Dare2Draw is one of those cool events that I never want to miss and am always so happy after attending.
Founded by Charles David Chenet (now its Executive Director), Dare2Draw may seem like a comics-drawing class at first glance but it’s really so much more. In fact, this Saturday’s event will be celebrating the works and legacies of comic pioneers Will Eisner and Jack Kirby and celebrating their Centennial mark in the sequential arts.
Chenet describes this long-running organization as a mentoring, supportive and networking organization for artists of all levels. Dare2Draw is also designed to cultivate the awareness of and appreciation for the study of sequential art, and to the “furtherance and preservation of the comic book medium’s contributions to literacy, art, and culture, through outreach programs, events, and projects.”
I find these events to be invigorating. They are part drawing class, part lecture, part support group… and all fun.
For this upcoming event, Chenet will be bringing Dare2Draw back to the Art Students League of New York. It is a location with a historical importance.
“The Dare2Draw returns to The Art Students League for a very special event to celebrate where Will Eisner got his start and went on to lay down the foundation for the graphic novel,” said Chenet. “We will also be celebrating the work of Jack Kirby, who was able to revolutionize comics, without having a formal art education. Dare2Draw will be celebrating both of these pioneers in the industry of comics, helping to celebrate their centennial mark in the sequential arts.”
“We have invited Kyle Baker, whose irreverent spirit and boundless talent continue to push the art form, now and into the future. Kyle has earned eight Will Eisner awards and many others,” added Chenet.
In fact, Kyle Baker is a winner of not only eight Eisner Awards, but also five Harvey Awards and five Glyph Comics Awards. He’s planning to share his reflections on Will & Jack’s contributions and what the future of the sequential arts “comics” might hold.
Representing the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center will be Rand Hoppe. He’s a tireless advocate of Jack Kirby and will be exploring the artist’s accomplishments and legacy, and how it all relates to today’s artists.
“Both these men will help us explore the contributions – Kyle, from the perspective of an artist and a peer of Will Eisner, and Rand as a curator of the Kirby legacy,” said Chenet.
You know these events are headed in the right direction as they are attracting sponsors. Of note: Brooklyn Brewery is supplying the beer.
This event will be hosted by Simon Fraser and Edie Nugent. It runs from 5:30 to 9:30 pm and the Art Students League is located at 215 West 57th Street in New York City. Have fun and post your art if you go!
• • • • •
Credit Given where credit’s due: I really must credit the creative in this week’s column. Will Eisner’s work appears via the courtesy of Will Eisner Studios, Inc.Jack Kirby’s creative provided courtesy of The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center.
Today marks the beginning of Passover, the Jewish festival that celebrates our freedom from slavery in Egypt. It is also Earth Day, which means that zillions of rabbis have a head start on their sermon topic this week.
The first (and sometimes second) night of Passover is marked by the ritual meal, the seder, in which adults entertain children with the story of the escape from Egypt and the ensuing forty years in the desert. There are special foods that are supposed to bring to life the suffering of the slaves, and silly songs about goats and stuff to keep the kids engaged.
There is a special prayer book for the seder called the haggadah. Because Jews like nothing more than to argue with each other, there are zillions of different versions. There are haggadahs that are entirely in Hebrew, and some that are Hebrew and English … or Spanish or whatever language your family speaks. There are many that are only in English. There are some with overtly political agendas. There are short haggadahs and long haggadahs. There are some that aren’t published by real publishers but rather copied and handed around, like spies do with covert information.
Each of us thinks our favorite haggadah is the best. That’s the way we are.
Because this is my business, I wondered if there were any comic book haggadahs. A quick Google search revealed two, both aimed at young children. I’m sure these are fine, but they seem to be produced for the comic book reader who used to read Dell Comics and Harvey.
