Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two UPM Titles Nominated for Eisner Awards

Nominations for the 2015 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards have been announced and two UPM titles are being considered in the category of Best Educational/Academic Work. The nominated titles from UPM are The Origins of Comics: From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay, by Thierry Smolderen, tr. by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen and Wide Awake in Slumberland: Fantasy, Mass Culture, and Modernism in the Art of Winsor McCay, by Katherine Roeder

Richly illustrated with over 150 color and black and white images, The Origins of Comics remaps the history of this influential art form. In English for the first time, Smolderen engages with processes that led to the 20th century comic strip—the highly recognizable species of picture stories that began crystallizing around 1900 in the US and that has stayed relatively stable to the present day.

Wide Awake in Slumberland: Fantasy, Mass Culture, and Modernism in the Art of Winsor McCay is the first study to explores McCay’s interest in dream imagery in relation to the larger societal preoccupation with fantasy that dominated the popular culture of early twentieth century urban America. Roeder gives close readings of individual artworks while situating him with regard to the larger visual culture and the rise of modernism

This is the fourth straight year that UPM has seen multiple nominees in the Educational/Academic category. Other nominees in the category Considering Watchmen: Poetics, Property, Politics, by Andrew Hoberek (Rutgers University Press) and Funnybooks: The Improbable Glories of the Best American Comic Books, by Michael Barrier (University of California Press). A full list of nominees can be seen here.

The nominees, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, reflect the wide range of material being published in comics and graphic novel form today, from crime noire to autobiographical works to cartoon adventures. The 2015 Eisner Awards judging panel consists of comics retailer Carr DeAngelo (Earth-2 Comics, Los Angeles, CA), librarian/educator Richard Graham (University of Nebraska–Lincoln), Eisner Award–winning author Sean Howe (Marvel Comics: The Untold Story), educator/author Susan Kirtley (Portland State University), Comic-Con International committee member Ron McFee, and writer/editor Maggie Thompson (Comic-Con’s Toucan blog, Diamond’s Scoop newsletter). Because of a health issue, Howe was actually a “virtual” participant in the onsite portion of the judging held in San Diego, communicating via Skype and email. - 

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are considered the “Oscars” of the comics world. Named for acclaimed comics creator the Will Eisner, the awards are celebrating their 25th year of highlighting the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels.The results of the voting will be announced in a gala awards ceremony on the evening of Friday July 10 at Comic-Con International in San Diego. A full list of nominees can be seen:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scully, Mulder, and the Other Great Love of The X-Files

The following is a guest post from Thomas Fahy, author of The Writing Dead: Talking Terror with TV’s Top Horror Writers. His book contains thirteen thought-provoking, original interviews with these top writers and gives readers the opportunity to delve deeper into horror TV than anything found online. Fahy takes readers into the writing room, onto the set, and behind the scenes, as the writers of today’s top horror shows reveal private conversations with actors, discuss filming and directorial decisions, and talk about the challenges of writing these shows.

Below he shares his initial thoughts and some questions on the announced return of the X-Files.

When FOX announced that The X-Files would return for a six-episode miniseries, one question popped to mind: where? Where would they film it?

This might seem like an odd question. Sure, it will be great seeing Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny reprise their roles as Scully and Mulder. There is no show without them, but let’s not forget the other star of the show—Vancouver.

In my recent interview with X-Files writer and producer Frank Spotnitz, I asked him about the inspiration behind some of his writing for the show. He certainly saw his fair share of scary movies and horror television as a kid. When faced with writing a new episode, though, he often started with a simple question: “What is the scariest thing to me?” The idea for “Detour”—one of the great “monster-of-the-week” episodes about a pair of Mothman-like creatures that have learned to camouflage themselves almost perfectly after hundreds of years of surviving in the woods—was twofold. As he explained, “the show was hugely expensive, and I was trying to think of an episode we could do where there would be no sets. And one of the questions that always occurred to me when I was in the woods was: ‘What are all those sounds?’”

