Moneybags.Just as a bit of ancillary info following the post I wrote this weekend about comics journalism, Newsarama.com announced today that it has been acquired by Imaginova.com, a science and technology reporting company. “Newsarama will serve as Imaginova’s eyes and ears in the world of genre entertainment,” according to the official press release at http://www.newsarama.com/Imaginova/announcement.html. My favourite part of the PR is where Doran and Brady recount the seven previous different iterations of the website, providing a nice bit of continuity to the announcement.

I don’t really have much else to add other than to observe that it happened. It seems Brady and Doran are quite happy, and so I am happy for them. I’m also kind of tickled that the pre-complaints about a lesser quality of service have started in the comments section related to the Press Release; it’s a very Newsarama-esque response to the news.

- Christopher


naruto19_final.jpgI’ve been waiting for this for a few months now, and this week we came so close I could taste it. Luckily, close only counts in horseshoes, not comic books.

Looking at our shipping list for new comics and graphic novels over at The Beguiling this week, I counted a whopping 64 new manga line-items being released this week. If that’s not the highest ever, it’s pretty damned close. Three simultaneous volumes of Naruto hitting the shelf alongside the launch of Yen Press and a few shockingly late Dark Horse products and full compliments of Viz and Tokyopop titles have gotten us to this point (at least there’s a new volume of Nana!), and it’s going to be a brutal slog Thursday morning (comics are delayed this week because of Canadian Thanksgiving).

But then I went and counted the new comics coming out this week, and we’re only getting 71 line items. Less than 7 comic books separate the total number of comics and the total number of manga shipping to our store. That’s kind of insane… Jason Thompson’s gonna have to write a new book.

Here’s the even more-shocking revelation: 9 of those line items are variant or incentive covers, different editions of the same book… particularly the ridiculous Marvel Zombie variant covers… and when you remove all the variants from the equation? New manga outnumbers new comic books by a couple of volumes.

Now of course, there are all kinds of factors to consider. The comics have higher per-unit sales in many cases, the manga has a higher price per-unit, the manga is doing less than a third of it’s total sales in the direct market, there are also another 50 new North American and European graphic novels shipping this week that clearly tip the balance of the new material back away from Japan… The big one is that due to a miscommunication between Viz and Diamond, a bunch of the Shonen Jump books scheduled to drop last week were delayed to this week, so 64 new manga is more of an unfortunate accident than any kind of planned coup.. etc. etc. It’s for other people besides me to discuss, I don’t have that head for numbers.

But the easy math is right there in front of me: 63 new manga (removing the Kingdom Hearts Box Set) to 62 new comic books (removing all of the variants) is indicative of a comics industry that, quite frankly, I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.

- Christopher


hero-mask.jpg

Over at Precocious Curmudgeon, David Welsh reminds me that I’d been meaning to post a little something about Perry Moore’s new superhero-populated Young Adult novel Hero, released by Hyperion Books this fall. Hero is about a young man named Thom Creed who, nearing the end of his high-school career must deal with coming out as both a gay teenager and as a superhero.

hero-300px.jpgThe thing that strikes me most strongly about the work is the tone. Hero is… dark. Really dark. As a character, Thom doesn’t have a friend in the world–no refuge from a strongly (and often violently) homophobic society and family. I think all gay teenagers can feel that they’re alone, and that the whole world is against them, but there was definitely a heightened sense of those feelings at work in Hero that matched the heightened senses and abilities of the superheroes that populated the book. The novel felt to me like the notion of The X-Men’s “Protecting a world that hates and fears them!” but to the Nth degree–at least the X-Men are a team, the gay kid here is a hated outcast even among outcasts. I was a gay teenager once upon a time, and as hopeless and shitty as the world can seem at that age (and it can and does), there’s always something or somewhere to turn. Whether it’s that one friend who ‘knows’, or the internet, or hell, ‘Kids Help Phone’ there’s something out there for gay teenagers… and something that Hero‘s gay teenager is never afforded. And then aside from having no friends, no family, and nowhere to turn, even Thom’s first sexual experience ends up being profoundly damaging, ending with his being outed and scandalized in the international media. For a novel that wants to put forward a positive message about being a gay kid, it’s deeply sex-negative in punishing the lead character, his father, his friends, and superheroism in general for acting on his gay desires. Like I said… DARK.
On the one hand, I think that makes the tone really successful in a lot of ways: the story is written from the perspective of a kid in distress and the novel is genuinely menacing throughout. I can’t tell you the dread I felt at Thom coming home to his father’s house a couple of times towards the end of the book. On the other hand, even though the kid completes the hero’s journey in the end and the novel aims to be a positive statement about coming of age as a homosexual in American society, I’d kind of be afraid to give this to an at-risk gay teenager because it’s so incredibly bleak, right through the ending of the book during which the superhero establishment still can’t… or won’t… cut the kid a break specifically because he’s gay. Sure, I’m a fan of happy endings, but I’m also a fan of balance, and I found the tone really unbalanced in an off-putting way.

