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Comics A.M. | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn passes away

Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn

Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]

Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]

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Guy Davis nominated for Annie Award for ‘Simpsons’ opening

simpsons-treehouse

Among the nominees announced earlier this week for the 41st annual Annie Awards is none other than Guy Davis, creator of The Marquis and longtime artist of B.P.R.D., for his contribution to the opening titles of The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror XXIV.” He shares the nod for Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production with director Guillermo del Toro and storyboard artist Ralph Sosa.

Davis, who provided the monster designs for del Toro’s Pacific Rim, has been described by the director as “one of the best monster designers alive right now!” Their collaborations go beyond those two projects, however: Davis is a concept artist for FX’s upcoming vampire thriller The Strain, based on the horror novels by del Toro and Chuck Hogan (the filmmaker co-wrote and directed the pilot, and serves as an executive producer), and on the long-discussed feature adaptation of Pinocchio.

The Simpsons couch gag, which you can watch below, is an epic homage to some of the director’s own works as well as horror classics, filled to the brim with references to Ray Harryhausen, Alfred Hitchcock, H.P. Lovecraft and more.

The winners of the Annie Awards, which recognize excellence in animation, will be announced Feb. 1.

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Family feuds with cemetery over SpongeBob gravestones

spongebob gravemarker2

The family of a murdered Iraq war veteran appears to have reached an impasse with a Cincinnati cemetery over twin 6-foot-tall, 7,000-pound statues of SpongeBob SquarePants installed at her grave site.

According to The Associated Press, the headstones were erected in Spring Grove Cemetery on Oct. 10, nearly eight months after 28-year-old Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker, who had served two tours in Iraq, was found strangled and beaten to death in a Colorado hotel room, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend.

Because of Walker’s longtime love of the cartoon character — she even had a SpongeBob-themed birthday party ever year — her family decided the best memorial would be statues of the energetic cartoon sea sponge, one in an Army uniform to represent Kimberly and a second in a Navy uniform for her living twin sister Kara, an IT specialist for the Navy. They spent $26,000 on the statues, receiving permission from Nickelodeon and design approval from a cemetery employee.

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TV isn’t ready for ‘Achewood’ (yet), but Onstad pushes forward

achewood

Achewood devotees were excited in February when cartoonist Chris Onstad revealed on his rarely updated blog that he was heading to Los Angeles to pitch an animated series based on his incredibly popular webcomic. Unfortunately, the network meetings didn’t go well — but Onstad remains undeterred. In fact, he says he was reinvigorated by the experience.

“A couple places seemed interested, but there is a lot of hokum and jive in the process of shopping a TV show,” he explains to The Verge. “Most networks have a shopping list for the season, or a format they’re already looking for — we didn’t fit any of them this time around.”

Yes, “this time around”: Onstad and his collaborators are going back to the drawing board, developing a new pitch.

“I don’t think we nailed the tone and humor of Achewood by any means,” he says. “I’m excited to write version two, knowing what I know now about how all that work, all those actors, engineers, and producers come together, which is a hell of a lot.”

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Nickelodeon’s ‘Turtles’ products rake in $475 million in retail sales

ninja turtles

Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles products have grossed more than $475 million in retail sales since the latest animated series premiered in September 2012. The announcement, made this week at the Brand Licensing Europe show in London, comes just four years after the cable network’s parent company Viacom bought the property for a reported $60 million.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, about $250 million of those sales come from the United States, with the remainder coming from overseas markets, where the Turtles are just as huge. They’re the top action figures in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and, yes, the United States (where Nickelodeon says they make up 15 percent of the action-figure market).

“Nothing’s bigger,” Pam Kauffman, the network’s president of consumer products, told the trade paper. “We are beating Iron Man, Batman, WWE.”

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Stan Lee’s Indian hero ‘Chakra: The Invincible’ to make TV debut

Chakra

Stan Lee has a pretty good track record when it comes to creating heroes, and now he’s added one more to that long list: Chakra.

The character that will make his animated debut Nov. 30 in an hour-long television movie called Chakra: The Invincible, which will air across South Asia on Cartoon Network. According to Deadline, the movie potentially could reach 34 million households. Readers received their first taste of the character in May in Liquid Comics’ Free Comic Book Day offering.

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Nickelodeon orders Cooper & Ryan’s ‘Pig Goat Banana Cricket’

pig goat banana cricketNickelodeon has given a 26-episode order to Pig Goat Banana Cricket, the long-brewing animated series created by comic artists Dave Cooper and Johnny Ryan.

“For those of you who’ve been following my NICKLDN TV development journey, I’d like to virtually grab you by the shoulders, shake you dizzy, and scream into your shocked face that Johnny’s and my TV show PIGGOATBANANACRICKET just got a GREENLIGHT from the head NICKLDN honcho in NYC,” Cooper wrote in a blog post titled “Grueling 5-Year-Long Job Interview Ends in TRIUMPH!!!” “We have our own TV show, guys!!!

One of just two animated series ordered by the network (the other is Bad Seeds, from Chowder creator C.H. Greenblatt), Pig Goat Banana Cricket is described as “a series of absurd interwoven stories about four friends and roommates, Pig (the fool), Goat (the artist), Banana (the wise-guy) and Cricket (the brain).” It’s executive produced by David Sacks (The Simpsons, Regular show), who will co-write with Ryan. Cooper will also serve as art director.

A teaser animated by Nick Cross, who directed the pilot, was released last year (you’ll note Cricket was then a Mantis). Watch it below.

