Tomie dePaola in his studio in New London, N.H., in 2013. Of the many books he wrote and illustrated, he said the ones that resonated most with children were inspired by his own life.Credit…Jim Cole/Associated Press
Tomie dePaola, one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, and perhaps yours, has passed away. I always admired his great sense of style and the masterful ease he had with conjuring up his distinctive storytelling. His stories of a grandma witch with an eternally full pasta pot, beginning with Strega Nona (1975), were beloved by generations of children.
Much in the same spirit as another favorite artist, Tomi Ungerer, who died last year, dePaola had a signature style and a heartfelt vision that carried him through his 30-year career. Speaking of hearts, dePaola got to signing his work with a heart and never stopped. As he explained: “The heart has become a sort of symbol for me. I also use it as shorthand, or an abbreviation, for ‘love.’”
You have probably heard of Anonymous, the so-called, “hacker activist group,” but perhaps you’re not so clear on the details. Then consider this new graphic novel: A for Anonymous: How a Mysterious Hacker Collective Transformed the World(Bold Type Books; on sale March 31) by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi. The journalist and illustrator, who teamed up once before on Rise of the Dungeon Master, tell the story of the legendary hacktivist group Anonymous—from their origin story to their most daring exploits.
Who or What is Anonymous?
As a cartoonist myself, I can tell you that Kushner and Shadmi both understand the comics language. The art of visual storytelling requires a precise and concise translation from another medium. Unless you’ve done it yourself, it can be hard to appreciate the work involved. Yes, you need to edit like a madman but you also have to strike a balance as you juggle various facts and events. Some wrongheaded critic may accuse you of taking too much out and leaving a disjointed thread. But, if you’ve carefully laid out your work, cooler heads will prevail and hail you a genius! Kushner knows how to write a comics script and Shadmi knows how to compliment the steady tempo that Kushner has set up. And off we go as we follow Kushner’s reportage on the whole Anonymous phenomena.
Anonymous is not a group and it’s not a person.
In A for Anonymous, Kushner and Shadmi follow the Anonymous phenomena, including its acts of rebellion set to embarrass rich and powerful targets—from Sony and Paypal to the Church of Scientology and the Ferguson Police Department—all in the name of freedom of speech and information. Much like Kushner’s well-received New Yorker article from which this book is adapted, this work follows Commander X as a guide to all the anonymous activity, giving readers a character they can follow through a story that involves a wide variety of shadowy figures. What we come to appreciate is that Anonymous is not any one person or group but a vast network, not all pursuing the same goal. The origins of Anonymous go back to early efforts by a small club of hobbyist coders known as The Cult of the Dead Cow. Back in the mid-1980s, they chose to deliver a blow to the powerful and nefarious Church of Scientology. They started messing with their online forum. It was a small but significant act of protest, one of the earliest hacks. Not exactly the work of a sinister criminal element. And then things began to snowball into bigger acts of protest like crashing government websites in support of downtrodden rebels. We follow along to the development of 4chan and the swamp of cowardly acts of hate and violence. Not all fun and games by a long shot. All in all, this is a fascinating guide to help us better appreciate and understand the virtual rabbit hole that attracts virtually anyone.
A for Anonymous is a 128-page trade paperback, black & white, published by Bold Type Books will be released on March 31, 2020. For more details, visit Hachette Book Group right here.
BANG! published by Dark Horse Comics, writer Matt Kindt (MIND MGMT), artist Wilfredo Torres (JUPITER’S CIRCLE), colorist Nayoung Kim and letterer Nate Piekos. Issue 2 out on March 17, 2020.
Dark Horse is doing very well with its comic book series BANG! John Shaw, its main character, must be America’s favorite barefoot tough guy since Die Hard‘s John McClane. Yeah, there’s a real foot thing going on here so you can file this under “Comics with a Foot Theme.” John Shaw is credited with sensitive feet and described in the book like this: “He’s barefoot. They never hear him coming.” And he even has a pretty good plot to work with: he’s the guy staying one barefoot step ahead of the terrorists in order to stay alive and possibly save the fabric of reality. Matt Kindt has always been a creator who works best with offbeat stories and this looks to have checked all the boxes on weird compelling adventure.
The first printing of BANG! issue 1 sold out ahead of publication, following widespread press attention and endorsements from Keanu Reeves and some of the comic book industry’s most respected writers and artists. Issue 2 of BANG! is on sale from Dark Horse Comics on March 17, 2020.