I would like to see someone do a graphic haggadah or, barring that, a graphic novel about the Passover story. There are so many episodes that would benefit from a smart combination of words and pictures — 12 plagues, the suffering of the slaves, the escape from Egypt (with the parting of the Red Sea), the Golden Calf, the 40 years of wandering until all the kvetch-y old people died off. It would be exciting, action-filled, with lots of fascinating characters and drama.
Part of the reason I know that this tale would work in a graphic story format is that it is, essentially, the part of the Bible that inspired Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster when they created Superman. A young child ripped away from his parents, raised by a kindly family, who grows up to lead his people because of his special powers and abilities.
There is no reason to aim these stories specifically to very young children. For one thing, most very young children who can read are smart enough to tell when someone talks down to them. For another, kids are much more sophisticated in their abilities to unravel complex story lines than I was as a child. Finally, the stories work because, like fairy tales, they reach into our primal fears and primal hopes, which we share throughout our lives.
Last week Marvel Comics announced that they’ll be bringing back the original Captain America, Steve Rogers. Currently, Sam Wilson is the acting Captain America. For many, it was a big deal that Sam Wilson became Captain America. He’s the first African American Captain America in the main continuity (though Bob Morales and Kyle Baker’s Truth explored Isaiah Bradley, a black man depicted as being an early product of the super-soldier program), which instantly made him one of Marvel’s highest profile, if not their highest profile, black superhero.
This, on top of Jane Foster taking over the role of Thor and some other recent choices, seemed to show that Marvel was moving towards broader representation and inclusion in their main titles to accommodate the rapidly changing demographics of comic book readers.
That is no longer the case.
Many have speculated that Marvel Comics would eventually go back to the original characters, the straight cis white male versions specifically, as they have done that time and time again over the years. As diversity in all entertainment mediums including comics has become an increasingly important topic as of late, we’ve been seeing more press roll outs of change ups at both Marvel and DC like when Sam Wilson took on the mantel of Captain America. Unfortunately, by bringing back Steve Rogers, the straight cis white male Captain America, they are undermining their own efforts.
However, they are only truly undermining their own efforts if diversity was the priority in the first place. They are not undermining their own efforts if short term sales are their first priority. Long term sales, now that’s a different story.
Sure, Marvel is stating that they’re going to keep Sam Wilson as Captain America. They’re just going to have two of them at the same time. This seems like a means to keep people from initially being upset by the move, whether they’re comic book readers themselves or outsiders reporting on it. Or it’s a way to keep people have much of an opinion on this at all. I mean, Marvel isn’t taking away something, they’re just giving us more, right?
That’s a mistake. In comics, we’ve all seen this before. A disruption in the status quo for a time that will inevitably go back to the norm. Spider-Man had a black suit for a while, Superman died and came back, even Steve Rogers as Captain America was Nomad for a time before becoming Captain America again. Also, Steve Rogers got killed, replaced by Winter Soldier, just to come back only a few years ago, but who’s counting? And yes, I know there are plenty more examples, but you probably know most of them anyway.
Beyond just being tired, gimmicky cash-grabs, these sort of things hurt diversity in comics. Sam Wilson as Captain America had his first issue debut in October, and we’re already getting ready to bring back Steve Rogers by the summer. Less than a year of a black Captain America in the main continuity before going right back to white. Even if they keep them both as Captain America, we all know the sales are going to be better for Steve Rogers’ comic. He has the built in fan base garnered through 75 years of existence on top of having Chris Evans star as Steve Rogers in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. What chance does Sam Wilson have as Cap?
We know how this story ends before it starts. Steve Rogers’ book will sell well, and Sam Wilson’s will maybe sell for a bit before sales dwindle enough where they cancel it. Maybe Sam Wilson will appear in team books or as a guest in comics, but Steve will be back on top in no time. Especially since this will be coinciding with the release of the new Captain America movie. And with Sam Wilson still being depicted as Falcon in the movies, it’s very possible he’ll go back to using that name again. You know, because synergy. Funny how that works, huh?
