TCAF & Doug Wright Awards 2018

TCAF 2018 – Brigitte Findakly, Lewis Trondheim, Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota, Eddie Campbell and Audrey Niffenegger

I went to Toronto Comics Arts Festival and audio recorded 14 panels and the Doug Wright Awards.

TCAF had a different feel this year. One of the major Canadian publishers, Drawn & Quarterly was not there. They put less tables on the main floor which made the convention more bearable to walk around and browse. In the past few years TCAF had several  popular Image Comics creators, but not so much this year. I haven’t compared numbers but friends of mine believe there were more international creators than usual.

Also different was the spaces outside of the Library being used. The Masonic Temple that normally hosted the Image creators was not utilized and the empty upstairs area of a mall across the street was. Within that space was a Zine Fest which I did not visit, but I understand it was popular. I also couldn’t help but notice the Friday Night kick off event was also less popularly attended than usual. Even the Doug Wright awards were put into a smaller room and was done in an hour.  I’m not suggesting that any of these changes were bad, some of them were quite welcome, but it gave the show an ‘off’ feeling. It will be curious to see what happens with next years show to see if this is a trend or not.

 

King Con 2018

Tom Fowler at King Con 2018

Tom Fowler at King Con 2018

I attended a local convention in Kingston, Ontario called King Con. It was held this year at Sydenham Street United Church at 82 Sydenham Street. I personally enjoyed the show and chatting with some creators, some I hadn’t seen in several years.

Some of the creators include: J. Torres, Andrew Wheeler, Attila Adorjany, Kat Verhoeven, Tom Fowler, Craig A. Taillefer, Andrew Thomas, Salgood Sam, San Noir, Dan Day and more. Andrew Wheeler did a panel on the history of LGBTQ Superheroes which I recorded.

There was also a popular magic show, which I enjoyed as the magician (James Harrison) had a very good act. I was talking with him earlier and he was doing the whole ‘find the ball’ trick on me with.

At the end of Saturday there was a cosplay contest that was mainly aimed at kids.

Pictures are here and Audio is here.

 

 

The winner of the cosplay contest is here (recorded and posted with permission):

The Combined Best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2017!

Over the last few months there have been many, many websites with “Best of 2017” lists concerning comic books and graphic novels. If you’ve looked at a few, you may have noticed some of the same books on different lists and seen some unique to only that list.

I went through over 136 different “Best Of” Lists regarding comic books and graphic novels and combined them into a spreadsheet. There are over 2,100 different listings of books from these websites. I should note that I’ve included books that were given honorable mentions. In short, if somebody thought it was a good book that you should check out, it’s on here. Pivot tables have been created to show which books appeared on the number of lists. Here are the books with 5 mentions or more:

 

Book Title Count Writer Artist Publisher
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters 64 Emil Ferris Emil Ferris Fantagraphics
Mister Miracle 45 Tom King Mitch Gerads DC Comics
The Best We Could Do 36 Thi Bui Thi Bui Harry N. Abrams
Boundless 32 Jillian Tamaki Jillian Tamaki Drawn & Quarterly
Batman 27 Tom King Mikel Janin DC Comics
You & A Bike & A Road 26 Eleanor Davis Eleanor Davis Koyama Press
Spinning 24 Tillie Walden Tillie Walden First Second
Black Hammer 21 Jeff Lemire Dean Ormston, David Rubin Dark Horse Comics
My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness 20 Nagata Kabi Nagata Kabi Seven Seas
Shade The Changing Girl 19 Cecil Castellucci Marley Zarcone DC Comics
Anti-Gone 19 Connor Willumsen Connor Willumsen Koyama Press
The Mighty Thor 17 Jason Aaron Russell Dauterman Marvel Comics
Songy Of Paradise 16 Gary Panter Gary Panter Fantagraphics
Hostage 15 Guy Delisle Guy Delisle Drawn & Quarterly
Everything Is Flammable 14 Gabrielle Bell Gabrielle Bell Uncivilized Books
The Flintstones 13 Mark Russell Steve Pugh, Rick Leonardi DC Comics
Paper Girls 13 Brian K. Vaughan Cliff Chiang Image Comics
Monograph 12 Chris Ware Chris Ware Rizzoli
Real Friends 12 Shannon Hale Leuyen Pham First Second
Giant Days 12 John Allison Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar BOOM! Studios
Crickets No. 6 12 Sammy Harkham Sammy Harkham American Comics
Mirror Mirror II 11 Various Various 2dcloud
One More Year 11 Simon Hanselmann Simon Hanselmann Fantagraphics
Saga 11 Brian K. Vaughan Fiona Staples Image Comics
Doom Patrol 11 Gerard Way Nick Derington DC Comics
Roughneck 11 Jeff Lemire Jeff Lemire Gallery 13
The Customer Is Always Wrong 10 Mimi Pond Mimi Pond Drawn & Quarterly
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 10 Ryan North Erica Henderson Marvel Comics
Batman / Elmer Fudd Special #1 10 Tom King Lee Weeks DC Comics
Sex Fantasy 10 Sophia Foster-Dimino Sophia Foster-Dimino Koyama Press
Rock Candy Mountain 9 Kyle Starks Kyle Starks Image Comics
Silver Surfer 9 Dan Slott Michael Allred And Laura Allred Marvel Comics
Pretending Is Lying 9 Dominique Goblet Dominique Goblet New York Review Comics
Redlands 9 Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey Image Comics
Uncomfortably Happily 9 Yeon-Sik Hong Yeon-Sik Hong Drawn & Quarterly
My Brother’s Husband 9 Gengoroh Tagame Gengoroh Tagame Pantheon
God Country 9 Donny Cates Geoff Shaw Image Comics
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank 9 Matthew Rosenberg Tyler Boss Black Mask Studios
Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero 8 Michael Deforge Michael Deforge Drawn & Quarterly
Spill Zone 8 Scott Westerfeld Alex Puvilland First Second
Wonder Woman 8 Greg Rucka Nicola Scott, Liam Sharp, Romulo Fajardo Jr. DC Comics
Iceland 8 Yuichi Yokoyama Yuichi Yokoyama Retrofit/Big Planet
Aliens: Dead Orbit 8 James Stokoe James Stokoe Dark Horse Comics
Brave 8 Svetlana Chmakova Svetlana Chmakova Yen Press
Black Bolt 8 Saladin Ahmed Christian James Ward Marvel Comics
Dark Nights: Metal 8 Scott Snyder Greg Capullo DC Comics
Pope Hats #5 7 Ethan Rilly Ethan Rilly Adhouse Press
Now #1 7 Various Various Fantagraphics
All’S Faire In Middle School 7 Victoria Jamieson Victoria Jamieson Dial Books
The Complete Strange Growths, 1991-1997 7 Jenny Zervakis Jenny Zervakis Spit and a Half
Crawl Space 7 Jesse Jacobs Jesse Jacobs Koyama Press
Secret Weapons 7 Eric Heisserer Raul Allen, Patricia Martin Valiant
Motor Crush 7 Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart Image Comics
Extremity 7 Daniel Warren Johnson Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer Image Comics
Mis(H)Adra 7 Iasmin Omar Ata Iasmin Omar Ata Gallery 13
The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rún 7 Nagabe Nagabe Seven Seas
Everyone’s A Aliebn When Ur A Aliebn Too: A Book 7 Jomny Sun Jomny Sun Harper Perennial
Deathstroke 7 Christopher Priest Diogenes Neves DC Comics
Hawkeye 7 Kelly Thompson Leonardo Romero, Michael Walsh, Jordie Bellaire Marvel Comics
The Wild Storm 6 Warren Ellis Jon Davis-Hunt DC Comics
How To Read Nancy: The Elements Of Comics In Three Easy Panels 6 Paul Karasik, Mark Newgarden Fantagraphics
Fante Bukowski Two 6 Noah Van Sciver Noah Van Sciver Fantagraphics
The Black Monday Murders 6 Jonathan Hickman Tomm Coker, Michael Garland, Rus Wooton Image Comics
Bitch Planet 6 Kelly Sue Deconnick Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma Image Comics
Language Barrier 6 Hannah K. Lee Hannah K. Lee Koyama Press
Providence 6 Alan Moore Jacen Burrows Avatar Press
Nightlights 6 Lorena Alvarez Lorena Alvarez Nobrow Press
Poppies Of Iraq 6 Brigitte Findakly And Lewis Trondheim Lewis Trondheim Drawn & Quarterly
Imagine Wanting Only This 6 Kristen Radtke Kristen Radtke Pantheon
The Wicked + The Divine 6 Kieron Gillen Jamie Mckelvie, Matt Wilson Image Comics
Pashmina 6 Nidhi Chanani Nidhi Chanani First Second
America 6 Gabby Rivera Joe Quinones, Ramon Villalobos Marvel Comics
House Of Women 6 Sophie Goldstein Sophie Goldstein Fantagraphics
Ms. Marvel 6 G. Willow Wilson Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa Marvel Comics
The Stone Heart: The Nameless City 6 Faith Erin Hicks Faith Erin Hicks, Jordie Bellaire First Second
I’M Not Here 6 GG GG Koyama Press
Venice 5 Jiro Taniguchi Jiro Taniguchi Fanfare/Ponent Mon
Royal City 5 Jeff Lemire Jeff Lemire Image Comics
Batman Annual #2 5 Tom King Lee Weeks, Michael Lark, Elizabeth Breitweiser, June Chung, Deron Bennett DC Comics
Aquaman 5 Riccardo Federici, Dan Abnett Stjepan Sejic, Various DC Comics
Savage Town 5 Declan Shalvey Philip Barrett, Jordie Bellaire Image Comics
Mech Cadet Yu 5 Greg Pak Takeshi Miyazawa BOOM! Studios
Education 5 John Hankiewicz John Hankiewicz Fantagraphics
Sunburning 5 Keiler Roberts Keiler Roberts Koyama Press
To Laugh That We May Not Weep: The Life And Art Of Art Young 5 Art Young,‎ Art Spiegelman,‎ Frank Young Art Young Fantagraphics
Farmer Ned’S Comic Barn 5 Gerald Jablonski Gerald Jablonski Fantagraphics
As The Crow Flies 5 Melanie Gillman Melanie Gillman Iron Circus Comics
The Interview 5 Manuele Fior Manuele Fior Fantagraphics
Bolivar 5 Sean Rubin Sean Rubin Archaia
The Tea Dragon Society 5 Katie O’Neill Katie O’Neill Oni Press
The Wendy Project 5 Melissa Jane Osborne Veronica Fish Papercutz
Mighty Jack And The Goblin King 5 Ben Hatke Ben Hatke First Second
Black Panther 5 Ta-Nehisi Coates Various Marvel Comics
Black 5 Various Various Black Mask Studios
The Unworthy Thor 5 Jason Aaron Olivier Coipel Marvel Comics
Kill Or Be Killed 5 Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips Image Comics
Monstress 5 Marjorie Liu Sana Takeda Image Comics
Spy Seal 5 Rich Tomasso Rich Tomasso Image Comics
Where’s Halmoni? 5 Julie Kim Julie Kim Little Bigfoot
The Abominable Mr. Seabrook 5 Joe Ollmann Joe Ollmann Drawn & Quarterly
Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign? 5 Geof Darrow Geof Darrow Dark Horse Comics
Fire!! The Zola Hurston Neale Story 5 Peter Bagge Peter Bagge Drawn & Quarterly
Baking With Kafka 5 Tom Gauld Tom Gauld Drawn & Quarterly
Voices In The Dark 5 Marcel Beyer, Ulli Lust Ulli Lust New York Review Comics
5 Worlds, V.1: The Sand Warrior 5 Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel Mark Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun Random House
Tenements, Towers & Trash 5 Julia Wertz Julia Wertz Black Dog & Leventhal

Also of note, a handful of reviewers included a webcomic within it’s best books lists. Tilly Walden’s On A Sunbeam got the most (4) mentions this year, which is remarkable as she tied for the most mentions last year. Like last year The Nib got 2nd place as a general site and Nib hosted specific comics Sarah Glidden’s The Art of War and Jess Parker’s Who Was The Somerton Man were also mentioned. Tied for 2nd with 3 mentions is Michael DeForge’s Leaving Richard’s Valley.  It should be said that several Self-Published and very small press comics were both web comics and printed books. I did not do a through check, but it’s possible that some of those books are available as web comics and vice versa.

