Blog Archives

Comic-Con Guide for Beginners (and How Comic-Con Can Improve)

As mentioned on Monday, The Comics Observer‘s Corey Blake has been commenting on Comic-Con International: San Diego this week.

At Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6, where he’ll now be blogging weekly, he challenged the notion of who should be going to Comic-Con and why they can’t, and offers some solutions and alternatives.

He also gave Four Tips for Beginners in the following Navigate the Arts interview, which you can watch right here:

More interview segments were recorded, so keep checking back for more installments.

Let us know your thoughts and questions about Comic-Con in the comments below. Did you go this year?

LA Times Book Prize Finalist: Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama

The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are a set of awards for excellence in literature held annually since 1980. They are given to books published in the United States within the previous calendar year by a living author(s). Winners receive a citation and $500 for each category. The finalists for each category were announced recently, and the Graphic Novel category, the newest to be added to the prestigious prizes, has an impressive line-up. The Comics Observer looks at each Graphic Novel finalist in the build-up to tonight’s award ceremony.

Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama

Garden by Yuichi Yokoyama, as described by publisher PictureBox: “A group of friends is attempting to enter a garden just beyond a wall. When they succeed, the garden they finally enter is no Eden, but rather a massive landscape of machines, geometric forms and all manner of nonorganic objects. To his signature vivid visual style, Yokoyama has added more dialogue than in past works, fleshing out the characters and allowing them equal billing with his spectacular architectural creations.” Garden is the only manga on the list of Graphic Novel Finalists for this year (no manga last year). The story is essentially an excuse for Yuichi Yokoyama to draw whatever crazy thing he wants, as the reader is taken on a tour of a hyper-kinetic landscape with man-made objects intruding on nature.

For better insight on what makes Garden so special, check out Sean T. Collins’ interview with Yuichi Yokayama about the book and some of his past work, along with previewing six pages of Garden. There’s also a solid review by Douglas Wolk on TIME’s Techland blog which explains Yokoyama’s unconventional approach to storytelling, adamantly refusing to provide answers to his mysteries or much, if any, character development.

Three years in and the LA Times Book Prize has yet to award the Graphic Novel category to manga. As mentioned, there was no manga Finalists last year. In 2009, the first year for the Graphic Novel category, Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster, published by VIZ Media, was named as a Finalist. Also a Finalist in 2009 was Bryan Lee O’Malley’s heavily manga-influenced Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (published by Oni Press). Neither won that year. Tonight we’ll find out if Garden will be the first manga to win the Graphic Novel LA Times Book Prize.

WonderCon comes to LA (OK, Anaheim but close enough)

March 16-18

Next weekend, the 25th WonderCon, a comic book convention traditionally held in the San Francisco area since 1987, will be hosted in Anaheim, a city in Orange County just south of Los Angeles. For those that have always wanted to go to San Diego Comic-Con, North America’s largest comic book convention, this is your chance to get to a more accessible and manageable version of that show. No 3-hour drive, no instantly sold-out tickets, and just a generally easier vibe. Both shows are owned and run by the same company, so format-wise, you’re basically getting the next best thing with less stress. Registration is still available, and unlike with Comic-Con, onsite registration will be possible, meaning you can decide to go that day and drive on down.

Unfortunately, WonderCon’s move to the Anaheim Convention Center is probably only temporary. They lost their usual home at the Moscone Center due to planned renovations at the time.

So what can we expect to see at WonderCon? The programming schedule for Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been posted, and there is plenty to do whether you’re new to comics or a longtime fan. Or explore the floor.

Here are some recommended highlights from the program:

Friday

2:00-3:00 Quick Draw! — It’s another battle to the death with Sharpies at twenty paces! Three of the fastest cartoonists alive draw and duel in what is always a standing-room-only event at Comic-Con in San Diego. This time, we have Scott Shaw! (The Simpsons), Disney legend Floyd Norman, and a player to be named later, all sketching like mad on the command of Mark Evanier. If you’ve never seen one of these, you need to experience it! Room 204

3:30-4:30 comiXology Open Discussion: Everything Digital! — Digital comics are the hottest topic and fastest-growing segment of the comic industry — with comic fans, retailers, and publishers embracing this new distribution and retail model. From self-publishing to same-day-as-print sales, digital retailer storefronts, and more, comiXology is the undisputed leader in this, the digital charge. Join CEO and co-founder of comiXology David Steinberger along with guest panelists for an open discussion on everything digital. All topics are game! Room 203

