Comics Lowdown: Political cartoonist arrested

Plus: IDW stumbles, SyFy makes a list, and Darryl Cunningham draws another science comic.

Political Cartoonist Arrested: Government authorities in the African country of Equatorial Guinea arrested political cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé on September 16 and are reportedly preparing criminal defamation charges against him, according to Human Rights Watch. Equatorial Guinea’s defamation law, which dates back to its days as a Spanish colony, makes it a crime to criticize the president or other government officials. Ebalé, who no longer lives in Equatorial Guinea but was visiting to renew his passport, frequently caricatures President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; he visited the U.S. in 2016 to distribute his book, Obi’s Nightmare, which imagines what the president’s life would be like if he had to live as an ordinary person in his country.

25 of the Best: The SyFy folks have done the research (presumably!) and come up with a list of the 25 best comics writers of the past 25 years. If nothing else, this gives everyone something to argue about!

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Comics Lowdown: Comic Con case heads to court showdown

Plus: classic Archie returns, Tom King, Black Panther and more.

Battle of the Cons: The court case between Comic-Con International (which runs the San Diego comic con) and Salt Lake Comic Con over CCI’s claim that it owns the term “comic con” moves into a crucial stage this week with two days of depositions today and tomorrow, followed by a settlement hearing before a judge on Thursday. That hearing will determine whether it all ends there or the case will go to trial in October. CCI owns the trademark to “comic-con” with a hyphen but the case is murkier for the unhyphenated version; Salt Lake Comic Con was allowed to trademark its name last year.

A panel from World of Wakanda

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Smash Pages Q&A: Paul Allor on IDW’s ‘Tet’

Early September saw the release of Paul Allor’s creator-owned series Tet from IDW. Allor was kind enough to give me a brief interview. Enjoy.

Tim O’Shea: You’re very precise with your language consider this advice you give the reviewers Quick tips for people reviewing Tet: Marines should be called Marines, not soldiers. Also, not all opposing forces in Vietnam were Viet Cong  Why are these details so vital to you?

Paul Allor: Honestly, those kinds of small-ish errors in reviews don’t really bother me, but I was seeing them a lot, so I thought it might be worth mentioning. I debated it, but my thinking was, if I was writing a review, I’d want to know. But yeah, no one expects a comics reviewer to be a historian.

For the book itself, though, accuracy was extremely important, and both Paul Tucker and I did a fairly massive amount of research to make sure our story had a sense of verisimilitude, out of respect for the men and women who lived through this conflict.

What is the significance that Paul Tucker gets top billing on the cover?

My personal feeling is that artists should always get top billing in comics. They’re equal storytelling partners, but put in far more time and effort on an individual book. So on my creator-owned books, I always ask my artistic collaborators if they’re cool with their name being first. And in this book in particular, a ridiculous amount of its storytelling success is due to Paul, from his extraordinary covers to his fantastic character work to his amazing use of color as a storytelling tool.

How important  were the consulting editors to your creative process?

Pretty vital. The “consulting” modifier is pretty much just there to indicate that it’s a creator-owned book, and Paul and I have final say over it. But in every other respect, they were like any other editors, offering feedback on scripts and art, serving as sounding boards for any issues we might have, and generally shepherding the project through. I love working with editors. I don’t really understand creators who don’t.

All of the scripts in this book were also workshopped through Comics Experience, which was tremendously helpful, and provided me with a lot of great insight on what was working and what maybe needed a second look.

Did you ever consider delaying the 1984 flashback to a second issue or  was it a critical that have occurred in the first issue?

No, it was always planned for that first issue. The dual timeline structure becomes more important as we go on. And since a big part of the book is about the decades-long journey these three characters take, it was important to establish that scope early in the book. Plus, it fit really well narratively, providing a nice sense of dramatic irony, following Eugene and Ha’s conversation about their future plans, followed immediately by what actually happened. It deepens the mystery, and adds some tension to the story as we launch into the second half of the issue.

How much does social media help you build your audience?

Boy, I wish I had a decent answer for this. I don’t really know. I blab on Twitter a lot – a LOT – but I don’t know how effective it is. I don’t feel like I’m good at building a brand or developing a Twitter persona, or going about it in a deliberate way. It’s just me blabbing. So if it’s helping me build an audience, it’s probably happening despite my efforts, not because of them.

What prompted you to take this creator-owned project to IDW?

I had a really good relationship with both IDW, through my work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe, and with Andy Schmidt, who’s overseeing the Comics Experience imprint. So it seemed like a good fit. Plus, I don’t think anyone else would have published this book. That’s not a dig on Comics Experience/IDW – it’s a compliment. This is a very niche, difficult-to-market book, and they’re very dedicated to putting out good comics, regardless of factors like market accessibility or multimedia potential. I think Andy’s philosophy is that there is a healthy market for great comics, so if you put out great comics, and you work hard to get the word out, the readers will find you. Even if, on paper, it doesn’t seem like a slam-dunk.

Care to discuss Tucker’s coloring style as well as your lettering style? 

Paul’s colors in this book are so amazing. He’s doing so many things with them – using them to set the mood; to establish the different timelines; to get us inside the characters’ heads. He’s using them as an incredibly storytelling device – and honestly, I don’t have the proper vocabulary to discuss it as well as I’d like, or give him the credit he truly deserves.

On the lettering side, I’ve always lettered my own creator-owned books, but I really tried to step up my game on this book, in terms of designing lettering that would mesh well with Paul’s art and advance the storytelling. So that’s how we came up with the rough, off-center narration boxes for our main character, and the text-only boxes, which hopefully give the feeling that you’re inside his head, as the visuals drop away for a moment. You shouldn’t consciously think that, of course, but that’s the mood we’re going for. It was very important to us that the writing, art, coloring and lettering all feel extremely cohesive in this book, that they all work together towards our common storytelling goals. To that end, we designed the visual vocabulary of our story before I’d begun scripting issue #1. And I think it paid off.

Anything else we should discuss 

Probably! But my lunch hour is ending at the ole’ day job.  And thank you for taking the time to discuss it with me. It’s been such a joy to see media, readers and retailers discover and embrace this book. Paul and I are so incredibly proud of it. I hope folks check it out, and if they do, I hope they enjoy it.

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