Tag Archives: comics

SXSW: Ogilvy & Mather Gives Back Cool Graphic Recordings

Calvin Reid -- March 13th, 2011

Jordan Berkowitz (l.) and artist Heather Willems in front of her drawing on "Health in Africa"

One of the first things I noted at certain SXSW panels was the presence of artists, set up with large boards and drawing tables, frantically drawing and sketching. Turns out they are part of Ogilvy Notes, an impressive visual project by the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather that is creating large-scale “visual notes” or vivid graphic documentation of a selection of panels and keynotes, improvised and executed on the spot by a team of artists.

Directed by Jordan Berkowitz, Ogilvy & Mather executive director Creative Technology & Innovation, Ogilvy Notes has brought together a team of artists that specialize in a process called variously, “viz notes,” or “graphic facilitation.” The artists set up at events, panels or business meetings and have the ability to sketch representations of the themes, topics and high points of the discussion on the spot, rendering a kind of graphic map of the event in a frenzy of typographic and representational design. Although the drawings have elements of comics, they really offer an overall field of clever, funny and pointed illustration that essentially visually recreates the event they feature.

“They’re a stream of consciousness creation,” said Berkowitz, who brought together a team of about 6 artists who specialize in this kind of on-the-spot graphic recreation. At a time when schools, businesses and the media have realized the importance of visual learning and visual storytelling, the project offers an inventive and memorable strategy to connect and communicate topical issues with the public.

“Its an amazing skill. How do you manage to spot and represent a point made in an ongoing discussion,” Berkowitz said. Ogilvy is using the artists as way to “give back”, Berkowitz said, to the SXSW community. He also emphasized that a team of editors went over the schedule to choose a broad range of panels—from “Public Transit Data and APIs” to “Black Women in Media”—“we didn’t want the content to be self-serving; there is bredth and depth in the subject matter,” said Berkowitz.

The project will document panels for three days over the weekend and producing a phenomenal 25-30 drawings at day! Once completed the project will have about 85-90 drawings and Ogilvy will turn them into original prints and make them available for free (you can pick them up today). In addition the public can download free high resolution versions of all the drawings at the Ogilvy Notes website.

“They’re constructed and created in the moment, people can find them through twitter and facebook,” Berkowitz said. Ogilvy has stacked the large drawings in a kind of “house of cards” sculptural installation on the top level of the Austin Convention Center. Berkowitz said the site is also encouraging artists interested in working in this manner to upload their sketchbooks and art and they may get a chance to work on future graphic documentations.

SXSWi Is So Cool, Even the Ice Cream is Free

Calvin Reid -- March 12th, 2011

At the risk of sounding pompous, once you actually arrive on the scene at SXSW Interactive, it’s difficult not to feel really special in a town that seems to have been taken over by computer programmers, digital entrepreneurs and a hipster cartel of awesomely creative T-shirt designers. From picking up press credentials to finding a place to eat, our first day at SXSW was more about getting the lay of the festival’s digital landscape and plotting a way to cover even a small part of SXSW’s dense maze of panels, programming and, well, parties.

Arriving a day before the show began turned out to be huge boon, especially when we saw the lines snaking into the press credentials and badge pickup room on Friday morning. We were in and out wandering through the Austin Convention Center in no time. SXSW seems to have left no good idea untouched; I was incredibly impressed by the badges, which not only have your photo, but repeat your name, organization and picture on both sides of the badge. If you’ve ever been at a convention and desperate to remember someone’s name only to find that their badge has flipped backwards, you’ll know exactly why this is step forward in the evolution of convention IDs.

T-Shirts, Shuttle Buses and Software

Of course the immediate reaction to both Austin, a liberal, youth oriented laid-back city full of more bars and music dives than even the Lower East Side, and to SXSW, the epitome of Young Technology Nation, is that of uber college town with the convention center as the epicenter of the campus. Everybody’s really friendly, everybody seems really cool, yes, the t-shirts (I bought a t-shirt before I attended a panel) are lively and cool and the shuttle bus system—we’re stuck at a very nice but sort of far-out hotel down I-35–seems to work fabulously well, running frequently from early morning to 2:00 am—yes, the late night schedule is going to come in handy.

