Monday, December 27, 2010

Sequential Updates

The latest from Sequential:

I posted the most recent Canadian Comics Bestseller List, reflecting some pre-Christmas sales from bookstores across the country.

For December 25th, I dug up some pages from George Feyer's obscurely forgotten Xmas classic, The Man in the Red Flannel Suit, a book of edgy Santa Claus cartoons.

You can see another classic Canadian magazine cartoonist, Peter Whalley, on this cover from Maclean's.

And here's a short interview with the writer/editor behind a new comic book floppy adaptation of The Communist Manifesto.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sequential at Word on the Street, 2009

Wow, actual video of Max and myself interviewing Brad Mackay and Kevin Boyd at WOTs in Toronto last year. Fantastic sound and crystal clear images for the panelfocusing on Canadian comics awards (Brad is head of the Doug Wright Awards and Kevin is one of the founders of the Joe Shuster Awards). Representing Sequential!

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Stan Lee Hoard

The Mystery Hoard to end all Mystery Hoards!

Rumours today that Stan Lee has a giant storage unit full of Silver Age Marvel Comics art, possibly including Jack Kirby pages.

Stan may have been holding out on us.

Stan Lee has always had a central, if quizzical role to play in the controversy over creator rights and the fight for Jack Kirby's original art. Maybe he bought these things from reputable dealers at conventions over the years. Surely he didn't steal them from the Marvel offices or claim the pages as his own even though they were drawn by Jack Kirby and others?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Statues of Canadian Poets

Robert Service, Killwinning, Ayrshire (England)

Octave Cremazie, Montreal

Francois Xavier Garneau, Quebec City

Al Purdy, Toronto

Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Ottawa

Pauline Johnson, Vancouver

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Help Get Jay Stephens' "Oh, Brother!" Comic Strip in the Guelph Mercury

So I started a Facebook group dedicated to getting the great new strip by Guelph's own Emmy-award-winning cartoonist and super fun guy Jay Stephens a slot on the comics page of the Guelph Mercury. Please join the group if you'd like to help out, even if your not in Guelph right now.

"Oh, Brother!" is a new comic strip by Bob Weber Jr. and Jay Stephens. It was launched June 28, 2010, by King Features Syndicate but is not carried in Jay Stephens' own hometown newspaper, The Guelph Mercury. Please join our group and let The Mercury know that you want to see this great new strip on a daily basis.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some things....

Things I like on the internets today.

1. I guess Howard Chaykin is a genius. This 1970s comic book looks quite fascinating in miniature. Blown up, it scans well and is just golly gee weird. I thought about Chaykion this past week becasue I saw the new Predators movie and I remember him in that old Comics Journal or Amazing Heroes interview complaining about the first movie with Arnold and Jesse "The Body" Ventura, noting of the bloated 80s action directorial style, that it took fifteen minutes for them to get out of the goddam helicopter at the beginning of the movie. Not so the 2010 sequel.

2. There's something about the colour and the panels and the expressions in these old Kirby comics that transcends genre and period.

3. My local comic book store, The Dragon in Guelph, has been nominated for an Eisner "Spirit of Retailing" award (winner to be announced Friday at Comicon in San Diego) and I just want to say congrats to Jenn and the gang at the shop, even though I've only been in twice since they moved. They used to be at the end of the street my store is on and I would go in twice a week when I went to the coffee shop/bar next door. Sort of sad they moved but not sorry I stopped buying piles of shitty new comics published by Marvel and DC out of boredom and nostalgia. Anyway, the store is great: clean and professional with not too much space afforded to gamers and games and some good graphic novels on the shelves and support for manga, kids comics and comics for non-fans/casual readers.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seth Rescues Canadian Notes and Queries

Seth redesign for CNQ! Canadian Notes and Queries, the venerable literary journal launched in 1968, has received a facelift courtesy of the pen and brush of cartoonist Seth. Now the iconoclastic reviews and essays are matched in their wit, humour, and laser-sharp lacerating criticisms and insights by Seth's classically whimsical aesthetic, as expressed through his new logo, lettering, illustrations and cartoons, including new mascots Hudson and Stanfield, all wrapped up in a new cover by the artist.

Edited for many years by the dean of Canadian letters, John Metcalf, CNQ features some of the best reviews, interviews and literary history published in Canadian journalism. This issue (#79) features an hilarious eviseration of the Giller nominees (Ann Michaels included) by Ryan Bigge, Metcalf's "Century List" of the 40 best short story collections of the 20th Century, a review of Leon Rooke by Jeet Heer, and a cartoon by Seth. Plus tons of other stuff. A perfect companion to the latest issue of the Walrus which also has a Seth cover and an article by Andre Alexis about the decline in Canadian criticism which Alexis blames on Metcalf et al --the sentences vs structuralism/critic vs academic debate.