Not that you don’t already know this, but Marvel is owned by Disney. Disney has the money, if they really were invested in diversity, to promote a black superhero like Sam Wilson in the comics, or any other number of minority heroes, and to help make them a household name that sells. They managed that with a talking raccoon and a tree that can only say its name over and over again. Yes, Sam Wilson appears as Falcon in the movies, but he’s a minor character that hasn’t really had too much of a chance to shine or garner a fan base in the same ways. And absolutely no one seems to be calling for him to have his own solo movie, unlike side characters like Black Widow.
Now here’s where it gets tricky. I don’t like the idea of a boycott. It’s not the fault of the creative team on the Steve Rogers’ Captain America book that it will likely bump the Sam Wilson one out in time. If it wasn’t Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz on the book, Marvel would get another team on it. Easily. This is an editorial decision. Yes, they may have asked some creators to pitch them some ideas on what to do with Steve Rogers as Captain America again, but Steve Rogers was going to get a new title as Captain America either way.
If you’re interested in Captain America when the Steve Rogers’ comic hits the shelves this summer, buy both books. If you can only afford one, buy the Sam Wilson one. That’s the one that’s going to need the higher sales numbers to stick around as a monthly title. Let’s show the comic industry, and specifically Marvel Comics, that we care more about change, diversity, and representation than we care about defaulting back to straight cis white men for the sake of nostalgia.
Maybe they’ll even stop rehashing the same storylines over and over if we’re proving to Marvel that we’ll buy new stories. If we keep defaulting back, we’ll never move forward, and diversity will be nothing more than a nice thought we ponder about from time to time.
Mark your calendars. This is a date that will live in history. I just had a great time at a Reed Pop show.
The occasion was the first Special Edition NYC, held last weekend at New York City’s Javitz Center. Now, the Javitz Center is one of my least favorite places, noisy at the best of times, somehow both isolated from the city and yet frequently jammed with people. I especially haven’t enjoyed the Reed shows there because they get far more people than the space was designed to serve, resulting in lines for the bathrooms that can take over an hour. At those times, I am grateful that I can no longer be pregnant.
Special Edition was different from NYCC (which, for the record, stands for New York Comic-Con) in that it was only about comics. No movies. No television. No games. Just comics. It’s a much smaller show, taking up just the northernmost part of the center. The panels, of course, were all the way at the southernmost part of the center, a distance of about four city blocks, or 1/5 of a mile.
My first impression on walking in was that it was so pleasant. I arrived on Saturday a bit after noon (doors opened at 10 AM), and there were groups of people walking in, but in a relaxed manner, because they weren’t being jammed together against their will. The security people checking badges were smiling and helpful, directing us down the corridor to the main room.
Of course, when I got to the main room, the first thing I saw was a row of ATMs. Because this is a ReedPop show, I thought to myself.
And then I walked onto the floor. The front half of the room had dealers and a few publishers (the largest, I think, being Valiant). The back half of the room was Artists Alley.
Artists Alley is my favorite part of the show. As someone who loves comics, its exciting for me to meet the people who create them. This show had a good mix of new (to me) people and respected veterans. The longest line I saw was for Jerry Ordway.
On Saturday, I didn’t get to any panels, although I had hoped to see this one. I commend Reed on hosting a panel on this topic, which is a tad more sophisticated than the usual “Women in Comics” cliches.
One reason I didn’t get to the panels on Saturday (besides my personal inertia) is that the panel rooms were not well marked. Despite having well-trained and helpful staff at the main room, it was difficult to find anyone to give directions to the panel rooms.
My favorite part was seeing Howard Chaykin, a man on whom I’ve had a schoolgirl crush for at least 35 years. The only other person in the business at whom I gush in the same adolescent manner is Kyle Baker who, alas, was not at the show. Howard was kind enough to put up with my fawning, and even recommended some books I might like to read.
