Tom was best known for his comics industry news website The Comics Reporter since 2004, and for his five-year stint as Managing Editor and then Executive Editor of The Comics Journal from 1994 to 1999. The Comics Reporter won the Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism in 2010, 2012, and 2013.
The last time most of us saw Tom was at Baltimore Comic Con just a month ago. We always thought there would be more time to talk shop, discuss web site migration plans, and to gush about the medium we loved. And now there isn’t.
Karen Green has announced that the Global Webcomics Web Archive members have agreed that, despite it not strictly meeting their criteria, and barring any objections from stakeholders, The Comics Reporter will be archived. She says it’s “Way too important a site to risk losing!” and we agree wholeheartedly.
How to Fake a Moon Landing By Darryl Cunningham 176 pages, Abrams ComicArts, $16.95
There has been a preponderance of memoirs as graphic novels filling bookshelves over the last few years but with the exception of Joe Sacco’s work, there has been precious little journalism done in the graphic form. Cartoonist Darryl Cunningham, therefore, is a welcome voice, shedding some much needed light on the darker areas of science and culture. He made his name with Psychiatric Tales and then turned his attentions to Science Tales; Lies, Hoaxes, and Scams, which was released in England. Since then, he added a chapter and this month Abrams’ ComicArts imprint releases it as How to Fake a Moon Landing.
Cunningham breezily takes us through some of the hot button topics that are used as bludgeons by No Nothing Conservatives or are blown out of proportion by a lazy media. As one expects, the Moon landing is just the beginning, with chapters also dedicated to the MMR Vaccination Scandal, Evolution, Global Warming and so on. Each chapter spells out the facts, sourcing them along the way, and then shows where fact goes off the rails and becomes fodder for others to misuse. While he takes the cranks and critics to task, he also often faults the news media for never digging deep enough or presenting the other side of the argument for a “fair and balanced” look at the issue.
In a sprawling interview with Tom Spurgeon in 2011, he explained, “The comic strip format is particularly good at presenting information in a concise and entertaining way. A comic strip is so easy to read, that you can often find that by the time you’ve decided not to read it, you’ve read half of it. It’s a very immediate format that engages straight away and can deliver a lot of information quickly. It’s the perfect medium for presenting complex information. I’m surprised it’s not done more often. I’ve never thought of myself as part of any social activist tradition. These social and political subjects have naturally evolved out of my own interests, and to some extent, my frustration and anger with the status quo.”
As a result, you might be surprised to learn that the MMR matter was the result of one doctor’s efforts to sell his own medicine or how much money the oil industry spent on lobbying; resulting in Vice President Dick Cheney ensuring a particular bill was effectively neutered. As usual, the common man is left to pay the price or suffer the consequences. Since its initial publication, Cunningham dropped “Electroconvulsive Therapy”, replacing it with “Fracking” which remains a current topic of debate. As a result, the book is exceedingly relevant as it digests the issues down into comprehensible chapters, pointing where you can look next for more detail.
Cunningham’s approach is pretty similar to how Scott McCloud educates us about graphic storytelling and it works. He infuses each chapter with black, white, and one other color, keeping things stark and letting the reader focus on the facts. On the other hand, those who automatically buy into conspiracy theories or refuse to allow facts into the discussion will dismiss the book which is a shame. Wisely, he closes the book with a prophetic chapter on “Science Denial”. Cunningham does a remarkable job with difficult material and for high school students, just opening their eyes to the world around them, this is a terrific primer.
Just last week, the CBLDF website was recognized by Tom Spurgeon with The Comics Reporter for our “content explosion,” and we want to do more! CBLDF is looking for contributors to add to our already spectacular roster of bloggers. Whether you’re a journalism student looking for experience, a passionate fan of comics and Free Speech, or an educator and librarian who wants to share your experiences, CBLDF is looking for your voice!
Each member of our website team will be asked to identify and/or generate content about relevant Free Speech issues for www.cbldf.org on a weekly or semiweekly basis under editorial guidance from the Web Editor. The Web Editor may assign specific articles for coverage, but contributors will otherwise have flexibility in choosing what they write about. Our current contributors cover stories and generate original posts that run the gamut from the history of comics censorship to the international suppression of cartooning voices.