The magazine had been sporting a more accessible look over the last few years but it still fell 'squarely' into the literary journal pigeonhole, with photos of old writers and editors on the cover, long columns of unadorned print and a generally dry, serious design. The new design seems to open the mag up a bit, the shiny saddle-stitched cover and Seth's drawings and hand-lettering making the criticisms of the CanLit establishment and the variety of essays about short stories and Alice Munro's perfection more easily digestible.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shirts Off!

On a bit of a Billy Childish kick lately.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Superman Mystery

I knew this was a story I had to link to thru Mystery Hoard because it has Superman and Mystery in its title. It's about a Superman painting in a library which is the original for the giant Superman treasury from the 70s.

It turns out the painting is the

first official full-length portrait of Superman, commissioned to promote the Superman radio show that went on the air in 1940 — an image for a medium you cannot see.

The painting’s provenance was a surprise to officials at Lehman College, in Bedford Park, the Bronx.

“I don’t think any of us realized what it was,” said Janet Munch, the reference librarian and college historian. “We knew who it was.”

It all began as Mr. Saunders prepared a biography of the illustrator who painted it, H.J. Ward, who had studied with the prolific painter N.C. Wyeth and also created portraits of the Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet. Mr. Saunders knew about the Superman painting because it had been reproduced on Page 45 of “Superman: The Complete History, the Life and Times of the Man of Steel” (Chronicle, 1998). But where was the painting itself?

The author of the book, Les Daniels, said last week that it was not in DC Comics’ offices when he was working on the book. “We used a photograph,” he said.

Martin Pasko, an author of “The Essential Superman Encyclopedia,” which will be published by Del Rey in August, was puzzled.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

2010 Wright Awards are coming.

Who Will Win???

The jury for this year's Doug Wright Awards is made up of a stellar coterie of writers and cartoonists:

Geoff Pevere (author, Toronto Star books critic)
Matt Forsythe (editor of Drawn!, author of "Ojingogo")
Carl Wilson (editor/writer Globe and Mail, author of "Let’s Talk About Lov...e: A Journey to the End of Taste")
Fiona Smyth (artist, cartoonist)

The ceremony takes place in Toronto May 8.

The host this year is actor and raconteur Peter Outerbridge.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May Day 2010: Pass on Left

The Archie comics universe is one of scarcity and constant proletarian struggle. Witness this cover image from Mad House Annual #8, 1970. A generational-political schism emerges between the anachronistic beatnik Jughead stand-in and the lumpen appliance porters. A 1930s meets 2010 recessionary class conflict whose main expression is rejection. Rejection of logic. Rejection of good taste. Rejection of proportion. An upside-down world where repo-men both pass on the left, in the rejection sense, and pass on the left, in that they circumvent the already existing left to an outer left that is more left than left. By texting us with his ass, our hungry worker actually steps outside his inane scenario, into the realm of the possible.

"They are trying as directly as possible to sell you experiences, i.e. what you are able to do with the car, not the car as a product itself. An extreme example of this is this existing economic marketing concept, which basically evaluates the value of you as a potential consumer of your own life. Like how much are you worth, in the sense of all you will spend to buy back your own life as a certain quality life. You will spend so much in doctors, so much in beauty, so much in transcendental meditation, so much for music, and so on. What you are buying is a certain image and practice of your life. So what is your market potential, as a buyer of your own life in this sense? "

Slovoj Zizek, Believer magazine interview.

Further reading:

Making sure the recession will not pass the left by...

"We shall pass on to the misfortunes of our “Left” Communists in the sphere of home policy."

Friday, April 23, 2010

5 Superhero Movies I Like More Than Kick-Ass

So we finally saw Kick-Ass last night. Not having read the book besides seeing a few pages online and in interviews, I had to judge it solely as an original work and not an adaptation. The goofy plot --average joes with mental problems dress up as superheroes and kill gangsters, finding love and redemption along the way-- was dotted with several nice suspenseful action set pieces but the whole thing was marred by a laboured voiceover device and lots of other cliches that were insufficiently shielded by the film's generally ironic tone. Sure, superhero stories are all going to have an element of the cliche, being basically made up of squashed-together elements of action movies, bad scifi, crime fiction, and adventure comic strips, but at this point we expect a little more from the genre, given its varied history in print and on screen, than some half-hearted, cynically controversial post-modern toying with convention and morality. At this point, it's all in the execution and it's no surprise that when we walked out of the theatre last night, the poster for the movie that is replacing Kick-Ass, a romantic comedy with Jennifer Lopez, was already in place.

