Author Archives: Corey Blake

Dig Comics: Why Comics Matter

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsIf you already read comics, I warn you, you are probably about to learn nothing new.

Don’t read comics? Well, take a quick gander.

There are reasons you want to read comics. A lot of reasons. Some of them will be deeply personal to you. Others will take into consideration the wellbeing of loved ones. Curiosity seekers will find a different sort of fulfillment. And your brain, oh your brain – that will be the happiest organ of all. Please, attend.

  1. You love MOVIES: Everybody loves stories. Human beings thrive on the telling and retelling of stories. For us modern apes, we get most of our non-community storytelling from movies and TV. And you know what I keep hearing over and over? Most people think most movies suck. The plots are stupid, the acting is bad, the writing is annoying. Oh, yeah, sure there are exceptions. But most of the time when you go out to spend $15 on a movie ticket (not to mention snacks & drinks), you come home disappointed. That’s because movies cost a LOT of money to make. So studios don’t take risks. They don’t trust artistry, and follow the same formulas over and over. Because they have millions of dollars to recoup. And they’d rather take a chance feeding you the same old crap instead of truly surprising you. Not so with comics creators. You see, for about $50, they can get all the paper and pencils necessary to do the deed – it’s just talent they need at that point. And then perhaps a few thousand to publish (yeah, it’s money, but not MILLIONS!). They can afford to be experimental, to offer unique visions, to tell those fresh stories you crave. IN FACT! – guess what? The stories are so cool, Hollywood is busy gobbling them up to make movies of them! Except that in most cases, the original comic is way better! So why wait? That same $15 for two hours is about the price of a trade collection which you can read again and again, usually about 200 pages of comics. And just as with movies – you can read about ANYTHING – so don’t feel like you have to be stuck with superheroes. Oh no, our world is far more than that.
  2. You love TV: You like long-form serial forms of entertainment. You know what I’m talking about. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Lost, 24, Weeds, Spartacus, Downton Abbey, and on and on and on. You love that soap opera. You love extensive story, meticulous character study, cliffhanger after cliffhanger, week after week, month after month. Ooh can comics ever deliver on that front. Just as you anticipate each new episode of your show to see what happens next, so too can you look forward week to week to the next installment of your favorite series (well, month to month, mostly, but when you read enough, you can count on new stuff every week). Take The Walking Dead for example. They’re up to almost 115 issues! That’ll keep you busy for a while! And the writing is far better than it is on the show…
  3. You love your CHILDREN: Or you love some child in your life. Or just want to be surrounded by smarter kids. As was explained to us in our 2nd short film by Anastasia Betts, founder of Curriculum Essentials, a progressive educational consulting firm, the human brain processes images 20,000 times faster than it does text. The educational potential of comic books, especially on young, developing minds, is without limits. As Anastasia explains, “Thirty percent of our brain is devoted to visual processing.” Take that into account in the context of today’s world. She goes on, “We live in a world where visual literacy is and will continue to be critical to the survival and success of future generations.” In other words, as we have to deal with more smart phones, tablets, streaming and internet, learning critical thinking will require fluency in visual communication. This is brain food, people!
  4. You love your BRAIN: You don’t have to be a kid to expand your mind. As you grow older, in order to keep your mind spry, neurologists are telling us to do a bunch of different things. One of course is to keep reading. Puzzles and games have come into the picture, actually creating alternate neural pathways that allow additional conductivity to process information. And learning languages has been shown to increase cognitive abilities, even if you don’t get started until late in life. Well guess what? Comics offer all three of these things and more. The way they work is a different language than text, your brain putting together what happens between the panels is a puzzle, and you are reading, right? Even when a comic has no words, you are reading. Love your brain, people.
  5. Life sucks and is boring and you need COOLNESS: Look, why do we go to the movies, listen to music, read books, go running, eat dinner with the family, share drinks with friends, go snorkeling, play poker, knit, take long drives, walk the dogs, eat ice cream, go bird-watching, debate politics, watch football, skip rope, pick up the kids at school, go to Vegas, volunteer at a soup kitchen, skateboard, go shopping or make out with hotties? Because life sucks and is boring and you need coolness. You see, the only way that life doesn’t suck is when you are doing cool stuff. That’s the whole reason we do cool stuff. Because what else is life about? Just surviving? When you are just surviving, life sucks. God bless you if you have time to do something besides just surviving. Now, take advantage of that, and add comics to that list above. Comics are one of those things that stop life from sucking. Give ‘em a spin and try them out!

You comics readers still here? If so, then it’s YOUR job to help guide your non-reader circle towards stuff they like. Because if you recommend the wrong comics to the wrong people, then life sucks again. Need help recommending comics to a non-reader? Maybe you are only into superheroes and you need to offer up something else. Then try the Cool Comics page at the Dig Comics website. It’s small, but we will be adding more soon. Now go, go and help us change the world for the better…

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: Exceeding Expectations

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsI’ve been interviewing comics professionals for years now. That means creators, publishers, retailers, distributors, etc. And of course, I talk to comic book fans all the time. There’s always the same debate, running around the same old question: just how bad of a state is the comics industry in? The answer bounces all over the place. For many fans, the dedicated hobbyists who loyally show up every Wednesday, it’s not a thought they consider. The books they want keep showing up. They live inside their own consumer bubble, and so long as the fountain issues forth sequential refreshment, they show up and go about their business.

