Comics Lowdown | Tarzan swings to the web

Plus: Graphic novel sales soar, a look at comics NFTs and more!

Bullish on Manga: Graphic novel sales were up by 4 million units in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the first quarter of 2020, according to news released by NPD BookScan and reported by ICv2. Sales of all print books, including graphic novels, increased by 29% to the highest sales numbers recorded in the first quarter since NPD started keeping track in 2004. The top driver for graphic novel sales was manga, which increased by 80% from the first quarter of 2020.

Watch Out for that Tree! The Tarzan syndicated newspaper strip will end its 92-year run in June, reports The Daily Cartoonist, killed off by two factors: The low number of subscribers, and the fact that the strips, which are reruns from the 1950s (daily) and 1980s (Sundays) are, well, not exactly in tune with today’s readers. That’s not the end of the line for the Lord of the Jungle, though: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., is transitioning Tarzan to a subscription webcomic, with new strips picking up where the old ones left off. (That subscription is a pretty good deal, as it includes a number of other webcomics based on Burroughs’ work.) In addition, Dark Horse will publish collected editions of both the new strip and Roy Thomas’s Tarzan of the Apes: A Classic Adaptation.

Three images of Satoshi the Creator, a Bitcoin-themed original character created by Bronze Age artist Jose Delbo.

Who Blocks the Blockchain? At 87, Bronze Age artist Jose Delbo has sold several NFTs of his work, including one set featuring Wonder Woman and one of a superhero he created, for millions of dollars. He just got in under the wire, though: Although they allow artists to do ink-on-paper drawings of their characters, both DC and Marvel have put the kibosh on NFTs that feature their intellectual property. In at least one case, Marvel sent a DMCA takedown notice to an NFT marketplace, which blocked the buyer’s ability to see the artwork in question (Mike Deodato’s 2008 cover for The Amazing Spider-Man Family). LA Times staff writer Matt Pearce interviews several dealers and comics creators about the possibilities and pitfalls of this new form of digital art.

Interviews and Profiles

New Creator Alert: At TCJ, Andrew Neal interviews Max Huffman, whose first graphic novel, Cover Not Final, will be published by AdHouse Books in June.

Comics Are for Everyone: Stephen Holland, the newly minted Comics Laureate of the UK, talks about his plans for raising the profile of comics:

For decades I’ve been teeth-grindingly frustrated by an overwhelmingly ignorant press disseminating facile disinformation about comics, reducing our beloved medium to four-colour fist-fights. It puts most people off comics for life.

He plans to combat this by teaching comics classes in secondary schools and encouraging greater diversity among creators; he winds up the interview with a list of his favorite comics for adults.

Criticism and Commentary

Beautiful Music: Sean Kleefeld reviews and compares two graphic novels about bands, Rush: The Making of Farewell to Kings and 1993’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics #60, which is about Genesis.  He has some interesting thoughts on the challenges of this particular genre, especially when the books are about long-lived bands such as these two.

Building Stories: In a video presentation, architecture professor Stewart Hicks discusses what architecture and graphic novels have in common, and how the one can inform the other.

Adding to the TBR Pile: Looking for something to read? Paul Gravett lists his picks for the best graphic novels coming out in June 2021, along with some brief reviews.

Conventions and Festivals

The Boston Comics in Color Festival kicks off this Thursday, April 22. The family-friendly festival celebrates creators and characters of color, and it is both virtual and live, with streaming panels on Thursday and Friday and an open-air marketplace and Artist Alley at Roxbury Community College on Saturday.

The Biz

Here’s an interesting niche: Raymond Mullikin publishes comic books with a mix of comics by children and by professional creators; the kids create their comics in an online class.

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