"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Recalling reading his sister’s Archie comics as a child, an “upset” David Letterman last night delivered the news of Archie Andrews’ death to his Late Show audience.
“Archie is going to be shot dead,” Letterman said. “I don’t know what to say — the Archie people have grown up now, and as I understand it Archie, defending a friend of his who is gay, takes a bullet for his gay friend and is shot dead. He dies a hero, but he’s dead. […] What do we do? What’s next, Dagwood Bumstead chokes to death on one of those sandwiches?”
Publishing | John Jackson Miller mines the circulation statements provided once a year to put together a 54-year sales history of Archie Comics’ flagship title Archie (the publisher is one of the few that still prints annual statements of ownership, allowing the numbers to be traced back, unbroken, to 1960). As he points out, Archie was a big newsstand title, selling almost 600,000 copies in the late 1960s, but it didn’t fare well when comics moved to the direct market — although Archie Comics has done well nonetheless with its digests, which far outsell its single-issue comics. [Comichron]
Publishing | Annie Koyama of Koyama Press talks with Dan Berry about how comics publishing works, and how she got into the field. [Make It Then Tell Everybody]
Legal | At the request of a state-owned distributor, the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor is investigating charges that Marvel comics are “propaganda of a cult of violence,” specifically, violence against Russian targets. The agency will review Avengers #1, due out in Russia in August, “regarding the use of Soviet symbols, the presentation of the characters as Russian service personnel, and the incitement of violence and cruelty,” according to the the Russian Legal Information Agency. This seems to be about the Winter Guard and specifically about Vanguard, who wears a hammer-and-sickle logo; the European publisher, Egmont, plans to remove the logo for the Russian release. Roskomnadzor has the option of issuing an official warning; a publisher who gets two of these in a year may have its license revoked. [CNET]
Publishing | Spurred by the GoFundMe campaign launched last week by Dan Vado to get SLG Publishing “back on its feet,” Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz wonders whether a nonprofit model might make sense for some indie/niche publishers: “Contrary to popular perception, however, being a non-profit doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Lots of successful non-profits generate revenues in the millions and pay their staff, executives and contributors salaries comparable with those in the private sector. They can also pay contractors and contributors like performers or creators full market rates. They just don’t pay shareholders, and they plow any excess revenues back into their operations.” [ICv2.com]
Passings | Tom Medley, creator of the comic Stroker McGurk, which ran in Hot Rod magazine for many years, died on March 2 at the age of 93. Medley was a hot-rodder himself, which is how he got his big break: He used to post his cartoons at a local hot-rod builder, and the publisher of Hot Rod, which was just getting off the ground at the time, spotted them and hired Medley as his comics and humor editor. Medley’s son Gary said his father’s humor sometimes foreshadowed reality: “Stroker’s — or Medley’s — inspired genius came up with a host of crazy ideas that appeared impractical at first, but were later adopted by everyday car builders and racers. Multi-engine dragsters, wheelie bars, and drag chutes all sprung from Stroker’s fertile mind before they were embraced in the real world.” [AutoWeek]
Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]
Archie Comics made its first incursion into the world of fashion earlier this year with a line of Mac cosmetics; now the publisher is moving on to shoes and other accessories.
London designer Charlotte Olympia has announced a new line of shoes and purses featuring vintage Archie comics and characters, including a pair of blue suede peep-toe pumps featuring Betty and Veronica that are priced at a cool $1,095, platform wedges adorned with vintage Archie pages for $1,295, and an Archie clutch purse for $1,595.
According to the Glam blog, Olympia has been an Archie fan since childhood, and the style of the comics in these products reflects the era she grew up in, the 1950s.
“When I was 10 years old, my best friend used to go to America every holiday and bring Archie comics back with her,” she told Women’s Wear Daily. “I still read them today. I especially love Betty and Veronica, they have that retro pin-up look that I adore.”