Amongst the professional class, the debate gets a bit more…iffy. I could say, on the whole, pros are weary of sluggish sales, not seeing the needle move too much. Most retailers especially feel the pinch. And why not? Something like 50% of comic stores have closed up shop in the last decade or so. Friends of mine who run stores often complain of their struggles. One owner I know has even taken a second job to make ends meet. An owner! As for creators, only the very top dogs in the game seem to be feeling fine. In 2007, Jeph Loeb contested outright my suggestion that comic readership is on a decline. And recent data, showing modest growth in recent months, has had comics journalists decrying any of the doomsayers predicting industry decline.

I can dig it. Any change in a positive direction is good. But what are we settling for? Let’s take a quick look at the numbers. Here’s 10 years of the comic book industry at a glance, in total annual sales for North America, according to John Jackson Miller’s The Comics Chronicles:

2003 $311 million
2004 $328 million
2005 $352 million
2006 $396 million
2007 $430 million
2008 $437 million
2009 $428 million
2010 $419 million
2011 $414 million
2012 $475 million

Adjusted for inflation, 2003 looks more like $385 million. Which isn’t that bad, I guess, a 23% jump in sales over a decade. Except that in that same time, the US population has jumped more than 10%. Is that a good figure for robust growth? Allow me to compare with the last 10 years of box office sales, according to Box Office Mojo, for the UNITED STATES – and not all of North America, as in the figures above:

2003 $9.2 billion
2004 $9.4 billion
2005 $8.9 billion
2006 $9.2 billion
2007 $9.7 billion
2008 $9.6 billion
2009 $10.6 billion
2010 $10.6 billion
2011 $10.1 billion
2012 $10.8 billion

Well, that’s only a 17% rise. But we didn’t count DVD’s, downloads, broadcast rights…and again, this was just US numbers, not all of North America. Not a fair comparison? Movies have so many more ways to make money, right? And they are so far better marketed. Besides, nobody reads these days anyway, right? I mean, what about books? They must sell worse than movies, right?

Well, while getting exact numbers from the book publishing business is not too simple, The New York Times reported that US book sales in 2012 were somewhere over $15 billion, increasing from around $14 billion in 2011. Yes, you read that right. Books do better than box office, people. So let’s get over this “people don’t read” nonsense. They do. And besides, comics are NOT strictly reading. They are much more than that, a visual medium first.

OK, so what’s my point here? First, comic books are outclassed in US sales by 20-40 times by their cousins, literature and cinema. Second, in light of the fact that comics fall squarely between these two medias, there’s no reason to believe we can’t find similar audiences for them. So when pundits get all high and mighty about a blip here, a good month there – forgive me if I don’t get too excited.

Comics were once ubiquitous in America, just like movies and books. They are just as worthy of public attention, in many cases, far cooler than what Hollywood dishes out. Expectations within the comics industry are always for slow growth. There seems to be little appetite for a serious push to explode the numbers into the billions.

Partially, this is a function of 70% of the market being controlled by two multi-media conglomerates, seemingly content to merely convert their comic trademarks into film, TV, video game, apparel and toy products. My dream is to stand before board meetings at Disney (who owns Marvel) and Time Warner (who owns DC) and ask a really stupid question: Would you guys rather see your comics publishing division sit around $500 million, or would you rather it hit the multiple billions?

Stupid question indeed. But the comics industry itself doesn’t seem to want to bring that up. Dig Comics does. Dig Comics seeks to exceed expectations and more. And we know that this change has to come from outside. People don’t read comics you say? Fine. Let’s bring them our world via film and TV – that’s where the eyeballs currently sit. Help us show America what they are missing. It’ll be good for education, for cultural enrichment, for intellectual growth – and even for the comics industry itself.

Let’s do this together.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics: The $250,000 Question

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsA lot of people have been asking why Dig Comics’ goal on Kickstarter is $250,000, mostly because they think that’s too much to ask for a comics documentary.

Well, here goes…

First of all, it’s not just our budget which is lofty, it is our mission: to get America reading comic books again. This is our sincere quest. This is what we have been fighting for for years. And we are up against a lot. Most of you know the parade of factors which killed the comics audience. The political demonization of comics which occurred in the 1950’s, marring their reputation in the public view to this day. The utter disappearance of comics from the marketplace, due to everything from distribution debacles to the speculation bubble. The unfortunate business decisions, one after another, over a period of decades, including self-censorship, the disposal of virtually every genre save one, and the nurturing of a fetishistic insular culture which discouraged “outsiders” from taking a look at comics.

All that and more add up to a VERY big mountain to overcome. And despite the best efforts from within the comics industry, one still to be conquered. So the only way this will get done is work from outside the world of comics.