The blogging positions are voluntary. Articles will be seen by visitors to www.cbldf.org and cross-posted on CBLDF’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and weekly newsletter, ensuring that several thousand people will see the articles. Contributors will be able to work from anywhere, set their own schedules, build writing and blogging experience, and boost their resumes. In doing so, contributors will support the important First Amendment work of CBLDF.
If you are enthusiastic about the First Amendment, a good writer, and able to take editorial direction, you’re a perfect candidate — apply today!
To apply, please send your resume and a writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics artform and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.
Seriously, Tribune Media Services? This Broom-Hilda strip was drawn weeks ago, and with a five day lead time you didn’t think to pull it from today’s newspapers? If I were Russell Myers, I’d be furious.
With Comic-Con International, ak.a. San Diego Comic-Con, now just days, almost hours, away, those traveling to the extravaganza are packing to hit the road. There are several noteworthy survival guides we can recommend to those of you less familiar with what it’s like being there. Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter has his valued 150 tips, the gold standard of advice.
But our friends over at Click Communications has also assembled a witty Survival Guide of their own. Click is a leading media public relations firm and we’ve been dealing with them for years. They talk the talk, walk the walk, and have plenty of good pieces of advice to share along with thumbnails on many of the properties near and dear to their hearts. While Tom’s tips are good for everyone, even veterans, this guide is great for newcomers and those who don’t speak Geek as fluently as the rest of us.
They explained to us, “This guide began as a way to offer some helpful tips—and a little entertainment—to anyone working the Con who might not count down the days ‘til July the way we do. Now in its fifth year, our simple How-To manual has grown into something that “n00bs” and nerds alike can appreciate. This year, the guide also features original artwork from some talented, up & coming comic book artists: Tess Fowler, Tony Fleecs, and Scott Arnold.”
Since you’ll be stuck on lines for a good portion of the con, they have even come up with a useful way to pass the time: The Click Communications Comic Con Survival Kit Contest!
Enter to win a Survival Kit of your very own by visiting our blog, or join us in playing Comic-Con Bingo. Grab the Bingo card from the back of the Guide and share your pics online via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to line up your finds to win fabulous prizes while in San Diego. For more information, and to enter to win, visit either here or here.
Now for Click’s OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:
Click’s Comic-Con Survival Guide is just a little something they put together for your information and our amusement. There’s zero guarantee that the information they found online is 100% reliable. After all, release dates change, actors need rewrites, directors run out of budget, writers go…insane. Things happen. Since we all know that, no one should take any of the information contained within as locked-in gospel or anything. Okay? Okay.
Read the full cartoon from Meredith Gran at Octopus Pie.
Peter David rode out the storm on Long Island’s South Shore and live-blogged all of it. A number of creators are reporting in with various damage all over, from North Carolina to Connecticut, from power outages to floods to downed trees to wrecked homes.
Tom Spurgeon reports on flooding at the Center For Cartoon Studies in White River, VT– the Schulz Library building looks to be a loss, but the books and art have been saved thanks to the efforts of volunteers.
As we all try to dry out, use the comments to check-in and report on how you’re doing.
…the thing that slaps us up in the face most is the raising of the Purchase Order benchmark to $2500. What that means is that every book needs to generate $2500 of revenue (that would mean a little over $6000 in sales at retail based on the discount we give to Diamond) in order to be listed with Diamond. That does not mean that Diamond is going to cancel or not carry books which appear in the Previews but do not reach that benchmark, but it does mean that if you have a line of books which consistently do not meet that mark, you will not be getting your books listed in the Previews for long…
…what few books we published as floppies will probably not ever see the light of day. While a first issue might sell well enough to meet the benchmark it is more than likely that everything from a second or third issue on will not. Again, I think your average reader might be shocked at how poorly some comics sell. So, if you’re a small publisher or a self-publisher and your plan is to release a mini-series and then collect it as a trade, those plans might change.
It’s a tough spot for everyone to be in. Diamond is in essence asking everyone to sell more in a recessionary environment or find themselves out of the catalog. Short term, a lot of publishers are going to find themselves with no distribution.