Other, Better Superhero Movies (many from the same year)

5. Batman (1968) This movie version of the Adam West tv show has all the qualities that made the series great. West's deadpan mock heroism, great visuals, classic villain/b-listers mugging and camping it up, a goofy plot and a tone that makes it accessible to a variety of audiences.

4. Ultraman (1967)
My first introduction to the character and the Japanese tv show, this movie condenses the series into a crazy battle royal featuring the giant space policeman and a cast of costumed monsters (including Gomora). Very interesting colour, humour, and fantastic miniature and set design combine with a confusing garbled narrative, traditionally funny dubbing, and a sense of childish wonder to make a very entertaining work of art.

3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
The best of the recent crop of Marvel comics adaptations, this episode has all the great soap-opera romance of the Lee-Romita comics with improved special effects, just enough jokes, and the continuing appeal of Tobey Maguire.

2. The Incredibles (2004)
This animated take on superheroic family dynamics a la the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four is funny, well-plotted, has good vocal performances and is gorgeous. The animation naturalizes the superpowered action in a way that seems impossible for live-action and the film has many nods to comics and previous movies that doesn't detract from a simple story with great design, "effects," and affection.

1. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) Steven Chow's chopsocky epic is a wonder-filled homage to Hong Kong genre film but it also is about the secret origin of a superhero who learns that with great power comes great responsibility. Crosses over the thin line that separates kung fu movies from superheroes, filled as it is with secret identities, costumes, and super powers. A fast-moving, funny plot, really quite beautiful music, and, of course, fantastic gravity-defying fight scenes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Stuff/Netbook Update


-Two new things over at Sequential: this week's Canadian Bestseller List for graphic novels, and a review of Michael DeForge's new book, Lose #2.

-Michel Rabagliati is a bestseller in France, in Canadian bestseller terms.

-For the Wright Awards I'm going to be listing some fundraising art by past nominees on ebay. Some nice homages to classic DC superheroes from the likes of Joe Ollman, Jeff Lemire (picture) and Diana Tamblyn are already "in the can." Plus more I haven't seen. Exciting!

-via twitter, cartoonist Hope Larson is adapting Madelyn L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time for Farrar Straus & Giroux, even though she notes L'Engle didn't want her books illo'd. She may have a fine line to walk pleasing older fans while introducing a new generation to a classic in her own style.

-Toronto artist/performer Robert Dayton has been posting scans of the awesome Nellie No-Date strips by Ogden Whitney.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Thor News

Yes, the Thor movie news keeps rolling in. What a marvelous event this film will be.

And yet, no mention to date about making Stonehammer beer the official beverage of the franchise. What gives, Marvel and producers Victoria Alonso, Louis D'Esposito, Kevin Feige, Alicia Gelernt, Craig Kyle, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher, et al?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New look for Sequential!

Publisher Max Douglas has updated the look of Sequential. The newsblog of Canadian comic book news and cilture bow has an updated, more magazine-y look, in keeping with our status as an annual print journal and more varied webcontent (look for more interviews and reviews in the near future). Check out the new wordpress-o-rific site.

McSweeney's 33: San Francisco Panorama

Pretty excited: just picked up the latest issue of McSweeney's: The San Francisco Panorama newspaper issue, featuring a giant full-colour comics section with strips by Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Seth, Adrian Tomine, and more! To make the week complete, also picked up The Believer's annual film issue. Whew!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Playing on the Girls' Team: Notes on Jaime Hernandez and Female Super Teams in the Comics

"A Hundred Pretty Girls..."

by BK Munn

Love and Rockets 2 was one of my favourite comics of 2009, mostly because of Jaime Hernandez' "Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34," a fun metatextual superhero comic featuring three separate teams of female superheroes and set in the world of Hernandez' Locas stories (part 1 came out in 2008). Jaime's story had me wondering, why hadn't more U.S. superhero comics featured teams of women?

Hernandez has always liked the superhero women. Much of his early fan art seemed to focus on the femmes of the DC and Marvel universes. As well, his own stories are just packed with a surfeit of lady leagues, including Las Widows street gang, ladies' wrestling tag-teams, and all-girl punk bands. He introduced his own superhero women (Cheetah Torpeda, Comrade 7, et al) in the pages of the 1980s iteration of L&R, but hadn't really tied them into the team concept until recently. The superhero epic of "Ti-Girls" reveals a complex world of well-imagined female teammates, more subtly realized (and fun) than anything in the genre. But before the working-class black and latina amazons of Jaime's T-Girls, Zolars, and Fenomenons came on the scene, there was precious little in the world of comic books to rival them.

