Archive for December, 2008
When Michael Kane’s book, Game Boys: Professional Videogaming’s Rise from the Basement to the Big Time, entered my radar, I was lucky enough to get in contact with Kane and interview him via email. My thanks to Shannon Twomey of Viking for facilitating this interview. Here isa snippet of the publisher’s description of the book: “Game Boys is a pioneering narrative of the rivalries, quirks, and dramas of a subculture on the cusp of big things. At its most personal, it’s a classic sports tale of victory and defeat, punched up for the millennial generation. It’s also an engrossing business-meets-popculture narrative that reveals the entrepreneurial ingenuity involved in bringing gaming onto broadcast TV, in the vein of the X-Games or televised poker. Game Boys is an engrossing read for technophiles, gamers, parents, and anyone interested in the business of sports and trends in pop culture.” My thanks also to Kane for his time.
Tim O’Shea: In the end acknowledgments for the book, you note the “cooperation and trust of all the e-sports loonies who allowed me into their world”. What has been their reaction to the book, in general or with certain leading characters in particular?
Michael Kane: I’ve gotten very positive responses, especially from the people around e-sports who have been attempting to convey its appeal to a wider audience – like the managers, shoutcasters and e-sports enthusiasts at Gotfrag. I think they appreciated the challenge presented in balancing the two tasks of explaining e-sports to outsiders and making it an entertaining narrative. I’ve heard less from the gamers.
This week, I am trying to give a Christmas present to my readers by posting more interviews than the average of one a week. Today’s interview is with Ivan Brunetti, editor of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Volume 2. As detailed at Yale University Press: “Comic art is a vital, highly personal art form in which change—rapid and unpredictable—is the norm. In this exciting new anthology, comic artist Ivan Brunetti focuses on very recent works by contemporary artists engaged in this world of change. These outstanding cartoonists, selected by Brunetti for their graphic sophistication and literary style, are both expanding and transforming the vocabulary of their genre.” In addition to being an extremely talented artist in his own right, Brunetti is also very busy. But he was recently kind enough to grant me a brief (yet in-depth) email interview. My thanks to Brunetti for his time, as well as to Yale University Press’ Robert Pranzatelli for his assistance.
Tim O’Shea: What is the greatest advantage to working with an academic press, as opposed to another type of publisher?
Ivan Brunetti: Well, I’ve never edited an anthology for another publisher, so I can’t really compare it to anything. My own comics are published by Fantagraphics Books, but my dealings with them are in the capacity of “just another cartoonist” in their stable, one with middling sales at best. They pretty much let me do whatever I want, as long as it’s within budget. I was very nervous about working for Yale, since, well… it’s Yale! Obviously they have a high reputation, and I didn’t want to sully it. But the people at Yale Press have been extraordinarily great to work with, and they also gave me a lot of leeway and freedom to make the book I wanted, again as long as I stayed within the budget. So I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in both instances, working with publishers who have trusted me. In both cases, I was able to create very personal books. And I should mention that, in the case of the Anthology, I wouldn’t have been able to make the books I wanted without the generosity of all the cartoonists involved, who have been exceedingly supportive and kind. I got the chance to correspond with my cartooning heroes. Who’d have thunk it? A nothing sort of person like me….
The 2009/Ninth Annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is scheduled to run from January 14-25, 2009. In fact, tickets went on sale earlier this month on December 9. And just to give folks a little taste of what’s on the horizon, festival organizers were kind enough to let me watch a few of the films to be featured at this year’s festival. In the next few weeks leading up to the festival, I will be providing my reaction to watching a few of the festival’s featured films.
In this first round, I was able to view director Andrew D. Cooke’s 2007 documentary, Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist. While Eisner died in 2005, the documentary had well been under way for a few years prior to his death with his involvement (and extensive interviews). Cooke did the film in cooperation with his brother, Jon B. Cooke (who is also the editor of Comic Book Artist). Eisner is a name you have likely increasingly heard in recent weeks, as he is the creator of The Spirit (a character who stars in the new Frank Miller film opening this week). In comic book circles, Eisner is far more than just the creator of one character, as this documentary (and Eisner’s career) effectively proves.
Series Two Records is clearly a labor of love for Christopher B. I first found out about Series Two from friend of the blog, Shelby Miller, the creative force behind Shifted Sound. According to the site: “Series Two Records works with releasing some of the best Swedish indie pop and shoegaze bands as well as music from USA, UK, Germany, China, Costa Rica, Australia, Norway, Japan and Russia.” There’s no need to go into Christopher’s bio, as his philosophy truly speaks for itself. Without further fanfare, on with the interview.
