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§ By chance, two websites have been devoting some time to overviews of…non Big Two Comics I guess you could call ’em. Multiversity is running Small Press Month and offers A Brief History of Alternative Comics by Drew Bradley which offers a pretty good run down of the journey from Zap to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with stops for Arcade and The Comics Journal:

Naturally, this wasn’t a clean transition, and the term was applied retroactively to books after the shift had occurred. Like the undergrounds, alternative (or simply ‘alt’) comics were set apart from mainstream content by their target audience (20+ adults), their higher production quality, and their black and white art. Similarities aside, alt comics differed from undergrounds in two major ways. First, while underground comics had focused on shocks and rule breaking, alt comics made a concerted effort to have meaning and value. Second, and deriving directly from the first, was a greater acceptance of alt comics in the fast growing number of comic specialty shops, a place where underground never made much headway. When Phil Seuling and his Sea Gate Distribution turned those shops into the direct market as it’s known today, the alternatives had large industry access without large industry costs.

In another piece called Different Viewpoints, a discussion of just what is “alternative” is discussed with tiers and so on.

Meanwhile, at The Mary Sue, Jordan West digs in to Small, Mighty, and Super Weird; or, A Brief Guide to Indie Comics :

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So is that what an “indie publisher” is? A small company that puts out weird stories?

Eh. Sort of. Terms like “indie” and “small press” have come to mean anything that’s not Marvel or DC, which doesn’t really mean anything. We already talked about the Creator Owned model and how that distinguishes independent publishers from the Big Two. That, plus the absence of any shared universe or continuity, gives creators greater leverage and more room to move. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but writers in general and comics writers in particular tend to be pretty weird people, so yeah, given enough leeway, they’ll put out some weird freaking stories.

A little broader picture there and much of the article is concerned with Image Comics, which is stretching indie a little. In fact they also mention Archie which is…just…no.

I have to admit, I have an “Indie Comics” category where I kind of lump a lot of things that should be together. A Zenescope is not the same thing as a Drawn & Quarterly. I also have one category called “art comics” and another called “literary comics” and that doesn’t make any sense either.

Today’s comics purchasers, and by extension retailers, are a lot less snobby about publishing labels, I think. Image is definitely the hottest publisher, but creators have bigger followings than labels do.

The day is long past when a Dark Horse or Dynamite is an “indie.” There are The Front of the Books Dark Horse, Dc, IDW, IMage and Marvel” and the “Next Five” as I like to call them, Boom, Dynamite, Oni, Valiant and Avatar. (These are not the next five on Diamond’s chart, because don’t forget Eaglemoss.) And oh yeah, Archie. And Viz. And Zenescope and Titan. These publishers all put out periodical comics and in general have editors who select the personnel for these books. (Oni is kind of not doing that any more, but then, they’ve sort of been in a mutable place for a while.)

Fantagraphics and D&Q and Koyama, AdHouse, Uncivilized, Secret Acres and so on all have a different publishing focus, based on graphic novels, and maybe occasionally the slim pamphlet from a cartoonist who works very slowly. (Optic Nerve and Palookaville, for instance.)

Anyway, someday I need to fix my categories. What is an “art comic” and what is a “literary comic”? Any clues, readers? Paging Frank Santoro.

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§ Speaking of Viz, I missed this exciting news that many more of their books are now available on Comixology, with 650 volumes added including
MAGI Vols. 1-10 
CASE CLOSED Vols. 1-53
BLACK BIRD Vols. 1-18
THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM Vols. 1-10
HAPPY MARRIAGE?! Vols. 1-10

ITSUWARIBITO Vols. 1-13

MIDNIGHT SECRETARY Vols. 1-7
Everyone will have their own pick from these but mine is, of course, Drifting Classroom by Kauo Umezu. Other Beat picks: Sexy Voice and Robo, Solanin, Sunny by Matsumoto, Children of the Seas…oh it’s all good. (I don’t know if these were available before but I’m just poking around.)

BUT STILL NO URASAWA because he hate digital, I guess. You suck, Urasawa. Not really.

§ Nathan Reese at Complex presents Race and Gender in Comic Books which is a sound overview of all the stuff happening of late, from Ms. Marvel to Milo Manara.

“There’s nothing inherently masculine about telling stories with pictures; there’s nothing inherently masculine about superheroes,” says DeConnick. “In the ’40s and ’50s, there was a book called Calling All Girls that had a circulation of half a million monthly readers. But in the ’50s our industry became hugely dominated by the superhero genres, and comics began to be identified not as a medium, but as a genre, which was one of the first steps to the paring down of the diversity of our readership.”

 

§ When Emerald City Comic Con teamed up with Reed Pop, Rose City Comic Con, formerly allied with ECCC, was left alone. But it seems its heart will go on, as showrunner Ron Brister says the last event drew 26,000 people:

Rose City is already reaping the benefits of its short-lived partnership. Comic book artists and vendors are now contacting them, booking spots as far out as 2016. As far as financials go, you don’t have to work hard to figure out that 26,000 by $20 a ticket equals a pretty decent profit.
Despite their newfound reputation and skyrocketing popularity, Rose City organizers are looking to keep a reserved approach to growth, Brister said.

§ Former Diamond vp of purchasing Bill Shanes has joined games company Cryptozoic as a VP, as has another Diamond alum, John Parker. That’s a strong line-up for any company.

