Category Archives: Features

Boys on the Outside

There’s no denying that the world of comic books — from the audience to the retail sector to those who create them and work in the industry — is dominated by men. For years, many of both genders have wondered how to attract more women to the medium, both as readers and creators. Canadian comics retailer Calum Johnston has considered the issue as well, and his Halifax, Nova Scotia, store is trying something this week to give girls and women a chance to comfortably explore its wares and ask about comics.

Strange Adventures in Halifax will host its first-ever Ladies Night on Thursday, Jan. 28. Owner Calum Johnston said it’s a chance for women who are interested in comics but might have felt intimidated or awkward about venturing into a comic-book shop, but it’s also an event for fangirls to gush about comics without guys. Johnston said there won’t even be any male staff members at the event.

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More 2009 Glass Eye Awards – Creators

OK, we’ve doled out the Glass Eyes for the best comics and original graphic novel of 2009 (click here to see those awards), so now it’s time to turn our attention to the people who craft those works. We only have another four more Glass Eyes to award, to the best writer, artist, colorist and cover artist of the year.

Caveat time: Readers should bear in mind these picks are just personal preferences. There’s no way for one person to read all the industry has to offer in a given year, even if writing about comics is one’s job (which it ain’t in this case). Furthermore, these choices are based in part on what I remember as the strongest work of the past year, and my memory isn’t perfect. Finally, some may notice a bit of disconnect between the picks for the best creators and the works mentioned in the first part of the 2009 Glass Eye Awards. That’s because the picks for the top creators are based somewhat on creators who offered consistently good work through the year.

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2009 Glass Eye Awards – Comics

Welcome to our coverage of the Glass Eye Awards, celebrating the best in comics from 2009 (or, at least the best ones I’d read and enjoyed over the course of the year, as far as my limited memory serves, so your mileage may vary). Oh, look who’s coming down the red carpet to attend the award ceremony! It’s Mickey Mouse, proud new owner of Marvel Comics. Mickey, who are you wearing? North Face? Makes sense… the sky’s dumping a couple of feet of snow on us at the moment.

Oh, it seems the awards are about to begin, so we’d best take our seats. In this first part of the 2009 Glass Eye Awards, we’ll look at the best comics and original graphic novels of the year. The second part, which is forthcoming, will look at the comics professionals who had the best year, from the standpoint of consistent creative success as opposed to sales success.

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3 Geeks v. Geeks Galore

3 Geeks, copyright Rich KoslowskiWhen it comes to stories about comic-book copyright infringement, one usually imagines Marvel Entertainment or DC Comics cracking down on unauthorized use of iconic super-hero characters. But in a Toronto court recently, an independent comics creator and self-publisher took on another small businessman. The 3 Geeks creator Rich Koslowski has won a summary-judgment motion in Canadian federal court, upholding his 3 Geeks copyright. The case arises from an Ontario computer-consultation business and its use of a 3 Geeks image, created by Koslowski, promotional materials.

Koslowski filed a legal action against Hogan Scott Courrier, the owner and operator of Geeks Galore Computer Center in Marmora, Ont., in September 2008, alleging that Courrier “displayed the Infringing Image as depicted at para. 9 of the Plaintiff’s affidavit on the Defendant’s internet homepage, other websites, invoices, business cards, and shirts worn by sales staff” at least since 2006, federal court Judge Michael Kelen wrote in his Sept. 9 decision on the motion.

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The Hindsight of Benefits

9-11 Vol. 19-11 Vol. 2We all know where we were and what we were doing eight years ago today. The terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, served as a defining moment, not only for a generation but for the global community. The emotional resonance of the unimaginable tragedy borne of terror rippled throughout the world, and its impact on our culture is a lasting one. Its influence was expressed almost immediately in pop culture, and the medium of comics was no exception.

The most immediate instance of 9/11’s influence on comics came in the form of benefit books. Dark Horse Comics (teaming with Oni Press and Image Comics) published 9-11 Volume One, an anthology of short stories and artwork by a variety of writers and artists, and DC Comics did the same, releasing 9-11 Volume Two (or 9-11 – The World’s Greatest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember). Those two trade paperbacks were something of an industry effort, as there was collaboration among several publishers. Marvel struck out on its own, publishing a poster book entitled Heroes, incorporating the destruction of the World Trade Center towers into Amazing Spider-Man #36 and releasing a series of limited series entitled Call of Duty honoring emergency responders. None of these books or comics is available anymore from the publishers or Diamond Comic Distributors. With this article, Eye on Comics takes a look back and discusses such projects with some of those involved.

