Weekender: Creators for Creators, Comic Book Women, and Alternate Free Comic Book Day
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 has got your back, though: 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 podcasts, new art being made — it’s all part of the ComicsAlliance Weekender!
Image Expo, eh? This week saw the latest edition of the regular showcase presentation, in which publisher Eric Stephenson takes to the lectern before a series of new creator-owned comics are announced by a group of surprise guests. This year saw a lot less focus on Stephenson’s speech, however, which usually is good for a few fun pot-shots at other publishers --- instead we had David Brothers take the podium to lead through a series of announcements by everyone from Alison Sampson and Jonathan Hickman right through to the Batgirl team and former Vertigo editor Karen Berger.
The announcement that Berger will be acting as editor for one of the comics announced has spread across the internet like wildfire, with people genuinely just happy that the founding editor of Vertigo comics has emerged once more into the industry. It’ll be interesting, though, to see what her presence means for the comic she’s working on, Surgeon X. In all the talk for Karen Berger’s return, I’ve not actually seen much discussion yet of either the creative team for that book (Sarah Kenny and John Watkiss), or the premise (black market dystopian surgeries, I think?).
The main takeaway from the event was how much focus went to people who have not been known as writers before. Leila del Duca, the artist best known for Shutter, announced one called Afar; whilst colorist Nathan Fairnbairn announced Lake of Fire. It seems that Image are looking around a little more for interesting pitches rather than big-name comics creators, and are knuckling down on publishing idiosyncratic projects ahead of vaguely house-style concepts from Marvel/DC-associated talent.
And then there’s the Creators for Creators grant, which appears to have been spearheaded by Nick Dragotta and David Brothers. This is a $30,000 grant that will be awarded to a creator or creative team who’re deemed to merit it --- the idea basically being that anybody can submit a comic for consideration of the grant, and one will be chosen each year to receive it. I’m certain more interviews and exploration of the scheme will surface very soon, but it appears that a number of writers and artists have all donated money into the pot --- with submissions being accepted in May. It’s a bold, awesome move, and I’m really excited to see who will win the first grant, and how the industry will hopefully aid them subsequently.
Newsarama spoke to Mairghread Scott (best known as the writer of Transformers: Windblade over at IDW) about her role in developing “Comic Book Women”, a similarly wonderful idea which aims to give more time and space - and community - to women in comics. One of the basic goals of the movement, for example, is simply getting women invited to speak at panels during comics conventions. Simple, easy --- but not something that always happens, as women are often moved into the “women write comics!” Panel and left out of the more nuts-and-bolts discussions that happen elsewhere.
I know a lot of great women are already involved in this project, and it’s delightful to see movements like this already see success --- they’ll have a noticeable presence at Emerald City Comicon this weekend, for example. And, having met Mairghread a few years ago where she told me about her plans to go swimming with sharks, I can’t think of anybody better to head up something like this. If you run a convention or event and are looking for female speakers, email ThereAreMany@ComicBookWomen.com for more information and ideas.
Free Comics Book Day is a great concept --- a way for anybody to walk into their retailer and try comics for free, and hopefully find something they’ll like. It’s also getting real political as an initiative, if recent years have been any indication. Publishers are now struggling to actually get included each year: 2000AD were almost dropped from the list of participants this year for no vitally apparent reason. Politics, as ever, seeps into everything, even a great idea which admittedly does sting retailers a little each year but hopefully in benefit of the greater good.
As partial response to 2000 AD’s problems with FCBD 2016, The Outhousers have announced that they’ll be launching “Alternative Free Comics Day” on May 7th, alongside FCBD itself. This is a very simple idea as well --- anybody can upload their comic to the system, and it’ll be distributed for free to anybody who might want to try it out. They say in the above post that this is something which they want to grow over time, and that they aren’t sure this year will see a huge number of comics on there --- but if you’re a comics maker and want to show off something to the rest of the world, this seems like an extraordinarily good opportunity to get in first and put your comics out there.
Rosarium Publishing have taken to IndieGoGo to seek funding for their line, which includes works by people like Jennifer Crute, Edward Austin Hall, Robert Love and Ashley A. Woods. Diversity is a key part of their message on their page, but that speaks to the range of styles and types of story their comics represent than anything else. There are wild leaps in genre, tone, approach and experimentation across the board here, meaning this is a crowdfunding campaign which has a lot more depth than you might always see elsewhere. The team are looking for $40,000 to fund the line, and so far seem to be buzzing along with $1,000 a day. Boost that for them?
