Columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
Inevitable, yeah, but the truth is, I’ve been putting this particular edition off. See, I’d never really read Superman till fairly recently, which isn’t really a problem, but … hoo boy. Look, this is kind of embarrassing to admit, so I’ll just come out and say it. I was one of those guys.
That’s right: I used to think Superman was boring.
But let’s be honest here: Chances are, plenty of you have been one of those guys too. “Superman’s too much of a boy scout. He’s not relevant in today’s world. He’s just sooooo dull!” I’ve heard ‘em all before because, at one point, I used to spew them all myself.
It was an easy thing to do when you were a kid in the 90s, a time when it was soooo cool to be angsty and we demanded that our characters had to be more “grim and gritty” (whatever the hell that means). And it didn’t help that everyone else I knew felt that way too. As filmmaker Max Landis put it in his short film The Death and Return of Superman, “Nobody gave a [redacted] about Superman.” I mean, yeah, we all looked back fondly on the Richard Donner films, but that was it.
But that all changed for me in 2009. I started to give a [redacted] – and indirectly, it was because of the Fantastic Four.
Writer of steel
Mark Waid is an incredible author of comics like Kingdom Come, as well as the scribed of widely popular runs on The Flash, Daredevil and Fantastic Four.
That last book, in particular, was why I attended his 2009 writers’ festival talk in Singapore. I was a huge fan of his take on Marvel’s first family (with the late, great artist Mike Wieringo) and I just wanted to meet the guy, shake his hand and thank him.
So, I sat in for his talk and that’s when I discovered he was a big Superman guy. No, wait. Scratch that. Mark Waid was the biggest Superman fan I’d ever met. Ever. I’d say a good 75% of his talk that day was about why Superman was the greatest superhero ever. And while I wasn’t a convert that day, my interest was certainly piqued.
The first Superman comic that I actually purchased was All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. It was a colorful, sometimes hokey, but always fun book that first introduced me to what I’ve come to realize is one of the defining traits of the character. But I’ll get to that later.
Anyway, I still didn’t give big blue much thought again after All-Star Superman, not till last December
The reading list
I was making my annual list of resolutions that I was inevitably probably going to break and for some reason, I thought, what the heck. Let’s give Superman the proper shake he deserves. I mean, I wasn’t an angsty little kid any more and his message of hope kind of stuck with me. Ah, but where to start?
So, I turned to a couple of friends who’re pretty big Superman fans. (They’re no Mark Waids, but they’d do just fine.) They eagerly handed me a reading list of what they felt were good Superman comics for a novice like me and I was off.
“An ideal to strive towards.”
When I finally found some of those comics, I sat down and read them. And I reread them. And I went out and looked for more. And I read those too.
And truth be told, I’m mostly done with that reading list, but I’m already looking for even more. Because that defining trait I mentioned earlier? In the very best Superman stories out there, that trait shines like a beacon.
Books like Waid and Leinil Yu’s Superman: Birthright or Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Secret Identity – the one thing that they have in common is that they show you why Superman, the oldest superhero around, was the first of many.
Because when you’re an angsty kid, you don’t consider it. That there had to be a reason he endured all this time. And, finally, I figured it out. His greatest defining trait? It’s something that many of my favorite heroes have reflected in some form or another since the last son of Krypton crash landed on earth.
That trait is hope.
And, if you ask me now, there’s nothing boring about that.
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection. He blogs about his upcoming book, storytelling and other things at http://waynereewrites.com.
Here’s your latest webcomics and digital comics news. I was hoping to get this out last week but things got away from me. There were also a lot of big stories I felt deserved coverage but unfortunately that meant I had less time to dig up stories on less high profile comics. Remember, if you’re a creator of such comics, send me your news, press releases, announcements, etc. The internet is a big place so I can’t see everything. I’d be happy to cover your comic.
# Digital comics publisher MonkeyBrain Comics announces their Summer of Print, where they will release print versions of their digital-first comics for the first time. MonkeyBrain and their creators will team up with traditional print publishers Image Comics and IDW Publishing. The super-villain series Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver will be released by IDW in June. The Depression-era superhero anthology Masks & Mobsters by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson will be released by the Shadowline imprint of Image in July. And then fantasy series Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire will come out in August from IDW. “Print collections have been a main goal from the beginning and it’s really exciting to see such a major piece of the plan fall into place,” Allison Baker says, “especially since it means even more people get to discover the amazing work of our creators!” More collections will be announced in the near future. Wired has a story covering the news and more about MonkeyBrain’s business model and goals.