Max in America: Into the Land of Trump by Henry Chamberlain
There’s not a moment to lose. I’m getting fired up and ready to go sell some books. Hey there, friends, consider getting a copy of Max in America: Into the Land of Trump, available at Amazon or ask me directly or go to my blog’s store. I’d love to know what you think and don’t be shy about reviewing it at Amazon too! But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what author Stacey E. Bryan has to say over at her blog…
Diego Guerra is a remarkable talent. It takes a lot to keep my interest and Guerra had me turning pages to The Island, an amazing work in comics that is currently in progress. I champion excellent storytellers and I am compelled to share them with you whenever possible. One Guerra title (with writer Justin Gray) that is available now is Lady Redbeard #1 and you can find it over at comiXology. But, while you’re there, take a closer look at a couple of other Guerra works. You’ll see him team up with writer Caje Brennan Knight for the quirky thriller, Mental Cases, and that’s very promising. But then look over to volume 3 of the comics anthology, Octal, and you’ll find Guerra’s excellent dystopian piece, The Foundling. The more Guerra is left to himself to grow, the better he gets! And that brings me back to The Island, which needs to come out as soon as possible. It is, without a doubt, an excellent example of the adult fantasy genre. I’m talking about comics that are truly intended for mature audiences that involve more complex and offbeat narratives, often mix in sci-fi themes and find that sweet spot of high art in erotica in the spirit of such greats as Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara. Diego Guerra is well inside that line of witty and sophisticated cartoonists. He is an artist, and writer, riding high, at the top of his game.
Excerpt from Diego Guerra and Justin Gray’s Lady Redbeard #1
Diego Guerra is an award-winning artist, animator, 3D modeler, director, producer, and former editor of Acme Comics. He was the director and producer of the animated feature, Desterrada (official selection in animation festivals from three continents). He has created more than 400 comic book pages for 15 clients in the last 3 years. In other words, Guerra is a seasoned pro and his polished and refined work demonstrates that.
There’s a brash new comic book publisher in town and it’s BAD IDEA, the brainchild of Dinesh Shamdasani. The concept is to provide only one or two high quality titles sold exclusively at comic book shops. It’s a direct to market approach that has got a lot of comics insiders all excited and talking. Seriously, it’s an awesome way to pay tribute to all the amazing comics retailers out there, like POP ROC, in Rochester, New York. Basically, it’s a publisher approaching retailers in the same way as a scrappy independent comics creator does, one store at a time. BAD IDEA’s business model is essentially what indie cartoonists have been doing all along but on a much grander scale and that, in and of itself, is a refreshing concept for a publisher to emulate. BAD IDEA’s flagship title, launching an impressive upcoming roster of talent, is ENIAC #1 – a 40-page “prestige format” debut by New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT), artist Doug Braithwaite (Justice), colorist Diego Rodriguez (X-O Manowar), and Harvey Award-nominated cover artist Lewis LaRosa (Punisher MAX) – which arrives on comic book retailer shelves on May 6th, 2020.
The story revolves around a nightmare scenario worthy of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. There’s a doomsday machine out there that has calculated that it’s time to wipe out the human race. Our crack special ops team has one mission and one mission only: Kill ENIAC! Truth is stranger than fiction. It turns out that part of the race to end World War II actually did involve the creation of a supercomputer which was dubbed, ENIAC. Our story has ENIAC gone loco a la HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’m seeing a real Kubrick pattern here, a comic that borrows from two Kubrick all-time classics. Anyway, it sounds pretty wild and right up there with the weird and goofy spy thriller stuff that fascinates writer Matt Kindt. I’m predicting this one to be well worth a look. The business of selling comic books, particularly action themes, comes down to a crisp elevator pitch and compelling artwork and this title appears to have figured that out. If you like quirky comics, and Stanley Kubrick, you’re going to love this one. And how exactly is it that an old supercomputer is on the loose? You’ll have to wait and find out.
As BAD IDEA states in its PR copy, its whole “raison d’être is to make the best monthly comics possible and sell them exclusively in comic book stores.” So, be sure to ask for BAD IDEA comics at your local comic book shop and be sure to seek out ENIAC #1, which debuts on May 6, 2020.
When you think of art and soup cans, you can’t help but think of Andy Warhol–and, obviously, for good reason! Warhol remains a mighty force in the art world, pop culture, and our everyday lives in ways we may take for granted. Breaking new ground and making art history is quite rare. Warhol did it. In the first phase of his career, he conquered commercial art. In the second phase, he conquered the art world. Someone who dismisses Warhol is terribly off the mark, perhaps working from some anti-intellectual motivation. But people really don’t want to be talked down to. It may seem comforting but it’s an inane act. People truly respond best when they’re lifted up and challenged. Warhol earned his place in art history. Just look at Warhol’s work. Warhol made us see our world differently. For example, Warhol’s screen prints invite us to scrutinize as well as find the poetry in pop stars and consumer culture. Now, as far as soup that I like, I think something less iconic and more organic suits me just fine. How about you?