5:30-6:30 CBLDF: History of Comic Censorship — Learn the shocking history of comics censorship and how even today comics and the people who make, sell, and read them are still threatened. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund executive director Charles Brownstein tells the sordid tale, from the public book burnings and Senate hearings that led to the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s through the attacks on retailers in the 1980s, artists in the 1990s, and readers today that the CBLDF is working to combat! Room 211

Saturday

11:00-12:00 Womanthology Get the story behind the hottest Kickstarter project of the year, a graphic novel produced entirely by the top women in the industry! Over 200 creators combined to create Womanthology,  and all profits go to the charities of GlobalGiving.org! Project mastermind Renae De Liz and a host of surprise creators offer sneak peeks, inside tips on how to break into comics, and more! Room 213

12:30-2:00 CBLDF Live Art Jam — Witness amazing live art created before your eyes by the industry’s greatest superstars! WonderCon special guests Jim Lee, Rebekah Isaacs, and Eric Powell plus special surprise guests will make original art on the big screen, giving you a one-of-a-kind glimpse of their creative process, and then a chance to bid to take their work home. The proceeds of this auction benefit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who protect the industry’s First Amendment rights. Stop by the CBLDF booth (417) for your bidder number, then come watch great art happen before your eyes at the CBLDF Live Art Jam! Room 203

3:00-4:00 Kids Can Draw Cartoons with Kristian Sather — Hey kids! Kristian Sather (Bonkers, Jetsons, kristiansather.blogspot.com) will demonstrate the techniques used in drawing funny cartoon characters. You will learn how to draw your own funny cartoon characters using basic geometric shapes. Join Kristian for this fun & informative session! Room 210

8:30-11:00 WonderCon Masquerade It’s Saturday night’s big event! Join the crowd and be enthralled with the parade of costumes and characters across the big WonderCon main stage. Ballroom, Third Level

Sunday

11:30-1:00 Secret Origin of Good Readers — Talking comic books, why we need them in our classrooms and libraries, and how to use them with Bill Morrison (The Simpsons, Bongo Comics), Steve Rotterdam (Bonfire Agency), Nancy Silberkleit (anti-bullying and literacy advocate), David Rojas (education consultant), and Mimi Cruz (Night Flight Comics). An overview of the comic book medium will include helping educators and librarians navigate the wonderful world of comic books, highlighting specific ways comic books and graphic novels can be used to engage a variety of learners while promoting reading and literacy. Educator comic book packages will be provided for attendees on a limited basis (or until supplies last) at the conclusion of this presentation. Free online 70-page The Secret Origin of Good Readers companion resource book [PDF] and other exciting materials at www.night-flight.com/secretorigin courtesy of XMission.com. Room 203

2:00-3:00 Stump Mark Waid — Superstar comics writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Irredeemable, Kingdom Come, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and more) is joined by Jonah Weiland of ComicBookResources.com in a contest of wits! Drawing on questions submitted by CBR readers, and throwing in some of his own, Weiland will desperately try to “Stump Mark Waid” on a variety of comics trivia. Will the comics Internet prevail or will Mark Waid stand triumphant? Show up and find out! Room 203

3:00-4:00 Comics for Kids — Despite the fact that most of us fell in love with the comics medium when we were children, good comics for kids seem few and far between…or are they? Join moderator and APE Entertainment editor Aaron Sparrow, artist James Silvani (Darkwing Duck, Richie Rich), artist Amy Mebberson (The Muppet Show, Strawberry Shortcake, Toy Story), Shane Houghton (Reed Gunther, Casper Scare School), Archaia editor Paul Morrissey, Beanworld creator Larry Marder and more for a lively discussion on kids comics, their place in the industry, and how to break into the business! As a bonus, children attending the panel will be eligible to win comic books and sketches the artists will draw during the panel! Room 203

The Ten Best Comics

Pogo by Walt Kelly

#8: Pogo by Walt Kelly

Over 200 international comic book creators, retailers, journalists, educators, and pundits (including me!) submitted their lists answering the question “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” back in May, and now the results are getting posted at The Hooded Utilitarian.