There are plenty of scary sounds in the woods, and Spotnitz makes expert use of them in the episode. But the budgetary consideration about filming outdoors reminded me of the other great love of The X-Files—the place it was originally filmed.

Next to Scully and Mulder, I think the most important character in the show was Vancouver. No offense to Skinner, Cancer Man, and those inbred brothers, but its gray skies, rainy forests, knotted trees, misty hillsides, muddy fields, gusty winds, damp streets, and cold air were integral to what made The X-Files so captivating and downright scary.  At the time, very few shows on television made the landscape as central to its cinematic vision and atmosphere. But The X-Files transported us to creepy towns, vile sewers, lakeside cabins, remote outposts, and an array of places where the setting announced imminent danger. And when those dark skies lingered at the end of the episode, you were reminded that evil isn’t so easy to vanquish.

Sure, there are plenty of scary things about Los Angeles—like the traffic, the earthquakes, and the fact that everyone talks as if they’re on a first-name basis with movie stars—but The X-Files lost something vital after moving to L.A. Despite the momentum generated by the first film (which was released the summer after Season Five) and the exceptional writing of Season Six, the sunshine and blue skies of Southern California felt like an uninvited guest, like someone who wears a suit to the beach. The truth is that the move killed off one of the show’s great characters and one of the great loves that drew people to it—Vancouver.

So I hope Chris Cater will return to the place where it all started. It will make a fitting conclusion to his defining contribution to television, and it will remind us of the other reason why we fell in love with The X-Files to begin with.

Praise for Wide Awake in Slumberland

The Southwest Popular and American Culture Association recently announced the 2015 Rollins Book Award winners and for the second year in a row, a UPM title was among those honored. In the category of Sequential Art/Comics and Animation Studies, the winning volume was Wide Awake in Slumberland: Fantasy, Mass Culture, and Modernism in the Art of Winsor McCay by Katherine Roeder

In her book, Roeder explores McCay’s interest in dream imagery in relation to the larger societal preoccupation with fantasy that dominated the popular culture of early twentieth century urban America. The book connects McCay's work to relevant children's literature, advertising, architecture, and motion pictures in order to demonstrate the artist’s sophisticated blending and remixing of multiple mass cultural forms.

Studying this interconnection in McCay's work and, by extension, the work of other early twentieth-century cartoonists, Roeder traces the web of relationships connecting fantasy, leisure, and consumption. Readings of McCay's drawings and the eighty-one black and white and color illustrations reveal a man who was both a ready participant and an incisive critic of the rising culture of fantasy and consumerism.

The Rollins Award serves to recognize leaders of emergent trends and innovative scholarship in the fields of popular and American culture.

Last yearHip Hop on Film: Performance Culture,Urban Space, and Genre Transformation in the 1980s, written by Kimberley Monteyne  was recognized in the category of Film and Television. And Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature, written by Philip Nel was the winning volume in the Sequential Art/Comics and Animation Studies category. In 2010, A Comics Studies Reader was named the Rollins Award winner by the SWPACA. 

See other popular culture titles from UPM here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Book│Toons in Toyland: The Story of Cartoon Character Merchandise

Every living American adult likely prized at least one childhood toy that featured the happy image of an animated cartoon or comic strip character. And today there is an ever-growing market for these retro collectibles accompanied by stacks of books that pose as pricing guides. Yet author and nostalgia guru Tim Hollis (Dixie Before Disney, Hi There, Boys and Girls!) is the first to examine the entire story of character licensing and merchandising from a historical view.

Toons in Toyland: The Story of 
Cartoon Character Merchandise focuses on the post-World War II circa 1946-1980, when the last baby boomers were in high school. During those years, the mass merchandising of cartoon characters peaked. However, the concept of licensing cartoon characters for toys, trinkets, and other merchandise dates back to the very first newspaper comics character, the Yellow Kid, who debuted in 1896 and was soon appearing on a variety of items.

Eventually, cartoon producers and comic strip artists counted on merchandising as a major part of their revenue stream. It still plays a tremendous role in the success of the Walt Disney Company and many others today.

