What Are You Reading? | ‘Fist of the North Star,’ ‘Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists’ and more

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been checking off their “to read” list lately — from older stuff like Usagi Yojimbo and Fist of the North Star to newer stuff like Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists and even a balloonless book about Stan Lee you may have heard about.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Abraham Riesman on ‘True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee’

The author and journalist discusses his new book on the life and career of longtime Marvel editor and publisher Stan Lee.

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee is, I would argue, the best book written about the longtime Marvel editor and publisher Stan Lee. It is a thoroughly researched look at Lee’s life, his family history, his business dealings at Marvel and afterwards.

Lee’s defenders have been attacking or dismissing the book since before its publication, because it dents the myth of Stan Lee that he and others built. Unfortunately much of the conversation around the book has been around whether Lee is given too little credit for Marvel’s success in the 1960s instead of seriously addressing a lot of the issues that author Abraham Riesman uncovers and writes about at length.

Abraham Riesman is a journalist best known for his work at New York Magazine’s Vulture. He’s written extensively about the comics industry over the years, but in this book, Riesman writes a story of assimilation, of the fantasy of success and the brutality reality of it, of corporate criminality. Lee was beloved by many; he is a complicated figure at best.

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Comics Lowdown | S. Clay Wilson passes away

Plus: ‘Brzrkr’ orders, ‘Immortal Hulk’ #43, Stan Lee, John Porcellino and more!

Underground cartoonist S. Clay Wilson, creator of the Checkered Demon, Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates, and numerous other transgressive characters, all of whom he wedged into his signature hyper-detailed panels, has died at the age of 79. Wilson grew up in Nebraska and eventually moved to San Francisco, where he was a contributor to Zap Comics and an integral part of the underground comix scene. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2008 and the condition worsened in 2010.

Brian Cronin sums up his life and career at CBR, but if you really want to get your heart broken, read this 2010 interview with Wilson’s sister about his early work and how the brain injury affected him. And for a fuller appreciation of his art and thought, here’s a Comics Journal interview that was done shortly before his injury.

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Comics Lowdown is back!

Your roundup of essential comics news is back, with an Angoulême update, cussin’ Stan Lee and more!

Big publishing news: Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, announced the day before Thanksgiving that it will buy Simon & Schuster. This will affect graphic novels and manga in a big way, because PRH and S&S distribute a LOT of graphic novels and manga.

In a series of Tweets, Ed Chavez sketches out what the manga landscape will look like, and why it matters. ICv2 lists all their comics/distribution clients; keep in mind that this is in addition to the graphic novels the companies themselves publish under a variety of imprints: Random House has RH Graphics and Pantheon (which publishes the works of Chris Ware and other literary graphic novels), and S&S has Gallery 13 and, just announced, two new lines of graphic novels for young readers.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Danny Fingeroth

The writer and editor discusses his unauthorized biography of ‘the most famous person in comics.’

Danny Fingeroth has been working in comics for decades. A longtime editor at Marvel, Byron Preiss and Visionary Media, Fingeroth wrote comics like Darkhawk, Dazzler, Venom: Deathtrap – The Vault and Deadly Foes of Spider-Man, and wrote nonfiction books including Superman on the Couch and Disguised as Clark Kent. He’s also known to a lot of convention goers as one of the people who runs a lot of panels — interviewing and celebrating the creators who helped to invent comics at dozens of labels across the country. At the end of 2019 he came out with his biggest book to date, A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee. 

The biography of the late Stan Lee is unauthorized but affectionate, and tries to capture the man that Fingeroth got to know later in his life with the young man who has been written about at length. After reading the book, I asked Fingeroth a few questions about the project and how it fits in with his other work, including serving as chair of Will Eisner Week.

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Hot Toys’ out-of-this-world Stan Lee action figure

Watchers not included.

Hot Toys is paying tribute to the late Stan Lee with an action figure that captures one of his most memorable cameos in a Marvel film.

“Marvel legend Stan Lee, makes a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 just as he’s done in every Marvel Cinematic Universe movie,” Hot Toys posted to Facebook. “In his scene, which takes place on a planetoid called Xander, Stan Lee is surrounded by members of the Watchers, the ancient race who observe everything happening in the universe and who occasionally meddle in it despite a strict non-interference policy.”

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Comics Lowdown: Stan Lee’s former manager’s legal troubles grow

Plus: Stolen comics, cease and desist letters, Ted Talks, Jesus and more.

Legal woes for Stan Lee’s former caretaker and manager, Keya Morgan, continue to grow. He has been arrested and appeared in court in Arizona to face the charge of being a fugitive of justice. And he is also being sued by Joan Celia Lee, Stan Lee’s daughter.

In May, Morgan was charged with felony counts of false imprisonment of an elder adult, theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court. The LAPD has revealed some of the details on why they brought charges against him.

“Morgan removed Lee from his Hollywood Hills residence to a secured Beverly Hills condominium during the late night hours of June 8, 2018,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement. “Morgan was using this tactic to further deceive Lee into believing he was in danger and needed to be moved from his home to a more secured condominium where Morgan had more control over Lee.”

The LAPD will eventually extradite Morgan to L.A. to face the charges.

