Monthly Archives: March 2008

RASL #1 going back to press; Las Vegas & ComicsPRO

Blog entry by Jeff

Last weekend I was in North Las Vegas at a casino called the Texas Station. It was the second annual meeting of ComicsPro, the only trade organization for direct-market comic book retailers. Vijaya and I thought a couple of days in Sin City with the top comics retailers in the country would be worth the trip. And it was. We immediately learned that most retailers were sold out of RASL #1, and had been for weeks!

During the Cartoon Books presentation I announced that RASL #1 would be going back to press. The new printing, which will sport a new color logo (and a price on the cover of the book!) will be offered through Diamond soon. Our intitial orders for #1 were 20,000 and we printed an extra 4,000 which we blew through the first weekend. 

I also learned that many comic shops were ordering the new color BONE books either directly from Scholastic, or from a book distributor like Baker & Taylor, which completely changes the picture I had about where BONE sales are coming from. I had thought the color books were mostly going through schools, bookfairs, and big box stores like Barnes & Noble, but now it looks like the direct market is a bigger part than I knew!

That was especially sweet news as I reported the newest sales figures of the color BONE books to date: 2,481,500. Now that only includes the first seven BONE color books, and does not include any of the black & white comics or tradebooks like the One Volume Edition, which alone has sold over a hundred thousand copies. Thank you, comic book stores!

After my Cartoon Books presentation we had a raffle for the 2-foot prototype of our new Bone plush which was won by Comix Experience's Brian Hibbs. The life size Bone plush is available in Previews this month. You can read Brian's report on the conference in this week's Tilting at Windmills.  

Earlier, before the presentations began, Larry Marder and I compared notes. If you've been following the guest blogs about the early days of the self-publishing movement, you'll understand it when I say it felt like old times. Larry was officially there helping out Graffitti Designs, but he is better known for his Beanworld comics. You can check out his account of the weekend at his Beanworld Blog.

Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund gave a pretty rousing speech that included this declaration:

"This is the Golden Age that we’ve all been working for. The Golden Age of graphic novels. The Golden Age of comics media.

Were it not for Direct Market comics retailers, comics may well
have joined vaudeville and radio drama as once great but wholly
abandoned art forms. Because of your smarts, your risks and your passion we have achieved this Golden Age."

You can read the entire speech over on The Beat.

Also, we announced that I would auction off my only store signing this year to the ComicsPro member who best supported the CBLDF, more details to come.

All in all, it felt like a very good couple of days, and time well spent.

“Copper” to be published by Scholastic!

Blog entry by Steve

 

One of the coolest and most original web comics on the internet is Kazu Kibuishi's "Copper".  Kazu is a friend of the Cartoon Books family, so we are extremely happy to have another of his comics in the Scholastic graphic novel library!

Amulet seems to be doing very well, and I imagine kids of all ages are going to fall in love with Copper as well.  Grats to our pal Kazu!

Remembering the Self-Publishing Movement: Diana Schutz

Blog entry by Jeff

Diana Schutz, today's guest blogger, was one of the first comics professionals to encourage me – - Diana sent me a letter one day after BONE #6 had come out to say she liked the page where Thorn put her hand on Fone Bone's leg and he shot off his cow and dropped pink hearts all over the ground. We've been good friends ever since. She first got involved in the comics indie scene in 1978, first at the retail level in comic shops and then on the other side of the business – - first for Comico, then for Dark Horse Comics where her titles have included Editor-in-Chief. She has known and worked closely with some of the most important cartoonists in the field including Will Eisner, Frank Miller, Stan Sakai, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman, and Matt Wagner to name a few. She also worked with Dave Sim on Cerebus and his Guide to Self-Publishing, and recently with me on the Art of BONE. Diana spent many hours along with the rest of us on the road and in Dave Sim's suites talking about art, controlling our own work, and the future of comics…

Diana Schutz: 

Like Rick Veitch, my introduction to Cerebus was also my introduction to the concept of self-publishing — it was early 1979, and Ron Norton, co-owner of Vancouver’s ComicShop (where I was working at the time), handed me the first seven issues of what became Dave Sim’s magnum opus.  I didn’t stop reading until Cerebus #300, becoming Dave’s proofreader for some years along the way — just the text pieces, as the story pages were considered hallowed ground.  An offshoot of that gig, interestingly enough, was the Cerebus Guide to Self Publishing, which I helped Dave put together in 1997 — despite being gainfully employed as a Dark Horse Comics senior editor!

