Weekender: Brandon Graham, EgyCon, Harpy Gee and ‘Stand Still Stay Silent’
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, you know, and the last seven days have seen a flurry of comics-based news and announcements fly past at high speed.
ComicsAlliance have got your back, though: when it comes to comics, we never slow down, and so here’s a look back and just what’s been going on. New comics, new stories, new podcasts, new art being made — it’s all part of the ComicsAlliance Weekender!
It’s time for for Image Expo once more, everybody! Having skipped their traditional start-of-year barrage of announcements, the publisher is this year saving itself for April, and Emerald City Comic-Con. Seattle’s biggest convention will be home to Image's surprise-guest-heavy presentation, and a few guests have been announced in advance, including Alison Sampson, Leila Del Duca, Jonathan Hickman and Rick Remender --- and hopefully there will be another keynote speech from Eric Stephenson, though he'll be using some of his best material at Comics PRO this weekend.
Image is also hosting a Spring Formal dance at the weekend, apparently designed to celebrate the industry’s diversity... which hopefully means that the announcements will include a lot more people of color. Let’s keep an eye on things in spring.
Matt Bors has found a home for The Nib, which left Medium last year. As of the summer, the project will land at First Look Media, with Bors staying on as editor. It looks as though this means The Nib will be repurposed somewhat --- not in style, but format --- with work featured not just on the site, but also through some kind of email subscription, with regular updates headed straight to the inbox every day.
Another move that hit the news this week comes from The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is relocating from New York after ten years of residence, to Portland, which is situated over a hellmouth that preternaturally pulls all comics-related matters slowly into its orbit. Leaving New York obviously means that the organisation will reduce its costs by a huge margin, and being in Portland will locate it closer to several big comics movers-and-shakers. The new offices open in June.
Meanwhile! Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill have a Kickstarter going on at the moment for something called Cinema Purgatorio, which we reported on previously. As is apparently the custom from publisher Avatar Comics, not a single woman has been invited to be part of the project. This week Panels.net called them out.
NEW AND UPCOMING COMICS
You can spend hours of your life on Stand Still Stay Silent just gazing at the coloring and composition --- if you figure in the lettering’s structure, we’re talking days at a time. And the words themselves? Forget it, weeks of your life will rush by in an instant. Created by Finnish-Swedish artist Minna Sundberg, this is a stunning ongoing work, which has a vast scope and scale but pins itself on a handful of exceptionally well-created protagonists.
It all begins simply, but --- as with her “practice comic” A Redtail’s Dream, which ran 500-pages --- things build to a grander scale. Sundberg is one of the most talented artists and creatives I think I’ve ever seen, and the way she draws you into her world is subtle, but characterized by a remarkable strength. If you like comics, bow your head in awe.
This LA Times piece on Hiromi Goto and Celine Loup’s 2018-graphic novel Shadow Life looks at a character you literally only ever see in Spider-Man comics: a seventy year old lady. The story, which will be published by First Second, follows Kumiko, whose grown-up daughters place her in a care home --- which she then runs away from.
After taking up life in a new bachelor pad, Kumiko starts to face up to her own spiraling mortality… until she decides instead to take on Death one-and-one; to the winner goes the spoils. Loup describes the character as “elderly, chubby, queer and Asian”, which makes her literally the only elderly, chubby, queer and Asian character that’s ever appeared in an American comic. Goto gives a brilliant interview, and this sounds like such a terrific book. Very excited for this one!
And here’s a webcomic which couldn’t be any more different --- yet is equally fantastical. Harpy Gee, by Brianne Drouhard, starts off as a fantasy series complete with sword-fighting, magic, monsters and elves, before making a complete left-turn into the small-town exploits of said magical monster-slashing elf as she works in a little potion shop.
As you read through you get to watch several small shifts in Drouhard’s storytelling style, as she switches up her artistic process and takes things into a unique and radical place. It’s fun, silly, and really enjoyable to read. I posted the above page on Twitter yesterday after reading through the comic, and the response was staggering. Who knew the internet was such a big fan of magic puke cats? Well… maybe I should’ve guessed that one.
Do you ever just have one of those weeks where you want to solely pay attention to Image Comics' brand manager David Brothers? Of course you do, you’re a comics reader, and this has been a particularly great week to do just that. He appeared on the Inkstuds podcast this week, which has been having guest hosts over the last few episodes, and spoke with comic… critic (as she eventually describes herself) Zainab Akhtar on a number of ideas.
The most interesting is the idea that diversity in comics is a stagnant rallying call: for all the people demanding it, the main response is other people clicking "like" on Facebook and then wandering off for a coffee. There’s a need for some challenge and understanding, which comics isn’t pushing on right now.
That’s just the start of it though, because this week also saw Brothers interviewed over at MultiversityComics, where he explained his role at Image Comics, and how that shapes the industry for him right now. Read that too!
The appeal of Calvin and Hobbes eluded me for years, perhaps because I never sat down to read it properly. That changes last Christmas, when I discovered the snowman series that Bill Watterson returned to every so often, charming and sociopathic as they are in equal measure. Romona Williams of WomenWriteAboutComics must’ve been equally delighted by those ones, because this post, in which she breaks down the entirety of the strip into four themes, hinges on the nature of snow for a framework. Calvin and Hobbes is a huge, unparalleled series - but Williams manages to break into it in the most unlikely way, and brings some fascinating insights from the experience.
Perhaps the best-written post of the week --- certainly one of the most personable and engaging --- came from Quincy Ledbetter of Mashable, who writes at some length about the importance of Milestone Media to him when he was younger. What we’re getting to see here is the importance of representation. Even the fleeting moments of honest representation in comics from decades ago has a ripple effect, and it’s seen when writers like Ledbetter take inspiration from the heroes of their youth and write about how affecting it was to them. It’s bravura, simple stuff, and a joy to read. Things still suck: the least we can do is improve.
Improvement such as at EgyCon, the third annual comics convention held in Egypt. Cultures clashed and ultimately formed some kind of nerdy symbiosis at the event, led by 27-year old founder Islam Risha. After getting heavily into manga, he started arranging small meet-ups of fans in Egypt --- but found things quickly growing in scale and spectacle until, three years ago, EgyCon was founded. Attendance has risen by 30% every year since, as manga, anime, comics, and video games converge in yet another sign of the worldwide appeal of the medium. Seeing the interviewees in the piece coming to discuss, argue, and work around some of the issues that Japanese culture brings to an Islamic country is just one of the fascinating things to come from Risha’s fantastic work.
Another long-form item of comics journalism from David Harper finishes up the roundup for this week. In this post on Sktchd he takes an assembly of retailers and discusses the sore topic of variant covers. Are they good, or are they bad? What do they do for comics? His very long article seeks an answer, perhaps in vain.
This Weekender has gone on for a very long time, so let’s end with something that doesn’t really need any words: Brandon Graham’s process art, designs, and sketches for the issue of The Wicked and The Divine he drew last year. Sure he writes about his mindset but --- as is the case with his very best comics work --- you can establish everything you need from the visuals. Lovely stuff, yeah?
Have a great weekend, everybody!