Passings | British cartoonist Ronald Searle, best known as the creator of the fictional St. Trinian’s School, passed away Friday at a hospital near his home in southeastern France. He was 91. His spiky drawings of the wicked pupils of the girls school debuted in 1941 in Lilliput magazine, leading to five books and seven films. Searle, a Cambridge native, also co-authored (with Geoffrey Willans) the Molesworth book series. [Reuters]
Conventions | Four-day passes for New York Comic Con go on sale for $85 today at noon ET/9 a.m. PT. The event will be held Oct. 11-14 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. [press release]
Conventions | Comiket, the world’s largest self-published comic book fair, drew a total of 500,000 people for its winter convention, held Thursday through Saturday at the Tokyo Big Sight in Japan. Held twice a year, in August and December, the event doesn’t use turnstiles or unique passes, so a visitor who attends all three days would be counted each time. [Anime News Network]
Libraries | The Center for Cartoon Studies has found a new home for the Schulz Library, whose previous location was damaged in a flood in August: the old post office in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. The school was able to purchase the building with the help of Bayle Drubel, a real estate developer and founding CCS board member who bought the post office in 2004. Renovations are set to begin this winter to create room for instruction space, faculty offices and the Schulz Library cartoon collection. [The Center for Cartoon Studies, via The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | The Atlantic profiles Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith. [The Atlantic]
Creators | Artist Fabio Moon talks about teaming with Zack Whedon on the new Serenity comic that makes up one-half of one of their Free Comic Book Day offerings. [ComicsAlliance]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has named Alex Cox as its deputy director, responsible for oversight of the organization’s home office and fundraising program. Cox, who came to the CBLDF in 2010, previously served as development manager. [CBLDF]
Publishing | Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno is leaving the publisher for a position at San Francisco-based software company The Apollo Group. Previously editor of Harris Comics, Alimagno handled freelance scheduling at Marvel, working with David Bogart, the publisher’s senior vice president of business affairs and talent management. [The Beat]
Graphic novels | The Texas Library Association posts its 2012 Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List of recommendations for tweens and teens. [Texas Library Association]
Cartoonist Shannon Wheeler isn’t one to rest on his laurels; heck, do you know how uncomfortable laurels can be on your backside? After making a name for himself with the alt-comic series Too Much Coffee Man, Wheeler branched out and in recent years began aiming to join an exclusive club: artists whose comics are published in The New Yorker. And after achieving that, he’s showing off the plethora of comics that were turned down, and the accepted ones, in a new art exhibit in his hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Titled “Shannon Wheeler’s One-One-One-One: One-Man Show of One-Hundred-and-One One-Panel Comics, “this exhibit at Portland’s Center for the Performing Arts opens Thursday, and continues through Dec. 1.The life of a New Yorker cartoonist is arduous; for every accepted strip there are countless ones that end up rejected. The latter are often more intriguing than those that made the cut, for the joke inside as well as the imagined reasons why the editor passed on them.
Thank you, Teleread, for turning me on to the British Cartoon Archive, and just in time for the weekend, too. The physical archive has over 150,000 comic strips, cartoons, and other interesting bits of ephemera, and they are putting a number of their holdings online. The website is searchable, and there’s also a nice little tag cloud that can hook you up with vintage Andy Capp comics, caricatures by David Low, and, of course, Hitler cartoons.
The most intriguing section of the site (so far) is the collection of double-entendre postcards that were sold at popular seaside resorts in Britain but became the focus of an anti-obscenity crusade after World War II. The site includes a fascinating account of the police tactics used to seize the offending postcards:
“We have our own method of dealing with obscene postcards”, one Blackpool police officer noted in 1951: “Upon receiving a complaint from a member of the public, a plain clothes man is sent to buy a copy of the offending card. When the stationer says that he can see nothing wrong in the card, he is asked: ‘Would you send that card to your daughter?’ If the answer is ‘No’ – as it usually is – a prosecution may follow”.
The whole story is worth reading, and as a special treat, a number of the offending postcards are presented in full color, along with their prosecution records. The collection itself is a bit of an oddity: It was created by the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to try to impose some consistency on the postcard prosecutions. As always obscenity proved to be more difficult to define than to recognize, and the whole effort was ultimately abandoned, but the collection serves as a nice little time capsule of what passed for racy humor in the 1950s.
You read that right. You may think of Flannery O’Connor as a writer of the sorts of books that are all words, but in her younger days she yearned to be a cartoonist—and she wasn’t half bad. Fantagraphics will publish Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons in December, and Flavorwire has a sampling of her work, while The Guardian places her cartoon work in the context of her life and career.
O’Connor did both pen-and-ink drawings and linoleum cuts like the one above, and because it was done while she was in high school and college, most of it reflects that life. Her cartoons look a bit Thurbereseque, and in fact she used to submit them to the New Yorker, but without success. Ultimately she turned to prose instead, but as the Guardian article points out, the cartoons were notable in that they show that O’Connor took the outsider’s point of view from the beginning.
(via Peter Gutierrez, on Twitter)
Unlike the painting that Bill Watterson just did for the Team Cul de Sac project, these drawings are not new work; in fact, they were done early in his career, before Calvin and Hobbes became such a success. Artist Thom Buchanan posted them at his blog My Delineated Life, which is a treasure trove of interesting illustrations from times gone by.
