Brigid Alverson, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Manga | In Japan, as elsewhere, people would rather read about farming than actually do it; agriculture has become a popular topic for manga, and the Agriculture Ministry recently announced an award for manga that raise interest in farming. The article mainly focuses on Hiromu Arakawa’s Silver Spoon, which has recently been made into a movie; Arakawa is also the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, a fact the article omits. [The Wall Street Journal]
Awards | Silver Spoon was on of the 10 nominees for this year’s Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize; two manga that are published in English, Attack on Titan and Animal Land, also made the list. [Anime News Network]
Manga | In a two-part interview, ICv2 talks at length to veteran Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn about how the manga market has evolved since 1987, which manga do and do not do well, and what the future may hold. The good news is the market seems to be recovering after several years of declining sales; the hard evidence is that Dark Horse is sending more royalties back to the Japanese licensors. And the new reality is that while the market may be smaller, almost everyone knows what manga is now: “You can’t simply put a manga on the market and expect it to sell because it is manga (that was one of the nice things about the boom because you could take a chance on more marginal titles), but on the other hand you don’t have to do as much explaining about what manga is anymore.” In addition, ICv2 lists the top 25 manga and the top 10 shoujo and shonen properties from the last quarter of 2013. [ICv2]
Legal | Eriq Gardner delves into the issues underlying the continuing legal battle over unauthorized replicas of the Batmobile from the 1966 Batman television series and the 1989 film: This summer the Ninth Circuit will consider the appeal of Gotham Garage owner Mark Towle, whose Batmobile replicas were found in February 2013 to violate DC Comics’ copyrights and trademarks. While Towle argues that Batman’s ride is a “useful article,” meaning a utilitarian object not protected by U.S. copyright law, a federal judge ruled the Batmobile is “a copyrightable character.” Gardner notes that if the appeals court sides with DC/Warner Bros., “Hollywood studios would win a powerful weapon to stop products that are similar to props like light sabers and ruby slippers.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Conventions | The Salt Lake Comic Con spinoff event FanXperience is shaping up for its April 17 debut with the addition of KidCon, a pavilion dedicated to younger attendees. “We don’t want the impression that we have KidCon there for everything else to become less kid-friendly,” says co-founder Dan Farr. “Although I would imagine 99 percent of the people that are coming are going to take their kids throughout the whole hall, it’s just to have an area where they can go and spend a little more time with their kids.” The inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con in September drew an estimated 80,000 attendees; organizers anticipate as many as 100,000 for FanX, which will have almost double the floor space. [Deseret News]
Legal | The judge was a no-show for what was supposed to be the announcement of the verdict in the trial of Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem, who stands accused of “insulting the president of the republic” in a cartoon that was, bizarrely, never published. Ghanem’s lawyer says the verdict has been postponed; the cartoonist faces up to 18 months in prison and a fine of 30,000 dinars ($380 U.S>) if found guilty. [Global Post]
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kadokawa plans on March 22 to launch ComicWalker, a digital comics service that will carry manga in three languages: Japanese, English and Chinese. The stories will include some well-known classics (Sgt. Frog, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam: The Origin) as well as new manga, and apparently they will be free. The launch will include 150 titles, 40 of which will be translated, so it sounds like not everything will be available in English right away. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Lewis Trondheim, a former winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême and therefore a member of the academy that chooses each year’s winners, provides an insider’s view of the voting and the causes and effects of the changes that have been made over the past two years: “In its forty-three years, the festival has had, I believe, three Americans, one Argentine, one Swiss, three Belgians, and over thirty Frenchmen. This doesn’t seem to correspond with the reality of the comics world to me.” [The Comics Journal]
Publishing | Viz Media’s Kevin Hamric discusses how the availability of streaming anime has been boosting sales of the related manga. Series that have gotten a boost lately include Blue Exorcist and Kamisama Kiss: “Overall streaming has had a positive effect on our book sales. In recent years, Blue Exorcist is probably the biggest example I can give — one of newest hits under our Shonen Jump Advanced imprint. We launched our series [in 2010] and had very good sales (they matched our expectations), but once the anime was available through streaming, sales jumped through the roof, and that was in 2011. So streaming was fairly young at that time. Once the anime was streaming, sales of the manga were way above expectations.” [ICv2]
Retailing | The manager of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates 50 to 60 percent of their inventory was ruined by smoke and water after a fire broke out Sunday in the building that’s housed the store’s main location since 1976. Employees have been sorting through tens of thousands of comics to determine what can be salvaged while directing customers to the Dragon’s Lair store in the city’s Millard neighborhood. The hope is to use a store room next to the damaged building to begin offering limited services to customers — pull lists and special orders — as the retailer plans for what comes next. “We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” manager Craig Patterson said. “More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.” [World-Herald]
Awards | Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange) and Mark Tatulli (Heart of the City, Lio) has been nominated for the 2013 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. The winner will be announced May 24 during the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards dinner in San Diego. [National Cartoonists Society]
Political cartoons | Cartoonist Majida Shaheen refused an interview recently, saying she continues to feel “threats and pressure” over a cartoon she posted on her Facebook page depicting he military wing of Islamic Jihad as a dog. However, Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab says his organization isn’t behind them. “No one attacked her officially from the part of the movement. I followed up on the comments on Facebook, and these comments do not express our point of view. We consider her to be merely an unknown artist seeking fame,” he said, adding, “Every person has the right to express their convictions. Yet, we were upset with the indecent approach, which is not part of freedom of expression.” [Al Monitor]
Before he became well known as the writer and illustrator of charming children’s books, Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel) had another gig: He drew political cartoons. In fact, in the run-up to World War II, Seuss drew some fairly pointed cartoons accusing those who wanted to stay out of the war of being manipulated by the Nazis.