# Mark Waid spoke at the Tools of Change for Publishing conference recently. His presentation “Reinventing Comics and Graphic Novels for Digital” walked people through the challenges of bringing comics to the digital space, and how his digital-first model on Thrillbent is succeeding. One thing I found interesting is that the sales from collections of 4 weeks of content through ComiXology recoups their production costs. And that’s just one revenue stream they only recently started.
# ComiXology released the first ever digital convention exclusive at the just-concluded Emerald City Comicon this past weekend. According to the press release, con goers were given a special code for a free download of the all-new short story Atomic Robo: Along Came a Tyrantula by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener which will be released this Wednesday. The fancy gif above reveals that the story was made exclusively as a digital experience, using similar techniques used by Thrillbent and Marvel’s Infinite Comics.
Spotlight on… Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will. One of the final recipients of the Xeric Award grant, Will has been serializing her beautiful graphic novel online since last summer before the eventual print release. Look Straight Ahead, which was nominated for a 2011 Joe Shuster Award in it’s original form as a self-published comic book, is a story about a teen boy’s struggle with depression and mental illness. Will herself had suffered from a mental breakdown in 2002. This led her to research mental illness and when she found a lack of coverage in comics, she decided to change that. In addition to the rock solid line work and layout skills, there’s some fantastic imagery that wonderfully visualizes some of the abstract and intangible sensations of mental illness. Check out page 4 from Chapter 1:
In other news
# Kelly Yates launched last week MonstHer, a new all-ages adventure series released as a digital comic at Artist Alley Comics. A 0 issue is free (and is an adorable and awesome tribute to the classic children’s book The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone and Mike Smollin), and issue #1 is only $0.99. The series is about Eva Monst who helps her father run a halfway house for monsters who were once humans. Yates is probably best known for his other creator-owned sci-fi adventure series, Amber Atoms, which started life in print at Image Comics and now also lives at Artist Alley Comics.
Artist Alley Comics is unique from other digital comics distributors in that they let you download a PDF file that you can keep, instead of leasing you a digital file stored by them. They’re still formatted like print comics, so they read best on tablets like iPads, even though they don’t have an app yet (and their website’s navigation isn’t the best despite a nice and clean look). But the low price ($0.99 instead of $2.99-$3.99) and a true purchase are where digital comics should be. They also put the focus on the creators, which always wins points with us (one of their taglines is “creator-driven digital comics”). They have digital comics by Craig Rousseau, Todd Dezago, Jason Copland, and other quality creators.
# Warren Ellis and Jason Howard launched a unique web-comic last week. Borrowing from daily newspaper comic strips, Scatterlands is being released Mondays through Fridays but only one panel at a time. The comic is fully improvised, so while it sounds like some rough mapping out might’ve been done (it’s probably going to be a sci-fi tale), there’s no telling where it will go. Every four or five weeks, they’ll take a brief break and release a digest collection but haven’t quite worked out the details on that yet. Watch WarrenEllis.com for future installments.
# Friday saw the release of the first episode of Strip Search, the reality game show by the Penny Arcade gang looking for America’s next top webcomic maker. The full episode is above. We meet the contestants as they arrive at the house where they’ll be competing against each other. I’m still kind of torn about this whole thing. I’m not a fan of reality shows like this and was hoping for a bit more Penny Arcade-style humor. They also apparently had some technical problems. Their host’s mic must’ve died because his audio was clearly re-recorded at a later date and awkwardly dubbed in. But it’s cool to see comics get this kind of mass appeal attention. I know that Hollywood has been trying to get a show like this made for years and I’m glad it came from comics people. I’m also already rooting for a few contestants, so they must be doing something right. Future episodes will go up every Tuesday and Friday.
# Chris Onstad wants to bring his award-winning webcomic Achewood to animation. A teaser trailer is above and once again Wired covers the story. Unlike the Cyanide & Happiness crew, Onstad is not yet burnt out from trying to deal with Hollywood and keep his creative freedom. In fact, according to this blog post, he’s just started trying to work out a deal with a studio or network, although he has a promising partner in producer Josh Lieb, formerly of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Simpsons. While it’s a shame he seems to be done making comics, best of luck to him.
