guy davis sebastian j cricket designs

§ Nice art: Color me dumb because I did not realize that Guy Davis had moved on from making award winning comics like Fantastic Four Unstable Molecules (tragically long out of print but still available on Kindle) to being the go to designer for Guillermo del Toro. If you saw GDT’s Pinocchio, you know how amazing it looked, and Davis did a lot of the concept art as co-production designer. Here’s a tweet with a look at his designs for Sebastian J. Cricket. DAMN. 

I worked with Guy once loooong ago at Vertigo and he did something that very few artists I’ve ever worked with did: he put the balloons placements in his layouts and they were absolutely perfect. What a guy! I’m so glad his talents are being used on such outstanding projects. (Besides Pinocchio he worked on Cabinet of Curiosities, Alone in the Dark, Nightmare Alley, Antlers, Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, Mst3k, and Pacific Rim. )

§ Kibbles ‘n’ bits has been gone for many months for various reasons…mainly my messed up pandemic era sleeping schedule, but every now and then someone says they miss it. I miss it too! I have literally scores of links and quotes that I’ve been habitually saving in my utterly obsolete note app. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolution because making huge life changes is hard, but I did set myself some goals for ’23, and I’m slowly working through them. One of the top ones was getting my work/sleep balance back in wack, so…a tentative return for KnB! 

Also, just so much is HAPPENING. All hell has broken loose in comics and media and 2023 looks to be chock full of news and tidings and reorgs. If you want an exhaustive list of links, Clark Burscough at TCJ has you covered. But let’s kick things off with a round-up of business blasts.

§ I guess you can add IDW to the list of distressed comics publishers, at least as far as their SEC filings go. ICv2’s Milton Griepp has all the details on their financials for 2022 and Q4, including a loss of $1.6 million in Q4 and a loss of $1.9 million for the year. Part of the decline is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin was such a big hit last year – publishing revenue was down to $5.7 mil from $6.9 million in Q4 ‘21. But The usual suspects on inflation and printing costs took a toll:

For the year, publishing revenues were up a hair, from $25.3 million in 2021 to $25.8 million in fiscal 2022, driven by increases in non-direct market revenue (book channel sales of TMNT: The Last Ronin and They Called Us Enemy), games revenue, and retailer exclusive revenue, partially offset by the decline in direct market revenue and digital sales.  The $1.9 million loss in fiscal 2022 is a decline in performance from a $.8 million loss in fiscal year 2021. Inflation in printing costs had a big impact; the company reported a $626,000 increase in printing costs for the year despite publishing fewer titles.

IDW reported a decline in publishing revenues due to its distribution transition from Diamond Comic Distributors to Penguin Random House Publisher Services in its fiscal Q3 (see “IDW Reports Sales Decline“).

§ Icv2 also had the follow up on the Heavy Metal changes, via an interview with interim CEO Marshall Lees, who explained just what is going on, including the office closing over the holidays, and employees put on furlough. 

While work on creative content has continued at a measured pace, our administrative and editorial staff contractors and freelancers finished up for the year on the 16th of December 2022. A furlough was instituted beyond that date and until such time as our staff requirements are realigned with processes and procedures we wish to put in place in order to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness. The Management team has worked throughout the holidays.  

The planned relaunch of Haavy Metal Magazine with WhatNot planned for next month (i.e. Wednesday) is still planned to continue but Lees says that “We are currently reviewing what’s best for our relaunch of the magazine as a result and will announce any schedule changes as quickly as possible.”

I’ll throw in here that I’ve talked to a few people who have good things to say about Lees. He’s certainly being very transparent and that’s a good start as the company tries to stabilize. 

§ Last week we reported that Skybound Entertainment is looking to raise money via fan investment on the Republic platform; it seems that raising money is going to be very popular in ‘23, as Lion Forge Animation is also looking to raise as much as $50 million to grow its business. This was initially reported on Bloomberg, which is paywalled, but Cartoon Brew did the write around:

  • Citing a person familiar with the studio’s plans, Bloomberg first reported that Lion Forge is aiming to raise as much as $50 million from investment companies run by wealthy families and institutional firms. A Steward family representative declined to comment for the initial report.

  • With the funds, Lion Forge plans to expand staff, grow its media library, and increase the number of acquisitions it makes going forward. According to Bloomberg’s source, Participant Capital, an advisory firm for family offices and institutional investors, is assisting with fundraising.

Lion Forge Animation is a sister company of Oni Lion Forge Publish group, whose adventures we all read about last year, both owned by David Steward II. The animation studio emphasizes programming with diverse themes, and spun out of its investment in the Oscar winning short Hair Love. Currently LFA is producing the Emmy-nominated Rhymes Through Times running on Noggin and HBO Max’s upcoming Iyanu: Child of Wonder

The Bloomberg story has the headline Billionaire Family Courts World’s Rich for Black Hollywood Bet, which is pretty dramatic but ok, and pegs the family’s net worth at $5.7 billion. (Disclosure: The Beat was formerly owned by Syndicated Comics, another one of Steward’s companies.)