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Saba’aneh was released from an Israeli prison on Monday, as scheduled. Saba’aneh, who was originally held without charges and eventually sentenced to five months for “contacts with a hostile organization,” drew several cartoons while he was in prison and plans to do a show of his prison drawings, focusing on Palestinian prisoners who, he says, are in prison “just because they are Palestinians.” [PRI’s The World]
Manga | In a major coup for a manga publisher, Digital Manga (which, contrary to its name, also published print manga) announced at Anime Expo that it has signed a deal with Tezuka Productions to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s works in North America. While the details aren’t entirely clear, it sounds like Digital is working on some new licenses and will have digital rights to books released here in print by other publishers. [Anime News Network]
At Comics Oughta Be Fun, everyone’s favorite, little stuffed blogging bull has declared June to be Bear Attack Month. “Even tho’ they have never gotten their own series,” Bully writes, “bears attacking is one of the most common tropes of comic books both yesterday and today.” That’s why – all month long – he’s featuring comic book scenes of bears attacking everyone from superheroes to Springfield. I’ve included a couple of my favorites below, but there’s lots more (and more to come) at Bully’s site.
Or, “Betty & Veronica & Brandon & Emily.”
Cartoonist Brandon Graham is well known for thinking about the mechanics of comics. Recently, he and fellow cartoonist Emily Carroll went about examining a throw-off five-page Betty & Veronica comic be redoing it in their own styles. The results? Marvelous.
Here’s the first page from each. If you’re enticed, click over to Graham’s blog post containing both full comics as well as the original Betty & Veronica comic they are based on.
Digital comics | Although the Marvel Unlimited and DC Comics apps work very differently, Noel Murray has similar complaints about both: Specific titles are difficult to find, and the damn things keep crashing: “Frankly, while some of the other major comics apps have better search functions — Dark Horse’s, for example — none of the big companies have created the digital comics retailing equivalent of an Amazon or iTunes.” [Hero Complex]
Publishing | Drawn & Quarterly has announced its fall lineup, which includes Peter Bagge’s biography Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. [Drawn & Quarterly]
Legal | A federal judge on Friday denied DC Comics’ bid for sanctions against the attorney for the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, finding that Marc Toberoff made “no deliberate attempt to mislead” during the discovery process and, perhaps more importantly, did not interfere with the publisher’s rights to the Man of Steel when he allegedly inserted himself into settlement talks in 2001. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Stan Lee will be deposed this week by lawyers representing Stan Lee Media in its multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Disney involving the rights to the characters the legendary writer co-created for Marvel. Stan Lee Media, which no longer has ties to its namesake, claims Disney as infringed on the copyrights Iron Man, the Avengers, X-Men and other heroes since 2009, when it purchased Marvel. The long, tortured dispute dates back to a sequence of events that occurred between August 1998, when Marvel used its bankruptcy proceedings to terminate Lee’s lifetime contract, and November 1998, when Lee entered into a new agreement with the House of Ideas and signed over his likeness, and any claims to the characters. Stan Lee Media has long claimed that on Oct. 15, 1998, Lee transferred to that company the rights to his creations and his likeness. SLM asserts in the latest lawsuit that neither Marvel nor Disney, which bought the comic company in 2009, has ever registered Lee’s November 1998 agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Debuting last fall, The Art of Betty and Veronica was something new for Archie Comics: It was the first time the 74-year-old company had released a deluxe art book under its own imprint, rather than licensing it to other publishers such as IDW or Dark Horse. Compiled by Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick and writer and comics historian Craig Yoe, the book takes a decade-by-decade look at the two leading ladies of Riverdale.
Gorelick and Yoe are already at work on their next book, The Art of Archie: The Covers, and they’re taking suggestions from fans on what covers to include. You can go to the Archie forums here if you have a cover to submit—or to look at some of the ones that readers have already uploaded.
I talked to Gorelick and Yoe about their collaboration, Gorelick’s 54 years at Archie Comics, the importance of creators, and the new book.
Robot 6: Victor, how did you start with Archie?