Think about it for a second.

Ecotourism didn’t become a huge global business because scientists and activists published papers and gave seminars and appeared on talk shows to preach the virtues of environmental protection. It happened because passionate filmmakers made really cool nature shows and documentaries, in a really fun way, that offered a window to unexplored worlds. Snorkeling and scuba is so common now, every single tropical cruise ship has outings – a very lucrative business. And they can all thank Jacques Cousteau and his pioneering undersea films for that. African safaris got big after shows like Wild Kingdom exposed us to the Serengeti. Over the years, all that bloomed to entire networks like Discovery, National Geographic and Animal Planet. And then people go interested in actually checking these places out. This industry of exploration to unseen worlds have bloomed into everything from Amazon rain forest trekking to ice climbing in the Arctic. Truly, a transformative effort to say the least.

NONE of this came from tight little circles of like-minded interests. ALL of it came from well-produced, passionate, engaging, infectious audio-video pieces properly distributed on popular platforms. And they all cost a LOT of money to make.

There has been no shortage of comics documentaries. Many of them are very good. Most of them are done on shoestring budgets – and it shows. Yes, they can be very interesting – to me – but I already love comics. To folks who could care less, what are they seeing most of the time? Talking head interviews, some inserts, it can be pretty cool to those of us in the know. But how to reach beyond the converted? How will we get the casual non-comics-fan viewer to stop flipping channels and check out our work? Where will the buzz come from? What will get kids, guys, gals, moms, dads, bored construction workers, tired executives to offer us their eyeballs and their minds? It has to be more than JUST our passion.

Look, I’m not a comics professional. I can’t draw and haven’t broken in as a writer. But I am a filmmaker. And I know how to get people’s attention. Part of it has to be a compelling host, which people tell me, I can be. But again, think about it. If Anthony Bourdain did a cooking show where he just sat and talked to chefs in a room, occasionally showing us a plate of food, you think people would watch his show? Sounds BORING, right? But Bourdain never stands still. He takes his cameras to other cultures, introduces us to remarkable people in their restaurants, in their kitchens, in their cities and nations. And how about Michael Moore? You think a quick shot of him sending an angry letter to a corporate executive would have nearly the effect on a viewer that storming the headquarters of major multinational with a guy dressed as a chicken did? These guys travel places, with a professional crew in tow, with top notch filming equipment. Don’t take it for granted – the stuff looks good. Viewers stay put and pay attention because these filmmakers take their crews to awesome places, put resources into professional editing, pay hefty licensing fees to share relevant footage and images, and polish up the work in post production so it’s easy to absorb, pleasing to the eyes and ears.

And people – all that takes MONEY.

Look, if you want just another comics documentary that comics fans will get all giddy about and never reach outside our crowd, do me a big favor – don’t donate to us. We ain’t what you’re looking for.

But!

If you share our dream of seeing the American comics audience grow 2, 3 – 10 times bigger – then please, join us and give as much as you can. Dig Comics will be dynamic, offering wonderful visions from places like Japan and France where the comics scenes are as big as rock concerts. We have to go to New York and visit all those awesome people and places that helped comics come to life. We need to go to “America,” that place between New York and Los Angeles where comics are so invisible and see what happens when we engage the everyman with the world they are missing. Attractive elements like strong graphics, animated sequences and quality licensed footage and images will all help keep people’s attention. That is how films and TV find audiences. It’s just how it’s done. And I want to find new audiences for comics.

Last thought – the $250K we seek will be more like $190K after we lose Kickstarter’s cut and fund the rewards. The current budget offers reduced crew salaries and ZERO pay for myself. The budget is dedicated not to making us rich, but to creating something which will FINALLY make a difference in the sad state of affairs which is comics’ far-too-low position in popular culture. I hope you will help us make a difference.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Kim Thompson and Why I Dig Comics

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsKim Thompson died yesterday.

I never met the man and outside of the comics community – even for most comic book fans – his name is largely unknown. Thompson was the co-publisher of a comic book company called Fantagraphics, and quite frankly, were it not for the work of him and his business partner Gary Groth, I may not have stayed a comics lover past my childhood. And consequently, there might not be Dig Comics – my film/TV project dedicated to getting America to read comic books.

I was an avid comics collector from the time I could read until the age of 16. Around that time, I started paying more attention to girls and “partying,” and “serious” film and literature. Those distractions came easy because up until then, comics meant nothing but Marvel superheroes to me. And I was getting bored. How many years could I sit through the same fights, the same characters who never grew old? There was no real danger. Characters never really changed. Even death was impermanent.

Naturally, maintaining the quality level of writing and art became less possible, as the brand managers could not allow most creators to stray from the “winning formula” of good and evil archetypes and standardized graphic design. Yes, of course, there have been writers and artists who distinguished themselves. But as time passed, those were less frequent. The unchanging nature of the superhero formula makes it tougher and tougher the longer it persists. So, by age 18, I had pretty much given up on comics.