That realization was a tough one for me, because the book is genuinely well-written otherwise. Author Moore has a fantastic grasp of writing action scenes that are detailed and especially illustrative, a high compliment for a book that owes so much of its soul to comic books (and superhero comics in particular). My memories of the book are entirely visual, scenes and dialogue playing out in a near-comic format and stopping short of word-balloons popping up in my mind’s-eye. There are no confusing or poorly-written passages in the story, all of the author’s intent comes across perfectly clearly. Granted, there are several large plot problems and the afformentioned pervading darkness, but the book moves along so crisply that you probably won’t notice the former until you’ve set it down with a happy sigh. The latter…?

Another strength of the narrative is the characterization, primarily of Thom but also in his relationships with several key characters including a fiery red-headed teammate, a straight-talking old southern woman, and an emotionally distant and troubled father. Read that again and you’ll see how all three of those character types are archetypes that border on cliché, and it’s to Moore’s credit that they avoid that fate. He manages to imbue each character with a good measure of humanity, mostly due to cribbing directly from conversations and relationships in his own life, according to this interview at AfterElton.com. It’s a good example of how to turn personal experience into a narrative with broad appeal. Thom as a character both coming to terms with his homosexuality and his place in the world (a shitty, oppressively dark world…) was easy to relate to as someone who’s done the same; Thom as a character coming to terms with his superpowers was easy to relate to as someone who’s read as many superhero comics as the author obviously has. Superhero fans–gay or straight–will find a lot that is both familiar and enjoyable in this novel.

But as I said, this is all at odds with a general bleakness that makes the book very hard for me to recommend to its target audience. I think I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Moore, being a gay man of a previous generation or two didn’t have a confidant, the internet, or telephone help lines for queer and questioning youth. In that way the author’s experiences directly reflect his character’s and I feel that it’s to the characters’ detriment–as well as that of a teenaged reader. As someone who is a great fan of seemingly timeless gay-themed young adult novels like James Howes’ The Misfits and David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, I personally prefered the way that the characters could be challenged without a situation being necessarily undertaken alone, and without an air of hopelessness. Even Frodo got to have Sam on the trip up Mount Doom, y’know? But reading the numerous positive reviews around the internet (and helpfully catalogued at the author’s website) it seems that mine and David Welsh’s interpretations are in the minority–that the world really is that dark for queer and questioning youth and that this is the book for them.

Hero is most likely going to be enjoyed by comics fans who enjoy work like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, comics that draw on the iconic power and history of superheroes to tell smaller, more personal and human stories (with the requisite occasional huge battle). I haven’t read the recent superhero/novel hit Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, but Hero seems, in focusing on a voice not often heard in the straight-white-boys-club of contemporary comics, likely to appeal to the wide swath of readers who enjoyed that tale (it even has a smart, layered, and ballsy female character to get behind as well!). But for readers either in the target audience or a few years outside of it, I’d much rather slap Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy into their hands than Hero.

But then Boy Meets Boy doesn’t feature a bitch’n fight scene between Batman and Wolverine, so it really is a tough call.

- Christopher

This review is based upon an uncorrected advance proof provided by the publisher.