The full spreadsheet with pivot tables for books, writers, artists, publishers and more is available here.

Regarding Publishers:

Image was the most popular with 74 different titles.

DC was 2nd with 54 different titles.

Fantagraphics and Marvel are tied for a close 3rd with 53 different titles.

Dark Horse has 30 titles.

First Second did well with 24 titles.

58 Self-Published books made the list too.

Caveats:

Where a reviewer/writer wrote ‘best of’ lists for multiple websites, I’ve cross referenced their lists and removed books that were named twice. I did not think it would be fair if those writers could tip the popularity scale by naming the same book(s) over and over again on multiple websites.

If a writer wrote for multiple sites, but one of those sites picks was a group effort, I did not remove books that are listed twice.

I generally did not include lists that were a mixed of prose books and graphic novels.

I did not use lists where the website was not in English and the books appeared to be translated versions.

I did not use nominations/winners for awards.

With inkers and colourists I often, but not always included them within the Artist section. Where there were multiple (usually more than 5) involved in a book, or in the title’s run over the course of the year, Various was used of listing them all. In some cases I combined those involved even if they worked on the title for different issues.

For simplicity sake, if a list named a specific comic book issue or specific volume of a graphic novel, I removed those specifics and just listed the series title, with rare exceptions. Apologies to the reviewers of those books.

Some writers included books that were technically published in 2016 and at least 1 just listed best books they read that year, but the vast majority of those lists were 2017 books. The number of non 2017 books in the spreadsheet is very tiny and insignificant to the overall list.

Most of the lists were general ‘best/favourite books’ of 2017, but I also included lists dedicated to young readers, manga, etc… What type list is noted on column B in the spreadsheet.

A small number of lists also had rankings and those are included in Column C

 

A Reading Life – https://areadinglife.com/2017/11/28/best-of-2017-books-for-adults/
A Reading Life – https://areadinglife.com/2017/11/29/best-of-2017-books-for-young-adults/
A Reading Life – https://areadinglife.com/2017/11/30/best-of-2017-books-for-children/
Adventures in Poor Taste – http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2018/01/02/the-year-in-queer-the-top-10-lgbtq-comics-of-2017/
Advocate – https://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/2018/1/03/best-lgbt-graphic-novels-2017
All The Wonders – http://www.allthewonders.com/podcasts/some-of-the-top-middle-grade-graphic-novels-of-2017-books-between-episode-40/
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17388344011
Anime News Network – https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2017-12-29/best-manga-and-light-novels-of-2017/.125750
AV Club – https://www.avclub.com/the-best-comics-of-2017-1820879242
Bam! Smack! Pow! – https://bamsmackpow.com/2017/12/31/top-comic-books-2017/
Barnes and Nobel – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-comics-graphic-novels-2017/
Barnes and Nobel – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-new-manga-series-2017/
Ben Towle – http://www.benzilla.com/?p=6266
Booklist Online – https://www.booklistonline.com/Top-10-Graphic-Novels-2017-Sarah-Hunter/pid=8966988
BookList Online – https://www.booklistonline.com/Top-10-Graphic-Novels-for-Youth-2017-Sarah-Hunter/pid=8964161
Bounding Into Comics – http://boundingintocomics.com/2017/12/27/the-10-best-comic-books-of-2017/
CBC – http://www.cbc.ca/books/the-best-canadian-comics-and-graphica-of-2017-1.4453579
CBR – https://www.cbr.com/tag/bestcomics2017/
Chicago Public Library – https://chipublib.bibliocommons.com/list/share/200121216_chipublib_teens/1058615227_best_teen_graphic_novels_and_manga_of_2017
ComicBook.com – http://comicbook.com/comics/2018/01/01/the-10-best-indie-comics-of-2017/#1
Comicon.com – http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/26/comicons-8-best-comic-series-of-2017/
Comicon.com – http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/26/comicons-8-best-original-graphic-novels-of-2017/
Comicon.com – http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/26/comicons-8-best-single-comic-issues-of-2017/
Comicon.com – http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/28/comicons-8-best-webcomics-of-2017/
Comicon.com – http://www.comicon.com/2017/12/29/comicons-most-progressive-comics-2017/
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2017-graphic-novel/
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2017-series/
Comicosity – http://www.comicosity.com/best-of-2017-single-issue/
Comics Alternative – http://comicsalternative.com/young-readers-reviews-of-good-night-planet-the-dam-keeper-and-misfit-city-as-well-as-a-look-back-at-2017/
Critical Hit – https://www.criticalhit.net/comics-toys/20-best-comic-books-2017/
Cryptoscatology – http://cryptoscatology.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-cryptoscatology-top-ten-best-comic.html
Daniel Elkin – http://www.danielelkin.com/2017/12/top-13-small-press-comics-i-reviewed-of.html
Den of Geek – http://www.denofgeek.com/us/books-comics/best-comics-of-2017/269562/best-comics-2017-comicbooks
Denver Public Library – https://kids.denverlibrary.org/booklist/best-brightest-graphic-novels-2017
Entropy – https://entropymag.org/best-of-2017-comics-graphic-novels/
EPL (Edmonton Public Library) – https://epl.bibliocommons.com/list/share/664197898_comicsprof/1032066367_best_graphic_novels_2017
EW – http://ew.com/books/best-comics-2017/best-comics-of-2017/
Fantagraphics – http://fantagraphics.com/flog/whats-store-top-comix-2017/
Fantom Comics – http://fantomcomics.tumblr.com/post/169268628241/fantoms-favorite-comics-of-2017
Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/pictures/5a2aaf04a7ea432f2e756465/best-graphic-novels-of-20/#262f8e171d9b
Forbidden Planet – http://forbiddenplanet.blog/2017/best-year-2017-matts-picks/
Forbidden Planet – http://forbiddenplanet.blog/2017/best-year-2017-richmonds-picks/
Forbidden Planet – http://forbiddenplanet.blog/2018/best-of-the-year-2017-joes-picks/
Forbidden Planet – http://forbiddenplanet.blog/2018/best-year-2017-richard-begs-forgiveness-tardiness/
Free Library of Philadelphia – https://libwww.freelibrary.org/blog/post/3168
Fresh Toast – https://thefreshtoast.com/culture/best-comic-books-from-each-major-publisher-in-2017/
Gamespot – https://www.gamespot.com/gallery/the-10-best-comics-of-2017/2900-1711/
Geeks – https://geeks.media/best-comics-of-2017-for-fans-of-every-genre
Good OK Bad – http://goodokbad.com/index.php/about/2017comics
Good Reads – https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-graphic-novels-comics-2017
Gosh London – https://www.goshlondon.com/blog/2017/11/17/the-gosh-best-of-2017-kids
Gosh London – https://www.goshlondon.com/blog/2017/11/9/the-gosh-best-of-2017
Graphic Policy – https://graphicpolicy.com/2018/01/04/alexs-best-2017/
Guide Live – https://www.guidelive.com/comic-books/2017/12/14/perfectpanels-10-best-comic-books-2017
Hell Machine Jog (Joe McCulloch) – https://twitter.com/snubpollard/status/947651965797961728
Herald Scotland – http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts_ents/15784889.Graphic_Content__From_werewolves_to_cross_dressing__our_choice_of_books_of_the_year/
Herald Scottland – http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts_ents/15783879.Graphic_Content__Cartoonists_choose_their_comics_and_graphic_novels_of_the_year/
Heroic Girls – http://www.heroicgirls.com/best-graphic-novels-2017-kids-teens/
Hipinion – http://forums.hipinion.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=115077
Hollywood Reporter – https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/best-comics-2017-1070417
i09 – https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-15-best-comics-of-2017-1821292444
ICPL – http://blog.icpl.org/2017/12/30/icpl-top-staff-picks-for-2017-graphic-novels/
ICV2 – https://icv2.com/articles/columns/view/39263/the-10-best-graphic-novels-2017
ICV2 – https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/39211/top-10-kids-graphic-novels-2017
Infinite Earths – https://iearths.blogspot.ca/2017/12/the-top-10-best-comics-of-2017.html?m=1
Inverse – https://www.inverse.com/article/39420-best-comics-2017-writers-ninjak-batgirl-kaijumax-flintstones
IVC2 – https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/39236/top-10-manga-2017
Kevin Huizenga – https://kevinh.blogspot.com/2017/12/2017-time-capsule.html
Kirkus – https://www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/best-middle-grade-graphic-novels-2017/
Kitsap Regional Library – http://www.krl.org/blog/best-graphic-novels-teens-2017
Large Hearted Boy – http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2017/12/favorite_graphi_6.html
Lars Ingebrigtsen – https://lars.ingebrigtsen.no/2017/12/14/the-best-comics-of-2017/
Leo Weekly – https://www.leoweekly.com/2017/12/leo-looks-back-best-comic-books-2017/
Let’s Talk Picture Books – http://www.letstalkpicturebooks.com/2017/12/best-graphic-novels-of-2017.html
Library Journal – http://lj.libraryjournal.com/bestbooks2017/graphic_novels.php
Lisa Hanawalt – https://twitter.com/lisadraws/status/946879618551726080
Matt Seneca – http://mattseneca.tumblr.com/post/169372094107/2017-a-fuck-ass-year
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-best-miniseries/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-best-new-series/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-best-ongoing-series/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-best-single-issue/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-graphic-novel/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/news-columns/2017-in-review-webcomic/
Multiversity Comics – http://www.multiversitycomics.com/reader-poll/2017-readers-choice/
Newsarama – https://www.newsarama.com/37961-best-of-best-shots-2017-our-review-crew-picks-the-best-of-the-year.html
NJ – http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2018/01/what_was_the_best_comic_book_series_of_2017_comic.html
NPR – http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2017/#/tag/comics-and-graphic-novels
Observation Deck – https://observationdeck.kinja.com/comic-books-2017-1821374651
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2017/12/james-2017-favorites-in-17-ridiculous.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-m-favorite-sci-fi-and-fantasy.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-ms-favorite-anthologies-of-2017.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-ms-favorite-horror-comics-of-2017.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-ms-favorite-horror-comics-of-2017.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-ms-favorite-indie-books-of-2017.html
Panel Platter – http://www.panelpatter.com/2018/01/rob-ms-favorite-superhero-style-comics.html
Paste – https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/12/the-10-best-kids-comics-of-2017.html
Paste – https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/12/the-25-best-comics-of-2017.html
Pierce County Library – http://www.piercecountylibrary.org/books-materials/pierce-county-favorites/Default.htm
Polygon – https://www.polygon.com/comics/2017/12/22/16807870/comics-2017-marvel-dc
Publisher Weekly – https://best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2017/comics
Publishers Weekly – https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/75675-my-favorite-thing-is-monsters-tops-annual-pw-graphic-novel-critics-poll.html
Readings – https://www.readings.com.au/news/graphic-novels-and-comics-we-loved-in-2017
Ryan C’s Four Colour Apocalypse – https://fourcolorapocalypse.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/2017-year-in-review-top-10-single-issues/
Ryan C’s Four Colour Apocalypse – https://fourcolorapocalypse.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/2017-year-in-review-top-10-collected-editions-contemporary/
School Library Journal – http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2017/12/20/31-days-31-lists-day-twenty-2017-comics-for-kids/
School Library Journal – http://www.slj.com/2017/11/reviews/best-of/top-10-graphic-novels-2017/
Scifi Pulse – http://www.scifipulse.net/comic-books-2017-the-year-in-review/
Sequential State – https://sequentialstate.com/blog/comics-challenged-2017-complete-list/
Slackjaw Punks – http://slackjawpunks.com/top-5-comics-of-2017/
Spy – http://spy.com/2017/entertainment/books-music-movies/best-graphic-novels-2017-comics-72376/
Super Skull – http://www.superskullshow.com/episodes-all/2017/12/7/super-skulls-best-graphic-novels-of-2017
SyFy – http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/syfy-wires-best-ongoing-genre-comics-of-2017
The Beat – http://www.comicsbeat.com/the-beats-best-comics-of-2017/
The Comics Journal – http://www.tcj.com/the-best-comics-of-2017/
The Comics Reporter – http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/fff_results_postr_491_books_of_2017/
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/dec/03/rachel-cooke-best-graphic-novels-2017-joff-winterhart-driving-short-distances-grandville-talbot
The Hundreds – https://thehundreds.com/blogs/content/best-2017-graphic-novels
The Irish Times – https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/living-colour-favourite-comics-and-graphic-novels-of-2017-1.3324716
The Smart Set – https://thesmartset.com/comic-countdown/
The Verge – https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/22/16807260/best-comics-of-2017
Turnaround – https://theturnaroundblog.com/2017/12/21/top-comic-books-of-2017/
Under The Radar – http://www.undertheradarmag.com/blog/under_the_radars_holiday_gift_guide_2017_part_9_books_and_graphic_novels/
Unwinnable – https://unwinnable.com/2018/01/03/the-best-comics-of-2017/
Uproxx – http://uproxx.com/hitfix/best-comics-2017/
Vice – https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/paqaxk/the-ten-best-comics-of-2017
Villain Media – https://villainmedia.com/jorge-solis-top-10-comic-books-2017/
Vulture – http://www.vulture.com/2017/12/10-best-comics-2017.html
Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-10-best-graphic-novels-of-2017/2017/11/10/ded1688c-af85-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.74d0cde5c002
Waukegan Public Library – https://www.waukeganpl.org/2017-review-graphic-novels/
WhatCulture – http://whatculture.com/comics/10-best-comic-books-of-2017
WhatCulture – http://whatculture.com/comics/10-best-comic-books-of-2017-so-far
Why So Blu? – http://whysoblu.com/best-comic-books-2017/
Wired – https://www.wired.com/story/best-comics-2017/
Women Write About Comics – http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2018/01/03/small-press-bites-faves-of-2017-edition/
Women Write About Comics – http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2017/12/30/wwacs-favorite-big-press-comics-of-2017/
Zainab Akhtar – https://twitter.com/comicsandcola/status/941346392492167168