If you thought creating a graphic novel, fully realizing it into the world, was easy, think again. But, dear true believers, George is coming! I’m in the process of adding color and I plan to show it off this year. He’s on his way. The plan is to have GEORGE’S RUN debut at Small Press Expo this year. And, fingers crossed, it will happen. For now, enjoy the first in a series of videos to document the process of bringing a graphic novel into the world. I talk a bit about hand-drawing comics, using an iPad Pro with Procreate and using the new comic book template at Lulu xPress:
GEORGE’S RUN is a graphic novel on its way to finding a place in your heart. Stay tuned.
Policemen in Seattle wearing masks made by the Red Cross, during the influenza epidemic. December 1918. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)
ECCC 2020 and Coronavirus
UPDATE: Emerald City Comic Con has rescheduled for August 21-23, 2020.
At this time of year, I would be preparing for the annual Emerald City Comic Con. Due to health concerns over the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and the relatively high profile Seattle currently has in this crisis, Emerald City Comic Con has postponed its event in Seattle which had been scheduled to be held at the Washington State Convention Center, March 12-15, 2020. The plan is now to see about holding this event sometime this summer. Time will tell. More information will tell. And, ultimately, the Coronavirus itself will speak for itself, thank you very much. If history of the Spanish Flu ((January 1918 – December 1920) is any indication, perhaps COVID-19 will take a dip in the summer only to come back even stronger by the fall. This, of course, strongly begs the question if all comics conventions and festivals, along with any mass gatherings, should just take a break for 2020. Perhaps a balance can be achieved. The main problem is that these sort of events take time and require precise planning so that makes a stronger case for firm cancellations instead of postponements. It will be interesting to see how this resolves itself since ReedPOP, the organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, are entering uncharted waters. The good news is that people are genuinely concerned and options are being considered. And speaking of good news, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it will begin offering home-testing kits for people in the Seattle area for COVID-19 in the coming weeks.
Dan Dougherty and Friends
Emerald City Comic Con is, by all measures, the preeminent pop culture event in the Pacific Northwest. So many hardworking talented professionals depend upon ECCC as part of their livelihood. With that in mind, enterprising cartoonist Dan Dougherty has gotten creative with interacting with his fans and is holding his own online comic con. For the month of March, Dougherty has this offer: “A lot of people in the comic community are trying to make up for lost sales, and I’m no different. I’m offering a 10% discount on all purchases in my online store from now until the end of the month! This can be used as many times as you like and for your ENTIRE order! Just use the coupon code WASHYOURHANDS at checkout to apply the discount.” Find Dan Dougherty’s Beardo Comics and take advantage of the discount here. Every little bit can help displaced talent like Dougherty. Meanwhile, all we can really do is monitor the crisis and act appropriately.
The following is a statement from ReedPOP, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con:
An Embarrassment of Witches. Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan. Top Shelf Productions, $19.99 (208p)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, make room for our main character, Rory Rosenberg, who could be called, Rory the Millennial Slacker. Cartoonist Sophie Goldstein’s new graphic novel, co-authored with Jenn Jordan, revels in the drama and the humor found within a community of young people who just happen to be supernatural. An Embarrassment of Witches has just been released by Top Shelf Productions.
An Embarrassment of Witches
Goldstein draws in a highly-composed and spare style which concentrates the action and evenly loads the page. Follow along the path led by a series of short lines forming simple shapes, all the better to focus the viewer’s attention onto one spot. A deftly-drawn hand becomes a container which acts like a picture frame, bouncing the viewer’s attention back if it starts to drift off. Like a neon light, well-executed drawings keep your attention steadily connecting from one spot to the next. Goldstein keenly understands the power of comics. Her work catapults the reader into the story. We quickly get it that Rory has just been abandoned by her boyfriend and that she does not do well with change nor with plans for the future. And then, just as we’re processing that, we quickly accept that she’s a witch in a supernatural world of witches, dragons, and hobgoblins. It’s up to Rory to figure out her next move, especially after she has to backtrack on a much anticipated vacation which was supposed to allow her more time to relax and not think about her future.
An Embarrassment of Witches
Goldstein is a 2013 graduate of the prestigious Center for Cartoon Studies. The very next year, she won the much coveted Ignatz Award for her mini-comic, House of Women, Part I. In 2017, House of Women was collected and published by Fantagraphics. In 2015, Goldstein released The Oven, published by AdHouse Books. House of Women and The Oven are quite different but share the same off kilter sensibility. Goldstein clearly has a magic way with a touch of strange. Both stories are set on other worlds and, while the characters deal with universal struggles, everything is spiked with a deliciously unsettling quality. It’s as if Goldstein figured out the look and feel to her universe of comics ahead of time and then moved forward with a very distinctive and purposeful vision.
An Embarrassment of Witches
As if often the case with comics of the highest caliber, much of the fun is simply going along the journey. It matters little if Rory becomes a veterinarian or a talk show host. The reader is hooked and is rooting for Rory, in the same spirit as we all root for Sabrina and for Buffy.