Alas, one stash of these cartoons is being kept firmly out of the public eye, as reporter Bill Sloat reveals in a fine piece in the Cincinnati City Paper: The Cincinnati Art Museum has five of Seuss’ political cartoons, all drawn for the left-leaning newspaper PM between 1939 and 1941, but they aren’t on exhibit, and the museum has no plans to put them on public display:
Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson has stayed out of the public eye since he ended the popular strip in 1995, but he’s back this week with a rare new piece of art: the poster for the documentary Stripped. It’s his first published cartoon in nearly two decades.
Watterson also did a rare audio interview for the film about comic strips that features interviews with more than 60 creators. Stripped is being made by webcomics creator Dave Kellett and filmmaker Frederick Schroeder, and it was Kellett who asked Watterson if he would make the poster. “Dave sent me a rough cut of the film and I dusted the cobwebs off my ink bottle,” Watterson told Michael Cavna of The Washington Post.
“Given the movie’s title and the fact that there are few things funnier than human nudity, the idea popped into my head largely intact,” the cartoonist said. “The film is a big valentine to comics, so I tried to do something really cartoon-y. I had thought of having it colored with off-registered printing dots like newspaper comics, but Dave asked if I’d paint it instead, and I think he made the right call.”
This is Watterson’s second publicly released work of art since 1995; in 2011 he created a painting of Richard Thompson’s character Petey Otterloop, which was sold for $13,000 at the benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac, which supports research into Parkinson’s disease.
An exhibit of original work by Watterson and Thompson will open in March at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Passings | Comics journalist and commentator Bhob Stewart died Monday at the age of 76. Stewart kicked off his career in 1953, at the age of 16, by publishing an EC fanzine; the following year, as Carol Tilley documented in a recent talk, he sent a copy to anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, along with some tart commentary. Stewart went on to become an influential voice in the conversation about comics; he wrote several books, taught classes at the School for Visual Arts, and curated the first exhibit of comics art in a major American museum. Heidi MacDonald credits him with inventing both Wacky Packages and the term “underground comics.” [The Beat]
Editorial cartoons | German cartoonist Burkhard Mohr has apologized for a cartoon depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a hooked nose, an image that critics said was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The cartoon appeared in the early editions of the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, but Zuckerberg’s face was replaced by an empty hole in later editions. “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr said. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me” [ABC News]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, looks at the uptick in comics conventions — he pegs ticket sales at $600 million, which is 80 percent of the dollar value of the whole comics market — and discusses some recent events and trends, including the new cons that are popping up all over and the increased international interest in connvetions outside the United States. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter makes the list of “10 Inspirational Leaders Who Turned Around Their Companies.” [Entrepreneur]
Creators | Colleen Coover posts the full transcript of her recent interview with Paste magazine about sexism in the comics industry. [Colleen Coover]
Earlier this year, the small publisher Oily Comics suspended its subscription service. But it’s back, with Publisher Charles Forsman (creator of TEOTFW) tweeting Sunday that Oily is offering a new spring bundle that will be out in March. It’s available for pre-order now, and the full bundle is limited to 200 copies.
I checked in with Forsman to see what the story is with Oily and get some details on the new bundle.
Brigid Alverson: What’s going on with Oily Comics? Are you changing your business plan? How is this different from the way you were doing things before?
Charles Forsman: I stopped the subscriptions at the end of last year. I was feeling a bit burnt out at the time. It was a combination of my mental state and I was beginning to feel like I was just going through the motions with the monthly comics. So I put it on hold so I could crawl into my hole and get through my winter depression and decide what Oily would look like in the future. So, I am trying this bundle idea. I think I was inspired a bit by the humble bundle service. They do a pay-what-you-want bundle of video games. I thought it could work for Oily so I’m giving it a shot. Plus it satisfies a goal that the subscriptions had which is the simple idea of getting someone for Oily because they like a certain artist. But they will also be exposed to cartoonists they have not read before. I would love to do a pay-what-you-want but that just doesn’t work for physical comics so well.
Diamond Comic Distributors’ digital comics program, Diamond Digital, will shut down on Friday, although titles purchased through the service will continue to be available via iVerse’s Comics Plus app.
The news broke Friday at The Hollywood Reporter, where Graeme McMillan picked up on an email sent to retailers two weeks ago. The stated reason: “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.”
There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.
Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher. And granted, that is a huge flaw.
Legal | It looks as if Tunisian cartoonist Jabeur Mejri will not be released from prison any time soon, despite being pardoned by President Moncef Marzouki for charges stemming from his cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. It turns out that the mysterious other criminal case that’s been holding things up is a charge of embezzlement that dates back a few years to when Mejri was working for the Tunisian railways. Neither Mejri’s lawyer nor his family had been aware of the charge, but the judge in the case issued a warrant for Mejri’s continued detention on Jan. 9. His lawyer will submit a bail request, which he hopes will be granted next week. [Independent Online]
Creators | Chris Ware talks about his Building Stories in an interview that was recorded before a live audience in Portland, Oregon. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]