By Sean Kleefeld

Comics, like many artistic mediums, have a number of industry awards that are given out annually. The earliest was the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonist Society, and named for famed cartoonist Rube Goldberg. Though it was originally called the Billy DeBleck Memorial Award, it was first given to Milton Caniff in 1946 for his work on Terry and the Pirates. The Award was renamed in 1954, and all the previous winners received a Reuben statuette. Tom Richmond was named the most recent recipient this past May.

In 1985, Fantagraphics began a Kirby Award, named after Jack Kirby. It was managed by Dave Olbrich, an employee of Fantagraphics. In 1987, a dispute over control of the Kirbys erupted and it was discontinued in favor of two new awards: The Harveys, named after Harvey Kurtzman, and The Eisners, named after Will Eisner. Both are voted on by industry professionals and run several months apart, so as not to compete too directly with one another. This past week, nominees for the Harveys were announced with final awards to be given out in September, and next week, at San Diego Comic Con, the winners of The Eisners will be announced. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

Earlier this week, fans of Girl Genius saw the Foglios’ strip updated at the usual time, but not looking quite as polished as normal. It included a note that said, “We’ll get the color in sometime while it’s still Monday, but Cheyenne [Wright, the colorist] was with us at ConTemporal this weekend, and we just got home about an hour ago.” Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

The root language of the web is HTML. You often see it as the file type for many pages online, but it stands for Hyper-Text Markup Language. It essentially allows a person to write a document that uses a standardized method of recognizing basic formatting -- things like italics, bullet points, line breaks, etc. -- and can connect to other documents via hyper-text links. Thus, you can create a document that connects with other documents, which connect to other documents, which connect to still more documents. This is the basic functionality of the internet; you’re able to read this column and I can provide you easy access to webcomics like Two Guys and Guy or Nnewts.

It also lets a webcomic creator intertwine their series of individual comic pages into a collective whole, most commonly through forward and back buttons attached to the strip. As I spelled out in one of my earliest columns, it can also point readers to more about the creation by way of About, News, Comments and other links. Note in the previous sentence how I used a link to refer back to an earlier column I wrote here to provide a sort of continuity. Read More...


From "The Adventures Of Shan Shan"

By Sean Kleefeld

I was playing this week with a new comics reader that’s still in beta. They’ve got most of the functionality in place, but are still making tweaks and improvements so I don’t feel comfortable doing a formal review of it yet. But in playing with it, I think I’ve already decided that -- regardless of its merits and through no real fault of its creators -- it’s not the tool for me.

The idea of a good comics reader is a tricky one. There are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome which require a combination of skills not easy to come by in a small group, and much harder to come by in a single individual. And the result is going to be tailored to the broadest possible viewing audience, which will almost certainly not include me. Read More...

Although largely retired these days, David Puttnam is a movie producer who got his start in the 1960s. He didn’t make blockbusters, though, and focused on doing just what interested him. He’s probably best known for the Academy Award winning Chariots of Fire from 1981. His pictures, for the most part, were not great financial successes, often despite being critical ones. Puttnam clearly knew the movie business and simply chose not to make popcorn flicks. He was rewarded in 1986 when Columbia Pictures named him as their new Chief Executive Officer.

Puttnam reigned as Columbia’s CEO for only about a year. Officially, he stepped down of his own accord, but conventional wisdom says he was forced out. Because he wanted to do something different.

Once installed at Columbia, Puttnam made great number of enemies very quickly. He railed against talent agents who controlled much of the movie industry and the stars that he felt were extorting the studios. He cancelled many contracts and fired Ray Stark, another of Columbia’s big producers. He bad-mouthed the status quo and suggested that studios shouldn’t be throwing all their money at big budget features, going so far as to allegedly tell his board of directors: “I wouldn’t make a Rambo, no matter what the size of the built-in profit guarantee. If someone wrote me a check for the total box-office gross, I wouldn’t take it.” He wanted to make movies that were well done, regardless of their commercial viability. He wanted to make movies differently. Read More...