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Comics Lowdown: Stan Lee’s former caretaker charged with elder abuse

Plus: Jonathan Hickman details his plans for the X-Men, comic sales in April and more.

Stan Lee’s former caretaker and manager, Keya Morgan, has been charged with felony elder abuse. The charges include felony counts of false imprisonment of an elder adult, theft, embezzlement, and forgery or fraud against an elder adult, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

A warrant for Morgan’s arrest had been issued. The 43-year-old memorabilia collector was served with a restraining order by Lee’s family last summer, when they accused him of elder abuse. Lee passed away in November.

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Comics Lowdown: Comic books sales up in 2018, Marvel top publisher; stalker sets cosplayer’s car on fire

Plus: ‘Drama’ drama with the Ottawa Catholic School Board! Faith Erin Hicks! Jed MacKay! And more!

The 2018 direct market numbers from Diamond are in and comic sales are ever so slightly up from 2017. Comics saw an increase to sales by 3.3%, but graphic novels were down by 6.6%. The combined sales of the two formats mean a wee increase of 0.6% for the direct market.

Marvel Comics increased their market share slightly to gain an extra 2% over DC Comics, who seemed to have flat lined and lost 0.3% of their market share. This indicates that Marvel’s market share gains mostly come from the expense of small publishers or independent comic sales, with the exception of Image Comics, who also saw a slight increase.

The best-selling graphic novel of the year was Infinity Gauntlet. The 1991 story is enjoying a revival because of the Avengers: Infinity War movie. The best-selling comics was Action #1000, a landmark issue featuring unpublished artwork by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan and the introduction of writer Brain Michael Bendis to the DC universe.

Complete lists and more insight are available on comichron.com.

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Comics Lowdown: Batton Lash, Ron Smith pass away

Plus: News on Grant Morrison, Tintin, Stan Lee and more.

Batton Lash, the creator of the long-running comic-strip-turned-comic-book Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (later re-titled Supernatural Law) passed away Jan. 12 at the age of 65 from brain cancer.

Lash’s comics career began in the late 1970s when Wolff and Byrd began running as a weekly comic strip in The Brooklyn Paper and then later in The National Law Journal. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Jackie Estrada, formed Exhibit A Press, which began publishing Wolff and Byrd comics under the title Supernatural Law. It later migrated to the web. His other works included writing the Archie Meets The Punisher crossover as well as Bongo Comics’ Radioactive Man book, which received an Eisner Award in 2002. He also collaborated with James Hudnall on Obama Nation, a conservative political comic strip that appeared on one of Andrew Breitbart’s websites.

Many of the creators and industry professionals who knew Lash have started to share their remembrances, including Heidi MacDonald and Rob Salkowitz. The Comics Reporter has a round-up of more of them.

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Comics Lowdown: Abrams pulls ‘A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library’ from its schedule

Plus: “Olivia Jaimes” speaks, Bill Maher doubles down on his comic book comments, a comic convention apologizes for giving ‘Saga’ to kids, and much more!

Abrams has abandoned plans to publish A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library by Jack Gantos and Dave McKean following online criticism and controversy. The book is about a young boy who plans to blow up a library, but he changes his mind when he sees how captivated the people inside are with their reading.

An open letter to Abrams from the Asian Author Alliance, signed by more than 1,000 writers, teachers and readers, reads: “The simple fact is that today, the biggest terrorist threat in the United States is white supremacy. In publishing A Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library, Abrams is willfully fear-mongering and spreading harmful stereotypes in a failed attempt to show the power of story.”

McKean responded to some of the controversy on Twitter: “The premise of the book is that a boy uses his mind and faith to decide for himself that violence is not the right course or action.” The book was due to be published next May.

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Comics Lowdown: Remembering Stan ‘The Man’ Lee

Plus: ‘The Brotherhood’ writer revealed! Transformers’ growing female fan base! Plus Art Spiegelman, Stan Webb and the scariest comic panel in ages!

Following the death of Marvel legend Stan Lee on Monday, many outlets covered not only his death, but turned the focus on his wide-reaching life and legacy. Some of the mainstream coverage included:

  • The New York Times not only wrote a thorough obituary of “The Man,” but also featured a comic by Brian Michael Bendis, Bill Walko and Howie Noel.
  • Peter David, freelance comics writer and a former Marvel employee, wrote a remembrance of Lee for Vulture. “Still, there was a time where Stan became the incarnation of that line from The Dark Knight: You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain. In the ’80s and ’90s, it became increasingly stylish to bash Stan, to accuse him of hogging attention for his creations from the artists. But the fact is that before Marvel Comics, comics writers and artists were anonymous. It was Stan who made the artists the centerpieces of the work, giving them snappy nicknames like ‘Stainless’ Steve Ditko, ‘Genial’ Gene Colan, ‘Larrupin’’ Larry Lieber (no, even his brother wasn’t immune), and many others. We would come to know the artists (and other writers) as well as, if not better than, members of our only families. DC editors were so disdainful of this practice that they referred to him as ‘Stan Brag,’ before eventually following suit and crediting people.”
  • Roy Thomas, a legendary comics writer in his own right, shares the memory of his last Saturday spent with Lee at the Hollywood Reporter.
  • Marvel dedicated a special section of their website to Lee, with a tribute video.

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