Magazine distributor Anderson News CEO Charlie Anderson is warning of an “implosion in the business” as his company attempts to impose new charges on magazine publishers, according to a report in Folio. Anderson, which represents over 20% of magazine distribution in the U.S., is demanding that publishers pay an additional $.07 per copy distributed (gross, not net of returns) to return magazine distribution to profitability for his company.“The business has not been profitable and has not been for a very long time,” Anderson said.“What we are trying to do is give some stability in the channel.Short of that, there will be an implosion in the business.”Anderson says he believes that three of the four magazine wholesalers that distribute magazines nationwide are unprofitable.
* Even uglier than that: theBookseller.com reports that book sales were discounted by nearly a billion dollars in England last year.
* Can it get even worse? According to Tom Spurgeon, yes: more newspapers can fold– the Minneapolis Star Tribune just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy– or they could just cut back on their comics sections. And we haven’t even heard about bookstore returns.
Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has asked readers to let him know how they would answer the question, "What’s Watchmen about?" It’s a nice feature, as I believe Watchmen to be one of those projects that has been held in high regard by comics fans for so long that it’s difficult to think outside of our comics fishbowl and explain why it’s such an important story to someone with little knowledge of the industry.
Here’s the answer I gave Tom, which I came up with pretty quickly due to having been asked that same question by someone yesterday:
Watchmen examines the relationship between superheroes and society and the ways in which this relationship changes over time given a variety of real-world factors. What would happen when the shine wears off and things like politics, economics, racism and the knowledge of one’s own abilities far and beyond that of everyone else come to the surface? The story examines all of this by way of a noir-style murder mystery in which one of the former "superheroes" investigates the mysterious death of a former member of the superteam "The Watchmen."
That was my three-sentence answer that skips over so much of what makes Watchmen great to comics fans, but is most likely to hook newcomers to the comics scene. In this case, it seemed to work, as the person I told this to called me up an hour later to say he’d watched the trailer again and now definitely wants to see the film.
You can read more responses over at The Comics Reporter, but feel free to add your own to the comment thread here or email Spurgeon (via the link provided in his post) in order to have your answer added to the feature.
Over at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon has been conducting a great series of weekly interviews that, for no good reason whatsoever, I’ve been neglecting to point out here on ComicMix. It’s time to change that.
His most recent interview, with Gødland co-creator and artist Thomas Scioli, was a real gem. Much like Spurgeon, I’m not very familiar with Scioli himself, but I’ve enjoyed the way he’s channeled Jack Kirby in Gødland ever since I came across the first issue. However, despite the critical praise the series received, Casey and Scioli recently announced that Gødland would end with issue #36.
Spurgeon has a frank chat with the award-winning artist about Gødland, the reasons behind its cancellation, the collaborative process and what he has planned for the future.
Here, Scioli discusses one of the conditions that led to the series’ termination:
The collections did a lot better than the single issues. The first collection was far and away the most successful book. Most of my earnings from this series are from that single volume. Before this series came out, I had a lot of assumptions about what would sell, and I was pretty much wrong. I thought that there was more of a hunger for this type of material. I know this is the kind of comic I’d like to see more of. Maybe my expectations were too high, though. I mean it is the most successful thing I’ve ever been involved in. We sold a lot of comics, relatively speaking, but the number you need to consistently sell to really make a go of it is awfully high.
The main frustration is that I wish there was more room for us. It’s crowded out there. I kept hearing from people who couldn’t get a certain issue because their store sold out of it, or they ordered it but it never showed up at their store. Hearing that kind of thing makes me crazy.
Head over to The Comics Reporter for the full interview, and be sure to check back there every Sunday for more of Spurgeon’s interviews.
And like any good blogger, Geoff Boucher blogs his own attack: "I (literally) bumped into a young guy walking with three friends in the Gaslamp Quarter. They were tattooed and wearing the street uniform of baggy pants, white T-shirts and shaved heads. The guy started mad-dogging me, rasping threats. I told him I was just walking by, no offense meant. He got in my face, and I told him it would be stupid for us to make something out of nothing. "You calling me stupid?" "No, I’m not." Then I stopped talking, because my mouth was bleeding. One of his buddies, standing off to my side, cold-cocked me, and the ring on his fist took a chunk out of my face. I never saw it coming. I was at the emergency room until dawn."
Get well soon, Geoff. We’re all thinking of you. (Link via Tom Spurgeon. Artwork by Carol Lay, who’s a lovely and charming lady.)