So far, the classics Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, Locas stories by Jaime Hernandez, Pogo by Walt Kelly, MAD by Harvey Kurtzman and company, and Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby take up spots six through ten respectively. Four and five went up this morning and the top three spots will go up tomorrow and Friday.

Then starting on Monday, they’ll start to post the top 115, as well as each contributor’s list. Once mine goes up, I’ll link to it here as well as expand on why I chose what I chose.

So far none of my choices have made the Top 10, but that doesn’t completely surprise me. The why behind my choices probably didn’t match with the majority of the other participants. But I can’t argue with what’s up there. Each entry so far is legendary for a reason. The Little Nemo write-up by Shaenon K. Garrity in particular really resonated with me, effectively capturing why Winsor McCay and his comic strip are so special.

Only occasionally has a publication or institution attempted to define a canon for sequential art (comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, manga, web comics, etc.). Literature, film and other art forms have often selected what is generally considered by most critics and fans as the height of quality and/or influence, whether it be the American Film Institute or the Great Books of the Western World.

Here are some previous entries into establishing a comic book canon:

Part of the fun of these kinds of lists is to make shopping lists and, probably more, to debate. So I’ll be taking a look at this list and how it compares with the others, looking at what I think was missed, what they got right, and the growing consensus of these lists.

Last week’s ComiCenter episode with me punditing

Last week, I was a panelist/pundit on ComiCenter, a live discussion show about the comic book industry. The weekly hour-long show is hosted by Atom! Freeman, co-owner of Brave New World Comics, and Bryan Daggett, assistant editor of Comic Book Resources, and is streamed on Geek Week. Also on the panel was retailer Edward Greenberg, owner of Collector’s Paradise, and podcasters Daniel Campisi of Reality Check Fail and Angela Paman of Invisible Jetcast and 2 People Talking. (Extra Awesome Points for clicking on every single link in this paragraph.)

We talked about the big publishing initiative that DC Comics will be starting at the end of August and into September, where their entire superhero publishing line will be relaunching with 52 new comics starting at issue #1. Perhaps even bigger than that is the news that DC will be releasing their comics simultaneously in print and digital. Lots of opinions. Let me know what you think. Are you interested in buying one of the new 52? Will you be buying DC’s digital comics?

Comics College reveals Essential Reading of Comic Book Masters

One of my favorite regular columns is the monthly Comics College by Chris Mautner at Robot 6, hosted by Comic Book Resources. Each entry is a great introductory overview of what’s best to read from the great comic book masters and why they are so good, making this a fantastic source for newcomers or people who’ve always wanted to expand their reading. It also covers their lesser known work and stuff that maybe should be avoided.

The great part of the column is that it is looking at masters from all over the art form of comics. It’s not just superhero creators, or just alternative comics creators. It’s both those, as well as manga, newspaper strips, underground comics, euro-comics, comics journalism and more.

This month’s subject is the Norwegian cartoonist simply known as Jason. This prolific creator tells funny genre mash-ups with a deadpan economy of dialogue and understated emotion with characters struggling over love and guilt. Next month, George Herriman will be featured. His classic comic strip Krazy Kat is among the most highly regarded in the history of comics.

The Comics College column debuted in August 2009 and has covered the following comics masters past and present (click on the link to be taken to the column):

  1. Los Bros. Hernandez (Love and Rockets)
  2. Jack Kirby (The Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World)
  3. Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Phoenix)
  4. R. Crumb (Zap Comix, Book of Genesis)
  5. Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Mr. Punch)
  6. Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Acme Novelty Library)
  7. Lewis Trondheim (Dungeon, Little Nothings)
  8. Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine, Frontline Combat)
  9. art spiegelman (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers)
  10. Eddie Campbell (Alec: The Years Have Pants, The Fate of the Artist)
  11. Harvey Pekar (American Splendor, Our Cancer Year)
  12. Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Shadowland)
  13. Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Curses)
  14. Hergé (Tintin)
  15. Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts)
  16. John Stanley (Little Lulu, Melvin Monster)
  17. Seth (George Sprott: 1894-1975, Wimbledon Green, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken)
  18. Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City)
  19. Joe Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine)
  20. Jason (I Killed Adolf Hitler, Hey Wait…)
  21. George Herriman (Krazy Kat)
  22. Jack Cole (Plastic Man, Betsy and Me)
  23. Adrian Tomine (Summer Blonde, Scenes from an Impending Marriage)
  24. Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, We3)
  25. Jessica Abel (La Perdida, Artbabe)
  26. Gabrielle Bell (Cecil and Jordan in New York, Lucky)
  27. Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Zot!)
  28. Charles Burns (Black Hole, Big Baby, X’ed Out)
  29. Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches, West Coast Blues)
  30. Phoebe Gloeckner (A Child’s Life, The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
  31. Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, Chicken with Plums)
  32. David B (Epileptic, Babel)

UPDATE: I’ll keep updating the list as new entries get posted.

