Weekender: NYT Best Sellers, John Watkiss, And ‘The Girl Who Flew Away’
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!
Last week we learned that the New York Times has done away with its Bestseller Lists for graphic novels, removing one of the most powerful marketing opportunities left for comics. The hardcover graphic novels, softcover graphic novels, and manga bestseller lists have all been removed from the digital and print editions of the paper as a result of the changes, which will be in effect from February 5th.
Books like the March trilogy as well as Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, have benefitted immensely from being able to call themselves “NYT Bestsellers,” which wasn’t just a point of pride but also a hugely useful marketing tool.
When asked for comment on the change, the official response was that “the discontinued lists did not reach or resonate with many readers. This change allows us to expand our coverage of these books in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres.”
This will affect the comics market, in part due to the way the direct market itself is set up. With a handful of publishers dominating, books like Smile (published through Scholastic) or March (published by Top Shelf) are going to struggle to be seen by comics readers moving forward. And due to the white-guy-centric approach of the main, say, twenty comics publishers, that means this will also reduce the numbers of eyes seeing comics by people of color, LGBTQ people, and women.
At the same time, many have argued that the comics industry was far too dependent on the column for its own good. Newspapers are cutting back as a whole, and it was only a matter of time before the lists were removed. Some cartoonists, like Scott McCloud, took the approach of “explain yourselves” on social media, which seems to sum up the entitlement that certain areas of the comics market had. Comics weren’t owed the list; the list didn’t "legitimize" comics; and perhaps the industry should take a moment to wonder exactly why the list was needed to begin with.
In other news, the much-admired Canadian comics store The Beguiling has moved to a new location, as last weekend the owners bid farewell to Markham Street and headed to 319 College Street. The Beguiling is a shop that has managed to build an impressive reputation for itself over the last 29 years (nice age, that). I’m sure the relocation will help them continue to build.
Artist, animator and storyboard artist John Watkiss has passed away at the age of 55. As a painter, he worked on comics including Sandman and Detective Comics, forming a working relationship with foundational editor Karen Berger, which more recently led to his announcement as the artist for the Image Comics series Surgeon X, which drew critical acclaim. Watkiss’ run as artist led to six completed issues of the series, meaning his work on the book will last through until next month.
Former Vertigo Comics executive editor Shelly Bond, who was fired by the company to huge outcry last year, has resurfaced with a starry new comics project. Femme Magnifique will be an anthology that collects work from a number of Vertigo mainstays --- including the Allreds, Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Jill Thompson --- along with projects coordinated through several new and upcoming talents. Gerard Way is involved, along with Hope Nicholson; Ron Wimberly, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Tee Franklin and --- no surprise --- Philip Bond. No release date has been announced yet, but you can see a full list of contributors here.
Czap Books has joined up with Grindstone Comics for a joint venture to be published quarterly, called Ley Lines. Continuing on from its emergence last year, each issue of Ley Lines features a different cartoonist making work inspired by a different artist --- from William Blake right through to Kylie Minogue.
Co-financed by Koyama Press, the line-up for 2017’s Ley Lines schedule has just been announced, and will see Tommi Parrish on William Blake and Lydia Lunch; Eric Kostiuk Williams on Kylie Minogue; Shreyas R Krishnan on Abida Parveen; and Evan Dahm on the Surrealists.
DC Comics has opened up for applications to its 2017 Talent Workshop. More details can be found here.
EVENTS AND AWARDS
Cosey has won 2017’s Angouleme Grand Prix. In a shortlist alongside Chris Ware and Manu Larcenet, the incredibly popular Cosey (real name Bernard Cosandey) prevailed through the vote. Having made a number of French-language comics in Europe across the years, the 66-year old is best known for his creation Jonathan. He will succeed Hermann as the director for the festival, in what has been viewed by many as a safe, somewhat predictable Grand Prix campaign from the festival following a discontented critical response to 2016’s ceremony.
A new comics convention is coming to Cuba in 2017, as Havana is poised for the inaugural Cuban Comic Expo in May. Full details have yet to be announced, but it’d be very interesting to see a comics convention come into place that can celebrate the importance of Cuban writers and artists to the industry as a whole. I’m not sure if this is being run as a film/TV convention as well; or if comics is indeed the focus of the event --- we’ll see more when further news comes in from the organizers.
