Category Archives: General

2013

It was a very good year and a very tough year, all things considered. I am very fortunate though, that the highs of the year were spectacularly high, that I got to see as much of the world as I did, and that I have a good man to share it with.

Here’s a little of my 2013, and here’s to all of us having a good 2014.

– Chris

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November


December

See ya in 2014!

Apply for Slate’s “The Cartoonist Studio Prize”

Last year, The Slate Book Review and The Center for Cartoon Studies teamed to create The Cartoonist Studio Prize. It’s actually two, $1000 prizes awarded to cartoonists for their graphic novel or their web comic of the year. Eligible works are English language, published between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year.

They’re continuing the award this year! http://www.cartoonstudies.org/index.php/studio-prize/

I’m very happy to announce that I was asked to be the featured guest judge this year, and I’ll work with Dan Kois of Slate, and James Sturm and the faculty of the Center for Cartoon Studies, to determine a winner. I’m also very glad that it’s a largeish group deciding on the best book, as it will minimize the recrimination. 🙂

If you’re interested in submitting your work for consideration, head to http://www.cartoonstudies.org/index.php/studio-prize/ and check out the appropriate forms.

Thanks to Dan, James, and everyone for the opportunity. 🙂

– Christopher

And I’m Off…!

Hey folks,

If you’re reading this I’m travelling right now. If you’d like to say hello while I’m in your neck of the woods, drop me a line at chris at beguiling dot com.

Here’s where I’ll be:

Oct 15-17, 2013: Manchester, England

Oct 18-21, 2013: Kendal, England. Lakes International Comic Arts Festival

October 23-November 10, 2013: Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo) Various Events

I’ll be a guest of The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, which you can find out more about here: http://www.comicartfestival.com/

TCAF will be exhibiting at Kaigai Manga Festa in Tokyo Japan, and I’ll be there just after for some of the follow-up events. You can find out about that here: http://torontocomics.com/news/tcaf-to-japan-kaigai-manga-festa-october-20th-2013/

All in all, I’ll be travelling for about a month, and completely circumnavigating the globe for the first time! I’m beyond thrilled, and very fortunate to be able to do some cool things and spread the good word of comics all over the globe. I still feel, too, that the best is yet to come. 🙂

Thanks for reading,

– Christopher

Takeshi Murakami’s Magical Girl Anime

I tend to be very interested in the crossover between Japanese Pop Culture, specifically anime and manga, and the world of fashion and cosmetics, which is usually a few light years away. I like the tension between mass and niche appeal, and mostly I like seeing really great looking products thanks to nearly unlimited fashion/cosmetics budgets. The latest collaboration to catch my eye is the above collaboration between Japanese artist Takeshi Murakami, already renown/reviled for re-appropriating anime and manga ideas into the fine arts sphere, and cosmetics giant Shu Uemura.

The result? Like the title says, it’s Takeshi Murakami’s Magical Girl Anime.

Yowza.

– Christopher

Rest In Peace, Kim Thompson

Statement from Fantagraphics:

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson died at 6:30 this morning, June 19. “He was my partner and close friend for 36 years,” said Gary Groth.

Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. He grew up in Europe, a lifelong comics fan, reading both European and American comics in Denmark, France, and Germany. He was an active fan in his teen years, writing to comics — his letters appeared in Marvel’s letter columns circa early 1970s — and contributing to fanzines from his various European perches. At the age of 21, he set foot, for the first time, on American soil, in late 1977. One “fanzine” he had not contributed to was The Comics Journal, which Groth and Michael Catron began publishing in July of 1976. That was soon to change.

“Within a few weeks of his arrival,” said Groth, “he came over to our ‘office,’ which was the spare bedroom of my apartment, and was introduced by a mutual friend — it was a fan visit. We were operating out of College Park, Maryland and Kim’s parents had moved to Fairfax, Virginia, both Washington DC suburbs. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics, and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day.”

