In the world of British comics, there's big news happening near the Thames in the past week.
In an effort to turn around its declining sales, publisher DC Thomson has rebranded and relaunched its 73-year-old comics magazine, The Dandy.
Starting with issue 3508 (!) which was on sale last week, The Dandy has been changed, revised, updated, modernized, you pick the word. New strips, new artists, a new look, a new price (dropping it by £1 to just £1.50, which is not at all bad news for the wallet, especially given the exchange rate), and cover-featuring a current British comedian as the star of his own strip.
I think this is a step in the right direction and I applaud publisher DC Thomson for making it. From 2006-2008, the newsstand comic had seen a 16% drop in sales, down to 23,000 copies an issue on average. Yet by June 2010, sales had dropped to 14,000. Something had to be done.
I have yet to see a copy - it’s not the kind of thing I’m likely to find over here, but I’m anxious to get back to London and grab a copy next time I’m there. In the meantime, I’m having a couple of issues sent to me by a friend.
Mr. Jim Korkis and I have a history that goes back to the dawn of time. His knowledge of comics and cartoon history is astounding and the number of people he's met and interviewed over the years makes Jay Leno seem like a hermit.
Back in the days of Malibu Comics, I hired Mr. K to write some text pieces and introductions to many of our comic strip reprints. They were fascinating and entertaining and I always found out stuff I didn't know – he was the pre-Google Google for certain topics. And his work would arrive many days before his deadline.
I also had the privilege of editing two big softcover books of his, written with his then-frequent collaborator John Cawley, another guy who knows more about animation than Don Bluth forgot. One book was Cartoon Confidential, one of my favorite books I ever got to work on.
The other was the Animation Art Buyer's Guide and Price Guide, which was an inexpensive book about buying, selling, pricing animation art and stuff to look for and look out for.
Read More | Jim Korkis Interview
Artist Irwin Hasen was the co-creator (with writer Gus Edson) of the long-running comic strip Dondi, the poor little orphan boy who never aged in his 30+ year run (1955-1986).
But Hasen’s career goes back to 1940 when he started in comic books, drawing for Harry "A" Chesler’s shop. His later work includes Green Lantern, Justice Society and Johnny Thunder for DC and he’s credited with creating one of my favorite old-school DC characters, Wildcat.
Now he’s the subject of a new documentary: Irwin: A New York Story that’s debuting as part of FilmColumbia in up in Columbia County (about two hours north of NYC) this weekend, October 24 at 1 pm at the Morris Memorial Theater.
Doesn’t everyone who’s not there wish they were at the New York Comic Con this weekend? Or is it just me?
Big announcements all across the board. Marvel and DC are cutting prices which won’t boost sales enough for the Big Two to make the same amount of money. But it’s good news for non-Big Two publishers who can try to tap into the money customers are saving and steer it their way. I’m looking at you Boom!, Dynamite, Moonstone and IDW.
DC’s also cutting the story count down to 20 pages. Since there aren’t that many paid ads anymore, anyone want to wager on when the $2.99 printed comics go from 32 pages down to 24 to further reduce costs?
And in the wake of his supervisor stepping down, Bob Wayne‘s been given a promotion and stays in New York. Well played.
At Project Child Murdering Robot, Ricky Sprague has some thoughts about the new Wonder Woman TV series in development by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal; Boston Legal). His advice: “Please don’t shy away from her glorious bondage past.”
Toasting Toth: Who doesn’t love Alex Toth? John Kricfalusi posts panels from a really nice story and breaks down his love for it.
Toth II: Daniel Best at 20th Century Danny Boy has some great information of Alex Toth and the artist’s time in Australia. Bonus: lots of Toth artwork.
Sad news in the world of television and novels. Stephen J. Cannell, one of Hollywood’s legendary writers has passed away. The list of shows he worked on and created is legendary. Comic fans might know him best from The Greatest American Hero. He mentored a number of famous writer-producers, much like Roy Huggins had mentored him. When he got tired of television, he reinvented himself as a novelist – the ones I’ve read are quite fun – and actor (he had a somewhat recurring role on Castle). Jaime Weinman has a nice appreciation of one of my favorite writers.
The Flintstones: Now that they’ve turned 50 years old – yikes! – the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon show has attracted a lot of media attention this week. Jerry Beck at Cartoon Brew noticed the coverage…particularly how stupid the Christian Science Monitor was about it.