Watterson did these as a freelance job for the Mark Twain Journal, and it’s kind of interesting to see how consistent the public discourse is: These cartoons, done in 1983 and based on material that’s about 100 years older, are about the same things that cartoons are about now: Cats and corruption in Congress.
At The Daily Cartoonist, where I first spotted this item, Nevin Martell contributed a few more Mark Twain cartoons, including one on another timeless topic, the irritations of modern technology—in this case, the telephone.
Steven Kutzner was sentenced on Tuesday in Boise, Idaho, to 15 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and mandatory sex offender treatment, for possessing drawings of minors having sex. This case has received a lot of attention on comics blogs because the images mentioned in the plea agreement were all of characters from The Simpsons, and the case is one of several in recent years that have involved drawn images. Child pornography in the form of photographs or movies involves the exploitation of real children, but drawings and animation are more of a thought crime, and a robust discussion has sprung up as to whether it’s something that should be prosecuted.
Sean Michael Robinson, who has been following this case at The Comics Journal, spoke to Kutzner’s attorney D.J. Carr, who said that while he felt the statute under which Kutzner was prosecuted “puts the government in places it shouldn’t be,” this wasn’t the case to test it. The fact is, the 33-year-old Kutzner isn’t some hapless hobbyist being victimized by an overzealous prosecutor. German police and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had identified Kutzner’s computer as the one that offered a file of actual child pornography for download on a peer-to-peer network, and Kutzner admitted that he had downloaded child pornography and then wiped his computer to remove all traces of it.
This reads a bit like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, in that prosecutors knew Kutzner had downloaded child pornography, but they might not be able to prove it in court, so they charged him with possession of obscene cartoons instead. Kutzner pleaded guilty to avoid the more serious charges. In fact, there is unlikely to ever be a clean test case of laws banning drawings of child obscenity, in the sense that prosecutors would go after someone because of one or two images in an otherwise innocuous collection. The DA in this case, Jim Peters, basically said as much to Robinson in October, when Kutzner pleaded guilty:
The American Muslim, an online newsletter, has issued a statement titled “A Defense of Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims” that condemns the threats made to Molly Norris (who drew a cartoon advocating Everybody Draw Mohammed Day), and Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, which included a scene in which the Prophet Mohammed was depicted wearing a bear suit.
Seattle Weekly reports that cartoonist Molly Norris, who came up with the idea of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” but later disavowed it, has changed her name and gone into hiding. In July, Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki called her a “prime target,” and the FBI has warned her to take that threat seriously.
Last spring, reacting to Comedy Central’s decision to pull an episode of South Park that spoofed the prophet Mohammed, Norris drew a tongue-in-cheek cartoon and suggested that May 20 be declared “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” The idea caught on but soon careened out of control: There was an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page (which has also dialed back and is now devoted to inter-religious understanding), an opposing Facebook page (Ban Everybody Draw Mohammed Day), and even a real website for a fake organization Norris mentioned in her poster, “Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor or CACAH (pronounced ca-ca).”
When I heard that the next DC animated movie was going to be Batman: Under the Red Hood, I cringed. For one thing, I’ve never been a big fan of Judd Winick’s writing. For another, when I originally heard that Jason Todd had come back from the dead, I did a facepalm. Must everything be constantly recycled in superhero comics for the sake of fanboy nostalgia? Can’t we just leave some things be? Not that Death in the Family was some great masterpiece (it wasn’t) but can’t we look at least a little bit forward instead of constantly looking over our shoulder, building castle after castle on sand?
So no, I wasn’t particularly excited to watch this latest Warner Bros. adaptation, expecting it to be something along the lines of that dreadful Superman/Batman affair or the horrid Wonder Woman film.
I had no idea Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman ever did any work for Sesame Street, but lo and behold animator Michael Sporn has the images to prove it. (via Cartoon Brew, which also has a YouTube video of the finished cartoon)
By the Power of Grayskull! Los Angeles’ Gallery 1988 has the power! Beginning tomorrow, Friday January 8, they’re hosting “Under the Influence: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” an art show featuring various reinterpretations of my all-time favorite action-figure/cartoon line ever. You can check out a Snake Mountain-sized pile of art for the show here and here.
whose seminal 1911 animated film, Little Nemo, has been inducted into the National Film Registry.
The new DC Universe Animated movie, Green Lantern First Flight, is basically a cop movie with a sci-fi setting. Its cast includes a wealth of strange-looking aliens and fantastic action scenes that defy the laws of physics (more on that later on) but the basic plot of the film comes out of a million other TV and movie police procedurals, right down to where the hotshot rookie is blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and forced to turn his badge in.
And really, that’s as it should be. That basic premise — “space cop with magic ring” — is one of the most appealing things about the character (really the most appealing thing if you ask me) so to focus on that aspect makes sense. What’s more, it remains a pretty sturdy premise, despite its age. You have to be either really lazy or incompetent to foul it up. Thankfully, the makers of this film are neither, making First Flight an entertaining, if somewhat shallow and unoriginal, film.