The first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, was an old-boys' club with one token female member, Wonder Woman, who held the rank of secretary. Of course, WW was not only a member of the all-woman society of Amazons who inhabited Paradise Island (the first superheroine "team"?) but was also given her powers by the chief female gods of the Greek pantheon (another all-star group of women). WW adventures featured quite a few girl couples and mini-groups, not to mention regular appearances of the Holliday Girls, an army of women chosen from Etta Candy's sorority, described as "a hundred pretty girls brave enough to capture dangerous men."

After the JSA, most superhero teams followed the same pattern of several men and one or maybe two women members. Thus we have the Marvel Family and Lieutenant Marvels, and later the JLA. The first incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes had a two-to-one ratio of men to women (3-to-1 when Superboy joined) but quickly expanded to include a whole cohort of women members, achieving near-parity several times (especially when you factored in Triplicate Girl) but the same could not be said for efforts like The Doom Patrol, Blackhawks, and especially The Inferior Five, which all featured a sole female member each. In 1960s Marvel Comics, the Fantastic Four, Avengers, and original X-Men all featured just one woman per team. Although the Avengers gradually added more women, it wasn't until the 1970s, with the advent of the Chris Claremont-penned new X-Men, that groups with a larger female membership began to dominate.

Brief Highlights in the History of All-Female Super-Teams

For some reason, in these comics written by men, powerful groups of women are often pictured as villains.

"The Revolt of the Girl Legionnaires" (Adventure Comics #326, 1964): The girls are brainwashed by Queen Azura from the planet Femnaz (paging Dave Sim!) into seducing the male Legionnaires and luring them into various traps but the day is saved when some of the boys save Femnaz from an exploding moon and the evil Queen has a change of heart. The genius of Jerry Siegel and the pencils of John Forte created this bizarre, adorable psychodrama.

"The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines" (Adventure Comics #368, 1968): In this recycled story, the female members of the Legion of Super-Heroes get a power boost and take over the Legion, kicking the boys out. By the time of this story, the girls already outnumber the guys 9-7 (check out the roll-call), but are still depicted as generally weaker than the boys and totally docile and obsessed with homemaking until a feminist harridan from another planet (this time Ambassador Thora from Taltor) boosts their powers. (Little known fact: Mort Weisinger was a huge fan of the films of Russ Meyer, especially Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!)

"Lenore Goldberg and Her Girl Commandos" Motor City Comics #2 (1969): Crumb's satire of the nascent women's lib movement is actually quite an awesome political document besides being a wonderful piece of underground art. Lenore and her gang kick some righteous bourgeois ass and shake up notions of class and gender to boot. The fact that the whole story is essentially a Crumb sex fantasy just makes it all the better.

It Ain't Me Babe (1970): Trina Robbins edited this anthology of women underground cartoonists and kicked things off with a cover featuring a team-up of Golden Age divas, including WW, Sheena, and Elsie the Cow. Similar amalgamations were to clutter her art for years and eventually lead to a gig writing Wonder Woman for DC!

The Liberators (Avengers #83, 1970): Writer Roy Thomas rehashes the old Legion plot mentioned above in a John Buscema-drawn story that features a new character called Valkyrie who convinces the female member of The Avengers that the sexism in the Marvel Universe means they should form their own team. This new amalgamation of Medusa, The Scarlet Witch, The Wasp, and The Black Widow goes on to defeat both The Masters of Evil and the male Avengers before Valkyrie is revealed to be Thor villain The Enchantress, craftily using her fellow women to help her steal some super-scientific doohickey. The Liberators subsequently return to their roles as Avengers while hinting at "male chauvinist pig" behaviour that might cause them to reunite.

The Female Furies (Mr. Miracle #6, 1972):
Of course Jack Kirby has to be on this list somewhere. Lashina, Stompa, Bernadeth, Mad Harriet, and Big Barda were a team of immortal bad-asses from New Genesis trained by Grannie Goodness. When Big Barda, Kirby's zaftig Wonder Woman, falls for Mr. Miracle, her teammates pursue her to Earth and get their butts kicked. The gang has made occasional appearances since, in Karl Kesel's Guardians of Metropolis from Superman's 90s mullet era, and in Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers and Final Crisis, but only Kirby brought his best game to the concept. A little known fact about this comic is that a copy was found in Henry Kissinger's briefcase when he visited China prior to Nixon in the early 70s. The event nearly caused an international incident and was later immortalized in "The R. Crumb $uck$$e$$ Story" in The People's Comics. (Bonus: Female Furies covers.)