# iVerse Media, which runs the Comics+ app and web store for digital comics, last Wednesday announced a partnership with Archaia Entertaiment, publishers of comics and graphic novels such as Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men and Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. Archaia has been releasing a number of their comics digitally first in their partnership with ComiXology and I would imagine (and hope) they’ll do the same through Comics+. Perhaps most notable is that the partnership will benefit iVerse’s ComicsPlus: Library Edition, which provides digital comics to libraries.
# Webcomic Creators Google+ community is a great way for creators to talk shop with others.
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.
If you know me, you know I don’t read a lot of superhero comics these days. Of course, I used to read ONLY superhero comics. Most of us who grew up on comics in the last few decades probably know what I mean. I was strictly a “Make Mine Marvel” guy for most of my childhood, only getting deep into DC post-Crisis. It was an important and magical experience, to know a full pantheon of heroes, gods, monsters, strange worlds, other realms, quests, visions…it was a unique opportunity for the 20th century. Sure, every culture ever had its religions, filled with all of its figures, places and events. But none which were created so recently, so freshly and relevantly. Modern printing allowed for tales to be disseminated as never before, not only textually but graphically, giving us perhaps as many far-out tales of battles and adventures in a few years as all the carved hieroglyphics of an entire dynasty. And there we all were, common people able to read, with easy access to experience vast mythology. I always feel pity when I think of those who passed by the so-called “universes” of the Superman or Fantastic Four variety. It’s a very special thing.
Often I consider that so many comics fans in America are really just fans of a particular mythology, or perhaps a few mythologies (think titles like Hellboy or Savage Dragon). For me, being a true comics devotee means not limiting yourself to one type of comic book experience – in fact, not limiting yourself at all, at least from overall genres and styles (naturally, within each, there will be varying degrees of quality). So why do I limit myself from superhero comics? I mean, if I take my own advice, then surely, I should be giving the current titles more of my time, right?
I can tell you why I don’t read MOST superhero comics that I used to read. The obvious: how many decent stories does any character really have? What can you possibly read that has not been written so many thousands of times over the past seven plus decades? Of course the answer is: not much. At least, not much if you stick to continuity. The absurdity of trying to pretend that figures like Batman and Spider-Man are not both well over the hill is evident in the industry practices of rehashed gimmickry and slight variations. One hero is dead (but always comes back to life). Another has some experience which “changes everything” even if it’s only a slight variation on a storyline from thirty years ago. And on top of that, somebody has to manage an ever more complex, more populated mythos which requires the preservation of all concurrent storylines, across dozens of monthly publications, for endless years, and all to meet the demands of shareholders. Gone are the days when these legacy characters were the product of visionaries, hungry not just for expression, but for money to put food on the table. The commercial product has been fully pried from the risk-taking art form that started it all. Yes, of course, there are the exceptions to the rule, but I don’t know how much I care to seek them. They are too few, too meager. I don’t put any blame on the creators working in the genre right now. First of all, it’s by far the most lucrative. And by and large, the folks behind the work are true fans. Getting the chance to write and draw that character you grew up with and getting the chance to add your stamp to the legacy must be very appealing indeed. But it’s not working for me, and I often wonder why it works for anybody. How many “reboots” before you finally get sick of reboots? How many perfectly predictable resurrections before you realize, continuity has lost all meaning?
Fortunately, I have found some remedies for myself to fill these needs. First of all, I use the time machine. I’ve been jumping into all of the old stuff I never read. DC has an excellent line of affordable trade collections of the original comics from their core pantheon called DC Chronicles. Way cheaper than the hardback DC Archives collections (and printed on pulp, which I find far cooler), I have been digging in to Superman, Batman and Green Lantern, all in the order they appeared in titles like Action and Detective and DC Showcase. Sure, I’ve read a lot of this stuff, one-offs in reprints and such, but this completist line allows me to see ALL of it from the start, a real history project where you can see the more unfettered creators lay down the genesis of the legacy titles. Marvel Masterworks is another great option, but their trade paperbacks are not as competitively priced, and never on pulp (damn!). But that’s all you’ve got for right now, and all that awesome history is there too, from Fantastic Four to Iron Fist and just about everything from Marvel’s Silver Age. And I’ll sometimes nibble at “alternate reality” stories, tales of the characters outside of the continuity like Warren Ellis’ Old Man Logan storyline or DC’s retired Elseworlds imprint. Unfortunately, entire reboots like the Ultimate universe in Marvel or The New 52 are subject to the same robust brand management interference which those other examples of limited series are put through. And as such, are plagued by the same afflictions.
