Award-Winning BOXERS AND SAINTS – Gene Luen Yang’s Two-Perspective Historical GN

by Zack Smith, Newsarama Contributor
Date: 29 January 2014 Time: 05:00 PM ET
CREDIT: Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang’s already earned widespread acclaim for everything for such works asAmerican Born Chinese and writing the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels for Dark Horse. His most recent work is actually two works in one, that take two perspectives on a historical event that’s often forgotten in American culture.

Boxers and Saints is a set of two graphic novels from First Second Books that examines the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901 from two sides in China – the “Boxers,” the rebels who sought to purge China of foreign influence, including missionaries, they felt were overtaking their culture, and the “Saints,” the Chinese who fought against the Boxers, and were later canonized by the Catholic Church.

Yang’s take on the Boxer Rebellion splits the story across two volumes from both points of view, and offers no easy answers as it examines a painful conflict and a difficult time in history from teenagers caught in its wake. It’s already earned massive acclaim, including earning Yang a second National Book Award Finalist honor, and was picked as one of the best Young Adult books of 2013 – graphic or otherwise – by the New York Times.

We called up Yang to talk about his work, the unique cultural connection between the Boxers and modern comic book fans, how the books were almost presented, and his next graphic novel, a unique take on a superhero 99.9 percent of readers have never heard about.

Read the full interview here!

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Scioli’s Ultimate 80s Team-Up: TRANSFORMERS / G.I. JOE

by Zack Smith, Newsarama Contributor
Date: 09 January 2014 Time: 11:00 AM ET
CREDIT: IDW

We’ll be blunt: We love ‘80s cartoons. We love the insane Kirby-style riffs of writer/artist Tom Scioli (Gødland, American Barbarian). So when we found out Scioli was going to be doing a new ongoing Transformers/G.I. Joe series at IDW (co-written with John Barber) starting with a Free Comic Book Day issue that will be in stores in April, we were…enthusiastic, to say the least.

Details on the book are hush-hush and Scioli is finalizing the artwork on everything, but we got him on the line to talk about his love of these characters, from the classic toys to the classic cartoons to the classic comics.

Here now are excerpts from our long, long geek-out session with Scioli on these great characters and how they warped our childhoods, and a look at some of the behind-the-scenes drawing for the upcoming series. If anything, we did learn this: Scioli is bringing a real passion and love for the characters to this book, and you can get a glimpse of it here.

Read the full interview here!

Antony Johnston lights THE FUSE at Image Comics

by Zack Smith, Newsarama Contributor
Date: 03 January 2014 Time: 12:00 PM ET
CREDIT: Image Comics

Antony Johnston is no stranger to scifi worlds with his long-running post-apocalpytic series Wasteland at Oni. Now, the prolific creator is headed offworld with The Fuse, a new SF series from Image Comics, where he also recently launched the fantasy Umbral.

The Fuse, which launches this February, is a crime comic with a SF twist…specifically the setting, one that hasn’t really been depicted in comics before and allows for all manner of unique stories. We got the goods on The Fuse from Johnston, along with some preview art.

Michel Fiffe’s COPRA: the One-Man Written, Drawn, Self-Published Villain Epic

by Zack Smith, Newsarama Contributor
Date: 02 January 2014 Time: 03:00 PM ET
CREDIT: Michel Fiffe

He did it.

In a world where it’s still a great challenge for entire comic book creative teams to get a book out on a regular basis, Michel Fiffe produced 12 issues of his offbeat, action-packed supervillain team Copra entirely on his own…and we mean, he did everything, from story to art to self-publishing outside of the Diamond system employed by almost every comic company.

Let’s take a moment to contemplate that.

Here are the most best things I wrote this past year.  I think this averages out to one great piece per week.  I am pleased by this.

COMIC BOOKS

The Strange History of Marvel Comics’ ULTIMATE ADVENTURES with Hawk-Owl and Woody

Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy, Pt.1

Milligan and McCarthy, Pt.2

Jeffrey Brown on VADER’S LITTLE PRINCESS, A MATTER OF LIFE and More

BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES 21st Anniversary

Paul Pope on BATTLING BOY

GRENDEL Retrospective with Matt Wagner, 1

GRENDEL Retrospective, 2

Fantagraphics Reprints Crockett Johnson’s BARNABY

Nick Offerman of PARKS AND RECREATION talks AXE COP, Comics and More

BONE Creator Jeff Smith on Self-Publishing

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Creator George Romero on EMPIRE OF THE DEAD

Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa on GOD IS DEAD

Priest and Bright on the Return of QUANTUM AND WOODY

TOYS!

The Many (Toy) Faces of Sylvester Stallone

How to Build Your Dragon: Putting Together Mattel’s MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE Classics Granamyr Toy

Tracking down the ADVENTURE TIME Marshall Lee Plush Toy

Sillof and Patton Owsalt’s FASTER, EMPIRE!  STRIKE!  STRIKE!

