Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Blade of the Immortal, Hiroaki Samura’s samurai tale, reaches the end of its long run this week with the publication of Volume 31. Dark Horse began publishing the series in 1996, at a time when manga was not only flipped but chopped into single-issue comics. The world has changed a lot since then, and so has Blade. Samura spent almost 20 years writing and drawing the series, and his storytelling style evolved quite a bit over the years.
Samura’s superb art belies the startling violence of his story: Manji, a renegade samurai, cannot die because his body harbors bloodworms that heal every wound. To shake the curse of immortality, he must kill 1,000 evil men. This task gains focus when he teams with Rin, the daughter of a dojo master whose father was slain in front of her; she seeks not only to avenge his death but also to stop his killers from slaughtering the members of the other dojos to consolidate the power of their own school of fighting, Ittō-ryū. Samura fills the pages with baroque villains and and elaborate weapons of his own invention. The early volumes have a punk feel to them, but eventually he settles into a more traditional style.
Libraries | A parent plans to appeal a decision by a New Mexico school district to keep Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar on the shelves of the Rio Rancho High School Library. Catrenna Lopez complained in February after her 14-year-old son brought home the acclaimed hardcover, insisting it contained “pornographic” images and promoted prostitution. A review committee appointed by the superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools voted 5-3 last week to retain the book. In response to the decision, Lopez said, “To me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” If she follows through with her plan, the appeal would go to the school board, which would take a public vote on its decision. [KRQE]
Retailing | The driver died early Sunday after crashing a car into Mile High Comics’ Jason Street “mega store” in Denver. There were no passengers, and no one was in the store at the time of the accident. [CBS Denver]
Political cartoons | Airdropping propaganda on the enemy is a time-honored tactic, and it just happened again: Michael Cavna has a copy of the cartoon, which depicts ISIS recruits lining up to be fed into a meat grinder, that the U.S. Military Information Support Operations Command dropped into the ISIS-held territory of Raqqa, Syria. According to the Pentagon, a U.S. Air Force F-15 warplane dropped about 60,000 of the leaflets on March 16. [Comic Riffs]
Creators | Writer Michael Frizell talks about working on his latest Bluewater comic Ozzy Osbourne: The Metal Madman. Research was a big part of the job: “The trick was trying to sort out the hyperbole from the facts,” he said. “Thus, anything I documented in the comic book had to have at least three sources confirming its validity.” [Fast Company]
Manga | Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto ended its weekly serialization in Shonen Jump magazine in November, but a spinoff miniseries, Naruto Gaiden: Nanadaime Hokage to Akairo no Hanatsuzuki (Naruto Spinoff: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring Month), will launch in the April 27 issue of Japanese Shonen Jump. The magazine teases, “”Urgent News: The story enters a new generation …” [Anime News Network]
Passings | MAD Magazine writer Lou Silverstone has died at age 90. Silverstone was the writer of many of MAD‘s movie and television satires in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with “Bananaz,” a parody of Bonanza. Later he went to work for Cracked, MAD‘s chief competition, and he also wrote for the Jackson 5 animated series and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic, a gig that he got through former MAD artist Wally Wood. The MAD website also pays tribute to Silverstone. [News From ME]
Conventions | Oregon’s Cherry City Comic Con has a new owner and a new attitude. The con fell on hard times last year, and at one point this year’s show was canceled. New owner John Roache bought the show when he heard that news; he and his wife, artist Nicole Brune, had been to last year’s show and enjoyed it. He’s keeping the name but changing the format to more of a pop-culture convention, with a long list of entertainment guests, and he has expanded the number of slots available for vendors. The show is scheduled for April 11-12. [Statesman Journal]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
The era before World War II was known as the Belle Epoque, the Beautiful Age, in France, but that was for the rich. For the poor and the working class, it was a time of harsh conditions and few opportunities, and numerous anarchist groups sprung up amid the disenfranchised. Among them was the Bonnot Gang, ideological criminals whose anarchist principles led them to go on a crime spree in France in 1911-12, robbing banks and stealing from the rich (they were the first bank robbers ever to use a getaway car). The Illegalists is their story.
Or rather, it will be their story if the graphic novel is completed. Right now, writer Stefan Vogel is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to finish it. The artist is Attila Futaki, whose credits include the Image Comics series Severed (written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft) and the second Percy Jackson graphic novel.
