§ Nice Art! James Stokoe!!! Orphan and the Five Beasts (Dark Horse) a take-off on martial arts films — coming in March. Sold.
§ HBO Max Is Finally Coming to Roku — so you won’t hear me moaning about it on every podcast, livestream and interview I do any more. In fact, as you are reading this, I will be installing it on my Roku and all will be right with the world at last.
§ The Best Of Parade continues.
• Publishers Weekly‘s annual Critics Poll anointed Derf’s Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio:
• io9 picked the Best Sci-Fi, Superhero Moments in Comics
• CBC has The best Canadian comics of 2020
• IGN has a series of bests, including Comic Book Series.
• Nerdist picked their Best Comics of 2020
• The GeekCast Radio Network went all the way with the Top 100 Comics of 2020
• And GoodReads Readers Prize top graphic novel was Heartstopper: Volume Three (Heartstopper, #3) by Alice Oseman – didn’t see that one coming! It was a huge year for queer narratives, however. Oseman is a British YA author and Heartstoppers is a webcomic that has been running for a few years — the print edition is by Hachette. You can see the voting totals in the first link, and Heartstoppers got twice the votes of the #2 book, Sarah Anderson’s Fangs.
§ SKTCHD continues its look at creators with The Comics Community on the Biggest Things They Learned in 2020. Rob Guillory speaks for a lot of us.
I learned that without a deadline I’m a hot mess. That was probably the biggest challenge of the year for me. With circumstances changing so rapidly and so often, it was nearly impossible to plan my work flow, which has always been a strength of mine. I learned the value of boundaries when making work. Without them, I’m nowhere near as productive as I’d like to be. I also realized how insane my usual comic con schedule was. I honestly can’t see myself sitting behind a table for eight hours a day after this. As much as I enjoy cons, I think I’ll be changing how I do cons after this.
§ A little in the same vein, Slate spoke with cartoonist Ward Sutton about the Sickos meme. This gloating sicko is from the strip that Sutton draws for the Onion as cartoonist Stan Kelly, so this is meta enough a meme. It’s a nice overview of Sutton, who has been turning out stellar work for decades, but it was this bit that caught my eye:
You’ve drawn for the Onion and the Nib and more, but also for the Boston Globe and the Village Voice. What do you think of the ways the internet and the rise of web comics have shifted cartooning?
I think it’s been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I feel like my work can get out there so much more. Years ago my cartoon would appear in the Boston Globe and if you didn’t live in Boston, you wouldn’t have even known it happened. Now there’s a much wider audience when I post it on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and my own site. That’s really exciting.
At the same time, there’s a lot of people out there who don’t really see much difference between a cartoon and a meme. It’s just something you grab and you share if you want, maybe you even change it and put some your own mark on it somehow. And you wonder if the value is lessened.
I’ll be honest with you, my rates for creating cartoons have gone down. And the number of venues for pitching and selling have dwindled somewhat. So it’s a little distressing. I have more ideas than I have people whom I can sell them to, or who will buy them. With the Onion, it’s nice to have some consistency. But it’s a challenging career. There’s a lot of pitching of ideas and frustration with communication and rejection.
§ Tiffany Babb on The Duality of Gene Luen Yang:
Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite cartoonists. He’s one of those writers who reflects the potential of the medium in every one of his books. With his work, I never ask “Why would anyone tell this story as a comic?” Instead, I ask, “Why has no one ever done this before?”
§ An old link, but the Guardian‘s look at Kickstarting comics gives a very good overview of projects like Madi:
Duncan Jones, who wasn’t sure that his success with film would necessarily translate to the comics world, says he was driven to Kickstarter by “fear, terror, lack of confidence, a desire to have some inkling that there would be interest in me doing a graphic novel when I had never published one before”. “The idea of going to a publisher and telling them ‘I would like to make a book please’ seemed so absurd that when Alex suggested the Kickstarter route, I immediately felt more calm. Thankfully it went well. Really well! Well enough we were able to stride into our publisher’s office like Lord Flashheart,” he says. Since its success, De Campi has been approached by big publishers who moaned that she didn’t approach them with Madi, but she says that is with $360,000 of hindsight. “And Duncan and I never give away our film rights, which immediately cut out 75% of publishers,” she added.
§ A profile of Bloom County‘s Berkeley Breathed after 40 years of Opus:
Another surprise came in 2015: new strips. At the time of its second premiere, Breathed said, “I had planned to return to ‘Bloom County’ in 2001, but the sullied air sucked the oxygen from my kind of whimsy.” By 2015, however, it seemed the country was ready for silliness again, he said, and he began posting new strips on Facebook which have continued occasionally through this year. One difference about the new endeavor? “No deadlines,” he wrote during a recent email interview. “Age brings such wisdom,” he added.
