Awards | All the presenters for last weekend’s Ignatz Awards ceremony were women, and that was no accident: This year’s host, New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly, explains, “More and more of us are now in the business, unlike previous years, and I wanted to celebrate that fact by bringing attention to it.” [Comic Riffs]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon has an in-depth interview with experimental cartoonist Warren Craghead. [The Comics Reporter]
Creators | Stan Lee, in town for Wizard World Ohio Comic Con, chats with reporter Michael Grossberg about superheroes as modern fairy tales. [The Columbus Dispatch]
Comics strips | Matt Saracini looks at the impact on Australian cartoonists of a cost-cutting decision by media giant News Corp. Australia to replace individual comics pages in their largest newspapers with one national page. In the process, some more expensive locally produced strips were jettisoned in favor for cheaper syndicated ones from overseas, like Garfield and The Phantom. News Corp. owns more than a hundred daily, weekly, biweekly and triweekly newspapers. [SBS.com]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, now living in Kuwait after troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked him and broke both his hands, talks about his decision to portray al-Assad explicitly in his cartoons, rather than sticking to more generic themes like freedom and human rights: “It was a big decision to start to draw Bashar and, yes, I was scared of what might happen, particularly when I was attacked. But I had a responsibility to do what I did. If I am not prepared to take risks I have no right to call myself an artist. If there is no mission or message to my work I might as well be a painter and decorator.” [The Guardian]
Legal | Former comics retailer Michael George has lost his appeal for a new trial. He was convicted twice for the 1990 murder of his wife, first in 2008 and then in a 2011 retrial. George is serving life in prison without parole. [The Macomb Daily]
Creators | John Sutter profiles Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, whose hands were broken by government troops in an (unsuccessful) attempt to keep him from ever drawing again. [CNN]
Creators | Michael Diana, the first artist in the United States to be convicted of obscenity (for his comic Boiled Angel), returns to Miami after more than 20 years for a show of his work at the Miami Art Museum — which paid his remaining fines so he could enter the state without risk of arrest. [Miami New Times]
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
The Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has bestowed the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award on two artists who have experienced persecution for their work, Syrian Ali Ferzat and Indian Aseem Trivedi.
Ferzat, who is 60 years old, has been a cartoonist for many years, but he didn’t encounter trouble until 2011, when he drew a number of cartoons critical of dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of the democracy movement. Syrian security forces abducted Ferzat and beat him, deliberately breaking both his hands. This did not silence him; on the contrary, he went public about the abuse, and his work is available (in Arabic) at his website. He also has a Facebook page.
Trivedi is the force behind the Cartoons Against Corruption website, which collects editorial cartoons protesting against not only government corruption but also attacks on free speech, including restrictions on the internet. Trivedi was charged with treason and “insulting national symbols” for this, but he nonetheless remains active in the free speech movement in India.
CRNI will present the awards during the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in September.
Creators | Ali Ferzat, the Syrian cartoonist who was abducted and beaten last year because of his criticisms of the government, was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” “Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker writes in his tribute to Ferzat. “So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.” [Time]
Publishing | In one of its wide-ranging interviews with comics publishers, the retail news and analysis site ICv2 talks with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson about the state of the market, the loss of Borders, his company’s 2011 layoffs, webcomics, and some early missteps with its digital program: “Quite honestly we’ve run into a few issues because the programs that we’ve done haven’t worked as well as we wished. We created some exclusive material and got less participation than we had hoped for. [...] We gave codes out to retail stores to drive customers into their stores. They could pick up the exclusive content by going to their participating comic shop. Evidently we didn’t do a good enough job getting the word out, so we’re retooling that.” [ICv2.com]
Look, I’m not even going to pretend to be familiar with the work of Ali Ferzat, a Syrian political cartoonist who has emerged as an outspoken critic of dictator Bashar al-Assad and his bloody crackdown against anti-government protestors over the past several months. But you can bet Assad and his regime know his work, and hate it, because their security forces abducted Ferzat, beat him, made a point of breaking his hands, and dumped him on the side of the road. This Washington Post article lays out the details as they are known right now, and included the terrifying Facebook picture above. The news comes via Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter, generally your best source for information on the pressures faced by political cartoonists worldwide.
Though people like Mike Diana, Jesus Castillo, and Christopher Handley provide us with sad exceptions to this rule, in general, no one in America is subject to legal (or extralegal) punishment for the comics they draw, sell, or consume. We’re lucky. And while it’s impossible not to be gobsmacked by not just the brutality but the arrogance of a government that would punish a cartoonist critic in such an overtly symbolic manner, it’s just as impossible not to be awed by the bravery of an artist who knows he’s up against a government that would do a thing like that, but goes up against them anyway.