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Mad Men (of Steel)

There have been any number of stories in the past three decades deconstructing the super-hero genre, and a great deal of them focus on or include a deconstruction of the Superman archetype. If such stories are crafted well, I generally enjoy them, even if the approach isn’t nearly as avant garde today as it was in the 1980s. Now while the notion of such a deconstruction is far from rare, I was surprised to see not one but two new ongoing titles debuting earlier this year, both with their own takes on a corrupt Superman-like figure.

The Mighty by writers Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne and artist Peter Snejbjerg (and later Chris Samnee) debuted Feb. 4. It’s published by DC Comics, but surprisingly enough, it isn’t listed under one of the publisher’s imprints despite the fact that it’s not set in the DC Universe along with its other super-hero characters. Two months later, on April 1, Boom! Studios launched Irredeemable by writer (and its editor-in-chief) Mark Waid and artist Peter Krause after a fairly significant promotional campaign revolving around Mark Waid’s popularity and reputation in the industry. Each title features its own Superman — Alpha One and the Plutonian, respectively — and each one of those characters proves to be malevolent. Each title features protagonists who are trying to uncover the mysteries behind the man of steel and they endeavor to avoid detection by his all-seeing eyes.

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Return of the King

King City Vol. 1 was a major buzz book of 2007 in the comics industry. The graphic novel, published by Tokyopop, wasn’t all that widely seen, but those who read it raved about it. It definitely boosted writer/artist Brandon Graham’s profile in the industry, earning him kudos aplenty and drawing attention to other projects, such as the first issue of his Multiple Warheads, published by Oni Press. Perhaps one of the most widely heard and respected of those voices singing his praises was the late Mike Wieringo, who paid tribute to King City and recommended it on his sketch blog (that’s what got me to take notice of the book).

Unfortunately, King City was one of several original, English-language works that Tokyopop put on the backburner permanently, and creators couldn’t take the properties to other publishers because Tokyopop still held the rights despite the fact it didn’t plan on publishing subsequent volumes or even keeping the existing ones in print. Among other affected books and creators were East Coast Rising and Becky Cloonan, The Abandoned and Ross Campbell, and My Dead Girlfriend and Eric Wight. These are significant creators in the comics industry in the 21st century who all have built-in audiences eager to snap up new works from these artists.

Of course, Tokyopop has changed its tune somewhat, at least when it comes to King City, as a deal was struck to publish Graham’s work through Image Comics. Eye on Comics spoke with Graham, a Tokyopop executive and some of the affected artists to delve into the King City deal and what it might mean for other cancelled Tokyopop books.

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The Cost of Crime-Fighting in San Diego

Earlier this month, Eye on Comics posted an article on how smoothly Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 ran, strictly from a security/safety/crime perspective. As was noted, the San Diego Police Department only recorded two arrests it connected to the premier comics and pop-culture event, and it also reported four lost children were quickly reunited with their families at the convention.

Monica Munoz, media services manager with the San Diego Police Department, had commented that Comic-Con had a contract with the city for policing and traffic-control services, but she was unable at the time to provide information on the value of that contract. She’s since contacted Eye on Comics with the relevant figures.

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War Story

A frequent topic of discussion at the local comic shop and online among comics fans has been whether or not DC Comics plans to collect the strips from Wednesday Comics and what possible shape such a collection or collections might take, given the oversized, broadsheet format of the episodic incarnation of the title. That led Eye on Comics to snoop around the Internet for a possible clue. A good source for future collected editions of DC products is, which lists expected trade-paperback and hardcover releases from DC and other comics publishers months ahead of their appearances in the industry catalog, Previews.

I didn’t find any information about Wednesday Comics collections, but something else involving one of the Wednesday contributors caught my eye.

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Law & Order: SDU (San Diego Unit)

By most accounts, Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 was a successful show. The con itself posted a record sellout, and reports from some dealers at the con indicates sales were decent to strong on some days (though perhaps not as strong as past shows) despite the recession. In the face of ridiculously long lines and crowded aisles on the floor, Comic-Con organizers, by all accounts, ran a smooth show. One can’t imagine anyone was surprised by the lines, especially for the Hollywood panels and big-name guests.