The Grapplers (Marvel Two-in-One #54-56, 1979): Perfect 1970s cheese created by writers Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio along with artist John Byrne, the Grapplers were a team of women wrestlers given super-powers by an evil oil company so they could fuck-up Project Pegasus, a U.S. government alternative energy research facility where the Fantastic Four's Thing was hanging out as some sort of glorified security guard. Titania, Letha, Poundcakes, and Screaming Mimi were the big-thighed working girls who were joined by Thundra, the Amazon from another dimension who had been an off-and-on member of the FF cast for years and kind of had a crush on old Blue-Eyed Benjy. As with the Female Furies, Thundra rebelled from the group and they were eventually defeated by Black Giant-Man and Quasar, but lived to fight another day. I think I had an unhealthy obsession with this comic as a kid. Like, boner unhealthy.

Immola and the Luna Legion (1992): Joan Hilty created this group of lesbian superheroes for her contribution to the anthology comic Oh... and they later had an entire issue of the mag all to themselves (#8). I haven't seen this comic in the flesh but Hilty is an editor for DC and produces her own syndicated comic strip, Bitter Girl.

Femforce (Femforce #1, 1985): The team of superheroines created by Bill Black for his Americomics line of sexploitation, t&a, and public domain comics reprints. The team was made up of Blue Bulleteer (based on Phantom Lady), Miss Victory, and She-Cat (based on Harvey's Black Cat), Rio Rita (based on Fiction House's Senorita Rio) and a mix of other characters, some from 1940s comics appropriated by Black, other created whole cloth in the 1980s. Nancy Reagan was reputedly a fan, was published on several letters pages, and even went so far as to invite the Americomics team to be her guests at the Los Angeles Olympics. Although I know of no all-female group from the 1940s, Americomics large-breasted retcon fantasy does its best to fill the void, with everything from dvds, web-serials, and, incredibly, over 100 issues of Femforce comics.

Birds of Prey (1996 to present, off and on):
Writer Chuck Dixon dreamed up the idea of a team-up of long-time DC superheroines Black Canary and Oracle (formerly Batgirl) set in a gritty noir-ish Batman-style continuity. Writer Gail Simone later added The Huntress as a core character of the continuing series. It was a tv series and later Gilbert Hernandez even wrote some issues (no joke)! Maybe because Gilbert is also a big fan of girl groups and created those weird leaping ladies from the Roy stories. Now that DC is competing with Warners/DC one on one, look for more superteams featuring lesbian mermaids and S&M princesses.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mystery Hoard: Dried-Up Superheroes

Received a small Mystery Hoard of 1970s-80s comic books yesterday. The person who brought them into the shop is an acquaintance of mine who works in the waste management industry and the books are a little crispy, as if they were once moist or among moist garbage and then dried-out under a lamp or something, but they don't have any smell besides that nostalgic old paper aroma.

Captain Marvel #58 (1978) An issue of one of those second-string superhero comics from 70s Marvel, illustrated by Pat Broderick. This is the kind of cartoonist I used to be dismissive of, but now see he has an interestingly dynamic approach to panel design and figures. Awkward-seeming but vigorous, if you know what I mean. Inventive. Lush inks, by Bob McLeod, that nicely highlight the tight, well-muscled buttocks of the protagonists --when Mar-Vel fights Drax the Destroyer it looks like two oily seals frolicking in the ocean. The book also has some nice colour effects which I've just checked and discovered are by "F. Mouly" --who I assume is RAW magazine founder and Toon Books editor Francoise Mouly so that explains that. The story by Doug Moench is a boring slugfest redeemed by a few panels of typical "70s Marvel-style" soul-searching involving Capt Marvel wandering around Denver, Colorado in a leather jacket.

Invaders #32 (1978) Classic Jack Kirby cover featuring Hitler and Thor wraps up an adventure of Roy Thomas' retro superteam, with art from the team of Alan Kupperberg and Frank Springer. Great sketchy, anxious-looking cartooning with figures composed of angles and planar surfaces. Characters squat and twist to fit into the panels. Lots of leiber gotts, etc. Bonus: a surprise appearance by Josef Stalin. The Invaders have to protect the mass-murderer from Russia from their future ally, the God of Thunder. A weird pop political artifact.

Thor #281 (1979) Totally forgettable story of Thor fighting the Space Phantom in limbo, trying to find his hammer, and then getting stuck in one of those time/space nexus thingies. Post-Buscema art by Keith Pollard and Pablo Marcos. Lame dialogue sample: "The fool has fallen into the trap as planned --baited with my lies about his hammer. His immortal body will serve as a timeless cork --plugging the hole from real-time into limbo..." I think this might be the philosophy behind the upcoming Kenneth Branagh Thor movie.

Fantastic Four #210 (1979) I actually read these FFs when they came out! They haven't aged well. 210 is a by-the-numbers space-opera actioner by Wolfman/Byrne/Sinnott --"The Search for Galactus!" featuring B.E.M.s, a M.I.L.F., and H.E.R.B.I.E.

