§ Nice Art: Via Colleen Doran, a Mike Kaluta illustration of Faramir and Eowyn from his Lord of the Rings calendar.
§ It’s been another break, but here we are. And here you are! How are you doing?
§ Job! White Squirrel, a crowdfunding/fulfillment company for artist types, is hiring someone to help pack stuff up in the Everett/Seattle area.
We are approaching the busy season for fulfillment, which means lots of orders to pack all at once. We are looking for people who are efficient, reliable multitaskers, are able to work independently, and are dedicated to delivering a quality product. We are offering part-time employment, to work in our warehouse as a Fulfillment Associate.
§ Change is in the air! Everywhere. I call it “The Pandemic Shift.” Everyone is going to Kickstarter and new business models. Even the New York Times noticed! George G. Gustines gives a brisk survey of big names and publishers turning to crowdfunding:
The success of these big-name campaigns is notable given the disruptions and anxieties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After a decline in activity in March through May, “we’ve seen categories, comics one of them, recovering,” said Margot Atwell, the head of publishing and comics at Kickstarter. The number of prominent creators using the site has also risen.
Mr. McFarlane, who last year celebrated the arrival of the 300th issue of Spawn in comic stores, said crowdfunding was a chance to try a new business strategy. “It was an experiment,” he said. “Could this be an add-on to our business model or grow into something bigger?”
BTW, Todd McFarlane’s KS for a new Spawn figure raised nearly $3.5 million.
§ And for the longer version, David Harper is at it again with a long survey of creators: “This was a Wake-up Call”: Creators on How 2020 Has Shifted Their Approach to Comics. A lot of “I’m thinking about how to do this” but many changes afoot:
I don’t track such things, but if I did, I’d wager that I reached out to more people for this article than any I’ve ever written before. For the past few weeks, my email was a blur of messages, as I assumed there would be a decent portion of creators who wouldn’t want to participate even if I offered anonymity as a carrot. It turns out “secret plans” aren’t so secret if you tell people about them, and beyond that, we’re still only six months into the impacts of the pandemic despite it feeling like at least 300 years. Declining would have been understandable given the situation. I was correct in my assumption, but most everyone did give me at least a cursory thought on how their thought process for comics is shifting, even if they preferred to not connect their names to it. Because of that level of participation, the range was spectacularly broad. There was a spectrum that went all the way from, effectively, “I’m not considering changes yet because it’s too early” to “I can’t tell you anything yet because the answer is yes and you’ll know what that means soon,” the latter of which was immediately followed by a supervillain-like “mu-wah-hah-hah” laugh. Much of the response depended on how the events of this year affected each creator, as some – like artist Jen Bartel – saw limited impact. She was already working on a new project that’s still to come, so she just continued onward. For others, like cartoonist Declan Shalvey, the year has been one of constant, unrelenting change.
§ And for an even tighter view, Salon spoke with Ed Brubaker, who has doubled down on the graphic novels format, about his process and the near-death experiences that have changed the way he approaches things.
Most of the people I know that are writers are leaning much more towards escapism and less into trying to write anything that reflects what is happening in our immediate world. Me and Sean Phillips’ new graphic novel “Pulp” was supposed to come out in May. Diamond Comics, which is the main distributor for comics, shut down. The entire industry for comic books has been shut down for months because of the pandemic “Pulp” was put on hold. When I wrote it there were things in the book that reflect what is happening today with the pandemic and politics more generally. When you write about the past you are writing about the present as well. “Pulp” feels so immediate. The main character lost everything in the 1918 flu. When he was living in New York in the 1930s there were Nazi and fascist brownshirts marching in the streets. “Pulp” is a lot more relevant than I imagined it would be. I had a new project in mind and was going to start writing it after I finished “Pulp.” But I took a step back and looked at what I was about to write, and it was just too depressing. I didn’t want to write it. Life felt too bleak, and I just wanted to write something that was just more raw and fun for me.
