Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, RIP

Steve Ditko, the pioneering comic artist who co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, has died. He was 90 years old. From The Hollywood Reporter:

In 1961, Ditko and Lee created Spider-Man. Lee, the editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, gave Ditko the assignment after he wasn't satisfied with Jack Kirby's take on the idea of a teen superhero with spider powers. The look of Spider-Man — the costume, the web-shooters, the red and blue design — all came from Ditko. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy No. 15. The comic was an unexpected hit, and the character was spun off into The Amazing Spider-Man. Ditko helped create such classic Spider-Man characters as Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard and Green Goblin. Starting with issue No. 25, Ditko received a plot credit in addition to his artist credit. Ditko's run ended with issue No. 38.

In 1963, Ditko created the surreal and psychedelic hero, Doctor Strange. The character debuted in Strange Tales No. 110, and Ditko continued on the comic through issue No. 146, cover dated July 1966.

After that, Ditko left Marvel Comics over a fight with Lee, the causes of which have always remained murky. The pair had not been on speaking terms for several years. Ditko never explained his side, and Lee claimed not to really know what motivated Ditko's exit...

The reclusive Ditko was known as the "J.D. Salinger" of comics. From the 1970s on, he rarely spoke on the record, declining almost every interview request. He sat out the publicity booms that accompanied the Spider-Man films and the Doctor Strange movie.

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Strong Female Protagonist, Book Two: the hard philosophical questions of superheroism and compassion

It's been nearly four years since the first crowdfunded collection of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag's webcomic Strong Female Protagonist was published; the second volume, published this week, traces not just the evolution of its protagonist, the superhero Alison "Mega Girl" Green, but of its creators, who have found new and amazing depths to plumb and heights to soar to.

Interview with Alex Norris, of "oh no" Webcomic Name fame

Jenny Robins interviews Alex Norris...

NORRIS: My comics have always largely been about exploring the link between joy and sadness, and finding humour in despair, so I think when I started this format the mix of heartbreak and silliness just sort of came naturally and I like to take it as far as I can. Interesting things happen when you say two opposing things at the same time. I’ve always seen Webcomic Name as a sort of celebration of failure, and I think the mental twist in that prevents the repeated “oh no” from becoming completely depressing!

... and finds out what the "oh no" voice sounds like.

NORRIS: This is probably my most-asked question, and I usually say it sounds like someone who is disappointed but used to being disappointed, or reading from a script. If I ever turned Webcomic Name into a video format, I would probably get readers to send in their version of the “oh no” and use a different one each time. I like that the “oh no” speech bubble is basically a visual motif now – because you see it so often as you read my comics it loses the verbal meaning and just becomes a symbol.

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X-Men: Grand Design 11 - Ungodly Creature

Ed Piskor's offering an annotated page-by-page look at the first part of X-Men: Grand Design, his epic retelling of how Marvel comics' pantheon of heroes came to be. Catch up here. — Eds.

Director’s commentary…

This is one of the few strips that carries directly over from the previous page. One of the loose guidelines I put upon myself was to try and make each page work as it’s own bit. Early on, I floated the possibility of serializing the entire comic online for free so I wanted the pages to feel like the substantial Sunday funnies of yore. Marvel and I came to a compromise and here we are today.

One of the things I never thought possible in my younger life was that I’d ever get much opportunity to work in color as a cartoonist. It was so prohibitively expensive for so long that entire careers of many of my favorite cartoonists were built almost solely on black and white comics. It was a rare treat to see a couple color Dan Clowes pages here and there and usually those were made possible by some trickery of the publisher who would splurge and add a single signature of pages into a book making it possible for say, the first 4 and the last 4 pages of an issue to get the color treatment, with the rest of the book’s guts in stark black and white.

All that was to say, that it’s only been a few years since I’ve been really able to use color and I’m learning things in leaps and bounds, while taking small chances along the way. Read the rest

Exclusive preview: Brian Wood's Sword Daughter

The Forty Swords arrive at night and, under the cover of darkness, murder an entire village. Only two people survive the slaughter: the infant Elsbeth and her grief-stricken father, Dag​, who slips into a ten year coma. He awakens to find that not only has his daughter grown up alone, she's thrived​ despite him. Read the rest

How to Draw a Black Lady

Myisha Haynes and Jaz Malone released the second in their fun and interesting series on how cartoonists can draw black people while avoiding imagery fraught with negative connotations. Read the rest

Founder of Diamond Comic Distributors donates 3,000 comics rarities to the Library of Congress

Gary Price writes, "The Library of Congress announced today that collector and entrepreneur Stephen A. Geppi (owner of Diamond Comic Distributors) has donated to the nation’s library more than 3,000 items from his phenomenal and vast personal collection of comic books and popular art, including the original storyboards that document the creation of Mickey Mouse." Read the rest

Watch Vice President Mike Pence wish Garfield a happy birthday on the House Floor

That's the current US Vice President on the House Floor in 2003 wishing happy birthday to Garfield the comic cat.