Earlier this week, Warren Ellis posted some thoughts about the relatively recent spate of print comics creators getting into webcomics. He of course didn’t mention every creator who’s dipped their virtual pen into the webcomics inkwell, but there’s more than a handful these days. In fact, there are more than a few people known as webcomickers that actually had a long career in print before webcomics. Phil Foglio, for example, had a regular comic in the pages of Dragon Magazine as early as 1980 as his current strip with his wife Kaja, Girl Genius, also started as a print comic. As did Karl Kesel’s Section Zero.

One of the things Ellis points to in his piece is that many of these newer webcomics we something of a convergence on a similar format, roughly the equivalent of half of a printed comic page. That makes the graphic that shows up on the web more horizontal, therefore fitting most monitors better, but still allows for a fairly easy transition when the book is slated for print. However, what strikes me as more interesting about Ellis’ post is that he notes that, while working on Freakangels, he deliberately wrote the pages with the printed page foremost in his mind, with how it looked on the web as a secondary consideration. The story was written as a print comic, even though it premiered as a webcomic. Ellis notes that “it was mostly about ease of experience and ease of transition to print (where the money was).” Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld 

Last weekend, the University of Chicago hosted a three-day conference called Comics: Philosophy & Practice with the intent to “explore comics autobiography and journalism, the current shape of the ‘graphic novel,’ the power of hand-drawn images to shock and provoke, historical print culture, the narrative impact of comics style, and where and how today's most exciting work is happening.” The guest included some of the most long-standing, influential names in comics, including Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel and Joe Sacco to name a very few. Unlike a comics convention, everyone was there exclusively to talk about comics in the context of an academic setting. There were no autograph lines or cosplayers or rows of long boxes with bagged comics. The whole event took place in a lecture hall, with people on stage discussing their thoughts and ideas about comics. It was a fascinating event with lots to take in and process. But there was almost no discussion of webcomics at all. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

One of the things that many proponents of webcomics have been striving for is achieving a sort of popular legitimacy. They want to overcome a stereotype of just doing a handful of doodles that get posted online where only a dozen people see them. You and I know, of course, that’s not remotely accurate, but I think that people in business still feel that’s how they’re perceived. We’re almost at a tipping point where webcomics achieve that legitimacy goal and, while I can’t tell you when or where that will exactly happen, I can tell you what form it will take.

Al Capp created the newspaper comic strip Li’l Abner in 1934. The story centered around the title character, his hillbilly family and friends who lived in Dogpatch, Kentucky. One of the recurring scenarios was that Daisy Mae kept trying to capture Abner’s interest romantically, generally with no success. Abner tended to be quite naive and oblivious to Daisy Mae’s charms. For that matter, Abner was oblivious to every girl’s charms; he was considered quite the catch and Daisy Mae wasn’t the only girl with her eyes on him. Read More...

By Danica Davidson

Josh Neufeld (“A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” “The Influencing Machine”) has been Eisner-nominated for his webcomic “Bahrain: Lines in Ink, Lines in the Sand,” which gives both a journalistic and personal perspective to recent uprisings in the Middle East. After visiting the small country of Bahrain, Neufeld became friends with local political cartoonists Mohammed and Sara, and soon learned that the two have very different opinions about what’s going on in their nation. Using their experiences — and some of their cartoons — Neufeld applied the comics medium to inform people about what’s happening in Bahrain. The piece has been translated into Italian, will probably be in Farsi soon for a liberal Iranian website, and Neufeld has been given the Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship to study more on Bahrain.

MTV Geek: What can you tell us about “Bahrain: Lines in Ink, Lines in the Sand”?

Josh Neufeld: It came about from a trip I made with the State Department as a cultural ambassador of sorts. My previous book, “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” was critical in some ways of the government response to Hurricane Katrina, and the State Department found that it was a useful example of our country’s freedom of expression. So they asked me if I would like to travel to countries that don’t have that freedom and talk about it in that context. I went to the small country of Bahrain, which is a monarchy with a Sunni minority in control and a Shia majority. They’re very free in some ways compared to other Arab countries, but they have a very controlled press. During that trip, I made some appearances at universities, arts organizations and journalist organizations, where I met editorial cartoonists and aspiring political cartoonists. I met two twenty-year-old kids, a young man and a young woman, whom I stayed in touch with on Facebook. When the Arab Spring movement started to take place in 2011, Bahrain underwent its own upheaval. Through Facebook I determined pretty quickly that the two young people I’d made friends with were on opposite sides of that struggle going on in Bahrain. So my piece documents that whole story. Read More...