Victor: I came in working in the art department, right out of high school; I went to the School of Art and Design, and one of the production people had graduated from that school the year before and they needed a production assistant in the art department to replace Dexter Taylor — he was going to be drawing Little Archie along with Bob Bolling, so he was going freelance, and they needed someone on staff, so they contacted the school, and they sent up a few people from my cartooning class, including myself, for interviews, and I got the job. And the rest is history.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15 (big “if” this week!), I’d take a break from the struggles of adult life and find sanctuary in the pages of high mythology thanks to Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #4 (Marvel, $3.99). Aaron and Ribic have really build up an excellent foil for Thor in the God-Killer, and also snuck in the idea of Young Thor and Old Thor – something I’d love to see expounded upon in their own series or one-shot (hint-hint). Second up would be the startling potent promise of Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99). I never thought I’d see Brian Wood do a Star Wars comic, but I’m so glad he is – and seemingly doing it on his own terms. Thinking of him writing Princess Leia, and the potential there specifically has been rolling around in my brain for weeks. Third, I’d get two promising artist-centric series (at least for me) in B.P.R.D.: Hell On Earth — Abyss Time #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50) and TMNT: Secret of the Foot Clan #1 (IDW, $3.99). James Harren and Mateus Santolouco, respectively, are two artists I’ve been keen on for the past year and both of these books look like potential breakouts to a bigger stage. On the TMNT side, I’ve always thought Shredder and the Foot Clan to be one of the most overlooked great villains in comics, so I’m glad to see some focus on that and some potential answers.
If I had $30, I’d continue my super(comic)market sweep with Womanthology: Space #4 (IDW, $3.99). This series has two things I love: new, young creators and a space theme. I’ve been on a space opera/sci-fi kick for a while now thanks to Saga and re-reading some Heinlein, so this anthology series comes to me most fortuitously. Next up would be Legend of Luther Strode #2 (Image, $3.50). Luther Strode is a real down-and-out kind of hero, like some sort of action-based Charlie Brown. Tradd Moore’s artwork really makes this sing, too. Finally, I’d get two Marvel books with Secret Avengers #36 (Marvel, $3.99) and Wolverine and the X-Men #23 (Marvel, $3.99). I’m gritting my teeth on the latter – not because it’s bad, but because it isn’t as good for me as the previous arcs. For Secret Avengers, I feel Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera’s run on this has been sadly overlooked in the wave of Marvel NOW books, but this mega-arc about the Descendents and now Black-Ant has been great. I’d love to see Black-Ant as a permanent part of the Marvel U.
If I could splurge, I’d throw practicality out the door and shell out big bucks for the Black Incal deluxe hardcover (Humanoids, $79.95). There’s few times I’d spend nearly 80 bucks on a comic, but this classic story by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon kind of things. This has been reprinted numerous times (I have an older one), but I’m re-buying the story here for the deluxe treatment this volume has with its large size.
Archie Comics is old and new at the same time, still churning out comics featuring the Riverdale gang we all grew up with but mixing it up in interesting ways — with graphic novel compilations, the addition of the gay character Kevin Keller, and the dual-storyline Life With Archie magazine that ages the cast up into their 20s.
The end of the year seemed like a good opportunity to check in with Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about 2012 and the company’s initiatives for 2013. While Archie kept a pretty high profile in 2012, with a new Kevin Keller comic, the Archie Meets KISS miniseries, and the return of the Red Circle superheroes (in print as well as digital form), there was also quite a bit going on behind the scenes, both positive — Goldwater says they really figured out how to market their products in the current climate — and negative — a legal feud between Goldwater and Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit that bubbled out into the public eye last year but was settled in June.
Goldwater covers a lot of bases in the interview; one interesting nugget is that the monthly comics most people would think are the flagship Archie product are not a significant source of revenue for the company, although they are important both as a marketing tool and as the place where new stories run first. It’s also interesting to see how Goldwater regards the company’s deal with MAC Cosmetics as the first step toward global marketing of Archie products.
Robot 6: What’s new at Archie?
Jon Goldwatwer: We got a lot of great stuff coming up in 2013. 2012 was fantastic. I feel like every year we take these tremendous steps forward, from putting out Life With Archie and figuring out how to make that work — we have gained traction on that — to things like Archie Meets KISS, things like Kevin Keller, groundbreaking day-and-date digital. We look at 2013 being one of these big groundbreaking years
The first thing we have coming out is a partnership with MAC Cosmetics called Archie’s Girls. It launches February 2013, and it’s going to be a global launch. It’s going to be in every MAC store, not just in freestanding stores but in department stores as well. Wherever you want to go, you are going to have Archie right there. It’s truly our most important licensing deal in the last 30 years.