Thompson became an owner when Catron took a job at DC Comics in 1978. As he became more familiar with the editorial process, Thompson became more and more integral to the magazine, assembling and writing news and conducting interviews with professionals. Thompson’s career in comics began here.

In 1981, Fantagraphics began publishing comics (such as Jack Jackson’s Los TejanosDon Rosa’s Comics and Stories, and, in 1982, Love and Rockets). Thompson was always evangelical about bandes dessinées and wanted to bring the best of European comics to America; in 1981, Thompson selected and translated the first of many European graphic novels for American publication — Herman Huppen’s The Survivors: Talons of Blood (followed by a 2nd volume in 1983). Thompson’s involvement in The Comics Journal diminished in 1982 when he took over the editorship of Amazing Heroes, a bi-weekly magazine devoted to more mainstream comics (with occasional forays into alternative and even foreign comics). Thompson helmed Amazing Heroes through 204 issues until 1992.

Among Thompson’s signature achievements in comics were Critters, a funny-animal anthology that ran from 50 issues between 1985 to 1990 and is perhaps best known for introducing the world to Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo; and Zero Zero, an alternative comics anthology that also ran for 50 issues over five years — between 1995 and 2000 — and featured work by, among others, Kim Deitch, Dave Cooper, Al Columbia, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Sacco, David Mazzuchelli, and Joyce Farmer.. His most recent enthusiasm was spearheading a line of European graphic novel translations, including two major series of volumes by two of the most significant living European artists — Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the TrenchesLike a Sniper Lining up His ShotThe Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine) and Jason (Hey, Wait…I Killed Adolf HitlerLow MoonThe Left Bank Gang) — and such respected work as Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Crackle of the Frost, Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae, and what may be his crowning achievement as an editor/translator, Guy Peelaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle.

Throughout his career at Fantagraphics, Thompson was active in every aspect of the company, selecting books, working closely with authors, guiding books through the editorial and production process. “Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him,” said Groth, “not just all the European graphic novels that would never have been published here if not or his devotion, knowledge, and skills, but for all the American cartoonists he edited, ranging from Stan Sakai to Joe Sacco to Chris Ware, and his too infrequent critical writing about the medium. His love and devotion to comics was unmatched. I can’t truly convey how crushing this is for all of us who’ve known and loved and worked with him over he years.”

Thompson was diagnosed with lung cancer in late February. He is survived by his wife, Lynn Emmert, his mother and father, Aase and John, and his brother Mark.

I only met Kim Thompson once, but we talked quite a bit over the last two or three years about TCAF things, and I respected what he had to say. My condolences to his friends and family.

I hope no one minds that I’ve reproduced Fantagraphics’ statement here, in full, as their site is understandably being slammed right now as people discover this terrible news.

– Chris

The Manga Industry 2012-2013

The talk of the town, so far as manga publishing is concerned, is Brigid Alverson’s excellently-researched piece on manga publishing in 2012 and 2013, over at Publisher’s Weekly. [link]

“… ICv2 CEO and industry analyst Milton Griepp offered a grim take on the manga market: while sales of comics and graphic novels as a whole were up, … manga sales have declined for the past three years and were down 35% in the first half of 2012. The next day, as if in some alternate reality, fans dressed as anime and manga characters crowded the halls of the Javits Center, lined up to get autographs from Moyoco Anno, packed a large room to hear Yoshitaka Amano speak, and competed enthusiastically in trivia games to win swag featuring anime and manga characters. What’s going on here?” – Brigid Alverson, PW

I was interviewed for the article, but unfortunately, due to my own stupid schedule, I got my response to Brigid’s questions in too late for them to be included. Because I couldn’t be a part of the article, I asked Brigid if she would mind me posting my thoughts here (in a slightly edited format). She agreed, and you can feel free to read the following as a footnote to the PW article. 🙂

I was surprised to see in the ICv2 White Paper that the market had continued to decline because, for us at The Beguiling, sales had stopped falling and plateaued over the past 2 years. Manga remains as important a category for The Beguiling as its been in my decade as the Manager here–and it is the best and most effective category overall for outreach to young readers, and way up there for readership in general.