The National Cartoonists Society have released the shortlist for this year’s Reuben Awards, which see 46 nominees in 14 categories. There are several which are of particular interest for us over at ComicsAlliance, with Max Sarin (Giant Days), Ben Caldwell (Prez) and Erica Henderson (the three finalists in the comic book category); meanwhile Ethan Young (Nanjing the Burning City), Jonathan Case (The New Deal) and Gabriel Ba (Two Brothers) are the final three listed for graphic novels. Online, too, we see nominations for long and short-form work, with the former category made up of Dave Kellett’s Drive, Drew Weing’s The Creepy Casefiles of Margaret Maloo and Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie all up for consideration.
The winners will be announced May 28th.
NEW AND UPCOMING COMICS
MariNaomi had a new comic published at Buzzfeed this week, which hops into the past before reflecting into her present. Presented as floating, dreamlike remembrances of her time in school, where she used to feel herself a rebel who wore and did what she want, because it made her happy, the comic turns on a chance meeting with one of her schoolfriends in the modern day. The comic works so well because of the presentational style, which could only work well in digital format --- MariNaomi scrolls the page downwards in a way which feels like a stream of consciousness, her story unfolding as she remembers and pieces together bits of meaning until she hits a final celebratory note as flourish.
There’s a wonderful bit of coloring going on throughout the story, but particularly in a present-day scene where her friend, having only just caught up with her, has to go. The friend kisses her on the forehead, and the predominant lilac color which dominates the friend seeps a little into Mari’s own blue coloring scheme. A little sign that a part of her friend has reignited something within her, and brought some new color into her life. The comic’s full of nice little touches like that, and it’s a really great, cheering piece.
Last year I featured Gamer Girl & Vixen on our recurring Kickstarter spotlight feature ‘Back Pages’. From the creative team of Kristi McDowell, Sean Ian Mills, Gemma Moody and Taylor Esposito, this one is about two aspiring supervillains who, amid their burgeoning crime-spree careers, start to date and fall in love. It’s cute, predominantly, a well-told and fun bit of comics filled with gossip, flirting, and quickfire back-and-forth silliness. It’s wonderful, in other words, and this month saw the team take to Kickstarter seeking funding for a complete print edition.
Twitter put me onto this award-winning comic from Katja Hammond, called Once Upon A Lunchtime. There’s possibly never been a more delightful story put into comics form, as this short piece explores the possibilities of being given a wish from a fallen star. Three girls find the star in the middle of the woods, at which point they race back and forth with different ideas what they could ask for - could they create worlds, change time, or ask for unlimited pie? You quickly get so much idea of who these characters are, and their unique sensibilities and hopes, as Hammond packs heaps of charm and personality into each one, through the script but mainly through her design.
This is exactly the sort of comic I think we should all spend more time reading. It’s quirky, funny, and whipsmart. There’s a sense of classic fairytale thrown in amongst an artistic style which clearly throws all kinds of ideas on the page whilst looking uncluttered, clear, and cohesive. There’s so much promise in the comic, and I’m excited for what she does next.
Katie Skelly’s breakthrough is essentially now out of print, having completed a print run over at Adhouse Books. However, with Skelly’s star remaining in the ascent --- as ever may it be --- she’s made the comic available on her Gumtree store. This is now the only real way you can get a hold of the story, which is about a duo who go on the run through the desert. Wildly energetic, and mixing the rough with the strange, it’s a comic you have to read --- and now you can!
Artist Stephen Mooney has had a run on DC comics from Midnighter to Grayson over the last year or so, but it was his creator-owned work Half Past Danger which really put him on the center-stage. He spent a long time working on franchise comics before using the money to work solely on that miniseries, which he basically produced entirely by himself - a long-term publishing strategy I haven’t seen many artists attempt, and one which I think it hugely admirable.In this video profile produced for Entre Nous, you get to see Mooney in his studio, talking about his influences and style. It’s a really nice piece, and also affirms that Irish comics creators are the best people in the business.
Have a great weekend, everybody!