Weekender: Breakdown Press, Molly Ostertag, and Helsinki’s Small Press Heaven
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, and so here’s a look back and just what’s been going on.
New comics, new stories, new events, new podcasts, new projects being made --- it’s all part of the ComicsAlliance Weekender!
It’s another imminent return to the courtroom for Archie Comics, as former editor Scott Kulap is suing Archie Comics and Sega for copyright infringement, claiming not to have received royalty payment for 15 characters he created. Kulap, who went from editor to writer under the pseudonym Kent Taylor, follows in the steps of Ken Penders, who previously took the company to court for the same reason --- with a favorable settlement. Apparently it was Penders who tipped off Kulap to the fact that Archie were reprinting his work without royalty, with a collection of comics which feature characters which Kulap registered copyright for a year before Archie did the same. The most well-known character among those named is Mammoth Mogul, a villain who went up against the hedgehog once or twice. No artist is mentioned in the case.
J. Michael Strazynski has announced his retirement from comics, due to a rare eye disorder which has impaired his sight drastically. A cross-media writer, he’s perhaps best known in comics for mainstream runs on The Mighty Thor as well as his own imprint, Joe’s Books, which returned a few years back as part of Image Comics. Some of his more recent writing was found there, including Ten Grand with artist Ben Templesmith. JMS had a rocky career at times, but was someone who wore his devotion to comics on his sleeves, and it’s sad to see him have to stop doing what he loves due to illness.
Molly Ostertag took to Twitter this week to announce that Scholastic has acquired distribution for her graphic novel The Witch Boy. Described as being the story of a community where every woman becomes a witch and every man becomes a shapeshifter. But one young boy has learned witch powers in secret, which come in very handy when a mysterious enemy reappears to threaten his family.
But, being Molly Ostertag, that simply wasn’t enough for one week, so she also announced that she’ll be part of the creative team for a new series at the revamped Lion Forge, alongside Brian Smith and MK Reed. The Castoffs, a four-issue series aimed at all ages, is about three female mages-in-training, who inadvertently spark what could turn into a war between their people and, uh, a robot army. Ostertag!
And hey, turns out Hellboy isn’t quite so finished-with as we might’ve thought. 2017 is bringing Hellboy: Into The Silent Sea, a graphic novel from Mike Mignola and Gary Gianni, with colors as ever from Dave Stewart. As we reported, this sees Hellboy as captive on a ghost ship, forced into serving at the pleasure of a captain who is obsessively chasing down a monster. So… it’s Moby Dick, then, only with a grumpy red demon in a cool leather jacket. And half the cast are ghosts.
Ellen Forney will join forces with Fantagraphics for Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life. This is a direct follow-up to Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, and sees Forney returning to Fantagraphics for a series of stories about mood disorders, stability of health, and finding a creative balance. Her prior work has been strident, stirring stuff, played smartly but with a sense of fun. This one will be out in 2018.
The 2016 Helsinki Comics Festival approaches, with next month’s third edition of the festival stretching through September 2-4. Helsinki is a comics festival which runs with a theme, and this year has chosen “France” (which seems like it’ll bring a lot of highly politicized material with it; 2016 has been a daunting time for French society), “journey”, and “hip-hop”. I’m sure several people will be able to think of at least one way to connect all three.
The most exciting thing about the festival, so I’m told from people who have been, is the huge spotlight thrown on self-published comics and zines --- indeed, there’ll be a “Small Press Heaven” at this year’s festival. I spot Seth and Luke Pearson among those who’ll be enjoying the peninsula.
Also heading on the horizon, much like a panther hiding behind a Savannah shrub, sneaks Safari 2016. Organised by Breakdown Press, Safari is a fairly new festival which has been receiving a lot of praise, and which features, well, basically everyone. Just take a look at the guest list here! The UK has a brilliant range of studio and small presses, and independent comics-makers, all of whom appear to be heading towards London for this year’s event. It’s probably the coolest place in the world.
