Blatant propaganda

Posted: December 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

Being a long-running (if small-time) comics publisher means that I at times get interesting offers. That one I got from a minor-league baseball team the other day to sponsor their superhero day was actually oddly tempting. But the most interesting one that I had this year was probably when Ministry of Culture for the People’s Republic of China invited me an various other publishers to an off-site event that they held during this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, a presentation on their industry. Alas, the event overlapped with the one panel I was on at the con this year, so I got there after the presentation itself was over. When I got there, there were Chinese men standing outside the room, but inside it was basically all reasonably attractive Chinese women at tables having conversation with folks… and judging by the dress and demeanor of the folks they were talking to, there was no one who they could do any serious business with. But they started to talk to me, as if I might be someone useful, explaining the range of materials produced in the industry…

…and then they handed me the propaganda.

Now, if you think that I’m exaggerating, putting an unfair and loaded term on the usual sort sales materials that one gets handed in such situation, let me show you what it said on the back of each of the lovely full-color folders that they handed me:

 ImageThe pages inside promoting various individual products and companies also had signs of the same sort of translation problem, going beyond just grammatical problems to real cultural differences. I certainly was not going to be a customer for them, buying the rights to their material, but I did follow up with some suggestions about how they might try to tackle the American comics market… including possibly offering my services as a translator. Nothing came of it, but at least I got to keep my genuine communist propaganda.

After various mishaps here (I apologize for the accidental posting of topics meant for other blogs here!), I have established a new base for About Comics news and press releases, tied into our slicker mailing list management and press release situation in general. We’ve put out five press releases in the last week-and-a-half; if you go here you can see them, or sign up for our emails, and clicking on any of the articles will bring up a page with an RSS feed link.

Follow the news, and spread the word! And thanks for your attention.

Loxfinger by Sol WeinsteinClassic 1960s spy parodies back in print and e-print

In the mid-1960s, when Playboy was serializing Ian Fleming’s  adventures of the world’s most famous superspy, they interspersed them with Sol Weinstein’s rollicking tales of the Jewish state’s most hilarious weapon, Israel Bond, agent Oy-Oy-7. After the book editions of what the Chicago Tribune called “probably the funniest secret agent parodies ever written” had sold over a million copies, all for volumes were allowed to fall out of print. There they stayed for decades, fondly remembered but unavailable.

Now, all four novels – Loxfinger, Matzohball, On the Secret Services of His Majesty, the Queen, and You Only Live Until You Die – are back, in fully authorized editions with a brand new editorial polish by Weinstein himself. The books are available in paperback and for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other e-book devices. Additionally, there’s The Israel Bond Omnibus, offering all four novels in a single book or single e-book download at an affordable price.

You Only Live Until You Die by Sol Weinstein

The fourth and final volume, in paperback for the first time.

Nat Gertler, publisher of About Comics (whose Combustoica prose imprint is releasing the books) says that “like many people, I discovered the books after they were already out of print, stumbling across the first couple in used bookstores and then hunting out the other two. When I realized how hard it was to find the final volume for under $50, I saw an opportunity. Good stuff where demand outstrips supply sure sounded like a business opportunity to me.”

Weinstein, who was also writing for Mad while he launched the Oy-Oy-7 stories, filled the books with the Jewish-themed humor that was the rage at the time, and which is finding a new home with the rising interest in Yiddishkeit. ““You don’t have to be Jewish to howl at Oy-Oy-7,” noted the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and you will, you will!”

The books can be ordered through the Oy-Oy-7.com website, with ebooks orderable directly through the Kindle, Nook, and iBook stores by searching for Sol Weinstein.

cover art by Ken Macklin

Back before she made the New York Times best-seller list, and before her Young Wizards novel series made her a favorite of the young adult crowd (and the librarians who serve them), science fiction and fantasy author Diane Duane teamed with artist Sherlock (before Sherlock won her Hugo Award) to tell the story of Prince Ivan. This twisted version of the classic Russian folk story was a forerunner to Shrek in many ways, a wacky take on fairy tales and the characters who inhabit them. The story was serialized across half a dozen issues of the Eclipse Comics anthology The Dreamery, and there it had remained, uncollected  and unseen by most of Duane’s growing base fans… until now. This October, About Comics will release a paperback not  only collecting Duane and Sherlock’s original Prince Ivan story, but adding a brand new 28-page sequel by the original creators, reuniting them creatively for the first time in decades, in The Misadventures of Prince Ivan.

In the lead story, “The Adventures of Prince Ivan”,  the shy young prince meets and marries the beautiful warrior princess Marya Morevna, and they go off to live in her castle, a pleasant place but for the one room which the prince is forbidden to visit. If the prince merely followed that simple rule, the story could have ended with a “happily ever after” right there… but then, it woudn’t be much of a story. So of course the prince does visit the forbidden room, the great evil sorcerer Koschei the Undying is unleashed, and there are dozens of pages and various challenges – even death! – to overcome before any ever-aftering can commence. With chapter titles like “How Prince Ivan meets various insects and critters, and what they do for his credit rating”, this is a tale that does not skimp on the entertaining details.

The first page of the new Prince Ivan story, by Diane Duane and Sherlock

In the new sequel story “Prince Ivan and the Bachelor Parties of Doom”, Ivan and Marya Morevna realize that they had simply rushed through the whole wedding process and had never celebrated it properly. When it comes time for the appropriate parties, however, the prince and princess enemies have plans of their own. With a talking donkey, a magic cockroach, exploding pizzas, and more, they’re either having a battle or a really good party. Maybe both.