And so I seek superheroes in other places besides DC and Marvel. Recently, I burned through Mark Waid’s Irredeemable series with great relish. Waid took the 20th century archetypes, offering instant recognizability (but with no TM infringement), and ran with a tale that brand managers at the big corporate publishers could never allow, including closure. (It helps that besides having an original story, Waid also has his own publishing house, BOOM! to be as free as he wants to be.) Marvel uber-author Ed Brubaker played his own games with his Incognito series (limited though it was, and on Marvel’s Icon imprint, to their credit). The aforementioned Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen is another excellent example of a guy giving us old-fashioned superhero fun without the expense of convoluted continuity (even though the title is getting long in the tooth itself!). I could mention more and more, but you get the idea – it’s not superheroes I have a problem with, it’s just the idea of a market dominated by this single genre (Marvel and DC run 70% of the North American market) and the idea that despite the inherent quality control issues when churning out so much pulp (or whatever slick paper is) carrying such intense corporate pressure (the far more profitable movie, video game, and toy branches of Time Warner and Disney depend on the publishing arms), the audience pushes most of its money on this heavily trod-upon ground. I wish more of you would venture out to discover humor, history, horror, high art, human dramas and so on, just like you do on TV and at the movies. But that’s just a dreamer’s lament. And I’ll be honest with you. I want to keep getting new stories from the same old characters. And I do. Just not entirely in comics.
Sadly, I nowadays get most of my Marvel/DC superhero action not through comics, but on TV. For the last twenty odd years or so, DC in particular has offered wonderful superhero mythology, starting with Batman: The Animated Series followed closely by Superman: The Animated Series which, following this continuity strictly or not, smoothly transitioned into Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Here you could feel the freedom of the creators. They were given far more leeway with the legacy characters. And even after a series ended, new series could create a new vision with its own angle. You can see this in such diverse shows as The Batman, Batman: Brave and the Bold, Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. I don’t love and watch ALL of these shows, but EVERY superhero fan is bound to love one or more of them. Marvel doesn’t have quite as long of a track record with high-quality shows, but of late, we’ve seen outstanding efforts with shows like Wolverine and the X-Men, Iron Man Armored Adventures, Spectacular Spider-Man, The Super Hero Squad Show, Ultimate Spider-Man, and particularly with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This show, like the Justice League run and the current Young Justice offers just the right blend of childish escapism, adult themes (but not TOO adult), long episodic tales, fights and violence (but not TOO violent) mixed with healthy, respectful nods to works new and old from the source material. It is ironic that in animation – a far more expensive process than comic book publishing, requiring teams of dozens rather than perhaps 10 people (sometimes just ONE) – there seems to be a lot more room to move for talented storytellers to play with the standard bearers of the legacy books. And it’s not just freedom for them, its freedom for me, the audience, who can enjoy new tales of old friends without getting bored, still surprised from time to time, able to see these tales in fresh places where you can feel a far more steady creative control, for good or ill (again, I do NOT love all of those animated shows, but I sure do love more than a few).
Which brings me to this final bummer: I don’t like writing about TV in this column. I want to write about comics. And that means writing about something other than superheroes. But at least now you know why. And maybe somebody in the right place will take it to heart. I interviewed Stephen Christy, editor-in-chief of Archaia Entertainment, at Comic-Con a few years back for the Dig Comics project. I asked him the same thing I asked all the publishers I talked to: if you were god and could run DC and Marvel, what would you do? His answer stuck with me, and I paraphrase: “I would kill all the titles, except about 12-15 of the core books, assign top creators to those and limit the output.” He may have a point. After all, there’s a hell of a lot to pretend you can manage in one continuity without a lot of not so awesome comics. I would combine that effort with killing all continuity periodically and maybe give some creators a chance to take the characters for their own ride, rather than tack their decisions to a committee. And if you try to make your new continuity too close to your old one, you’ll lose. If you are keen on continuing to publish 50 or more titles, how about letting multiple continuities run at once? Let the market decide which one it likes. And if one falls out of favor, save the space for a new subset of creators. But do something besides the same old tricks, at least if you want to see my money again.
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.
Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer picks brand new releases worth checking out that should be suitable for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before.
These are out today! If you like what you see here, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. Then head to your local comic book store, or check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.
Unbeknownst to the human race, a great and terrible evil threatens to engulf the earth.
