Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]
Creators | John Layman, who’s writing the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]
Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]
Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]
Manga | Yen Press announced a number of new manga licenses over the weekend at SakuraCon, including the manga series based on the Square Enix game Kingdom Hearts. The company will re-release some of the manga originally published by Tokyopop and publish some of the newer series as well. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Christopher Irving interviews, and Seth Kusher photographs, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman: “I am certain that I will never be able to top it, and I’m coming to grips with that. It’s somewhat disconcerting that something I created when I was 23 will be something I’m remembered for when I die, when I’m 35 (or whenever it is). …I’ll be 34 in a little bit, so I wasn’t being too optimistic for myself.” [Graphic NYC]
The animated cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is already a hit in Japan (where the title is My Little Pony ~Tomodachi wa Mahō~), and now it’s coming to the pages of the children’s manga magazine Pucchigumi as well. The news was revealed at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, where, according to Anime News Network, a flyer was passed out with the news. A representative from the Japanese company Bushiroad told ANN that the artist for the manga will be named sometime this spring.
Pucchigumi sounds like the sort of magazine that kids love and parents loathe; it runs a lot of licensed series based on properties such as Barbie, Tamagotchi, and Jewelpet. A glance at the cover of the current issue reveals a crowded layout, an excess of pink, and lots of big-eyed, super-cute characters, so Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle should fit right in.
Pucchigumi is published by Shogakukan, one of the parent companies of Viz, so if the manga were ever to be licensed in the U.S., that’s who would probably publish it—and indeed, it would be a logical addition to their VizKids line. Of course, IDW already has a serialized My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic, so the relationship could be complicated.
Comics sales | The bookstore chain Books-A-Million had an up year, and CEO Terrance G. Finley credited that in part to strong graphic novel sales, including The Walking Dead and kids’ graphic novels. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Wired runs down a handful of digital comics apps, noting both the pluses and the minuses of each one. [Wired]
Creators | Yehudi Mercado talks about his kid-friendly comic Pantalones, TX, which is filled with Saturday morning cartoon-style action, authority-questioning, and risky business: “I did purposefully envision Pantalones, TX as the anti-safety pad cartoon. I see my nieces and nephews growing up in a sheltered and sanitized environment, they don’t play outdoors at all. When I was a kid we shot fireworks at each other while playing in a bayou. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but there should be a balance.” [Wired]
Conventions | With just a day to go until WonderCon kicks off in Anaheim, California, Saturday and three-day passes have sold out. Although Friday and Sunday badges are still available, organizers recommend they be purchased in advance online, rather than at the door. Additional passes will likely become available as cancellations and refunds are processed. [Toucan]
Conventions | Renatt Kuenzi files a report on this month’s Fumetto International Comix Festival, which co-director Marta Nawrocka describes as “a festival for exhibitors and artists – not a fair with stands and people dressed in suits.” Part of the challenge for organizers of the festival, which featured work by Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Swiss artist Bastien Gachet, and Arab artists Mohamed Shennawy and Lena Merhej, among others, was to combat the German-Swiss prejudice that comics are “juvenile.” [SwissInfo]
Tapastic is a new digital-comics platform that allows users to upload their comics to the Internet. That isn’t a new idea, and when Nina Kester, whom I first met when she was working with Archie, contacted me about it, my first question (asked and answered below) was “How is this different from SmackJeeves or Drunk Duck?” Well, I was a bit more polite than that.
One way to look at it is that Tapastic is webcomics sites 2.0. It’s sleeker, more polished, and it has venture capital funding, so someone is planning to make money from it. I asked Nina to explain what Tapastic is up to, talk about the plans for WonderCon, and recommend a couple of her favorite comics from the site.
ROBOT 6: What sets Tapastic apart from other webcomics sites?
Nina Kester: The first thing everyone notices about Tapastic in contrast with other comic websites is our design. Our CPO Daron Akira Hall’s minimalistic aesthetic for the site and Tapastic’s apps and his design of the user experience always tend to be the first “wow” because it makes the content look so attractive. In his own words, “the main focus for the overall design UI from my perspective has been to keep it simple and flat, not too colorful … in order to let the content shine through, keeping the focus on the art, etc.”
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
Going to PAX East in Boston over the weekend was like going to a comic convention on another planet.
The gestalt was the same — the exhibit floor, the booths, the cosplayers, the panels — but everything was a little off. The crowd was bigger and younger. Huge screens advertised properties I knew by name only. A lot of the attendees were glued to consoles or computer screens, playing games; one side of the convention center was split into a massive tabletop gaming area and an even bigger PC gaming section. The part that really came closest to a comic con was the indie area on the exhibit floor, where developers were hand-selling their games the way indie creators promote their graphic novels.
Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
Conventions | The organizers of Asbury Park Comic Con emphasize they are getting back to basics, with a comics event that eschews movies and other media to focus solely on comics. The headline guests for the Saturday event are Michael Uslan, Al Jaffee and Herb Trimpe. [The New York Times]
Conventions | In Pennsylvania, the first-ever Nittany-Con drew about 400 people to enjoy the three c’s of comics conventions: Creators, cheap comics, and cosplay. [Centre Daily Times]
Conventions | And in New Jersey, the Hasbrouck Heights Comics Expo drew an equally enthusiastic, if somewhat smaller, crowd. [NorthJersey.com]
At a time when newspaper comics-page slots are few and coveted, Jeff Burney’s decision to stop running his comic strip Attica in the Ottawa Citizen and put it online as a free webcomic seems counterintuitive. Who would trade a regular paycheck to take a chance on the web?
Burney’s calculation included both time and money: As he explains in an interview with ROBOT 6, doing the strip seven days a week took up all his time, so he had no opportunity to market it online. The money problem stemmed from the fact that Attica runs in only one newspaper, and his attempts to sell it to others have hit up against the wall created by the current state of the industry.
He began working on Attica while on parental leave from his high-tech job, and he took early retirement so he could become a full-time cartoonist. I asked Burney to talk about his experiences as a creator and the marketer of his own comic, and he provided a fascinating inside look at the newspaper comics market — and the possibilities of webcomics.
Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
The business model of Box Brown’s Retrofit Comics is old school all the way: He’s doing print editions, on paper and everything, of indie comics and selling them individually and by subscription. But he added a new twist this week when he announced on the Retrofit Tumblr that if the number of subscriptions reaches 130 (it was at 122 that day) by this Friday, every subscriber will get a two-color riso print (in full below). I find the concept of stretch goals fascinating, as they allow some customers to benefit from decisions made by others — I thought this was a good deal, so I subscribed, and now that a bunch of other people have subscribed as well, I get a free print.
Awards | A last-minute reminder: Today is the deadline for Eisner Awards submissions. [Eisner Awards]
Creators | Grant Morrison looks back on his run on Action Comics, which ends today with the release of Issue 18, and touches upon Multiversity and his long-discussed Wonder Woman project: “This is some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time, because it’s a completely different type of comic book. Usually I don’t do masses of research, but for Wonder Woman, I’ve actually been working my way through the entire history of feminism. I want this to be fucking serious, you know? I want this to be really, really good, to reflect not only what women think, but what men think of women. I’m trying to do something really different from what’s been done with the character before. That one’s been amazing fun, because it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever done before.” [Entertainment Weekly]