But we’re here at the premier venue for emerging technology and the entreprenuers looking to exploit it for the next big tech thing. First, my colleague Rachel Deahl is right—be on time, the panels are packed and you might not get in. I wasn’t on time, but managed to finagle my way into a jam-packed panel, No Child Left Inside: Mobile Tech Meets Education, a look at the movement to use mobile devices, from iPhones to iPads, with young and older students. A panel of activist educators and academics discussed “Citizen Science,” essentially arming students with devices and collecting data, using crowd sourcing techniques to create teaching environments outside of the classroom, and outside of the typically published educational content. More on that panel to come in future reports.

Friday offered a mix of Meet the Entrepreneur—Rachel and I got to talk tech with Pawan Deshpande and Richard Turcott of HiveFire, an online marketing and content curation venture. I think I may have heard the first relatively clear definition of “curation’’, a relentless buzzword these days that seems on the surface to have replaced the word “publishing.” HiveFire offers its clients a software platform called Curata, which seems to function like a meta-publishing platform within a company—HiveFire seems to specialize in niche industries like health information—serving up a automated platter of content that, we’re told, is much quicker to collect, much easier to find and much better at showing off what your business does.

A packed house at PubCamp

Panels, PubCamp and Parties

We managed to get a glimpse of other cool stuff at other cool panels (yes, I use cool to much) thanks to help of the help of photographer/intrepid panel reporter Jody Culkin. Programmer Jon Dahl’s presentation, “Programming and Minimalism,” surveyed the importance of style and simplicity in writing code, comparing programming to both rock music and principals of writing set forth in George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.”  A panel on, “The Potential of Augmented Reality For Education,” looked at AR—the ability to overlay or embed visual info over the real world images seen through a cameras or mobile device—and how it can be used for both teaching as well as “putting people at the center of their data.” And at a panel called, “Interactive Comics: Techniques to Enhance Math Education,” educator John Baird outlined his Create a Comic Project, an educational project where he uses templates with comics with blank balloons, and has the students write the dialog.

Friday’s programming ended with an appearance by me and Rachel at PubCamp, a mini-conference organized by an impressive group of long-time SXSW attendees (BookSquare blogger Kassia Krozser and BookTour.com’s Kevin Smoker among them).  Romance book blogger Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches Trashy Books) opened the event with a typically wry survey of recent book events, including the HarperCollins new library e-book lending policy that forces librarians to repurchase e-book licenses after 26 loans. “library budgets are this big,” said Wendell, scrunching her two fingers close together and invoking the romance genre she loves so much in defense of libraries,  “and nothing that small can be any good.” And joined by Ed Nawotka, former PW colleague and now editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, on the small stage, Rachel and I fielded questions from a room packed with new media and old media veterans, published and hoping to be published authors and, of course, readers.

So our first days in Austin/SXSW were a combination of—excuse the college metaphor—student orientation and class in session. And yes, the parties are good too. In fact, leaving the last party event of the night—a wild and rocking multimedia rooftop affair at a place called Mohawk—and heading back to the hotel, our group passed the Ice Cream Man truck (we also passed Taco Trucks, BBQ Trucks and so on), a group or business or social movement (whatever) whose mission is to giveaway ice cream—for free. Apparently they’ve given away over “300,000 frozen treats,” so we lined up and got ours, happily licking and scooping free ice cream as we headed to the shuttle bus. Cool digital programming and free ice cream? How cool is that?

The PW Morning Report: Friday, Feb. 4, 2011

Craig Morgan Teicher -- February 4th, 2011

Today’s links!

Why Borders Bankruptcy Would Be Bad: for book lovers.  According to Associated Content.

A Reviewee Responds: Sean Manning, a memoirist whose book was panned by the NYTBR, responds in the Daily Beast.

Taschen Profiled: The WSJ profiles unorthodox publisher Benedikt Taschen.

New Faces at MoCCA: The Musem of Comic and Cartoon Art (which sponsors the annual MoCCA Indie Art Festival) has hired a new director and a new registrar.