The Ugly Truth About Comics: They’re Not Books

Batman reads a book, not expecting it to be a comic (art by Gene Ha, click for his website)

Kelly Thompson of the Comic Book Resources blog Comics Should Be Good is doing a study. She has reached out to 32 women to learn “specifically why women do and don’t read comics and what they do and don’t respond to as readers when they do read”.

You see, comics kind of have this reputation for not being all that welcoming to female readers. Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself. For a significant segment of the industry and its history, there’s good reason for that reputation. Superhero comics, often considered the mainstream of comics, are predominantly made by and for males. But for several decades there have been a growing number of comics designed to reach beyond the standard superhero demographic. And these days, the art form has never had a greater level of diversity, both in stories that could appeal to virtually anyone, and the people that make them.

Last year, Kelly did this experiment for the first time with 19 women trying out comic books: part 1, part 2, part 3. This time, she’s having 32 women try graphic novels: part 1, part 2. (Part 3 and 4 will post on the next 2 Mondays.) She gets feedback from each reader to see why they picked their comic book or graphic novel, what they thought of it, and also gets background info on their age, occupation and past experiences with comics. They’re long reads, but they’re worth it. Maybe you’ll relate to some of their responses.

It’s not a perfectly scientific study. Most of the women are progressive young women in their 20s or 30s. And they all come from Kelly’s network of friends, colleagues, and family. But I think it’s still very representative of people’s responses to comics, and some people’s resistance to comics, often regardless of gender.

One comment that came up several times was that some said they prefer to imagine visuals in prose novels than have an artist provide the visuals. I’ve heard this comment plenty of times to know that it’s not unusual. I think part of this comes from unfamiliarity with comics and the belief that reading a comic book or graphic novel should feel like reading a book, and that one should walk away from both with the same kind of feeling. But they are not the same art form or medium. This is not a 1:1 ratio.

Reading comics is not the same experience as reading novels. Even though it visually looks like you’re doing the same thing (holding a book in your hand or staring at a screen), your brain has to do different things for each medium. (And it’s important to note that “different” doesn’t mean one is better than the other.)

Despite the old myth that comics are for dummies, there’s actually a great deal of processing going on. Each panel on a page is presenting the reader with what first seems like two channels of information: words and pictures. But the two channels are permanently linked and are actually sending additional information based on how they interact with each other. The pictures aren’t simply just giving visual form to the words. The image is an artist’s vision of that chosen moment in time and each panel is rich with what I would compare with non-verbal cues when you’re talking with someone one-on-one. A character’s posture, facial expression, and clothes all provide information to the reader on a level that may never be explicitly stated. In addition, the environment that surrounds the character, the colors or lack of colors, the line weight and art style the artist is using, these all give information about the character and their world. Objects in the background or foreground that may not be essential to the story (and might not merit getting mentioned in prose) adds context to the character and his world. With prose, all of this information could be given in words, but being told about something by a writer’s carefully chosen words and seeing it through the filter of an artist’s carefully illustrated artwork are two different things. And the timing and duration of that absorption works differently. In prose, it can only be absorbed by the reader as they are reading it. In comics, all of this information can be presented simultaneously and consistently throughout an entire scene, as each panel reinforces an aesthetic or silent cue.

Another channel of information comes from the true magic of comics – sequential storytelling. Each panel creates a new dynamic between the one before and the one after it. While processing the information within each panel described above, your brain is also creating action, movement and/or the passage of time in the spaces between each panel. The brain is solving the problem of how the characters’ world changes so that everything matches up from panel to panel, moment to moment.

So all of that (and more!) is going on while you read what appears to be a simple comic book. That’s a lot of information to absorb on each panel, but fortunately the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. So it’s up to the task, but it might take some adjustment. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable with the language of comics before you write them off as “not books”.

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