Weekender: ‘On Beauty’, Kelsey Wroten, And Comics Non-Profit C4C3
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!
REMEMBERING BERNIE WRIGHTSON
Legendary artist Bernie Wrightson has died this week at the age of 68, following an illness earlier in the year. Best known for his work in the field of horror, Wrightson became famous for the sheer level of detail present in his illustration. Consummately aware of how he could use space to express tone --- typically a foreboding one, as you might expect from a horror story --- his work could fill a page with carefully layered linework. When asked to draw a forest scene, he’d look to see how the background provided context for the foreground, every branch, blade of grass, and fallen leaf carefully arranged to create the most striking and memorable images possible.
But his style wasn’t the only impressive thing about Wrightson’s career, which many have been looking back on this week. He was also keenly interested in pushing himself, and experimenting with different styles of story and narrative. His illustrations for Warren Comics, in particular, showed off his uncanny ability to create and reflect mood through every aspect of an image. He mixed work for hire with his own passions and interests throughout his career, establishing himself as one of the all-time great artists in western comics.
That ability to jump through projects without losing his particular voice was apparent when, along with Len Wein, Wrightson co-created DC’s Swamp Thing character and series --- a book that won him the first of several awards he’d pick up across the course of his career. Wrightson retired from comics only a few weeks ago, in part because of his ill health, but his career is one that will never be forgotten. He was a master of his craft.
On that subject of craft, this week saw Slate Magazine announce the shortlist for this year’s Cartoonist Studio Prize. Firstly, the nominees for the best print comic of the year are:
- Burt’s Way Home by John Martz. Koyama Press.
- Canopy by Karine Bernadou. Retrofit and Big Planet Comics.
- Hilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson. Flying Eye Books.
- Libby’s Dad by Eleanor Davis. Retrofit and Big Planet Comics.
- March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Top Shelf.
- Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden. Drawn and Quarterly.
- Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart. St. Martin’s Press.
- The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. Pantheon.
- The Longest Day of the Future by Lucas Varela. Fantagraphics.
- We All Wish for Deadly Force by Leela Corman. Retrofit and Big Planet Comics.
This is essentially a list of every single comic you’d expect to see on such a shortlist, and likely a precursor to April’s Eisner Award shortlist.
However, the award also offers a prize for webcomics, and it’s here that you see the huge amount of vision that the judges had when assembling their shortlists. The nominees are hugely impressive in this category as well, bringing together a list of artists who are both familiar --- Tillie Walden shows up, as is her wont --- and new.
The nominees are:
- Greek Diary by Glynnis Fawkes
- “I Trained to Fight the Enemy” by Jess Ruliffson
- Normel Person by Lauren Weinstein
- On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
- “On Beauty” by Christina Tran
- “Rejected Anthology Submission” by Meghan Lands
- Riverbound by Päivi Niinikangas
- “The Secrets in My Mother’s Nightstand” by Sophia Wiedeman
- The Unofficial Cuckoo’s Nest by Luke Healy
- Wonderlust by Diana Nock
The winners of the first annual Cartoonist Studio Prize will be announced on April 10, in that month’s edition of Slate Book Review.
EVENT & CONVENTIONS
The start of awards season means that 2017’s Eisner Awards draw nearer, and on that somewhat awkward tangent I note that San Diego Comic-Con’s organizers plan to open a museum called the Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture in the city. The museum is expected to open in 2018, at which point it will be open all year and feature interactive exhibitions at its home in Balboa Park.
Not only is it heartening to see new locations where comics exhibitions can be held; this also suggests that the con plans to stay in San Diego, after months of rumors that future conventions might be held elsewhere.
Fumetto 2017 takes place April 1-7 in Luzern, Switzerland. Featuring an official poster from Julie Doucet that I absolutely cannot share on ComicsAlliance, the festival returns is celebrating its 26th year of existence. Dedicating itself to craft and illustration, the festival has an avant-garde approach that means artists and comics-makers share their space alongside painters, animators, and performers. You can get a full view of the various exhibitions taking place this year right here.
We also have Fan Expo Dallas coming our way for the weekend of March 31-April 2, and amidst the sea of TV and film actors (which includes, for some magical reason, most of the original cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) are some comics creators. Stan Lee will be there, waiving off the ill health that has seen him cancel some of his more recent appearances, along with Art Adams, Eduardo Risso, Gail Simone and Brian Stelfreeze.
The Cartoonist Studio Prize reminded me of the work of Christina Tran, whose comic On Beauty is featured on this year’s webcomic shortlist. The biographical story looks at her time spent as a Chinese-American visiting and living in Asia for the first time --- and how it exposed her to something she describes as “medical tourism.” Tran details how tourists will come to Korea for a short stay, in which they’ll get plastic surgery --- for their eyes, face, whatever --- and then spend a week or so recovering in the country before returning home.
As her journey to the gym forces her to walk past billboards promoting surgery as an ideal for “beauty”, Tran extends her thoughts --- and the comic, physically altering its digital shape as only a webcomic allows --- and explores her own sense of self-image. Tran has an uncanny ability to perfectly connect the reader to her own thought process through structure and the arrangement of each page of the comic, and it really hits home.
The latest episode of Kevin Budnik’s podcast Tight Pencils brings in guest Kelsey Wroten for a chat about her work as a cartoonist and freelance illustrator. Wroten has worked for a variety of newspapers and magazines including The Village Voice and The New York Times (although those with nice long memories will also know her from her comics work, which we featured three years ago on ComicsAlliance), and the interview looks at the life of a freelancer today. There’s also a look at her upcoming graphic novel with Uncivilized Books, set to be published next year.
Artist Zander Cannon has a new interview over at Multiversity with Leo Johnson, talking about the gap in time between the second and third "seasons" of his Oni Press series Kaijumax. With the second storyline wrapping things up for several of the characters, there’s going to be a revamp of the central focus for the comic, and the interview delves right into that aspect of the ongoing series.
The AV Club Comics panel remains a fascinating, disparate collection of reviews, each new edition taking four comics at a time from very different publishers, offering very different interests and appealing (or otherwise) to readers through various tactics. It’s always interesting to open up the feature, because there’s almost always a well-known comic you don’t want to read (but do want to read a review for), and at least one comic you never even knew existed. That mix of publishers and formats makes Comics Panel one of the most varied, enjoyable comics features online.
Over at ComicsBulletin, Jason Sacks profiles Scott and Lainie Tomlin, the co-owners of a store in Seattle called the Comics Dungeon. They’ve set up a charitable organization called C4C3, which is designed to take proceeds from retailing and use them to help benefit schools and libraries. They’ll be offering a series of grants that will bring comics and graphic novels to the community, so young readers can explore them --- and learn a few things on the way, including developing their literacy skills. The project is still coming together, but it sounds like a lovely, positive idea, and one I hope we’ll see grow across the coming year.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
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