§ Nice art: I was trying to find something pleasant to kick this off and found that there’s an art prompt for the month called Smaugust. It was started by artist Taran Fiddler and it’s drawing dragons, because what would be better for a scorching hot month.
And one more by Bethany Berg.
— Beth B. (@BethanyBergArt) August 1, 2020
§ But otherwise things are pretty fucked up, as I don’t need to tell you. Late last week, two lengthy mainstream articles about troubling comics issues were published. Business Insider looked at Marvel’s lack of racial diversity on staff. The article is paywalled (although I can see it fine??) but reveals that Marvel’s two Black editors, Charles Beacham and Chris Robinson, have both departed, after a lack of promotion or raises.
“I thought I’d be at Marvel forever,” he said. “If they had promoted me I’d probably still be there and surviving on ramen.” Beacham is one of two Black editorial staffers to have worked at Marvel in the past five years, the company confirmed. The second Black staffer, also an assistant editor, left this year after five years without a promotion or raise, a person familiar with the matter said. The editorial team of about 18 people now has two people of color. “I want to be back there all the time,” Beacham said. “But when it comes down to it, my voice and what I brought to the table wasn’t valued equally.”
Among the numbers mentioned, awful starting salaries for assistant editors, in the $30k range. It’s kind of common knowledge that getting promoted isn’t easy for anyone in editorial at the Big Two, but the lack of diversity is troubling. We need to do better.
§ And THR looks at the comics industry’s recent reckoning with abusers, including the sources of the problem:
The comics industry relies on informal networks of gatekeepers such as editorial staff or established freelance creators — rather than agents — to bring in new talent. It’s a system observers say creates an unbalanced power dynamic that can lead to abuse.
“When new people get brought in, they are brought in by people who are already working,” says comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, whose work on Captain Marvel helped inspire the $1.12 billion-grossing Brie Larson film. “There’s no traditional ladder. So the way people have gotten in is through these powerful gatekeepers. A lot of those powerful gatekeepers are super lovely, but there ought to be another way.”
DeConnick, who acknowledges that she herself is a gatekeeper, is among those who have suggested that comic book publishers require creative talent to use agents to advocate on their behalf, as is done in the film and TV industry. “If something like that were available, it would decrease the power of some of the gatekeepers,” notes DeConnick, who also suggests young creators hire attorneys to protect their financial interests.
More HR, professional organizations, a union, a guild…all strategies that are being looked at and which need to be implemented in some way.
§ In more pleasant before times, Wendy Browne looks at Black artist Billy Graham’s role as an art director for Creepy magazine back in the ’70s. I did not know about this and it’s a cool piece of history — in fact, Shelfdust has an ongoing series about unjustly forgotten moments in Black Comics History.
In just a brief period of time, Graham had gone from being the first Black artist in mainstream comics to the first Black art director in mainstream comics. Warren recalled being asked by Rolling Stone about his decision to hire a Black art director. “What? Is Billy black?,” Warren retorted, “I didn’t know that. Get him in here! Billy, are you black? You’re fired!” Insensitive microaggressions aside, Creepy Magazine is a testament to Graham’s skills as an art director, before he moved on to work with Marvel on Luke Cage and Black Panther. Packed with content, Creepy is a blending of styles and layouts to create a seamless package that keeps the pages turning with its diverse imagery and content.
§ NPR affiliate WYPR has a podcast interview with ‘March’ artist Nate Powell talking about his work with the late Rep. John Lewis. It’s hopefully the start of a new series by Stanford W. Carpenter and Cianna B. Greaves, so give it a listen.
Some things I had kicking around:
§ A partial list of celebrities who made comic books, including Mark Hamill, Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves and more. Although the list includes some obscure stuff by folks like John Cleese and Jenna Jameson, it is far, far too short. They left off the entire output of Virgin Comics, for one.
§ Just to round up some more bad news, even though they ruled in 2019, Scholastic is not doing so well now, what with the pandemic, with sales down 40% in the fourth quarter, and down 10% for their fiscal year that ended May 31, 2020. With school openings a big viral question mark, Scholastic Book Fairs are also iffy, but they have a plan which involves more Dav Pilkey!
