Comics Lowdown: The future of MAD Magazine

Plus: New superhero universe Catalyst Prime, comics to fight fake news, Jillian Tamaki, Rico Renzi’s color palette, and more!

What’s up with MAD Magazine? Mark Evanier lays out a brief history of MAD, which has been part of DC Comics for a long time (it’s complicated!), and updates us on its current status, which is… not good. Like pretty much all print magazines, MAD has been struggling for a while, although Evanier thinks editor John Ficarra has been doing a bang-up job. When the rest of DC packed up and moved to Burbank, California, a while ago, the MAD staff stayed, but they are moving out of their New York office at the end of this year, and DC has not been forthcoming with any news about what will happen next, beyond the fact that the magazine is moving to Burbank and only one staffer, a production artist, will be going with it. The February 2018 issue will be the last one produced by the Usual Gang of Idiots. DC has not made any announcements about what happens next, but Evanier suggests following the blog of artist Tom Richmond, one of the most frequent contributors to the magazine, for updates.

Continue reading “Comics Lowdown: The future of MAD Magazine”

Smash Pages Q&A: ‘Benny and Penny’ creator Geoffrey Hayes

Brigid Alverson shares a previously unpublished interview with the creator, who passed away last weekend.

Geoffrey Hayes, the creator of TOON Books’ Benny and Penny series, died last weekend at the age of 69. I met him just once, at the American Library Association midsummer meeting in 2010.

I was actually a longtime fan of his work, because my children loved his Otto and Uncle Tooth picture books. Geoffrey came to comics fairly late, after an artistic dry spell—Francoise Mouly somehow knew to call him and have him create the Benny and Penny comics for TOON Books. But he had always lived a creative life; while I was doing research to write an appreciation, I ran across this essay in which he talks about how he and his brother, Rory Hayes (who was known as an underground cartoonist) spent their childhood creating stories together.

When I heard about Geoffrey’s death, I went through my files looking for a photo of him, and I was surprised to find an interview that I had done in 2010 but never published anywhere. So here it is, seven years later. As delightful as it was to relive that moment, I was also saddened when I got to the end, where he talks about the graphic novel he was working on. That book, Lovo and the Firewolf, was to be his magnum opus, and Fantagraphics was going to publish it next year. His death leaves it incomplete.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: ‘Benny and Penny’ creator Geoffrey Hayes”

‘Wishless: A Graphic Anthology’ debuts on store shelves today

What if Pinocchio’s wish was never granted, and he never became a real boy?

Wishless: A Graphic Anthology
Sho Uehara was at work when he turned to a fellow employee and said, “Hey! I have this great idea! What if Pinocchio never got his wish and he was just an empty immortal wooden puppet forever?” Nick Johnson thought it was brilliant, and the two of them started spit firing ideas back and forth until they realized they had an anthology on their hands. Wishless: A Graphic Anthology was born.

Wishless is independently created by Calgary artists including Nicole Brunel, Jillian Fleck, Jackson Gee, Joanne Leung, Lyndon Navalta, Nick Johnson, Jarett Sitter and Sho Uehara. Today marks their official launch party and book signing at Shelf Life Books in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Wishless creators Nick Johnson and Sho Uehara

“When we realized how intense and how many possibilities there were, I was like, ‘You know, this might be the perfect thing to unify in an anthology,’” Johnson explained. “I wasn’t really into doing anthologies anymore because I had done a bunch already, but by doing one where everyone was tapping that same idea and seeing where they would go with it got us both really excited!”

Continue reading “‘Wishless: A Graphic Anthology’ debuts on store shelves today”

Smash Pages Q&A: Sebela & Kambadais serve up crime in ‘Short Order Crooks’

If you read the Eisner-nominated High Crimes, you know Christopher Sebela has a talent for turning crime stories on their head, setting them up in interesting places with compelling characters. With Short Order Crooks, Sebala leaves Mount Everest behind and heads to Portland’s food truck scene, enlisting the talented George Kambadais and Lesley Atlansky to help cook up a story with equal parts comedy, crime and cooking.

With eight days left on the timer, Short Order Crooks passed its funding goal yesterday on Kickstarter. As they look ahead to their stretch goals, I spoke with both Sebela and Kambadais about the project, food trucks and more.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Sebela & Kambadais serve up crime in ‘Short Order Crooks’”

Smash Pages Q&A: Helm’s Hasan and Caballero break out with Eisner nomination

Last June, the high fantasy series Helm launched through Crookshaw Creative’s website. Less than a year later, it has been nominated for a prestigious Eisner Award in the digital comics category alongside industry luminaries such as Colleen Coover and Chris Roberson. (See the full list of Eisner nominations.)