Fantastic Four #220 (1980) One of the early "all-Byrne" issues, 220 has a dramatic red and black (and pink and yellow and white) cover. Very undramatic storytelling from Byrne does little to enhance a plot about a mysterious alien invasion and crystalline structures, interspersed with slice-of-life vignettes of the first family of superheroes shopping, etc, in the nostalgic Lee-Kirby vein. Questionable highlight: the team flies to the North Pole with a cameo from Byrne creation Guardian, the Canadian superhero.

Fantastic Four #224 (1980) The FF go back to the North Pole and encounter more crystals housing a lost city of vikings, in a horrible story by Doug Moench illustrated in a boring pedestrian post-Adams style by a young Bill Sienkiewicz.

Marvel Two-in-One King-Size Annual #3 (1978) An epic issue of the Thing team-up title guest-starring "The Man Called Nova" in another bland story (plot and dialogue by Marv Wolfman) about an alien invasion. Lots of repetition in this Hoard. The art is by the majestic Sal Buscema, one of my favourite oddball 70s artists. His weirdness is kind of damped down here, unfortunately due to the uninspiring material and deadline, I'm sure. Some nice green aliens and women with pointy breasts (not as banana-shaped and pointy as Infantino breasts, though). Sal cranked-out 33 pages of layouts for this annual which were then inked without love by Dave Hunt and Frank Giacoia. I thought I would like this the most, but it's kind of a disappointing waste.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Doug Wright Award Nominees

So, the list of nominees for the Wright Awards was released today. I was on the nominating committee again this year which was alot of fun and a great privilege. The newest member of the committee was Sean Rogers who writes about comics for The Walrus magazine and provided the Wrights with a necessary kick in the ass in terms of his wide-ranging comics and cultural interests, youthful exuberance, and superfine taste. These skills came in handy for the long discussions we had about the potential nominees, what books to include in what category, and what exactly qualifies as comics. The result is a very diverse list of awesome books and cartoonists, some of whom were unknown to me before the deliberations began. I'm also pretty excited about the new location for the awards this year, the brand-spanking new Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, located on the top floor of the Toronto Reference Library where TCAF is being held.

I think Max at Sequential was the first to kick out the press release but you can check out the whole awards site here.

6th annual awards to be handed out as part of Toronto Comics Arts Festival

March 12, 2010 Toronto- Running the gamut from the acclaimed to the unconventional, the 15 finalists for this year's Doug Wright Awards were announced today in Toronto.

Hand-picked by an esteemed panel of comics experts, the 2010 finalists represent the finest, most thought-provoking work produced by Canada's vibrant comics community.

The shortlist contains works that explore diverse subjects, from the legendary life of Kasper Hauser and the fictional life (and death) of a fading TV host, and spans a range of formats, from wordless lino-cuts graphic novels to "manga" inspired by Western Canadian Haida mythology.

The Doug Wright Awards finalists for Best Book are:

* Back + Forth by Marta Chudolinska (The Porcupine's Quill)
* George Sprott: (1894-1975) by Seth (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Hot Potatoe by Marc Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Kaspar by Diane Obomsawin (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Douglas and McIntyre)

The Doug Wright Awards finalists for Best Emerging Talent are:

* Adam Bourret I'm Crazy
* Michael DeForge Lose #1 (Koyama Press), Cold Heat Special #7 (Picturebox)
* Pascal Girard Nicolas (Drawn and Quarterly)
* John Martz It's Snowing Outside. We Should Go For a Walk.
* Sully The Hipless Boy (Conundrum Press)

The finalists for the 2010 Pigskin Peters Award (for unconventional, "nominally-narrative" comics) are:

* Bébête Simon Bossé (L'Oie de Cravan)
* Dirty Dishes by Amy Lockhart (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Hot Potatoes by Marc Bell (Drawn and Quarterly)
* Never Learn Anything From History by Kate Beaton
* The Collected Doug Wright Volume One by Doug Wright (Drawn and Quarterly)

Founded in 2004 (in a dimly lit Toronto bar) to celebrate the finest in English-language comics and graphic novels, The Doug Wright Awards have since evolved into one of North America's foremost comics awards and one of its most anticipated events.

Wright Awards finalists defy easy categorization, and include past and present masters of the form and off-the-beaten-path newcomers alike, all vying for one of the most unique and coveted trophies in comics.

This year's nominees were chosen by a five-member panel who chose from works released in the 2009 calendar year. The panel included: comics historian and author Jeet Heer; filmmaker Jerry Ciccoritti; cartoonist Chester Brown; Walrus comics blogger Sean Rogers, and writer and publisher Bryan Munn.