Despite what you may have seen on the comics pages in the newspapers over the last several decades, comics have a long history of using humor to create social commentary. As I noted in this column not that long ago, use of the word cartoon to refer to humorous illustrations was a direct result of Punch magazine satirizing what was going on in British Parliament at the time. Early favorite strips like Hogan’s Alley spoke to working class issues of the day, and later classics like Pogo often spoke very directly to social concerns held by the creators. The famous “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” line from the strip was specifically from a piece on the issues of generating garbage and waste.

But since the 1970s, comic syndicates (as well as many other large corporations) have become increasingly risk averse. That is, they really don’t want to take a chance if they can avoid it and they’d rather play things as safely as possible. That’s one of the reasons they like to keep legacy strips like Popeye or Blondie going after their original creators have passed away; they know the basic set-up of the strip and there’s less of a risk having a new creator work on established characters than there is with a new creators working on new characters. Read More...

(Editor's Note: This week in "Kleefeld On Webcomics," we are going to try something a little bit different...)


By Danica Davidson

Bashir Bari, the star of “Silver Scorpion,” was created by twenty-six young people with disabilities while meeting at the Youth Ability Summit in Syria. The creators, a combination of Americans and Syrians, wanted to not only empower people with disabilities, but also to open up cultural connections. Thus this comic book superhero was born, but don’t just expect to see him on unmoving pages. A new webcomic version of the “Silver Scorpion” debuted earlier this week on MTV Voices, the international pro-social part of MTV.

The webcomic is a collaboration with MTV Voices, Liquid Comics and the Open Hands Initiative. In the short online episodes, we watch as Bashir starts out as an arrogant young man, but loses his legs and eventually becomes a superhero. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Waid announced that he will be launching his new webcomic imprint, Thrillbent, on May 1 with his first webcomic series, Insufferable. Frequently, announcements of new webcomics are understated affairs and don’t generate much buzz. Occasionally, a known webcomic creator will launch a new series that his/her existing fans get excited about, but hardly rarely does that garner much attention outside that select group. Waid’s announcement, though, was different. It was made at a significant convention, and roused much of the mainstream comic media press to do a double-take at webcomics.

Waid has been in the comics industry for about a quarter century now, starting writing articles for Fantagraphics’ Amazing Heroes fanzine. He’s worked at both Marvel and DC, having well-respected and fondly remembered runs on several titles including: Flash, Legion of Super-Heroes, Captain America and Fantastic Four. His Kingdom Come has been a stalwart seller in the graphic novel sections or book stores and comic shops since it came out in 1996. Read More...

By Sean Kleefeld

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm. They consult with lots of big companies and even some governments about market trends and what needs to be done to stay ahead of the curve. Now, whether or not their advice is always sound and unbiased is an issue beyond the scope of this column and, in any case, probably far too expensive for anyone besides large corporations and governments to afford anyway.

But one of the reasons McKinsey is a sought-after consultant is because they do a lot of research. Their research studies often include hundreds of thousands of participants across multiple continents. Earlier this month, they released the findings of one such study focusing on “how consumers conduct a range of activities, from core communications like e-mailing or socializing, to consumption of types of content (video, audio, games, etc.) to commerce and creative applications.” In other words, how people live and work online. Read More...

If you're an Avengers fan, MTV Splashpage aims to tickle your funnybone -- with this exclusive  webcomic series by "Ask Deadpool" creators Emily Whitten and Marc Vuletich!

Click here to read part one of the three-part "Avengers Take Hollywood" series, "The Marathon Survival Kit." Then tune-in every week for a brand new dose of Earth's most hilarious heroes until "Marvel's The Avengers" hits theaters on May 4!

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