Garfield creator Jim Davis was born in Marion, Indiana and at the time of the video Pence was an Indiana congressperson.

(Thanks, UPSO!)

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X-Men: Grand Design 9 - Psychic battle

Ed Piskor's offering an annotated page-by-page look at the first part of X-Men: Grand Design, his epic retelling of how Marvel comics' pantheon of heroes came to be. Catch up here. — Eds.

Director’s commentary…

Editing, especially the subtle art of reduction, is probably one of the most important skills for good storytelling. A silent page or sequence is rarely a bad thing in my POV. Less is more and it’s something I’m slowly adopting as practice. It takes confidence to rely solely on images to get one’s story across.

So here we have a psychic battle sequence between Charles Xavier and Amahl Farouk. For those of you who didn’t see last week’s commentary, I strongly urge you to give issue 117 of Uncanny X-Men a read as it supplies the source material for this strip and is probably the finest comic that came out that month in December of ‘77.

It should go without saying that I want to capture the spirit of my source material but I also have other influences at play. For this page, Cronenberg came to mind. I also had Katsuhiro Otomo in mind, not because of Akira really, but because of Domu, an earlier manga where he gave a test-run to explore some similar themes, including psychic warfare. I drew this page about a month before season 1 of Stranger Things came out and when I saw the program I immediately thought, “These Duffer Brothers are sharing my exact wavelength at this given moment.”

Wisely and respectfully, Marvel has given me plenty of rope to do what I need to for this project. Read the rest

X-Men: Grand Design 7 - Wake up, Mom

Welcome Ed Piskor back to Boing Boing (previously), where he'll be offering an annotated page-by-page look at the first part of X-Men: Grand Design, his epic retelling of how Marvel comics' pantheon of heroes came to be. Here's page 7 — Eds.

Director’s commentary…

I wanted to cover lots of ground on this page, for better or worse, in an effort to get to the good stuff ASAP. I estimate several years of Charles’s early academic life transpire in the first three panels. The incessant dialogue in the background was probably something I cribbed from an old issue of Daredevil by Frank Miller when DD’s sense of hearing gets reactivated and becomes even more sensitive than before. For my use here I imagined that Chuck’s mutant senses kicked-in with the fury of the hormonal surges we all felt when going through puberty.

Panel 4: I actually stole this line from a guy I know who said it so casually when fondly recalling his shady past. He’s dead now.

Panel 7: Mimicking the old style of comics coloring places limits on my palette. I often like to work with as few colors as possible. I’m not always clever enough to keep the palette to just a couple colors, but it sure works fine in this panel.

Panel 8: The way my art on X-Men has grown lately I would never use black lines around fire anymore, but something about this blaze at the X-Mansion really conveys a sense of licking-movement to me. Read the rest

Bite-Sized Linux: a zine collecting awesome *nix tutorial webtoons

Julia Evans's Twitter feed is a treasure trove of her Bite-Size Linux comics that explain core concepts in Unix system use and administration in friendly, accessible graphic form. Read the rest

Kickstarting "Drawn to Sex": Oh Joy Sex Toy's sex-ed book

A couple months back, I was delighted to learn that the good, good people at Oh Joy Sex Toy were launching a sex-ed book aimed at explaining the basics, ins, outs, whats and wherefores of sex "for those looking to learn about sex and wince at our bad dad jokes." Read the rest

Congrats to Tom the Dancing Bug, which has won a Kennedy Journalism Prize!

Our own Ruben Bolling, creator of the Tom the Dancing Bug comic, has won a Kennedy Journalism Prize, given for works that "provide insights into the causes, conditions, and remedies of human rights violations and injustice, and critical analyses of relevant policies, programs, individual actions, and private endeavors that foster positive change." Couldn't have happened to a sweller feller! Congrats, Ruben! Read the rest

Hope Larson's "All Summer Long," lively YA graphic novel about tween friendships, rock and roll, and being yourself

Hope Larson's All Summer Long is an incredibly charming, subtly complex story about friendship and coming of age, the story of Bina and her lifelong friend Austin, who, as far back as they can remember have spent every summer playing a game where they award themselves "Fun Points" for petting cats, finding change on the sidewalk, going swimming, and otherwise making the most of a long, wonderful summer. Until now.