Conventions | The annual scramble for discounted Comic-Con International rooms in 54 participating hotels kicks off Tuesday at 9 a.m. PT. Comic-Con badger holders should’ve already received an email containing a link to the Travel Planners hotel reservation website. [Toucan]
Passings | Michael Cavna remembers cartoonist Jim Berry, who died Friday at age 83: “Berry’s World, the syndicated single-panel feature that he drew for 40 years, beginning in 1963, was a remarkably steady stream of thoughtful observational humor that — like the unfussy art itself — rarely seemed to strain for the laugh. Each gag, as steady as a top golfer’s approach shots, just ‘landed.’ Precision meets concision.” [Comic Riffs]
The Toronto Reference Library has been the host venue for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) since 2009, and now visitors can sample some of what TCAF has to offer year-round with at the library’s own festival-affiliated comic shop.
Passings | Cartoonist and illustrator Roy Doty, best known for his long-running Wordless Workshop cartoon, has died at age 92. Wordless Workshop, which ran in Family Handyman and other similar publications, featured a pipe-smoking handyman who, when faced with a domestic problem of some sort, would immediately visualize something he could build, including a simple set of plans. Doty also illustrated over 100 children’s books, including several by Judy Blume, and drew a syndicated Laugh-In comic based on the television show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. He had a short-lived show of his own on the Dumont Network in 1953, in which he told stories and drew cartoons. He won 10 awards from the National Cartoonists Society, including their Gold Key Hall of Fame Award, and continued to be an active cartoonist until last year. [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Business | Indian digital comics and animation producer Graphic India has raised $2.8 million in seed financing, led by CA Media, the Asian investment arm of the Chernin Group (which previously acquired “a large minority stake” in the company). Founded in 2013 as a subsidiary of Liquid Comics, Graphic India is perhaps best known for the Stan Lee-created Chakra: The Invincible. The funding will be used to create content in English, Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages for mobile devices. [Variety]
Creators | Geoff Johns says he returned to Superman because he was interested in giving the Man of Steel a new confidante: “When I was just thinking about the character and thinking about the story possibilities, every time my brain started to picture him talking to somebody with a problem he was having … or dealing with Clark and Superman, it always was just with another superhero. I quickly realized [Superman] didn’t really have anyone normal in his life that he could talk to again, because no one knew his secret.” The other reason: The opportunity to work with John Romita Jr. [Comic Riffs]
Creators | Cerebus creator Dave Sim was scheduled for surgery Tuesday after checking himself into the emergency room for severe stomach cramps. According to Sim’s friend, Dr. Troy Thompson, “the presumptive diagnosis is cecal volvulus, which is a twisting of the colon causing obstruction.” However, nothing will be known for sure until after the surgery. Sim was already feeling better after doctors inserted a nasogastric tube to remove the contents of his stomach. [A Moment of Cerebus, which is offering updates]
Legal | Matthew Pocci Jr., who in July drove into the crowd of ZombieWalk: San Diego, held annually during Comic-Con International, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of felony reckless driving. His lawyer said that Pocci, who is deaf, was scared for his safety and that of his family when his car was engulfed by a crowd of people during the event. He initially stopped the car but then restarted the engine and moved forward, striking several people. [UT-San Diego]
Publishing | Papercutz, which has had an extremely successful program of LEGO graphic novels based on the Bionicle, Ninjago and Legends of Chima properties, is losing that license to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which will have its own graphic novels in bookstores by the end of this year. Papercutz reveals it will continue to publish Bionicle and Ninjago through the end of this year, and Legends of Chima through mid-2016. [Publishers Weekly, ICv2]
Passings | Fred Fredericks, who drew the Mandrake the Magician comic strip from 1965 to 2013, has died. In addition to his daily newspaper work, Fredericks drew comics for Western Publishing and Marvel. [ComicMix]
Auctions | A page of original artwork from 1971’s Asterix and the Laurel Wreath sold at auction Sunday for more than $158,000, with proceeds going to benefit the families of those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices. The art included a special dedication by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, who came out of retirement in the days after the attack to draw tributes to the victims. The auction house Christie’s waived its commission for Sunday’s sale. [BBC News]
Political cartoons | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who has been sued, threatened and reprimanded by his own government because of his political cartoons, revealed last week that he has also received threats from an Ecuadorean member of ISIS over a cartoon making fun of the extremist group. While he ultimately decided the threat wasn’t credible, Bonilla said, “It has to be understood within this climate of hostility and harassment that’s been created within the country. It’s gotten to the point where even humor is being persecuted and oppressed by the president.” Reporter Jim Wyss also looks at some other cases of government suppression of political cartoons in Latin America [Miami Herald]