The winners are chosen by a jury that includes cartoonists, writers, actors, directors, musicians and, on occasion, politicians.

A featured event of the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF), the 2010 Doug Wright Awards ceremony will take place on Sat. May 8, at 7 pm at the Toronto Reference Library's new Bram & Bluma Appel Salon.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Anniversary Comics

Tom Spurgeon celebrated the 200th edition of his "Five For Friday" feature with a list of anniversary comics and events today. My own list is represented but there are lots of other books to look at there. And lots of chances to wonder "Why are anniversary editions of comics so crappy?" Too much pressure coupled with the inability of most kids comics creators of decades past to cobble together longer narratives on a monthly schedule. Still, I have nostalgic fond feelings for many of the 70s-80s comics on the list. Avengers #200 (Ms Marvel has a baby after being raped by a cloud who turned out to be her own son, or something, in a notorious story by Jim Shooter/Bob Layton/David Michelinie and art by George Perez that I absolutely loved as a kid in 1980) is just one "classic" anniversary comic of woe. I like the "War in Heaven/Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink"-style bloated epics like Thor #300 and Swamp Thing #50. Superman Family #200 is an awful comic that I nontheless treasure. But the best of the bunch from the lists at Comics Reporter is the awesome "big butt" cover from Hate #30. Because you can't spell classic without "class" and "ass".

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

2009 Canadian Graphic Novels and Comics: The Long List 1.0

Just putting together my reference list of English-language Canadian comics published in 2009 in preparation for the upcoming Doug Wright Awards nomination meetings. The actual awards are scheduled for Saturday May 8 during TCAF at the Toronto Reference Library.

The list so far, based on the books I've read and/or spotted in the wild:

Angora Napkin, Troy Little (IDW)
Back and Forth, Marta Chudolinska (Porcupine's Quill)
Beast, Marian Churchland (Image)
Bebete by Simon Bosse
Binky the Space Cat, Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press)|
Claire and the Water Wish, Janice Poon (Kids Can Press)
The Delicious Bug, Janet Perlman (Kids Can)
Dirty Dishes, Amy Lockhart (D+Q)
George Sprott, Seth (D+Q)
The Hipless Boy, Sully (Conundrum)
Hot Potatoe, Marc Bell (D+Q)
I'm Crazy, Adam Bourret (self)
Jan's Atomic Heart, Simon Roy (New Reliable Press)
Jellaby: Monster in the City (Hyperion)
Kaspar, Diane Obomsawin (D+Q)
Lose, Michael Deforge (Koyama Press)
Mirror Mind by Tory Woollcott (self-published/Maybe Mumkin)
Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Volume 1, Svetlana Chmakova (Yen)
The Nobody, Jeff Lemire (DC/Vertigo)
Papercut Heart, Ian Sullivan Cant (Conundrum)
Parker: The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke (IDW)
Poof! by Line Gamache (Conundrum)
Pope Hats 1, Ethan Rilley (Adhouse)
Quarter-Life Crisis: Only the Good Die Yung, Evan Munday (self)
Red: A Haida Manga, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Douglas and McIntyre)
Rex Libris, Vol 2, James Turner (SLG)
The Road to God Knows, Von Allan (self)
Scaredy Squirrel At Night, Melanie Watt (Kids Can Press)
Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe (Scott Pilgrim Vol 5), Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
Sword Of My Mouth #1, Jim Munroe and Shannon Gerard, (IDW)
Spot 12: The Story of a Birth by Jenny Jaeckel (self/mini)
Taddle Creek Summer 2009 (anthology)
True Loves Vol. 2: Trouble in Paradise anthology, ed Jason Turner (New Reliable Press)
Tyranny, Lesley Fairfield (Tundra Books)
The Undertaking, Michael J.Hind (Conundrum Press)
A Very Kraftwerk Summer, Christopher Hutsul (Koyama Press)
Warlod of Io & Other Stories (One-Shot), James Turner (SLG)

For those rare serialized "floppy" comics by established creators, like Dave Sim's Glamourpuss which I'm quite enjoying, I'm "waiting for the book." I'd appreciate any suggestions for additions. The Wright Awards are mainly a book award, so suggestions for consideration should generally be in book form. We also consider comic books and mini-comics, especially for the Best Emerging Talent and Pigskin Peters prizes.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Most Expensive Comic Book Ever, Part Y: Action Comics #1

Sure, the Sequential list of Bestselling Canadian Comic Books can give you a taste of what comics are making money, but the CBC has the real lowdown on the high-flying comics nerds who spend the big bucks on comics. Last year they reported on the sale of Action Comics #1 for over $300,000. Now comes the news that a copy of the same issue has finally cracked the million dollar mark. Since it originally cost 10 cents, it doesn't really qualify as "most expensive comic ever" like giant editions of Crumb sex comics or the Gary Panter monograph, but still....

