Festivals | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has opened in Angoulême, France, and that’s where all the cool kids are. Bart Beaty surveys the scene for the rest of us; the president of this year’s show is Jean-C Denis (last year it was Art Spiegelman), and there will be an exhibit of his work, but Beaty says the big draw will be the exhibit of work by Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix. [The Comics Reporter]
Editorial cartoons | Rupert Murdoch has apologized, on Twitter, for an editorial cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times that depicted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu bricking Palestinians into a wall with blood-red mortar. Many commentators were concerned that the cartoon, which Scarfe intended as a commentary on the recent elections in Israel, came too close to old anti-Semitic blood libel. Making things worse, the cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day. [The Guardian]
Angoulême is synonymous with comics, so it’s probably to be expected that when marriage-equality supporters marched in the French city last weekend they enlisted some familiar faces for the cause.
On her blog, local artist Algesiras posts a handful of photos of banners depicting several famous comic characters sharing a same-sex kiss. There’s Tintin and Captain Haddock, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Asterix and Obelisk, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, Blake and Mortimer, and Spirou and Fantasio, among others.
“Notice the rings on the hands of the characters,” Algesiras writes. “I think the best one is the one with the Smurfette, because it mocks the fact that the Smurfette is the only female in the Smurfs world. She’s not alone anymore.”
The 40th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival kicks off Jan. 31.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Today Faith Erin Hicks steps up to the wheel. You know her from such works as Friends with Boys, Brain Camp, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Zombies Calling and The War at Ellesmere, as well as the upcoming The Last of Us and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. Check out her website for more information.
Now let’s get to it …
Unlike most American comics, in which creative teams frequently change out every few years (or even months), the norm in other countries is for creators to stay with their creations long-term. That’s the way it’s handled in American comic strips, in manga and in manhwa, and also in Europe. So news coming out this month that Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has named his replacements is a big deal — especially because just a few years ago he planned for the strip to be discontinued when he passed. Next year will see the release of the first major Asterix graphic novel created without Uderzo; it’s instead by writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad.
Creators | Eighty-four-year-old artist Albert Uderzo, who created Asterix the Gaul in 1959 with writer René Goscinny, has announced he’s retiring, saying he’s “a bit tired” after 52 years of drawing. The news came as publisher Hachette celebrated the sale of 350 million Asterix books worldwide. Uderzo, who took over writing after the death of Goscinny in 1977, said he has found an as-yet-unnamed successor to continue his legacy, beginning with a new book planned for release in late 2012. [Reuters, BBC News]
Passings | Italian comics writer and publisher Sergio Bonelli, whose company Sergio Bonelli Editore (formerly CEPIM) releases such titles as Dylan Dog and Nathan Never, passed away Monday in Milan. He was 79. [UPI]
Legal | A witness testified Monday in Michael George’s murder trial that she heard the defendant and his first wife Barbara George have a particularly heated argument in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store on July 13, 1990, only hours before Barbara was shot and killed. [Detroit Free Press]
Poring over 34 volumes of Asterix, German scientists were astonished to discover 704 cases of traumatic head or brain injury, a staggering 65 percent of which involved Roman soldiers, making you wonder whether the conquest of Gaul was really worth it.
René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s heroes, Asterix and his sidekick Obelix, delivered more than half the blows, which The Telegraph points out frequently left the victims unconscious or amnesiac, but never, y’know, dead. Surprising … in a children’s comic? Well, the scientists seem to think so.
“The favourable outcome is astonishing,” lead researcher Marcel Kamp is quoted as saying, “since outcome of traumatic brain injury in the ancient world is believed to have been worse than today and also since no diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were performed.”
Hey, maybe the Romans were swigging that druid-brewed magic potion, too.
The study found that although Romans accounted for 450 of the victims, there were plenty of injuries to go around: 120 Gauls, 59 bandits or pirates, 20 Goths, eight Vikings and five Britons.
If, like me, you thought this study sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably thinking of the 2004 analysis of Tintin, which attributed the boy reporter’s delayed puberty and lack of libido to a growth-hormone deficiency and … repeated blows to the head. Specifically, “50 significant losses of consciousness in 16 of Tintin’s 23 books.”
There’s no word yet as to whether the Romans suffered the same problems.
Publishing | In the latest twist in a bitter, and prolonged, family feud, the daughter of Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo is seeking to have her parents declared mentally incapable of running their affairs. Uderzo’s only child, Sylvie, accuses her parents’ advisers of “pillaging” and “destroying an entire family.” Albert Uderzo, 83, fired back by accusing his daughter and her husband of “legal harassment” stemming from his 2007 decision to remove them from senior positions in Editions Albert-Rene, the publishing company he founded in 1979, following the death of Asterix co-creator Rene Goscinny. The family quarrel erupted into the public eye in 2009, when Sylvie Uderzo criticized her father’s decision to sell his stake in the company to Hachette Livre and authorize the publisher to continue Asterix after his death. [The Independent]
Creators | Ruling that cartoonist Albert Uderzo can’t benefit from tax breaks extended to authors, French authorities have ordered the Asterix co-creator to pay $273,000 in taxes on the 24 books he and late collaborator late René Goscinny produced between 1959 and 1979. The country’s tax office asserts the extra tax exemption applies only to “people who have participated in writing the texts of the comic strip.” “This is an injustice and a scandal,” the 84-year-old Uderzo said. [The Telegraph]
Creators | Cartoonist Dick Locher is retiring from the Dick Tracy comic strip after 32 years, handing the reins to artist Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis. Their first strip will appear in newspapers on March 14. “It’s time to move on to other things,” the 81-year-old Lochner tells Michael Cavna. “It’s time to do normal things with my family, to travel, to paint in the American Southwest.” [Comic Riffs]
The French love to complain that anything that isn’t French is ruining their culture, so the manga boom (it’s huge over there, and for pretty much the same reasons it was a hit over here) occasioned much tut-tutting when it was still fresh. Uderzo, the illustrator of the venerable Astérix, even made a comic in which his characters were attacked by foreign creatures called “Nagma,” a fairly transparent acronym. But complain as he might, as this 2006 article attests, the kids were gobbling up InuYasha, while “Visitors clustered around the Asterix booth nearby were mostly men over 40.”