NEW AND UPCOMING COMICS
The most talked about comic this week was easily Sarah Glidden’s journalistic work, over on The Nib, which trails American Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Coming two years after she last created work for the site, her lengthy comic discusses the political situation in America, in which the belief that the country only has two real political powers is one which is stymying the ability of people to vote in the way they want.
Glidden puts forward the idea that people now vote defensively rather than for the candidate they want: the goal now is to make sure either Trump or Clinton are locked out of becoming President, rather than looking at the opportunity to vote for someone outside the two-party system. Somewhat over-glowing at times, this is still an optimistic piece of comics-making, and Glidden’s artistic style really helps frame the arguments put forward by her interviewees. Rather than obstructing their points of view, her layouts give them life, and space.
Hall of Famer Trina Robbins has a new comics reprinting planned, for which she’s headed to Kickstarter. Dope is an adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s 20th century novel of the same name. Hailed as a novel which broke boundaries in the discussion of drug culture and usage, the story follows a young actress who becomes a user --- which leads to her own death. Candid and open, it caught Robbins’ attention in the 1980s, where she turned the work into a comic for the first time, a serialized take on the narrative which remains, to this point, unpublished. But the Kickstarter, as we speak, has been funded, and that means one more great Trina Robbins project will finally be in our hands soon.
Further comics journalism comes from Maki Naro, with an astoundingly well constructed investigation into the ‘Zika Virus’, which has come to attention with the arrival of the Olympics in Brazil this year. A disease which causes mild symptoms in those affected --- but can result in devastating consequences for newborns of those who carry --- Zika is a disease whose origin and strength comes from a sadly too obvious place: poverty. With no cure, and a vaccine still being trialed, the people of Brazil need a more immediate response to the causes of the disease, being mosquitoes and sexual transmission… and yet international politics has no interest in aid, or making changes. Because where’s the benefit in helping those in poverty, for them? Naro’s comic is an eye-opener, which shows us how much privilege we all live within. It’s a fantastic piece.
Speaking of Breakdown Press, this roundtable interview on studio press publishers includes one of their founders, Joe Kessler. Looking into what it takes to run a small-press comics company, interviewer James Cartwright also speaks to Box Brown of Retrofit, as well as comics whirlwind Annie Koyama. Surprisingly, for a website about design, the design on their website crashed my computer two times before I could get this interview to load! But stick with it; it’s worth it.
A number of columnists at Comic Book Resources have moved elsewhere following the site’s acquisition by Valnet, including Brian Hibbs, who now brings his long-running ‘Tilting at Windmills’ to The Beat. A lifetime retailer within the comics industry, Hibbs approaches things from that particular perspective --- his interest lies in how publishers are building the industry, or failing to. The long-running column is 250 entries in, and his attention this week turns to the Marvel Previews Catalog.
This week Panels ran a piece from Alice W. Castle, who uses the Black Mask Studios’ comic Kim & Kim --- which prominently looks into, explores, and develops trans narratives in the medium --- to look into her own experiences, especially against the backdrop of her own comics reading. It does deviate away from talking about Kim & Kim in order to talk about Marvel/DC, which is a bit of a shame, as it’d be nice to have a long-form article just about the work by Magdalene Visaggio and Eva Cabrera. It’s still certainly worth a read, though.
I’d not heard of The Analogue Press before, despite them being from my neck of the woods over in Yorkshire. Luckily, resident deluged indie comics reviewer extraordinaire Andy Oliver caught sight of them, and offers a look through the pages of their newest one, Radio On, over on Broken Frontier. An apparently annual anthology, he certainly makes it sound like something worth picking up, which is something Andy tends to do better than anyone else!
LINE Webtoon and DeviantArt have announced that they’re going to team up to bring an Artist Alley to conventions across America, including Boston, Baltimore, Rose City and New York’s Comic-Cons. The common goal threading through each announced convention is the shared interest that the two websites have in assisting artists in bringing their ideas to life and to the digital page. Well, makes sense for them! But it means that, after a few months where people have been idly suggesting that Artist Alley will die as a concept, we’re guaranteed to keep on seeing them throughout the rest of the year.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
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