But then, something unexpected happened. A friend began to introduce me to “alternative comics.” Of course, I resisted at first. Comics were superheroes, nothing more. And if the art didn’t look like Jim Starlin or John Byrne or Frank Miller, then why bother? But my friend kept pushing me. And quickly, I realized I had a whole new world before me. I was being offered stories about people I could relate to. Street kids looking for the next thrill; adults struggling with their love lives; “racy” humor that tested the borders of good taste; “serious” animal characters with real human philosophical questions; depressed and lonely people navigating a world they feel lost in. Many of these books had nothing fantastical about them. Some were way more far out than anything Marvel had ever produced.

And the art! What a range! Titles like Los Bros. Hernandez’s Love & Rockets would mostly stick to an almost Archie­­like deceptive simplicity, telling a character’s story with just a few lines of expression on a face. But then the mind-blowing Frank by Jim Woodring delved into images so surreal, my brain had to learn how to take it in – slowly. The whimsical curvy lines of Peter Bagge’s Hate had me laughing before I read a word of dialogue. And the pissed-off scrawl of Roberta Gregory’s Naughty Bits seethed its hilarious anger at me. And imagine – all this stuff was in black & white! Boy, I was growing up, I tell ya…

KimThompson-byLynnEmmert

Kim Thompson, with two Eisner Awards (photo by Lynn Emmert)

Kim Thompson helped bring all of these works to us and many, many more. For over 30 years he made sure that singular artists, creating their own vision in their own way, had a venue to strut their stuff. Characters grew old and died. Or only appeared once. Or whatever. Fantagraphics has always championed comics as an art form, rather than an intellectual property to be endlessly licensed and exploited. And in such an environment, readers have possibilities, new adventures, the chance to stretch the consciousness. I was no longer bored with comics. Kim Thompson had offered me a new way to see them.

But Thompson did much more than that. Having grown up in Europe, he translated, edited and published several works from places like France, Italy, and Scandinavia. Yes – another whole new world of comics, literally, came to my brain. Crime noir tales like Jacques Tardi’s West Coast Blues, Jason’s weird off-center anthropological Sshhh! And so many others, even manga from Japan. I’ll say it again – literally a world of comics, tirelessly nurtured and imported to my benefit and to the benefit of so many others.

And the funny thing is, Kim Thompson also started as a Marvel comics fan. In fact, his fan letters appeared in several letters columns as far back as the early 1970’s. He edited superhero fanzines. He wasn’t closed off to superheroes at all. In fact, it’s because of works published by Fantagraphics and so many other smaller publishers who expanded my comics horizon, that I can still enjoy the occasional superhero comic. Without them, I probably would never have stepped into a comic store again and there would be no reason for me to even consider making a film like Dig Comics. After all, Dig Comics is NOT about an insulated niche culture of hero fetishists. It’s about a great big world which EVERYONE can enjoy.

So thank you, Kim Thompson, for your part in my own growth and evolution. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee may have gotten me started on the path, but you really went a long way to making sure I continued the journey. May the next page you are now turning to be equally as rewarding. I look forward to humbly honoring your legacy.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

Dig Comics launches Kickstarter campaign to promote comic books through documentary

DigComics-banner

Dig Comics Press Release PDF download

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5th, 2013
Press Contact: Corey Blake
corey@digcomics.com
WWW.DIGCOMICS.COM

FROM AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR MIGUEL CIMA

DIG COMICS

A DIG COMICS, INC. PRODUCTION

WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY
SAN DIEGO COMIC CON
INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL

Kickstarter campaign to fund Feature Film version of award-winning short to launch June 5th, 2013, seeking goal by July 10th, 2013.

MOVIE CHRONICLES QUEST TO GET AMERICA READING COMIC BOOKS

An ambitious Kickstarter campaign launches today, June 5th, 2013, at
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1880292100/dig-comics to raise at least $250,000 for a feature length documentary that will promote comic books to mainstream America. After years of meetings trying to convince Hollywood networks, studios and production companies that comics deserve the spotlight, filmmaker/raconteur Miguel Cima is turning to the people for help in financing. Embracing the underdog appeal of comics, Cima calls on the converted comic fans and professionals to come together in making real a project that hopes to benefit the comics industry.

Comic books, an American original like jazz and baseball, were once as widespread, respected and loved as cinema, music and literature. But over the last several decades, comics have lost over 90% of U.S. readers. How did that happen? And how do we turn that around?

In the planned feature film, Cima chases the trail of comics’ struggle through history, and reaches for new ways to get America to once again DIG COMICS.

Employing a lighthearted, fun-loving documentary style, Miguel exposes a new audience to the rich artwork, fascinating people and moving tale of comic books in America. Part Anthony Bourdain, part Michael Moore, Miguel shares his infectious passion with his viewers, while challenging people on screen and off with experiments, diatribe and stark images which will make people laugh as they cheer on for the cause of comic books!

