Vertical Inc. publishes manga about eating disorders, adorable cat antics, 18th century prostitutes, and murderous high school cults. It brings avant-garde creators like Kyoko Okazaki and Moyoco Anno to Western eyes right alongside classic Tezuka work and more mainstream shonen fare like Knights of Sidonia and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. I point to Vertical when friends ask me how to get into female manga creators, how to get into horror manga, how to get into josei (women’s) manga, or how to just take a break from the cycle of standard sci-fi and fantasy.
Vertcal is utterly singular and entirely necessary to the comics industry, and it was to the Vertical booth that I sped once the doors to the San Diego Comic-Con Exhibit Hall were open this year. After examining their new releases (I recommend In Clothes Called Fat, another glance into female anxiety courtesy of Moyoco Anno), I sat down with Ed Chavez, Vertical’s marketing director, to talk about past successes, present realities, and future plans.
When Wendy and Richard Pini released the first issue of Elfquest in 1978, the landscape of the comic industry was wildly different. The "direct market" model of retailing was still in its infancy, with a loose network of regional companies distributing titles to comic shops around the country, and there was a sharp divide (in both content and style) between the mainstream superhero titles of Marvel and DC, and the adult-themed "comix" from underground publishers. Star Wars was a pop culture sensation, and the public was hungry for more adventure, seeking out all manner of sci-fi and fantasy in theaters and bookstores.
It was the perfect moment for Elfquest to appear, and almost immediately, the Pinis had a best-selling comic on their hands. Within a few years, they sparked a second revolution, collecting Elfquest in a series of full-color paperbacks that pioneered the influx of comics into mainstream bookstores, and effectively laid the groundwork for the graphic novel market.
Now, 36 years later, they're still working on their signature creations, and have partnered with Dark Horse to publish a new series, Elfquest: The Final Quest, as well as new collections of the original series and a special "Gallery Edition," shot from the original artwork. ComicsAlliance got the chance to catch up with them at the Dark Horse booth at San Diego Comic-Con, and discuss how Elfquest has impacted the world of comics, both creatively and business-wise.
Mark Buckingham’s art hasn't just made Fables a classic — it has made it, and comics in general, accessible to reluctant readers the world over. His work on the long-running Vertigo series chronicling the lives of exiled fairy tale characters is simple, but never simplistic, and visually strong without ever sacrificing complexity. From Buckingham’s pen flow wooden soldiers of truly oaken resolve, smart-mouthed witches, rumpled detectives and alcoholic, anthropomorphic pigs, all living and loving in the little slice of New York City they've made their own.
Buckingham has helped propel the Bill Willingham-written series to the bestseller lists over and over again, inspired decadent cosplay and made Fables the kind of work that's beloved by your bag-and-boarding friends and your mom alike. Now, as the story nears its end, Buckingham is preparing to say goodbye the world he so richly imagined. ComicsAlliance found him at San Diego Comic-Con to discuss the fond farewell and what the future holds.
Guardians Of The Galaxy just enjoyed a very successful weekend at movie theaters, taking home around $94m, far in excess of expectations. The movie also stands at 92% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, joining all previous Marvel Studios movies in receiving predominantly favorable notices.
Marvel Studios is doing very well. In six years and ten movies, it has avoided both critical and commercial disasters, and frustrated naysayers who hailed the demise of the superhero movie at every step. Marvel's rivals at Fox, Sony Columbia, and Warner Bros, have enjoyed commercial success as well -- but not with the acclaim, consistency, or proliferation of Marvel. So how does Marvel do it, and can they keep doing it?
As much as ‘Guardians’ is a modern Marvel money-making machine, it’s also a tribute to a genre that died in the mid-‘80s. A genre that includes those very movies that people around my age think of fondly – in other words: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is more a tribute to movies like ‘The Last Starfighter’ than it is to ‘Star Wars.’
Director James Gunn's Guardians Of The Galaxy is a big gamble for Marvel Studios. It's an unknown quantity even to most comic fans. It's a space opera at a time when non-Lucasfilm space operas don't perform well. It's a movie with a talking raccoon at a time when even Disney princess movies don't have talking animals.
Of course, all of Marvel's movies have been gambles. Iron Man wasn't a household name, despite how we think of the character now. Thor was a sci fi fantasy movie -- what could be worse? Captain America seemed an impossible sell for overseas markets. Bringing those franchises together for Avengers? Insanity. Marvel Studios' safest bet was probably Hulk -- a household name and a proven quantity -- and that's been the studio's weakest performer. So it looks like the big gambles are where Marvel excels. If Guardians Of The Galaxy is the studio's biggest gamble to date, it makes a weird kind of sense that it's also one of the studio's most delightful successes.