It seemed to me that there was a smaller percentage of cosplayers at this show, and those that were there were mostly on-theme (in that they were dressed as comic book characters, not Doctor Who or Walking Dead). I also had a sense that there were fewer people behaving like creeps, not only to cosplayers but also to women and girls at the show. If I were to speculate (and I’m about to), I would guess that the assholes who attend the bigger shows are drawn to the movies, the TV shows, etc. and not to comics. Comics require the ability to read, and people who read, especially fiction, must occasionally consider the possibility that other people have feelings.
Or maybe the show wasn’t on their radar. This was the only hype I saw in the mainstream press.
I look forward to seeing how Special Edition New York develops. It is a great reminder of the fun and friendliness of comic books.
This week, I’m kvelling all the time. The Fifth Beatle is finally in the stores.
Let me explain. About a dozen years ago, I met Vivek Tiwary and we quickly became friends, even though it’s only recently I’ve pronounced his name properly. We met because we had friends in common, friends who inspired us to do some good, in Vivek’s case quite amazingly. (Really, watch the video at the link. It’s wonderful.)
Community service is all well and good, but what really bonded us was comics. We are totally geeks together. We would walk around various conventions (both Book Expo and the San Diego Comic-Con), sharing the kind of fangasms such events inspire. I even helped him take his young son around.
During these walks, and on other occasions, we would often talk about his various projects, He was working on turning Green Day’s American Idiot album into a theatrical musical, and he was working on a screenplay about Brian Epstein. Vivek is quite passionate on the subject of Epstein, the Beatles’ first manager. He first looked tried to find out about him 21 years ago, when he was in business school. There was hardly any information. Over the decades, he pulled the story together. Vivek had a lot of experience as a theatrical producer, but film was a new medium for him. He had written a screenplay, but getting it made was an arduous process.
Why not make it into a graphic novel while you wait, I suggested.
And so he did. He found Andrew Robinson to collaborate on the art (and I introduced him to Kyle Baker, who drew the hilarious scene in the Philipines), and off they went. Thanks to my ComicMix co-columnist Michael Davis, we got the book to Dark Horse.
Vivek didn’t fall into the trap that catches too many writers from other media, including me. He doesn’t cram the page with words. He knows how to let the pictures tell the story. He trusts his artist to convey the pace, the emotions, the energy of the story. Andrew doesn’t let him down. The likenesses are evocative without being overbearing. People who knew some of the characters in real life tell me he nailed the body language as well as the bodies. The use of Beatle lyrics is lovely.
There is a rhythm to the story that is like a great rock’n’roll song. You get caught up in the energy when you read it the first time, and then you can’t get it out of your head.
And now, you have the book in your hands. You’re welcome.
By now, those of you who probably greeted with thudding indifference my first regular post here last week may be whining (privately) about my tone.
As of this writing, that piece hasn’t gone up yet, so I haven’t yet read the comments I probably won’t get. No doubt some of you will slanderme as a cranky old fart. I would prefer that you read me, if you read me at all, as Grumpy Cat with alopecia and a litter box that looks like a Mylar snuggie.
My purpose here is mainly to provoke thought, but in this overcrowded blogosphere, what that means is, one has to provoke, period. So I also try to entertain by trying to be funny. (I have some experience with this, having been paid to do so on several occasions.) I’m counting on there being ComicMix readers who know that “shock jock” doesn’t have anything to do with Lightning Lad’s penis.
Which brings me to my subject today (Why Patton Oswalt Is So Lonely At Comic Book Conventions). Fanboys have no sense of humor? Well, why the fuck not?
You like to laugh, right? And you love comics, right? Where is it written that loving something means you can’t see its absurdities? (Oh, wait. Married Geeks = a minority. Forgot.)
OK, now that we’ve solved that problem…
Assuming you do like laughing and you like comics…WTF have you got against a one-and-done, and getting both fixes from the same place? Why do so few of you have any interest in comic books that aren’t populated by characters so teeth-grittingly grim that they always look like they’re on the crapper and constipated? Is it too gross to contemplate the idea of a comic book that tries to make you laugh?