Tim O’Shea: How does one decide at the age of 17 to form a CD-R label, as you did with Series Two Records–as opposed to trying to work for an established music company or effort of some sort?
Christopher B: Well it was really spontaneous the idea of me starting the label. I started out doing an interview blog where I interviewed bands for giggles really. In that blog I did some of the interviews in full and in some of the interviews I asked friends to help me out with on things like questions and such. There I interviewed members of bands such as Desaprecidos, The Chameleons, Chris Lee, Elefant, Calla, Serena Maneesh, Oh! Custer, Earlimart, Ivy and a few others.
And with the blog I had built credibility and people started sending me CD’s and I was exposed to this underground of really good and under appreciated music and I decided to do CDR releases. At this point in time I’m not overly interested in working with other music companies either as an employee or as a collaborator on releases and such. I’m very interested in hearing offers and such because at some point I might change my mind and have a renewed interest in having a possible career in music.
In the recent weeks I’ve had offers from a large digital download company and a major label. Both offers I politely turned down. I have a lot of friends and bands always telling me that I should apply myself more and make myself available for service to other labels with my knowledge and experience with working with bands, promoting them, helping arrange shows, etc. I know that I’d be very good in such a field but would I do it for sure I guess it would be an interesting prospect.
Right now I work really hard towards earning a paycheck at a day job and continuing my college education.
Dean Haspiel is a friend of this blog. I always love to interview Dean, as evidenced by this interview from a few months back in September. Back during that interview I admired the number of projects/websites that Haspiel had. But clearly, he’s looking to usurp Warren Ellis as the king of the Internet. And he’s really elevated his web presence with his latest role, blogging for the New York Times. I just have to say, any day that you get involved in a group blog that involves Susan Cheever is a damn fine day. Congrats, Mr. Haspiel.
Frank Marraffino is the storyteller that Vertigo tapped to write its revival of DC’s 1960s to early 1980s Haunted Tank property. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Marraffino to talk about this new five-issue miniseries, set in modern-day Iraq. We also talked about some of his past work and influences.
Before starting the interview, here’s the core info on the Vertigo miniseries (the first issue of which went on sale on December 3): “The Haunted Tank is back in action, but this time it’s an M1 Abrams in modern-day Iraq! African American tank commander Jamal Stuart has his 21st century war ride in full battle rattle and is ready for anything – anything except the whistling-Dixie combat guru ghost who shows up uninvited!
Of course, this isn’t the first time the spirit of Confederate Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart has helped guide a tank. In times of war he makes himself available to assist his descendants in battle. Jamal Stuart, meet your forefather!”
My thanks to Marraffino for his time and Vertigo’s Pamela Mullin for facilitating the interview. Issue 2 hits the stands on January 7.
Tim O’Shea: War comics only seem to see in times of war. Not to say one is exploiting the war, but did you hesitate at embarking on a project like this?
Frank Marraffino: No, not at all. It just seemed like a pretty good story with plenty of complex dimensions worth exploring. Perhaps the fact that it addresses an ongoing war effort makes it a bit more relevant, but I think everyone hopes for relevance in their work. The Iraq War is a big important event that happens to contain all sorts of fascinating material. And you know, the earliest stories, epic poems, and ballads were all about war and warriors. One of humanity’s longest traditions is the telling of tales which celebrate the heroic spirit and memorialize fallen comrades. We’ve been weaving yarns about war for as long as we’ve had wars, and that’s a fairly long time. It’s part of what makes us who we are as a people.
Chris Giarrusso (better known by many as Chris G) is the latest in a series of interviews spinning out of this past September’s Baltimore Comic-Con. Giarrusso is the artist behind the popular take on Marvel characters as children, Mini Marvels. He’s also known for his earlier work for Image, G-Man. We talked a little bit of both in this email interview.
Tim O’Shea: My first question actually comes from your biggest fan in the O’Shea home, my 9-year-old son, Colin. He asks: “How did he come up with the Mini Marvels?”
Chris Giarrusso: I was a big fan of newspaper comic strips growing up, and many of the classics comic strips featured casts of kid characters, like Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” and Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” for example. I thought it would be neat to do a sort of Charlie Brown meets Marvel Super Heroes hybrid.
O’Shea: If I understood correctly, the first printing of the Mini Marvels digest sold out. Did the strong performance of the digest take you or Marvel management by surprise, or were you guys expecting it to do that well?