Canada offers an impressive range of comics talents, but its comic industry has usually been overshadowed by the buying power of the U.S. market -- but for one brief period in modern history. During the Second World War Canada restricted the import of non-essential items -- and that included comic books. For much of the 1940s, Canadians could only read Canadian comics. The era has become known as the Canadian Golden Age.
Hope Nicholson was a researcher on a documentary about the characters created during this era, Lost Heroes. Fascinated by the subject, Nicholson and her partner Rachel Richey launched a project to restore and republish the stories of one of the first comic superheroines, Adrian Dingle's Nelvana of the Northern Lights. With that book now in print, Nicholson has launched a Kickstarter to revive another lost Canadian hero; the square-jawed action man Brok Windsor.
Creators Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy's mind-bending, centuries-spanning Vertigo Comics horror/sci-fi series The Wake comes to an end today, and it has covered a lot of ground in its 10 issues -- which is quite an accomplishment for a book that takes place in a world almost entirely covered by water.
A mix of horror and mythology spanning three different time periods, The Wake features a group of scientists, led by Dr. Lee Archer, attempting to uncover the secrets of a vicious Merman-like creature captured by the U.S. government. As Dr. Archer and her team do their best to discover the truth, the creature -- with the ability to invade their thoughts, granting them each what they believe to be their heart's desires -- has other plans. The creature unlocks many of mankind's myths of the sea -- and, consequently, itself -- and propels a wild-eyed, high adventure narrative that traverses centuries and brings in monsters, pirates, super-science, post-apocalyptic cultures and some of the most haunting psychological horror Vertigo's published in years.
Throughout, the Eisner-winning series has taken the emotional, intellectual and philosophical and made them manifest on the page with some highly innovative and bold storytelling techniques, such as when, after five issues of following Dr. Lee's adventure, the book jumps hundreds of years into the future to focus on a new protagonist and her cybernetic dolphin. The final issue takes that approach to a whole other level, telling a creation myth while providing closure for the characters. It's quite an accomplishment, and we talked with Snyder and Murphy about how they pulled it off.
Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire, the co-writers of the upcoming miniseries The Valiant -- a prestige-format miniseries featuring Bloodshot, Geomancer and Eternal Warrior -- have each done superhero work in the past, but they've really made their names with creator-owned work that they wrote and drew. Kindt's Mind MGMT has taken off, and Lemire struck a chord with series including Sweet Tooth and Trillium.
Those credentials are part of why Valiant invited the two creators to work on the new miniseries -- one that's being touted as an entry point for new readers, but also as a turning point for the whole Valiant Universe. They've been given some wiggle room to develop a character-based story and put their creative voices to work. The result is something both writers seem really proud of, not to mention a story that's bound to look good, with artwork by Paolo Rivera.
We sat down with Lemire and Kindt at San Diego Comic-Con International to ask them about their collaboration, how their backgrounds in cartooning inform their superhero work, and how Valiant's universe differs from others.
Sailor Moon is inescapable. There’s the new anime of course, and the new musicals, the merchandise, and the retranslation of the manga. But it’s the emblem of a wider renaissance as well, a resurgence of love for mahou shoujo, or magical girl anime and manga — a movement led by women well out of their childhood years. A quick stroll through Tumblr reveals Sailor Moon cupcakes, punky Sailor Moon jackets, heartfelt essays about what the portrayal of lesbianism in Sailor Moon meant to the reader, dozens of artists working together to reanimate an episode of the anime, Sailor Moon nail art tutorials, cats named Luna, Beryl, Haruka and everything in between, hand-sculpted figurines, ornate embroidery projects, and an endless avalanche of fanart. Sailor Moon as an Adventure Time character. Sailor Moon cheekily clutching a Hitachi Magic Wand. Sailor Moon as a vicious biker chick. Sailor Moon protesting the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling.
Sailor Moon fans have not so much rediscovered their love for Naoko Takeuchi’s sword-and-sparkle epic as they have elected her queen mother of their imaginations and ultimate aspirational self. She is, simultaneously, symbol, cause, and leader.
This resurgence is animated by more than typical fannish passion. This is a need to return to a world where young women are in charge. This is an anger at the pabulum of Good Role Models for Girls, at boob windows and “fridging" and “tits or gtfo.” This is 15-year-olds covering their notebooks in “MERMAIDS AGAINST MISOGYNY” stickers, yet also gravely serious grad students applying bell hooks to Takeuchi’s use of Greco-Roman myth. This is a collective invoking of spirits, made more potent in their absence — Usagi Tsukino and all her friends as saints and saviors, carrying the light of childhood optimism to an adulthood in sore need of it. This is nostalgia as a weapon. “Pretty soldiers” indeed.
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