"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
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.
On the official website, cartoonist Dan Berger writes that co-creator Peter Laird retained an option to publish up to 18 TMNT comics a year. Elsewhere, writer Tristan Jones notes that the agreement only covers single issues “based on the current Mirage Universe stuff (eg: a continuation/conclusion to Volume 4).”
However, judging by comments made yesterday afternoon by Laird, it seems unlikely he will invoke that option in the near future: “One thing that is becoming clear to me is that, right now, I need to really step back from Turtle stuff. I am feeling strongly that I need to distance myself from the TMNT to truly grasp what has happened, and become accustomed to it. With that in mind, I have to say that it is likely that any new TMNT comics coming from me/Mirage (under the ‘reserved rights’ clause negotiated in the sale) are probably not going to be seen anytime soon. Although I do have the right to publish up to eighteen issues of TMNT comics per year, it is highly unlikely that I will do that right away. In all honesty, the idea of doing ANY new Turtle stuff right now leaves me cold.” [NinjaTurtles.com]
Legal | A court has ordered South Korean cartoonist Choi to pay $17,000 to settle a dispute with Wonju City over a cartoon that included offensive words about President Lee Myung-bak. The city recalled about 20,000 copies of the promotional paper after readers discovered the hidden message. [The Korea Times]
Legal | Twin brothers in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, have been sentenced to three months in jail for possessing anime- and manga-style images depicting children in sexual situations.
David Scott Hammond and James Cory Hammond, 20, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography after police discovered the images downloaded on their home computer last November. Although David Hammond’s attorney said his client didn’t realize it was illegal to download cartoon pornographic images of children, the prosecutor asserted that, “Every one of these images involves the victimization of children. The victimization wouldn’t happen in the first place if there weren’t people there to look at this material.”
Earlier this month, lawmakers in Alaska began considering a bill that would expand the state’s child-pornography laws to include cartoons. And in June a U.S. appeals court upheld the conviction of a Virginia man who was prosecuted, in part, under a 2003 federal statute outlawing possession of cartoon images depicting the sexual abuse of children. [The Chronicle Herald]
Publishing | The San Francisco headquarters of Viz Media was closed for two days this week after an unexpected downpour on Monday caused storm drains to overflow, flooding parts of the city. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Just last week we were reporting that Villard had acquired the rights to Fated, a graphic novel written by Michael Jackson and Gotham Chopra. Now comes word that the Random House imprint paid $800,000 for it. Illustrated by Mukesh Singh, artist of Virgin Comics titles Gamekeeper, Devi and Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter, the black-and-white book is due out in June. [Crain’s New York Business]
Digital comics | Technology columnist Andy Ihnatko spotlights LongBox Digital, the much-anticipated “iTunes for comics,” and claims he’s “pretty sure” the company is entering into a “formal alliance” with Apple: “Comic-industry cluelessness and their inability to unite towards a common, mutual good are the two main reasons why we haven’t seen anything like LongBox before. But they probably haven’t been as serious a roadblock as the simple lack of any portable device that’s perfectly-suited to reading digital comics. This is a form of storytelling that needs a tablet. A big, page-sized color screen with lots of resolution and a touch interface for turning pages and navigating from panel to panel. Apple is rumored to be making one of those things. And they’re also rumored to be speaking with a great many high-profile print publishers about bringing their content to this new device.” LongBox CEO Rantz Hoseley wouldn’t confirm Ihnatko’s Apple assertion. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon has word from a former George Tuska spokesman that the longtime Iron Man artist has passed away. He was 93.
Tuska began his career in 1939 as an assistant on Scorchy Smith, and worked for the comic “packaging” studio owned by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. He later drew for Fawcett and Quality, and then moved to Marvel in the 1960s, where he penciled such titles as Daredevil, Ghost Rider and The X-Men before beginning a decade-long run on Iron Man. Tuska left Marvel in the late 1970s for DC Comics and in 1978 helped launch a new Superman daily comic strip, on which he worked until 1993.
Conventions | As Big Apple Comic Con — “the New York area’s largest pop culture festival” — opens, Variety and the Los Angeles Times spotlight the official launch today of GeekChicDaily, the new e-newsletter founded by Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus, movie producer Peter Guber and digital entertainment entrepreneur Peter Levin.
Meanwhile, comics and TV writer Paul Cornell explains why he won’t be attending the convention: “The guy who originally invited me was made redundant the day after he did so. Which doesn’t fill one with confidence. But, sure enough, his boss was kind enough to honour the commitment. And there was some communication on that score. However, by the start of this week, I’d noticed that days were ticking by without any actual arrangements being made. So I finally said that if they’d already bought the air ticket, then of course I’d come, because I didn’t want them to lose out financially because of me, but if they hadn’t, then not to worry about it. Which resulted in… absolute silence. So when I say I’m not going to New York… well, that’s my best guess as we speak.”
Heidi MacDonald reported earlier this week that “several announced guests” hadn’t received their travel arrangements, “and several others who were invited pulled out when such arrangements were not forthcoming.” [Big Apple Comic Con]
Legal | Anime producer and distributor Funimation Entertainment issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice to the webhost of AnimesFree demanding that the fansub site remove more than 1,000 infringing episodes of more than 40 series. The site’s administrator complied, and then complained about the company enforcing its copyrights: “AnimesFree.com will continue just as STRONGLY as it has been these past three months. Meeting everyone new on the website was great and I don’t intend for it to stop anytime soon. So we’re not going to quit just because of a few dozen series. There’s two things that you can do when a bully pushes you down. You either stay down and cower, or you stand back up and fight until you can’t walk anymore. There are just some things that the ‘Anime’ corporate giants will never understand about how people rely on online Anime communities.” The commenters on the post aren’t particularly sympathetic to the administrator’s plight. [AnimesFree, via Deb Aoki]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports that Rich Hafstead, partner in the Jim Hanley’s Universe chain in New York City, passed away Oct. 9. He had been semi-retired since suffering a heart attack in 2006. [The Beat]
Retailing | A 10-year-old girl is in a coma after she was trapped Tuesday under shelves that collapsed in a bookstore in Sapporo, Japan. The girl’s 14-year-old sister also was injured. The store, Daily Books, sells secondhand manga and video games. [The Japan Times, The Mainichi Daily News]
Legal | In light of recent legal moves by the heirs of Jerry Siegel and Jack Kirby, Christopher Murray and Paul Iannicelli consider the termination provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act. [ Mondaq]
The daughter of Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo is publicly criticizing her father for selling his stake in the books’ publisher to Hachette Livre, and authorizing the company to continue the series after his death.
“Today, I’m rebelling,” Sylvie Uderzo wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde. “Why? Because Asterix is my paper brother. I find myself entering into battle against, perhaps, Asterix’s worst enemies — the men of industry and finance.”
Albert Uderzo, now 81, created the enormously popular Asterix in 1959 with the late writer Rene Goscinny. Editions Albert Rene was founded in 1979, two years after Goscinny’s death.
The sale last month to Hachette, approved by Goscinny’s daughter Anne, gives the French publishing giant a 60-percent stake in Asterix. The remaining 40 percent remains with Sylvie Uderzo, who claims her father previously had intended the comic to end once he dies.
She blames her father’s advisers for pushing him into a “180 degree turn.”
The Asterix albums have been translated into 107 languages, and have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.