Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Don’t Forget the Carters

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

The Carter Family are pretty important to the history of folk music in this country, and have been called “The First Family of Country Music,” but in today’s narrative they tend to get a bit lost, overshadowed by the story of June Carter’s relationship with Johnny Cash. David Lasky and Frank M. Young are working on a graphic biography to correct this oversight, chronicling their lives from birth through their careers and legacy.

They’ve been working on the book for a long time now—the idea first came up in 2002, and they started work on the book in 2008—and they’ve finally started posting full-color pages on their blog, where readers can follow the entire process of the book, from start to the eventual finish. Publication of Carter Family Comics – Don’t Forget This Song is tentatively set for 2012 from Abrams ComicArts.

(via The Ephemerist)

Polish Foreign Ministry Shocked by Chopin Bio

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Comics are a great way to teach kids about subjects that might otherwise be a bit dry for them, so The Polish Foreign Ministry and the Polish Embassy in Berlin commissioned a graphic biography about the life of composer Frederic Chopin to make his life more accessible to German students. Unfortunately, the actual work went beyond accessible into “highly inappropriate” territory: the book is peppered with profanity and homophobic remarks (sometimes appearing together, like “f@#%ing fag-holocaust”).

The entire print run was destroyed, and disciplinary action would have been taken against the person responsible but for one little detail:

“In reality it was a mistake made by an employee at the Embassy in Berlin,” Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski told Radio Zet mid-week.

“And the one thing that I regret is that I can’t fire that person for making such a scandalous decision, because [he or she] no longer works for the Foreign Ministry.”

With circumstances such as that, I’m left wondering if it was a genuine mistake, or an act of bitter malice by a departing employee.

(via Comics Alliance)

Bieber Goes Bigger at Walmart

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I’ve got a feeling that the direct market and comic shops were never really the right audience to fully appreciate Bluewater’s unauthorized biographies of various celebrities du jour. Which is probably why their comic biography of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber got an exclusive Walmart edition, expanded to 40 pages with more story and art.

Well, “exclusive” is a loose term, as the expanded Fame: Justin Bieber by Tara Broeckel Ooten and Claudio Avella will be making its way to comic shops in late March. The book retails for $7.99.

(via ICv2)

This is Not David Bowie

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was in my preteens when Nirvana became big, and while I understood the influence they had on popular music at the time, I never really liked them much. I didn’t like Pearl Jam much, either. I guess I was more of a Soundgarden kid.

It’s nice to know I was not alone, as Sally Madden created a comic titled “Grandma Take Me Home,” where the point is pretty clear at the top, written in red text on yellow: “I did not like Nirvana.” She relates the story of how her mother really dug them, and years later, a close friend started talking about how she finally ‘got’ them. From there it gets a bit weird, as all the discussion of Nirvana leads to one very strange dream, and with it the entire comic came to a sudden halt. I searched for a link to take me to the next page, and left disappointed because it doesn’t feel like she answered the question raised by the comic: what does she think of Nirvana now?

You can read this comic over at If You Make It, along with more music-related comics by Liz Prince, Jim Kettner, and others.

(via Robot 6)

Out of Sync

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

There’s a pretty big divide between what we know as mainstream comics (mostly superhero books) and the small press/indie stuff. Not to say that there aren’t people who read both, or that creators don’t cross over from one to the other, but comparing the crowds at say, New York Comic Con and Alternative Press Expo; they’re very different. And there’s mutual disdain—a mainstream fan might find indie/small press stuff boring or pretentious, and an indie/small press fan might find a superhero book idiotic or uninspired.

The disconnect is a real shame, because sometimes it feels like the people on the indie side of things have dismissed all superhero books outright, without looking at what they have to offer. I’m not talking about plotting or characters—let’s face it, sometimes they are pretty stupid—but the actual construction of the comic, the way they use panel layouts to create pacing, the way they integrate the text and images into a cohesive whole. The nuts-and-bolts that hold the medium together. The superhero genre has been around a long time, and they generally have the “how-to” part down.

The “how-to” part is the biggest problem with Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, edited by Brendan Burford with a very diverse field of contributors. The term “picto-essay” is perhaps more correct; it is Burford himself that uses the word “comics” in his introduction and on the back cover. Many of the stories in this volume are reminiscent of photo essays, which are generally slideshows where each photo is accompanied by a caption. I have nothing against photo essays, or even these picto-essays, I just find the actual “comics” component weak. Two of the segments (“Portfolio” and “Subway Buskers”) don’t even have text; they’re simply sketch galleries of Washington Square Park and subway buskers respectively.

It also feels like the definition of “essay” gets muddled at times; a few segments lack a solid narrative structure that would have strengthened what they were trying to achieve. “What We So Quietly Saw” by Greg Cook presents segments from prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo without making the transitions from incident to incident clear. “Like Hell I Will” by Nate Powell presents various scenes from the Tulsa race riot of 1921 in a confusing jumble, not clearly connecting the captions to the panels with dialogue; what exactly are the latter type of scenes showing us?

Even with its weak points, Syncopated does have its bright spots. A few of the stories integrate text and images and follow a cohesive narrative flow, the result being some very excellent comics work. “West Side Improvements” by Alex Holden made for a very strong essay, teaching the reader a bit of New York history while also making a point about urban renewal. “A Coney Island Rumination” by Paul Hoppe and “An Encounter With Richard Peterson” by Brendan Burford also follow similar threads and themes. My favorite story is “The Sound of Jade” by Sarah Glidden, where she accompanies her father on an adoption visit to China. Another strong point was “Dvorak” by Alec Longstreth, who we’ve covered previously here in the blog.