The demographics have changed and we’ve seemingly lost a generation of readers in their late teens and early 20s to piracy, but the midlist remains very strong in manga as a category and young readers and folks in their thirties and above are still buying books–though probably in conjunction with digital ‘sampling’. The smash hits are fewer and farther between though, and I wouldn’t mind one or two more of those per year.

I continue to be baffled by the inability for the direct market and manga publishers to work together… I’m equally frustrated by Diamond’s reluctance to keep books in stock–or even to reorder them when retailers ask for them!–as I am with publishers’ not recognizing the need for greater education, canon-building, and the continued literary value of their own books. There are titles that remain continually unavailable to the Direct Market, that are part of comics’ literary canon (let alone their extremely prestigious place in manga publishing)… it’s a spectacular failure at every part of the system. As a retailer I regret not making as much noise as I should about the issues, and not fighting as hard as I can.

I’ve always thought that Direct Market stores could benefit significantly from manga as a category, as we have, with the proper investment of time, energy, and perhaps staff resources. Unfortunately those are three things that seem in short supply at most comic shops. In my experience it’s been hard to convince publishers to invest in the Direct Market as a whole when it’s a constant uphill battle. We’ve had great success on a one-to-one with publishers, and at The Beguiling we’re grateful for our strong publisher relationships… but the DM as a whole? Those non-returnable sales could be a huge boon to any publisher’s bottom line. But because the responses from other markets are generally friendlier, more immediately lucrative, and far, far easier, I imagine that’s where the attention will continue to go. I’d love to be proven wrong, though.

– Christopher Butcher, Manager, The Beguiling

Toronto: Brian Wood Saturday, CBLDF next Tuesday

Hey Toronto! Two great comics events worth your attention…!

BRIAN WOOD @ THE BEGUILING
Saturday, April 13, 2013, 3PM
The Beguiling, 601 Markham Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Free To Attend

https://www.facebook.com/events/323536931083133/

Brian Wood is the multiple-award-winning, critically acclaimed author of literally dozens of your favourite series, and he will be doing a very special signing at The Beguiling on Saturday, April 13th, at 3pm. Bring your comics along to get signed and meet Brian, and check out some of the very cool/rare comics we’ll have available for sale at the event. All attendees at the signing who make any purchase will receive one of two limited edition prints from THE MASSIVE absolutely free.

Brian Wood is the writer of: STAR WARS – THE MASSIVE – MARA – CONAN THE BARBARIAN – THE X-MEN – NORTHLANDERS – DMZ – CHANNEL ZERO – DEMO – ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN – COURIERS – FIGHT FOR TOMORROW – POUNDED – LOCAL – NEW YORK FOUR – NEW YORK FIVE – SUPERMARKET – TOURIST – WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN ALPHA & OMEGA – LORD OF THE RINGS: WAR OF THE NORTH

KEEP TORONTO READING: GRAPHICALLY SPEAKING – DIRTY COMICS
Tuesday April 16, 2013
North York Central Library Auditorium, 5120 Yonge Street
7:00 PM • FREE

https://www.facebook.com/events/584286594914813/

Once again, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival is proud to partner with the Toronto Public Library on Keep Toronto Reading to present lively and informative graphic novel programming.

This year’s program will feature Charles Brownstein, head of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, to discusses censorship in comics. His presentation will be Followed by a Q&A moderated by Christopher Butcher; manager, The Beguiling, and festival director of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Valentin & The Widow

Ah, well he’s finally done it.

My friend Andrew Wheeler has, for the past few months, been releasing free podcasts of his Victorian adventure novels entitled “Valentin & The Widow.” For these past few months, I’ve been meaning to post about them, but I’d been waiting until I had listened to them so I could give a more qualified recommendation than “My friend did these, and you should support him!”  Frankly, I think qualified recommendations, like “I really enjoyed this, and I can recommend it to fans of X because I also enjoyed X,” carry a lot of weight, and considering the wealth of material available on these internets, a personal recommendation carries a ton of weight.