Still, attendance is reported to have been in the range of 120,000. When you get that many people together in a limited space at the same time, something’s bound to go wrong and people are bound to misbehave… or not. Eye on Comics contacted the San Diego Police Department about the impact Comic-Con has on the city and any associated police activity.

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If I Did It…

Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 gets underway Wednesday, and comicdom’s little corner of the Internet has been abuzz for a couple of weeks with excitement on the part of professionals and fans alike. I wish I could share that kind of energy, but I’m left feeling a little disappointed. I’m unable to attend this year’s festivities/insanities yet again. Travelling to the show all the way from the East Coast of Canada to the Left Coast of the United States is financially daunting enough as it is, but when one factors in efforts to pay off bills amassed after a wedding and Irish honeymoon last fall and to save up for a home sometime in the coming months, committing to the Pilgrimage of the Comic-Book Enthusiast just isn’t feasible.

I have attended the convention on two occasions in the past: once courtesy an employer in 2000 (anyone remember the incarnation of Comics Newsarama?) and once on my own dime in 2003. Both were rewarding (and exhausting) experiences, and while the hectic pace, physical demands and Hollywood incursions temper one’s enthusiasm for Comic-Con, I always find myself feeling some regret in those years when I’m unable to attend or decide against it.

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Look Ahead, But Look Out

Marvel Comics’ decision to cancel its advance-preview copy program and to scale back online previews could impact sales of Marvel titles on a grassroots, word-of-mouth level, says one comics retailer.

News broke Monday that Marvel is discontinuing its First Look program, through which retailers could pay a small fee to get a handful of comics in their hands the week before their release. The retailer who announced the First Look cancellation expressed his dismay, as it was a perk that drew him to comics retailing in the first place. He said the First Look cancellation stems from a majority of participants declining the opportunity of maintaining it by agreeing to an increase in the weekly fee associated with the program.

Eye on Comics asked comics retailer (and friend) Randy Lander about the report, and he confirmed Marvel cancelled the program and the circumstances leading to its demise. He also confirmed that DC Comics cancelled its counterpart preview-package program, dubbed Sneak Peek, some time ago. DC had promised to replace Sneak Peek with something else, he said, but that alternative never materialized.

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Mix’d Emotions

The comic-book news/commentary portal website — can it work as a viable business? The recent news that is scaling back its operations — eliminating all of its columns and rethinking its print-on-demand experiment with its online comics. Speaking as someone who’s worked for two similar failed ventures in the past, I can’t say I’m surprised. The thing is, though, that ComicMix has a strong creative team behind made up of experienced and respected industry insiders. The question arises: if Mike Gold and Robert Greenberger can’t dominate the digital landscape of comics-related media, armed with an array of established industry talent, who can? Is the comics web portal as a viable business model a realistic possibility?

I don’t know what’s next for ComicMix or what plans are in place to invigorate the operation. ComicMix isn’t after an easy venture-capital investment, I assume. That business model had already been proven to be a dead end when the dot-com bubble burst. Believe me, I know.

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O Canada, or No Canada – Part Deux

A Marvel Comics spokesman reiterated Thursday the comics publisher will drop the Canadian price on its comics, but he corrected a statement indicating the same would happen for collected editions.

Arune Singh, manager of sales communications with Marvel Entertainment Inc., corrected a statement he provided Eye on Comics earlier this week, noting that Canadian pricing won’t be dropped from its books, only from its periodical publications.

“For the time being, Canadian prices will remain on Marvel collections,” he said in an e-mail Thursday.

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O Canada, or No Canada

Conflicting reports indicate two major American comics publishers are moving to eliminate Canadian pricing on its products or are planning to maintain it despite requests from many comics retailers north of the 49th parallel.

One prominent retailer — Calum Johnston, owner of two Strange Adventures comic shops in Atlantic Canada and one-time winner of the Eisner Spirit of Retailing award — said he’s been told Canadian pricing on “Big Two” comics may be a thing of the past.

“Both Marvel and DC are thinking of removing the Canadian cover price to comic-book periodicals,” he said this week.

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