BACKGROUND

Before a series of very public congressional hearings in the 1950’s, comic books were as ubiquitous and popular as movies and music. Demonized by politics and propaganda, the industry saw a steep decline in readership, compounded by a subsequent series of poor business practices which fractured distribution systems and erased market awareness for comics.

But during all those years, there have not only been unsung Picassos and Van Goughs working tirelessly in the field – a New Golden Age of comics is happening RIGHT NOW under America’s very nose. DIG COMICS will get these people recognized and turn on generations new and old to just what they are missing.

To get to the heart of the matter, DIG COMICS will start by traveling to New York – the very spot where the comic book industry came to life. It is largely a story of the children of Jewish immigrants during the turn of the last century, forging an art form literally with their own hands, impacting the world with some of the most iconic characters of all time. Still the home of the biggest comics publishers in America, DIG COMICS will speak to the people working in the epicenter of the comic universe to shed more light on where comics have been – and where they are going.

The story continues overseas in France and Japan, where comics culture is big business, and comics artists are treated like rock stars. Comic cons in those places dwarf the size and attendance of our own famous San Diego Comic Con. All this despite populations half the size of the U.S. and even smaller. What’s different about the comics culture in these places? How has history been kinder to them so far from their birthplace? DIG COMICS will take their cameras there and find out.

DIG COMICS – the feature film – is only the first salvo in a larger comic book revolution. Starting with the award-winning short, this ongoing project has captured the attention of many producers and luminaries including The Uslan Company, Edward James Olmos and Dark Horse Entertainment. Having pitched the project to dozens of producers, networks and studios, DIG COMICS has chosen Kickstarter to finance the next stage of the project, while building an audience towards boosting the next round of development.

Miguel Cima could not be more sincere in his quest and love for comics. As far as he’s concerned, DIG COMICS will only be successful if it helps turn around the audience decline and elevate comic books THEMSELVES – not just the movies, TV shows, toys and video games – to a place in our culture closer to movies, music, and books. The revolution has begun!!!

FEATURING:

Sergio Aragones
Peter Bagge
Stephen Christy
Dame Darcy
Anthony Del Col
Rick Geary
Gary Groth
James Kochalka
Erik Larsen
Paul Levitz
Jeph Loeb
Conor McCreery
Terry Nantier
Mike Richardson
Trina Robbins
Stan Sakai
Scott Shaw!
Jeff Smith
James Sturm
Carol Tyler
Michael Uslan
…and many more to come…

BIOGRAPHY
MIGUEL CIMA (Director/Writer/Host): Argentinean-born New Yorker, living in Los Angeles, Miguel is a graduate of New York University’s Film School. A seasoned world traveler, prolific writer and filmmaker, his original short version of DIG COMICS won Best Documentary at the San Diego Comic Con Independent Film Festival and was an official selection at 15 more: Cannes, Vancouver, LA New Filmmakers, and more. Miguel is a veteran of the entertainment industry having worked at Warner Bros., Dreamworks, MTV and on several films. His work has received positive press in The Los Angeles Times, NPR, Ain’t It Cool News, Comics Alliance, and many others. He has been reading and collecting comics since he was 3 years old.

New Comics for New Readers – June 5, 2013

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. Sometimes we list more on really good weeks. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology, ComicList.com and PREVIEWSworld.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

TodayIsTheLastDayoftheRestofYourLife

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life
Written and illustrated by Ulli Lust
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir
Ages: 16+
464 pages
$35.00

A powerful debut graphic memoir, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is the rollicking story of two teenaged girls’ wild hitchhiking trip across Italy from Naples to Sicily.

Back in 1984, a rebellious, 17-year-old, punked-out Ulli Lust set out for a wild hitchhiking trip across Italy, from Naples through Verona and Rome and ending up in Sicily. Twenty-five years later, this talented Austrian cartoonist has looked back at that tumultuous summer and delivered a long, dense, sensitive, and minutely observed autobiographical masterpiece.

Miraculously combining a perfect memory for both emotional and physical detail with the sometimes painful lucidity two and half decades’ distance have brought to her understanding of the events, Lust meticulously shows the who, where, when, and how (specifically, how an often penniless young girl can survive for months on the road) of a sometimes dangerous and sometimes exhilarating journey. Particularly haunting is her portrait of her fellow traveler, the gangly, promiscuous devil-may-care Edi who veers from being her spunky, funny best friend in the world to an out-of-control lunatic with no consideration for anything but her own whims and desires.

Universally considered one of the very finest examples of the new breed of graphic novels coming from Europe, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life won the 2011 Angoulême “Revelation” prize, and Fantagraphics is proud to bring it to English speaking readers.

The-Hollows

The Hollows by Chris Ryall and Sam Keith

The Hollows
Written by Chris Ryall
Illustrated by Sam Keith
Published by IDW Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 16+
104 pages
$21.99

Sam Kieth and Chris Ryall transport you to a near-future Japan, where burned-out husks – the Hollows – wantonly devour souls throughout the city. Far above, a segment of society lives safely in giant tree-cities, but the problems below have a way of growing out of control…

To combat the catastrophic death of a decaying Japan, survivors create genetically engineered supertrees – wooden leviathans capable of supporting entire cities suspended above the radioactive wastes below. Traveling via jetpacks to stay above the toxic air below, the survivors must also band together against the Hollows, irradiated husks whose humanity has been supplanted by an unquenchable desire to consume human energy!