The buyer Monday was a New York-based collector, according to a spokesman.

"It's considered by most people as the most important book," said John Dolmayan, a comic book enthusiast and dealer. "It kind of ushered in the age of the superheroes."

This copy got a better price than earlier copies of the same comic at auction because it is in better condition, Dolmayan said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bestselling Comics in Canada?

Ever wonder what the bestselling graphic novels and manga in Canada are? The answer is in the Sequential Bestseller List, a semi-regular feature at the Sequential blog based on bookstore sales compiled by the Bookmanager software. I just posted the first list of 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On to 2010...

Finally got around to slapping together my 2009 in review post for Sequential, summing up the major events and themes in the anglo side of Canadian comics over the past year. Rather than talk about the economy (boring!) as the major story, I decided to go with a look at Seth's success and how the reception of his books can be read as a positive story for our comix culture in general. I went with Seth even though other cartoonists seemed to get just as much attention for individual projects. The giant edition of Jeff Lemire's collected Essex County opus, his new Vertigo series, and the Nobody graphic novel were certainly big news and say quite a bit about comics publishing and the place of young cartoonists today. Ditto the hype around the latest Scott Pilgrim graphic novel and the upcoming film project starring Michael Cera. Bryan Lee O'Malley feels like the hot cartoonist of the moment, but I think his star will burn even brighter in 2010. Nope, for 2009 it was definitely our man in the chapeau and his bevy of books...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Comic Fan Project: 70s Shazam!

The latest entry in the Canadian Comic Fan Project comes from a 1970s issue of the Shazam! comic book. The letters page was called Shazamail. During the 70s, DC tried to revive the Marvel Family franchise, in tandem with a live-action tv series. The comics were written by Elliot S! Maggin and E. Nelson Bridwell, and they were even drawn by some of the original marvel Family artists like CC Beck and Kurt Schaffenberger. The stories were never quite as fun or original as those of the 40s and 50s, but they were great looking and generally well-crafted. Plus, there were lots of reprints of the old stories, many of which have not been reprinted. As in previous decades, fans were split over who they like better and the place of humour in superhero comics. Back in the day, Captain Marvel outsold Superman, but the owners of Superman eventually sued the owners of Cap for copyright infringement. The bonus was that both Schaffenberger and writer Otto Binder came to work for DC and ironically created some of the best Superman Family stories and characters. 1970s fans debated some of the same issues.

From Shazam! #13 (July-August 1974):

Dear Editor,
Captain Marvel is a totally irrelevant and unrealistic character and I love him. He possesses a certain charm, a charisma all his own that is totally different from the colossal, serious, world-saving Superman. Let Superman prevent the world from splitting in two. Captain Marvel will worry about a talking tiger or a pet monkey. Superman will keep us rooted in our seats, while Cap engagingly entertains us. Captain Marvel is a complete escape with down to earth dialogue and exquisitely simple artwork. Long stories would detract from the intent of the comic and the hero. The short stories fit in nicely with the overall character and all stories should be left that length.

As to the question of who will win the sales battle of the 70s, I think that Captain Marvel will, in a close fight. Having not previously seen a hero of Cap's calibre, today's generation will scramble to buy this comic. In their eyes --and I am speaking of young children-- a hero who humorously concerns himself with the fate of pets and young tykes will be their idol. Although it is we hard-bitten fans who critically analyze comix as art, it is the children who buy most of your comix and increase your sales. Trying to strike a happy medium between fandom and sales isn't always easy, but you usually pull it off.

I sincerely hope Captain Marvel achieves the popularity he deserves.
David Steele, Calgary, Alberta

Alas, Shazam! was soon canceled (whether through publisher antipathy, consumer ignorance, or the DC implosion, is unclear) and Superman continued as the flagship character, buttressed by multiple comics titles, toys, animated cartoons, and the 1970s Richard Donner movie. However, the critical consensus lately seems to be tilting towards the Captain Marvel end of the spectrum, with everyone from Jeet Heer to the Comics Comics gang to Ben Schwartz taking up the magic word and agreeing with Dave Steele of Calgary that Shazam! comic books are the best.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Obit Writing

So I posted an obit for Barry Blair over at Sequential. I didn't like his art. It was ugly and kind of creepy. He was a graphic novel creator, publisher, and pornographer, sure, but was he technically a producer of kiddie porn because he drew erotica about youths? Dave Cooper seems to have based a creepy molester character on him in his "Dan and Larry" graphic novel. Anyway, I tried to write an objective bio, but it's hard when your not into the subject.