Giarrusso: Marvel was on the fence with the decision of whether or not to publish it at all in the first place because they didn’t think it would do well. Marvel was very surprised that it sold out in under a month.
Most folks in comics circles have already heard about my former Blog@Newsarama associate, Carla Hoffman, and her husband Lance, getting severely injured in the Tea Fire.
Well the former Blog@ gang, led by John Parkin and Stephanie Chan, are auctioning off items to raise funds for the Hoffmans, who face months of hospitalization and lost their home. You can check out the first auction here.
If nothing in the auction interests you, stay tuned as we are still getting donations from comics industry pros and publishers. Or, if you’d just like to donate some money to them, you can mail a check to the fund that the Montecito Fire Department set up for them:
The Lance and Carla Burn Fund
Santa Barbara Bank and Trust
1483 East Valley Road
Montecito, CA 93108-1248
Be sure to visit the site that my buddy Parkin has set up for the auctions for updates. And for updates on Carla and Lance, friends and family have set up this site. If you believe in prayer, keep the Hoffmans in your prayers. And if you don’t believe in prayer, think positive thoughts for the Hoffmans’ full recovery. Thanks for any help, no matter what, that you can provide. Thanks.
Rich Watson and I have known each other for a number of years, since the days we both posted on the Sequential Tart message board (Tartsville). Watson is a creative fellow with a passion for comics who I have always respected immensely.
Today Watson announced the 2009 Glyph Comics Awards’ calls for submissions and also named the judges. I was honored to be asked to be part of this panel of judges, which also includes Valerie D’Orazio, president, Friends of Lulu; Mathan Erhardt, writer, Comics Nexus; Ed Mathews, columnist, Pop Image; and Elayne Riggs, comics reviewer and commentator.
As Watson noted in his announcement: “Any comics publisher – small, large, corporate, independent, self-published – as well as online comic creators and cartoonists for newspapers and other periodicals, are invited to submit black-themed material released from January 1-December 31, 2008 for consideration for award recognition. The Committee defines black-themed work as any comic with any combination of the following: a black protagonist(s), or at least a black character(s) pivotal to the direction of the story; a setting(s) or a theme(s) that explores the black experience within the United States and/or abroad, past, present, and/or future; and/or a comic of any kind written and/or illustrated by a black creator(s).”
And here’s some additional background, courtesy of Watson:
“The Glyph Comics Awards recognize the best in comics made by, for, and about people of color from the preceding calendar year. While it is not exclusive to black creators, it does strive to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the comics medium in terms of both critical and commercial impact. By doing so, the goal is to encourage more diverse and high quality work across the board and to inspire new creators to add their voices to the field.”
One is hard pressed to disagree with such an ambitious and sensible goal. I only hope I can be as good a judge as the folks who participated in past years. My thanks to Watson for the opportunity to take part in this judges panel.
Jason Aaron is a creator I had the pleasure of interviewing back in my SBC days. Back then, Aaron was just starting to get some well-deserved attention for his work. What struck me about that interview was just how savvy a creator he was (and continues to be). Ghost Rider and Wolverine are two characters that typically fail to spark my interest, but not when Aaron’s writing them. Aaron is busy at Marvel writing the ongoing Ghost Rider series, as well as the Wolverine: Manifest Destiny miniseries. We also discuss his recent stint on Black Panther and the ongoing Vertigo series, Scalped. Last but not least, just in time to spread some holiday cheer this week sees the release of Punisher MAX X-Mas Special.
Tim O’Shea: As the positive reaction to Ghost Rider has grown, how much were you surprised at the number of reactions that ran along the lines of “I’ve never found the character of interest…until now”?
Jason Aaron: It’s nice to know I’ve helped bring new readers to the fold, but Ghost Rider was already a fun character long before I came along, all the way back to when he was first written by Gary Friedrich.
O’Shea: Given how busy you are with your various writing assignments, what drives you to take on the GR letters column? (Don’t get me wrong, it makes for fun reading…)
Aaron: GHOST RIDER was my first big ongoing assignment for Marvel, and I figured a lot of the people who’d be reading the book would have never heard of me, so I thought the letters column provided a great opportunity to introduce myself to them. And yeah, it’s a blast. GHOST RIDER gets a lot of mail. In particular, we get a lot of letters from people who don’t read any comics other than GHOST RIDER. I don’t know what it is about the character, but it has a very broad appeal. From church folks to cons, we get letters from them all.