May 20, 2010 by Rick Geary
“The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans,” one of the nation most mysterious serial killers, gets the full treatment in my newest graphic novel, due out this summer. Here is a preview in the form of a four-page episode.
May 19, 2010 by NBM
A great overview presentation of Lewis Trondheim at Comic Book Resources’ Robot 6 site. An excellent way to get to know more about this prolific genius.
May 19, 2010 by NBM
“Halfway between Precious and The Incredible Hulk, obese urban teen Tesana is the unlikely hero of this delightful debut book from Allen. Allen’s unrefined black and white line art is similar to Nate Powell’s, but her subject matter is refreshingly light. The characters rush through a very satisfying one volume adventure that hits all the right notes and leaves no threads unresolved, like a well-written screenplay. Mr. Easter signals Allen as a new artist to follow.”
“By the time I was done I had a big smile on my face. Allen’s story has heart, and her art is fantastic. As a first graphic novel, A Home for Mr. Easter is an impressive debut. I definitely look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeves next.”
May 18, 2010 by NBM
“I always enjoy these French mainstream fantasy comics, even when I’m not sure what it is I’m enjoying. Certainly creators/plotters Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar are modern exemplars when it comes to how one straddles mainstream success and artistic achievement, and as page-to-page, madcap cartooning it’s hard to go wrong with watching their mostly well-selected art teams put the well-designed original characters through their paces.”
Says Tom Spurgeon at Comics Reporter.
“One of the things that I do appreciate, and love, about Dungeon is the way that major things — the shape of the world, a fortress, family members, a distinctive suit of armor — are lost quickly and definitively, in an almost offhand manner. The world of Dungeon is one where every day — sometimes every moment — that a character can spend alive is the result of a struggle. Sfar and Trondheim don’t spare their major characters, either.”
Andrew Wheeler at his Antick Musings blog.
And Jeff Vandermeer on Amazon’s Omnivoracious and elsewhere:
“With the just-released Dungeon Twilight, Vol. 3: The New Centurions, the amazing Dungeon series created by French geniuses Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim continues from strength to strength in its English-language translation incarnation from NBM Publishing. The Twilight strand of the infinitely-expanding Dungeon web of related series has long been my favorite. In an earlier volume it features one of the most audacious events in the history of fantasy comics: the exploding of an entire world that then reforms as floating islands.
Soon-to-be-classic characters like Marvin the Red, a rabbit in armor, and the wise lizard-dragon known as The Dust King must make their way through a transformed landscape, battling evil creatures, overcoming the plots of kings and barons, and contending with odd new rules of planetary travel.”
And Jeff goes on to provide a very helpful guide to all Dungeon books and its worlds.
May 14, 2010 by Ted Rall
May 13, 2010 by NBM
An action-packed suspenseful graphic novel on the hot topic of privacy in a world dominated by the internet and mobile connection is NBM ‘s star graphic novel in July being solicited in comics stores now:
NETWORKED: CARABELLA ON THE RUN
Mark BADGER, Gerard JONES
Some alien invasions are loud and bloody…some are quiet and friendly. The blue-skinned girl named Carabella thinks she’s escaping the oppression of her own world, but instead she’s exposing the earth to an invasion so soft and friendly that everyone welcomes it—until Carabella herself sees what’s happening and tries to make someone, anyone see that our websites, our cell phones, and even our shoes (yes, shoes) are being used to steal first the privacy and then the freedom of everyone on earth.
6×9, 128pp., full color trade paperback: $12.99, ISBN 978-1-56163-586-3
Baltimore has a great hero. He’s always there just when he’s needed to thwart crime! This marvel is Elephant Man. Yes, none other than the deformed and hideous man himself! But such power and the adulation that follows it begets much jealousy. Before you know it, one of the city’s best known TV anchors, ‘handsome’ Dick Denton and another hideous being fused by some radioactive accident: the Priest, The Rabbi and The Duck, come together to seek his demise and ridicule him in public! Will Elephant Man overcome this new challenge? Another hilariously silly exercise in grotesquery, spoofing superheroes, from the acclaimed brilliant artist of Vatican Hustle.
6×9, 80pp, B&W trade pb., $9.99, ISBN 978-1-56163-588-X
From Eurotica that month, the next Noe:
The best-selling author of Convent of Hell and the Piano Tuner brings us to an exhibition of the great pin-up artist Gil Spam. He’s now a very old man in a wheelchair who can’t even speak, taken care of by his lovely niece. Chapter by chapter we get to discover the real dirty story behind each wonderful slightly naughty famous piece being exhibited. How could such charmingly risqué paintings have been inspired by such utter lechery and sexual abandon? Noe delivers another raunchy, funny and beautifully painted story.
81/2 x 11, 64 pp., full color trade pb., $13.99, ISN 978-1-56163-587-1
Pre-order all these at your comic bookstore now or online right here.
May 13, 2010 by Ted Rall
Travel Planning for Afghanistan
How are things going in Afghanistan? The best way to find out is to go see for yourself. I’m doing that this August.
You can tell a lot even before you go. I’m in the planning stages: reserving flights, applying for visas, buying equipment.