The Hollows is the premiere of a wildly original new world realized in the vivid, expressive tones that can only emanate from Sam Kieth’s hands.

The-End

The End by Anders Nilsen

The End
Written and illustrated by Anders Nilsen
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Genre: Autobiography
Ages: 16+
80 pages
$19.99

Assembled from work done in Anders Nilsen’s sketchbooks over the course of the year following the death of his fiancée in 2005, The End is a collection of short strips about loss, paralysis, waiting, and transformation.

It is a concept album in different styles, a meditation on paying attention, an abstracted autobiography and a travelogue, reflecting the progress of his struggle to reconcile the great upheaval of a death, and finding a new life on the other side.

The book blends Nilsen’s disparate styles, from the iconic simplicity and collaged drawings of his Monologues for the Coming Plague to the finely rendered Dogs and Water and Big Questions.

Originally released in magazine form in 2007 (which received an Ignatz Award nomination for Outstanding Story), The End has been updated and expanded to more than twice its original length, including 16 pages of full color.

Review: World War 3 Illustrated #44: The Other Issue

The esteemed author/editor Paul Buhle generously provides an insightful review on comics that recently arrived in his mailbox unbidden.

WW3Illustrated-44a

World War 3 Illustrated #44, “The Other Issue”

World War 3 Illustrated #44, “The Other Issue.” Editors, Hilary Allison and Ethan Heitner. New York: WW3, 2013. 112pp, $7.

It goes almost without saying, for radical-minded comic readers, that any issue of the venerable World War 3 Illustrated is a political flash, but no less an artistic flash, something genuinely new and interesting to look at. No left wing clichés here, no overly familiar “power to the people” art promising swift justice for the evil oppressors. That the corporate-military is malign, planet-destroying, operates as a principle, not only for the US but on a global scale, and not only the US global-military. But the artistic responses are the work of distinctly individual artists, working out their own themes, and true to the purposes of World War 3 (now publishing on a nearly annual basis since 1979), seem fresh to the reader because the work of young folks and global artists is obviously recruited.

The familiar here draws my eye. An excerpt from Sabrina Jones’ recent work on incarceration, in microcosm here the story of Kemba Smith, a young black woman caught up a scene and offered, she thought, a deal of a few months in prison—that became almost a decade. Or “A Real Hero” by fellow WW3er longtimer Tom Keough, in this case a story from his own adolescence, how neighborhood bullies dominate, racialize, brutalize and how one brave kid can stop them. A good story. Or the heavily expressionist “One City, One People, One Planet!” by master artist-agitator Seth Tobocman, wonderfully illustrating what so many of us felt, when the moment of Sandy came, how ordinary people could act with such decency and collectivity, their moment in time suggested how a whole society could operate on a different, more cooperative basis. He demands, rightly and crucially, that we keep that story in mind.

WW3Illustrated-SandyJimenez

“Single Lens Reflex” by Sandy Jimenez

I’m overwhelmed by Sandy Jimenez, sometime. Bronx schoolteacher, who places himself, his emerging teen self, right in front of us and spiritually naked, how his own college teacher tried to teach him photography, how he realized that he had become a photographic art object, Slum Kids, for those on the way up to exhibiting their works. It’s a novelette in thirteen pages. Likewise by other work here but especially reading right-to-left saga by a Lebanese artist Barrack Rima, a dreamy recollection of a youthful encounter with Europe that becomes an encounter with his “other” self. It is neither comics nor non-comics. It is serious art.

Bravo, World War 3 folks. Keep up the hard, serious, wonderful work.

Cover art by ICY and SOT; back cover by Barrack Rima
Contributors: Ganzeer, Sandy Jimenez, Sabrina Jones, Joel Schechter, Hilary Allison, Jesse Staniforth, Dan Buller, Clément de Gaulejac, Leila Abdul Razzaq, Tom Keough, Carlo Quispe, Peter Kuper, Pat Perry, Seth Tobocman, Crystal Clarity, Barrack Rima; translations by Eman Morsi and Gretchen Virkler

Paul Buhle, formerly Senior Lecturer at Brown University, has written and edited many books, including Marxism in America: A History of the American Left and the graphic novel The Beats: A Graphic History, and is the coeditor, most recently, of It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest. With Mari Jo Buhle, he is the coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Madison.

New Comics for New Readers – May 29, 2013

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. Sometimes we list more on really good weeks. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology, ComicList.com and PREVIEWSworld.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

OddDuck

Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon

Odd Duck
Written by Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by Sara Varon
Published by First Second Books
Genre: Fiction
Ages: 6+ / Grade: 1+
96 pages
$15.99

Theodora is a perfectly normal duck. She may swim with a teacup balanced on her head and stay north when the rest of the ducks fly south for the winter, but there’s nothing so odd about that.