Azad Interview

Azad at HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo 2004Originally posted in August of 2004. Comic books were starting to enter a golden age around 2004, not only was there a lot of good stuff coming out from major publishers, a lot of great stuff from the past was being reprinted. Suddenly the standard of “average” went way up and what was better than average even 5 years prior had a difficult time finding an audience. Azad’s Sammy was one of those books.

 

Azad Interview

Azad is an Image creator, one of many that is doing a great book that you probably never heard of. It’s called Sammy, about a cat burglar and his cat Lucky. With this interview we talk about Azad’s background, his book, using computers to make comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics and more.

 

Jamie: Okay lets start getting some background info from you. Where are you from?

Azad: I’m a born and milk-fed Montrealer. After doodling and taking art classes for years, I resigned to taking Illustration and design at Dawson College. I worked for a world renowned animation company, then apparently, went nuts and decided to draw funny books.

 

Jamie: What jobs did you have before you finally decided to do comic books?

Azad: I wish I had an interesting string of crummy jobs to complain about, but all my jobs prior to comics were drawing or print related. Graphic design, desktop publishing, and pre-press film outputing. Most notably, I was a storyboard artist for 4 years at CINAR animation working on such artistic paragons as Caillou and Arthur.

 

Jamie: You do everything for your book and it all looks very nice and professional. Did you have a mentor that taught you the ropes?

Azad: For drawing, I have a cousin named Haig Bedrossian (co-plotter on Sammy: Tourist Trap) who turned me on to the arts and encouraged me from a very early age to draw comic books. He’s now teaching animation at Max the Mutt animation school in Toronto and living a far more lucrative life than that of a comic artist.

As far as the technical side of things go, my sister (a desktop publisher) was my digital guru. She taught me how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, and all other computer related aspects of art.

But mostly, I was left to my own devices to figure Everything else out on my own. I’m not a “gifted” artist by any means. I’m a studied, learned artist. I work really hard trying not to make a fool of myself.

 

Jamie: So why did you want to do stories about a cat burglar named Sammy and his pet cat Lucky?

Azad: I deliberately wanted to make a book that was both FLEXIBLE and FUN. I have dozens of crazy adventures I want to tell, and the only binding factor between them are these two characters. And it works. I wanted to be able to stick Sammy into any situation and any genre. With that said, there IS a balance, and I know where to draw the line. I can’t really verbalize it, but I know it when I see it. For example, I could have sci-fi elements in a story, but not so far as having Sammy go into an inter-dimensional portal. He could encounter a superhero, but not gain powers of his own.

 

Jamie: Okay, Sammy is a cat burglar with a pet Cat. Why is he not dressed up as Halle Berry?

Azad: Hey, great idea!! I could do stories about Sammy being involved in Hit and Runs, and doing bad movies! A goldmine, I tells ya! Thanksabunch!

 

Jamie: Do you even own a cat? Cause there is no way a cat would do the shit you have “Lucky” do in the comic.

Azad: Funny you should ask. I think of Lucky as a cat with a dog’s personality. He’s still aloof, but actually useful.

I used to think I was a cat person. I never owned one, but my best friend has three. I would go over, pet them, scratch them under the chin. They were okay… kind of cold, kept to themselves and meowed when they wanted food and swiped at me once in a while… “Hey, its a dumb animal” I told myself… these things happen, right?

Wrong!

Then, my buddy goes and buys a DOG. Holy cow! Big difference! Dog’s are playful, they can take orders, and are genuinely happy to see you when you come home. By comparison, the dog makes the cats look like strutting turds that do nothing but sleep, shit and turn their nose up at the food you bought them. You could feed a dog its own crap, and it’ll still look at you with love in its eyes.

Fuck cats!

 

Jamie: A significant part of the Sammy: Tourist Trap mini series is done in Spanish with no English translation. Why?

Azad: Sammy is a fish out of water… he’s in a country where he doesn’t understand what is being said around him. If HE can’t understand Spanish, and we the audience are supposed to be in his shoes, then logically WE shouldn’t be able to understand, either. It’s that way to heighten the tension. Putting the translations at the bottom of the panel would have defeated the purpose.

With that said, I fully realize that there are readers out there who just skip past the balloons, or groan at the plot device… but it’s MEANT TO BE READ! Perhaps I’m asking too much of the reader, but to me it was important to do it that way.

 

Jamie: Do you think you can keep doing Sammy forever or do you have an overall plan for the character?

Azad: As long as I can continue to keep publishing the character, yes. I do have other ideas I’m working on, but I’ve got dozens of stories already written for Sammy. Literally! I have the scripts on my computer as I write this.

Keep in mind, much of the Sammy stories (even Tourist Trap) aren’t so much about the character.. it’s about the situation. He’s just the excuse (or the vehicle) to tell the story.

 

Jamie: Y’know, in the late 90’s comic books sucked so bad that Sammy would have been considered a GREAT book. Today it’s considered very good for a non- Marvel/DC comic. As such, the bar has been raised. You are now competing against Bendis, Millar, Ellis and Morrison on big name books and they’re selling like mad. How does that affect you?

Azad: If anything, I’m going head to head with indy books and smaller press. Sammy is in B&W, so immediately it’s ordered more conservatively by retailers because B&W tends to sell less than color. Plus the content is hardly spandex friendly.

As for the Big Two, I don’t see Sammy in direct competition with Marvel and DC. Different readers for different types of books. I don’t suspect I share the same readership as Hawkman lovers or Ultimate X-Men, so I don’t really worry about that.

The way I AM affected by Marvel is some of their crummy business practices. Namely trying to gobble up market share by dumping piles of unreadable books they know wont succeed into the marketplace, knowing retailers have to buy it for the rabid Marvel Zombies, all the while stretching the retailers’ purse strings until they order fewer copies of smaller press titles (including my own). THAT affects me. That affects everyone, and from the retailers I’ve spoken to, they’ve reached their boiling point.

Shit! I just killed my potential for freelance Marvel work didn’t I…Dang!

 

Jamie: Sammy is one of many Image books that is suffering the same problem of being good, but not getting any major promotion. What do you think has to be done to fix that?

Azad: Well, the responsibility is on US, the creators, to do our own promotion. Image Comics does what it can. We are treated as equal separate companies publishing under the banner of Image, thus, it’s up to us to take care of ourselves. For its part, Image gives us ad space, does our press releases and gives us a forum on their site to help gain a footing online. That’s about as much they can do for the fee they take.

The rest is up to us. I personally, did everything in my power to get the word out on “A VERY SAMMY DAY” this past May. I had a Press Release, Did 10 interviews on the net, started an ongoing online original Sammy serial called Subway Stories, and flooded internet forums with announcements and promos.

In the end, it didn’t amount to much. I’ve learned that online buzz doesn’t always translate into real world buzz. Sometimes, it’s having good word of mouth, sometimes it’s luck. You just have to keep going to cons, and plugging away until someone notices. It’s a lot of hard work.

I’m not sure what ELSE to do. Buying ads in trade papers? Calling retailers ahead of time? Emailing and mailing retailers previews ahead of time? It all costs more and more money. You can buy your way into Wizard with ads, but I don’t know if that makes a difference. I’m guessing it depends on your material. In my case, I doubt it.

 

Jamie: On your website, Guerrilla-Comics.com you use some online comics to promote your comics. Has that helped?

Azad: Marginally. In fairness, I haven’t used the site to its potential. I could have brought in other online cartoonists, maybe had some contests and promotions to go along with the website…Part of the original intent of the site was to have some activism. To get people pumped about doing comics. But life has gotten in the way of myself and my webmaster. We’d like to change that. We’re having a major Pow-Wow for a week this August. Hopefully, we’ll get things up there that should have been up last year. 3D animation, web docs, more comics, more features… hopefully, it’ll build some interest in Sammy and other future projects.

 

Jamie: I’m surprised I haven’t seen you offering Sammy: Tourist Trap as a TPB yet. Are you planning on doing this?

Azad: SALES! Sales dictate everything. The book is still a bit in the red. With that said, I’ve got a great TPB planned for it with TONS of extras. I just hope I get the green light. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: You mentioned in the back of Sammy: Tourist Trap #4 that using computers does not speed up the process of making comic books, instead it slows it down. If that’s the case, why do you use computers?

Azad: In all honesty, it’s become a bit of a crutch for me. I like the way my stuff looks better with it than without it. But it has afforded me the ability to make my artwork look as good as it is. It would NOT have been so otherwise. I’d like to change that though. J.Bone has challenged me to do a computer-less comic one day. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: How has Image changed for you since Erik Larsen took over as head honcho?

Azad: Not in any obvious way, so far. All my contracts and such were signed under Jim Valentino, so they had to honor them. Hell, I have no idea if Erik even likes my work or would have signed me at all, for that matter. I guess we’ll see how this affects me when I ask for a TPB or a sequel.

 

Jamie: When you get a fan following and respectable Sales, will you drop everything and work for Marvel or DC when they offer you lots of money and a title?

Azad: A title with the Big Two would not change my plans for world domination. Especially considering the fact that I’d want to WRITE, not draw for the Big Two. I can write fast. Real fast! Drawing takes forever and I’d never be able to maintain a monthly schedule. But then again, who wants to write pajama-boys when I get to find new ways to abuse kitties on my own book?!

Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Originally published in May of 2004. This is another one of my comic business type interviews. One of the most significant events to happen in the comics industry was Marvel buying Heroes World and exclusively distributing their comics through them. That started a chain reaction leading to Diamond having a virtual monopoly on comic book distribution to the direct market. Milton Griepp had a unique view of those events that I don’t think anybody else had asked him about.

 

Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp has been in the comics industry for 30 years as a publisher, distributor, retailer and consultant. He once ran the largest direct distribution comic book company Capital City Distribution. He was involved with the Internet retail company NextPlanetOver.com and is currently running ICv2.com, a pop culture industry news Website. Along the way he has also done lots of consulting on the comic book industry. In this interview we go through his career and he gives us his analysis of the comic book industry. He also examines the effect other media are having on comics and whether manga’s popularity will last.

 

Jamie: Let’s take it from the beginning. I’m sure that like most in this industry you started as a reader. What kind of comic books got you hooked?

Milton Griepp: The first comic I remember reading was a Carl Barks Disney comic and I continued to read those. I also read a lot of DCs. Superboy, The Legion and Superman were probably the three things I read the most. I inherited a collection from my cousin that was mostly 50’s comics, including a lot of DC’s, and I continued buying those until the 60’s. In his collection were things like the Fox and Crow and other funny animal stuff that I read. When I got to college, I started reading Marvels and I also read a lot of undergrounds which were coming out in great numbers at that time.

 

Jamie: When about did you get involved in the business end of comics?

Milton Griepp: From a friend in high school. When we were in college he started a business advertising in shopper papers in northern Wisconsin, buying collections, and taking them to conventions and selling them there or selling them though the Comic Buyers Guide. I started going to shows with him in the early 70s, about 72 and 73, and working behind the table with him was my first exposure to comics as a retailer.

 

Jamie: When did you move into distribution?

Milton Griepp: That experience in the comics business got me a job in 1976 with a company called Wisconsin Independent News Distributors which carried some magazines and books and had a comic department. I was hired for the comic department. So that was my first distribution experience. The territory was fairly limited: mostly Wisconsin, a little of Illinois, a little bit of Minnesota. Then they went out of business and their business got absorbed by a company called Big Rapids Distribution Company, which at one time became the largest direct distributor in the late 70s. I worked for them, also out of Wisconsin.

 

Jamie: I understand you and John Davis teamed up to form Capital City (Distribution). When about did that happen?

Milton Griepp: I hired John at WIND and we also worked together at Big Rapids. When Big Rapids went out of business, John talked me into starting a business that would handle just comics. Both Big Rapids and Wisconsin Independent News Distributors had comics as a small part of the company, along with book and magazine distribution. So the idea that was different was to do something that specialized in comics. That was in the early 1980s.

 

Jamie: I understand at one point a group of smaller distributors all combined to take Capital to a national distributor?

Milton Griepp: I don’t know where you got that impression.

 

Jamie: That never happened?

Milton Griepp: That never happened, but we did do some small acquisitions. Our first location outside of Wisconsin was–we bought a little company called North Eastern Ohio News, which was primarily a comics distributor, based in the Cleveland area. We did some other small acquisitions over the years but most of our growth was by sales efforts one store at a time.

 

Jamie: I understand Capital was #2 going up to #1 competing against Diamond most of the way . . . Were you surprised when Marvel decided to pull out, buy Heroes World and distribute exclusively through them?

Milton Griepp: Just to set the stage, Capital was #1 until Diamond bought Bud Plant. Diamond was #2 and Bud Plant was #3 and the combination of those two companies made them larger than we were. So we were #2 at the time Marvel did their deal with Heroes World.

I guess in one sense it wasn’t a surprise, as Marvel had been making noises about being dissatisfied with the direct distribution system for a couple of years, primarily because they didn’t think they were getting their due as the largest publisher. But primarily I was surprised, because I didn’t think anybody would do anything that stupid.

 

Jamie: At that time, what did you think would happen to the comic industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it was a very dynamic situation. We really didn’t know what to expect, so we ran the business on several tracks trying to prepare for different contingencies. There was a lot of damage done to the business during that period. Heroes World was really incapable of distributing Marvels nationally, so that was happening. Also, at the same time, the market was declining rapidly after a period of explosive growth during the early 90’s. And other publishers were maneuvering, deciding what they were going to do in the wake of Marvel’s decision. So it was an unpredictable situation, and it required a number of contingency plans for different eventualities.

 

Jamie: Looking back, do you wish you had tried harder to get DC to go exclusive with Capital instead of Diamond, with some other deal you could have made them?

Milton Griepp: Well, DC came to us and other companies and said they were thinking about going with a single company for their distributor as Marvel had. And we did pitch them hard to go with Capital; we couldn’t have tried any harder to do that. We were also trying to convince them not to go with a single distributor, and we felt they could have taken a leadership position with the retailers and distributors and united the rest of the industry against the model that Marvel was developing with the single distributor model. It would have gotten a lot of good will and a lot of support and I believe that would have been a very viable and successful action for them.

In the end I see DC’s choice as the most conservative option, which is not surprising as DC is part of a large company and that creates a tendency towards conservatism. The first instance of conservatism was that they followed what Marvel had done (Marvel was #1, DC was #2) and they followed to a single distributor. The second conservative choice was picking Diamond, as they were larger than we were, and so it represented less risk of losing business to choose Diamond than it did to choose Capital. So they took the two low-risk decisions and that led them to Diamond.

 

Jamie: How do you think the exclusive agreements between publishers and distributors have affected the industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it’s brought stability and I think that’s had both positive and negative affects. On the positive side, considering the circumstances (this is very important), publishers had a reliable way to reach the market and through a very profitable company that always pays its bills. Given the volatility in what was happening to the smaller distributors at the time, that was a good thing for publishers and ultimately the industry.

It was also good for retailers because they were experiencing the same upheaval in terms of where and how they got their products. So after the transition period when Diamond took over the Capital stores after they bought Capital City, that led to a very reliable system of distribution for retailers. That was a good thing.

On the negative side, the fact that there were fewer viewpoints at the distribution level slowed innovation to some degree. I don’t know how much of that effect there was, but you have to assume that a number of companies all working in that field with a variety of viewpoints would have led to faster change and more innovation.

 

Jamie: After Diamond bought out Capital, did they offer you a position there?

Milton Griepp: They didn’t and I really didn’t expect one. I was a CEO and they didn’t need a CEO and they didn’t need a COO. They had Steve Geppi as the CEO and a very capable COO with Chuck Parker. They didn’t really have a position that fit my skills so I didn’t expect an offer and didn’t receive one.

 

Jamie: After that you started working with NextPlanetOver.com. What was that experience like?

Milton Griepp: Actually that was a while after the Capital sale, and both before and after that I did some consulting in the field.

Well, the NextPlanetOver experience was a unique time and place. It was in San Francisco, and at a venture-funded Internet company at the peak of the dot com boom. That was a really interesting time and place to be geographically, from a business history point of view, and from a technological innovation point of view. It was a really interesting thing to see.

I’d seen a lot of bubbles before in the pop culture products business, you know especially when there is a resale market involved. Like the black and white comics–there was a bubble and then everybody produces them, then there’s too many and then the market collapses. I hadn’t seen a capital bubble of this type, which was that the cost of capital was very low and the money was flowing into all kinds of Internet businesses. So that was new to see, and although there were some negative outcomes, the experience was very positive. I learned a lot about private equity, learned a lot about technology and the Internet.

Capital was a very technologically progressive company; even in the early 90s we were doing order uploads and using electronic communication with our customers. But this was on a different level, because we were on the real cutting edge, at that time, of the development of e-commerce technology. So we sold off the company at the end and that was a negative, but the experience of being there at that time and place and how much I learned was very positive, on balance.

 

Jamie: There was controversy at that time, particularly when they were being located at the same warehouse Diamond was shipping comics from. What did you think about that at the time?

Milton Griepp: Well, it wasn’t really located at the same place. Diamond was doing order fulfillment for NextPlanetOver. NextPlanetOver bought merchandise from Diamond and rather than Diamond doing one big shipment to NextPlanetOver they shipped it directly to NextPlanetOver’s customers. That was a very efficient system in that it gave NextPlanetOver access to a large inventory and allowed the company to offer that to its customers without being in possession before it was being purchased.

It was on the original model that Amazon was built on–an inventory-less model where the product was offered, then acquired from a wholesaler at the time of sale. So from a business point of view I think it made a lot of sense. There was some controversy from the reaction from retailers thinking NextPlanetOver had a special deal that was going to hurt them. But ultimately there was very little threat to brick and mortar retailers from that arrangement. The controversy boomed and then tailed off. It wasn’t unexpected and ultimately didn’t affect our business.

 

Jamie: Out of the whole ordeal what did you learn about trying to sell comic books online?

Milton Griepp: I wouldn’t really call it an ordeal. There were certainly parts of it that were an ordeal, but over-all there were also some positive things about it.

From my first involvement in the company, I wanted it focused not on selling comic books online (periodicals), but on selling graphic novels, toys, apparel–selling the things that customers bought other than comics. Comics are really too cheap to sell through a traditional shopping cart model where you are selling, at that time, a two dollar product one at a time. It just wasn’t an efficient model and ultimately we did change the orientation of the product mix to emphasize the other product lines that Diamond also offered.

The subscription service model that’s been around for many years works well for selling periodical comics via mail order or via the Internet. Selling one at a time is just not a terribly efficient model, which was what I thought going in and that was proven by the results. We did re-orient the mix to focus on some of the higher-priced items and I’d say that was the upshot of the learning experience there–that selling comics like backlist in an “off-the-rack” situation was not a viable business model, but I do think, as other businesses have proven since, selling graphic novels, toys, and the higher-priced stuff works fine.

 

Jamie: During that time you were also doing some consulting work. Were there any clients in particular you could name that you worked with?

Milton Griepp: Well, I’ll talk a bit about the categories I’ve worked with. I worked with publishers, I worked with retailers, toy companies, international consulting firms, educational firms, educational institutions, investment firms. My clients generally prefer that I advise them without revealing their identities.

 

Jamie: When coming up with ICv2.com, why did you decide to go as a Website instead of as a printed magazine?

Milton Griepp: I had just come out of a Web business, and I learned a lot about it, so I had this knowledge base on how to do it. It seemed inexpensive to start a Website as a result of improving technology at the time. When we started NextPlanetOver, for example, the code for the content area had to be all written from scratch. By the time I started ICv2, things like the search function could be acquired relatively inexpensively instead of writing it from scratch. That learning experience of how to develop the Website relatively inexpensively allowed saving a non- trivial amount of money.

The reason I wanted to do it on the Web was to use that knowledge, and I felt the Web was a superior way of delivering news. Obviously it’s faster and more accessible; also it involves the ability to interact with the user, which does not exist in print. I also believed I could develop an audience at a lower cost on the Web than in print so it was a classic business model-driven decision.

 

Jamie: Last year ICv2.com did a printed magazine called the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels. How successful was that?

Milton Griepp: Actually we’ve done a number of magazines; I think the number is over 10, in three categories. We do the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Anime and Manga, the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels, and the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Games.

I started pitching the first magazine at San Diego a year and a half ago and was really surprised at the response, which was that advertisers that were resistant to the idea of advertising online were receptive to the idea of advertising in a magazine. I think it’s just a matter of preference that people have established over the years with certain types of media. So that was a big response on the advertisers’ side.

On the content side, the magazine was also a good fit with our online content. The online content is very fast; we publish daily, with shorter articles, primarily news. The print medium allowed us to take a longer view of things, do more analysis, more features, more in-depth reporting. I think the two media, online and print, are complementary and we really like the way they fit together. I think both are important to how ICv2 serves its audience and advertisers. So online was a good place to start and print was a good place to expand to.