Except I hadn’t listened to them, because I’m busy, and then I didn’t recommend them, and now he’s gone and released e-books. So there are two completed novels by a close friend, and at this point, I’ve failed for 3 months to mention that he’s been doing this wonderful thing, and, well, priorities, Christopher. 

So!

I humbly invite you to check out the website of Valentin & The Widow, where you can listen to recordings of wonderful books, and, if the mood should strike you, you can purchase e-book versions of said novel.

http://valentinandthewidow.tumblr.com/

I will work very hard to actually read and/or listen to them shortly, Wheeler. Please, readership, do me one better than that and go and check them out with all due haste.

Best,

– Christopher

Blogs on blogs on blogs

I sat down to write this entry and realized I’d forgotten my login information to my blog. After 10 or 11 tries, I made it in, but… wow. How’s that for perspective?

It’s funny too because I actually sat down to relate an anecdote about blogging.

You see, I’ve been blogging here (although it’s been getting faaaaairly intermittent) since 2002, and writing a version of this blog since 1997. I ‘came up’ with a lot of other people, and was right on the edge of the blogging explosion. While it’s since imploded somewhat, making way for microblogging like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, there are still folks putting good material out there on a regular basis in the medium-length blogging format. I still follow them through Google Reader (well, for another few months anyway) when time allows, and it’s fascinating to see the way that people and their lives have changed in the dozen-plus years I’ve been doing this.

I’ve been following one blog for a while now, maybe 6 years? It started as being a blog about someone who moved to Tokyo and their efforts to acclimate, and became less about the day to day and more about the family that they were raising there. I, and anyone else following, was getting the same updates about this bloggers’ life and family as their friends and family back home were. I was scrolling through baby pictures a year or two back on the computer, as that was what had come up in my feed that day, and my husband stopped to ask whose baby it was. I started trying to explain and he kind of got a look on his face like he was mentally remembering to raise his Facebook privacy settings again.

I’m not so naive or crazy as to think I’m “Like a part of their family,” now or whatever–that’s some crazy shit right there. But we’re definitely peers in the blogging world, and I’ve been–a fan? –silently observing? the parts of this blogger’s life that they’ve chosen to share with me, and with the world, for longer than I’ve known some of my closest “IRL” friends. It’s a type of relationship that didn’t exist a generation ago, and now thanks to microblogging it’s probably the most prevalent relationship in the lives of most users of Twitter, of Tumblr, of macro and micro blogging. I know more about people hundreds of k/m away than I do about certain people in my social circle, because the people farther away are way better at Facebook.

This is not news, probably, to anyone reading. Both mainstream media and interpersonal media have been digging into this divide for quite some time now. But I had a very sharp moment of clarity just before I sat down to post this, and it’s what prompted me to share.

You see this blogger I’ve been following for years had taken an extended vacation from Tokyo–with child, sans spouse. And stopped updating their blog. And… I couldn’t help but be worried that this meant they were getting divorced. It was a stupid, unexpected feeling to have, but over 5 or 6 years of learning about the daily life of this person, I have grown to care for them. I was almost immediately critical of my own feelings–‘You don’t even REALLY know this person, and they certainly don’t know you!‘–echoed around my head. The media message is very clear as well; we can mock or hate or celebrate or enjoy the people on the other side of the screen and that’s acceptable, but to actually care about them is pitiable or suspicious. Half the responses to any sort of personal, financial plea for a Kickstarter or Paypal fund-drive are met with hostility. I mean, go back through this blog post you’re reading, check out the language I’m using to not seem like a creepy stalker… and I’m one of the ‘enlightened’ commenters, as far as I can tell.