Joe Quesada variant cover for Batman #134, inked by Kevin Nowlan & colored by Richard Isanove.

§ Joe Quesada is back making art for DC and making movies. He does his first substantial interview since leaving Marvel with Zack Rabiroff at TCJ, and the headline shows that Quesada knows the business well: “Nobody Gets Into Comics to Get Rich”: Joe Quesada on Movies, Marvel, and the Future of Comics. He also has some thoughts on the State of the Industry:

So when you look at the comic business now, what’s your read on the state of the industry? Where does it stand, and where is it going? 

Comics are always going to be around. They’re going to go through ebbs and flows. Some years might be tragic. But it’s a beautiful, wonderful art form, and it is going to survive. One of my biggest pet peeves with the industry as a whole is that there is no other entertainment industry that is so happy to predict its own demise. People that love the medium can’t stop talking about, “Oh my God, we’re dying! It’s gonna die!” Or: “I can’t wait for it to die.” I don’t get that. I don’t get it.  

It makes sense to me from people who have been rejected by the industry, who’ve been let down by the industry, and, you know, “If I can’t be in the industry, then there should be no industry,” right? There’s a lot of that, and if you read through subtext, they may not even know they’re saying it. But I’ve seen that happen. I remember Jimmy Palmiotti and I, when we were breaking in, sometimes we’d see an older creator sort of publicly venting about the fact that these Image guys are making so much money. And realizing that it’s a generational thing: these creators didn’t get the acclaim and the money that current creators get.

§ The biggest kerfuffle in comics last week was about a manga translation, and it’s very complicated so I’ll send you to Gizmodo for the details, but a short version is that Titan published an English version of the popular manga Kamen Rider Kuuga, and the translation was so bad, everyone was complaining about it. The complaints grew when people noted that promo panels that had been posted to social media had a much BETTER translation. Titan came out with a kind  of “thanks for your concern” statement and then, as the outcry got worse and worse, realized this really was a kerfuffle and promised that volumes 3 onward would have better translations.

Although the first two volumes of Stonebot and Titan Comics’ English release of Toshiki Inoue and Hitotsu Yokoshima’s Kamen Rider Kuuga manga—adapting the classic 2000 Kamen Rider series that revitalized the superhero franchise for the 21st century—have been available for a few months now, the series has come under fire this week after fans pointed out a consistent pattern of errors and awkward phrasing in the English translation of the manga. From clunky syntax to inconsistent name romanization, from awkward line breaks to printing errors cutting off art and dialogue, both volumes of Kuuga showcase a pattern of sloppiness that make them difficult to read at best.

I did not personally wade into this controversy, but I understand there were some suspicions raised that the translation had been done via AI or some variant of Google Translate – But Titan says that the work was done by “two highly respected translators in the business.”

And a round-up of other links, other voices:

 §WWAC’s Favorite Big Press Comics of 2022

§ People are excited for Nightwing’s butt to get the depiction that it deserves from Nicola Scott. 

It’s unofficial but extremely winked-at lore in DC Comics that Dick Grayson, née Robin, now Nightwing, grew up to have one of the tightest butts in the superhero community, as commented on by heroes, villains, and his girlfriends alike. And while it’s the kind of memetic thing that’s difficult to trace back to any single source, Scott’s rendering of a reverse shot of the character in Secret Six #9 (2009) is considered to have had an outsize effect. Scott has historically embraced the blame/honor.

§ Back in the Dan DiDio era of Crisis comics, one of the fun parts of each crisis was the release of a big image of all the DC characters looking sad or happy to preview the crisis, and fans would go over it with a magnifying glass to guess who would lose a limb. Well, I’m happy to say that for Dawn of DC, the rather lowkey new DC initiative, Graeme McMillan has revived this tradition by poring over a timeline. 

Firstly, what exactly is going on with the Wonder Woman logo and the lightning bolt…? That remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that the placement on the timeline suggests that it’ll come in May or later, which means it’ll follow the conclusion of Lazarus Planet: Revenge of the Gods, the four-issue miniseries that teams Wonder Woman with Shazam… who does have a connection with lightning… Hmmm. (There seems to be a lot of space between the line and the WW logo, which might suggest a missing insignia there, too…)

  • Finally Eunsoo Jeong’s webcomic Korea Angry is an incredible feat of…well, stop-motion comics? She photographs models to make each panel. The comic runs on Instagram, but the LA Times recently ran a special “Op-ed comic” about the growing popularity of Korean spas among non-Koreans, and it’s so good….and so good to see her work reaching an even wider audience. 



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