graphic novels

Caturday: Door Climbing Kitteh Edition

Ten on the Tenth is happening now! Post your 10 Drum Songs here!

I have a show tonight! Improv comedy by two groups, the Magic Meathands (with me!) and Jump Start, at our brand new location, Heyler’s!

Meanwhile, at The Comics Observer:

Also, listen to my second appearance on the Part-Time Fanboy podcast, where we review The Avengers movie. I show up about halfway through.

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Caturday: Sack o’ Kittehs Edition

Last one to leave the bag wins.

The Magic Meathands have our final show at the Mary Pickford Studio tonight! Don’t miss it!

The Comics Observer just completed a round-up of all of the Finalists in the Graphic Novel category for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, which were given out last night:

The LA Times Festival of Books is going on today and tomorrow, and there are plenty of Comics Panels and Events to check out.

The Ten on the Tenth for April has an awesome group of songs, and it’s not too late to post your own list of train songs.

I make a quick cameo in Nahleen.com‘s weekly Moments of Peace this week. It’s a picture taken from last Saturday’s Magic Meathands show. It looks like a case of One of These Things is Not Like the Other, but I’ll take it!

Caturday: Digging for Gold Edition

The Comics Observer recommends 3 new graphic novels worth checking out for new comic readers. And it also continues its coverage of the LA Times Festival of Books with a look at the just-announced program schedule.

In case you missed it here, learn about the Magic Meathands’ Comedy Outreach Project, bringing comedy to people in our community who need some laughter.

Nahleen had her first full week of blogging! Go her! This one, about how sometimes she just has to WAIT whether she wants to or not, might be my favorite of the week.

My Tumblr gets a rare but probably controversial update in support of Détente.

And on the totally other end of the music spectrum, if you’re into singer-songwriters from the late ’60s and early ’70s, take a look at the Troubadour Tribune.

First Time Comic Convention Goer Reviews Comikaze Expo

The Comikaze Expo debuted at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the beginning of November. This brand new comic book convention joins a crowded field to get a major comic con in the city. Many have come and gone over the years. Will this be the one that sticks? Guest-blogger Cindy Marie Jenkins attended Comikaze and shares her thoughts.

Cozying up to Alex Leavitt's laptop

I truly went to this on a whim. A friend threw it out on Google+ and I thought it sounded like fun, and a low-key way to introduce myself to attending conventions. For various reasons in my storytelling world, I need to stay involved in the larger industry.

So I went expecting….what, exactly? The website gave detailed information about the panels and that was encouraging. I knew I would have to decide between some very interesting topics. Scanning through the guests and vendors, I found a lot of brand names or people that I knew and looked interesting. The Guests of Honor, though, left a weird taste in my mouth. I am new to the details of this industry, but I had no idea that the Nickelodeon show “All That” fell into geek culture.

Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t. They were the main attraction though. Stan Lee – very cool – and Elvira – a respectable mainstay, I’m guessing?  – also headlined. I can understand needing a more mainstream attraction like an “All That” Reunion except that, actually, I can’t. Again, I’m new to conventions, but in what alternate universe should Stan Lee be overshadowed by “All That” at a comics convention?

That aside, the event itself was fun. I didn’t know there was a program which is good because they apparently ran out of them in the first hour. I had printed the panels, but no map to the floor. That’s not a big deal; I could wander around the room to decent effect. However, at the entrance they only let people inside two at a time, which left a little excitement to be desired. Translation: way too orderly an entrance to rouse anticipation. It felt like we were being let into a museum.

Jane Espenson *swoon*

On the comics note, I noticed I’m more inclined to risk $1-10 for an issue rather than pick up a free one; most likely because I don’t want to seem like a swag free-loader. Also, cheaper trial issues assured I had enough money for a few of them, rather than blowing my whole budget on one new title to try. That feels more in the vibe of a convention, so new audience can experiment with what they read. I have already enjoyed many of the titles and webseries I found there since last weekend.

