured, and the sexual element was even more present in Brian Bolland’s original. Ick.
§ Social media scholar Henry Jenkins investigates the origins of Comics Fandom in Poland:
Until only a few years ago, history, and especially the 20th century, was the predominant subject of Polish comics. Nowadays that is not the case as more and more psychological and autobiographical stories or even superhero fictions are published. Nevertheless, historical comics, lavishly subsidized by cultural institutions, are still the essential part of the comics’ scene. This obsession with history may result from the fact that the situation of comics in Poland has always been influenced by national political and historical struggles. After the war, when the communist government was established, the official attitude towards comics was somewhat ambivalent. On one hand, comics were perceived as a medium developed in capitalist countries and representing the corrupted American lifestyle. It is interesting that a lot of communist propaganda’s arguments and accusations—for example, those concerning promoting violence, sex and children’s demoralization — sounded as if they had been taken directly from Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent.
§ Dustin Harbin is having a Cyber Monday sale.
§ Salon chatted with always insightful Joe Sacco:
It’s almost subliminally reminding people of things over and over. Yeah, but without hitting them over the head — it’s just background information. The other thing I think a comic does well is that it can take the reader into the past, very seamlessly. Because your drawing style is the same now as if you’re drawing something a hundred years ago, and so the reader has an easier transition, which can be difficult to do with a documentary film; sometimes documentary film relies on acting to bring the past to life, and that always seems strange — it rubs up against the nature of documentary film.
§ I know Thought Bubble was the greatest event in recent human history, but it was interesting to read the con report by Gary Spencer Millidge as it was a bit more concerned with mundane things:
The popular view is that more exhibitors (assuming the same number of attendees) mean less money spent at each table, making it difficult for those exhibitors to make a profit (I don’t know the numbers of attendees for his year). There are always winners and losers of course, but even the relative losers that I spoke to just seemed happy to be part of it all such was the positive vibe of the event. It’ll be interesting to see how Thought Bubble develops from here. I have no idea whether the new space is permanent, or whether the convention will revert to its original size next year. Certainly the overwhelming impression I got was yet another year of huge success and stellar achievement for Clark, Lisa and the army of redcoats, and you can put down the minor issues with Allied London Hall as a symptom of growing pains
I want to be clear here. When I started, I was a fairly well trained software/web developer, and I could handle general IT about as well as anyone else with a CS degree. I had fairly limited exposure to systems administration; anyone who knew how to type ‘apt-get install apache2’ knew about as much as I did. If I had had to apply for the job with the presently listed requirements, I might not have gotten the offer. But I had a very strong idea of my limitations and what I would need to do to get the job done in spite of them. So what does the job actually require? If you want to do well, the job posting is absolutely accurate. I helped write most of the technical requirements. Because I’ve been learning as I go, I’ve had to constantly triage out tasks and rely heavily on outside help – Rackspace’s Managed Cloud support is an incredible (albeit costly) resource, @Icyliquid has saved my ass more times than I can count, and the support of the shadowy PAX Engineering team, made up of Enforcers who are also IT or development professionals that I informally manage, has also been a huge boon. It seems like a herculean task for just one person.
§ Fantagraphics has released information on one of the books by Jacques Tardi left in limbo by Kim Thompson’s death. It will come out and a new translator has been found.
Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell by Jacques Tardi, adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette; translated by Doug Headline 104-page black & white 7.25” x 10.5” hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-620-1 Following the acclaimed West Coast Blues and Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, Jacques Tardi makes a third appointment with ace crime writer Jean-Patrick Manchette, full of pitch-black humor and a strong current of socio-political satire beneath its bleak surface. A rich industrialist hires a troubled young woman straight out of a psychiatric asylum to nanny his bratty son. But this seemingly altruistic impulse to help rehabilitate a troubled soul hides a darker motive: plans to stage a fake kidnapping of the child, using the nanny as a scapegoat. But things go horribly wrong, and now nanny and child are on the run, pursued both by the police and by a dangerous contract killer with a Terminator-like tenacity.
§ I guess you all saw the New York Times 2013 Holiday Gift Guide that included many graphic novels. I found the list of “bathroom books” baffling, though.
§ Here is Brigid Alverson’s Digital Comics Gift Guide.
§ Michael Maslin proposes a new categorization for cartoonists.
I pose this simple question: is it possible to divide New Yorker cartoonists into two distinct camps: Astaire Cartoonists and Kelly Cartoonists? Are there some cartoonists whose work seems effortless, like Astaire’s? Do others show the sweat, and muscularity of Kelly’s performances? Well of course I think the answer is yes. I’m not saying Astaire’s dancing was better than Kelly’s or vice-versa – I’m just saying they were different. This has everything to do with what cartoons look like on the printed page or glowing screen and how a cartoonist’s work appears to the reader’s eye. Is the reader aware of the mechanics of the drawing (do you see the sweat?) or does the cartoon seem effortless?
§ The BBC interviews G. Willow Wilson, about the new teenage Muslim Ms. Marvel. It’s a video interview which the Beeb doesn’t allow me to embed. Thanks, Beeb.
§ One more catch-up–Gene Ha discusses his career with Chris Arrant:
Though I’m officially on sabbatical, I’m taking a break from my break to do a piece of the “Fairest” graphic novel for Shelly Bond at Vertigo. That starts tomorrow morning. Other than that, I’ve been doing a few pinups for friends’ books, working on my house and hiring contractors. Literally six years of home repairs are hitting at once, some of which I didn’t know needed doing. What I’m supposed to be doing is sharpening my skills and starting work on a creator-owned project. I’ve gotten a little of that in, but not enough to announce anything yet.
§ Headline of the day: Dentist looks to his comic book collection as hope for a cure
My papier-mâché Army of Darkness chainsaw is taking a lot longer to make than I anticipated.
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.