Chad, on the other hand, is one strange bird. Theodora quite likes him, but she can’t overlook his odd habits. It’s a good thing Chad has a normal friend like Theodora to set a good example for him.

But who exactly is the odd duck here? Theodora may not like the answer.

Sara Varon (Robot Dreams) teams up with Cecil Castellucci (Grandma’s Gloves) for a gorgeous, funny, and heartwarming examination of the perils and pleasures of friendship.

GoodDog

Good Dog by Graham Chaffee

Good Dog
Written and illustrated by Graham Chaffee
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Genre: Fiction
Ages: 8+
96 pages
$16.99

Ivan, who is plagued by terrible nightmares about chickens and rabbits, is a good dog — if only someone would notice. Readers accompany the stray as he navigates dog society, weathers pack politics, and surveys canine-human interactions.

Good Dog‘s story and pen-and-ink art are deceptively simple, but Chaffee uses the approachability of the subject matter as a device to explore topics such as independence, security, assimilation, loyalty, and violence. Preteen-and-up dog fanciers, especially, will warm to the well-meaning Ivan and his exploits with a motley assortment of Scotties, Bulldogs, and mutts. Chaffee combines illustrative gravitas with cartooning verve and creates a richly textured, dog’s-eye view of the world. The story is a rousing Jack London-esque adventure as well as a moral parable.

Good Dog marks the welcome return of alternative cartoonist Graham Chaffee, who, after his successful 1995 collection of short stories, The Most Important Thing and Other Stories, and his acclaimed1997 graphic novel The Big Wheels, took a detour to devote himself to the art of tattooing, before charging back with his new, beautifully conceived graphic novel.

Journalism

Journalism by Joe Sacco

Journalism
Written and illustrated by Joe Sacco
Published by Metropolitan Books
Genre: Non-Fiction
Ages: 13+
208 pages
$22.00

“The images Sacco draws are so powerful that they burn deep into your retina and reconfigure how you see the world… Journalism displays Sacco at the top of his game.”—National Post (Toronto)

Over the past decade, Joe Sacco has increasingly turned to short-form comics journalism to report from conflict zones around the world. Collected here for the first time, Sacco’s darkly funny, revealing reportage confirms his standing as one of the foremost war correspondents working today. Journalism takes readers from the smuggling tunnels of Gaza to war crimes trials in The Hague, from the lives of India’s “untouchables” to the ordeal of Saharan refugees washed up on the shores of Malta. And in pieces never published before in the United States, Sacco confronts the misery and absurdity of the war in Iraq, including the darkest chapter in recent American history—the torture of detainees.

Vividly depicting Sacco’s own interactions with the people he meets, the stories in this remarkable collection argue for the essential truth in comics reportage, an inevitably subjective journalistic endeavor. Among Sacco’s most mature and accomplished work, Journalism demonstrates the power of our premier cartoonist to chronicle lived experience with a force that often eludes other media.

Dig Comics: Feature-Length Challenges

Columnist Miguel Cima, director/host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics, looks at what makes comics so great, and what’s holding them back.

digcomicsAs we prepare for the next stage of Dig Comics, we’ve been asked to describe how we will overcome the challenges of filming the feature. I had a tough time answering that because all filming presents the same challenges. Nothing seemed special in my first few responses. But then I realized, this isn’t about filming at all. It’s about the mission. It always has been. Surely, this is no get-rich-quick scenario. My whole premise is that comics has far too low of an audience. As you can imagine, that’s left a gaping hole in my pitches. After all, who wants to finance a project with a dwindling core audience? So it occurred to me that the real issue isn’t about film at all. It’s really about comics, my life-long commitment to them, and my unstoppable desire to give something back to this wonderful, under-appreciated art form. And here’s what I came up with:

DigComics-shoot

Miguel Cima on-camera

For the last seven years, our crew has been working passionately to bring DIG COMICS to a wider audience, most of us working regular office day jobs outside of the entertainment industry, spending our evenings, weekends and holidays laboring to make our goal a reality. We’ve had to juggle everything from film permits, to logistics, to scheduling, and of course – the unexpected. It’s always a matter of preparing as best you can, combined with quick thinking, holding a seasoned crew close at hand to draw from their own hard-earned lessons. So far, we’ve only filmed in Los Angeles and San Diego, pretty much our back yard. The future holds the same sort of challenges with a new twist: extensive travel to places none of us have worked in before.

There will be cultural differences, language barriers, the hazards of working in highly urbanized areas, different expectations and the knowledge that there will be no chance for reshoots down the road. Unlike Los Angeles, we can’t simply come back and film another day. Our budget is skin tight, affording none of us the luxury of quitting the day job.

So there will be no second chances – it all has to work on the first go-around. That’s where a little magic has to come in, magic supported by wide open senses and a deep faith in the core truth of what we are chasing down. Some of our best moments have already come on our most disastrous days, at times from elements added at the last moment, or by a whim of fate.