Where have all the funny mainstream comics gone? Plastic Man has either gone all deadpan or invisible; Kyle Baker’s given up on the Big Two; Joe Quesada probably doesn’t even know WTF Not Brand Ecch was; and Mike Richardson won’t be blowing any money on another Instant Piano anytime soon. But when did the industry get so risk-adverse? When did their commitment to product diversity become so transparently lip-service?
I know being married to the floppy is a burdensome job, but let’s all learn to lighten the load by leavening it with laughter, aight? In the grand scheme of things, comics aren’t really that important, yo. Your school, if you’re unlucky enough to go to one, will still have textbooks designed to turn you into a Marching Moron. Or it will keep you in debt till long after comics have ceased to exist.
Your job, if you’re lucky enough to have one, will still suck, and the fries that go with it will have been reconstituted, blow-dried, flavor-sprayed, and frozen by a 12-year-old Chinese girl in one of those two-cents-an-hour laborers’ dormitories that gave Mitt Romneya hard-on. And even if you don’t get around to reading this till September, your phone company will still be letting Black Ops guys look at pictures of your junk.
Me, I will recklessly continue trying to bring smiles to your lips, despite your dogged resistance. If I and like-minded writers can’t be funny in comic books, I, at least, will defiantly and unapologetically try to be funny about them – as I did here, and got hugely trolled for it by a lot of Geek jobs who sounded like they were about to cry.
I like anthology comics. For one thing, that’s how the comic book medium started – single-character comics didn’t really start until about six years down the road. For another, the anthology format reinvented comics with 2000AD back in the mid-1970s. Today, the anthology format is all but gone, with the notable – and highly laudable – exception of Dark Horse Presents, Creator-Owned Comics and a handful of others.
I like electronic publishing in general and electronic comics publishing in specific. I am a well-known advocate of the movement, at least in my own mind. Well before e-comics became real, I had a debate with my pal and oft-time co-conspirator Mark Wheatley, one of the most innovative and hardest-working people in the known universe. Mark advocated the potential of e-comics expanding the medium by incorporating effects that would move the medium past the boundaries imposed by print. Whereas I agreed with that position, I maintained that such additions move comic books into… something else. Not bad, not good – that depends on content. But nonetheless… something else.
Since then we’ve had various and sundry incursions into the multimedia comics world, the best known being “motion comics.” Interesting, but short of scintillating. But this is a nascent form in need of development, innovation and coddling.
Then my pal David Lloyd (Kickback, Night Raven, Doctor Who, V For Vendetta, Espers, Hellblazer, Wasteland … jeez, this guy has done a lot and, yeah, I’ve got a lot of pals who make great comics; what of it?) decided to combine the anthology concept of the past with the computer magic of an hour-and-a-half ago.
And by “an hour-and-a-half ago,” I mean that almost literally. His new title, Aces Weekly, debuted yesterday.
You’ve probably read about it in all sorts of places. I was lucky enough to get a head’s-up during last month’s Baltimore Comic-Con; Mark Wheatley showed me the first hundred pages of “Return Of The Human,” the series he’s doing with may pal (yeah, yeah) J.C. Vaughn. And I was left panting.
In addition to David, Mark and J.C., Aces Weekly offers us the talent of (take a deep breath) Kyle Baker, David Hitchcock, Herb Trimpe, David Leach, Billy Tucci, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marc Hempel, James Hudnall, Steve Bissette, Val Mayerick, Henry Flint, Dan Christensen, Dave Hine, Colleen Doran, and a lot of others of similar high caliber. No, not all are in the first issue: it’s a weekly, and as one story ends another begins, and the talent recovers.
Aces Weekly costs $9.99 per seven-issue subscription – the anthology is published in seven issue “volumes,” which is a clever idea. It’s online-only, all the material is original, and once you buy it you can read it wherever and whenever you have web access. It’s all creator-owned and, evidently, creators aren’t overly burdened by control-freak editors like me.
Check it out at www.acesweekly.co.uk. No matter how cynical you may be, have your credit card ready.