Fake AWP: PWxyz has been reporting from the AWP conference in Washington D.C. this week.  Turns out there’s a fake version of the conference happening in Brooklyn. From the Rumpus.

Digital delivery: David Steinberger, CEO of digital comics storefront and app-developer Comixology, is interviewed on state of digital delivery of comics.

Bookstore Openings and Closings:

Second Run Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH will close on 2/13. From Seacoastonline.com

A New Bookstore will open in Downtown Knoxville, TN, in April. From KnoxvilleBiz

Super Villains and the Law

Craig Morgan Teicher -- December 20th, 2010

If the Joker blows up half of downtown Gotham, who’s liable for the damage (assuming, of course, that Joker isn’t going to say he’s sorry and pay up)?  Does the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to superheroes?  These are other questions are answered in a blog called Law and the Multiverse, which is also the subject of a story in today’s New York Times.

Here’s a little sample from the blog:

[W]hen Doomsday goes on a rampage of destruction across at least three states or the Joker blows up half of downtown Gotham, insurer’s aren’t actually going to want to pay for that, and there is reason to believe that under the terms of standard insurance contracts, they wouldn’t have to. The reason has to do with the way insurance policies are written, which is a matter of contract as much at it is a matter of law.

The blog, which is the brainchild of two lawyers, quite earnestly considers the constitutional and legal take on various aspects of being a comic book superhero.  If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would really be like to be a superhero (or villain), reading this blog would be a heck of a lot cheaper than dragging a crate of comics to a lawyer’s office and racking up the billable hours.

Webcomic Fans Boost Self-Published Book to Amazon’s #1 Spot

Rose Fox -- October 27th, 2010

Yesterday was MOD-Day: the release day for Machine of Death, a collaboration among several popular webcomic artist/writers and their fans. The idea started with a Dinosaur Comic by Ryan North:

North’s message board rapidly filled up with ideas for “machine of death” stories. North soon teamed up with David Malki ! (of Wondermark) and Matthew Bennardo to make the book a reality. They solicited material, winnowed the submissions down, found other artists to illustrate several of the stories, and started to shop the manuscript around. That was when the problems started:

Stephen King isn’t in this book. Neither is Dave Eggers or Neil Gaiman or Nick Hornby. Nobody would buy this little book full of stories from nobody famous, we were told. We talked with six different agents who fell in love with this book; one even fell deeply in love and tried her hardest to sell it to anybody who would listen. One editor at a publishing house told us “Let me be blunt: I love this premise; I love this project; I want to read this book [...] the sample stories included in the proposal are really very strong, and if they’re all that good, then this is a genre anthology of high literary quality.”

But it was 2008, 2009. “The economy,” we were told. “And it’s an anthology.”

…We didn’t want to sell ebook rights; we wanted to release the ebook for free as a PDF. We didn’t want to sell audio rights; we wanted to record the audiobook ourselves, and release it for free as a podcast. Movie rights remain with the authors — if you love one of the stories in this book and want to make a blockbuster film from it, contact the author and give them the money. We’re not in the middle.

And we live on the internet enough that we knew we could sell this book.

So October 26th was declared MOD-Day, and a plan was formed: to get the book into Amazon’s #1 bestseller spot for just one day, and prove that a bunch of indie misfits could make a successful book.

This plan worked so spectacularly that as of this writing, mid-day on October 27th, the book is still in Amazon’s #1 bestseller spot, along with being #1 in science fiction anthologies and #2 in literature and fiction (#1 is John Grisham’s The Confession). Malki ! calls this “so far beyond amazing that I don’t have words for it. It is incredimazing. It is trementacular. It is absocrazifreakiperfluously staggerblasticating.”

Continue reading

Hark, Some Funny Literary Comics

John A. Sellers -- October 25th, 2010

Illustrator Kate Beaton has been having serious fun with classic book covers over on her webcomic, Hark, a Vagrant. She has four groups of comics posted based on covers illustrated by Edward Gorey here, here, here, and here. (Oh, and in case it needs saying, they can be R-rated, for those with delicate sensibilities.) Hence, The Secret of the Underground Room (above) is indeed a horrifying secret, and in Beaton’s take on Troilus and Cressida, the lovers can’t get to first base.