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‘It’s going to turn a whole new generation of young kids onto Archie’

its archie

“I think it’s going to explode. I think it’s going to be huge, and it’s going to turn a whole new generation of young kids onto Archie. And that’s going to help us in so many areas. It’ll help on the publishing side, on the digital side and with our general awareness for the overall licensing program. This animation to me is probably — well, we’ve done a lot of important things in the past few years, so I don’t want to say it’s the singular most important thing we’ve done. I don’t know if there’s any one thing you can label like that, but this is extremely important to our company, and we’re going to work very hard to make sure that this show is everything we all want it and expect it to be.”

— Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, talking to Comic Book Resources about It’s Archie, a new animated series set to debut on The Hub in 2014

Ahead of D23 Expo kickoff, Saturday tickets sell out

"Big Hero 6" display at D23 Expo (courtesy of ComingSoon)

“Big Hero 6″ display at D23 Expo (courtesy of ComingSoon)

The doors open in just an hour on the D23 Expo, the official Disney fan gathering held through Sunday in Anaheim, California. Tickets for Saturday are sold out.

While much of the event, of course, caters to Disney devotees — theme-park fans, serious collectors and cinephiles alike — we should expect a decent amount of news that reaches beyond the Magic Kingdom. For instance, today there’s a presentation featuring many of the voice actors from Marvel’s animated television series, and a signing with the producer and director of Big Hero 6, Walt Disney Animation’s first adaptation of a Marvel comic. That movie, based on the characters created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, is getting a promotional push at the event, which features a Big Hero 6 display (above, courtesy of ComingSoon).

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Clearly, Lois Lane deserves her own animated series

lois lane

Following the recent (and adorable) Bizarro animated short, Cartoon Network has released a clip from “Tales of Metropolis, Starring Lois Lane,” which premieres Saturday as part of the channel’s DC Nation programming block. While the previous installment of “Tales of Metropolis” gave us a glimpse of a no-nonsense Lois, this preview reveals her in intrepid-journalist mode — “Best reporter ever!” — as she refuses to allow Batman to dodge her questions about his sources of funding.

Moving from supporting player in the Bizarro short to star here, it’s obvious the only place Lois has left to go is her own animated series, Lois Lane: Best Reporter Ever – preferably with Jimmy Olsen as her faithful, if clueless, sidekick.

DC Nation airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network.

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SDCC ’13 | Dynamite bringing Fox’s ‘Bob’s Burgers’ to comics

bobs burgers

Continuing its avalanche of pre-convention announcements, Dynamite Entertainment this morning revealed it has partnered with 20th Century Fox Consumer Products to develop a comic based on the animated comedy Bob’s Burgers.

Debuting in January 2011 as part of Fox’s Sunday night animation block, Bob’s Burgers centers on the Belcher family — Bob, his wife Linda and their children Tina, Gene and Louise — who run a hamburger restaurant. Although overshadowed on the schedule by The Simpsons and Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers may be one of the most consistently funny, and quirky, shows on television (animated or otherwise). The fourth season premieres in September.

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How ‘Man of Steel’ should’ve ended (again, with Batman?)

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 2.36.51 PM

Like the recently did with Iron Man 3, the folks at How It Should Have Ended turn their attention to another big summer superhero movie — Man of Steel. Just like their alternate ending to IM3, this one ends with an appearance by a certain Caped Crusader … but he isn’t the only guest star this one features.

Check it out below.

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SDCC ’13 | Check out the ‘Batman’ TV show Comic-Con backpack

batman-tv-cci

If Warner Bros.’ oversized totes are the must-have accessory of Comic-Con International, then the must-have of the must-haves is undoubtedly the classic Batman television series design, which makes its debut on the DC Comics website. It appears alongside the one promoting the upcoming DC Universe Original Animated Movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, but really, Batman is the draw.

Warner Bros., which last year finally settled rights issues with 20th Century Fox regarding the 1966-68 television series, in March launched a Batman merchandising line that includes action figures, Barbie dolls, costumes for adults, and wall calendars. At the same time, DC Comics announced its digital-first Batman ’66 series by Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case.

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Bizarro (Not-Bizarro!) saves the day in adorable DC Nation short

bizarro-dc-nation

In case you missed the animated short when it aired last month as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block, DC Comics has now made the adorable “Tales of Metropolis” available online.

It’s just a little more than a minute long, so I don’t want to spoil it, but the short centers on a downright-endearing Bizarro, whose attempts to pass as a mild-mannered reporter (Not-Bizarro!) are foiled first by a tenacious Lois Lane and then by an alien invader. As with so many of the DC Nation shorts, the characterizations just about perfect (even the three-second cameo by gullible/clueless Jimmy Olsen).

Watch the full short below.

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Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ help Disney to tighten grip on licensing

disney-star wars-marvel

As Licensing Expo 2013 gets under way today in Las Vegas, Variety reports that with first Marvel and now Lucasfilm beneath its umbrella, Disney is poised to expand its domination of the entertainment licensing market. Last year, the media conglomerate generated $39.4 billion in retail licensing, and claimed a staggering 80 percent market share.

Once again the world’s largest licensor, Disney now boasts six of the Top 10 franchises, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association: Disney Princess (No. 1), Star Wars (No. 2), Winnie the Pooh (No. 3), Cars (No. 4), Mickey & Friends (No. 6) and Toy Story (No. 8). Disney Fairies comes in at No. 11, trailed at No. 16 by Spider-Man.

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