For an early attempt at a comics essay anthology Syncopated isn’t bad, but it is wildly uneven.  Most essay anthologies follow a theme, something that ties all the disparate contributors and narratives together, something that this volume lacks. Future editions of Syncopated would definitely benefit from more direction.

Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays
edited by Brendan Burford
published by Villard Books (New York, 2009)
ISBN 978-0-345-50529-3

Going Gaga in November

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Undeterred by the threat of legal action, Bluewater Productions is going ahead with the publication of FAME: Lady Gaga #2, focusing on her career instead of her personal life. They’ve made a few colored interior pages available to peep over at MTV’s Splash Page; click through to the gallery at the bottom of the post.

Written by CW Cooke with art by Dan Glasl, the comic comes out in November and retails for $3.99.

Beyond Hicksville

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Dylan Horrocks might be best known for his mainstream work as the writer of Hunter: The Age of Magic for DC/Vertigo, or for his Harvey and Ignatz Award-nominated graphic novel, Hicksville. But his body of work is rather diverse, from contributions to various indie and small press anthologies, to a handful of nonfiction comics of an educational or political bent.

Back in 1998 he worked on Spin, a comic about dealing with emotional stress, created at the bequest of the Ministry of Youth Development and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Though the SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand) program is still ongoing, the comic does not appear to be available on their website at this time. You can view a few sample images on Horrocks’ site.

Also in the public interest is Red Hot, which was commissioned by the Hepatitis C Resource Centre and deals with—you guessed it—Hepatitis C, namely how it’s transmitted and how to prevent it. A guy named Ben meets an old friend named Jenny who’s been afflicted by hep C, and though wary at first, he learns to accept her condition. It conveys all the necessary information quickly and without being preachy. The entire thing is available to read online.

In a more artistic bent, he’s done a few comics as music columns, talking about his relationship with “Tabula Rasa” by Avro Part, and an interview with Brazilian musician Egberto Gismonti (conducted by Graham Reid).

One interesting project that may never see the light of day is A Pocket History of New Zealand. Horrocks calls it a “work in progress” but also gives no anticipated completion date, uploading one page for us to gaze at and wonder:

Bluewater Lawsuit Update: There Isn’t One

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Bluewater Productions, publishers of the Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Bo the Dog, and many other unauthorized biography comic books, is not even remotely close to getting sued by Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. This is according to Darren G. Davis, the company’s publisher. We previously reported that Bluewater had received a cease and desist notice from Bieber and Gaga’s attorney, which Davis assured would go nowhere. He felt the company was 100% in the right to publish the books, as they fall within the company’s First Amendment rights; also, as the comics are biographical and not simply poster pin-ups, they avoid infringing on likeness rights as well.

Today, Davis wrote a letter to retailers, detailing that the initial reports went further than the actual truth, as Bieber’s people did not even know about the cease and desist letter.

Bluewater is NOT being sued by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or anyone else for that matter. What is happening is that a merchandising company that negotiated the rights to make lunch boxes, and key chains and poster books and all the knick-knacks you can buy, has sent us a cease and desist letter.

That’s it. No lawsuit.

In fact, Bieber’s and Gaga’s personal management or their attorneys had no knowledge of this letter until the “news” was leaked by the merchandising company’s lawyer.

It looks like the merchandise company and their attorney, Kenneth Feinswog, were simply looking to gain some ground and reaffirm their right to Bieber and Gaga product with the cease and desist. This cease and desist is similar to that of a YouTube takedown notice, like when Viacom asked for all Daily Show and The Colbert Report clips to be removed, including parodies of Colbert done by MoveOn.org and Second Life videos that only included Colbert’s likeness.

Bluewater is determined to continue publishing these unauthorized biographies as long as they sell. As for the comics community’s support of Bluewater after the initial story broke, Davis was thrilled to see people stick up for the company’s right to publish.

It has been gratifying to see the comic community come to my defense. Regardless of whether they like the biography titles or not; whether they like me personally or not; the community recognizes this tumult for what it is: an attack on the integrity of the medium and as a thinly disguised manipulation to control revenues because of competing products.

The second issue of Fame: Lady Gaga is still on schedule to be released this November.

(via Bleeding Cool)

Bluewater in Hot Water?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Bluewater Productions, the publisher of biographical comics starring political figures like Barack Obama and pop culture icons like Oprah Winfrey, has found itself in a spot of trouble after attorney Kenneth Feinswog has issued them cease-and-desist letters on behalf of his clients Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. The charge? That they infringe on intellectual property and likeness rights.

Back in the ’90s Feinswog sued Revolutionary Comics over their New Kids on the Block and Mötley Crüe biographical comics but lost on the grounds that like unauthorized biographies in prose form, biographical comics were protected by the first amendment. That’s the reason Feinswog has chosen to go after them on likeness rights. However, Bluewater publisher Darren G. Davis told MTV News:

“We are 100% within our First Amendment rights. [...] We knew our rights on this before we jumped into the biography world. These are 100% biographies on their lives.”

Though I am not myself a lawyer, I did attend a intellectual property panel at New York Comic Con in 2006 and I remember one of the panelists, a lawyer specializing in IP, making that part clear: as long as you create (or license) the images yourself, you can use celebrity images as part of a biography on them. Of course, that might be another issue that comes up, given that Bluewater likes to license art from outside artists, art that may or may not be original in itself, as in the case of this drawing that may have been based on another artist’s photo.

Despite the legal problems, Bluewater is not deterred from publishing more comics in their “FAME” line; they’re doing a comic about the cast of Glee, the Kirsten Stewart comic sold out in one day, and FAME: Lady Gaga is going to a third printing with a new cover, in addition to a sequel on the way.

(via Bleeding Cool)