Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we'll talk about, as it says above, "The best in comics from the last seven days" -- which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher's announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let's get to it ...
Fantagraphics Kickstarts its spring season
Fanatgraphics' Spring Season will happen, thanks to the almost 3,000 backers of its recent Kickstarter campaign. Offering rewards from Daniel Clowes, the Hernandez Bros., Jim Woodring and many more, the campaign ended this week at $222,327 -- well over the $150,000 the publisher was looking for. Among the awards were many of the books that will be released in the spring, including Joe Sacco's Bumf, Simon Hanselmann's MegaHex and The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez. They also offered several rarities and some unique experiences, including a "shooting party" with publisher Gary Groth.
The extra money above and beyond what they were looking for means the publisher can continue publishing some of the European books that co-publisher Kim Thompson was working on. A $200,000 "stretch goal," which they obviously hit, equals funds to hire translators to help produce books that were previously scheduled and create an infrastructure "to continue Kim Thompson's legacy of publishing the best bande dessinee."
So congrats to Fantagraphics on the success of their fund-raising effort, and I look forward to receiving my copies of Sock Monkey: Into the Deep Woods, Bumf and The Love Bunglers. (JK Parkin)
Time for more mature-readers comics?
It's interesting to note the appearance of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals as the No. 1 item in Time's Top 10 Comics and Graphic Novels of 2013. The list's writer Douglas Wolk is "one of us," but the fact that he's speaking for the world's largest weekly news magazine is something, both for the book chosen and the list itself. Time has done Top 10 lists for several years, but 2013 is the first year in which sequential art was given its own list; previously there was no category for comics besides "best fiction" and "best non-fiction." The closest thing was 2008's Top 10 Editorial cartoons, done during the heady Presidential campaign season but retired after that.
But besides that, the fact it chose a racy "mature readers" comic series for such a mainstream venue is emboldening for fans and creators wanting to create material talking about adult issues. After flirting with it for decades, Sex Criminals publisher Image has had a continued open door policy to more racy material; Fraction and Howard Chaykin's Satellite Sam, launched several months before this, explores the sexual indiscretions of a 1960s TV show host, and the reprinting of Chaykin's Black Kiss (and then an original sequel) shows some bold moves by Image to push into new territory for a mainstream direct market publisher.
It's also worth noting that Time's Top 10 Comics & Graphic Novel of 2013 is among the first crop of a cornucopia of "Best of" lists that'll soon be flooding comics blogs and news sites, even CBR itself. A personal word of advice, however: wait for all the books of 2013 to come out before you plan your "Best of" list. I know journalism prides itself on getting the story first, but wait until the final score before you proclaim the results. (Chris Arrant)
Silver lining of the week: PictureBox 50 percent off sale
I hesitated about including this one on this list -- Dan Nadel deciding to close down PictureBox at the end of the year is more suited for a "worst comics news of the week" list, not a "best of." But maybe the silver lining here is two-fold.
First, as Nadel points out in a statement on his website, "I’ve been publishing since 2000, and without such an astounding array of loyal and talented people PictureBox would be nothing." That's 13 years of books like Powr Mastrs by C.F., School Spirits by Anya Davidson, 1-800 Mice by Matthew Thurber, Pompeii by Frank Santoro, Osamu Tezuka's The Mysterious Undergound Men and more from Ben Jones, Lauren Weinstein, Brian Chippendale, Renee French, James Jarvis, Sammy Harkham, Julie Doucet, Blutch, Brandon Graham and Jonny Negron, among others.
"PictureBox consistently published books that turned heads," ROBOT 6's Corey Blake wrote this week. "I can still remember seeing the cover of Renée French’s H Day in person for the first time. For some reason, her artwork really settles into my eyeballs in person, as opposed to looking at it online. It’s beautiful, haunting, and a little bit terrifying in the way a dream can feel unsettling and tense as it shifts into a nightmare. The wordless graphic novel is partly autobiographical, as she explores her struggles with migraines, and is paired with a concurrent narrative of an invading swarm of black ants. The work in this book earned her a nomination for Outstanding Artist at the 2011 Ignatz Awards."
Second, if you aren't familiar with these names and titles, or you've been meaning to pick them but haven't had the chance, now's a good time to do it: Nadel has put everything on the PictureBox site on sale, so you can pick any of them up for 50 percent off the cover price. The sale continues through Jan. 2.
According to The Comics Reporter, Nadel's decision to shut down PictureBox was "personal rather than professional, and that the idea of closing the company was instigated by him for reasons related to the course of his life rather than forced by business concerns." CR also reports that Nadel is working with the cartoonists he's published to find new homes for some books that were in the planning stages at other publishers. So while PictureBox may be going away, the legacy of what Nadel brought to alt.comix publishing will hopefully continue. (JK Parkin)
eBay and comiXology partner up for digital
While little more than a redirecting portal in its current beta test form, eBay Digital Comics is indicative of a lot of potential. For eBay, it's the first step into offering digital products to its millions of auction browsers. While currently a U.S.-only product, it's supposed to expand to Europe next year. Digital comics, and specifically comiXology, have been one of the big success stories in the mobile app world, and there's still a lot of action in the comics category of eBay auctions, so it's a smart move.
For comiXology, it's a sign of truly wanting to reach every possible comics reader out there, whether they be people who've lapsed into back issue hunters or simply like The Walking Dead TV show. If digital comics are truly to act like the modern day newsstand where people buy an eye-catching comic out of curiosity and become lifelong fans, they need to show up in as many places as possible. Might other high profile partnerships be in the future? It's unclear who initiated this arrangement, but even if it's not comiXology specifically appearing in other venues, it's good news for comics' increasing visibility, which doesn't seem to have peaked yet. (Corey Blake)