 

Jamie: Despite doing well in bookstores, many comic book retailers are having a hard time selling manga. What do you think retailers have to do to move manga like the bookstores do?

Milton Griepp: Well, I want to push back on the idea that comic stores are having a lot of difficulty selling manga. Obviously they are selling a lot more manga than they were a few years ago and I think that’s going to continue. The thing is, some comic stores are a lot better than others at manga, and I think it’s a matter of how they merchandise the manga line, also what their clientele base is like, and how they retail to their clientele.

The reason bookstores have grown much faster than comic book stores have over the last few years is that bookstores have a larger female audience and a lot of the manga content is directed at female consumers. So a comic store that focuses on superheroes or action adventure material that has a primarily male audience is going to miss out on a lot of manga sales because there is a lot of material that doesn’t appeal to that action adventure audience.

On the other hand, I have seen some comic stores do a very good job with manga. In fact, the best manga stores I’ve seen are comic stores that carry far greater variety than the best bookstores. They also have better product knowledge at the counter than the best bookstores. So I think that comic stores can be extremely successful with manga, it’s just a matter of how they merchandise it, who their clientele is and how they reach out to their clientele–a store that is friendly for consumers of both sexes and all ages (as the manga audience in bookstores is a little bit younger than the typical comic book store audience). So comic stores can reach that audience, but historically comic stores have been a male-supported distribution channel and that presents barriers in some stores.

 

Jamie: ICv2.com has been tracking sales numbers for quite some time. Are there any particular tends you’ve noticed that others in the industry should know?

Milton Griepp: Well, first of all there has been a change a little over a year ago in how Diamond puts out their numbers, how they calculate indexes, and that has affected our ability to do year-to-year comparisons. Between 2000 and 2002, we were able to do year-to-year comparisons which were extremely useful, because it tracked what was happening in comic stores in that period, which was the first growth that had happened in about a decade. That was really a good thing to track.

Now we’re just getting to the end of the first year with Diamond and its new numbers. Once again, the first month we did comparisons for, the market was up and that was a good thing. In the long run, Diamond using actual numbers instead of pre-orders for their index is going to be very positive because it’s a much more accurate snapshot of the market.

In terms of overall trend analysis, by looking at the comic stores and other channels, the biggest growth is graphic novel sales in bookstores. The biggest thing happening there is that bookstores are replacing newsstand distribution, which collapsed for comics in the last five to ten years, as a feeder system into comic book stores. In other words, consumers are exposed to comics in book stores and if they want to find a broader range of titles they’ll end up in a comic store. Before, it used to be that happened from magazine-type outlets and newsstands, convenience stores, those kinds of outlets, where people pick up a comic book and then find their way to a comic store later. I think that’s a huge, huge shift in the comic business.

I mentioned earlier the fact that younger readers and female readers are finding comics in bookstores and that’s a hugely positive trend for the entire industry. Opening up the market to female readers to a greater degree doubles the available pool of consumers.

Getting younger kids reading comics is positive because it will hopefully build lifetime consumers. The comic market has been aging dramatically for the last 10 to 12 years, and this can reverse that trend. Those are really positive things happening in the comics business, the fact that the business in comic stores is also growing, those are positive things.

I think we’re seeing a greater impact of other media on comic sales, specifically movies and television. Obviously the Batman movie had a huge impact on Batman product sales in the late 80s and early 90s, but now there’s a whole plethora of media influences on comic sales just in the last few years. Smaller movies like Ghost World and American Splendor, something like Road to Perdition or From Hell and the mega-blockbusters like Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-men, those have all been really positive events for comic sales.

On television now, not only are there a number of cartoons being done based on American comics but the anime, which is tied to manga, are also popularizing those properties to a great degree. So movies and television are having a much greater impact than they had in the past, which is obviously a very positive thing for the comics business.

There is a bunch of positive trends sort of coalescing in the industry and it’s a good time for the comic business.

 

Jamie: I noticed that movies don’t seem to help the superhero comics quite as much as do the independent comics.

Milton Griepp: Spider-Man and Hulk moved a lot of product through all channels and it lifted Spider-Man graphic novels to the top of the charts. The bookstores moved a lot of Spider-Man product, as did the comic stores, so I think there is a connection. Recent Marvel movies have shown that. I think it doesn’t always work that way, The Punisher, for example. The early indication is it’s not moving product quite as well as Hellboy is. So I think it depends on the combination of the movie and the material.

 

Jamie: How do you see the comic book industry changing in the next 5 years?

Milton Griepp: I see the comic audience growing in a number of demographic groups, including adults that are interested in comics as literature. Certainly there is a pop culture aspect to them, but comics are being taken more seriously as real literature. This has been going on for a while, but for the last couple of years we’ve really accelerated that trend. And at the same time, we see the market for comics growing among younger readers, girls, and women. Comics being reviewed by book reviewers in the literary establishment also opens up an even larger, more serious reading audience of adults. So again we see multiple audiences in which the comics medium is growing. So I think those are very positive trends.

Another aspect that is unlike some previous growth trends of the comic business: none of this is being based on the after-market value, so the risk of collapse in the business due to a collapse of after-market values or overproduction or whatever just isn’t there in the same way as was there in earlier growth periods. That again is a very, very positive trend.

 

Jamie: So you don’t think manga is just a fad then? (laughs)

Milton Griepp: It’s been going on too long to be a fad. The Japanese stuff has been growing since the early 80s, so you can’t take a 25-year trend and say “It’s a fad.”

 

Jamie: yes . . .

Milton Griepp: Certainly there are times where it gets super-hot and then cools off. Pokemon was a huge phenomenon and it exploded, then there was space for a while and shrinks back a little bit, but I don’t think it’s a fad. I wrote something in 2000-2001 that said something to the effect that we’re witnessing a change in world culture, in the sense that more and more pop culture is coming from Asia. You can almost say that as American culture took over from British as the ruling popular culture, now we’re seeing a move towards Asian pop culture.

Hollywood is not going anywhere, American television is not going anywhere, American comics is not going anywhere; but there is a growing influence in all markets from Asian pop culture. Something like Kill Bill is ostensibly an American movie, but it’s got elements of Hong Kong action movies, little pieces of old American movies, there is anime in the first volume.

You can see the Asian influence growing in American pop culture in so many ways. So that’s another reason that I don’t think manga is just a fad.

Warren Ellis Interview

Warren Ellis at 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Warren Ellis at 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Originally published in January of 2004. I once tried to interview Warren Ellis at a 2005 convention in Toronto but that fell through. Previous to this Warren sent out a message saying he would do 4 question interviews to anybody that e-mailed him questions. Prior to that Rich Johnston posted the rumor that Warren Ellis was going to be doing a book at TOYKOPOP, who were then hiring creators to come up with their “OEL (Original English Language) Manga” line. I decided to take a gamble use the interview to ask him about it in hopes of breaking some news.

 

Interview with Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis is a writer and sometimes comic book activist. He is best known for his books Transmetropolitian, Planetary and The Authority. He also spent quite some time writing about the comic book industry and it’s need to change and improve, which along with his comic work has gained him a very large following in the industry. The following is a mini interview he allowed via his DiePunyHumans list.

 

Jamie: What are you doing for TOKYOPOP?

Warren Ellis: Um . . . nothing, yet. You seem to be playing off a rumour that I think Rich Johnston ran the other week. I’ve had a conversation with Tokyopop, but nothing else.

 

Jamie: Are you writing stuff for their young female readers or your typical audience?

Warren Ellis: See above. Sorry, but you’re way ahead of reality here…

 

Jamie: TOKYOPOP is only starting to do original material and much of that is from their fans via their Rising Stars contest winners. One might assume the company is closer to Archie or Marvel when it comes to respecting and fairly paying their creators. Are you having to guide them towards DC or better standards or have they figured that out on their own?

Warren Ellis: I haven’t even seen their standard contract and have no idea what they pay.

 

Jamie: Just off the top of your head, what do you think the better GN’s of 2003 were?

Warren Ellis: I really didn’t read many graphic novels in 2003. I certainly couldn’t name any off the top of my head. I think I went into a comics store once in that year, and that was just to say hello to someone while I was passing.

 


 

While this interview isn’t all that exciting I do have a treat for you. Warren did a nearly 2 hour hilarious, story filled Q&A panel at the 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con. I uploaded clips of this panel roughly around 12 years ago and since then I’ve found the full audio file and I’m making it available here for the first time. Enjoy!

 

Jeremy Ross Interview

Originally published in December of 2003. I had contacted TokyoPop with a request to interview Stu Levy, but was subtly told I and CollectorTimes.com wasn’t big enough to warrant an interview with him. I was instead given access to Jeremy Ross though a PR person, which was a new experience for me. I had always interacted directly with an interviewee, this time all my questions went though a middle PR person. Still the interview came out okay and it happened at a interesting point in time. TokyoPop had recently started their cost saving, unflipped, “Authentic” Manga line. I had read some unverified comments online that they were selling well, but this interview revealed they were selling much more than well. Every North America Manga publisher would soon adopt the format and continue to use it today.

 

Interview with Jeremy Ross of TOKYOPOP

I’m sure everybody has noticed a whole lot of Manga in their comic books shops and at bookstores. The biggest US publisher of manga is TOKYOPOP Inc., but very little is known about the company and the people behind it. This month’s interview is with Jeremy Ross, TOKYOPOP’s Editorial Director – their rough equivalent to the Editor in Chief. We cover his background, TOKYOPOP’s growth in bookstores and their relationship to the direct market. I should let you know a few of the business questions were answered by Kristien Brada-Thompson, TOKYOPOP’s Marcom Manager.

 

Jamie: Give us some of your background. When were you born and where?

Jeremy Ross: I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1953 but I spent my early years in London, England.

 

Jamie: What was the first comic book you read?

Jeremy Ross: Some realistic comics about WW II in England. When I moved back to the States in Second grade I started to get hold of comics like MAD Magazine, the Fantastic Four and Archie.

 

Jamie: What did you do prior to working at TOKYOPOP Inc.?

Jeremy Ross: I was Executive Producer at Kleiser-Walczak, the company that made the 3-D CGI Spider-Man ride film for Universal in Orlando, FL.

 

Jamie: How long have you been working at TOKYOPOP?

Jeremy Ross: Since January 2003.

 

Jamie: It’s been noticed that TOKYOPOP have been hiring a number people in key positions. Has there been turnover or is the company expanding?

Jeremy Ross: It’s almost all growth. We have doubled our office space and dramatically increased the number of titles we are releasing for 2004. We are also expanding our business in many areas.

 

Jamie: TOKYOPOP already does a lot more than just publish comics, what other areas will they be expanding too?

Jeremy Ross: Our revenue (and our business overall) has doubled every year since TOKYOPOP’s inception. In order to meet the demands of a steady growth like this, we need to supplement our staff. While manga is obviously our biggest area of growth, we are also greatly expanding our Cine-Manga line and delving more into television properties and licensing. TOKYOPOP will announce more exciting developments officially in the future.

 

Jamie: Since TOKYOPOP is dealing with reprinting material, I imagine your job is somewhat different than editors at original publishers. What is your workday like?

Jeremy Ross: In fact, TOKYOPOP produces both licensed, localized books and –increasingly–original books of many kinds. Each are their own challenges. All of the editors are working long hours to fill the demand for manga in America. The energy and enthusiasm as well as the pace are unusual for publishing…but then again, we’re an entrepreneurial entertainment company that happens to release a lot of books as well as animation, soundtracks and other products. In a way, it feels like working for a dot com with one significant difference: We’re making old-media products that people want and doing it profitably!

 

Jamie: Does TOKYOPOP have plans to hire American creators to do original work?

Jeremy Ross: We already do. See our web site for titles such as Shutterbox, @Large and World of Hartz. In the future, we plan to hire manga artists from all over the world to create many original works.

 

Jamie: Does TOKYOPOP plan to reprint comics from countries other than from Japan?