More recently, Beaton posted two groups (here and here) of comics riffing on pulpy Nancy Drew covers. Here’s a personal favorite:

Anyone else doing funny comic twists on literature that we should know about? Share it with us in the comments.

All images copyright Kate Beaton.

August 28 is Read A Comic in Public Day!

Calvin Reid -- August 26th, 2010

For those of you who may not know, this coming Saturday, August 28, is the first annual celebration of International Read A Comic in Public Day. So grab your favorite comic book or graphic novel—whatever nomenclature suits you—find a public spot; sit down where everybody can see you and read. IRCIPD was created by Brian Heater and Sarah Morean, editor-in-chief and mini-comics editor respectively, at the Daily Cross Hatch, an excellent blog focused on alternative and independent comics and contemporary comics culture.

The two decided to organize a day for the public display of comic book reading after acknowledging an anomalous dark secret among the comics intelligentsia—a lingering and much suppressed embarrassment at being seen reading comics in public! Yes, it’s true, despite our love for this medium, many of us are still secretly worried that if we’re seen reading a comic book, people will think we’re stupid or the hot chick will notice and move to the other side of the subway car. So they proposed a day to encourage all comic book lovers to come out of the closet and show some comic book reading pride.

They seem to have a struck a nerve. Comic book folks—artists, writers, retailers, librarians, publishers, editors and fans of all kinds—are organizing public meetups and planning events to read their comics in parks, bars or wherever and document the public reading event with a photograph. To help the organizing, Heater and Morean have set up a IRCIPD blog, there’s a Twitter Account (@comicsinpublic), Read A Comic in Public Facebook page, a Flickr page and there are posters for bookstores and for libraries. You can even send the organizers a Read A Comic In Public Day question at readcomicsinpublic@gmail.com. So come out on August 28, there’s no need to hide anymore. Happy Read A Comic In Public day!

San Diego Comic-Con: James Joyce at Comic-Con?

Calvin Reid -- July 25th, 2010

Like all the other comics publishers, the guys behind Ulysses Seen, the Web Comic and iPad app adaptation of James Joyce’s classic novel  initially banned from the App store, were on hand at Comic-con. Robert Berry, the artist behind the comics adaptation and online readers guide, flew into town to take part in a panel called, Comics After Paper, that focused on the rise of comics conceived and designed to be experienced on computers, handheld devices and touchscreens. The panel was moderated by Techland blogger Douglas Wolk, who is also an occasional contributor to PW Comics Week.

Ulysses Seen is the first effort of Throwaway Horse LLC, a new venture conceived to make classic and “difficult” literary works accessible by recreating them visually online in conjunction with equally accessible readers guides. Perry’s appearance was timed for maximum impact: Throwaway horse just signed a deal to make the web comic, iPad app and  readers guide available as a print edition beginning on Bloomsday (June 16) next year. Throwaway is partnering with Atlas & Co., the independent publishing house launched by the distinguished literary biographer James Atlas, to publish a print edition of the work available in installments. Pictured (l. to r. ) here are Throwaway Horse legal counsel Chad Rutkowski, Berry and Josh Wagner.

San Diego Comic-Con: Fanfare Ponent Mon’s Hardworking Publisher

Calvin Reid -- July 25th, 2010

Creator Emile Bravo clowning at the Fanfare booth

He may not be the hardest working man in indie comics, but he’s in contention. Stephen Robson, publisher of highly regarded U.K.-based indie comics house Fanfare Ponent Mon made his annual trip to Comic-con with all fingers crossed. The little publisher had seven, count ‘em, seven 2010 Eisner nominations—but sad to say, he didn’t get a win. The books, nominated in multiple categories, are Jean Regnaud and Emile Bravo’s My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, Jiro Taniguchi’s A Distant Neighborhood, and Willy Linthout’s Years of The Elephant.