X-Men: Grand Design: Busting up the Nazis

Welcome Ed Piskor back to Boing Boing (previously), where he'll be offering an annotated page-by-page look at the first part of X-Men: Grand Design, his epic retelling of how Marvel comics' pantheon of heroes came to be. Here's page 4; read the rest first — Eds.

Director’s commentary

If this were an Avengers comic, Captain America wouldn't worry about protocol or mission objectives in order to save the kid being menaced by nazis. This is an X-Men book so Wolverine gets to be the antsy guy ready to pounce. It’s immaterial regardless because Magneto handles his own business.

This page is inspired by the classic standalone issue 268 of Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee set in 1941 with a young Captain America meeting Wolvie for the first time. There was also a great episode of the classic ‘90s X-Men cartoon called Old Soldiers (written by Wolverine co-creator Len Wein) that featured this dynamic duo. Both, the comic and the cartoon are equally awesome and you should check them out at any cost.

The splash panel with Cap’s shield busting up the nazis is a good formal use of comics which couldn’t exactly translate into other media. I don’t often include sound effects but I wanted to slow the reader down enough to communicate that each smack from the shield was its own unit of time. When you look at that image as a whole, time is traveling at the speed of that star-spangled shield.

When I do use sound effects I like them to look the way Wally Wood drew them (for those keeping score at home). Read the rest

X-Men: Grand Design: The Xaviers

Welcome Ed Piskor back to Boing Boing (previously), where he'll be offering an annotated page-by-page look at the first part of X-Men: Grand Design, his epic retelling of how Marvel comics' pantheon of heroes came to be. Here's page 3; read page 1 first — Eds.

Director’s commentary

Long before the X-Men publisher was called Marvel it was known as Timely. The heroes (The Fin, Original Human Torch, Blonde Phantom, Blazing Skull, Angel, The Destroy, The Witness, and Vision) in the first panels represent the more popular creations from Timely's "Golden-Age". Because this comic is a veiled world-building exercise, I will take the opportunity to include characters from the extended Marvel pantheon into X-Men: Grand Design whenever possible.

The Sub-Mariner tidal wave that engulfed New York City in the last strip provided me the opportunity to come up with some sort of explanation for how Charles came to have a giant estate and an even bigger disposable income (Danger Rooms and Blackbird Jets aren't cheap). As far as I know this has never been covered in a major way before, though we do know early on that his father is a scientist.

Panel 4: The battleship floating over the submerged city, absorbing solar energy to then evaporate the water was a fun challenge to compose and I can live with the resulting illustration. As an artist, the beauty of such a project is that it really stretches one’s drawing chops with all that’s required. One page is World War II imagery. Read the rest

Spike Trotman, powerhouse pioneer of indie comics

The Chicago Tribune published a profile of C. Spike Trotman, one of indie comics' most insightful young publishers. Trotman's proving that the mainstream business is leaving everything on the table—and that underserved readers don't need to wait for it to catch up.

Iron Circus raised more than $1 million over its first 14 Kickstarter campaigns from a market that Trotman was told didn’t exist: fans interested in comic books that weren’t made by white heterosexual men and featuring superheroes.

“When I was getting into comics, there was absolutely no room for people like me — people of color who wanted to tell their own stories, or women who wanted to tell their own stories,” said 39-year-old Trotman. “Comics had a very firm idea of what would sell or what qualified as niche. Anything a white, heterosexual man would make would be interpreted to having universal appeal, but anything I would make would automatically be classified as difficult to relate to or niche.” ...

According to Kickstarter, her model has completely reshaped the comics small press and jump-started a renaissance of alternative comics anthologies.

Indie publishers in comics have met great success before, but Trotman's gone further, faster: she's built a sustainable indie publishing business that isn't dependent on a hit series for survival and isn't dependent on the comic trade's miserable direct market. And she did it, it seems to me, while everyone was giving her shit. Sadly for them, Trotman is cutting checks and tongues.

Iron Circus's current kickstarter prokect is The Art of Kaneoya Sachiko, a lavish-looking compendium of the manga artist's "monstrous and romantic" work. Read the rest

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