Weekender: Jewel Kats, Yifan Ling, and ‘The Portrait of Sal Pullman’
What a week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sit back and read some comics. The weekend is finally here, and the world can relax and rest once more — but the comics industry has been busy too, and the last seven days have seen a flurry of comics-based news and announcements fly past at high speed. ComicsAlliance has got your back; when it comes to comics, we never slow down, so here’s a look back and just what’s been going on.
New comics, new stories, new hirings, new podcasts, new art being made — it’s all part of the ComicsAlliance Weekender!
Fair Page Rates has been the talk of the t’internet this week, a site that asked artists, colorists and letterers to anonymously (although in some cases not very anonymously) get in touch and submit what their standard page rates were for the various companies they work at. The results are an interesting open gambit, suggesting that letterers do not get paid very much, and rates for coloring seems to vary wildly, and nodding towards various other trends through the industry.
It has to be noted that in a survey such as this, the results are only as useful as the creatives who submit. People who have had a negative experience always have more to say than those who’ve had a positive experience, as the reviews for my grandma’s holiday chalet bear out. Not enough people have taken part in the survey yet for this to be a real critique/insight of the industry --- and yet. It’s a start, it’s opened the gates.
For the industry to offer a fairer life to the creatives that give it life, these things need to be out in the open, getting discussed, getting worked on. Take note, and come back in a year to take note again, when it’ll be a substantially more valuable project still.
Author Jewel Kats, whose life inspired the creation of Archie character Harper Lodge, has sadly passed away this week. A hugely charismatic presence, she was a wheelchair user after an incident as a child, and worked as an advocate for people with disabilities, writing several fairytales reimagined with protagonists who had disabilities or illnesses.
As the story goes, Kats approached Archie’s Dan Parent a little while ago to ask why there isn’t there a character with a disability in Riverdale; a brilliant question that made the writer/artist reevaluate his stories. So Parent introduced Harper Lodge as a new love interest for Archie. Hopefully Harper will endure, as a tribute to Kats’ commitment to asking for more.
Angouleme is still in the news, as Sodastream has vanished from the list of sponsors for this year. The company has been criticized for having manufacturing facilities in disputed territory on the West Bank, and its absence from this year’s sponsorship has been hailed as a victory by campaigners. Many prominent cartoonists had stated their displeasure with Sodastream’s involvement in the festival, including Alison Bechdel, Lewis Trondheim, and Jaime Hernandez.
In other Angouleme news, Forbidden Planet asked various creators and critics to talk about female comics talent they’re particularly excited by, in light of the exclusion of women from the initial Angouleme Grand Prix longlist.
We’re a week away from a festival that is far less controversial, as the 2016 Black Comics Festival is slated to take place at the Schomburg Center in New York. This will be the fourth year for the festival, which celebrates the very best in established and upcoming comics talent. Names in attendance this year include David Walker, Jamal Igle, Christa Cassano and Karl Bollers. And entrance is free!
NEW AND UPCOMING COMICS
Margaret Trauth, who wrote and created the mind-trip comic Decrypting Rita a few years go, has returned this year with a new project, The Drowning City. Created once more entirely in Adobe Illustrator, this digital project appears to no less of a huge undertaking than the last, with an immediate cross-purpose set of conversations that will throw you off and hook you in at the same time. Trauth is an immense talent with a mind that can process things that mere mortals can’t understand. Get in on the ground floor of this one, and by the end of the year you’ll be stuck inside her construction forever.
A very promising new comic has appeared from writer Lonnie Nadler and artist Abby Howard, called The Portrait of Sal Pullman. This is a hugely impressive piece of work so far, a tale of gothic creativity and madness, which crumbles further and more thoroughly the more you read through each digital page. The team command their digital space brilliantly, making real use of the scroll to accentuate shadow and light and create a riveting portrait of a mind being driven mad.
And also…. Roman Muradov’s been improvising some weird comics about books written by old dead white dudes.
We’ll kick things off at home this week, as Benito Cereno wrote this look back at Tintin, the series from Belgian cartoonist Herge. The artist declared that January 10th was Tintin’s official birthday, which seems like a good enough reason for us to celebrate the milestone --- any chance to talk about the series, really. Benito talks about style, and context, noting that some of the work featured in the comics is now wildly outdated in terms of content and presentation. There is progression over time, however, and that could be an important part of how the character has maintained such staying power today.
Here’s a profile on recent Birmingham University graduate Yifan Ling, whose digital work Guarding has proven immensely popular, garnering over 110 million views since it was published. She’s known under her pen-name Buddy, and has since published over 20 works of manga, earning her a place on the shortlist for an arts grant by the British Council (and we don’t have much left in our arts budget, so that’s quite a big deal).
Katherine Dacey, Deb Aoki and Brigid Alverson got together for a rolling roundtable talk about the manga they’re most excited for in 2016. These are three of the best minds to inform, guide, and push you towards some of the best of what’s to come.
I haven’t focused too much on best-of type lists for Weekender in general, but I did think it worth pointing you all towards Jon Erik Christianson’s look at queer comics over the past year. I wish the article was longer, but it’s a nice, positive read at the end of a year that wasn’t that nice or positive in general.
I really enjoyed reading this piece from Suzanne Walker, co-creator of the webcomic Mooncakes. Walker is hard-of-hearing, and, tired of an industry where young readers don’t get many heroes with a disability who they can relate to, she decided to make her lead character a person with hearing loss. It’s a fairly simple story, I suppose, but the way Walker tells it in the piece is really something --- drawing you in and making you feel just how important this one simple change was for her.
With the opening of Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, it’s been reported that owner Ariell R. Johnson is the first black woman owner of a comics store on the East Coast. Maybe that’s true, maybe not, but the best thing here is that we’ve got a new comics store we can champion. More comics stores is always a good thing! With every new location that opens, our collective nerd power grows, energizing us through new magical comic-store leylines that will sweep around the world... okay maybe I’m overstating things a little. Hurray for new comics stores, though!