Nevertheless, the genial Robson was philosophical, joking that he doesn’t have to reprint his brochures which have “Seven Eisner Nominations” plastered all over them. Fanfare Ponent Mon is known for a list of beautifully illustrated and written literary comics including a pioneering selection of unconventional Japanese manga titles that had more in common with the art comics published by such American indie houses as Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly. And he gets it all done mostly by himself with help on the U.S. side from Stephen Vrattos.

But the house offers much more than that, including Euro-comics like Years of the Elephant, the moving (and strangely comic) story of the suicide of the author’s son, as well as works like the forthcoming Ferme 54 (to be called Farm 54 in the English edition) by the Israeli brother/sister creator-team  of Galit and Gilad Seliktar, which Robson is previewing here in San Diego. Farm 54 is the semi-autobiographical story of Galit and her time in the Israeli Army. Drawn by her brother Gilad, the spare drawings and meditative story focuses on the military job of his sister Galit—she is assigned to accompany Israeli solders directed to demolish Palestinian houses and her job is essentially to oversee and protect Palestinian women living in the houses. The book will be published in 2011 and there’s a pretty good chance Robson will be back next year with a new Eisner nomination.

But running an art comics house isn’t all rarified taste and literary accolades, the hardworking Robson gets the bills paid by also running a warehouse that houses volumes by U.K comics house Knockabout, Marvel licensee Panini and other publishers as well as acting as U.K. sales rep for Marvel and other fan oriented merchandise.  Coming to Comic-con helps all of his businesses and, oddly enough, serves as a kind of a working vacation. “There’s contacts and networking,” said Robson, “and I sell enough to pay the bar bill—which is extensive. I’m always working anyway so being at Comc-con, meeting people and getting exposure, is like being on holiday.”

San Diego Comic-con: ‘Yen Plus’ Manga Mag Goes Digital for $2.99 a Month

Calvin Reid -- July 25th, 2010

Yen Press, Hachette’s manga and conventional comics imprint, made a big step forward for digital access to its manga list announcing plans to discontinue the print edition of Yen Plus, its monthly manga magazine, and launch a digital version. Yen Plus was launched as a print magazine and offers around 400 pages a month of serialized Yen Press titles including bestselling series like the manga adaptation of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride as well as popular series like the Gossip Girl adaptation and Svetlana Chmakova’s Night School.

At the Yen Press panel at San Diego Comic-con, publishing director Kurt Hassler announced an online non-flash browser accessible with a subscription plan. Fans can subscribe to Yen Plus online (first 30 days are free) for $2.99 a month. The fans receive the full content of the nearly 400 page print magazine including fan art and publisher columns. Yen Press is among the American manga publishers who joined the recent anti-scanlation coalition with Japanese publishers, and the launch of Yen Plus online addresses many of the issues around providing legitimate online access to licensed manga.

Yen Press online seems both a positive step toward paid online access to content and a direct and nonpunitive challenge to the rise in scanlations. Access is offered on a nonterritorial basis—fans can log in from anywhere. There is no downloading and the site will offer access to two months of Yen Plus, the current issue and previous month, after which back issue content is removed. “Yes, we want to encourage you to buy our print editions,” Hassler said from the podium. Hassler said Yen Press will make more announcements in the coming months about accessing Yen Press content on handheld devices. Hassler pointed to the success of the iPad but said that they have already ruled out e-ink devices like the Kindle and Sony Reader, “our decision will be driven by quality and e-ink just isn’t there.”

While some fans (the huge hall was packed) seemed a bit dismayed that there would be no downloading, the launch seemed to generate a positive response. Japanese publishers have been nortoriously slow about providing digital access to their content and their delay has been blamed for fostering the growth of scanlation aggregators, online sites that offer free access to thousands of illegally scanned copyrighted manga editions. While U.S. based manga publishers like Viz and DMP are offering some digital access to manga, Japanese licensors are very reluctant to offer digital licenses to their American licensees. Being able to offer some Japanese content through Yen Plus is something of an industry coup. “Digital licensing is very new in Japan,” Hassler said, “but our negotiations with our Japanese publishers are evolving and we’ve got more announcements coming in the future.”