The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books has announced the program schedule for the event’s weekend of April 21 and 22. Most of the panels and presentations related to comics and graphic novels are front-loaded on Saturday, with some competing against each other in the early afternoon. While the scheduling congestion is unfortunate, it’s indicative of the growing star power of comics at the Festival to get such premium placement.
Highlights include a moderated conversation with Robert Kirkman, writer and co-creator of The Walking Dead comic book series, and an appearance by Jeff Kinney of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame on the Children’s Stage. DC Entertainment will also hold a panel with co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee to talk up their controversial prequel comics to the acclaimed Watchmen graphic novel, followed by a screening of the movie adaptation. Almost simultaneously there is a discussion panel called Drawing Outside the Lines, featuring acclaimed graphic novel writers and artists Joseph Lambert (I Will Bite You!), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and Jim Woodring (Weathercraft), a trio of unique creators who write and draw their own work on their own terms. That panel is moderated by the LA Times’ Deborah Vankin who also wrote the graphic novel Poseurs. The last event for Saturday is a panel on Mythic Stories that features writers Ed Brubaker (Criminal), Adam Mansbach (Go the F**k to Sleep, Nature of the Beast) and Douglas McGowan (Nature of the Beast), with moderator Leslie S. Klinger (The Annotated Sandman). A fourth writer is TBD. The weekend ends with two screenings of the feature-length documentary, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story.
While admission to the Festival is free, the limited seating of indoor panels requires the necessity of tickets, which go on sale April 15 at 9:00 am. A limited number of tickets will also be for sale during the Festival at booth #463. Panel passes, which reserve 8 tickets per pass, can be purchased now for $30. Tickets for the 32nd Annual LA Times Book Prizes Ceremony, happening the Friday night before the Festival, are also now on sale for $10.
10:30 am – Robert Kirkman in Conversation with Geoff Boucher (Panel 1121)
Ronald Tutor Campus Center
12:55 pm – Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Target Children’s Stage
1:00 pm – DC Entertainment Presents: Watchmen — It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning.
A Conversation with Jim Lee and Dan Didio, moderated by Geoff Boucher
2:00 pm – Watchmen Screening
School for Cinematic Arts
1:30 pm – Graphic Novel: Drawing outside the Lines (Panel 1113)
Carla Speed McNeil
Moderator: Deborah Vankin
Taper Hall (THH 101)
3:30 pm – Graphic Novel: Mythic Stories (Panel 1044)
Moderator: Leslie S. Klinger
Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL 101)
11:00 am & 3:00 pm – “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” screening, presented by EPIX
Located in the Ray Stark Theater
School for Cinematic Arts
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.
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:
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
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
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
Why read comics?
There’s the Internet, there are video games, apps, TV shows, movies, music, books, theater, radio plays, museums, art galleries… There are bills to pay, jobs to get to and/or find, homework and chores to do, people to be with (or avoid)…
Finding a reason to do something else is real easy.
But once you stumble upon that first comic book or graphic novel or manga or web-comic that connects with you in a way like nothing else, it’s even easier to realize that comics can’t be ignored. They can be an exceptionally engrossing form of entertainment and a transcendent form of artistic expression.
The short version is – THEY’RE AWESOME!
Sure, it’s a great way to spend some spare time. It’s a fun way to be entertained. Some light escapism is great. And if you’re looking for more, there’s plenty of that too. They have unbridled freedom for creativity and expression. They can be crazy, bizarre, unpredictable, adventurous, sublime, hilarious, romantic, informative, brazen, crass, gentle, healing, and so much more.
The longer version gets a little deep, so hold on.
We may think of comics as old newspaper strips, superheroes and funny animals, but the art form and language have pervaded our entire culture.
Some in literary circles see the graphic novel as the young upstart to the established prose novel. But comics actually predate print and the written word. Pre-historic cave drawings used symbols, imagery and sequential storytelling like a primitive comic strip mural. The written language could even be said to be the evolution of these kind of devices. Just as our brains have been trained to understand that a big, lazy orange cat that eats lasagna and hates Mondays is Garfield, so too do we understand that a circle with the right side missing is the letter ‘C’ and that it makes certain sounds in our language. Taken further, we also understand that a red octagon means we should STOP. We understand that words over someone’s head means they are speaking those words. All of this representative symbology could be said to be related to the development of comics. They are a deeply engrained aspect of our basic visual communication.
Because of these fundamental building blocks, comics are arguably the most powerful, pervasive and instant form of communication. And whether you agree or not (it’s not really a contest, after all), comics have proved themselves to be just as capable forms of entertainment worthy of some time as any other. I hope you’ll give them a chance.
Keep checking back here at The Comics Observers for more Intro to Comics articles, where we’ll explore basic aspects of the big world of comics so it doesn’t seem so daunting and overwhelming to check something out. (And me we might touch more on theory from time to time.) If you’d like to see if you can find something you might like, check out What to Read. If you have a question or want to see something explained, post a comment below, or write through Facebook, Twitter or email.
And here we are!
