Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 9/18/09

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18 19 Kibbles n Bits, 9/18/09
§ Marc-Oliver Frisch reviews MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18 which introduced the Guardians of the Galaxy. I had no idea Arnold Drake created these guys, along with Gene Colan, but I would so buy a cover that looked like that right this minute.

The highlight of the piece, in lieu of an engaging plot or compelling characters, is the plainly fantastic artwork by Gene Colan, who’s doing some incredibly dynamic and flashy page layouts and figures here. Neal Adams’ work around the same time immediately comes to mind as a point of comparison, but to be fair, I couldn’t tell you which of the two gentlemen got there first. The way Mr. Colan composes his pages and stages the action looks expressive, refreshingly creative and exciting all the way through, without making any sacrifices towards clarity. You can tell that the artist had the time of his life drawing this, and even forty years later, I can’t think of many of his colleagues who are able to produce equally dynamic visuals while still guiding you through the story as sure-footedly as Mr. Colan is doing here.


§ A brief interview with strip cartoonist Berkeley Breathed doesn’t mince words on the future:

This is a sad topic but I’m going to be blunt. Newspapers have about five years left. Young readers of the newspaper comics simply don’t exist anymore in numbers that count. Those eyeballs are elsewhere and will not come back. Online comics are terrific. But they will never have 1% of the readership any major comic had 20 years ago, by the nature of the technology. They’re different beasts now. No, after having 70 million daily readers in 1985, getting 3000 a day online isn’t terribly energizing at this stage. I’m happy to go to the storytelling potential of film and books now. My heart was always there anyway, to be honest.


§ Folks have been linking a bit to this weekend’s debut of the new HBO series Bored to Death since it is created by the comics friendly author Jonathan Ames, and one of the main characters is a cartoonist. David Press rounds up all you need to know on that score. And once you’re all informed, go to Amazon and watch the first episode FREE and clear. Early reviews are positive.

§ Gary Groth (Happy Birthday, old man) suggests why you might wish to financially aid comics retailing pioneer Bob Beerbohm.

§ Eddie Argos is back with an overview of HELLBLAZER.

My friend Keith TOTP, who I live with, has a huge suitcase full of comics which he keeps in our front room. Whenever I have a long tour or flight, I raid it. I thought I’d pretty much finished all of the comics in it. Delving through it this time though, I found a huge pile of Hellblazer books. I didn’t know much about Hellblazer so I took all of them and read them over the course of my many flights to Chicago. They were all pretty ace. I read most of Garth Ennis’ run on my first flight, and then on my next I read all of Mike Carey’s run. On my third, I read Andy Diggle’s and Denise Mina’s. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s ace. Hellblazer is Vertigo’s longest running title, and I’m clearly coming to it really late. I’m just setting the scene to let you know that I am a relatively new fan of Constantine in case I put a foot wrong with what I’m about to write.


§ Dash Shaw went to Brazil.

§ Bleeding Cool has a bit more on The Return of Ross Rojek. Many old-timers will recall Rojek as the one time force behind Another Universe, as well as an early proponent of getting graphic novels into record stores; unfortunately both efforts ended up being tainted by the whiff that they were naught but rip-off schemes. AU went under owing publishers and customers a lot of money. Rojek’s next effort was an even more blatant investment scheme that tried to get people to invest in nonexistent software. That effort got him sent up the river for four years.

Rojek writes to Rich Johnston that his time in jail helped him find a new path, to running a book review newspaper.

When I got out of prison, I started working for a friend who was interested in publishing my book review idea. I had been thinking about what to do with my life after I got out of prison, and I’d always been interested in published, so I began looking into it while in prison. I also went back to school while at one institution, and did some book reviews for the school paper, which helped take me down this path.

I had been the librarian at two different prison camps, and in trying to find enough new books to keep me busy I ended up reading a number of different book reviews and review sections. From there I started drafting my “dream” book review that would be helpful to me in my situation.


He also states that all the monies owed from back in the day are lost in the mists of time and various bankruptcies–probably true enough.

Comments

  1. Alexa says:

    I have to wonder about the whole “newspaper strips having 70 million daily readers” thing. I have no doubt that’s how many copies were printed. I doubt that many people actually read any strip regularly. Even back when I still read the daily funnies, I sure didn’t read all of them. And I’m sure plenty of people never touched the comics section.

    So when I hear that Kate Beaton has 40,000 readers, I’m pretty damn impressed, because I suspect that’s a lot more than most newspaper strips ever truly got read.

  2. So when I hear that Kate Beaton has 40,000 readers, I’m pretty damn impressed, because I suspect that’s a lot more than most newspaper strips ever truly got read.

    It is impressive, but let’s look at it another way. No doubt many newspaper comics way back in the day (like…the 20s-50s or so) had far more than 40,000 readers. Possibly even a few million readers. 70 million is probably an exaggeration, but whatever.

    BUT of those 40,000+ readers, how many of them actually cared about, say, Blondie or Dennis the Menace or, uh…The Katzenjammer Kids at all, rather than just viewing it as something to read while they finished their coffee? How many of them would have sought it out deliberately and read it if it weren’t in the newspaper (you know, like if the internet existed in the 30s, and Yahoo! would have been called Golly Jeepers! and Google would have been called, I dunoo, Widget)? Probably not that many.

    So yes. 40,000 readers for Kate Beaton’s (wonderful) comics is great. Because it’s not just inserted in the middle of something we all read every day anyway. It’s 40,000 people deliberately seeking out her comics and reading them. And that’s awesome.

    Really, I’m a little tired of comparisons between webcomics and newspaper comic strips. They’re not the same thing, despite similar formats. And they never will be.

  3. “I’m happy to go to the storytelling potential of film and books now. My heart was always there anyway, to be honest.”