A pretty good time in comics: Martin Wagner, Gerhard, Dave Sim and Diana 

In 1992 and 1993, I tagged along with Dave to several of his convention and store appearances, meeting many of the principals of what later came to be known as The Self-Publishing Movement — including Jeff Smith.  I had been a little late to Bone, too; this time it was Matt Wagner who handed me the first few issues to read, but I had already written Jeff a fan letter by the time Dave introduced us, in ’93, at that year’s ProCon/WonderCon.  We’ve been friends ever since. The early nineties were a pretty good time for comics.  We’d recovered from the black-and-white boom — and then disastrous glut — of the late eighties; the comics specialty (or “direct”) market was well established by then; and guys like Jim Hanley, Rory Root, and Bill Liebowitz, among others, were really taking comics retail up a major notch.  A lotta dollars were flowing, and a lotta comics were being bought.  Frank Miller had sworn off his first love affair with Hollywood and had returned to comics full-time, with an even stronger passion than before — surprising everyone by hooking up with a then-small, upstart company named Dark Horse to publish Give Me Liberty and, later, Sin City.  In 1992, several very high-profile artists left Marvel as a group, to form first their own imprint and, pretty shortly thereafter, their own publishing company.  And what’s more important: the readers went with them.
It was the era of the creator.  Finally!

By 1992, after fifteen years of an awful lot of hard work, Dave Sim was an “overnight” success.  Jeff Smith had been toiling away at various incarnations of Bone since the early eighties, and by 1994 — having won four Eisner Awards and three Harveys that year alone — he, too, had become an “overnight” success.  Talent, determination, and a receptive marketplace provided fertile ground for a self-publishing movement to take root.  I remember conventions, late-night parties, spirited discussions — many drinks.  We were all a lot younger then!

Larry Marder was a critical part of the mix, too.  The creator of Tales of the Beanworld was then putting his background in advertising to use at Moondog’s, Gary Colabuono’s Chicago chain of comics stores (stores that I don’t think survived his departure, but I could be wrong about that).  In the pages of Cerebus, Larry had already been dubbed Nexus of All Comic Book Realities — or The Nexus for short! — and his unique position between the beans and the moon, so to speak, really did mean that a lot of different industry elements (including many key people) converged around Larry.

We were all a lot younger then: Larry Marder and Diana

I’m betting it was Larry who planted the seeds of an idea that Dave and Jeff popularized among the self-publishers: the strategic formula of direct communication with the retail base — and ultimately the consumer.  In other words, the business side of self-publishing.   Dave and Jeff —and Larry — are darn good at it.  Some artists just aren’t, and some artists don’t want to be bothered.  Sadly, it would turn out that some artists didn’t want to be bothered with the creative side of self-publishing either.  It’s one thing to talk the talk, but you gotta walk the walk, too, and one unfortunate legacy of the self-publishing movement is the number of promising cartoonists who wound up dropping out of comics altogether when they didn’t become overnight sensations.  On the upside, for every person who dropped out, there were others who stuck around — and it’s thanks, in part, to the self-publishing movement that people like Paul Pope, Terry Moore, and Rick Veitch, among others, are still making great comics today.

As are Dave and Jeff.  Not only have they provided shining examples of just how far talent and determination can take a person in a receptive marketplace, but they also have given unselfishly of their time and advice — and outright help — to any and all who are interested.  What’s more, Dave and Jeff set the stage for the current comics scene in (at least) two really important ways.

First, they published — and continually reprinted — collected book versions of their comics.  In 1986, nine years after Cerebus #1, when Dave came out with that first “phone book,” very few publishers were routinely collecting serialized comics into what Will Eisner (and others) had earlier called a “graphic novel.”  And if they were, they seldom kept those books in print.  Comics publishers were still working under a periodical, disposable, print-to-sell-out model of publication — as opposed to the perennial model favored by prose publishers, not to mention libraries and bookstores.  Jeff immediately followed Dave’s lead, waiting only a couple years before collecting Bone #1-6 into book form. This was a revolutionary idea in those days; despite the introduction of the “limited series” during the eighties, the dominant paradigm was still the monthly, ongoing floppy comic — not the perfect-bound volume with a place on your bookshelf.  And both creators had good, solid, long stories to collect — stories with a beginning, middle, and (most important) an end.  Like, y’know, a novel.  And like the best novels, the Cerebus and Bone books were reprinted over and over.  And over again.

This, in fact, is one of the major benefits of self-publishing: as a self-publisher, you get to control the reprinting of your work.  When your work is published by someone else, you basically give up that right — and it’s a pretty important one.  Learned that from Dave.  Had never thought about it before.