Jeremy Ross: We were the first company to successfully introduce Korean manga (they call it manwha) to America and now Korean books make up a significant portion of our lineup. Our Digimon manga comes from Hong Kong. And we are planning to publish manga by European creators.

 

Jamie: How has the switch to right to left format affected the sales of your books?

Jeremy Ross: The switch to the Authentic format coincided with a dramatic rise in sales. Readers prefer to see the art as it was originally designed, not flipped. There’s something particularly appealing to our audience about books that read in the opposite direction from Western publications.

 

Jamie: How big was the jump in sales between left to right and right to left?

Jeremy Ross: Without giving any numbers–since we do not release sales information as a rule–I can tell you that our business doubled . . . and has doubled every year since inception. Of course, you may have heard this before, so I’ll give you another tidbit that should provide better perspective: In the same month we launched our first line of 100% Authentic Manga, our largest distributor at the time–LPC Group–also happened to declare bankruptcy. This was a tremendous blow to our business financially, and we truly didn’t know what would happen. The Authentic Manga launch did so well, however, that we still ended the year with a profit! These books blew away everyone’s expectations. The line was a bonafide success story!

 

Jamie: How did you go about courting the bookstores and major chains into carrying TOKYOPOP books?

Jeremy Ross: We have a fantastic sales team, a proven track record, and a market climate that is ripe for our form of entertainment.

 

Jamie: Recently many traditional comic book companies have signed on with distributors to sell to the bookstore market, but large print runs and slow sell throughs have hurt them financially. How does TOKYOPOP manage to do it so well?

Jeremy Ross: Selling manga graphic novels in bookstores is a cornerstone of TOKYOPOP’s success. It has allowed us to attract a very different demographic than the traditional comic collector who buys at comic shops. Teen and tween girls and boys love our format and like finding their favorite series in bookstore chains. We have dedicated displays in stores such as Barnes and Noble. The buyers there love our series-based books because they attract dedicated customers who buy several series a month and come to the store regularly. Our manga is also found at Suncoast, Frye’s, Best Buy and other places where we can reach a mass audience.

 

Jamie: Within the “traditional” comic industry there was talk for a lot of years about reaching out to women and children readers, but nothing they did seemed to work. How did TOYKOPOP successfully market their books those demographics?

Jeremy Ross: Even the traditional comics industry used to appeal to a broader demographic. They became more focused on superhero stories over the years and were quite successful with them for a long time. Manga, on the other hand, exists for every conceivable age group including young kids and adults. Our success was largely the result of bringing compelling and unique content to an audience that was ready for it and making the books available in retail channels that attract the broadest possible demographic.

 

Jamie: Was there any specific advertising done that reached those readers or did you get sales because the TV anime shows were popular and spin off from that?

Jeremy Ross: Our success in reaching girls and children may be attributed to a number of marketing tactics, but a big part of it is supply and demand. Typical American superhero style comics do not have as much appeal to these audiences as manga does with its multiple genres. We are providing girls and children with an entertainment form that largely wasn’t there for them in the past. The tie-ins with related anime TV shows (for some properties) certainly help as well, but that’s only one part of a very large equation figuring into the growth of manga sales to girls and children.

 

Jamie: How important is the direct market to TOKYOPOP?

Jeremy Ross: The direct market is important to us because it allows us to reach more customers, but it represents only a portion of our sales.

 

Jamie: What is the percentage of TOKYOPOP sales between the Direct Market and Bookstores?

Jeremy Ross: We’re a private company and we do not release sales figures, but it’s fair to say that the majority of our sales are through bookstores.

 

Jamie: When TOKYOPOP releases books to the Direct Market, a lot of books are shipped on the same week. Why do it that way?

Jeremy Ross: Considering that we are releasing on average 40 books per month and that our business is way up, we ship once or twice a month, usually in the first two weeks of the month. Our distributors then determine when and how the books land in the direct market. With so many titles, this is simply the best way we’ve found to do it.

 

Jamie: Shonen Jump has been selling Manga through the newsstands, do you see TOKYOPOP doing something similar?

Jeremy Ross: Shonen Jump is an anthology magazine with serialized stories. TOKYOPOP has a history of selling manga anthology magazines on newsstands in the past (Mixxzine, Smile) but we have found the economics of the magazine business for manga to be challenging. We have had such runaway success with the industry-standard graphic novel size that we pioneered, sold through bookstores, that we have so far chosen not to re-enter the magazine business. We do sell manga anthologies (The Rising Stars of Manga) and give away samplers (TOKYOPOP sneaks) in our standard graphic novel size.

 

Jamie: Many traditional large comic book companies make the bulk of their money off licensing their characters. Yet TOKYOPOP is the one licensing characters for comics. How does this affect the company?

Jeremy Ross: We are a licensee of many Manga series, but also a sub-licensor of those same properties. For example, we licensed Radio Shack the Initial D property for their micro machine RC cars. At Comic-Con 2003 we announced that we have acquired the rights to the Korean series Priest to make a major motion picture. When we acquire or develop a property, we are more often obtaining the rights to multiple licensing categories. Rave Master is the most recent example of a property for which we have the master license, with the exception of Asia.

You can expect to see more announcements of TOPYOPOP as a licensor rather than a licensee in the future.

 

Jamie: Are your licensed books still your strongest sellers?

Jeremy Ross: For the time being, yes, especially when you figure in the Cine-Manga deals with Disney, Nickelodeon, Sony and other heavy-hitters. Those books do extremely well. However, since we’ve only really just started working on original material, we have no true basis of comparison. Ask us in another year, and you may be surprised.

Russ Anderson Interview

Originally published in November of 2003. Sequential Swap was a nifty idea that I very much liked when it first came out. It was a website where people would post the Graphic Novels they had that they were willing to trade for another book. People would only need to pay for shipping. I utilized it myself and was happy with the results so I wanted to promote it. Eventually I had read everybody’s trade list and didn’t see anything I wanted and I suspect the same was true for others too. The site required a steady stream of new people with new interesting books they were willing to trade and that didn’t happen. The site is now dead.

 

Interview with Russ Anderson

Ever buy a TPB and didn’t like it? Are there books you want but can’t afford them right now?

Then you may want to head over to http://www.sequentialswap.com/. It’s a new website that’s getting peoples attention. Among the members are writer Andy Diggle (Writer – The Losers from DC/Vertigo), Johanna Draper Carlson (ComicsWorthReading reviewer), Alan David Doane (former webzine owner), and many more. The website is set up and run by Russ Anderson. This month I pick his brain about his contribution to comic fandom and his opinions on the comic industry.

 

Jamie: So, tell us about yourself. Where were you born, where did you grow up?

Russ Anderson: Born in Davenport, Iowa . . . but please don’t hold that against me. I consider my hometown to be Phoenix, Arizona, where I went to high school, but I’m currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m very well-rounded, geographically.

 

Jamie: What’s your day job?

Russ Anderson: I’m a technical writer for the government. This means, if you’ve ever read anything that was even remotely interesting, chances are it wasn’t me that wrote it.

 

Jamie: How did you get your start in reading comics?

Russ Anderson: Might as well ask me how I got my start blinking, because I sure don’t remember that far back. I’ve been reading comics since *before* I could read. Comics are the reason, in fact, that I was reading on a third grade level before I ever set foot in kindergarten.

 

Jamie: What convinced you to switch to trades?

Russ Anderson: Mostly practical considerations… namely, space. Like I said, I’ve been reading these things since I was a sparkle in daddy’s eyes, so my personal collection includes thousands and thousands of comics. They’ve pretty much taken over my basement.

Also, with the rise in popularity of decompressed storytelling, trades are just more practical for some titles. There are titles that I love — like DAREDEVIL or 100 BULLETS — that I simply can’t follow on a month-to-month basis, because so little happens in a given issue. Better to wait and get the stories in a chunk.

(Actually, now that I think about it, the problem with 100 BULLETS isn’t so much that it’s decompressed but that the story is so complex and there are so many characters running around. I literally didn’t understand large portions of that book until I went back and read it in trade. Same with Jason Lutes’ BERLIN.)

All of this isn’t to say, of course, that I’ve forsaken the monthlies altogether. I’ve bought AMAZING SPIDER-MAN every single month since 1984, and I’m not going to stop now. And there are some books that I either want to support or just don’t want to wait for. Still, I probably only buy 10 or 11 monthlies these days, and that includes mini-series.

 

Jamie: Do you have any particular favorite writers or artists?

Russ Anderson: Not one favorite, no. Currently I’m following Brian Azzarrello around wherever he may lead me, and I’ll at least check out anything Brian Michael Bendis or George Perez do. I’m really impressed with Steve Epting, Butch Guice, and Bart Sears’ work on their various and former books at Crossgen. As for indies, I adore Jason Lutes, Rob G and Rick Spears of TEENAGERS FROM MARS, Jay Hosler of THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES, and I wish to god Alex Robinson would hurry up and give us his follow-up to BOX OFFICE POISON.

There’s lots of good stuff out there. I like to think I’m too widely read to settle on just one guy or gal. Or maybe I just have a problem with commitment…

 

Jamie: How many unique vistors does the site get?

Russ Anderson: Somewhere between 60 and 90 a day, with individual page hits numbering in the 200’s to 300’s. Generally 3 to 5 of those visitors are first-timers.

 

Jamie: You very quickly got yourself a domain name. Why did you move so quickly on that?

Russ Anderson: Mostly because Adrian Watts — who saved us from the evil, evil clutches of Geocities and graciously gave us a home on his Particlesurge server — was having problems with his provider and I didn’t want the site to be dead for too long. I always intended to move the site to its own domain eventually, Adrian’s problems just accelerated things.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, Adrian, by the way. He really went out of his way to provide the site with a home back at the beginning. He gets a big thumbs-up in my book… even though he’s Australian. 🙂

 

Jamie: Your website really goes against the collector mentality of the comic fanbase. Are you surprised it’s taken off as well as it has?

Russ Anderson: Nah, not at all. I think things like the Small Press Expo and the takeoff of the trade and GN market in general are pretty strong indicators that there are plenty of people out there that are more interested in reading than in hermetically sealing the first appearance of the latest big Batman foe. If nothing else, comics — and by extension, trades and OGNs — are so expensive now, that most people simply can’t afford everything they’d like to read. Sequential Swap is a great opportunity for those people.

And understand . . . I’m not against the collector mentality. I consider myself a collector, and I have lots and lots of long boxes filled with bagged and boarded comics to back that up. I like to pull open a box and admire my copy of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32 or some old, worthless DEFENDERS comic that I’ve been hanging onto since I was 10 years old solely for its nostalgia value. In excess, that mindset can be damaging to the industry, as played out in the early 90’s, but the collector market was a strong part of the comic book business for many, many years before it got out of hand. As long as it’s not the only reason you’re here, we can all — readers, collectors, and everyone in-between — get along just fine, I think.

 

Jamie: You do all the updating by hand, how much time a week does it take to keep it running?

Russ Anderson: Five to seven hours, depending on how many new people sign up that week. Basic swapping traffic is easy to keep up with, and doesn’t take long at all, but adding a new name and a new collection to the site takes more time. Obviously I need to automate the system a little, but my web-fu isn’t currently up to par. Hopefully by the end of the year…

 

Jamie: Roughly how many of the swaps going on are between members versus members and vistors to the site?

Russ Anderson: With the exception of Andy Diggle (public service announcement: READ LOSERS!), who’s got a well-trafficked Delphi Forum to peddle his swaps on, probably 98% of the swaps are between members. I think people feel safer that way. We don’t have any way to punish someone who doesn’t live up to their side of the swap, but there is still some level of answerability, being part of a community like that. Fortunately we haven’t had any problems yet.

 

Jamie: Has there been any infighting about how books are being shipped or anything?