§ We’ve been following artist JG Jones and his health issues for a while, and happily he’s on the mend — although very slowly and not helped by this pandemic thing. But now he’s working on art to help raise awareness of the deadly disease he battled:
Through a series of paintings titled ‘Rare Reflections: MPNs Unmasked,’ Jones is helping to raise awareness about rare blood cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs, by interviewing and painting survivors of the disease. The paintings include a self-portrait because Jones himself was diagnosed with an MPN about 10 years ago. As comic book fans may remember, the health crisis prevented Jones from finishing Final Crisis with Grant Morrison. But by taking a key role in his own health care and treatment, Jones has been able to continue working over the years. Although he took a recent break for a stem cell transplant, he’s back at the drawing table and counts himself among the survivors he’s illustrating now.
§ George G. Gustines again with 10 New Comic Books for the Fall for the Times! Nice list, but it only mentions creators, not publishers, and I found that disconcerting….but should I have? I feel like comics publishers are like indie record labels — when I know who published it, I have some idea of the style and approach, given their track records. But maybe that is too limiting? What do you think?
§ With the Venture Brothers, some new looks back at its impact, and also the Venture Bros vs Rick and Morty debate. There is a petition you can sign! Also, a salute to The Cars of the Venture Brothers. And Jacob Oller declares that The Venture Bros.’ Legacy is a Prescient Bridge Between Alt-Comedy and Superhero Domination.
In a world where Z-list supervillains participate in “scared straight” programs and henchmen live with their moms and/or drive their dad’s powder blue Nissan Stanza, The Venture Bros. both predicted the self-referential and self-effacing turn that the world of superheroism would take and provided one of the most nuanced, affecting, and hilarious stories about it. The show’s plots tracked moral side-switching; losses of life, love, and financial security; and the relapse of an ex-pirate captain into tranquilizer addiction. It’s certainly as complicated and melodramatic as the most convoluted multiverse. Its devoted production team kept everything straight and continued to map out inventive, sobering, and consistently funny places for its vast cast of characters to go. Metered out every few years (an eternity in the modern media landscape), The Venture Bros. proved that the best parodies grow beyond their source material. And its growth had a greater industrial impact: just watch its DC-approved spiritual successor, Harley Quinn.
§ Something no one wanted to say aloud but we were all thinking. Disney Grapples With How to Proceed on ‘Black Panther’ Without Chadwick Boseman. Suffice to say that the Shuri option seems to be the one people feel most comfortable with for now. Whenever I think about this, I get sad and I guess I always will.
Disney sources say the company is processing its grief and that its focus at this stage is to pay tribute to Boseman and not on the making of a Black Panther sequel. Only a handful of non-family members knew that Boseman was sick, including producing partner Logan Coles, longtime agent Michael Greene, trainer Addison Henderson and 42 director Brian Helgeland — with varying degrees of knowledge about the severity of the actor’s condition. No one involved with Black Panther was aware, says a source. It was Boseman’s wish to keep his cancer battle private.
§ Square Enix’s Marvel: Avengers game is out, and surprisingly, the main character is Ms. Marvel. As many have pointed out, Kamala Khan is mostly known to comics readers and animation viewers. So here’s Everything You Need To Know About Kamala Khan, The Star Of Marvel’s Avengers from Kotaku. And from CBR, Marvel’s Avengers: Kamala Khan Is the Beacon of Hope We Need in 2020
What immediately stands out about Kamala is the unique and refreshing perspective she brings to what’s happening around her. From the very beginning of the game, even before she has powers, Kamala approaches the world with joy, even charming the Avengers when she comes across them before A-Day. Despite everything that happens to her, her heroes and the world in the years that follow, her attitude positive endures.
§ This global pandemic thing truly stinks, and it’s even sucked the joy out of playing D&D and other tabletop games. It was often noted that gaming in person had surged in popularity as an antidote to constant screen time, and playing by screen just isn’t as fun.
To avoid putting their group’s health at risk, many players have moved their tabletop RPG sessions online to comply with social distancing rules. But for an activity that’s heavily dependent on collaborative storytelling and frequent communication, this shift has caused many players – and game masters alike – to experience a greater sense of dissonance and fatigue. “It’s a radically different environment full of strain and discord, and one where I’m not comfortable,” shares Oma, a game master who has been conducting Monster of the Week sessions since September last year. “It’s much more of an uphill battle being comfortable telling a social story, and why I’ve only scheduled two play sessions so far.”