The Misadventures of Prince Ivan (ISBN 978-1936404-01-8) is a 104 page 5.5”x7.75” black-and-white paperback. Published by About Comics and distributed by Diamond Comics Distributors and Diamond Book Distributors, it can be found on page 222 of the August Previews, ordering number AUG11 0743.

The Anaheim Wizard World convention is coming up this coming weekend, April 29 through May 1, and among the many announced guests is the one and only Nat Gertler, publisher of About Comics, founder of 24 Hour Comics Day, writer of The Peanuts Collection, co-writer of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel, and two-time nominee for the Eisner Award.

Now, the folks running the convention have put Nat in the absolute hardest place to find in Artist’s Alley: table 1914 is in the aisle furthest from the entrance, toward the middle of the aisle (so you won’t see him if you happen to be walking across either end of the aisles), and facing toward the near wall rather than toward the rest of the convention . This is not a complaint – someone had to be put in the worst spot, and it just happened to be Nat. But finding Nat will be a challenge, and any challenge should have its reward: Find Nat Gertler, get a free comic book!

Nat Gertler

Tip: He may - or may not - be wearing a hat.

That’s right: all you have to do is walk up to Nat at his table, say “I found Nat Gertler”, and he will give you a free comic book from a limited selection of his works. Limit one per person, of course, and supplies will be bountiful but not unlimited. While you’re there, you should look at what else he has available, both his own works and other About Comics efforts. As another special deal, buy a copy of The Peanuts Collection: Treasures from the World’s Most Beloved Comic Strip, the acclaimed slipcased hardcover filled with removable and interactive items, and get a free bonus for your own Peanuts collection: a complete set of 33 Peanuts trading cards with the backs in French. Nat will also be selling copies of the rare first printing of Licensable BearTM issue 4 (the very first appearance of Barack Obama in comic books!), as well as his how-to books The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel and Panel One: Comic Book Scripts by Top Writers, and various other works.

You may have found Waldo, you may have found Nemo, you may even have found Christ – but did any of them give you a free comic book?!? Table 1914.


New novel from Superfolks author

Posted: December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

Robert Mayer, the acclaimed author whose  Superfolks changed the course of superhero fiction, has just released The Ferret’s Tale, a serious, dramatic, psychological novel told from the point of view of a ferret named Cleo.

Cover to the paperback edition

Ezra Wroth is a man of today, a master of science but facing his own mortality, struggling with an array of uncertainties. His children are adults with more exuberance than wisdom, his own past holds dark secrets, and the world around him has plans for him he cannot imagine. Into his life comes Cleo, a ferret who understands him better than he understands himself… or is what is happening not quite what it seems?

The Ferret’s Tale is a story of the human struggle, of love and war, sorrow and joy, death and renewal, faith and doubt. That’s probably more than readers expect from a book narrated by a ferret… but then, they probably also don’t expect the robots in such a book, nor the Nazis.

Mayer has written for Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, GQ, and more. Best-selling author John Grisham called his The Dreams of Ada “a fascinating book, a wonderful reminder of how good true-crime writing can be.” Mayer lives in New Mexico with his tapestry-weaving wife, La Donna, and their people-loving pit bull.

This novel is the first effort of Combustoica, a new non-comics project of About Comics, a decade-old publishing and packaging firm. About Comics was the publisher who returned Superfolks to print after decades off the shelves (the book is now in print from St. Martin’s). Further books from Mayer and other authors are in the works from Combustoica.

The Ferret’s Tale is available for immediate downloading via the Kindle ($4.99), and the paperback edition ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1456358976) as well as editions for other ebook devices can be ordered through Combustoica.com. The paperback is also available through Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.

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About Comics is a specialty publishing and packaging company with more than a decade in the field. Founded by writer Nat Gertler, About has published everything from totally blank comic books to books of work by mainstream best-seller Charles Schulz and comic shop favorites like Kurt Busiek and Gail Simone. About Comics packaging services have arranged for original material or for reprint rights for a broad range of clients.

About Comics is proud to announce that due to ongoing demand, The Blank Comic Book has returned. This comic book-sized booklet with 24 blank pages wrapped in a blank white cover has proven to be success with folks young and old doing comics craft projects. As with any good second run of a comic, this one features a new cover. “It’s still blank, still white,” explains The Blank Comic Book’s creator  Nat Gertler, “but this time it has a heavier, card stock cover and won’t have a gloss coating. That should make it easier to draw on with a range of art implements.”

The Blank Comic Book cover (second non-printing)

The Blank Comic Book will no longer be available in shrink-wrapped retail five-packs, a package which was designed for the needs of Diamond Comics Distribution. Instead, About Comics is selling The Blank Comic Book in bulk directly to retailers. Stores in the contiguous 48 US states and Canada may order a case of 150 copies for $120 postpaid; delivery takes up to four weeks. Stores in all 50 US states may order 50 copies for $50 postpaid, generally delivered within a week via Express Mail.

Retailers have reacted strongly to this second run, pre-ordering not only more copies than they did of the first run, but more copies than of any non-Free Comics Book Day product that About Comics has offered in over a decade of publishing. “Obviously,” confesses Gertler, “About Comics has wasted a lot of years focusing on content.”

Folks interested in purchasing individual copies should go to http://aboutcomics.com/TheBlank.html for a list of stores stocking The Blank Comic Book. That same page has  wholesale ordering information for retailers.