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Comic Books, TV
Legal | The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn a June decision by the Seventh Circuit affirming that the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published before Jan. 1, 1923, have entered the public domain. The estate had long insisted licensing fees be paid for the characters and story elements to be used in movies, television series and books, but author, editor and Holmes expert Leslie Klinger refused to fork over $5,000 for an anthology of new stories. In a series of legal defeats, the Doyle estate not only lost any claim to the stories but had to endure stinging public reprimands by Judge Richard Posner, who labeled the licensing fees as “a form of extortion” and praised Klinger for performing a “public service” by filing his lawsuit.
In its petition to the high court, the Doyle estate continues to cling to its argument (gleefully dismantled by Posner) that Holmes is a “complex” character that he was effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States; therefore, the entire body of work remains protected by copyright. Hoping to draw the interest of the justices, the estate points to a circuit split on the matter of extending copyright. The lawyers also repeat the unsuccessful argument that Klinger’s case shouldn’t have been heard until after his book was published. In June, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kegan refused to issue a stay to prevent the Holmes stories from officially entering the public domain. [TechDirt]
Graphic novels | Sales of graphic novels are up 10 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to Neilsen BookScan, which tracks sales in bookstores and other general retail channels. In terms of unit sales, that’s about 5.6 million books sold this year, as opposed to 5.1 million in 2013. The trend is echoed by Diamond Comic Distributors’ numbers for the direct market, which show graphic novels up 3.8 percent in dollars and 5.8 percent in unit sales year to date. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Alison Bechdel is having a busy week: Following the news that she has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, she announced her new book: The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a memoir of her obsession with exercise and a history of American fitness fads, to be published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [The New York Times]
Acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel is among 21 people named the 2014 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The prestigious award, commonly referred to as the “genius grant,” comes with a $625,000 cash prize distributed quarterly over five years, with no strings attached.
“When I got the call from the MacArthur Foundation, I thought I was going to faint,” Bechdel, creator of the graphic memoirs Are You My Mother? and Fun Home, says in the video below. “It was crazy. It was like someone had actually almost hit me. It was this physical blow. I feel like I’ve been in a state of shock. I think getting this kind of recognition from the MacArthur Foundation, I can feel it already changing my life. I’m having to adjust to the fact that this has happened, therefore, I must be doing something worthwhile. And to have that kind of confidence put into my work is a huge gift, and I’m going to work very, very hard to live up to those expectations.”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley last week signed a state budget that requires two colleges to spend nearly $70,000 to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents as punishment for selecting gay-themed books for their freshman reading programs.
According to The State, Haley said she appreciated the compromise, approved last month by the state Senate to prevent a standoff over the House’s punitive cuts of $52,000 to the College of Charleston and $17,142 to the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home, and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.
During heated debates in both legislative bodies, some lawmakers accused the College of Charleston of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students. On the floor of the Senate, where a vote was delayed by a Democrat-led filibuster, some legislators reportedly “compared Fun Home and its author to everything from slavery to serial murderer Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler.”
Comics | The Lussier family of Barrhaven, Ontario, will be offering more than 25,000 comics for sale June 7 in their garage to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The Lussiers not only collect comics, they use them as part of their homeschooling curriculum, and when a comics shop in New Hampshire closed last year, they bought 20,000 comics from the owner; they also buy comics online. “We use comic books to really teach kids about life, and about finances and about debt,” said father Rob Lussier. Their collection includes The Incredible Hulk #271, which has appreciated quite a bit in value because it contains
the first an early appearance by Rocket Raccoon, who’s featured in Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Still, 12-year-old Alexandre is philosophical: “If the movie is good, [the value] will go up, but if it’s really bad, it might just plummet.” [Metro]
The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday overturned punitive budgets cuts of nearly $70,000 against two universities that selected gay-themed books for their reading programs for incoming freshmen, but instead will require the schools to use the money to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents.
According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Republican Sen. Larry Grooms proposed the compromise after Democrats last week blocked a vote on a House proposal that would trim $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.
Grooms’ amendment redirects that money to programs “related to instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.” It also ensures students who object to the reading material can opt out with no negative consequences.
The newspaper reports the amendment was approved by voice vote, which means there’s no record of the number of ayes and nos. The Senate and House will now have to agree on which version of the state budget to adopt.
Staging a nearly four-hour filibuster, a South Carolina Senate Democrat on Wednesday delayed a vote on proposed budget cuts to two state universities in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs.
Although the Senate had been expected to resume debate on Thursday, that never happened. Instead, the Charleston Post and Courier reports the senator behind the filibuster, Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, said there’s a deal in the works that could allow legislators to move past the impasse.
The South Carolina House of Representatives in March approved a state budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.
A South Caroline Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a plan to cut the budgets of two state universities as punishment for selecting gay-themed books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, for their summer-reading programs.
The Associated Press reports that although Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler recommended adopting the House’s $70,000 cuts, the Finance Committee voted 11-7 against the proposal. However, matter is expected to resurface next week as the full Senate takes up the state budget.
In early March the House approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.
Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools. [The Washington Post]
In the wake of the uproar in South Carolina over her graphic memoir Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel has joined with the producers and cast of the musical adaptation to bring the acclaimed off-Broadway show to the College of Charleston.
The Post and Courier reports tickets went on sale Tuesday for two concert-version performances to be held April 21 at Memminger Auditorium; about 750 were sold within the first 24 hours. The show, which premiered in September, was announced this week as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Comics | Tammy Oler considers the roles of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel within a growing movement to make superhero comics more diverse: “The devoted fans in the Carol Corps and Kamala Korps view themselves as part of a movement for a bigger and more diverse comic book universe, and it seems like publishers might finally be starting to pay attention. Both Ms. Marvel and the rebooted Captain Marvel are part of Marvel NOW!, an effort by the publisher to attract new readers by providing a lot of accessible places for new readers to jump on board with ongoing series. (DC Comics has done something similar with its New 52 initiative.) Marvel and DC have also taken some steps to address their lack of superhero diversity, in part by launching some new female solo titles, including Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Elektra. Of course, there’s a whole world of mainstream and indie publishers beyond Marvel and DC, but the big two still matter the most because they create the pantheon of superheroes that make it into movie theatres and onto the racks of Halloween costumes at Target.” [Slate.com]
Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]
Funding cuts proposed to punish two South Carolina universities for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs could open the door to First Amendment lawsuits, 10 free-speech advocacy groups caution members of the state Senate.
The state House last week approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s program.
With the state budget now in the hands of the Senate, a coalition that includes the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of South Carolina sent a letter on Tuesday urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject the cuts, warning, “Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect: it threatens academic freedom and the quality of education in the state, and could well expose the state to potential liability on First Amendment grounds.”
The South Carolina House of Representatives on Monday approved plans to punish two state universities for recommending gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home — as part of their summer reading programs.
According to The Associated Press, the House rejected four amendments introduced by Democrats aimed at restoring $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 trimmed from the University of South Carolina Upstate during the budget-writing process. The figures represent what the colleges spent on the programs.
The College of Charleston came under fire last summer for using Bechdel’s 2006 memoir — it’s an account of her childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian — which was labeled as “pornographic” by a South Carolina Christian group. Similar claims resurfaced last month during the House Ways and Means Committee debate, where some legislators accused the college of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), who with Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) made Monday’s unsuccessful attempts to restore funding, said legislators shouldn’t be “pushing our own moral agenda on these institutions of higher learning.”
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]