Knight creatively reveled in the Bay Area of that era. He gained readership and performed with his hip-hop act, once even appearing in a nude band show at the Fillmore. And after his police incident, his public art grew more provocative. One inspiration was to put up posters around the city that said, “Black People for Rent,” along with a phone number — an experiment depicted in “Woke” as an eye-opening moment for Keef. “I never wanted to give away that it wasn’t a real thing,” Knight says. “There were people who got it [as satiric commentary]. Some people who didn’t get it — there were people who were racist who called.” Even the San Francisco Chronicle called.
§ DC FanDome II this Saturday and it looks to be CRAMMED with content — available for 24 hours only! — including a ‘Superman’ Radio Show, which it must be admitted, is a genius concept. Ya see, this “old time radio” thing was the podcasting of its day!!!! Crazy.
Are you ready to travel back to the 1940s when Netflix did not exist and radio shows were the epicenter of entertainment? During DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse on September 12, Warner Bros. and The Creative Coalition will bring the classic Superman radio series to life. The re-enactments of the Superman radio series will be available all day during the virtual confab and feature an all-star roster of actors toplined by Wilson Cruz (Star Trek: Discovery), Tim Daly (Madam Secretary) and Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0) as the Man of Steel himself. Using original scripts from the long-running radio serial recently unearthed from the Warner Bros. Studios vault, this rare production will allow fans to experience the superhero in a unique way.
§ This is old, but still worthy: a look at indie art comics publisher Domino Books in 2020 from publisher Austin English:
People (myself included) constantly try to define what comics are, or what the medium can or should be. However, actually looking at the wide variety of work being made in this moment presents a clear refutation of any neat summary. For 9 years with Domino, I’ve tried to curate a selection of items that express this, often going out of my way to include work that doesn’t fit into what I like about comics but still has a powerful expression within it.
It seems that mainstream comics publishers are doing pretty okay in a world of mail order, but I haven’t really surveyed small press publishers who were very reliant on the indie show circuit. Definitely a topic to explore.
§ But see also this Twitter thread from retailer Big Bang about indie comics marketing from a few weeks ago.
§ I thought it was interesting that Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu is sold out of its print edition, so now you can buy a PDF direct from Oni Press until the second edition arrives sometime in the fall. Everyone is adapting.
§ Another old but highly pertinent link, as several folks look at the relaunch of Asterix in the US, despite the ugly racial tropes rife in its pages:
Acclaimed cartoonist Ronald Wimberly is an Eisner Award nominee, a Glyph Award-winner, was resident comics artist at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, home of the annual French comics festival, and is a media and cultural critic. He is also the editor/founder of the broadsheet pop culture and art critical journal LAAB: An Art Magazine, where he has written about depictions of Blackness in comics. He described the Asterix comics as “blatantly white supremacist.” “It’s clear that Uderzo has the chops to draw a myriad of things,” said Wimberly, who saw some of the original Asterix art while living in France. “It’s true that he has a limited bag of tricks for characters, but he takes the time to differentiate by type and by importance. He has three traits to differentiate slaves from other characters: black skin, full lips, and ‘oriental’ clothing and accessories.” Wimberly continued, “Even a child knows that the Romans kept all types of slaves and promoted ethnicities of all types to high position, so it’s easy to see that the purpose of making all of the slaves black is a modern, white supremacist device.”
As I mentioned on our More to Come Podcast, Asterix should absolutely be sold in the US and everywhere, but it needs context and…it’s not for kids.
§ Now It Can Be Told: So it turns out that at one point they were thinking of making Rey, from Star Wars, a Kenobi, not a Palpatine.
People on Twitter are saying this would have been so much cooler. I agree! Although they say that NOW. First off, everyone would rather be named Kenobi than Palpatine. Second, the idea of Palpatine breeding is icky. The idea of Obi-Wan leaving a descendant behind is cool! Jedis are not allowed attachment but it was lonely on Tatooine. Man, how did they mess up Star Wars so much.