Masterpiece Transformers Soundwave

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Caldecott Winner David Wiesner on MR. WUFFLES

Jhn Agee (LITTLE SANTA) and Loren Long (OTIS)

A look at the musical MARY POPPINS and P.L. Travers’ original books (done in Feb., before SAVING MR. BANKS came out)

Jan Brett on CINDERS

Phyllis Rowan’s THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY

THE DARK IS RISING Author Susan Cooper

In Memorial: E.L. Konigsburg, Author of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER

Zilpha Keatley Snyder on BELOW THE ROOT

Weird Picture Books That I Enjoy

More Weird Children’s Books: The Mushroom Planet, Chicken Trek, Suzuki Beane and More

LOCAL NORTH CAROLINA ARTS

Nice Price Books in Carrboro to Close

SERENA Author Ron Rash on NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY

Craig Zobel on Directing COMPLIANCE

Golden Age Bakery Puts Comics on Cookies

Elizabeth Strout on THE BURGESS BOYS

TV Production in NC with HOMELAND, BANSHEE, UNDER THE DOME and More

INSPECTOR LYNLEY Author Elizabeth George Visits

Attempting to understand CATS in a local production

Local Produce Delivery Startups

COMICS I WROTE:

Unseen REGULAR SHOW Script: “Bad Grammar”

My REGULAR SHOW story “Sombrero World”

Interview on “Sombrero World” in USA Today

Another Interview on “SomBrero World” in the News and Observer

My ADVENTURE TIME Story “Grocery Time” (Pt.1)

My ADVENTURE TIME Story “Grocery Time” (Pt.2)

FREE COMIC: “Decaffeinated” with Thomas Boatwright

MISC. TV

Shows You WON’T See This Fall

31 Loose Ends from Season 4 of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Dean Norris Talks BREAKING BAD and UNDER THE DOME

Hugh Dancy on HANNIBAL: Season One

Why I Heart Megatron: A Transformers Post

400 or so SIMPSONS Quotes

More than 60 BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD Videos

The anniversary of the end of ST. ELSEWHERE

My Strange Obsession with LAW & ORDER: SVU

MISC. ESSAYS/ORIGINAL COMPILATION POSTS

THE HEARTBREAK KID, SAVE THE DATE and other films for singles on Valentine’s Day

Thunderbirds are Go(ne): A Tribute to Gerry Anderson

Miami Connection: All 230+ Things I Love About this Film

https://zacksmithwriter.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/400-or-so-simpsons-quotes/

A lot of what goes on in comics outside the actual books tends to go over my head.  I stay off of message boards, avoid getting into arguments, and at cons, I just seek out who I want to meet, have dinner with my friends, and go to bed early.

But lately, there are more and more things going on that I can’t ignore.  There’s a lot of issues that need to be faced – racism, ageism, censorship, a list that would take a dozen more editorials to fully cover – but one that has come to the forefront recently is the issue of harassment of women in comics.

Last month, some ugly, ugly reports came out of New York Comic-Con (NYCC).  Here’s one of the best reports on it.  There was the usual dose of pandering, scantily-clad models and advertising, but the worst was a camera crew for a  public access show that asked deeply inappropriate questions of female attendees – with incidents being reported even after complaints were made to con security.

Any hopes that this was an isolated incident were washed away in the wake of the show, as numerous female comics fans and professionals began coming forward with their own tales of harassment – not just from creeping convention attendees, but from professionals within the industry itself.

There’s this story.  And this story.  And this story. And this story.  This one just came to my attention today. And..well, probably many, many more that I’m unaware of because I’m not actually that good at using Tumblr or other social media.

Even uglier, many of these women who’ve spoken out have been lambasted for doing so, using language I’m not comfortable repeating here.

These tales of harassment are, put bluntly, unacceptable.  The reaction to them is even less acceptable.

Now, as you might have noticed from the headline, I’m a guy.  What qualifies me to talk about harassment?

Well, there’s two things.  First, when I mentioned I wanted to explore this issue on Facebook, a female friend of mine who helped out at NC Comicon (a Durham, NC show based near me that issued a strict non-harassment policy in the wake of NYCC reports) said that she wanted to see a guy talk about this issue.

“Honestly, the sad thing is that men talking about representation in media is more likely to lend it legitimacy, and make the topic a ‘real’ issue to the people otherwise most likely to write it off,” she said.

That’s depressing, though I also saw her point.  I don’t think things should be this way, but if it’s the case, I want to help the cause by acknowledging the problem, and my own culpability.

I think it’s lousy that women who speak out about harassment are often denounced and harassed all the further by coming forward, but I do think it’s important to offer support and understanding.