§ Comic book movies alert: Matthew Rhys will star in Wyrd, based on the comic by Curt Pires and Antonio Fuso, described as “James Bond meets The X-Files.” Finally!
§ When he wasn’t complaining about WarnerMedia, Christopher Nolan was telling us we don’t appreciate Tom Hardy’s Bane enough:
“There’s no safety net for any of these guys and Tom, I mean… what he did with that character has yet to be fully appreciated. It’s an extraordinary performance, and truly amazing,” Nolan said. “The voice, the relationship between just seeing the eyes and the brow. We had all these discussions about the mask and what it would reveal and what it wouldn’t reveal, and one of the things I remember him saying to me, he sort of put his finger up to his temple and his eyebrow and said, ‘Can you give me this to play with? Let people see this.'”
I guess Nolan has never been on the internet, because we appreciate Bane plenty!
§ I don’t remember much about 2006, really, but I do recall that Heroes debuted and marked a new era for superheroes on episodic television, and launched the careers of Hayden Panettiere, Milo Ventimiglia and Zack Quinto. One person whose career was not launched was Leonard Roberts, one of three cast members of color in the first season. But there was a very troubling story behind the show, as recounted in a beautifully written piece by Roberts, who played D.L. Hawkins in the first season before getting fired. Leonard reveals that there were many tensions behind the scenes, many of them the result of the systemic racism that surrounds Hollywood. The whole thing is a must-read, with Variety confirming most of the details of Roberts’ account with multiple sources.
Kring said he felt my character had been painted into a corner, due to the fact that “we” didn’t have “chemistry,” and that any attempt to create a new storyline for D.L. just felt like “the tail wagging the dog.” I replied that I found it interesting he had created a world where people flew, painted the future, bent time and space, read minds, erased minds and were indestructible, yet somehow the potential story solution of my character getting divorced left him utterly confounded. I also questioned how a “we” issue could be cited as justification for the firing of “me.”
§ And speaking of racism in Hollywood, Warner Bros. has concluded its investigation of Ray Fisher’s charges of misconduct on the set of Joss Whedon’s Justice League reshoots. Fisher accused Whedon, and producers Jon Berg and Geoff Johns. We’re told “remedial action” has been taken, but no details were given.
“WarnerMedia’s investigation into the Justice League movie has concluded and remedial action has been taken,” WarnerMedia said in a statement Friday night. It provided no details of what actions were taken.
Shortly after the WarnerMedia statement went out, Fisher shared his own statement on Twitter: “There are still conversations that need to be had and resolutions that need to be found. Thank you all for your support and encouragement on this journey. We are on our way.”
The entire denouement leaves the matter somewhat mysterious — although Whedon has stepped down from producing The Nevers, perhaps part of the remedial action. Well, we may never know more…or perhaps someone will write that insider book. I hope Fisher feels some vindication.
§ This brutal look at Johnny Depp’s self-inflicted downfall includes many sad accounts of his addictions and abusive behavior. But also an account of what must have been one of the worst Hall H experiences ever:
The fact that 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. continued to work with Depp on Murder on the Orient Express and a Fantastic Beasts sequel, respectively, in the wake of Heard’s allegations becoming public in May 2016 raised eyebrows around town. The Warners case was particularly baffling.
At Comic-Con 2018, the studio brought Depp onstage in costume as the eponymous villain at the end of the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald segment. The fans weren’t the only ones surprised. Sources say Heard, who also appeared onstage as part of Warners’ presentation the same day for Aquaman, was blindsided. Despite Heard having once filed a restraining order against Depp, marketing chief Blair Rich approved Depp’s inclusion, say sources. Backstage, tensions erupted between Depp and Rich, according to eyewitnesses, and Rich later complained to colleagues that Depp spoke to her in a menacing manner.
Nevertheless, Warners — then headed up by CEO Kevin Tsujihara — brought Depp back for a third outing in a move approved by creator J.K. Rowling and gave him a pay-or-play contract that did not contain a morality clause. As a result, the studio was stuck paying his entire $16 million payday for the film even after firing him in the wake of the U.K. verdict. (He had shot only one scene.)
§ To end this on an up note, in 2019 Sean T. Collins stunned the world by writing about the film Road House every day, for a year. He’s collected this in Pain Don’t Hurt: Meditations on Road House, a deluxe compendium limited to 100 copies. I hope Rowdy Herrington buys a copy!