Writer Jehanzeb Hasan and illustrator Mauricio Caballero’s enthusiasm for their work is infectious. We talked about creating a high fantasy world that mixes steampunk, the comic’s video game origins, the animation-style look and feel of Helm, and plans for a print edition. We also talked about coffee as inspiration and Scarlett Johansson.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Helm’s Hasan and Caballero break out with Eisner nomination”

Smash Pages Q&A: Ekstrom & Brownfield on Imminent Press and ‘Terminal’

Two members of the newly formed collective discuss their current Kickstarter campaign as it nears its completion date.

In January, a new comics imprint, Imminent Press, took to Kickstarter to raise funds to bring their graphic novel anthology, titled Terminal, to life. The campaign failed.

But more importantly, they didn’t give up.

The second time’s the charm, as they dusted themselves off and retooled their project and campaign. Now with less than a week left, they’ve hit their funding goal for the first issue of a Terminal miniseries, with hopes that they can earn enough to publish the second issue as well. Contributors to the project include a mix of veteran and emerging comic and webcomic creators, along with several names you might recognize from the comic press — one of whom is even our former boss.

I spoke with two members of their “board,” Steve Ekstrom and Troy Brownfield, about Imminent Press, Terminal, their Kickstarter campaign and more.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Ekstrom & Brownfield on Imminent Press and ‘Terminal’”

Smash Pages Q&A: David Pepose on ‘Spencer & Locke,’ gritty crime and imaginary friends

“What if this imaginary friend wasn’t so benign?”

Debuting in comic shops tomorrow, David Pepose and Jorge Santiago Jr.’s Spencer & Locke imagines a world where Calvin and Hobbes went on to join the police force and take down bad guys. But when Sophie Jenkins — you remember Susie, right? — turns up dead in back alley, well … that’s where the story begins.

Published by Action Labs Entertainment, Spencer & Locke is a four-issue miniseries written by Pepose, whose name comics fans might recognize from his reviews at Newsarama, with art by Santiago (Curse of the Eel), colorist Jasen Smith and letterer Colin Bell.

On the eve of the book’s debut, I spoke with Pepose about the secret origins of the project.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: David Pepose on ‘Spencer & Locke,’ gritty crime and imaginary friends”

Birdcage Bottom benefit backs ACLU

Publisher/distributor J.T. Yost shares more on his current fundraiser.

Birdcage Bottom Books, which publishes minicomics and distributes for other small presses and individuals, is running a fundraiser through the month of February: 50% of the sales of selected comics will go to the ACLU. This is a great opportunity to pick up minicomics by rising and accomplished creators such as Glynis Fawkes, Whit Taylor, Hazel Newlevant, Kevin Budnik, and Jonathan Baylis, and help a great cause at the same time.

I checked in with J.T. Yost, who runs Birdcage Bottom and publishes his own comics there, to find out more about the fundraiser—and ask for some personal recommendations!

Continue reading “Birdcage Bottom benefit backs ACLU”

Smash Pages Q&A: Fabian Rangel Jr. on ‘Blood Brothers’

The prolific writer of ‘Doc Unknown’ talks about his newest Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel with artist Javier Caba.

Fabian Rangel Jr. has been building up a strong portfolio of comics work over the last few years, both as a self publisher and for various companies. In addition to working with places like Stela and Black Mask Studios, he’s taken crowdfunding to heart, and recently kicked off his fifth campaign to fund a new graphic novel called Blood Brothers.

Rangel is working with artist Javier Caba, letterer Ryan Ferrier and editor Jim Gibbons on the new supernatural/pulp story, which features two brothers solving mysteries in a city populated by monsters from myth and fantasy. Oh, and one of the brothers is a glow-in-the-dark luchador, which was enough to win me over.

I spoke to Rangel about the project, the appeal of Kickstarter and the recently formed Two Headed Press, an imprint he helped found with Ferrier, Chris Sebela, Ed Brisson, Curt Pires and Tini Howard.

Continue reading “Smash Pages Q&A: Fabian Rangel Jr. on ‘Blood Brothers’”