Individual chapters in the book examine storybooks (such as Little Golden Books), comic books, records, board games, jigsaw puzzles, optical toys (including View-Master and Kenner’s Give-a-Show Projector), and holiday merchandise (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and birthday partyware).

Extending even beyond toys, we see how characters were licensed for food products – remember the Peanuts characters plugging bread and Dolly Madison snacks? – and even the world of roadside Americana, with attractions, amusement parks, and restaurants all hoping to lure tourists off the highways with a bit of cartoon magic.

Toons in Toyland is now available from UPM.

TIM HOLLIS has published twenty-four books on pop culture history. For more than thirty years he has maintained a museum of cartoon-related merchandise in Dora, Alabama. He is the author of Dixie Before Disney: 100 Years of Roadside Fun; Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast; Hi There, Boys and Girls! America's Local Children's TV Programs; Ain't That a Knee-Slapper: Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century; and, with Greg Ehrbar, Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, all published by University Press of Mississippi.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Work at UPM this Summer

UPM is looking for a summer intern to fill a position generously supported by the Richard and Selby McRae Foundation.

The McRae Publishing Internship offers a singular educational opportunity to young men and women interested in book publishing to start their careers as interns and gain valuable practical knowledge about the publishing industry. Interns will learn about publishing while providing assistance to and working under the supervision of the Press’s full-time staff in a variety of tasks. 

Previous interns have gone on to jobs in publishing or related fields or continued their education by attending university-affiliated publishing programs. 

The position requires a minimum of 25 hours per week with a preference for more hours if possible. The monthly stipend will vary based on the amount of time worked. The application deadline is April 10.

This position will involve assisting in a variety of tasks, including:
  • proofreading book descriptions, captions, and indexes 
  • preparing letters, reports, and checklists 
  • checking permissions 
  • Maintaining the press’s reviewer database, marketing mailing list, and e-mail contacts 
  • Performing clerical duties such as filing and copying
  • Scanning books for electronic conversion
  • Checking the quality of e-book editions
  • Maintaining an electronic rights database
  • Assisting in the dissemination of information to the press’s electronic partners 

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to Editorial Assistant Katie Keene at on or before April 10.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Book Roundup

UPM is pleased to publish 7 new books this month including new editions in our Conversations with Filmmakers Series, Conversations with Great Comics Artists Series and Television Conversation Series. 

Our March releases, listed below, are now available

Black examines the ways the US government's rhetoric and American Indian responses contributed to the policies of Native-US relations throughout the nineteenth century's removal and allotment eras. This book demonstrates how American Indians decolonized dominant rhetoric through impeding removal and allotment policies

A literary exploration of the surprising similarities between the US South and Franco's Spain. Kennedy explores this paradox not simply to compare two apparently similar cultures but to reveal how we construct difference around this self/other dichotomy. Writers discussed here include William Faulkner, Camilo José Cela, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Federico García Lorca, and 
Ralph Ellison.

D. A. Pennebaker: Interviews Edited by Keith Beattie and Trent Griffiths

A collection of interviews with the documentary filmmaker who has explored the world of politics, celebrity culture, and the music industry.

George Whitefield (1714-1770) is widely regarded as a founding father of American evangelicalism. But Jessica M. Parr argues he was much more than that. Here she offers new insights into revivalism, print culture, transatlantic cultural influences, and the relationship between religious thought and slavery. Whitefield became a religious icon shaped in the complexities of revivalism, the contest over religious toleration, and the conflicting role of Christianity for enslaved people

Peter Bagge: Conversations Edited by Kent Worcester

This collection of interviews offers a perfect means to track how Bagge describes his career choices, work habits, preoccupations, and comedic sensibility since the 1980s. Featuring a new interview and much previously unavailable material, this book delivers insightful, occasionally gossipy, sometimes funny, and often tart conversations.

The latest from nostalgia guru Tim Hollis, this book examines the history 
cartoon character merchandising. Hollis looks at storybooks (such as Little Golden Books), comic books, records, board games, jigsaw puzzles, optical toys (including View-Master and Kenner's Give-a-Show Projector), and holiday paraphernalia. Extending even beyond toys, food companies licensed characters galore--remember the Peanuts characters plugging bread and Dolly Madison snacks? And roadside attractions, amusement parks, campgrounds, and restaurants--think Yogi Bear and Jellystone Park Campgrounds--all bought a bit of cartoon magic to lure the green waves of tourists' dollars.

Features original interviews with the writers, creators, and producers of today's most frightening and fascinating shows.Fahy has compiled 13 thought-provoking, never-before- published interviews with writers from such shows as Hannibal, True Blood, American Horror Story, Dexter and many others. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Q&A with Victor Svorinich

Listen to This: Miles Davis and Bitches Brew is the first book exclusively dedicated to Davis’s landmark 1969 album. Ultimately, Bitches Brew not only achieved great critical and commercial success within the jazz community, but it broke through to the masses, attaining platinum status, a Grammy, and worldwide acclaim. Author Victor Svorinich traces the albums incarnations and inspirations for ten-plus years before its release.

Listen to This is not just the story of Bitches Brew. It reveals much of the legend of Miles Davis—his attitude and will, his grace under pressure, his bands, his relationship to the masses, his business and personal etiquette, and his response to extraordinary social conditions seemingly aligned to bring him down.

Svorinich revisits the mystery and skepticism surrounding the album, and places it into both a historical and musical context using new interviews, original analysis, recently found recordings, unearthed session data sheets, memoranda, letters, musical transcriptions, scores, and a wealth of other material.

Below, we talk to the author about the influence the album had on him, the controversy surrounding it's release, and what he learned during his research. 

What was it about Bitches Brew that convinced you the record would be a good subject for a book?

It’s quite an interesting story. Miles Davis was such a cool, enigmatic figure, but in the late 60s, rock music was at its zenith and Davis’s sales were plummeting. So Miles had to reinvent himself to stay on top; and he did it by putting out a double album of dense, abstract, long, instrumental tracks. It seems hardly salable, but it was an enormous success nonetheless.

How long have you been working on Listen to This?

Off and on, I’d say a good fifteen years. It started as a Master’s thesis, and then a Doctoral dissertation, but my focus was only on the development of this music back then. I thought by listening and analyzing the music carefully, I would get a better understanding of the album and of Miles himself, which I feel he would have thought to be the best way to get to know him and his music. 

So I started listening and transcribing his every move on the record. Rehearsing and performing with groups over the years was equally beneficial. Every week, my friends and I would construct jam sessions inspired by 70s Miles music. We would study the vamps, melodies, and simply jam off of them along with original concepts for hours. Being musically involved in some way helped me absorb the material and allowed me to carry on with putting the book together. 

Miles Davis by Herb Snitzer

Why do you think there was so much controversy surrounding Bitches Brew?

Mostly because his older fans who grew up with his acoustic music felt that he turned his back to them. By incorporating elements such as rock beats and electric instruments, certain listeners felt that his music became watered down, and that he was only doing it for the money. However, this music was very complex in different ways than his previous work, and certainly more abstract. It was more in line with the youth generation of the 60s, and as we discovered, the later generations who flocked to it over the past forty-five years. Similar to artists such as Prince or Madonna, who are constantly experimenting and reshaping their respected musical landscapes, Miles was hard to keep up with. 

Were there things you learned about Davis that surprised you? What preconception about him changed the most in the course of writing the book?

One of the misconceptions of the album was that Columbia Records had a heavy hand in its development, but that was certainly not the case. Miles was very hands on throughout the process and called the shots both in the studio and in post-production. He was a perfectionist, and very meticulous when it came to his work.

I also discovered that behind the tough, unapproachable persona, Miles was actually a very kind and sensitive man. He would keep strong connections with his friends and band mates for many years. When he wasn’t under the influence of any controlled substances, he was very tender with the women in his life. I got a lot of this by talking with the photographers who shot Miles at the time. They found him to be shy, but also open and genuine, and really a regular guy. Miles treated them with respect and generosity. I guess you just had to understand him and know how to approach him. 


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