“Whatever you do,” a friend emailed me from Kabul, “don’t fly into the Kabul airport.” He wasn’t worried that my flight would get shot down by one of Reagan’s leftover Stinger missiles—although there’s a risk of that. (In order to improve the odds, pilots corkscrew in and out.)
His concern is corrupt cops. “[Afghan president Hamid] Karzai’s policemen are crazy,” my normally taciturn buddy, who works for an NGO, elaborated. “They’ll hold you up at gunpoint right in the airport.”
One option is to hitch a flight on a military transport to the former Soviet airbase north of town at Bagram, now a U.S. torture facility being expanded by the Obama Administration in order to accommodate detainees being transferred from Guantánamo. But I’m an old-fashioned journalist. War reporters shouldn’t tag along with soldiers.
So I’m not flying into Kabul. Which works out, since getting to my destination—Taloqan, in Takhar province near the Tajik border—would have required traveling north toward Mazar-e-Sharif from Kabul. Among the highlights of the Kabul-Mazar road are landslides and a trek through the war-scarred Soviet-era Salong Tunnel. It also offers an assortment of thugs both political (Taliban) and apolitical (bandits).
To avoid corrupt airport cops and the dicey north-south highway, I’ll fly into Dushanbe, the capital of Afghanistan’s northern neighbor, Tajikistan. This means spending an extra $800 on airfare, not to mention chancing travel on one of Tajikistan Airlines’ aging Tupolev 154s. It takes a full day to drive from Dushanbe to the Afghan border on mostly unpaved roads.
But I’ll be stuck in Dushanbe for two or three days waiting for government permits. You can’t travel to the special “security zone” along the border with Afghanistan without a permission document issued by the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When I met the minister in 2001, I asked him whether treating the 100-kilometer zone like no-man’s land sent an unfriendly message to the Afghans. He laughed. “Afghanistan,” he said, “is our very difficult neighbor. If they behave better, so will we.” The policy remains in place.
No journalist operating in a war zone is safe without a fixer. Things you can easily do yourself back home can be impossible in the Fourth World. A fixer makes things happen: government permits, cars and drivers, places to stay. I’ve accumulated a set of fixers throughout Central and South Asia over the years.
But it’s hard to arrange a fixer in advance in Afghanistan. There’s hardly any mail, telephone service or electricity outside Kabul, much less email. I’ll probably have to just show up, then hire people as I travel.
Nevertheless, I contacted another Kabul-based Friend of Rall about lining up fixers for the regions I plan to visit: Takhar, which I mentioned above, Kunduz, then northern Afghanistan en route to and around Heart (near the Turkmen and Iranian borders), and finally Nimruz province.
There’s heavy fighting in Kunduz. The Taliban recently beheaded four guards working for U.S. forces near Herat. In Zaranj, the provincial capital of Nimruz, suicide bombers just took out the governor’s compound.
“No one wants to go where you’re going,” my friend informed me.
The average salary in Afghanistan is $30 per month.
“I pay $150 a day,” I replied.
“I know a guy. But he’s a whiner. He’ll complain about it the whole time. And you’ll have to promise a death bonus to his wife if something happens.”
Communications are a challenge. I want to file a daily cartoon blog. I can scan a drawn cartoon into my laptop, assuming it doesn’t get stolen by some greedy border guard. But how will I access the Internet?
I can rent a satellite phone and use dial-up. It won’t be fast; at 9600 bps it takes an hour to send one a simple black and white cartoon. And it won’t be easy. Dial-up lines drop. In 2001, when I paid $7 a minute for satellite service, I cried when that happened. The search for power will be endless. Solar panels, car batteries, renting a generator for an hour, whatever it takes to feed greedy phones and laptops.
I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.
Afghans are allowed to complain. They live there.
Of course, the biggest inconvenience is danger.
Everyone worries about me. “Keep your head down.” “Come back alive.” “Don’t get killed.”
They’re sweet and loving sentiments. But they’re also kind of funny. Most of my friends still think of Afghanistan as the Good War, the one that had something—they’re not sure what—to do with 9/11. They think we’re there to help the Afghans. They think the carnage is in Iraq; actually, it’s more dangerous for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
If the Afghanistan War is going so well, why is everyone so worried?
(Ted Rall is working on a radical political manifesto for publication this fall. His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
May 6, 2010 by Ted Rall
Seven Suggestions for Newspapers
I’m on the road. On May 3rd I gave a talk at Wright State University. I showed my political cartoons, excerpts from graphic novels past and future, and something new I’ve been working on the last couple of years: two-minute-long animations for the Web.
But no one wanted to talk about comics. The first audience question was: “How can we save newspapers?”
That happens a lot nowadays. Never mind cartoons; people want to save the papers the cartoons run in (and, increasingly, used to run in). The Q&A session following my April 28th appearance at Philadelphia’s Pen and Pencil Club was dominated by the same “are papers doomed?” question. The thing is, the Pen and Pencil is the oldest press club in America. The audience included reporters and editors at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. I should have been asking them about the future of media. Then again, their minds were preoccupied. Both papers had just been sold to a new owner no one knew much about.
