After 14 years, and more than 3,500 cartoons, James Kochalka is bringing his diary comic American Elf to an end. Since October 1998, Kochalka has been chronicling small slices of his daily life in short comics, seldom longer than four panels, and if you read the comic, you already know he has mixed feelings about ending it.
Of course, Kochalka has plenty still going on, including the animated version of his comic SuperF*ckers, plus teaching at the Center for Cartoon Studies, playing rock music and being the Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont. He’s going to keep the American Elf site live, and of course, you can get the collected editions from Top Shelf (and digitally via comiXology).
Keeping a diary comic for 14 years is a singular achievement, so we asked Kochalka to talk a bit about the experience of creating — and living — American Elf.
You don’t step on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. And you don’t mess around with Matthew Inman, creator of the wildly popular webcomic The Oatmeal. Charles Carreon learned that earlier this year, when he sued Inman over allegedly defamatory comments and was made an Internet laughingstock.
Now Inman has taken aim at Jack Steuf, who last week wrote an unflattering profile of the cartoonist at BuzzFeed. (True confession time: I linked to the article in Comics A.M., although by the time I read it, the most egregious error had already been removed.) Inman posted the BuzzFeed article in its entirety and added his own annotations, taking issue with almost every point and ending with the allegation that Steuf had to leave his last job after a fake birthday card that mocked a poem written for Sarah Palin’s son, who has Downs Syndrome.
The most serious error in the BuzzFeed article is that Steuf relied in part on what turned out to be a fake profile of Inman on a website called SodaHead. The profile portrayed Inman as married, with children, and a staunch Republican, none of which is true. In fact, Inman is not married, has no children, and voted for Barack Obama both times. BuzzFeed removed the inaccurate information and added a terse note at the end of the article:
Update: A previous version of this piece linked to a profile that implied Inman was married, had children, and holds certain political beliefs. The profile is a fake. Inman refused to comment for this story, but posted an extended challenge to it on his website.
As mea culpas go, that’s pretty thin gruel. This is bad stuff. It’s poor journalistic practice to trust anything online, and the fault lies not just with the reporter who did it but also with the editor who let it get by. As Slade Sohmer points out in a nice analysis of the situation at HyperVocal, BuzzFeed’s nonchalant response erodes the website’s credibility and, by association, online media in general.
Comics | Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, appears to be embracing its role in this week’s Avengers#1 as a target of an alien “origin bomb” that struck the city, changing its biosphere and altering billions of years of evolution in mere minutes. Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice present and executive editor, tells a local newspaper he’s unsure why Regina and Perth, Australia, were selected, but local retailer Chad Boudreau seems glad it happened. “We had no advanced notice of it,” he said. “It just happened that someone reading the comic saw it in there.” He expects strong sales at Comic Readers, with those who don’t typically follow comics buying the issue out of curiosity. [The Star Phoenix]
Charles Schulz’s Peanuts captured the hearts and minds of millions during its long run, and continues in various cartoons, comic spin-offs and other products. But as it turns out the beloved cartoonist also used his Peanuts characters to win the heart of at least one woman during a brief courtship.
The renowned Sotheby’s is hosting an auction of a series of very personal letters that Schulz sent in 1970 and 1971 to a photographer he met named Tracey Claudius during the waning years of his first marriage. Although never intended for public display, these communications from Schulz reveal an endearingly romantic side of the usually reserved cartoonist. Sold by the family of Claudius to pay medical bills, the 56 pages of letters include 22 original drawings of Peanuts characters. The auction house expects them to bring in at least $250,000.
The Associated Press notes that in two letters, Schulz told Claudius he must stop calling her because the long-distance charges had been discovered by his wife: “Soon after, he created a strip in which Charlie Brown berated Snoopy for his obnoxious behavior when he’s not allowed to go out ‘to see that girl beagle.’ In subsequent panels, Charlie warns Snoopy ‘you’d better start behaving yourself’ and when Snoopy picks up the telephone, Charlie Brown yells ‘And stop making those long-distance phone calls.’
Comics | The editor-in-chief of the Boston Phoenix denies accusations that the alternative weekly canceled Karl Stevens‘ satirical comic Failure because advertiser Anheuser-Busch was offended by last week’s strip, which referred to Bud Light as “diluted horse piss.” Stevens, whose comic has appeared on ThePhoenix.com since 2009, claims he was told by the art director that Failure was being canceled specifically because of the Bud Light jab. “Apparently I offended Bud Light, and cannot be trusted,” Steven told Publishers Weekly. However, Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli called the accusation “categorically false,” insisting Failure was canceled because it no longer fit The Phoenix, which has changed from a weekly newspaper to a weekly magazine. “It is categorically false that Karl’s strip was discontinued due to any outside objections. As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue Failure,” Carioli told The Boston Globe. “There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.” [Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe]
Richard Bruton draws our attention to Your Days Are Numbered, a London-based free quarterly “graphic fiction magazine” chock-full of interviews and illustrations, all presented in a smartly designed package. The current issue (the fourth), which you can browse below, includes interviews with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Ware and David Ziggy Greene (who also provided the cover art).
You can subscribe to Your Days Are Numbered on the magazine’s website.
