Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Conventions | The organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con next month hope to break the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as comic book characters. The current record of 1,530 was set April 2011 at the opening of World Joyland theme park in China. Since then, several conventions have sought to seize that crown, but none has succeeded. It’s not as easy as it may sound, as to be counted for the record, the character must’ve first appeared in a comic book. And that’s just for starters. Salt Lake Comic Con has a rundown of the rules on its website. [KSL]
Creators | Imprisoned Iranian political cartoonist Atena Farghadani is grateful she received the Cartoonist Rights Network International Courage in Cartooning Award, her father said after a visit to her in Evin Prison, and she’s hoping an appeals court will reduce her sentence. Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for drawing a cartoon showing the members of the Iranian parliament with animal heads. [International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran]
Graphic novels | A number of incoming freshmen at Duke University have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, chosen as the summer reading selection for the class of 2019. Brian Grasso started the conversation by posting on the class Facebook page that he wouldn’t read the graphic novel because of its depictions of sexuality, saying, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That opened up a discussion in which some students defended the book and said that reading it would broaden their horizons, while others shied away from the visual depictions of sexual acts. And Grasso felt that the choice was insensitive, commenting: “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.” [Duke Chronicle]
Passings | Artist and writer Alan Kupperberg has died of thymus cancer at the age of 62. Kupperberg got his start writing dummy letters for Marvel in the late 1960s, then moved to the production department at DC and in 1974 was hired by the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics, where he played a variety of roles, including letterer, colorist, and editor. That company folded after a year, and he went to Marvel, where he worked on a number of different titles, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Savage Sword of Conan, and Amazing Spider-Man. He created the one-shot comic Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men working entirely solo, and he drew the weekly Howard the Duck newspaper comic as well as the comic-strip version of The Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. His magazine work included National Lampoon, Cracked, and Spy. Kupperberg also taught at the School for Visual Arts, and he was the brother of writer Paul Kupperberg. [ICv2]
Manga | Hiromi Bando has translated Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen into Chinese and is looking for a publisher, but she has been told the Chinese government will not approve its publication. Bando, who is Japanese, was inspired to translate the manga, an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, after hearing of her father’s experiences fighting in China during World War II. The manga is taught in the original Japanese in a few universities in China. [Asahi Shimbun]
A course on graphic novels as literature at a California college won’t carry a disclaimer after all, despite a statement by the school’s president that one would be included in response to a student’s complaint about adult content in some of the required reading.
According to Redlands Daily Facts, a Crafton Hills College spokeswoman said the disclaimer was never mandated, and Professor Ryan Bartlett, who teaches the English 250 course, ultimately decided against one.
“College is supposed to be a place where students can have real exchanges about sometimes difficult topics,” Bartlett said in an email. “An English major will have to read works in the literary canon (for example Shakespeare, Chaucer and the Bible) which include similar issues present in the chosen graphic novels. If we put a disclaimer on this course, then we should put a disclaimer on all literature courses, and I do not feel comfortable going down that slippery slope.”
Digital comics | Tom Spurgeon reports that Bongo Comics has quietly left comiXology and will be putting its comics in a new Simpsons Store app instead. While users won’t be able to buy new Bongo comics on comiXology, they will still be able to access those they already purchased. [The Comics Reporter]
Political cartoons | The American Freedom Defense Initiative has a new advertising campaign, placing Bosch Fawstin’s cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on billboards around St. Louis. Transit systems in several cities, including New York and Washington, D.C., have stopped accepting political advertising rather than carry the group’s ads depicting the Prophet Muhammad. In St. Louis, they have drawn mixed reactions: Dr. Ghazala Hayat of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis says she would like to see the signs removed but not at the cost of violence or property damage, while Jim Hanson, the executive vice president of the Center for Security Policy, said that freedom of speech is more important than avoiding offense. [WKRC]
Following a student’s protest over the contents of the graphic novels required by her English 250 class, Crafton Hills College President Cheryl A. Marshall has issued a statement saying the college will not ban any books or alter the content of the course.