Enter college freshman Alec Wagner – the “Gatecrasher” – a somewhat reluctant member of a covert brigade of warriors dedicated to protecting Earth. As sole possessor of the ability to predict the opening of inter-dimensional gates, Alec assumes nearly overwhelming responsibility for his team, conducting the Split-Second Squad against alien invaders. However, battling aliens is not the only thing on Alec’s mind. While juggling college and inter-dimensional combat, Alec also has high prospects for his social life… if he could ever show up on time for a date!
WARNING: CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE.
As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work. Nothing, however, could prepare him for the pressures of impending fatherhood. As Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife and their unborn son. Then one night, deep in the icy solitude of the ocean floor, something unexplainable happens. Jack has a mysterious and supernatural encounter that will change the course of his life forever.
Equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending mystery, The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel about fathers and sons, birth and death, memory and reality, and the treasures we all bury deep below the surface. The all-new literary masterpiece from the creator of Essex County is finally here.
Kiyoha may wear the similar fancy kimono-dresses but she is not your everyday geisha. The hairstyle may be the same and she may have some of the finest clientele comparable to those of the most refined women in all of Kyoto, but she is not in the home of geisha and their maiko assistants. Instead, Kiyoha is in Yoshiwara, the infamous red-light district located in northeast Tokyo. And instead of being a respected geisha artisan, she is an oiran, a courtesan.
Kiyoha didn’t choose this life. She was forced into this world at an early age for one reason…she had spunk. A fire burned within her as a child. She would rather fight than cry, and she would always fight if ever put at risk. She caused her caretakers so much grief their best solution was to give her a purpose to be strong and maybe a chance to develop a life on her own. But getting to that point would take years of heartache and misery. Kiyoha’s entire life has been in chaos, and she has blossomed in it.
In Sakuran, Moyoco Anno lifts the veil on life in the Edo period pleasure quarter, Yoshiwara. The story follows Kiyoha, sold into a brothel as a child and forced to work as a maid and her rise to prominence as one of the top-ranking courtesans in Yoshiwara. The allure of the “flower and willow world“ as it was called by artists in the day is underscored by the very real tragedy, heartbreak and difficult lives led by those seemingly glamourous courtesans. Will Kiyoha’s fox-like wiles give her a chance to break free of her gilded cage? Or will her fighting spirit ruin her chances of ever escaping the brothel?
Guest columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
It’s pretty safe to say by now that everyone, their grandmothers, and their grandmothers’ cats (all of whom, I assure you, are named Mr. Muffins) have watched and love The Avengers. Personally, I find that so cool. As a lifelong Marvel guy, it’s nice that more people are starting to see why I adore this universe of characters so much.
And, really, if we’re going to go through my journey as a comic fan, there’s no better place to start than with my love for this pantheon of colorfully garbed heroes. Well, two of these colorfully garbed heroes in particular actually, for two pretty distinct reasons.
Get by with a little help from my webs
I was introduced to Marvel — and as I mentioned before, to the comic medium itself — through one Peter Benjamin Parker, better known as The Amazing Spider-Man. Since picking up that aforementioned hardcover, I’ve followed the webhead’s adventures—sporadically at first, but with increasing regularity—for the past 24 years. (First one of you to make a crack about my age gets decked, I swear.)
A lot of people say that the appeal of Spider-Man is that, under that mask, he’s a regular guy with regular problems. I agree—but I’d take it a step further. Pete loves the Beastie Boys (respect to Adam Yauch). Dollars to doughnuts, he’s also a sci-fi, Monty Python, and Looney Tunes nerd. And, yeah, sometimes he’d rather be alone, but at the end of the day, he’s still someone you can count on.
I’m a Spidey fan, not because he faces the same crap as me, but because, when all that crap’s done, there’s no one I’d love to hang out with more than ol’ Peter Parker. I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt utterly miserable after a terrible day’s work, only to be cheered up by the latest issue of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Pete’s been through a lot over those 24 years, but the one thing that’s never changed is that he’s not just a fictional character to me; as corny as this sounds, he’s a friend. (First one of you to crack wise gets decked too.)
The real men without fear
The other guy who reaffirmed me as a Marvel fan was a blind lawyer named Matt Murdock, who spends his night jumping around Hell’s Kitchen’s rooftops as the costumed crusader Daredevil.
