Manga | Eiichiro Oda’s hit pirate adventure One Piece has sold 130.15 million copies in Japan since 2009, the year that market research firm Oricon began reporting book sales. The series, which debuted in 1997, has 72 volumes — a total of 300 million copies — in print. [Anime News Network]
Tributes | The statue of Family Circus creator Bil Keane was finally unveiled in Scottsdale, Arizona. [KPHO]
Events | We relay a lot of stories in this space about cartoonists being suppressed abroad, so it’s heartening to see a country where conditions have improved: Next week, there will be an exhibit of cartoons in Myanmar, as part of the Tazaungdaing festival. The Tazaungdaing comics show is a longtime tradition that was shut down in 1997 under pressure from the government but was resurrected in 2011 when censorship laws loosened. The exhibit takes place on a street named for U Ba Gyan, who was a prominent cartoonist in the 1930s; he used to exhibit his cartoons by putting them on lanterns around his house, to escape official censors. [Myanmar Times]
Business | Marvel parent Disney is expected to begin layoffs in the coming weeks as part of a planned reorganization that follows a company-wide review of operations. The film studio is believed to undergo the deepest cuts, specifically in marketing, home entertainment and production.
The news arrives a little more than five months after Disney announced its $4.05 billion purchase of Lucasfilm; earlier this week, word spread the media giant has closed LucasArts, the video-game subsidiary of Lucasfilm, and axed 150 employees. According to Variety, Disney executives told each division to ensure “that staff levels are in line with the company’s needs in a changing marketplace, particularly in divisions affected by shifts in new media and technologies.” The film division will bear the brunt of the layoffs in large part because of Disney’s increasing reliance on Pixar (purchased in 2006 for $7.4 billion), Marvel (purchased in 2009 for $4 billion) and, soon, Lucasfilm. [Variety]
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
Graphic novels | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in February was the 60th volume of Naruto, according to Nielsen BookScan; four other manga made the chart as well. Actually, it’s an interestingly eclectic mix, with eight volumes of The Walking Dead, the first volume of Saga, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, and Chris Ware’s Building Stories making the list, as well as The Book of Revelation from religious publisher Zondervan. Marvel was entirely absent, but two of DC’s New 52 collections appearing. [ICv2]
Comics | Former DC Comics President Paul Levitz talks about the new edition of 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Myth-Making, which has been broken out into five volumes and expanded to include more art and an additional creator interview in every volume; the first volume, The Golden Age of DC Comics, is out now. Levitz also touches on the history of the company, the importance of characters, and the impact of young readers on the early comics: “It wasn’t adults tending to what they wanted their child to read or libraries selecting. It was the kids of America who said I love Uncle Scrooge as its done by Carl Barks, I love the Superman comics that are coming from Mort Weisinger’s team at DC, I love the Marvel comics that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko are creating. And they really got to choose those things that became trendsetters in the culture and ultimately leading to the massive success of the superhero movies in more recent years.” [Complex Art + Design]
Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
Comics | An original page by John Byrne and Terry Austin from Uncanny X-Men #137, the 1980 issue that featured the death of Phoenix, sold at auction Wednesday for $65,725. As ICv2 notes, the sale continues the trend of 1980s comic art going for high prices; a page of Frank Miller art from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 sold for $448,125 in May. [ICv2.com]
Digital | ICv2′s Milton Griepp makes the case for publishers to provide sales information on digital comics. “Why would this information be useful? There are a number of reasons. One is that it would help distributors (most importantly, Diamond Comic Distributors) and retailers selling physical comics and graphic novels identify which titles have the largest audiences in digital form. They could then make sure that they’re merchandising the top digital titles appropriately, so they can take advantage of demand for physical titles that results from digital exposure (we’ve been hearing that there’s a significant phenomenon of digital purchasers looking for collections of comics they’ve purchased online). Digital demand can also indicate potential demand for physical books from consumers that aren’t purchasing digitally; a good book, after all, is a good book, and if digital purchasers are finding a title that’s not as popular in physical form, it may indicate that there’s an untapped market of consumers of physical books as well.” [ICv2.com]
I was surprised when Bil told me he read Zippy in his local Arizona paper and liked it. He didn’t even qualify his opinion with the usual, “Of course, I don’t always get it.” Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to The Family Circus, but I slowly began to see that you could read more into it than what appeared on the surface.
We mentioned the other day that the late Bil Keane once did a Family Circus crossover with Bill Griffith’s Zippy. Griffith has a nice piece at The Comics Journal that explains how the crossover came about and reinforces what everyone says about Keane being a nice guy but also sharper than his genial comic would lead you to believe; he also posts the Zippy strips that feature Jeffy and the Family Circus panel that features Zippy in all their surreal glory.
The world of comics is filled with tortured souls, but Bil Keane was not one of them.
The creator of The Family Circus passed away Tuesday at the age of 89, after what was by all accounts a wonderful life. Keane started drawing The Family Circus in 1960, and it is still going strong today — his son Jeff took over in recent years — and his 60-year marriage to Thelma Keane, the model for the mother in the cartoon, was a love match. Keane served as the president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1981 to 1983 and emceed its awards banquet for 16 years. Even before he died, his fellow cartoonists unfailingly described him as the nicest of nice guys, and startlingly funny. His niceness, apparently, had a bit of an edge.
Keane took The Family Circus seriously, seeing his mission as providing “good, wholesome, family entertainment,” a sort of cartoon comfort food for readers whose real-life families may not have been quite as warm as his fictional clan. In fact, one of the most touching tributes to his work came from Lynda Barry:
I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house, but we did have the daily paper, and I remember picking out ”Family Circus” before I could really read. There was something about looking through a circle at a life that looked pretty good to me.
For kids like me, there was a map and a compass that was hidden [in] “Family Circus.” The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. He put that image in my head and it stayed with me.