Last week, France Today took a fresh look at the French-language comics scene (many well known BDs are actually by Belgian and Swiss creators) and presented a different take on the influence of manga. Most of the biggest sellers—Tintin, Astérix, Blake and Mortimer—are over 50 years old, and their sales have been slipping for some time.
The lesson, says Xavier Guilbert, editor-in-chief of the comics website du9.org, seems to be clear: their age is beginning to show. “It’s reasonable to think that the stalwarts of the comic books market might not resonate as much with the younger generation today,” as he puts it.
What the success of manga over the last decade has done, says Guilbert, is not so much push out traditional BD as distract French publishers from the falling sales they were seeing in their existing stables anyway. “They went after manga and forgot to develop their own catalogs,” he argues. That’s a problem now, because with most of the successful Japanese titles now translated into French, manga sales have started to slow.
The France Today article does miss another point, made in the earlier piece, that manga are more inviting for girls. BDs tend to be guy comics, with mostly male characters doing things that guys like to read about, and that’s fine, but it leaves half the potential audience with few choices. If there is a BD renaissance, it would be nice to see more female creators and characters take center stage.
McDonald’s established a beachhead in France long ago, so I’m not exactly sure why this is news, except that August is a slow news month in France because everyone is on vacation: The handful of writers who are left to mind the store have apparently whipped themselves into a lather of indignation over the use of an Asterix cartoon to advertise McDonald’s.
“After resisting the Romans, have the Americans finally scalped the invincible little Gaul?” thundered Le Figaro, according to the UK paper The Telegraph. Having eaten pizzas shaped like Smurfs and ice cream from a plastic Pingu head when I lived over there, I’m not sure what the fuss is about. The French aren’t usually adverse to using licensed characters to sell crap, and this isn’t even the first time Asterix has been used to plug the Golden Arches; he subbed for Ronald McDonald briefly in 2001. Nonetheless, a spokesman for Asterix’s publisher, Albert René, had to rise to the Gauls’ defense: “Asterix remains a rebel,” he said. “He doesn’t work for (McDonald’s) but with (McDonald’s). The Gauls ‘come as they are’, as the slogan says. We are not defenders of ‘malbouffe’ (bad food)”. And, he pointed out, they declined to use Obelix in a Diet Coke ad because it did not “correspond to the values of the character.”
Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo OK’d the ad campaign, and his studio did the art.
It’s been awhile since I posted about Comic Twart, the comic art blog collective that includes Chris Samnee, Mike Hawthorne, Andy Kuhn, Mitch Breitweiser, Tom Fowler, Mitch Gerads and many others. They’ve been regularly posting art based on various themes, so let’s see what they’ve been up to recently …
Publishing | Within a day of DC Comics’ entry into digital distribution, one commentator declares that “DC and Marvel Are Killing Digital Comics.” Aaron Ting points to pricing, the lack of “3D page-turning interactivity,” and the use of separate applications: “There should be one unified store, like iTunes or iBooks. Having separate digital stores makes sense if you’re just trying to reach your individual loyal fans — they’ll download anything you ask them to. But digital comics needs to be about reaching out to people who don’t currently read print comics, and those people aren’t going to intuitively know that they should download an app put out by this ‘DC’ company — even if that company owns Batman and Superman.” [WordsFinest]
Retailing | A bailiff changed the locks on Toronto independent bookstore This Ain’t the Rosedale Library on Friday because the store’s owners owe their landlord more than $40,000. Owners Jesse and Charlie Huisken explain their situation, and ask for donations, at the store’s blog. Chris Oliveros comments on the store’s early support of Drawn & Quarterly, and stresses the importance of independent booksellers. [The Globe and Mail, via Rory Seydel]
Politics | Ah, comics, the language of diplomacy. During his visit this week to the White House, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave President Obama an 18th-century document accrediting Benjamin Franklin as ambassador to France and, for his daughters, a collection of Asterix graphic novels. [AFP]
Publishing | Rebellion Publishing, publisher of U.K. comics anthology 2000AD, will begin releasing U.S. editions of new and classic titles in graphic-novel format beginning in June with The Judge Dredd Complete Case Files and The Complete D.R. and Quinch. [PW Comics Week]
Awards | The Xeric Foundation, the nonprofit corporation established in 1992 by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, has announced the recipients of the fall/winter grants: Sarah Becan, The Complete and Original Ouija Interviews; Sixta C., Soldiers of God; Ben Costa, Shi Long Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk; Blaise Larmee, Young Lions; Lane Milburn, Death Trap; Stefan Salinas, Within the Rat; and Nathan Schreiber, Power Out.
The Xeric grants assist creators with the costs of self-publishing. [The Xeric Foundation]
Retailing | Ron Marshall has resigned after just a year as chief executive of the financially troubled Borders Group. Michael J. Edwards, who joined the book chain in September as chief merchandising officer, has been appointed as interim chief executive. [The New York Times]
Google today celebrates the 50th anniversary of Asterix with a nice spotlight — otherwise known as a Google Doodle, I guess — on its homepage in a reported 40 countries.
René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s diminutive warrior, who debuted in the French magazine Pilote on this day in 1959, has appeared in 34 volumes that have sold more than 352 million copies worldwide.