Well, OK… that’s not entirely accurate. It was more than just the character of Daredevil, you see. Unlike Spider-Man, I wasn’t initially drawn into the charming Mr. Murdock’s world because he felt like a friend. I actually started picking up the series when writer-director Kevin Smith took over the creative reigns with artists Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti.
Now, this was pretty new to me at the time. I’d been reading comics for about ten years and I’d never thought of this as a medium driven not just by these iconic heroes, but by the people behind them as well.
Since then, almost all of the different creative teams who’ve worked on Daredevil — from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev to Mark Waid and his rotating roster of artistic cohorts — have reinforced and nurtured that subtle shift in my thinking: that the creators are just as powerful as these creations.
Face front, true believer!
A lot of snooty types tend to scoff at Marvel and mainstream superhero fare in general. They say that the genre doesn’t stack up against other, supposed literary comic works. I, however, respectfully disagree. (Actually, I’d be slightly less respectful, but Corey asked me not to be such a potty mouth. Count yourselves lucky, snooty types.)
Marvel Comics have given me characters that continue to remain very dear to my heart and have also inadvertently imparted upon me a more enlightened mentality about creators that’s led me to an even greater world beyond the capes-and-tights set.
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, and travels way too much. And, yes, that is a Steve Ditko-illustrated Spider-Man cover tattooed on his right forearm.
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
You might not think it, but the comics community has a big heart. One great example is The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based charity that raises money for creators who are in dire straits (not the band but the financial situation). Here’s a video I put together of a special event held at Meltdown Comics this past Saturday night.
For you savvy comics folks, that’s writer Mark Waid of Kingdom Come fame yelling out “you’ve made a powerless enemy”. He and producer Tom DeSanto were probably the most generous bidders. Mike Malve of Epic Digital Media was the winner of the Alex Ross cover in the video above. The entire night raised about $15,000 for The Hero Initiative.
Digital Comics Update: Dark Horse launches Digital, NBM goes interactive, Nook gets Graphicly app, Archie translates digital to Spanish
Comic books continue their evolution into digital comics, where the sequential art form is available on mobile devices like the iPad and Android, game systems like the PSP, and web browsers. Expanding in distribution, getting more competitive with prices, and experimenting with interactivity – these are all good signs that digital comics might be growing from infant to toddler.
After some delays, Dark Horse Comics will launch their anticipated Dark Horse Digital program later today. The system was built in-house and uses a web-based system supplemented by apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The comics will be priced starting at
$1.49 $0.99 (versus competing apps that have comics starting at $1.99), and will be available in bundles as though you’re buying a full graphic novel collection. The app will be free and come loaded with the first issue of Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction by Mike Mignola and John Byrne. There will also be five free comics available: the first issues of Criminal Macabre by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, Joss Whedon‘s Fray, Mike Mignola’s Abe Sapien: The Drowning, Gerard Way‘s Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, and Mass Effect: Redemption. The app will have hundreds of other comics for download, including issues of Conan, Joss Whedon’s Serenity, Eric Powell‘s The Goon and more. An Android app will follow.
Meanwhile on the Nook Color, Barnes & Noble has launched a new app store which includes three graphic novel apps from Graphic.ly: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen, Mark Millar and JG Jones‘ Wanted, and Mark Waid‘s Irredeemable. All of the apps have been specially optimized for the Nook Color e-reader, which uses Google’s Android platform. Graphicly also has digital comics from major comics publishers available on the iPad, iPhone/iPad Touch and Android, on the web, Adobe Air, and Google’s Chrome browser app.
NBM Publishing and their all-ages Papercutz imprint has teamed up with TWP Interactive to produce what they are billing as the first interactive graphic novel, Dinosaurs Across America by Phil Yeh. (It’s not the first, but it’s still cool.) Dinosaurs Across America was first published as a traditional graphic novel in print in 2007. It was named one of the best 25 graphic novels of the year by School Library Journal and has won acclaim for its ability to teach geography to children. The new interactive edition allows the reader to zoom in on individual states, learn fun facts and play with puzzles. The interactive version is now available for $9.99 as an app for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), and for $4.99 as an e-book on Koobits.
And finally, Archie Comics continues its aggressive pursuit of digital, launching Spanish language versions of some of their digital comics Monday. The comics are available on Archie Digital, as well as their iOS app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch provided by iVerse, and the Sony PSP. An Android app is coming soon. Further translations into French and Hindi are planned as well.