The two panels I attended were definitely the most interesting parts of the day. The first was run by Alex Leavitt from USC Annenberg on otaku and the role of anima, manga and otaku in Japanese culture. He braved through a largely visual presentation with no projector, thanks to the Expo simply not providing him one, according to Leavitt. We crowded closer to his laptop, which was actually quite a lovely setting, and we saw the visuals if not the video well enough. Poor young Leavitt also battled the consistent overwhelming cheering of the “All That” Reunion. Overall we got the gist of the topic; I do wish he’d delved deeper into the very interesting examples he gave. I learned what otaku means and have a better idea of how close their geek culture is to ours. We are the world. I would have liked more meat.

The next panel I attended was Character Studies: Geek Girls in Popular Culture, with Jane Espenson, Amy Berg, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Watson, Sarah Kuhn, Jessica Mills and Stephanie Thorpe. Moderated by Amy Ratcliffe. (Here is a general conference pet peeve: why are panelists’ Twitter addresses not listed anywhere? I missed one of my favorite Twitter personalities, Black Nerd Comedy, because of no program/map, and wasn’t lucky enough to catch his tweets about the event*).

Back to the panel. I am now the biggest fan of Jane Espenson, but that doesn’t take much. She’s awesome and a role model for many of her fellow panelists. This panel was kept kind of upbeat and light, which wasn’t hard with six women incredibly happy with their lives and work. A very humorous moment came when the ASL Interpreter was asked what the sign for “D20” is. She made a motion like rolling a die, and then was careful to demonstrate the difference between that sign and one not quite as G-rated.

These guys are seriously my favorite from MAD magazine of yore

CosPlay fascinates me, but my only venture into it involved east coast renaissance faires so I could show off my sword. At Comikaze, I snapped a few shots while others posed, and had a hard time asking for anyone to pose just for me. The one character I did have the guts to ask was an absolutely stunning Witch King of Angmar; however, by the time I found my courage, his helmet was off so he can eat lunch with his son. I didn’t want to intrude on the Witch King’s lunch. I do wish I’d gotten that picture.

Since one of the biggest reasons I attended was to get a sense of the culture and be prompted to read or watch new stories, Comikaze Expo earns a rousing success. In no particular order, I discovered the League of Extraordinary Ladies, Reed Gunther, The 36, reMind, Shelf Life (had known about through Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt but prompted to watch after seeing writer on panel), Awkward Embraces (another I heard enough about but actually watched all of Season 1 yesterday), ran into Comediva again after an intro at the Broad Humor Film Festival (they win for best hook to get people to their booth), Jefbot, The League of S.T.E.A.M. (donated to their kickstarter for Season 2 but first time seeing them in person. They get the best carnival barker award), Americana: The Book Series, Elizabeth Watasin, Jody Houser, Eliza Frye, the Winner Twins (haven’t checked out yet but they self-describe as “identical twin teenage dyslexic scifi authors”), and Olivia Dantes.

A few cool combinations of art and social good, which is a very public crusade of mine: The Winner Twins tour the country with Motivate 2 Learn, “a nonprofit inspiring students to read, write, overcome obstacles and teach their creative writing method.” Princess Leah postcards were everywhere, asking for donations towards medical bills to help a young baby Leah suffering from a mysterious illness; lastly, the California Browncoats have fun fan memorabilia and artist-donated fan calendars that go to different charities. Check them out – support art – help a cause. Everyone wins!

Mandalorians vs. The Leage of S.T.E.A.M.

There were definitely first-year problems. I’m a novice to conventions but not to events or performance, and rather than dwelling on the criticisms I know they’ve received (thank you Facebook), I want to offer some solutions.

*Continue of pet peeve:
Help tweeting loudmouths out and reap the promotional benefits: put the event hashtag everywhere and encourage all speakers, vendors, etc, to post their Twitter addresses as a sign. Point everyone to your business and give them all the tools to help a vendor, and direct everyone following the hashtag to find vendors and artists of their choice. I mostly found out at least ten of my friends were there thanks to the #Comikaze hashtag, and although most intermediate Twitter users pick up on it, encourage its use with signs.