Scholastic did provide a road map of sorts about how it sees the year unfolding. It is planning for a slower than normal start to the 2020-21 school year, saying it expects most schools to be open, “but with a variety of in-person, distance learning, and hybrid options.” As schools re-open, Scholastic continued, its expects “strong demand for children’s books delivered through book clubs and book fairs to schools and direct-to-home. We expect to have strong sales for our digital education programs, including classroom magazines, as schools look for digital learning tools to bridge the gap between home and school.”
Scholastic is also expecting another big year for its trade business, which finished fiscal 2020 with revenue of $334.8 million, a 20% increase over fiscal 2019. Among the big titles coming out in the current fiscal year, Scholastic pointed to releases by Dog Man: Grime and Punishment by, as Scholastic pointed out, PW’s 2019 Person of the Year, Dav Pilkey, as well as a new Pilkey series, Cat Kid Comic Club, launching in the fall. The Ickabog, the first new children’s book by J.K. Rowling in 13 years, will launch in November, and new titles from other bestselling authors such as Tui T. Sutherland, Alan Gratz, Kelly Yang, and Varian Johnson will appear throughout the year, Scholastic said.
§ Things are also looking grim at Reed Exhibitions, parent company of ReedPOP. No surprise: event companies have to be faring the worst in a climate where gatherings are proven COVID-19 spreaders. I’m told there have been staff layoffs, which is sad, but not surprising.
Revenue at Reed Exhibitions, whose businesses include BookExpo, dropped nearly 71% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, parent company RELX reported. Revenue in the exhibition group fell to £201 million, from £684 million in the first six months of 2019, and the group had an adjusted operating loss of £117 million, compared to a profit of £231 million a year ago. …
RELX did note that about 15% of all conferences planned for 2020 took place in the first half of the year before it canceled all fairs from mid-March through June. It hopes to conduct some 178 events in the second half of 2020, about 30% of all planned conferences for the year; another 30% of scheduled events for the full year have been called off. In addition, RELX said no major conferences will take place in North America until October and no significant European shows will be held until September.
§ But looking to the day when bookstores and comics shops are open again for all, this advice on how to make a graphic novel pitch package from agent Maria Vicente was making the rounds again last week:
For most graphic novel projects, a publishing team is committing to a book that has just barely started being put together. This is scary for everyone involved! On the agent side of things, I need to put trust in a new client that they will deliver a final product of certain quality. As the creator, it’s your job to manage my expectations of that finished book with a thorough and accurate pitch package.
Creating a pitch package might feel overwhelming at first, but this document you’re putting together needs to convince the reader (whether it’s an agent or an editor) that your (eventual) book is a risk worth taking. Even though creating a proposal for your graphic novel is a big time commitment, it’s the best way to show its potential—and, let’s be honest, nowhere near as time consuming as actually writing and illustrating an entire book.
§ It was Spider-Man Day last week, and Marvel’s Robyn Belt gave a quick lesson on Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, which is quite pleasant to look at, except all the classic pages have that awful new coloring. Oh well, Ditko be Ditko.
§ And wait, what’s this! In relatively COVID-low Australia, Marvel’s Shang-Chi movies seems to be getting ready to start filming again!
Months later in Sydney, aerial photos were captured showing a set of an Asian village meant for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. But, at the time, it was left untouched and unfinished due to production being halted. However, 7News has new footage showing that work on this set has begun again, just in time for the previously reported plan to begin shooting again in late-July.
§ Wrapping up leg one of The Snyder Cut saga, you’ve probably read all about what Zack Snyder had to say about his cut at JusticeCon, but if you were wondering if Snyder had ever seen the Justice League movie that was released…the answer is NO.
Of course, no conversation of Snyder’s Justice League would be complete without a discussion of Joss Whedon’s “Frankenstein” cut of the film that used recolored and edited Snyder footage alongside new scenes shot by Whedon. Snyder admitted that he still hasn’t seen the theatrical cut of Justice League and won’t, while also assuaging fears that any of the material Whedon shot would appear in his cut. “I would set the movie on fire, I’d destroy it before I used a single frame that I did not photograph,” Snyder said. While Snyder never spoke Whedon’s name directly, he did say that following his decision to step down as director of Justice League, after a family tragedy, the replacement director was chosen by the process of committee.
Observers expect the first Snyder Cut trailer to be released at DC FanDome in a few weeks, so stay tuned!