To my mind, the other important legacy of the self-publishing movement of the early nineties is the 1994 debut of the Alternative Press Expo, followed by the Small Press Expo that same year (and later the Ignatz Awards) — both of which begat Columbus, Ohio’s Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo and Portland, Oregon’s Stumptown Comics Fest.  By touring together — at conventions, store signings, and distributor trade shows — the self-publishers, spearheaded in 1993 by Dave and Jeff, established a serious DIY presence within the industry, generating tremendous enthusiasm and proving that shows dedicated to self-publishers (and alternative cartoonists generally) could be financially viable as well as creatively fruitful.  I will never forget walking around SPX 2000 with Will Eisner, introducing him to several of the young cartoonists set up at that show.  Not only were they blown away, but Will said he was so caught up in the infectious energy there that he felt inspired, too — and needed to get back to his drawing board because of all the young cartoonists nipping at his heels!  These shows are all about comics, and the love of comics, and while commercial publishers started bedding down with Hollywood in the early nineties, the self-publishers were there to remind us what it’s really all about.

BONE to Warner Bros.

Blog entry by Jeff

The news broke this week that Vijaya and I made a deal with Warner Bros. for the film rights to BONE. You can get the details at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

The whole thing happened very quickly last Friday night. Warners called and made us a real offer, it was as simple as that.  They stated their seriousness to stay true to the books, and after a couple of back and forths, the whole thing was over in an hour and a half. Vijaya and I had a celebratory drink and went to bed. We woke up Saturday morning  to find the internet on fire!

There’s a lot of speculation about what the film will look like, but I honestly don’t know yet. I’m partial to 2D, but if something  else looks freaking mind-blowing, I’m open to it.

Not much more to say at this point. We’re at the very beginning of the process, and anything can happen. 

I have to admit, though, the idea of the Looney Tunes WB shield zooming out at the beginning of a BONE movie would be pretty cool. Fingers crossed!

Remembering the Self-Publishing Movement: Terry Moore

Blog entry by Jeff

Terry Moore is today's guest blogger. Terry has been self-publishing off and on since 1993, and always managed to put out a new issue of Strangers in Paradise every six weeks (!). Terry writes the most emotionally involving comics around, and I always looked forward to next chapter in the complicated lives of Francine, Katchoo & David. Terry just wrapped up his multi-volume, award winning, self-published opus Strangers in Paradise last year, and is launching straight away into his new series Echo, which goes on sale tomorrow, March 5. I can't wait!

Terry Moore: 

The only reason I’m working in comics today is because of the self-publishing movement, in particular Jeff Smith. Bone and the other self-published books were a discovery that showed me a solo cartoonist could make comics and sell them in comic shops without having to draw superheroes for a major company. Not that I have anything against drawing heroes for Marvel or DC, that’s just not something I had dreamed of or trained for. But making comic stories like Herge or Robert Crumb… yes, that I wanted to do. So I discovered Bone and Cerebus and all the other indy black and whites one day in 1992, spent the rest of the year learning and researching the biz— drawing my first issue at night, then redrawing it completely— and began pushing against the comic universe to let me in. By the time Strangers In Paradise #1 hit the stores in Nov. 1993, the original Brat Pack of self-publishers had been established for a couple of years and were famous. My first store signing was at Bedrock City Comics in Houston with Jeff. Actually, it was a Jeff Smith signing and I was allowed to participate because, although new, I was still a self-publisher and therefore welcome. It was an eye-opening experience. Two or three hundred people showed up and jammed the store to see Jeff. I sat next to him with my first couple of SiP issues published by Antarctic Press, trying to give them away to Bone fans (no takers as I recall). Afterwards we were treated to dinner and I pumped Jeff for info on self-publishing. Jeff was open and honest and encouraged me to give it a try. By the time we walked out to the parking lot I knew that as soon as I finished the SiP mini-series with Antarctic Press I was going to self-publish a SiP series.

And that’s what happened. I spent three months making three comics and a trade with Antarctic Press and made almost nothing. I spent six weeks making the first issue of SiP and made a very nice profit. Like most cartoonists I had a family to support with kids who expected me to feed and clothe them. I desperately wanted this exciting new creative outlet, but I also needed it to provide a solid living for my family. The simple economics of self-publishing made that possible; one guy doing it all, paying the printer bill and living off what’s left. There were no guarantees of course… one bad book and you could be sitting in a trash heap (at least that’s how my neurotic mind saw it), but I got used to being my own boss and loved getting up on Monday mornings to go to work.

Zip! Fourteen years went by. 107 issues written, penciled, inked, lettered, Photoshopped and printed, countless conventions, planes flights, 2 passports, a ton of freebie comics from fellow cartoonists (I love perks) and yes… 2 kids fed and clothed. And the friendships Robyn and I made with Jeff and Vijaya and all the other self-publishers over the years will last a lifetime.

So, as a cartoonist, what do I think of self–publishing? Best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, like somebody else we know around this blog here, I liked it so much I’m going to do it again. My new series, Echo, debuts March 5. And yes, it will be self-published.