I support the college’s policy on academic freedom which requires an open learning environment at the college. Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry. We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change. In this specific case, the syllabus distributed on the first day of class contained the list of required reading materials allowing students the opportunity to research the books and make a choice about the class. The class is one of numerous electives available for completion of the English degree. We are attempting to avoid this situation in the future and Professor Bartlett has agreed to include a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future so students have a better understanding of the course content. I know he appreciated the differing views presented by Ms. Shultz in his class.
College student Tara Shultz is the latest in a long line of people to be shocked to find that Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir about growing up during the Iranian revolution, contains violence.
A 20-year-old attending Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California, was so dismayed by the graphic content in four of the graphic novels required by her English 250 course — official description: “the study of the graphic novel as a viable medium of literature through readings, in-class discussion and analytical assignments” — that she and her parents are seeking to have them banned by the administration.
In addition to Persepolis, Shultz took exception to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man, and Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg & Co.’s The Sandman: The Doll’s House, due to the depictions of sex, violence and “obscenities.”
“I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within,” she told the Redlands Daily Facts. “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”
Awards | The Buffalo News editorial cartoonist Adam Zyglis is the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Cartooning, fulfilling a mandate given to him on the day he was hired, when his editor said, “Welcome aboard. Now go win us a Pulitzer.” [The Buffalo News]
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]
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]
Censorship | Police confiscated 200 copies of Malaysian cartoonist Zunar’s latest book, which lampoons the prime minister’s wife, as they were being transported to a book launch party on Saturday. Zunar, who was charged last week with sedition and held for three days because of a comment he made on Twitter, said every time he’s arrested, police raid his printer. Nonetheless, he encouraged the attendees at the launch party to order his books online, and said that ultimately, attempts to suppress him will backfire on the Malaysian government. [The Malaysian Insider]
Crime | Artist and collector Jim Wheelock talks about the loss of his comics collection, which was stolen from a storage unit in Brattleboro, Vermont: “I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of.” Vermont-based cartoonists James Kochalka and Harry Bliss weigh in on what such a loss would mean. Wheelock’s thousands of comics included extensive runs of The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four, in some cases beginning from the first issues. [Seven Days]
Publishing | Alex Abad-Santos examines how Marvel has created a mystique around its writers’ retreats, using the necessary secrecy to transform the planning meetings “into something fans are genuinely interested in.” The piece goes beyond that, however, touching upon recent accusations of sexism, and the inclusion of newly Marvel-exclusive writer G. Willow Wilson in this month’s retreat. [Vox]
Comics | Matt Cavna interviews Matt Bors, editor of The Nib, the comics section of the website The Medium, which has become the go-to site for journalism and commentary in comics form. [Comic Riffs]
Best of the year | The Publishers Weekly critics vote for the best graphic novels of the year; Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer tops the list, and there are plenty of interesting suggestions as books that got even one or two votes are included. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Keiko Yoshioka explains how Japanese publisher Kodansha is getting into the Chinese market, not by selling Japanese products but by publishing a magazine in China that’s geared toward Chinese audiences — and using Chinese creators as well. The article puts a special focus on the two-woman team known as Navar, whose suspense series Carrier: Xiedaizhe now runs in Japan as well. [The Asahi Shimbun]
Academia | Northwestern University Prof. Irving Rein discusses why superheroes have secret identities, ticking off several superhero comics tropes and then going a bit deeper: “The usual script of a superhero episode revolves around a threat occurring in which the superhero is the victim of the decision making of the criminals. The hidden identity is a standard form of the superhero narrative and it allows the creators to use the formula and still deviate from the script. Throughout the comic book or movie there are a series of fundamental questions. Will the superhero be identified? When and under what circumstances will the superhero become a superhero? How will the superhero get back into his civilian identity without being identified?” [Daily Herald]
Manga | The top-selling manga in Japan this year was One Piece, with nearly 11.9 million volumes sold; Attack on Titan came in a close second, with 11.7 million. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Jim Zubkavich updates his post from last year about the long-term sales and profitability of his series Skullkickers. There are some interesting angles to this, including the cost of his deluxe collected editions, the boost he got from his “reboot,” and the importance of digital sales in the long term: “Since there’s no print run or storage limit with digital they continue to build profitability over the long haul (particularly with the early issues as new readers sample the series during comiXology sales). Many issues that lost money in their initial print release have been able to make back their losses thanks to digital.” [Zub Tales]