Secondly…I can’t say that I’ve ever groped a girl or tried to play “casting couch,” but the stories recounted here have reminded me of incidents where I’ve told an off-color joke or gotten in the face some woman I just met at a con with non-stop babbling when really, she just wanted to get away and get on with her show. I’ve only later realized or was told by a well-meaning friend how uncomfortable I was making these women.

Now, I wasn’t trying to be malicious, and I’ve tried to speak out against some of the unrealistic depictions of female sexuality in comics, but there have been times I’ve made women uncomfortable, and those incidents have made me part of the problem.

For that, I’m sorry.

I cop to these mistakes, to mistakes I didn’t realize I made in the past, and I will try to be more mindful of how I might be making other people feel in the future.  And I also want to be more alert of how people around me might be treating others, and am ready to jump in if something untoward might be going on.

That’s the best I know to offer.  It might not be enough, but I hope it’s a start.

I can also pretty much 100% guarantee that I will do or say something hugely inappropriate in the future, possibly even later today.  That’s because I’m human, and part of being human is making mistakes. But another part is taking responsibility for those mistakes, and using them as a guide to your actions in the future.

I’ve tried to imagine how awful a comic book convention would be for me if I was groped, or jeered for being overweight.  I think of all the great times I’ve had at these shows, all the friends I’ve made.  Meeting people who shared my interests, my passion for the art form, even similar career goals in the industry offered me a sense of support and camaraderie that got me through some rough times in my life.

The idea that someone could have that sense of support violated at a place that’s supposed to be about coming together and celebrating the community of comics…that’s hateful to me.  There’s no other word for it.

Forget those gawdawful stereotypes of slack-jawed geeks paralyzed by a pretty girl setting foot into a comic shop.  This is about the sense of entitlement, resentment, objectification and worse that has helped alienate women, who represent 50 PERCENT OF ALL THE HUMAN BEINGS ON EARTH, from becoming part of fandom, or staying in the industry.

How many women have shied away from fandom because of this treatment?  How many who could have contributed something great to the industry chose another path because of how they were treated?  And most importantly – how much guts has it taken for those who have stayed part of fandom and the industry to hang in there in the face of this mistreatment?

(And while it’s necessary for a piece like this, the friend I talked to for this piece also made a note that terms like “female creators” and “female fans” are often used in a way that makes it seem like they are something separate.  “A lot of problems arise from viewing women as secondary versions of what men are in the industry  – ‘female creators’ and ‘female fans’ – so there’s a mental pass to treat them differently than just ‘creators’ and ‘fans,’” she said.

(That’s a whole new series of issues, but though I’ve enjoyed many times when female creators have come together for a book or a panel discussion, it’s important that their presence be viewed as an overcoming of viewing them as “other,” not some strange and exotic novelty.  Of course, it’d be equally nice to see phrases like “black creators” or “Asian creators” just be folded into “creators” as well, but again – another editorial.  End digression.)

The bad news is, this has been going on for decades with too many people turning a blind eye.  The good news is, things can change.  They have before.  And they can again.

I’ve seen great changes in the comic book industry over the past decade.  There are more books for all ages, and better books, than I can remember at any point in my life. Kids are going to cons with their parents, and both generations are fans. I love my dad, but a begrudging, “are you ready to go home yet?” was the best I could have expected growing up (I eventually got him hooked on Concrete).

Countless great works from past decades have come back into print.  Aging creators have been given support and dignity through the likes of the Hero Initiative.  And there is a renaissance of creativity in hard-copy comics and online, along with a renewed interest in original concepts from creators and fans alike.  People are making things more than ever, and showing support for fellow fans and creators like never before.  That is astonishing.  That is the sign of a vibrant and vital community.

But there are still problems – problems that we have to face.  And as much as I wonder how much I’ve been a part of these problems, I also know that there is the power to change.

I don’t know that what I’ve said here has helped. But I do know this: Admitting there is a problem, and not just ignoring it or brushing it under the rug, is the first step toward making things better.

Guys – no matter if you’re a fan or a pro, we’re better than this.  I’m not saying treat women like delicate flowers where you agonize over everything you do or say for the sake of political correctness.  But I am saying to be mindful of their feelings, and to take responsibility for your actions.

And I encourage  readers, from all walks, to share their own stories, whether it’s in our comments or elsewhere.  People will only listen if you speak up.  I applaud the bravery of those who have already come forward, and for those who will speak up in the future.

Comics are an amazing medium, and the community of comics can truly be a great place of friendship and togetherness.

Let’s make it better.

 

 

SELF PROMOTION!

The conclusion to my ADVENTURE TIME story with artist Brad McGinty, “Grocery Time,” is out in stores this week in ADVENTURE TIME #22!

AT22coer

 

You can buy an e-copy on ComiXology here.