So yeah, totally worried about the possible end of the marriage of two people I’d never ‘met’, but had spent dozens of hours with. Until just 20 minutes ago, when on that user’s Flickr a bunch of new photos popped up of the happy family back in Tokyo. Still no blog post, still no real update, and frankly still no real insight into their lives or situations beyond some happy pictures in the park, but my sense of relief that everything was ‘okay’ was genuine… which started that whole weird shame cycle up again.

So I thought I’d sit down and write about it here.

The thing is, I’m aware that I’m a pretty public person, even though I’ve worked in the past few years to pull some of the truly private stuff back as much as I can. I’m aware that the things I’ve created or that I participate in are bigger and more important than me, and that means pulling back a little bit of my rather large personality to let them shine. Not completely of course, as any drunken evening on Twitter will tell you, but there is effort being expended. 🙂

Despite being a public person though, I am still genuinely unsettled at first when people in the real world tell me that they like my blog. Here at comics212.net. Or that they’ve been reading for years. Or even when they tell me that I’ve positively impacted their lives. It’s disconcerting. I’m not entirely sure why, like I said I know what goes up here and what I’m trying to do. But yeah, it takes me a second to tamp that shit down and respond like a normal human would: “Hey, thanks. That’s nice of you to say.” Often followed by “ugh I’m sorry I haven’t updated in like, forever.”

My relief at finding my blogging peer was still safe and secure in their personal life was weird–but expressing that concern/relief to them would be mortifying. I mean, why should it be, right? But it is.

It’s something that really resonated with me, as I’m still meeting people for the first time that have been long-time readers of Comics212. People that have seen me share probably more than I know in these 15 years, that might be getting an even larger piece of the Christopher Butcher ‘puzzle’ through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, or who knows? I’m still pretty steadfast that knowing about someone and ‘knowing’ them remain separate things, particularly as most people curate the aspects of themselves that they present to the world… But I was reminded by my own thoughts to have empathy for the actions of others, to calmly and rationally respond to what may seem like overbearing familiarity, and, since I’m the one putting it out there, to take some responsibility for my role in the situation.

(As a very important aside: I’ve never felt unsafe because of the blog (very fortunate there) so my prescription is for myself. Folks who have been threatened should deal with that as seriously as possible–I hate that I need to put this in, but looking at the tone and tenor of Internet ‘discourse’ in 2013 I pretty clearly do.)

So to close: I did not write my blogging peer and wish them well, but I do. I just wish they’d update their blog more, now that their vacation is over.

😉

– Chris

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot.

I was offered the chance to turn my thoughts on this subject into something publishable, something definitive and succinct, but given the nature of the subject and my own lack of time, that wasn’t going to be possible. So instead I’ll say the same thing in an unpublishable and not succinct way:

Orson Scott Card is a dangerous bigot. If he will not even attempt to atone for his dangerous bigotry (including: hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence), then I don’t care if he never gets another job again. Let alone writing a beloved icon of children and adults.

The faux-Liberal hand-wringing going on around this is gross. Orson Scott Card is not merely an ‘artist,’ but also a public figure who actively seeks to increase his fame through attaching himself to high-profile projects. He then uses that fame, and the income generated from these projects, to promote and directly support his hate-filled screeds, lies, and incitements to violence. There can be no separation of art and artist when the artist uses his art to directly fund oppression.

If you are standing up in defense of someone who will take a portion of the income they make from writing a Superman comic book and send it directly to an organization that works to oppress a minority, and you are in opposition to those that would see him stopped from doing so, take a good long look at yourself in the mirror.

Holding a public figure accountable for their actions isn’t censorship, and it certainly isn’t fascism. It’s called “being an adult” and if Orson Scott Card wants to use his writing, his “art”, and all of the tools at his disposal to push his agenda of dangerous bigotry, then he deserves to be held accountable for that.  Suggesting otherwise is ignorant.

– Christopher
P.S.: I am aware that the value of the Superman character is already highly compromised due to DC’s horrible treatment of the creators of that character and their families, but as an icon outside of DC’s control the character still possesses enormous weight that makes its role here both valid and central to the issue.