I haven’t written a lot about comics journalism as of late, and that’s primarily because I haven’t been reading much of it. That’s not a veiled slam or anything (although I do love my veiled slams), between San Diego and… say… late this week, I just didn’t have the time to devote to keeping up with the myriad of interviews, profiles, and other articles that make up the majority of online comics coverage. But last night I was able to get caught up on my feed-reader and I actually feel pretty good the level of discourse right now. When I was last following along in a meaningful way, it was all about the AFRAID OF COCK thing and the discussion surrounding that was a little disappointing. While it seems like any comment about a mainstream comics company (or Fantagraphics, now that I think about it) is met with this wierd binary love/hate thing, in general there are a lot of smart people in the middle ground talking up the good work and being appropriately critical of the bad. Yay, for comics.

My previous bugaboo about ‘online comics journalism’ was… well, I can be more general about it, but quite honestly, it was Matt Brady and Mike Doran at Newsarama defending a lack of teeth in their reporting as not wanting to lose access and get “blacklisted” at Marvel and DC–especially as they defended their actions by stating that it was all ‘entertainment reporting’ anyway and it didn’t have to be serious. Doran went on to work for Marvel, so, yeah… but I will give props to Brady’s recent Newsarama output, particularly his ongoing investigations into the Shuster/Siegel Superboy copyright case. It’s been good reading. I also like the seeming hands-off distance between what’s going on at Blog@Newsarama and the main site… I feel that, quite honestly, the Blog@ staff provide a nice counterpoint in their occasional commentary to the uncritical creator- and project-profiles that the main site is famous for. So despite my history of picking on (and at) the Newsarama guys, I just wanted to point out that the following isn’t about them (I’m actually reading two articles by them over in another window).

Over at The Comics Reporter, Spurgeon had a quote in his weekly round-up the piqued my interest:

Quote Of The Week
“…The threat of a caricature by Drew Friedman, the Thomas Nast of our time, should be enough to bring these vain creatures to heel.” — Ron Rosenbaum, on how to wean magazines away from the celebrity profile and their attendant demands.

That links to an article at Slate magazine about celebrity journalism that’s… really good. Because I eat, sleep, and breathe comics, I couldn’t help but think about comics journalism when reading this excellent article about magazine’s obsessions with “access” to famous people. Like I said above, it’s not just about one website, but there’s this utter and total fear of pissing off the PR guys by calling a Judd Winnick on their brutal treatment of women in an actual interview because you might not get in on the conference call for Richard Donner and Geoff Johns (as a completely made-up example). The idea of ‘approved’ outlets, ‘approved’ journalists, ‘approved’ questions, an ‘approved’ tone. It’s all in comics, it’s everywhere, and it’s really disheartening.

“For one thing, it won’t be just an isolated incident. It will send a signal to politicians that magazine editors are whores for access who can be rolled at will. And then there’s the intangible cost: the cost of such behavior to whatever respect is left for the magazine industry from a public that increasingly thinks the mainstream media are in the pocket of the powerful.

“It’s time for magazine editors to fight this censorship-by-access. Because it’s really self-censorship: the false belief that one can’t run a probing story just because one is denied the anodyne “exclusive” quotes and the super-special “exclusive” photo of the powerful subject reclining on his or her patio. “

- Ron Rosenbaum, Slate Magazine.

I feel complicit a lot of the time too. I’d been meaning to point out that The Darwyn Cooke interview in The Comics Journal this month is one of the worst I’ve ever read in the magazine. I’m friends with Darwyn though and I didn’t (and don’t…) want to start a thing, but the length of time spent talking about animated adaptations of Darwyn’s work (and Bruce Timm…) is totally out of whack, given the career Cooke has had, for starters. I mean when the subject of the interview calls the interviewer a fanboy because he won’t stop asking about Batman? In The Comics Journal!? Yikes. But I like Darwyn Cooke and I know several people at The Journal, and despite the failure of the interview and how much it annoyed me, it’s easier not to rock the boat. Particularly if I don’t wanna have a conversation about it next time I see Darwyn, or maybe want to write for The Comics Journal at some point in the future (note: I don’t, really). And it’s easier to keep your mouth shut about things like this if you just don’t have time to post (eight posts in three weeks! only 3 of substance!).