Comics | Ohio drivers moved a little closer to getting their Superman specialty license plate Wednesday as the proposal was outlined for a state Senate committee. The bill, which already passed the state House, is on track to go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the year. The Siegel & Shuster Society launched the campaign for the plates in July 2011 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel in 2013; the character, which debuted in 1938, was created six years earlier in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The original plan for the plates to include the slogan “Birthplace of Superman,” that met with objections from Warner Bros., which insisted he was born on Krypton. The legend will now read, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” [Plain Dealer]
Manga | Tony Yao summarizes a recent article from The Nikkei Shimbun that analyzes the readership of Shonen Jump, which is 50 percent female despite the magazine being targeted to boys (“shonen” means “boy” in Japanese). They break down the popularity of series by gender and discuss how the female audience affects editorial decisions. [Manga Therapy]
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]
Legal | South African President Jacob Zuma has formally withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (who goes by the pen name Zapiro) and will pay a portion of his court costs as well. Zuma dropped part of the case last week, a claim of 4 million rand for “impairment of dignity.” A spokesman for Zuma said the president had more important things on his mind and didn’t want to set a precedent that “may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech.” [The Citizen]
Passings | The Catalan artist Jose Luis Ferrer, who signed himself simply “Ferrer,” died Monday of a brain tumor. Ferrer’s work appeared in 2000AD, Starlord and other British comics, but he was an international artist with work published in Germany, France, Sweden and the United States as well. [Down the Tubes]
It seems every time Superman, Spider-Man or any comics character steps near a political issue it becomes front-page news, not just on Comic Book Resources but in mainstream publications like USA Today. But politics and comics aren’t that unfamiliar to each other — in fact, they cross paths every day in editorial cartoons and comic strips. And one of the strongest and most popular voices in modern editorial cartooning is Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Matt Bors. A 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Bors can be read regularly nationwide in independent papers, as well as on Daily Kos and, of course, his own website.
It’s a busy time of year for Bors, as he just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first collection of his editorial cartoons and essays under the banner Life Begins At Incorporation: Cartoons & Essays By Matt Bors. He’s taking time away from his post as comics journalism editor at Cartoon Movement and moving forward with more projects of his own. I talked to him about his career, his thoughts on the industry, and the perceived divide between comic books and editorial cartoons.
Created by student D.C. Parsons, the comic (above) depicts a father explaining to his young son, “If you ever tell me you’re gay … I will shoot you with my shotgun, roll you up in a carpet and throw you off a bridge.” The boy replies, “Well, I guess that’s what you call a ‘Fruit Roll Up,’” and the two share a hearty laugh.
The strip drew immediate condemnation both on campus and off, with a petition on Change.org demanding the firing of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, cartoonist and copy editor attracting more than 4,600 signatures.
As visitors to the Google homepage have already noticed, the company is celebrating the 107th anniversary of Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland with an amazing interactive Doodle.
Debuting Oct. 15, 1905, the surreal Sunday comic — much like McCay — was years ahead of its time, initially following the nightly dreams of a little boy named Nemo as attempted to reach the realm of King Morpheus, who wanted him as a playmate for his daughter. Each installment ended with Nemo abruptly waking just as he was about to experience a mishap in dreamland. The strip, later retitled In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when it changed newspapers, ran until 1914 before being revived from 1924 to 1947.
Michael Cavna of The Washington Post has more on McCay, Little Nemo and the Google Doodle.
“When I started, if you got syndicated, you were basically set — you’d make a good living, and you wouldn’t have to worry much else. In the 11 years since then, that door has basically closed. There is no new great syndicated strip, and there probably won’t be. Literally, there are no new launches. Now, to make it, you have to go that web route. Many of those guys, from Penny Arcade to Cyanide and Happiness to The Perry Bible Fellowship — which are all excellent — claim to make a living, but how do you know? I can tell you that even if someone does a strip and it’s fairly popular online, the money is not online. I question a lot of claims about the money being made, and the question remains that if things continue to go that route for newspapers, and you have to make money online, how do you do it?”
– award-winning cartoonist Stephan Pastis, on how the market for comic strips has changed since Pearls Before Swine received wide syndication in 2002
Publishing | IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams discusses the company’s new IDW Limited program, which will produce small print runs of deluxe editions that will be marketed direct to the consumer. How small? The print run for the Blue Label edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Deluxe Limited Edition will be 10 copies. “The only fair thing to do is to give the fans direct access on a first come first served basis,” he said. “We’re putting an incredible emphasis on quality, and that directly affects the quantity of books IDW Limited can produce. We’re designing new covers, building custom cases and paying the artists to do hand drawn sketch work to go with these books. The reality is that that’s all very expensive and unfortunately it makes it difficult for us to offer this line at the deep discount needed for traditional retail distribution.” [ICv2]
Libraries | Following the firestorm sparked last month when a youth library in Stockholm briefly removed Tintin comics because of their racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs, a survey finds that 10 percent of Swedish libraries have removed or restricted Herge’s books due to “racist content.” [The Local]
Richard Thompson ended the five-year syndicated run of Cul de Sac on Sunday with a funny and touching salute to “the dying art form” of the comic strip. The cartoonist revealed last month that his struggle with Parkinson’s disease had just become too much for him to meet deadline demands.
”At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed” Thompson said in a statement at the time. “Last winter, I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.”
This morning many client newspapers announced comics-page replacements for Cul de Sac, with Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate and Hilary Price’s Rhymes With Orange emerging as apparent favorites (although the Las Vegas Review-Journal opted instead to bring back Bruce Tinsley’s Mallard Fillmore). Tom Spurgeon notes that Thompson’s syndicate is re-running Cul de Sac online from the beginning.