Russ Anderson: Nah, none at all that I know of. Everybody’s pretty laid back at Sequential Swap, and so far, entirely reliable. Some people like to ship media rate and some like to ship Priority, but if they can’t agree for some reason, they just wouldn’t swap.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on getting banner ads on Sequential Swap?

Russ Anderson: Eventually. Probably. But it’s nothing like a priority right now. First of all I need to stay on top of the day-to-day swaps. Second, I need to get the site automated. Once all that’s taken care of, THEN I can worry about advertising.

Carla Speed McNeil Interview

Carla Speed McNeil at 2010 San Diego Comic Con

Carla Speed McNeil at 2010 San Diego Comic Con

Originally published in May of 2003. The Toronto Comics Arts Festival may have been the first ‘convention’ I ever attended. I had been reading online that Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder was a great series, so I checked out her books at her table and liked what I saw. I bought the 4 Finder TPBs she was selling and have remained a fan of Carla since. I believe this is the first of many interviews I did after meeting the creator at a convention.

 

Carla Speed McNeil

Carla Speed McNeil has been self-publishing Finder since 1996. Over the years she has gained critical and commercial acclaim. The dramatic book takes place in a future world that is uniquely Carla’s making. I met Carla at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in March of 2003. We agreed to do an interview via e-mail.

 

Jamie: Where did your middle name Speed come from?

Carla Speed McNeil: Bestowed upon the family by James II, for services to the Crown. The first James Speed was a surveyor. Back then the word ‘speed’ denoted ‘success’, as in “Good luck and godspeed.”

In other words, it’s my maiden name.

 

Jamie: I understand you went to University prior to doing comic books. Where did you go and what did you take?

Carla Speed McNeil: I attended my state university, LSU, majored in Fine Art/Painting, and obtained my BFA in 1991.

College was well worth pursuing; I got a lot of figure drawing and composition out of it, aside from the basic get-off-your-butt-and-work college stuff. But my degree didn’t give me even half of the skills I needed to do what I do now. I never touched an ink bottle until years after school was over.

 

Jamie: Did you grow up reading comic books?

Carla Speed McNeil: Sort of. There was no comic shop in my town, and I didn’t care for the stuff on the newsstand.

 

Jamie: If so, which ones?

Carla Speed McNeil: What I DID have was a huge box of tattered old EC horror comics that were given to me by a cousin. Scared the poo out of me. I loved them.
When I was about fourteen I went through my brief fling with X-MEN. That was when Paul Smith was drawing the book, and after he left, I just wasn’t interested anymore. Right about then I dug CEREBUS #53 and ELFQUEST #13 out of a waterlogged box at a flea market, and just couldn’t believe how absorbing they were… when I went back, I found a Pacific Comics catalogue, and from there, there was no turning back. I ordered black-and-whites by the pound. Best of all was Bill Messner-Loebs’ JOURNEY, with CEREBUS a close second.

 

Jamie: In Finder, your main character is named Jaeger Ayers. Is he based on anybody real?

Carla Speed McNeil: He’s based on quite a lot of real people. Not the least of these is an uncle of mine who, at the age of seventy-six, caught a live hummingbird in his bare hand, and let it go unharmed. You can’t not write about people like these.

 

Jamie: I can’t help but notice that Jeager heals quicker than ‘normal’ people and is a loner/rebel. While I feel like a geek for asking this, would Wolverine be one of the influences behind him?

Carla Speed McNeil: Can’t help but be in there, can he? That poor blown-out sock-puppet character does cast a long shadow.

It’s not really hard to understand his continued popularity. For many a long year, he was really the only GUY in comics. Plenty of males, some good, some bad, but only one GUY. Strange.

 

Jamie: Where did you get the last name Ayers from?

Carla Speed McNeil: Sort of randomly. One of my instructors had that name, and I liked the sound of it. A very minor character in a book had that name, spelled differently. When I remembered that Uluru, that enormous sacred rock in Australia is called Ayers Rock by the non-natives, it really seemed to fit.

Names, for a guy raised the way Jaeger was, are fairly fluid. He barely HAS a last name, and knows nothing about his family.

 

Jamie: With Finder you won some awards, particularly in 1998 from the Ignatz and Friends of Lulu organizations. Did these awards help your sales?

Carla Speed McNeil: They certainly help with visibility, which boosts sales to an amazing degree.

 

Jamie: By the way, Congrats on your recent Eisner nomination for Best Writer/Artist.

Carla Speed McNeil: Thank you.

 

Jamie: When did you get interested in making comic books?

Carla Speed McNeil: All through college, once I realized I didn’t really want to be an animator.

 

Jamie: Was there one particular book that made you say “I want to do comics too.”

Carla Speed McNeil: No. It was the obvious course of action. I wanted to draw and I wanted to write. One of my art instructors described his gallery show as being ‘narrative art’. ‘Narrative’? He took the class downstairs to have a look at it. His show consisted of many large canvases full of (to my eye) extremely murky abstract imagery with titles drawn from world mythology. He stood over each painting and explained in detail the myth figure he meant to depict.

Botticelli it wasn’t. I’ve seen many, many single images that did indeed tell a story for anybody to see if they put two and two together. Whatever this artist’s intention, those images did not. I wanted to tell stories in a visual medium, and that afternoon cemented for me the fact that a single image can’t do that, even with the perfect title/caption. It can evoke a complex story, sum it up in a brilliantly clever way, but not really tell one.

 

Jamie: How did you learn the details of self-publishing?

Carla Speed McNeil: First and foremost, from Dave Sim’s rants in the inside front cover of CEREBUS.

 

Jamie: Did you have any help in getting started? People you talked with that walked you through the steps?

Carla Speed McNeil: My first friend in the business was Michael Cohen, who wrote/drew/published STRANGE ATTRACTORS, MYTHOGRAPHY, and THE FORBIDDEN BOOK. I met him at my first SPX back in… yee. Must have been ’93, ’94. I had half the boards for my first ashcan to wave around. At San Diego the following year, he introduced me to a lot of the distribution folks.

I talked their ears off. I apologized in advance for the frighteningly long list of questions I had to ask.

 

Jamie: I understand your family has a strong entrepreneurial background. What did you pick up from them that is not found in most ‘how to self publish’ texts?

Carla Speed McNeil: Hm… I haven’t read most ‘hts-p’ texts. Sim’s was great for clearing out mental wool. That two-week page-a-day boot camp idea was and remains an eye-opener.

My folks were there to give me more of the same practical, hardheaded it’s-a-job save-the-artistic-meandering-for-the-story stuff, and a lot of advice on taxes, pricing, and keeping receipts. They helped me learn to look ahead two years, three years, five. I might’ve tripped over a lot of dollars trying to pick up pennies if they hadn’t intervened from time to time.

Tax returns financed the first three TPBs. Sound advice.

 

Jamie: One of the more financially dangerous things about self publishing are returns on bookstore sales. How have they been?

Carla Speed McNeil: I’m still working on getting into the returnable market. I can’t say the returns process has cut into my sales thus far.

 

Jamie: I understand, even ardent self publishers like Dave Sim have a Gerhard helping him, allowing for a monthly schedule. Does doing Finder bi-monthly allow you to do everything without burning out?

Carla Speed McNeil: More or less. Putting a little extra pressure on– as I’m doing with the Oni project now– forces me to streamline. Every work method acquires craft over time. A little blind panic over deadlines scrapes off unnecessary steps and laziness admirably.

 

Jamie: If you could afford to publish Finder in color would you?

Carla Speed McNeil: Would all my readers be happy with getting half the number of issues per year? It’d slow down production quite a lot.

 

Jamie: With all the comic book stuff in the theaters these days have you had any Hollywood types sniffing around for the rights to do Finder?

Carla Speed McNeil: Not so far.
Well, not Hollywood, anyway. Cinar did come calling. At the time, they were working on a cartoon version of AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO. I’ve no idea what’s going on with that one. At any rate, they asked for samples of FINDER to look at. I was bemused– this is a company that makes shows aimed at rather young children, after all. RICHARD SCARRY and things like that. AKIKO itself would have been aimed at an audience older than their usual, but nowhere near as old as the audience for FINDER. The more I talked with them about the possibilities, the less interested I was.

FINDER’s not a kid’s show. Sure, it could be made into one; you could make THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE into a kid’s show if you really wanted it to be one. Just take out all the chainsaws.

I’m picturing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW JAMBOREE.

 

Jamie: Would you want some sort of creative control over other media versions of Finder?

Carla Speed McNeil: Depends on who’s doing them. If Peter Weir came to me and said he wanted to do a FINDER film, I’d kiss his feet and let him do whatever he liked.

 

Jamie: Regarding your trip to Canada, did you have any problem getting back to the states without a passport?

Carla Speed McNeil: Actually, no, thanks to the miracle of the fax machine. I had my mother send me a copy of my birth certificate, and breezed on through.
Anybody who had a Chinese passport was in for it, though.

 

Jamie: How did you make out at the convention? Hopefully our low Canadian Dollar didn’t hurt too much.

Carla Speed McNeil: Pretty well, for a one-day show, I think. Can’t say for sure, ’cause I still haven’t gotten it all converted. Everybody told me not to do it on the Canadian side or in the airport, and frankly, I haven’t figured out what bank to try first. Dope-de-doe…

 

Jamie: Do you like our multi colored monopoly money and funky coins? 🙂

Carla Speed McNeil: LOVE the coins. I heard some people complaining about how heavy their pockets/purses can get, but I loved having change in my pocket that was actually worth something– reaching for a coin FIRST instead of a bill was great!

I’d far rather have a roll of two-dollar coins in my briefcase than that huge jersey-roll of ones I’m sadly resigned to carrying.

As for the multi-colored monopoly money, I can tell you, you’ve got nothing on Argentina. Blinding bills they have. The Powerpuff Girls aren’t as brightly colored.

 

Jamie: You said you used a Canadian Cartoon called Sawing For Teens in your note in the back of Finder: Sin Eater Vol. 1. While in Canada, did you get a chance to check out more Canadian Cartoons?

Carla Speed McNeil: No, but I did get a lead on where to find a copy of another Richard Condie film, called THE PIG BIRD. Been looking for that one for years. Condie’s the KING.

Carla’s website is http://www.LightSpeedPress.com, where she has several issues of Finder online to read for free.

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Originally published in November of 2002. At this point I had dropped all monthly comics and was only reading Graphic Novels. When I made that switch I found I didn’t like reading superhero graphic novels all that much, with the exception of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Ty’s Bigg Time had recently came out and I enjoyed it and I thought it was neat that he was relatively local to me.

 

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton has done a mix of big name superhero, independent and licensed cartoon comics during his career. His latest work is something different: it’s an original, black and white graphic novel published by DC/Vertigo. The book is called Bigg Time and is about something Ty is very familiar with, show business and fame. Ty comes from a very famous family. His mother was a singer with a few hits and his father was heavily involved in show business and politics. In this interview, we talk about graphic novels in general, Bigg Time, politics, his future and more.

 

Jamie: How did you like doing an original graphic novel compared to a monthly comic book?

Ty Templeton: First and foremost, it’s wonderful to have the time to stretch out and really TELL a story, rather than racing through everything in twenty two pages. I get to indulge the characters more, and indulge the pace . . .

This particular graphic novel was originally conceived as a six issue mini-series however, so many of the monthly comic book joys and headaches were all packed into the experience anyway. I wrote it in eighteen page chunks, for instance so I could get a paycheck every couple of weeks. The chapters tend to run to the same breaks that were written into the script when it was intended to be a miniseries . . .

 

Jamie: Did you find yourself trying to put in a cliffhanger every 24 pages or so like a normal comic series?

Ty Templeton: WHOOPS! See answer above! Since it was conceived that way, yup, I did . . . But we knew it was a graphic novel before I’d gotten much farther than the first dozen or so pages anyway . . . so I wasn’t a slave to that format in the end. But there are elements of that, that remained in the finished thing, because they’re in the original plot structure.

