Weekender: Magdalene Visaggio, “Band Vs Band” and Rep. John Lewis’ Winning ‘March’ to Bestseller Status
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!
We’re now at a place where the President was spending his time criticizing American heroes for reasons known only to himself. One of those heroes would be Civil Rights leader John Lewis, whose comics biography March this week became the bestselling book on Amazon thanks to uninformed comments from the 45th President. Apparently that was a sales increase of over 106% for the book, published by Top Shelf.
It was one of several retailing positives to spin out of the first few weeks of the year, with Nielsen BookScan confirming that 12million graphic novels were sold in bookstores across 2016. That would account to an increase of around 11-12% over last year, with the note that comics outsold several different sub-genres including horror, westerns, and religious works. So there you go: comics are officially bigger than religion.
But in more worrying news, DC’s recent Rebirth publishing initiative had seen them hold the line with all books retailing at $2.99 across their range. Well, in news spotted this week by various sources, that will soon be changing, as DC will be returning to a more competitive (and Marvel-inspired) pricing range with books retailing for $3.99. The comics will have a digital code for readers, so they not only own a physical but a digital copy --- but that’s not the news that will be most worrying for retailers.
That would be the apparent news that DC’s digital comics will not be rising in price, thereby making it $1 cheaper for readers to buy digitally than to go to their local comics store and buy the issues over the counter. This is a potentially huge move, although I will mention first that DC’s double-shipping books (i.e. Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) will remain at their current price for the time being. DC’s decision to make it easier to go digital than turn to print looks like it could be the first step towards some very challenging times for retailers.
EVENTS AND AWARDS
This February sees the 40th anniversary of 2000AD, the weekly comics magazine, which has brought readers comics like Strontium Dog, Zenith, and Halo Jones, amongst others. Oh, and that Judge Dredd feller. To celebrate, they’re holding a one-day festival in London,which is going to see a huge roster of writers, artists and editors come along to ring in the fourth decade of the publication. This week the organizers announced the schedule for the day, which includes a series of panels, live drawing, and more. With a line-up including John Wagner, Peter Milligan, Al Ewing, Emma Beeby, Arthur Ranson and probably a hundred others, it’s looking like it’ll be a fantastic day.
And I don’t just say that because I’ll be there too, hosting two panels for the event --- the Writers’ Roundtable panel with Ewing, Beeby, and Rob Williams, along with the 4th Generation Panel, celebrating the best new talent working for the Prog today. The celebration will be held on February 11.
Elsewhere, Angouleme have announced the three finalists for their Grand Prix this year, who are, shocker, all white guys. After originally picking Alan Moore --- who declined --- the awards panel have instead chosen for the winner to be either Chris Ware, Cosey or Manu Larcenet. There’ll be another round of voting from industry professionals before the winner is announced one week before this year’s festival.
Here’s a ready gathering of lovely people: Megan Purdy joins this week’s Reboot Comic Club alongside regular host Joe Schmidt and guest host Chase Magnett. This is a bit of a reestablishment of the podcast as it was, with a new arrangement of segments which includes a "comics canon" in which everyone round the mike talks about a classic comic and decides whether it lives up to the reputation it’s acquired --- Kingdom Come is the first to get the treatment. Purdy also brings a comic to discuss, in this case being Wuvable Oafby Ed Luce.
If you like the smash-hit approach of Jem & The Holograms, then I’d direct all of your attention across to Band Vs Band, by Kathleen Jacques. This is the story of two young women who both has a passion for music --- a passion which brings them first into conflict with one another, but then into something a little more… something more. And it’s filtered through a style which bounces with verve and energy, reminding a little of the raw energy of something like Love and Rockets. The characters, for sure, resonate passionately through each update, as Jacques brings a sense of real life to them all. She especially makes sure that the central romance hooks readers instantly, deftly creating an unlikely and yet immediately necessary connection which feels real, and yet larger than life. Her storytelling is fantastic.
And you know what? As I write this, I just realized that Jon Erik Christianson has pipped me to the post, as this week he’s conducted a wonderful interview with Jacques right here on ComicsAlliance!
Mags Visaggio returned to Paste this week to talk about the importance of finding safe spaces within comics, especially during the Presidency of whatshisname. What I’m really appreciating at the moment is how direct she can be in her essay whilst retaining a sense of clarity, purpose, and momentum --- she simply directs the reader through some torrid situations, unfurling a poetic sense of determination which inspires and unites.
Ray Sonne writes on the lettering of the recent Spurrier/Stokely/May miniseries The Spire over at BOOM! Studios, noting how Steve Wands switches and plays around with different styles even within the same panel. A Si Spurrier script is a fast-paced piece of work, and Wands is completely on top of his game as he approaches adapting it into comics form.
Osvaldo Oyola approaches comics in a way which feels utterly essential. In this week's post entitled "The Tangled Web of Racial and Gender Progress in Comics" he takes a comic which perhaps everybody has forgotten about, but looks at how it casually affirms and cultivates stereotypes which touch on racism, homophobia and swivel round into several other areas which are equally unpleasant when considered as carefully as he offers in his piece. He pivots the piece to then further explore some at first esoteric but smartly chosen other works which also get by on affirming prejudices.
2000AD aren’t the only company celebrating this year --- Image Comics are also headed for their 25th anniversary in 2017. The publisher are putting together a series of little celebrations, but the most immediately notable is probably that they just threw a ridiculous number of comics into a massive Humble Bundle, which is running now. You can get a staggering number of excellent comics through this one, folks! Go drop out the real world for a little while, head into some fictional ones, and then come back all fired up, yeah?
Have a great weekend, everybody!
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