    Well, there we all have it. We should all give up, because someone who doesn’t really have their heart in comics to begin with says it’s all over.

  4. Synsidar says:

    In the course of looking up how readership stats for comic strips are calculated, a blast from the past:

    Many a managing editor worries more about his comic strips than his front page. Last week Philadelphia Bulletin Managing Editor Walter Lister gave the editors more to worry about. Said he: “Comics, once regarded as a specific for all circulation ills, are now the sick chicks of the newspaper business.” The measure of a strip has long been 50% readership for a good comic, up to 80% for the best., e.g., Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner. But a recent survey in one major U.S. city showed that of 40 strips published, only 13 have 50% readership (v. 20 in 1950). Readership of all comics has declined there an average 15% since a 1950 survey. [. . .]

    Next to newspapers, the best-read publications in the U.S. are comic books, the University of California’s Bureau of Public Administration reported last week. Comic-book circulation exceeds a billion copies yearly, and the $100 million spent on them is 1) more than U.S. grade and high schools spend for books and 2) four times the book budgets of U.S. public libraries. Readers are not all children. Comic books are regularly read by 25% of high-school graduates, 16% of college graduates and 12% of U.S. teachers.

  5. Synsidar says:

    I’ve seen comments to the effect that Breathed was upset about the space limitations for his strip:

    Breathed believes the only way to adjust to younger readers is for newspapers to rethink how they present visual entertainment to these potential readers.

    “The idea of one page of smudgy little cartoons as the entertainment in a newspaper is so outdated, so circa 1925,” he says. “Newspapers should have pages of dynamic visual drawing along with serial novels or extended graphic storytelling.”

    Cartoonists are experimenting with alternatives to the daily strip, including audio comics:

    Cartoonists are not waiting for the syndicates to develop new business models. They are posting to free sites like Comic Genesis and Webcomics Nation. Some Web comics, like “The Argyle Sweater” by Scott Hilburn, have been picked up for syndication, but that is unusual. Even more rarely, a Web comic might attract a large following at a stand-alone site; such is the case with “Penny Arcade,” a video gaming strip.

    Cartoonists are also experimenting with color, animation, sound and novel distribution methods.

    Garfield.com allows fans of Jim Davis’s strip to send cards via e-mail, play online games and download screen savers. Visitors to Dilbert.com can download widgets for their Web pages or replace the punch lines of the strip’s creator, Scott Adams, with their own. The site also features 30-second animated strips produced by RingTales, based in Santa Monica, Calif., which animates and distributes New Yorker cartoons. “Peanuts” motion comics — essentially, short cartoons based on comic strips — are available on iTunes.

    The creators of the comic strip “Zits,” which is syndicated by King Features, are working with Jantze Studios in San Anselmo, Calif. , to develop “audio comics,” in which a camera pans over a strip while actors read the text.

  6. “This is a sad topic but I’m going to be blunt. Newspapers have about five years left.”

    That long?

  7. My attitude is encapsulated in Edgard Varese’s commentary regarding musical composers and often quoted by Frank Zappa. I’d adapt it and re-frame it this way: “The present day cartoonist refuses to die!”

  8. Alan Coil says:

    Quoted from inside the quote in Synsidar’s post”

    “But a recent survey in one major U.S. city showed that of 40 strips published, only 13 have 50% readership (v. 20 in 1950). Readership of all comics has declined there an average 15% since a 1950 survey.”

    And I think a good part of that is the fugly art in most of the newer strips. I wouldn’t demand that all art look the same, but it would be nice to see art that didn’t look like it came from a grade school kid.

  9. 70 Million readers…

    Divided by 2000 papers (a “best seller” number) equals 35,000 readers per paper. Not too difficult to reach, especially back in the day when almost every house in the neighborhood got the paper delivered.

    Don’t think people got involved with the comics in the newspaper? Allow me to direct your attention to Sadie Hawkins Day. The craze peaked when Li’l Abner Yokum finally was caught and married Daisy Mae Scragg, which was the cover feature on Life Magazine. A few years later, the Schmoo became a fad. Need I mention Lena the Hyena? The Tony Award-winning musical?

    Then there was “I Go Pogo” in 1952, when a fictional comicstrip character ran for President. Now, it’s a passee joke, but back then, college campuses ran rampant with Pogophiles.

    Earlier, in the 1930s, readers followed socialite Dagwood Bumstead’s hunger strike. His millionaire father relented, Dagwood married commoner Blondie Boopadoop, and was immediately disowned. The birth of “Baby Dumpling” was also an event. The strip was popular enough to be made into a series of 28 feature films (not serials, FEATURES) over a twelve year span.

    Many readers followed Barney Google and other horse racing strips which would frequently predict horse races. (Yup…. way back in the day, newspapers used to have Sports cartoonists!)

  10. Synsidar says:

    Bloom County appeared in as many as 1,200 newspapers, so that’s an average of more than 58,000 readers per paper. Blondie has been said to have readership of 250 million while appearing in 2,300 newspapers. There’s a mild argument about readership figures in the comments section.

    SRS

  11. Alan Coil says:

    If family size averaged 6 or so, those papers would only have to average a circulation of 18,000 or so for 250 million readers. Family size was much bigger in olden days.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] UPDATE: Also, here’s an interview with Bloom County’s Berkeley Breathed (h/t The Beat). It’s tangentially related to the stuff above. Bloom County was extraordinarily popular in the 1980s, a decade where along with Calvin & Hobbes, Doonesbury, and The Farside, it created a kind of renaissance for the funny pages. How different is the situation with newspaper strips today? Did the changes in the size of panels play a role in your recent decision to abandon newspaper strips? Will newspaper comics (and newspapers) survive? Have you ever thought about doing an online comic strip? [...]

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