Appy: It’s not too late to check in with the Appy Entertainment blog and see what I and two friends have to say about the digital age of comics.
Mark Waid says it best in the blurb he wrote for the book I most want this Christmas. Says the man from Boom! Studios: “I now have a new book for my ‘Five I’d Take to a Desert Island’ list. Gotham City 14 Miles is the perfect companion to my favorite pop-culture phenomenon of all time!”
In case you need an explanation, 14 miles is the distance from the Batcave underneath “stately Wayne Manor” to Gotham City in the 1960s Batman TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Gotham City 14 Miles is the title of a forthcoming book of essays about that TV classic, edited by my pal Jim Beard.
Inside, Beard’s bunch offers up a thoughtful reevaluation of the 44-year-old show, one of the first big comic book successes on the small screen. The series had an impact not just on pop culture, but on the DC Comics Batman as well. According to Beard, “essays examine Batmania, camp, the role of women, the show’s participation in ‘60s counter-culture, its many celebrated actors, its lasting cultural effects, and other critical subjects.”
So did you hear the big news? Marvel’s moving to a new office building in Manhattan!
Not to be outdone, Warner Bros. decided to shake things up with a large scale corporate shift. This interview with Diane Nelson from Comic Book Resources actually sheds very little light on the nuts and bolts of it.
And the lack of real answers has caused Tom Spurgeon to raise some questions he’d like to see answered about the situation forward-going.
Naturally, and because I sometimes can’t keep my mouth shut, I have my own take on the matter.
So did you read that great interview Adi Tantimedh had with Alan Moore over yet at Bleeding Cool? I was going to write about it precisely because I disagreed with almost every comment on the site and then I discovered that a much better writer, Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter, did a much better job of encapsulating my feelings. So my work here is done.
Remember all those comic book movies that people outside of comics don’t really know are based on comics because they don’t have capes and boots, like The Losers, Scott Pilgrim, Road To Perdition, etc. There’s a new one coming up next month called Tamara Drewe, based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds.
The trailer looks awesome and I get a Reuben, Reuben vibe from watching it. (Yes, that’s the world’s oldest reference point, but go look it up.) Tamara Drewe looks like a lot of fun and I hope it moves a few thousand copies of the graphic novel, which is also well worth reading. Here’s a nice article on the movie from the BBC.
Now let’s see what else is out there.
It’s easy to toss around the word “genius,” especially when it comes to comics. We all have our favorites and we all like to think ours are the great ones. But one look at Roy Crane’s work and anyone can see that he definitely was worthy of the “genius” tag.
Crane created two great adventure classics, Wash Tubbs (which later became Captain Easy) and Buz Sawyer, with Wash being called the first true newspaper adventure strip. He’s been dead for 30 plus years, but looking through his strip work, you can see his influence in comics from Milton Caniff to Alex Toth to Howard Chaykin. Even the modern strip, Rip Haywire by Dan Thompson shows a Crane influence as does Randy Reynaldo’s Rob Hanes.
And in a classic Comics Journal interview, Art Spiegelman calls Crane an influence on Jack Kirby.
Continuing my series on cartooning and cartoonists, Roy Crane wrote about himself and his work back in 1964. This is pulled from an oversized saddle-stitched magazine from Allied Publications with the creatively-challenged title These Top Cartoonists Tell How They Create America’s Favorite Comics. It featured an introduction by Beetle Bailey’s Mort Walker and was compiled by Allen Willette.
Here’s Crane on Crane:
So did you see Iron Man 2 yet? Did you, huh, did you? Two things amaze me about the Iron Man franchise. One is that Robert Downey, Jr. was born to play Tony Stark. There’s none of the brooding self-importance that comes with other super-hero movies - Iron Man is serious but it’s also fun. The other is that in the right hands - and there are hundreds of right hands on any movie - even a second or third tier super-hero property can be turned into a good movie. If Downey, Jr. was playing Hank Pym in the Ant-Man movie, I’d be there in a minute.
Now while you’re saving your money for the Iron Man 2 DVD, here are a few fun things to occupy your eyes and mouse.
Brian Hibbs: I know why people, myself included, like to talk to artists and writers because it’s all so cool, but I think more interviews could be conducted with retailers since they are the comic book business. Retailer Brian Hibbs is a very smart guy - I may not always agree with him but he carries a good argument with him and he knows his business. Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter gets to the heart of the matter with a lengthy but hugely worthwhile interview.