Oh, yeah. It says up there in the headline “review,” so here’s my review:
Perhaps you are not a follower of mens fashions. Perhaps you don’t care. The relative width of a jacket’s lapels is not as hot a topic as the relative length of a woman’s skirt. In New York, however, it’s a big business. We have a Fashion District, which is not a place where models live, but rather where designers and manufacturers have their offices. We have a segment of our calendar devoted to various seasonal Fashion Weeks. The trendsare part of our regular media coverage.
Foremost among these is Fashions of The Times, recently refurbished as T. This supplement to The New York Times occasionally augments the Sunday magazine section. The women’s issue is thick and glossy, full of teenage models wearing outfits that cost more than my first car, and jewelry that cost more than my apartment. The men’s issue may be just as unrealistic, but I can enjoy it more because it’s not aimed at me. And the models are cute guys who are there to be stared at.
Anyway, this is a long and roundabout way to explain why, last Sunday morning, I was paging through the men’s fall fashion issue of T when I was flabbergasted to see Jamie Hewlett, one of the creators of Tank Girl, in an ad for Alfred Dunhill, the posh menswear company. It was a two-page ad. The glorious John Hurt was on the other side.
It’s a full-on campaign. Here he is on YouTube, in a beautifully photographed interview about his creative process. It’s in elegant black-and-white, as if to emphasize what a serious artist he is, an important cultural touchstone. While I was on YouTube, I discovered that Jamie had previously been previously interviewed for Absolut Vodka.
When did this happen? I mean, I love Tank Girl and the Gorillaz idea is really fun. I think Jamie is adorable. I own some of his art. But a fashionista? Someone with a look other men should strive to emulate?
I guess I shouldn’t complain. When I worked at DC in the 1990s I tried to establish our talent as artists of interest, to be taken as seriously as novelists or filmmakers. I hired my friend, Stephanie Chernikkowski, a noted rock photographer whose work has been shown in the Museum of Modern Art and around the world, to take pictures (you can see her pics of Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Kyle Baker at the above link, and she also shot Garth Ennis, Paul Pope and Peter Milligan before I ran out of budget).
At no time did I make any suggestions as to their wardrobe. The photographs were commissions for promotional purposes, but we were promoting the work, not the style. It would never occur to me that anyone would want to dress like a comic book pro.
Paul Pope, maybe. He’s designed clothes for a few major fashion companies. And he’s really really cute. He looks like a model.
It’s another step on the road to Nerd Cultural Domination. I eagerly await the Azzedine Alaia collection starring Gail Simone.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and the Baltimore Bliss
As a child growing up, I loved cartoons. At that time (the 1950s and early 1960s), that’s a bit like saying that I loved breathing. There were cartoons on Saturday morning, and cartoons every afternoon. The movie theater near my Grandmother’s house had Saturday matinees that were three hours of cartoons.
But I loved comic books more.
My husband, John Tebbel, was the first animation maven I ever met. He not only knew the difference between Disney and Warner Brothers, but he knew the individual directors, and quickly taught me how to spot Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. He explained who the Fleischer Studio was and why I should care.
Naturally, I tried to share my love of comic books. My success rate was lower. He liked Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. He loved Kyle Baker. Milk and Cheese made him laugh out loud. Still, he never quite got the superhero thing.
I’m not writing to celebrate two geeks in love. I’m writing about how sometimes, we let our differences divide us. Do you like Marvel or DC? The Big Two or independents? Broadcast or cable?
We defined our affection for two art forms that were graphic storytelling. One moved and one didn’t. One had finite time limits and one didn’t. Each of us, with our affection for our chosen art, could appreciate the other’s favorite.
I would like our political discourse to work at this level, but that isn’t going to happen as long as there is so much money and power involved. However, if there is anything that would make my husband’s life more significant, it would be if we could each of us share our love for pop culture with the rest of the world. Instead of fighting over which piece of the pie is the biggest or the best, we could have more pie.