Remembering the Self-Publishing Movement: Craig Thompson

Blog entry by Jeff


zacheus and bone

Today's guest blog is by Craig Thompson, whose award winning Blankets solidified the current era of original graphic novels we see at small press shows like SPX, MOCCA, and APE. But Craig's roots are in the do-it-yourself mines of the mini-comics, where the thought of late nights at Kinkos brings back misty memories. Craig's website Doot Doot Garden is filled with drawings and behind the scenes process material, and you can information on his other projects like: Good-bye, Chunky Rice (my favorite), his travelogue Carnet de Voyage, and his current piece, Habibi. One note: He refers in his essay to the Xeric grant which is awarded yearly, beginning in 1992, to deserving self-published artists by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator, Peter Laird…

Craig Thompson: Generation Xeric

BONE got me reading comics again. In high school, I'd rejected the nerdy obsessions of my youth (comics, toys, rpgs) and replaced them with skateboarding and girls and a watered-down rural version of grunge culture. A couple devoted buddies would drag me to the comics store or lend me this or that; but in four years, BONE was the first book to capture my attention. That lust brush line, animated timing, and playful interaction between very real characters! (No need for me to convert readers of Jeff's blog.) Soon after, I discovered MADMAN — again the juicy   brush line, along with the spiritual musings of an insecure Prometheus.

These books got me READING comics again, but it was a slightly different brand of self-published comics that inspired me to MAKE my own.

The DIY ethic was infesting my 20 year old life — a scrappy blend of vegetarianism, punk rock, dumpsterdiving, and disillusion with capitalist society.  The "people's media" wasn't books or magazines or the young internet, but zines and minicomics – hand-assembled during late night Kinko's sessions when you could bribe an employee for free copies with a six pack. The drawing aesthetic and  subject matter of these comics were most often intimate and raw, like personal letters from the author. John Porcellino – creator of KING CAT - became our appointed cult leader, and ran a distribution outfit for mincomics, zines, and seven-inches called SPIT & A HALF; graciously distributing my own first attempts at comics and introducing me to an entire world of obscure creators.


king cat

This is where the Xeric foundation factors in.  I was of a generation that read NINJA TURTLES as a CHILD (even   watched the ridiculous animated version) and then was coming-of-age   when Peter Laird began tithing to first-time self publishers. (Note that the Xeric grant's 1992 debut was nearly synchronized with Grunge.)

All my favorite mini-comic creators — David Lasky, Adrian Tomine, Megan Kelso, Jon Lewis — were transitioning to "professional-style"   Xeric-funded books. Because the Xeric was a one-time financial gift,   it lent itself to self-contained projects. For me, this is where the notion of "the graphic novel" first became appealing – a comic book with a complete story – beginning to end – not stretched over years of soap-operatic serialization.

Foremost of these was Tom Hart's HUTCH OWEN'S WORKING HARD. In only 53 pages, an entire energetic epic unfurled. Something changed within   you while reading it. It definitely inspired my first book CHUNKY RICE. The grungey knit cap and snargley tooths of Solomon is a deliberate tribute (or rip-off) of dear ol' Hutch.


solomon and hutch

The other book that I poured over & over and sought to emulate was Walt Holcombe's KING of PERSIA. It's so poetic and musical and heartbreaking that it moved me to tears. This is what I sought to create – comics to make you weep! (And I suspect the Orientalist fancies of HABIBI were awakened by Walt's book.)


king of persia

Finally, Joe Chiappetta's SILLY DADDY. His LONG GOOD-BYE was self-published without Xeric aid, but it did package his mincomics into a 98 page booklet. These confessional diaries  and anti-capitalist   diatribes read as direct translations from his heart. The sometimes crude drawing could suddenly betray Joe's skill as an attentive life- drawer. This rendering of little Maria still sends shivers through me.


maria

In the 90s, the largest pocket of Xeric cartoonists were living in   Seattle, Washington — they replaced the corporate-opted music scene with their loud & energetic comics scene. Other than heartbreak, they were what motivated me to leave my Wisconsin home for the great Northwest. At the last moment, a friend convinced me that Portland, Oregon was the smaller, hipper, organic version of Seattle.

Ten years later, Portland itself has claimed stakes as the young cartoonists mecca. Busloads of energetic minicomics-churning youngsters arrive each day, and I'm the "old school" — the hermetic, folk-artist crazy uncle burdened with my self-imposed graphic novel exile. Seems I've fashioned myself after Dylan Horrocks' TISCO GEORGE…


"it comes slowly – born of pain and moisture!"

… and I long for the days of of playfulness and community – before the pretention or presumptiousness of the "graphic novel" — when photocopies were stolen from Kinko's and lovingly hand-stapled by the author.

(art credits: 03 – Hutch Owen by Tom Hart, 04 – King of Persia by Walt Holcombe, 05 – Silly Daddy by Joe Chiappetta, 06 – Tisco George  from Pickle #1 by Dylan Horrocks)