 

Jamie: I noticed with Bigg Time, you did *everything* on the comic, some things your not known for like lettering, colouring and separations. Why did you take on all aspects of doing the book?

Ty Templeton: Well, I’m not known for them cause I haven’t done them in a while. But I used to letter everything I drew, and when I worked in the independent comics industry in the Eighties, I had no choice but to do everything, including boxing issues up to be shipped. I even drove comics home from a printer once . . . I also used to colour my own covers on Batman, so I’m used to working with a computer to colour things. I’m very big on the idea that comics should be created by as few hands as possible. That’s one of the joys of the medium . . . I can conceive, write, draw, colour and (should I suddenly wish to lose money) print and publish my own comic iffen I want to. Vive la Artiste Solo! You can’t do that in Movies or TV!

 

Jamie: Did you do lettering, colouring and separations by hand or by computer?

Ty Templeton: Most of the word balloon lettering is done on a computer. All my sound effects letters are done as line art on the boards. I always feel sound effects are part of the art, and ALWAYS do those myself when I pencil.

 

Jamie: Do you think graphic novels are the future of the comic industry?

Ty Templeton: Gosh, I hope so and I hope not. I’d like to see more of them, but only good ones, of which there haven’t been that many over the years. Road to Perdition is a wonderful graphic novel, as is Stuck Rubber Baby, and Maus, and everything Will Eisner ever did with the form . . . but some of the best of the “Graphic Novels”, such as Watchmen, or Sandman, were originally serialized stories anyway. They just happen to collect up nicely. GON, and Asterix, arguably my favorite graphic novel characters, are both in ongoing series, ALSO originally printed in a serialized form . . . But, I still get a kick out of reading Batman or Wolverine’s adventures every month. Guilty pleasure, the ongoing series, who’d like to see that go? And I don’t much agree with the graphic novels that are essentially just long, long superhero stories. There’s been a few Batman or Green Lantern stories that came out as hundred page hardcover books that would have worked far better as four issue mini-series, both in terms of pace, and price. From a marketing standpoint, I’m all for my publisher making money, but the stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format. More stuff by Eisner and Kyle Baker and folks like that, hell yeah. Superheroes belong in the monthlies, though.

 

Jamie: I’m no longer a huge superhero lover myself but it’s surprising that you would “write off” a whole sub-genre as not being worthy of a different format. How would you react if someone were to say oh.. Westerns should be off limits to a different format like free digest sized weekly books?

Ty Templeton: I don’t think I “wrote off” a whole sub-genre with the phrase “the (superhero) stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format”. That’s more of a judgment about what’s BEEN done with the format, rather than a rule of conduct for future projects. An awful lot of the stuff that gets turned directly into a graphic novel, (rather than a series that gets collected up, such as Dark Knight, etc . . . ) just hasn’t met my particular critical standards. In my experience, the Punisher, Spider-Man, JLA, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Avengers, X-Men “direct to graphic novel” format projects that I’ve read haven’t particularly deserved the high price or high page count. I could mention specific titles, but that’s just needlessly mean to the creators involved, most of whom are fine writers and artists, and often friends of mine. Can you name an original superhero graphic novel published in the last ten years that was particularly good?
Examples of Superhero graphic novels that WERE to my liking include The Death of Captain Marvel by Starlin, Batman: Birth of the Demon, by O’Neil and Breyfogle, Superman vs. Mohammad Ali by O’Neil and Adams. Those were all a while ago, I’ll admit . . . but I haven’t found many that blew me away of late. I haven’t read Catwoman’s Big Score, by Cooke, which I’m told is pretty good, so I may change my mind any day now.
But think through your favorite superhero stories or moments over the years . . . I’ll be surprised if many, or if ANY of those moments come in an original graphic novel format. My favorite moments sure don’t. But some of my favorite moments in comics DO come in graphic novels. Cowboy Wally, Maus, The Building . . . all manage sublime moments of wonder, without a cape in sight. I think pop songs, sit-coms, poetry, candy, liquor, comedy sketches, and superheroes all work best is short doses. I’m certainly willing to watch a four hour Fawlty Towers marathon, or read Dante’s epic poems, because no rule of art and creativity is written in stone. But I don’t think a four hour Just Shoot Me marathon would keep my attention, and consider all the SNL sketch characters who get expanded out to star in HORRIFIC two hour films. But I LOVE the idea of free digest sized Westerns. Who can we contact to get started on that?

 

Jamie: Do you want to do more original graphic novels?

Ty Templeton: I might enjoy writing one. I don’t think the art side attracts me quite so much, unless I get around to actually learning to draw. I have no natural talent for art . . . I’m self taught, and hardly taught at that . . . I’m too much the perfectionist, and I sweat out each line sometimes, continuously dissatisfied with what goes onto the paper. I’m getting less angry at my hands, but I still don’t much enjoy the constant fight that illustrating is to me. I’m much better in short bursts, like single issues, or covers. Writing makes me giggle and smile though.

 

Jamie: Are not artists supposed to be this way? Perfectionists, always unsatisfied with their work, etc . . . ?

Ty Templeton: Not for their own sanity, they’re not supposed to be. I’d rather not spend my days frustrated. I get more of a hoot out of laughing and tickling my children than fighting with my lack of ability to draw. I’m a good writer, and a good inker, and I never seem to sweat that stuff, but penciling is something I’m not basically very good at, and I find it frustrating. I’ve read that Jerry Ordway and Al Williamson are like that too, and they are two of my FAVORITE pencilers in the biz . . . so there!

 

Jamie: With a monthly series, you can get some feedback along the way to what readers do and don’t like about your work. Was it any easier or more difficult to do a whole story without audience feedback along the way?

Ty Templeton: I had feedback working on the book. My wife and a number of my friends read the chapters as I was doing them, and of course, both my editors, Joan Hilty and Heidi MacDonald were good to bounce off of. I may not have had much feedback directly from fans for the story, but the story was fairly personal anyway, and wouldn’t have benefited from too many hands on the tiller.

 

Jamie: I can’t but notice that the book takes place in a very similar Toronto town, even a few blocks from here (the Toronto Expo) is the Bay Street Station. “The Bums Rush” has a familiar looking background. Why did you base this Hollywood story so close to home?

Ty Templeton: As I said, it’s a more or less personal story. If you read the “About the Author” in the back of the book, you’ll find out I’ve been in and around show biz and the famousness business my whole life, which I happened to have spent in Toronto. I didn’t see a need to put it in L.A. or New York, since I haven’t really lived in either city. I actually don’t name the city any of this takes place in, but you’re right, it’s Toronto. Besides, more movies are made in Toronto, and more albums recorded up here, than in any city in North America BUT New York and LA. Why NOT put it up here? We’re Hollywood North, ain’t we?

 

Jamie: Yes, but American entertainment companies often like to Americanize things in order to make them more commercial. Did you choose to not name Toronto so the story would be more universal?

Ty Templeton: Well, I more or less did name Toronto, by not particularly hiding that it was Toronto. T.O. Subway stations, street signs, and the Canadian Prime Minister run about the novel unmolested . . . well, the PM gets molested a LITTLE bit. The name of the town simply never came up in the script, but it was a Canadian town, since I’m a Canadian writer.

 

Jamie: How did the idea of you doing Bigg Time come about? Did you have to aggressively pitch that to DC/Vertigo or did they come to you?

Ty Templeton: While at a convention in Chicago, I pitched Joan Hilty about a science fiction project I wanted to do (and still do, btw). She told me she wasn’t buying anything SF at the time, but did I have something with a magical angle to it . . . ? I mentioned an old screenplay idea that I’d started and never finished a year or so before, and she asked to hear about it . . . liked it, and we went from there. It mutated through a mini-series, to a graphic novel, back to a mini and back to a graphic novel along the way, and the plot underwent a couple of major and a few minor changes from the pitch, but that was about it. There wasn’t much aggressive pitching on my part. Right place at the right time. Plus, the pitch made her laugh . . .

 

Jamie: How Americans do you think will get the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Crouton joke?

Ty Templeton: Believe it or not, the name was actually Chrétien RIGHT up until about a week before the whole thing went to the printer. Literally on the last proofread through, the editor called me up and asked me if Chrétien was the P.M’s real name. “Yeah,” I said . . . “Oh we can’t have that,” said the editor . . . “For legal reasons, you can’t use the Prime Minister’s real name.” So we relettered the balloon so it read Crouton . . . but here’s the best part: No one caught the fact that it was the real PM’s name, because both the editor and the proofreader thought I made the name “Chrétien” up. They thought it was a French spoof on the word cretin.

 

Jamie: Of course you noticed he resigns as Prime Minister the day after your book hits the stands. So that’s obviously your fault.

Ty Templeton: All according to plan. Now if only the Bush people get the secret hypnotic message that’s intended for them, then my work here is done.

 

Jamie: And who would you replace Chrétien and Bush with?

Ty Templeton: I have nothing particularly against Chrétien. I’ve voted for him, and might have even done it again. I’m basically a Liberal or NDP kind of vote, pretty well every election. Paul Martin seems like a fine replacement for Jean . . . I’m fairly sure he’s who we’ll get anyway. As for replacing Bush? Pretty well any creature, vertebrate or invertebrate could do a better job than that smirking frat boy clown. Don’t even get me started on the ruinous car wreck that I find his Fraudulent and embarrassing administration to be. Imagine someone actually usurping the position of “Worst American President of my Lifetime” from Nixon . . .

 

Jamie: Was this book a nice change of pace from doing all those cartoon comics for the last few years?

Ty Templeton: My whole career is a change of pace. Cartoon comics (including Ren and Stimpy, Batman Adventures, Bugs Bunny, the Simpsons) have been a mainstay of my work for the last little while, by my own choice, and as a change of pace from the mainstream superhero comics I did for a while, (Superman, Avengers, Justice League) which were a change of pace from the funky independent stuff (Stig’s Inferno, National Lampoon, Mr. X, etc . . . much like this graphic novel, in fact) that I did for most of the Eighties and early Nineties.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular genre’s and/or formats you want to explore in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m getting a tickle to work on some more Looney Toons stuff in the future. I may or may not get to . . . but I did a little bit for the 100th anniversary issue of Looney Toons from DC, and enjoyed it greatly, and wouldn’t mind doing more. I’ve got a nibble from a friend of mine to help art direct yet another TV pilot, (making it about a dozen I’ve worked on over the years) which I hope I get to do. Beyond that, I’m focusing on Batman, the Simpsons and the other projects I have actually ON my desk. I don’t get too far ahead of the present . . . I’m a live in the moment kind of guy.

 

Jamie: According to ICV2.com Bigg Time placed #18 in the top 50 Graphic Novels, selling approximately 6,400 pre orders through Diamond. Is that better or worse than you expected?

Ty Templeton: We had a re-order a couple of weeks later that took us up to about eight thousand, I believe. That’s about what my editor and I guessed it was going to do . . . about eight thou . . . It would be nice if it could sneak up to ten thousand over the next year . . . it would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. So it did about what we expected.

 

Jamie: What are you doing in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m writing a mini series for DC, that’s not yet scheduled, so it’s hush hush time. More or that later. I’m doing a little more Batman work again . . . I just inked an issue, and might be writing and/or drawing a few more. I always loved Batman to work on, so it’s nice to be home with him again. Gotham City is familiar and fun territory. I did a couple of Simpsons/Bongo comics stories . . . a Simpson’s Hallowe’en special that’s just come out, and a Radioactive Man story that’s due out in a few months, I think.
I did a page in the Looney Toons 100th issue special, and had so much fun on it, I promised myself to do more with the Warner Bros characters in the future. Joan Hilty is editing the Warner Bros. comics at DC, and since we worked together on the BIGG TIME novel . . . well, we’re happy to work together again . . . so maybe a Duck Dodgers giant, or something. Who knows?

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