If you got here from my comics coverage at CoreyBlake.com or from DigComics.com, thank you for your continued interest. You’ll find that all of my comics-related articles from CoreyBlake.com have magically teleported over here, along with some even older articles from here and there.
If this is your first time, thank you for taking the time to stop by! You’ll see some new articles from the last month and tons more to come!
So what can you expect? The world doesn’t need yet another comics news site, so while I will be providing my own commentary and unique coverage of current events in comics, the site will look to provide a gateway to people just getting into this massive form of entertainment and also give occasional recommended reads. As visitors get more comfortable, they can dig deeper by looking at spotlights on unique experiments in comics and fun facts of the past. And as a special bonus for local readers here in Los Angeles, I’ll feature events like signings and conventions in and around the LA comics scene. To learn more, see the About page.
It’s very likely you’re here for only a few of these things and that’s OK! Just use the handy navigation menu at the top to see the articles you’re interested in.
We’ll have guest-bloggers, like this Friday’s coverage of an LA play that merges theater and graphic novels. We’ll take a look at a publisher’s digital exclusive comic and see if it succeeds as a promotional tool. What else? If there’s anything you’d like to see, let me know. If you have questions about comics you’ve always wanted to ask but were embarrassed, ask away (anonymity provided upon request). Post in the comments below every article, join The Comics Observer Facebook page, follow @ComicsObserver on Twitter, email email@example.com.
To start, the site will update Wednesdays (new comics day!) and Fridays to keep the focus on quality over quantity.
Thanks again for stopping by. We’ll see you on Friday!
The issue of gender in comics has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months. One of the recurring criticisms is the lack of female creators. The grassroots anthology Womanthology proves that there is an abundance of very talented comic book creators ready and willing to work, and that there is a very enthusiastic audience ready and willing to pay for such material. And yet most comics publishers still have a significant minority of female creators. Or in some cases, none whatsoever.
To get a better understanding, I’ve taken a look at nearly 25 comic book publishers and the products they are planning to release this November.
The only publishers that have an even split or majority of female credits are manga publishers Viz Media, Yen Press, Go Manga/Seven Seas, and Digital Manga Publishing. Publishers with a more literary or alternative focus, such as Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, have 1/3 female creators. Of the major comic book publishers, proportionally Dark Horse probably has the best female representation, but still a minority. Despite criticism leveled against DC Comics for the lack of women creators in their New 52 marketing blitz, they are not the worst of the larger publishers. Archie Comics surprisingly has only one female writer.
Jenny Frison appears to be the busiest with 7 credits, mostly for cover art, such as the image here.
What does all of this prove? Manga captured a greater female readership for a reason. It’s a lesson that the rest of comics could stand to learn, just as it was learned by the producers of the sitcom Community. Despite all of the numbers, it’s not a quota. Hitting an exact 50% or more really isn’t the goal or the point. The idea is that if you want to speak to a demographic, you hire that demographic. And it works.
This doesn’t mean that men can’t produce work that appeals to women or that they shouldn’t be hired. There are plenty of examples and reasons why that doesn’t hold water. There are enough comics (and jobs) for everyone, especially if more people are reading comics because of the increased diversity.
And of course the other lesson is that real diversity and experimentation often happens first outside of structured publishers. That’s why there are so many fantastic female creators making web-comics with varying levels of financial success. The establishment will eventually catch up.
Click through if you want all of the nitty-gritty numbers. Corrections welcome. Read the rest of this entry
Comics are all around us and you may not even realize it. Here’s one example.
The light rail Expo Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City (and eventually all the way to Santa Monica) is creeping closer and closer to its official opening (after over a year delay). This week, Los Angeles Metro unveiled the featured artists whose work will be displayed at each station. Metro’s Expo public arts program has dedicated .5% of its construction budget to commissioning the creation of original art. Over 200 artists submitted proposals. Of the nine chosen, three either directly or indirectly reference or draw inspiration from sequential art, showing how even the fine arts are embracing the amazing language and aesthetics of comic books.
José Lozano‘s Lotería is featured at the La Brea Station. While the concept is based on a Mexican card game, the visuals took inspiration from Mexican comic books that Lozano saw in his childhood.
From José’s artist statement:
“LA Metro Lotería depicts scenes, people, objects and situations having to do with the Metro riding experience. The color and style of the cards are reminiscent of Mexican comic books from my youth and the Sunday comics. I want to create something visually interesting and poetic from what seems to be mundane and ordinary.”
While Lozano has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, his first seven years were spent in Juárez, México, with his mother. Mexican comic books, cinema, fotonovelas and other cultural touchstones made a big impact on him and continue to influence his work.
Samuel Rodriguez weaves a visual narrative that includes fragments of building facades, vintage rail cars, realistically rendered human figures, and fictional characters. These illustrations are representative of images that may wander into the mind of the waiting traveler. Each art panel is visually divided by the silhouette of bike frames, resembling the layout of a comic book.
In fact Rodriguez’s graphic design company Shorty Fatz first began in 2002 with xeroxed mini-comics, or “ghetto funny pages”.