(I’m not talking about ‘bias’ either, although that skirts around the edges. You’re not going to catch me talking shit about Scott Pilgrim, primarily because I love it, but also because Mal’s a friend of mine. But I’m also buddies with I’d say 2-300 people in the comics industry, and I can assure you not all of their relative projects are off limits.)

Moreover, it’s about this understanding that when you engage a work or a body of work, whether the ‘work’ is the contracts of DC Comics’s big new initiative or the utter despair of just being Angelina Jolie, that the way in which you engage it can have serious consequences on your relationships and your paycheck. Is it worth being persistant, accurate, and uncompromising about reversion rights to Captain America if you don’t get invited to the Marvel ‘party’ at Wizard World? Is it worth being persistant, accurate, and uncompromising about the fate of a fictional character’s marital status when it means you won’t be able to ask questions about those reversion rights down the road?

Darwyn Cooke’s got a thick enough skin that I didn’t ever really need to worry about pissing him off, but the same can’t be said for many creators, editors, and espescially PR folk who treat legitimate criticism or scrutiny as though the critic or journalist is coming at them with a crowbar. While I don’t feel things are as bad as they have been, I do feel like the article at Slate is a good reminder of a Journalistic Ideal, as well as being a call-to-arms for how to approach the ‘celebrity profiles’ the litter comics journalism, particularly when the ‘celebrities’ in question have real power over the industry in which I have chosen to make my fortune. Such as it is.

If you’ve got another 15 minutes to spare after reading all of this, I strongly reccommend heading over to Slate and checking the article out: http://www.slate.com/id/2175248.

- Chris
P.s.: The accompanying article about The Celebrity Profile, linked at the end, is quite good too.


recesspieces.jpgI’m working on two Japan posts and a review/thingy about The Best American Comics 2007, and I came seriously close to declaring Bob Fingerman’s Recess Pieces as the best graphic novel released in 2006. It’s about a group of kids locked in a school where everyone who has gone through puberty becomes an old-school Romero Zombie. A bloodbath ensues, at the hands of precious-moments-figurine-lookin’ 8-year-olds.

I’ve read this thing like 6 times, it never stops being funny. Funnier than The Walking Dead anyway. Those fuckers have no sense of humour at all. And Recess Pieces is a done-in-one graphic novel, it doesn’t have the fifth volume ending in the middle of a goddamned plot-point.

Anyway, I came to my senses in the nick ‘o’ time (seriously though, that little girl has a FENCING FOIL) but I still say that Chris Ware should’ve shoved an excerpt of this right between the PAPER RAD stuff and Love & Rockets. You can check out a preview of the book at the Dark Horse Website.

Now I’m going to pour a drink and watch cartoons.

- Christopher


ringo-potter-a-cut.jpgSteven Gettis, the webmaster of http://mikewieringo.com and the fella behind “Hey Oscar Wilde! It’s clobberin’ time!!!” (a literary tribute website featuring comics artists drawing their favourite literary figures) dropped me a note to let me know about a special site update.

Steven had commissioned a few Harry Potter drawings from Mike Wieringo before he passed away earlier this year, and Steven has decided to share them with the world. I’m glad he did–they’re really fun illustrations. I’ve never been a big fan of the official art for the Harry Potter series, and seeing Wieringo’s illustrations you can’t help but wonder what might’ve been.

I’ve reproduced a small sample here, but if you head over to http://digitalmedusa.com/sgettis/word/ you can see the two illustrations for yourself.