DigComicscrew

The Dig Comics film crew (left to right): Chris Brandt, Stanley Gonzales, and Justin Talley

Our love of comics and our determination to fulfill our mission attracts great happenstance. This is said with all sincerity – the love for what we do produces opportunities. Our willingness to accept an unforeseen change of plan will leave room for providence to materialize. We have learned to be organized and confident enough to let it all go at a moment’s notice and flow with the stream. So far this approach has taken us very far, but we now realize to continue this journey, we need YOU to come along with us.

We look forward to our most difficult days with great anticipation, as they will produce our very best work. DIG COMICS has a life of its own: we are not its creators, but its partners. We work in that spirit, combining our discipline and diligence with reverence for the powers beyond our sight which accompany us in everything we do.

Argentinean-born New Yorker and NYU film school graduate Miguel Cima is a veteran of film, television and music. He has worked for such companies as Warner Bros., Dreamworks and MTV. An avid comic book collector since he could read, Miguel began writing stories in 4th grade and has not slowed down since. He is a world traveler, accomplished writer, filmmaker, and comics creator. He is the writer, director and host of the award-winning documentary Dig Comics. Follow Dig Comics on Facebook. Read more of Miguel’s comic book recommendations.

New Comics for New Readers – May 22, 2013

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Photo by Christopher Butcher

Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?

Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. Sometimes we list more on really good weeks. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.

For a full list of this week’s new releases, see comiXology, ComicList.com and PREVIEWSworld.

(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)

Sunny

Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto

Sunny Volume 1
Written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto
Published by VIZ Media
Genre: Fiction
Ages: 13+
224 pages
$22.99 / $9.99 (digital)

What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams.

Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists.

Translated by Tekkonkinkreet film director and visual effects artist Michael Arias!

Taiyo Matsumoto has won extensive international critical acclaim for his rough and often-unflinching depictions of disaffected youth drawn in an unconventional and surrealist art style. His Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White won the 2008 Eisner Comic Industry Award for the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan, and was also adapted into an anime feature film. Another of Matsumoto’s manga works, Ping Pong, was made into an award-winning live action film.

TheProperty

The Property by Rutu Modan

The Property
Written and illustrated by Rutu Modan
Published by Drawn and Quarterly
Genre: Fiction
Ages: 16+
232 pages
$24.95

The award-winning author returns with a story about families, secrets, and the complex bonds of love.

After the death of her son, Regina Segal takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during the Second World War. As they get to know modern Warsaw, Regina is forced to recall difficult things about her past, and Mica begins to wonder if maybe their reasons for coming aren’t a little different than her grandmother led her to believe.

Rutu Modan offers up a world populated by prickly seniors, smart-alecky public servants, and stubborn women – a world whose realism is expressed alternately in the absurdity of people’s behavior, and in the complex consequences of their sacrifices. Modan’s ever-present wit is articulated perfectly in her clear-line style, while a subtle, almost muted color palette complements the true-to-life nuances of her characterization.

The Property is a work that will inspire, fascinate, and delight readers and critics alike. Savvy and insightful, elegant and subtle, Modan’s second full-length graphic novel is a triumph of storytelling and fine lines that will cement Modan’s status as one of the foremost cartoonists working today.

MyDirtyDumbEyes

My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt

My Dirty Dumb Eyes
Written and illustrated by Lisa Hanawalt
Published by Drawn and Quarterly
Genre: Humor
Ages: 16+
120 pages
$22.95

Sharply observant, laugh-out-loud funny comics

My Dirty Dumb Eyes is the highly anticipated debut collection from award-winning cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. In a few short years, Hanawalt has made a name for herself: her intricately detailed, absurdly funny comics have appeared in venues as wide and varied as The Hairpin, VanityFair.com, Lucky Peach, Saveur, The New York Times, and The Believer.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes introduces Lisa Hanawalt as a first-rank cartoonist/humorist/stalker for an audience that likes its humor idiosyncratic, at times anthropomorphic or scatological, often uncomfortable, and always sharp witted. Her world vision is intricately rendered in a full spectrum of color, unapologetically gorgeous and intensely bizarre.  With movie reviews, tips for her readers, laugh-out-loud lists and short pieces such as “Rumors I’ve Heard About Anna Wintour,” and “The Secret Lives of Chefs,”  Hanawalt’s comedy shines, making the quotidian silly and surreal, flatulent and facetious.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes intermingles drawings, paintings, single-panel gag jokes, funny lists, and anthropomorphized animals, all in the service of satirical, startlingly observant commentary on pop culture, contemporary society, and human idiosyncrasies. Her wild sense of humor contrasts strikingly with the carefully rendered lines and flawless draftsmanship that are Hanawalt trademarks. Whether she’s revealing the secret lives of celebrity chefs or explaining that what dogs really want is a tennis-ball bride, My Dirty Dumb Eyes will have readers rolling in the aisles, as Hanawalt’s insights into human (and animal) behavior startle and delight time and again.

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