Weekender: Ezra Claytan Daniels, ‘Mistlands’, And Berger Books
The weekend is here! Take a look back at what’s happened in the past seven days. New comics, new stories, new podcasts, new art being made — it’s all part of the ComicsAlliance Weekender!
Karen Berger’s return to comics started with Surgeon X, the Image series she helped set up with the creative team of Sara Kenney and the late John Watkiss. At this week’s ComicsPro event, however, the next step of her grand plan was unveiled: she is going to be the curator and editor of a new imprint at Dark Horse Comics, Berger Books.
This is billed as a line of creator-owned titles (a claim that we’ll be keeping an eye on) with a focus on graphic novels over monthly comics. Those books will be distributed through comics retailers, as part of Dark Horse; but also through Penguin/Random House as part of a larger-scale distribution effort into bookshops.
No books were announced, and no creative talent revealed; therefore the focus right now is on how having a "prestige" line of books within Dark Horse will change the company’s approach. With their Star Wars license long gone to Marvel, and Mike Mignola slowing down his Mignolaverse line of comics, which included Hellboy, you have to wonder how important Berger Books is to keeping Dark Horse in the spotlight, and building them up some momentum again.
Boom Studios had perhaps the most impressive list of promises and pledges for the retailers in attendance at ComicsPro. The publisher noted that it has cut down on variant covers by 33%, and comics in general by 15% --- meaning there were fewer comics for retailers to choose between, and the comics published were more likely to sell to their target audience. Boom claims that 97% of its comics have shipped on time, which I believe leaves them only behind Valiant in those terms, who have never had a late-shipping title to date.
However, the main news is that Boom is going to offer full returnability for retailers, following a trial program in 2016. From initial reports, this means that each month Boom is going to remove minimum order requirements for retailers and allow unsold stock to be returned for refunds. This “Boom Guarantee” seems to have no qualifiers. And if that is the case, this is potentially massive news for the comics industry, and retailing in particular.
While Dark Horse and Boom made some major moves at ComicsPro, Top Shelf quietly unveiled its Spring line-up of comics --- and there are some really exciting books there. Campbell Whyte is coming to the publisher this year with Home Time, which sees the Australian hark back to the late '80s/early '90s for a new graphic novel.
He’s joined at Top Shelf by one of their leading talents, Nate Powell, who is fresh off the hugely successful March trilogy. Omnibox will collect several of the short stories Powell compiled prior, including Swallow Me Whole, Any Empire, and You Don't Say. Both are slated for a June release.
Speaking of returning to the past: this May Rob Liefeld is overseeing a new Youngblood series over at Image, this time written by Chad Bowers and drawn by Jim Towe.
EVENTS AND AWARDS
We’re starting to learn a little more about this year’s Glasgow Comic-Con, which has become a cornerstone of the Scottish comics calendar and an important touchpoint for UK comics as a whole. This week we saw the official 2017 poster from Neil Slorance (as above), and tickets went on sale for the show, held July 1. No guests have been announced yet, but the show has done very well over the last few years, and comics creators in the UK generally speak very highly of it, so I can see those tickets going quickly.
The 3rd Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics was awarded last weekend to Ezra Claytan Daniels, the writer and artist of Upgrade Soul. As paraphrased by Charlotte Fullerton McDuffie, the goal of the award can be summed up as follows: “everyone deserves to see themselves represented in the media. And everyone deserves to participate in telling their own story.” Upgrade Soul is a real experience as a comic --- it’s not just a digital comic, but a full-blown multi-media experience, playing music and allowing the reader to explore and progress through the story in several unexpected ways. You can take a look at it here, and I heartily recommend doing so.
Anybody familiar with ComicsAlliance will obviously be familiar with Elle Collins and Juliet Kahn, two of the hugely talented people to write here. You can also hear from them, as they’re the co-hosts of a new Wonder Woman podcast, The Lasso of Truth. Each episode sees them talking about the amazing Amazon, and the very first edition has the pair talking about Wondy’s first-ever comics appearance in All-Star Comics #8. I have this one lined up to listen to across the weekend, and I’m tremendously excited for it --- anybody who has heard Juliet and Elle talk on the Into It podcast will know they have an immediate rapport.
New Zealand cartoonist Laya Rose’s webcomic Mistlands has been running since late last year, with the story following Es, a half fey girl from a small town in NZ. Although aware of her heritage, she’s never explored that side of her family until, well, one day she finds herself learning more about it that she could ever have imagined.
An important part of the story is that it features a number of Aspec (Asexual, Aromantic, or Agender) characters, most of them female, which particularly informs the narrative in the way they interact with one another and how their relationships develop. Although the comic has only been running for a few months, Rose has already created a curiously compelling narrative that hints at several of the stories that will be falling into place down the line. There’s a weird, fun atmosphere to proceedings, and the characters offer a different perspective on life, which makes for a refreshing style of comic.
With 2000 AD celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, there’s been no end of articles written about the UK’s most formidable comics publication. Articles have been popping up just about everywhere in recognition to this mightily impressive feat, including this one over at the BBC, written by Robert Murphy. Meanwhile, The Independent joined in with a list of 40 reasons why it’s the greatest comic in the galaxy.
Speaking of 2000 AD, when I think of the Prog, I tend to think of #1 critic Kelly Kanayama, and that led me to notice that she’s set up a Patreon account to help fund her as she writes a book on the work of Garth Ennis. Go take a look!
An uncredited blog post over on Apartment 507 asks the question: if Weekly Shonen Jump is the biggest manga publication in the world right now, how come it’s struggling to maintain series for any significant length of time? It looks like recently a number of promising stories have been cut down before they had a chance to start, which might help on a short-term perspective, but doesn’t seem like a useful long-term strategy.
Alex Dueben continues to put together some impressive comics-related interviews, and over on CBR this week he was able to sit down with Jamie Delano and look back at some of his past --- and present --- projects.
Last year’s Thought Bubble festival hosted several panels, and five of them have now been uploaded as video to Youtube, courtesy of Green Light Video. The video playlist includes Mike Mignola sitting down for a one-to-one with Mike Molcher, Eric Stephenson assembling an Image comics panel, and journalist Claire Napier discussing "the best comics I read all year." Also, uh, me, hosting my first panel at a comics convention. Eek.
Everybody admires Annie Koyama. That's just a fact about the comics world as a whole, and it's in part because everything she does seems to be to make comics a better place. Her latest move has been to donate over 250 pages of original comics art to the Billy Ireland museum in Columbus, including work from people like Lisa Hanawalt, Katie Skelly and Eleanor Davis. These pieces will now be available for new generations of aspiring creators to view and hopefully draw inspiration from, in turn perhaps leading them to create even more groundbreaking comics work themselves.
An exhibition featuring the Koyama Collection will run next year from May 6 to October 21.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
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