This newspapers-in-trouble thing is weird. Tens of millions of Americans still want them enough to pay for them. Yet circulation and revenues keep plunging. Normally, when demand exists for a product, it is possible to sell it at a profit. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that poor management is at least partly to blame for the industry’s problems.
I tell my audiences: If I knew the answer to saving the newspaper business, I wouldn’t be talking to them. I’d be hanging out with Rupert and the other press barons, billing them millions for my sage advice. I certainly wouldn’t be watching my income plunge as my workload expands.
I don’t have answers. But I do have thoughts.
Here they are:
Embrace The New Yorker Theory. I hate The New Yorker. I hate its tone, I hate its attitude, I even hate its font. I can’t stand the cartoons. But I read the magazine anyway. Not because I’m a masochist. Because I live in New York, I’m a media person, and if I don’t read The New Yorker I’ll look stupid at parties. When you’re competing for reader dollars against millions of websites and thousands of publications, you need to become like The New Yorker: so essential that people will buy your product, not because they like it, but because they have to.
Assume smart readers. Editors think readers are dumb. They say so in private. And they make it clear by what they’re doing to newspapers: shorter stories, less coverage of international news, obsessive celebrity gossip, bland opinion pages, boring features. But editors are wrong. Anyone who seeks out and pays for a newspaper in 2010 is curious and intelligent by definition. Newspaper buyers are looking for challenging, deep analysis, not newsbytes that mimic the Internet (which they get for free anyway). Unfortunately, they’re not finding it. Which brings us to…
More analysis, less news. The evening newspaper and network TV nightly news are dinosaurs. Whether you read it online, on your iPhone, or heard it on the radio or from a coworker, by the time you get home from work you already know about the coup in Kyrgyzstan and who won the game. What you need now is someone to tell what it all means. Who is the new Kyrgyz president? How will the coup affect the war on terror? How do the playoffs look now?
With one exception, newspapers should stop trying to break news. They shouldn’t even summarize it. Papers can’t compete with online news sites. They should publish a daily version of what Time or Newsweek could be if they weren’t lame: lengthy analyses, complete with colorful charts and graphs, along with opinions all across the political spectrum.
In a way, this is the hardest advice for papers to follow. They’re set up to break stories and to confirm other outlets’ stories. For a forward-looking paper, out-of-work magazine feature writers might be a better fit than retooling someone who has been working the city hall beat.
The exception? Investigative journalism. Few online sites have the money or time to invest in unmasking the mayor as the corrupt bastard we all know he is. When written well, an exposé can be as riveting as a Robert Ludlum novel.
Stop sucking. Newspaper circulation began falling decades before anyone heard of HTML. The reason is simple: they got boring. Compare today’s paper with an issue from the 1940s, when the industry was at the top of its game. The differences are striking: lively prose, nice mix of high (in-depth analysis) and low (tons of comics and columns). Indian newspapers, still growing as the Web spreads in that country, even deploy cartoonists to illustrate news, thus jazzing up what would otherwise be merely another car crash story. Internet news and opinion sites have learned that people prefer brash, edgy and opinionated to bland and “safe.” (Actually, “safe” is dangerous. It’s a recipe for bankruptcy.)
Stop giving it away. It ought to go without saying that giving away content for free online was an obviously stupid idea when newspapers started it a decade ago. Inexplicably, they’re still at it. Stop it, idiots!
Charge more. As Peter Osnos writes in The Atlantic, the English-language paper Americans buy overseas offers a model for the future: when advertising dries up, charge readers more. “There is relatively little advertising in the [International Herald-Tribune], even less of course than before the crash. But there has never been all that much advertising. The key to revenue is a high cover price,” Osnos says. “In Italy, the daily costs €2.50 (about $3.40), and prices elsewhere are comparable.” Sound like a lot? Cigarettes are ten bucks a pack in Manhattan. “A newspaper specifically shaped for an audience of ‘elite’ readers,” as Osnos describes the IHT, should be able to charge four bucks. “It is eighteen pages of quality news and analysis, with extensive business coverage and enough cultural and sports news to be comprehensive rather than overwhelming.”
Sit tight. The buzzword de l’année is “curate.” Americans, especially those older ones who spend long hours at work and with family, will become increasingly disillusioned with the spin and disinformation that passes for news online and on a thousand channels. Soon they will yearn for someone to figure out what’s important, package it into a digestible format, and deliver it to them—i.e., to “curate” the news. And they’ll pay.
Oh, how they’ll pay.
Of course, it might take 10 or 20 years for people to decide that they’d rather have their news spoon-fed to them than to sift through crap online. But what else do newspaper publishers and editors have to do?
(Ted Rall is working on a radical political manifesto for publication this fall. His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL
May 6, 2010 by Ted Rall
ObamaCare is here! Now it’s time to find out what it’s all about, courtesy of a brand-new animated editorial cartoon by David Essman and yours truly!
May 3, 2010 by Brooke Allen
CLICK THE AD!
The kind people at Mars Import have a few limited edition signed copies complete with book plate: