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Conversing on Comics with Derf Backderf

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Derf Backderf spent the first 40 years of his life aiming, and ultimately succeeding, to become one of the top cartoonists in alternative newspapers. However, he then realized that niche industry was failing, and he needed something else; that’s when he found graphic novels.

Since switching his focus from newspaper strips to graphic novels in 2000, Backderf has transformed from a virtual unknown to a curiosity to an international star, with books like Punk Rock & Trailer Parks and his most famous work, My Friend Dahmer. He’s now working on on a graphic novel for Abrams about his time working as a garbageman, as well as a pseudo-sequel to Punk Rock & Trailer Parks that explores his time growing up in the Midwest punk scene.

Backderf’s opinion on comics as a fan and as a professional has changed over the years as he’s witness the decline of the once-thriving alternative weeklies, the rise of graphic novels and the changing face of American comics. I spoke with Backderf about his experiences, his acceptance in Europe, and his own opinions on comics.

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Polish town rejects ‘half-naked’ Pooh as playground mascot

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Even as Batman, The Joker and other costumed characters fight for their place in Times Square, a certain willy silly nilly old bear has found himself banned from a playground in Poland.

According to the Croatian Times, Winnie-the-Pooh’s troubles began not with a honeypot but rather when officials in the small town of Tuszyn (87 miles southwest of Warsaw) tried to settle on a mascot for the public playground. When talk turned to A.A. Milne’s beloved character, the town council’s more conservative members protested.

What followed was the Hundred Acre Wood version of swiftboating — Poohsticking, maybe? — as he was accused of being “inappropriately dressed” and of “dubious sexuality.” Yes, during a town council meeting, that was thankfully recorded by one of the members and then leaked to local media.

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Batman and Joker take their fight to New York City Council

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Longtime arch-enemies, Batman and The Joker faced off once more on Wednesday, only this time about a plant to require Times Square’s costumed characters to be licensed.

Wearing makeup and a red suit embellished with black bats, the Clown Prince of Crime told New York City Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee that the bill amounts to “fascism.”

“I might look like a clown but I’m speaking from the heart,” the New York Daily News quote The Joker, aka Keith Albahae, as saying. “I do this from my heart and not for tips. OK, I do ask for tips. And many people are glad to give them, but this is about the First Amendment and this is about discrimination. This straight-up seems like fascism.”

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DC and Vertigo reveal Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

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DC Entertainment will get a head start on the holiday-shopping season with a seven-day Black Friday sale on Batman digital comics.

Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, the publisher will offer 750 Batman issues — titles ranging from Gotham By Gaslight to The Dark Knight Returns to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s current run — for 99 cents each. They’re available for purchase from the DC Digital Store, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, comiXology and Google Play.

As that offer ends, Vertigo’s Cyber Monday sale begins, with the first collected volumes of 23 titles — from The Sandman to 100 Bullets to Promethea — available for download for $4.99. The offer is for one day only, on Dec. 1.

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Comics A.M. | National Gallery adds first comics to collection

Arcade: The Comics Revue #1

Arcade: The Comics Revue #1

Museums | The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has added comics to its permanent collection for the first time. Abigail and William Gerdts donated 176 comics, including Zap Comix and Arcade: The Comics Revue. Judith Brodie, curator of modern prints and drawings, cited the influence of comics on artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein: “They were all drawing their inspiration from cartoons and comic books. It seems totally logical that we’d want a representation of those.” [The Washington Post]

Passings | Greek cartoonist Ilias Skoulas died passed away Thursday at age 87. Skoulas began his career as an editorial cartoonist at the age of 32, and his work was published in numerous Greek newspapers and magazines, as well as 13 books. [Greek Reporter]

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Kia wheels out special Wolverine-themed ‘X-Car’

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Kia Motors, which previously partnered with DC Entertainment for a line of Justice League-themed Optimas, is now sinking its claws into Wolverine. Or rather, Wolverine is sinking his claws into a Kia.

The Korean automaker has produced a one-off Sorento that brandishes the popular antihero’s signature claws — and claw marks — to help promote the Blu-ray and DVD release of Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past in Australia. The car also will be displayed in January at Melbourne Park for the duration of the Australian Open, which is sponsored by Kia.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC hopes you’ll heart Harley in February

Convergence

Convergence

In April, DC Comics released solicitations for its July titles alongside an extra batch of advance listings for the September Futures End-related one-shots. This week, in a move that’s perhaps unintentionally similar, the publisher’s February solicits arrive amid advance info about the spring’s Convergence tie-ins.

The scheduling gap isn’t quite as great — only a couple of months here, as opposed to five months last time — and I can understand why DC would want to avoid a lot of negative fan speculation about Convergence. Still, it steals some thunder from the current batch of solicitations, which try to compensate with a raft of Harley Quinn variant covers (including, strangely enough, one for Harley Quinn itself). In addition to her own series and Suicide Squad, Harl also gets a Valentine’s Day Special, another hardcover collection, a statue, an action figure, and a guest-shot in Deathstroke. At this rate I’m expecting her to be Wonder Woman’s new Amazon queen.
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Check out Geof Darrow’s take on the world of ‘Korra’

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I somehow missed that Geof Darrow, the Eisner-winning artist of Hard Boiled and Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot and creator of Shaolin Cowboy, has drawn a poster based on the fan-favorite Nickelodeon series The Legend of Korra.

Inspired by “Book 4: Balance,” the limited-edition (signed and numbered) print is colored by fellow Eisner winner Dave Stewart, and available from the Nickelodeon store for $64.99.

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Thought Bubble: A social media overview

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In case you weren’t able to make this year’s Thought Bubble: The Leeds Comic Art Festival, ROBOT 6 has rounded up snippets of the overall experience through social media. The festival, now in its eighth year, was held Nov. 9-16, ending with a two-day convention on Nov. 15-16. Beyond the final two-day event, Thought Bubble offered more than 80 comics-related opportunities — some in cooperation with the 28th Leeds International Film Festival.

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DC argues Spanish soccer club logo is too much like Batman’s

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DC Comics is reportedly challenging the new logo of a Spanish soccer team, insisting it too closely resembles the familiar Batman emblem.

According to Eurosport, La Liga club Valencia C.F. sought to register a trademark for a variation of its crest, leading the publisher to file a complaint with the European Union’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market.

As the website notes, the bat has been used in Spanish heraldry since the 13th century, and is part of the coat of arms of Valencia and other cities in eastern Spain. Valencia C.F. has used bats in its club logo since 1919, two decades before the debut of the Dark Knight in Detective Comics #27.

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Artists reimagine Batman, with some sci-fi and fantasy flair

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Virtually everyone, fan and creator alike, has his or her own of what Batman acts and looks like. To that end, the Facebook art group Brainstorm asked its members to redesign the Dark Knight — just one in a series of challenges — to stunning results.

The Brainstorm Facebook page has been rampant with designs, some keeping the superhero elements while others delve into fantasy and sci-fi. The entries come from artists of all skill levels and from around the world.

Here are six pieces, out of the hundreds submitted, that stood out. Head to Brainstorm’s Facebook page to see even more.

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James Gunn reveals ‘Guardians’ secret ‘Awesome Mix Vol. Zero’

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The name of the soundtrack for the Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix Volume 1, suggests that at some point we could see a second volume. However, before Volume 1 sold more than 500,000 copies, there was actually a “Volume Zero” — or at least a playlist put together by director James Gunn and production sound mixer Simon Hayes and used between takes on the set of the Marvel blockbuster.

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Branding shmanding, ‘Teen Titans: Earth One’ is pretty good

TEEN TITANS EARTH ONEThe cover of Teen Titans: Earth One Volume One, as it’s referred to on its title page, bears the all-caps blurb, “THE NEXT CHAPTER IN THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING EARTH ONE SERIES.”

What exactly is “the Earth One series”? I’m a little confused. So too is its publisher.

The line of original graphic novels launched in 2010 with J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis’ Superman: Earth One. The premise seemed to be the reintroduction of the character in a modern setting for a new audience. (Not unlike Marvel’s millennial Ultimate imprint then, but in a more bookstore/library-friendly format.)

That was followed with a sequel and Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Now the Teen Titans get a turn with this book by Jeff Lemire, Terry and Rachel Dodson and Cam Smith. Despite the blurb, the graphic novels aren’t connected in any way other than design, format and, perhaps, intended audience.

The “Earth One” designation remains particularly perplexing, given the baggage the phrase is freighted with, its ever-changing meaning and the fact that these books are presumably targeted at readers who don’t know or care about the oft-rebooted DC Multiverse’s various parallel-Earth settings.
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Derf Backderf celebrates 11 years well spent

Backderf at the Angouleme International Comics Festival last January

Backderf at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in January

Derf Backderf, author of My Friend Dahmer, has a poignant post on his blog marking the 11th anniversary of the end of his cancer treatment:

On that grey day in November when I walked out of the Radiology Department in the basement of University Hospitals for the final time, I was exhausted, sporting several ghastly scars and missing a few chunks of my body, battered and roasted to a crisp, but happy. I’d made it.

Cancer messes with your head. I always thought I’d live to a ripe old age like my grandfather, who lived to 105 (his brother lived to 108!), but my body started to fall apart at age 35  like a Chevy Vega. On that November 18th, I was determined to make the most out of whatever time I had left.

And he did; in the past 11 years he has completed three graphic novels, including the award-winning My Friend Dahmer, published five minicomics, two webcomics and numerous other works, traveled to France and Belgium, won multiple comics awards, and, on a personal note, watched his children grow up and his parents grow old.

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How ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ should have ended

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After tarnishing our memories Disney classics with their sendup of the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, the folks at How It Should Have Ended have turned to Guardians of the Galaxy, offering some alternative takes that probably would’ve complicated Marvel’s plans for a 2017 sequel.

In the process, however, the video also addresses the blockbuster’s burning question: What’s with Thanos and that chair? As a bonus, there’s also a war of words between Baby Groot and Batman that goes … well, pretty much as you’d expect.

The treatment even gets a thumbs up from Guardians director James Gunn, who writes, “I love these. Having a How It Should Have Ended is better than winning an Oscar.”

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