Here’s a little public service announcement for you: it’s far past time that we told you about a boatload of comics-related newsletters that have been set up over the past months. People at all levels of the comics industry have taken to the format recently, offering direct access to the thought process of some of those in the most interesting positions in the medium.
For example, two alumnae of ComicsAlliance have their own newsletters. Firs there’s David Brothers, offering an irregular mini-essay on anything that comes to his mind, mixing personal insight and criticism with an eclectic choice of subject. Then Zainab Akhtar has revamped her Patreon to include a monthly newsletter that will be sent out direct, and feature previews, reviews, and her own signature approach to what’s interesting (and what isn’t) in comics today.
Perhaps you’d like to hear from Ed Brubaker, from Archie Comics’ Alex Segura, or Warren Ellis? You can get daily comics from The Nib through their newsletter, or learn what’s going on from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction at Milkfed.
Ans, full disclosure, I've launched a newsletter myself, The MNT, produced in collaboration with Christian Hoffer and Megan Purdy. You can read the first issue of that one now! (The MNT is not affiliated with ComicsAlliance!)
More newsletters in coming weeks!
When critic Juliet Kahn describes something as “one of the single most thoughtful and beautifully constructed comics being made today” you damn well need to stand up and pay attention. And you know what? The Girl Who Flew Away is wonderful work.
The creation of M. Dean, the series flits between two time periods, partly set in the 1920s and partly in the '70s. After sleeping with her boss, protagonist Greer Johnson finds she's pregnant, and is sent to live in Florida for the duration of her pregnancy. While there, she starts having these dreams…
From the first page onwards, it becomes clear that Dean has thought through the comic so carefully, so critically, that every panel feels fresh, reinvigorating, like you’re truly reading something that could really change the game entirely. Dean constantly uses her characters to break the narrative in fascinating ways, their body language betraying when they don’t mean what they’re saying. The use of flashbacks and dream sequences serves to re-contextualise everything you’re seeing at several points. Her cartooning is exquisite, and her story unravels in surprising, compelling ways. This is the best comic I’ve read in 2017 to date.
I’ve no idea how you make a post like this on Facebook, but at last: a good-looking essay written on Facebook! Andworld Design took to the site for a look at lettering and design, in this instance specifically interested in the lettering work of Aditya Bidikar on the current Image Comics series Motor Crush. The essay looks at the more experimental ideas seen in Bidikar’s work, and how they play out and enhance the adventurous style of the narrative from the writers and artists.
With Image turning 25 this week, ComicsAlliance has assembled a fantastic line-up of pieces looking back at the importance of various comics released by the publisher over the years. You can take a look through them all by following this tag!
Colleen Doran does the thing everybody wants more comics creatives to do: she talks about the money. A huge problem in the industry is an unwillingness to talk about how the finances work out for artists and writers.
The more people talk about it, and raise awareness, the more pressure can be placed to ensure that creatives are looked after properly by their publishers. Doran is perhaps a bit of an outlier, in that her incredible career (more on that in a few weeks, hint hint) has led her to some high-tier prestige projects of late. But she once again proves herself a frontrunner when it comes to tackling the biggest issues in the comics industry, and someone we’re lucky to have.
The Retailer’s View continues apace over on The Beat, with Brandon Schatz going into detail on all this doom-and-gloom we’ve been hearing about how the comics retailing world is in trouble. The main takeaway here is that Marvel and DC’s sales initiatives have a tendency to favor a quick burnout, which retailers as a whole have been too eager to jump onto for a short-term boost --- not counting on how bad and how long-term the withdrawal will be for readers and, subsequently, sales.
Photographer Julius Vergara hadn’t been to a comics convention for six years when he made the decision to attend the Los Angeles Cosplay convention. Not sure quite what to expect, or how he would be able to get on, he actually found that bringing his new camera helped him develop the confidence to approach people and take photos of their work. That led to him spending the evening with a group of new friends --- and brought him opportunities he could never have expected. Read his essay to learn more!
Have a great weekend, everybody!
Have a tip you’d like to share for Weekender? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!