Overall, the flow felt adequate and kind of like an indoor swap meet. I do wonder why more like-minded vendors aren’t placed together. Is it a quandary over competition? I bet if I’d walked through all five steampunk vendors at once, I would have bought something. Ditto for independent comics section. Has this been tried at other conventions and discarded? The autograph area was packed together for sci-fi specific actors, but that left poor Claudia Wells (original Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future) all by her lonesome and way on the other side of the hall. I wasn’t looking for signatures myself (although “The Voice for The Archies” Ron Dante almost got me to buy something), but I can’t imagine the original girlfriend of Marty McFly means much by the time you pass the Lasik Eye Surgery booth, take a left at the guy selling all his Star Wars memorabilia, and finally get to hers.

These pumpkin sculptures were way more impressive when I thought they were real pumpkins

I will absolutely return next year, with a larger budget and more room in my schedule for panels. It’s looking good that many of the titles and series I’ve enjoyed since our introduction are keepers, so the artists get more fans. Multiple crafts vendors got my attention and money, but special artisan beauty goes to Sev’s Wood Crafts, “Where one good turn deserves another!” according to his card. I’m writing about scribes right now, and had a massively difficult time not buying half his stock instead of paying my student loans. The very happy purchase I did make was a dragon-shaped bookmark, created out of turkey vertebrae transformed into beads.

That, plus encouragement for female writers garnered during the Geek Girls panel, was well worth my time and budget. I am confident they’ll listen to the very vocal feedback to improve next year.

———
Cindy Marie Jenkins admits her childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan. She works as a Storyteller and Director of Online Outreach for Social | Impact Consulting LLC. Current writing found at the Blue Dragon Scribe Shoppe and MYTHistories. @CindyMarieJ. She is a big fan of beer. CindyMarieJenkins.com

The Gender Inbalance of Comics

House of Night #1 (cover art by Jenny Frison)

House of Night #1 (cover art by Jenny Frison)

The issue of gender in comics has been getting a lot of attention over the last few months. One of the recurring criticisms is the lack of female creators. The grassroots anthology Womanthology proves that there is an abundance of very talented comic book creators ready and willing to work, and that there is a very enthusiastic audience ready and willing to pay for such material. And yet most comics publishers still have a significant minority of female creators. Or in some cases, none whatsoever.

To get a better understanding, I’ve taken a look at nearly 25 comic book publishers and the products they are planning to release this November.

The only publishers that have an even split or majority of female credits are manga publishers Viz Media, Yen Press, Go Manga/Seven Seas, and Digital Manga Publishing. Publishers with a more literary or alternative focus, such as Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, have 1/3 female creators. Of the major comic book publishers, proportionally Dark Horse probably has the best female representation, but still a minority. Despite criticism leveled against DC Comics for the lack of women creators in their New 52 marketing blitz, they are not the worst of the larger publishers. Archie Comics surprisingly has only one female writer.

Jenny Frison appears to be the busiest with 7 credits, mostly for cover art, such as the image here.

What does all of this prove? Manga captured a greater female readership for a reason. It’s a lesson that the rest of comics could stand to learn, just as it was learned by the producers of the sitcom Community. Despite all of the numbers, it’s not a quota. Hitting an exact 50% or more really isn’t the goal or the point. The idea is that if you want to speak to a demographic, you hire that demographic. And it works.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t produce work that appeals to women or that they shouldn’t be hired. There are plenty of examples and reasons why that doesn’t hold water. There are enough comics (and jobs) for everyone, especially if more people are reading comics because of the increased diversity.

And of course the other lesson is that real diversity and experimentation often happens first outside of structured publishers. That’s why there are so many fantastic female creators making web-comics with varying levels of financial success. The establishment will eventually catch up.

For a great look at how the industry got to this disparity, see this excellent Comics Alliance article. And for some great solutions, read Shaenon K. Garrity’s column at Comixology.

Click through if you want all of the nitty-gritty numbers. Corrections welcome. (more…)

Comics influence Los Angeles Metro’s new Expo Line artwork

Comics are all around us and you may not even realize it. Here’s one example.

The light rail Expo Line running from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City (and eventually all the way to Santa Monica) is creeping closer and closer to its official opening (after over a year delay). This week, Los Angeles Metro unveiled the featured artists whose work will be displayed at each station. Metro’s Expo public arts program has dedicated .5% of its construction budget to commissioning the creation of original art. Over 200 artists submitted proposals. Of the nine chosen, three either directly or indirectly reference or draw inspiration from sequential art, showing how even the fine arts are embracing the amazing language and aesthetics of comic books.

Loteria by Jose Lozano

Lotería by Jose Lozano (LA Metro)

José Lozano‘s Lotería is featured at the La Brea Station. While the concept is based on a Mexican card game, the visuals took inspiration from Mexican comic books that Lozano saw in his childhood.

From José’s artist statement:

“LA Metro Lotería depicts scenes, people, objects and situations having to do with the Metro riding experience. The color and style of the cards are reminiscent of Mexican comic books from my youth and the Sunday comics. I want to create something visually interesting and poetic from what seems to be mundane and ordinary.”

While Lozano has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, his first seven years were spent in Juárez, México, with his mother. Mexican comic books, cinema, fotonovelas and other cultural touchstones made a big impact on him and continue to influence his work.

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez

Urban Dualities by Samuel Rodriguez (LA Metro)

Samuel Rodriguez uses white silhouettes of bicycles to break up his images like panels in a comic book. His work is at the Jefferson/USC Station.

Samuel Rodriguez weaves a visual narrative that includes fragments of building facades, vintage rail cars, realistically rendered human figures, and fictional characters. These illustrations are representative of images that may wander into the mind of the waiting traveler. Each art panel is visually divided by the silhouette of bike frames, resembling the layout of a comic book.

In fact Rodriguez’s graphic design company Shorty Fatz first began in 2002 with xeroxed mini-comics, or “ghetto funny pages”.

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos

Ephemeral Views: A Visual Essay by Ronald J. Llanos (LA Metro)

Ronald J. Llanos considers himself a visual journalist. He uses a loose sketch style to capture people he observes while people-watching, and then fleshes them out to create a documentation of the urban environment. This art at the Western Station was done by him capturing the people in the vicinity. So if you live in that area, maybe you’ll see yourself.

Ronald Llanos is a collector of images. He sketches while people watching at a café or navigating the city. Often, these character drawings reappear in self-published ‘zines.’ For Western Station, Llanos proposes to develop a visual narrative that spans the two station platforms like the open pages of a book.

That creation of a narrative and his use of self-published zines are very much in the spirit of comic books. In fact, his style reminds me of the fantastic Italian comics illustrator and graphic novelist Gipi. Even the subtitle of the name of his project, “Visual Essay,” could be considered a form or type of graphic novel. And comic book journalism is a growing field, as this excellent interactive comic by Dan Archer explains.

The Expo Line has been in the works since 2006 and most of the artists have been working on these projects for about three years. Nearly all of the Phase 1 stations had the art installed earlier this summer but the real unveiling won’t happen until the Expo Line officially launches later this year or possibly early next year. Metro says the Expo Line is approximately 90% completed and currently undergoing train testing for the next several months.

(via Curbed LA)

#LitChat discusses Graphic Novels

The Twitter discussion thread #LitChat is covering graphic novels this week. If you’re on Twitter, jump in today and Friday, and join the conversation. It’s a great way to learn more about comics and graphic novels. The next one is today at 1:00-2:00 PM Pacific / 4:00-5:00 PM Eastern. The final one is this Friday with guest author Sean O’Reilly, publisher of Arcana Studio and co-writer of the graphic novel The Clockwork Girl (co-written by Kevin Hanna of frogchildren studios, and illustrated by Grant Bond).

#LitChat is an hour-long discussion on Twitter focused around the writing and reading of books. There’s a #LitChat every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Pacific / 4-5 PM Eastern, with a guest author on Fridays.

You can find out more about #LitChat at LitChat.net and by following @LitChat on Twitter.