- Christopher


“But as written, the Zudadeal stands in opposition to the creator ownership that has been one of the core strengths of webcomics since Day One. Webcomics can do better, and so can you.”Gary Tyrell, Fleen.com

250px-fightinga.jpgIn the comments section to my last post on this matter, someone whom I can only describe as a starry-eyed hopeful asked me flat out why I wasn’t hanging out at the Zuda forums, if I wanted my questions answered. So I did, and… yikes. The staff there have what I like to call “well-meaning corporate employee” disease, where it’s there job to put the best face on the company and tell you it’s going to be okay, even if they don’t know exactly how it might be okay. This isn’t a jab at them, this is their job, but… yeah, I’m not prepared to accept a Zuda employee’s pat on the back that it’ll be okay. Granted, they do keep advising you TO CHECK WITH A LAWYER BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING, which is very legally responsible on their part.

I’ve also got some trackbacks from other sites talking about the deal and what’s going down. As expected, there’s a bunch of the “Why would you care about signing away one idea? We all have thousands of ideas!” stuff the roughly equates the popularity and success of Simon and Kirby on Captain America with Simon and Kirby on The Fighting American, two ideas clearly of equal value to all parties concerned…

But yeah, I think Gary Tyrell at Fleen.com does a really good job of exploring what the contract means in plain English, and letting people decide if the deal is right for them. It doesn’t paint a rosy picture of course, but then how could it? If you aren’t sick of this yet (or if you’re considering participating in the publishing contest) head over and check Gary’s write-up, I think you’ll be glad you did.

- Christopher, wants to write a webcomic about webcomics.


Tekkon Kinkreet All In One EditionOne of the things I was really looking forward to, when I got back from Japan, was the freeing-up of my schedule. I’ve been ‘in the shit’ as they say since June or July at this point. The lead-up to San Diego, the lead-up to TCAF, the lead-up to my Japan trip, and finally, the lead-up to Toronto’s The Word On The Street where I organised and co-hosted a full day of programming (with special thanks to the always-wonderful Mark Askwith, of course). With WOTS finally over (it went fabulously, thanks for asking) there’s now nothing on my plate, extra-curricular-wise, until Christmas. Business as usual at the store, no major changes coming up at home, things will hopefully be if not calm, then more managable than the past 4 months.

Meanwhile, comics has continued at an astounding pace without me. TEKKON KINKREET, my most-recently championed project, has done phenomenally well for us. I haven’t checked in with Viz yet, but here in Toronto it’s selling particularly well (although mentioning it in the blog 10-15 times probably didn’t hurt none). I’d say we’ve moved better than 20 copies at this point, and about 8 of the DVDs (which is by all accounts phenomenal, I’m waiting for a quiet night to enjoy it), and I’m pretty happy with those numbers, particularly as the velocity actually picked up, last week. I hope this isn’t a situation where what we do at The Beguiling isn’t reflected anywhere else in the industry, because at the very least this is a great book by a great creator, and it deserves an audience.

shortcomings-212.jpgI actually read a LOT of comics last week, both getting ready for my “History of Comics” presentation as well as just wanting to catch up on everything I’d missed while I was away. The new issue of Giant Robot (an Asian culture magazine, not just about robots but also books/film/lifestyle/etc.) features a cover-story on Adrian Tomine in advance of his new graphic novel Shortcomings, and the interview and lovely cover art are worth the price of admission. Shortcomings is very good as well, I’ve even got a half of a review written on it that talks about liking a book even though you don’t like any of the characters in it. I might get it finished or I might not, we’ll see.

Actually it’s just after 2, I should probably get to bed early for a change. Tomorrow our orders are due to Diamond, and I’m only about 50% done at this point. I know it’s pretty late in the game to be complaining about the September Previews (the new one’s been out for a week already), but my god, there are a lot of crappy, crappy COUNTDOWN spin-offs coming down the pipe, aren’t there? Our COUNTDOWN sell-through has slid to about half of what it was at the beginning of the series (and about a third of our 52 numbers), so I don’t know who DC expects will be buying all of these terrible-looking mini-series, but I’m certainly not going to risk any money on it. Yikes.

Anyway, I’d rather go out on a high-note, so I’ll show you the lovely cover to the recent Giant Robot magazine that I was talking about. It’s by Adrian Tomine, and it’s available in better comic book stores (like The Beguiling) and on better newstands everywhere, right now.

Giant Robot Magazine #49 Cover by Adrian Tomine. www.giantrobot.com

- Christopher