§ I missed this interview with Jeanine Schaefer, departed Marvel editor, at DC Women Kicking Ass Schaefer left Marvel to move west with her husband, DC editor Mark Doyle, but she left her mark.

I think we’ve discussed the impact that digital can have on changing the demographics of comics – what’s the most interesting thing you saw as digital became a force in the comic business?

Ms. Marvel! Ms. Marvel is a JUGGERNAUT on the app. But I think that reflects the bigger story, which is that there’s an untapped market that’s dying to buy comics. Young women and girls especially are a large percentage of the digital comics market. But the internet has always been a haven for women to create and connect, and as social media and digital distribution becomes bigger, so do women’s voices.

 

§ Meanwhile, sad news in that the incomparable Zainab Akhtar is cutting back her posting to once a week. NOOOO! But she is writing some reviews fo the AV Club, such as this one on First Year Healthy:

First Year Healthy reads smoothly, its striking art cause for pause and contemplation, offering possibilities and interpretations to be gleaned. It may mean this, it could mean that; it probably means both, and something else besides. And that’s the beauty of DeForge.

 

§ Do you remember two years ago when a Chicago school decided to pull Persepolis from its curriculum because of a scene of torture? Well, a FOIA request has revealed the rest of the story.

The first e-mail was sent at 12:54 AM on Saturday, March 9, 2013, from Chandra James to Annette Gurley. James was the network chief for a group of elementary schools on the west side. And Gurley is the chief officer of Teaching and Learning, which oversees curricula. “I’ve attached a copy of 2 pages from the book ‘Persepolis’ that was sent to schools,” James wrote. “In my opinion it is not appropriate at all. Please let me know if I can pull the book from my schools.” Her e-mail included attachments to an image from Persepolis that showed a prison guard urinating on a prisoner, and parts in the book where the words “bastard” and “fucked” are used. At 10:13 AM on Saturday, Gurley responded: “By all means, pull them.”

Much more in the link.

§ The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is in trouble again, after being arrested for a tweet which was critical of a court ruling that convicted the mainopposition political leader of sodomy.

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque – better known as Zunar – was arrested on Tuesday night, hours after Mr Anwar was jailed for five years in a politically charged sodomy case. “Of course this is a form of intimidation, with the purpose that society does not question the authorities,” Fazlina Rosley, his wife, told AFP. “Zunar will not bow down to this intimidation. He will continue to criticise even if he remains in jail.”

Zunar has been fighting the good fight for free speech for a long time, but it seems Malaysia has a lot of problems with that old freedom thing, like how you convict sometime to 20 years in jail for “sodomy.”

In recent years, as young voters have defected to the opposition and the government’s power has slipped, prosecutors have filed a raft of cases against critics, including opposition figures, a professor and a cartoonist. In the coming months, the government plans to strengthen and update an archaic sedition law, one of the main tools used to stifle dissenting voices.

This was the second prosecution of Mr. Anwar on a charge of sodomy. He spent six years in prison after a conviction in a separate sodomy trial by a different accuser but was acquitted on appeal in 2004. He has always insisted that the charges were baseless and politically motivated. Human rights groups question whether a law against sodomy should exist at all.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. I was having this conversation with a small press publisher (in the Book Trade) about this at the ALA conference a few weeks ago.

    For me, “Art Comic” is what you find at a CAF, something where the form and art are paramount. The story isn’t that important or memorable. Some volumes of the Best American Comics are heavy with Art Comics. “Literary Comics” are more focused on story, and the art is more accessible.

    To me, Art Comic:Literary Comic::Fine Art:Illustration.

    As for classification of publishers, how does the Book Trade do it?
    I’d say there are genre publishers, publishers with a specific focus (literary, non-fiction, self-help, Christian), or audience (juv, YA).

  2. For me the term indy or small press publisher is so blurred right now. Outside of the Big 6 (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Archie) everything else is so ambiguous.

  3. One thing that makes it difficult to categorize publishers is that many publishers are deliberately trying to diversify, putting out books in multiple markets.

    The Big Two have their main company-controlled universe lines, plus imprints for creator-owned books, plus an ad hoc assortment of licensed stuff (or internally-licensed like Star Wars), books for kids, etc. Dark Horse does licenses, manga, mini universes, and assorted creator-owned books (some OGNs, some serials). IDW has a truckload of TV/movie licensed titles, archival reprints, and new creator-owned titles. Boom has lots of licensed titles, a few “alt” books, and creator-owned genre books. NBM does euro-BDs and erotica. Fanta does alt-lit and porn and reprints. Zenescope does a boatload of T&A fantasy and some stuff that isn’t. And so on.

    It’s almost like blind men trying to sort elephants and rhinos and hippos and sea lions into categories, by feeling different parts of them. “This one has small ears, so put it in the SMALL EARS group. That one has thick legs, so put it in the THICK LEGS group.”

  4. “The day is long past when a Dark Horse or Dynamite is an “indie.” LOL I got a bunch of Concrete if anyone is interested. It was, uh, a groundbreaking literary-style art comic from Dark Horse. No really. It was considered “literary” and “arty” at the time. And “Indie” haha

  5. “Small press” is really more descriptive (though still vague) because it implies a limited press run and/or distribution. Gets out of the question of genres or famous-ness of creators.

    But, really, what’s the point of classifying something as “indie” (this coming from a guy who’s organized an “Indie Comics Sale” of local creators at the LCS this weekend)? Not being a jerk, but what use does that term serve in today’s marketplace?

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