Ronald J. Llanos considers himself a visual journalist. He uses a loose sketch style to capture people he observes while people-watching, and then fleshes them out to create a documentation of the urban environment. This art at the Western Station was done by him capturing the people in the vicinity. So if you live in that area, maybe you’ll see yourself.
Ronald Llanos is a collector of images. He sketches while people watching at a café or navigating the city. Often, these character drawings reappear in self-published ‘zines.’ For Western Station, Llanos proposes to develop a visual narrative that spans the two station platforms like the open pages of a book.
That creation of a narrative and his use of self-published zines are very much in the spirit of comic books. In fact, his style reminds me of the fantastic Italian comics illustrator and graphic novelist Gipi. Even the subtitle of the name of his project, “Visual Essay,” could be considered a form or type of graphic novel. And comic book journalism is a growing field, as this excellent interactive comic by Dan Archer explains.
The Expo Line has been in the works since 2006 and most of the artists have been working on these projects for about three years. Nearly all of the Phase 1 stations had the art installed earlier this summer but the real unveiling won’t happen until the Expo Line officially launches later this year or possibly early next year. Metro says the Expo Line is approximately 90% completed and currently undergoing train testing for the next several months.
(via Curbed LA)
You don’t need to be an obsessive collector to enjoy comic books. You don’t need to seal them in plastic bags and put them in specially made cardboard boxes. In fact, please don’t! Comics need casual readers. Comics need a variety of consumption at all levels to return comics to a level of pop culture entertainment. Just like many people buy the occasional movie ticket, DVD, CD or video game, or download them, so too should everyone feel the urge to check out a graphic novel here and there.
But if, after sampling and casually reading, you feel the pull to dive deeper, you’ll find an incredibly engrossing and enriching world. Or worlds, really.
The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon recently went through a harrowing health scare that he almost didn’t survive. In fact, he’s still recovering and will be for the foreseeable future. His reflection on that time, where he thinks back on his life and life in comics, is funny and also incredibly moving. It may be a bit long, but it’s worth it. He talks about working in comics, as well as the industry and community.
I don’t think you need to be neck-deep in comics culture to appreciate what he’s talking about because it’s universal. We all belong or want to belong to a culture or sub-culture that has given us such lasting friendships and memories. Serious health problems have a way of putting things in perspective.
It’s interesting to me that this is Tom’s first real medical experience. I know several lifelong comic readers who first discovered comics as children in a hospital. A hospital bed is a lonely and isolated place, and for them, comics offered an escape and a connection to the outside world in a brand new way. You may read alone, but real human hands drew those pictures and wrote those words. Unfortunately Tom didn’t have any comics, but they were still with him after a lifetime of reading, studying, and critiquing them, and working in the industry, where he’s met and befriended countless creators and industry professionals, those real human hands that created are a part of his life. Those human hands carried Tom through a nearly fatal summer, just as those human hands carried those kids.
That’s the power of comics and the power of art.
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:
- Sixteen Steps Toward a Superhero Canon by Timothy Callahan (October 22, 2008)
- Flying the Standard Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 by Scott O. Brown (November 27-December 4, 2006)
- Top 100 Trade Paperbacks of All Time from Wizard Magazine: Free Comic Book Day (2006)
- Top 100 Comics Works of the 20th Century by Tom Spurgeon (October 24, 2004)
- The Top 100 (English-Language) Comics of the Century from The Comics Journal issue #210 (February 1999)
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.
I know it’s hard to believe with all the big flashy Hollywood things, but Comic-Con actually had stuff about comic books! There were a number of exciting debuts this year. Scroll through and see if something catches your eye. If so, read the blurb I’ve put together from the publisher’s write-ups, and if you’re intrigued, click the links to find out more.
Any Empire by Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) recalls aimless summers of Nancy Drew and G.I. Joe, treehouses and army surplus stores… but when fantasy starts to bleed into reality, whose mission will be accomplished? [Interview]
Big Questions by Anders Nilsen: A haunting postmodern fable, this beautiful and minimalist story is the culmination of ten years and over 600 pages of work that details the metaphysical quandaries of the occupants of an endless plain, existing somewhere between a dream and a Russian steppe.
Daybreak by Brian Ralph is an unconventional zombie story. Drawing inspiration from zombies, horror movies, television, and first-person shooter video games, Daybreak departs from zombie genre in both content and format, achieving a living-dead masterwork of literary proportions. [Interview]
The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes: Classic staples of the superhero genre – origin, costume, ray-gun. sidekick, fight scene – are reconfigured into a story that is anything but morally simplistic. With subtle comedy, deft mastery and an obvious affection for the bold Pop Art exuberance of comic book design, Daniel Clowes delivers a contemporary meditation on the darkness of the human psyche.
Freakshow by writers David Server and Jackson Lanzing, and artist Joe Suitor: When five refugee survivors develop monstrous mutations from a devastating chemical explosion that leaves their city in ruins, they band together to seek revenge against the clandestine government quarantine that has seized control in the aftermath. But are they monsters…or heroes?
WAIT, there’s more! Click through…!