To answer two possible questions:

1) Yes, Part One ran two months ago in issue #20.  No, I don’t know why it didn’t run on consecutive months.  The story WAS finished when we turned it in, but there are a limited number of pages for backups and it can be very tricky to figure out how to use the space.  I appreciate KaBOOM! letting us do this story and have no ill will over this.

2) No, I probably won’t be doing more AT stories in the future.  KaBOOM! has made it clear they have a large number of writers and artists doing such tales and don’t have room for more material at this time.  I have some more pitches to them being considered by Cartoon Network for approval, but it could be a while before there’s room for any of them.  Again, it was a great opportunity and I have no bad feelings — it’s just how the business works.

Additionally, Brad McGinty ALSO has a story in REGULAR SHOW #6, which is out today.  He is a brilliant, brilliant artist and we’re working on a creator-owned miniseries pitch for another publisher.  At this point, I’m trying to deliver a polished full script for the first issue along with a full miniseries pitch, and Brad’s finishing up a few other projects before doing character designs, so it’s going to be a while before it can even be CONSIDERED for publication.  But I truly hope to get this or another project together, not just for the career boost (no shame in my game), but for the excitement of seeing my weird ideas being brought to con’sid’ra’ble life by Brad’s Brobdingnaggian talents (look it up, I was tired of saying “Herculean”).

A few notes on the story, though this is more of a “What NOT to do” when writing a script.

1) Out of all the pitches I sent KaBOOM!/Cartoon Network, this was the one they took, and once I sat down to write it, I realized I’d hosed myself, as I had to introduce new characters, new settings, a plot with a beginning/middle/end AND an action sequence in a mere seven pages (they gave me eight, bless them).  So is this story rushed, and did I take a few shortcuts?  You bet your bippy I did.

2) So first, it was great fun writing the fight sequence.  Fight/action scenes are just about trying to find unique ways for the characters to act and react, and Brad did a very fun job pitting Billy against the Ham-Pire.  I had fun thinking of things the Ham-Pire could do, but I wish I’d thought of more unique ways for Billy to fight back using the materials of the Grocery Kingdom.

page 6

3) I also feel great, great shame for resorting to the cheapest dues ex machina in the book — the hero finds a MAGICAL REMOTE CONTROL to take over the evil robots.  Now, if you read both parts of the story in one sitting, I did try to establish this back on Pg.3 by introducing the cereal box display, but man, I wish I’d thought of something better to get to the denouement.  I ran this by a number of friends, including a few cartoonist who work on ADVENTURE TIME, and they said to stop worrying, but I NEVER STOP WORRYING.

4) In a random bit, the Royal Tart Toter is a check-out clerk in the Grocery Kingdom, because I keep encountering tragically old, sometimes demented old people as greeters at big-box stores whenever I go there.  Brad wanted a few more clerks for the background, so we went with the Squeez-E-Mart clerk and Choose Goose, who presumably had a slow season in his trading business or needed health insurance.

page 7

5) The last page is PACKED, which is a sure sign of a novice comic book writer.  Kelly Sue DeConnick had a semi-seminar at a comic shop earlier this year where she made a point that you should try to wrap as much as possible up BEFORE the last page, so you have some room.  Given the hole I’d dug myself with this script, there wasn’t a lot of room.  I tried to have a short story type twist for Billy’s quest, but it got MORE cramped by the final-final image…

6) So the story ends with the revelation that it’s a tale being read to Baby Finn and Baby Jake by Joshua the Dog-Dad.  I wanted to do this to give the story a cute moment amidst all the silliness and propose an addition to the show’s mythology — Finn and Jake learned about Billy because Joshua read them stories as kids, and this probably helped inspire them to grow up to be heroes themselves.

page 8

Acknowledging the page was already cramped in the script, I initially wrote this scene as optional, but regular AT comic writer Ryan North said that as the writer, I should  say whether something was in the story or not, and that the scene was good and deserved to be in there.  I still like it, but wish that I’d found a way to give it more room to breathe and sink in.  I did like having a nice, placid moment to end all the craziness of the story.

Brad wanted an extra panel to contain Joshua’s final rant and suggested an exterior shot of the house.  In the episode “Memory of a Memory,” Finn’s childhood home is depicted as a different place, but there’s no exterior shots of it.  We figured that since “Dad’s Dungeon” showed that Joshua had built a dungeon near the Tree Fort and hid a holo-viewer in its attic, perhaps the Dog family had moved there or leased it from previous owner Marceline (that’d be a fun story to tell).  It’s a cheat, but the story does play fast and loose with AT mythology in the interest of including cameos anyway.

So now you know…too much of the story.  Hope you liked it, and hopefully I’ll have a few more comics finished in 2014, with both Brad and others among the Finest Artists Known to Man!