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Awards | Gilbert Hernandez is the recipient of the 2013 PEN Center USA award for outstanding body of work in graphic literature. Drawn and Quarterly announced the honor along with news that it will publish Hernandez’s next graphic novel, Bumperhead. [The Comics Reporter]
Conventions | “SPX is all about the hugs,” says Heidi MacDonald, who relegates her business piece on the Small Press Expo to Publishers Weekly and turns to her blog to discuss not only her impressions but what folks were saying on social media. [The Beat]
Creators | How did Darwyn Cooke get involved with the Before Watchmen comics? “I was kind of dragged into it kicking and screaming by [DC Comics Co-Publisher] Dan DiDio. He had been discussing this for what does amount to several years now, and the first time he had approached me about it, I had actually turned it down simply because I couldn’t see doing anything that would live up to the original. And, it was about a year later, the story idea that I’m working on now sort of came to me and I realized that there was a way to do the project, and I had a story that I thought was exciting enough to tell. So I phoned Dan up and said, ‘Hey, if you still got room, I’m in.'” [Rolling Stone]
Creators | Ron Marz discusses Prophecy, his upcoming comic that turns the whole Mayan calendar thing into a crossover event that will bring together an eclectic group of characters, and defends the idea of crossovers in general: “If your objection is “they’re not in the same universe,” or a crossover somehow offends your sense of continuity, I’d suggest you’re missing the point. More than any other medium, comics are about unfettered imagination, about making the impossible possible. If you’re going to let some perceived “rules” prevent you from telling an exciting story, you’re just not trying very hard. Having a sense of wonder, of discovery, is much more important than following some set of perceived rules and regulations.” [MTV Geek]
A Maine school board voted overwhelmingly last night to allow the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age to remain in middle-school libraries after a parent challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.”
The Sun Journal reports the board of Regional School Unit #10 in Dixfield agreed with a recommendation made last month by a special committee that the book be made available only with parental permission. Superintendent Tom Ward said this is the first time in his eight years as head of the district that a book has been challenged.
Edited by Ariel Schrag, the 2007 anthology features contributions by such cartoonists as Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Dash Shaw and Lauren Weinstein. As the title suggests, the frank stories focus on the highs and lows of life in seventh and eighth grade, from first loves to first zits. It was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its 2008 Books for the Teen Age.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter to Ward last month saying that Stuck in the Middle “may not be right for every student at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School. But the library has a responsibility to represent a broad range of views in its collection and to meet the needs of everyone in the community – not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority. While parents and community members may – and should – voice their concerns and select different materials for themselves and their children, those objecting to particular books should not be given the power to restrict the rights of other students and families to access the material.”
Board member Cynthia Bissell disagreed with that notion, arguing the anthology does nothing to fulfill the function of schools. ““I read it cover to cover,” she said. “I was appalled. This book does nothing to elevate students. It implies that everyone speaks and acts that way.”
This isn’t the first time Stuck in the Middle has been challenged: In November 2009, a South Dakota school board voted to remove the book from middle-school libraries while making it available to teachers to use in class.
Libraries | An editorial in the Lewiston, Maine, newspaper praises a local school board’s decision last week to leave the 2007 comics anthology Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age in the Buckfield Junior-Senior High School library following a parent’s complaints about “objectionable sexual and language references”: “American culture can be graphically sexual and explicitly foul and it’s important that young people learn how to navigate that world in a responsible way. The best possible way, of course, is for parents to steer their children through that process, but not every parent does and many children are left adrift. So, the next-better place to learn is the school library, where a responsible adult can help educate children about their hormone-charged emerging feelings in a confusingly sensual culture.” [Sun Journal]
Business | Wizard magazine founder Gareb Shamus, who resigned earlier this month as president and chief executive officer of Wizard World Inc., will sell most of his shares in the company to his successor, who’s expected to be named next month. [Bleeding Cool]
Everyone knows the central role that Jewish writers and artists have played in the history of comics, from Siegel and Shuster to Lee and Kirby to Eisner to Spiegelman to Bendis. But what of the female members of the tribe? That’s the question at the heart of “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women,” a traveling art exhibit curated by Michael Kaminer and Sarah Lightman. Following a stint in San Francisco, the show re-opens this coming Thursday, February 17, at the Koffler Gallery Off-Site at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Focusing on the role that Jewish women have played in the development of the autobiographical comic — arguably the genre responsible for the medium’s new-found respectability over the past three decades — it boasts contributions from Miss Lasko-Gross (that’s her grabber of an image above) Vanessa Davis, Sarah Glidden, Miriam Katin, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Diane Noomin, Trina Robbins, Ariel Schrag, Lauren Weinstein, and many more. I know a person named “Sean T. Collins” is dubiously qualified to use Yiddish, but I could plotz over seeing original art from that line-up.
Click here to see the Koffler Centre’s impressive suite of events revolving around the exhibit, and click here for the Graphic Details blog.
Legal | Michael Renaud, the only witness who can place retailer Michael George at his comic store around the time his first wife Barbara George was killed, testified Monday that a meeting with detectives shortly after the 1990 murder detailed in a recently published book did take place, despite its lack of mention in police files. Defense attorney Carl Marlinga questioned during the evidentiary hearing whether Renaud, who admitted to smoking marijuana, has a reliable memory of events. [Detroit Free Press]
Digital piracy | Four publishing groups in Japan, including the Digital Comic Association, is demanding that Apple stop selling pirated works of Japanese authors in its App Store. Apple says that it removes pirated material upon notification by the copyright holder. [The Wall Street Journal]
Publishing | Although a bill to further restrict the sale in metropolitan Tokyo of manga and anime depicting “extreme” sex won’t be voted on until Wednesday, some creators say the legislation has already had a chilling effect. For instance, one boys love artist contends her publisher is refusing to release works set in schools or featuring school uniforms. [Sankaku Complex]
This week is Banned Books Week, an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association and a host of other organizations to bring attention to books that have been challenged or removed from libraries, schools and reading lists over the past year. You can find the full list of challenged books from 2009-2010 here, and it contains plenty of good reading, from Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian (often challenged but beloved by readers) to the anthology Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems. The list tilts strongly toward young-adult novels and sex manuals, but there are a surprising number of classics, including To Kill a Mockingbird (a parent objected to the word “nigger,” which seems to miss the point), Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (a perennial on this list) and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which, shockingly, contains the term “oral sex” and has therefore been (no joke) removed from classrooms in the Menifee, California, Union School District and may be banned permanently there. The most often-challenged book in 2009, according to the ALA’s top ten list, is ttyl and its companion volumes ttfn, l8r, and g8r, which, as you might guess, are YA novels.
The list contains a handful of comics, as well: