INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Graphic Novels | The one-volume Naruto sequel, Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, and the first four volumes of One-Punch Man dominate the BookScan top 20 graphic novels list for January, taking five of the top six slots and making room only for Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. BookScan tracks sales in bookstores, and the presence of not only Fun Home but Watchmen and American Born Chinese suggests that graphic novels are popping up on lots of required-reading lists for the spring semester. Three collected editions of Star Wars comics, the first four volumes of Tokyo Ghoul, and the fifth volume of Saga also made the list. [ICv2]
Passings | Linus Maurer, a professional cartoonist whose name Charles Schulz borrowed for his Peanuts character, has died at the age of 90. Maurer was a co-worker of Schulz’s at the Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis when Schulz was developing the characters for Peanuts. “Linus came from a drawing that I made one day of a face almost like the one he now has,” Schulz later wrote. “I experimented with some wild hair, and showed the sketch to a friend of mine who sat near me at art instruction, whose name was Linus Maurer. It seemed appropriate that I should name the character Linus.” Maurer started his career as an illustrator and was an art director for the McCann Erickson ad agency before becoming a full-time cartoonist, working on a number of nationally syndicated comics including Old Harrigan, Abracadabra, and In the Beginning. In his later years he was a cartoonist for the Sonoma Index-Tribune. “I feel very honored that Schulz used my name in his strip,” Maurer said in an interview in 2000. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if the cartoon Linus had never existed. I think we have a lot in common. We’re both philosophical and level-headed.” Maurer didn’t carry a security blanket, but, he said, “I do keep a lot of sweaters and jackets in the trunk of my car.” [The Press Democrat]
Conventions | Although it may seem way too early to begin the countdown to Comic-Con International, badge sales open Saturday at 9 a.m. PT for those who attended the 2015 convention and preregistration (this isn’t the annual mad dash, which arrives in a few months). If you’re eligible, you should receive your registration code by email at least 24 hours before badge sales open. Comic-Con provides a detailed walk-through of the process. [Toucan]
Legal | The Malaysian Federal Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the government shouldn’t have banned two books of Zunar’s political cartoons, 1Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun. “This is a victory for all cartoonists, it tells the Home Ministry and the government that drawing cartoons is not a crime,” Zunar said. He also said the ruling means that the government must also lift bans on all his books and drop sedition charges against him. “Stop raiding this my office, stop harassing my webmaster for selling the books online, and stop raiding and threatening printers and shops involved in the production and sales,” he said. [Malaysyakini]
Awards | Roz Chast won the Reuben Award for cartoonist of the year, presented over the weekend in Washington, D.C., by the National Cartoonists Society. Divisional award winners of note include Jules Feiffer (Kill My Mother) for Graphic Novel, Jason Latour (Southern Bastards) for Comic Book, Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots) for Online Comics-Short Form, Minna Sundberg (Stand Still, Stay Silent) for Online Comics-Long Form, Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange) for Newspaper Panel Cartoon, and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) for Newspaper Comic Strip. [National Cartoonists Society]
The comics medium allows for diverse interpretations of characters, both narratively and visually. Artist Jaakko Seppälä has taken 10 of the most iconic comic characters — from Asterix to Batman to Lucy van Pelt — drawn in the style of 10 famous artists (including their respective creators or most popular illustrators).
Legal | Illustrator Greg Theakston tells The Comics Journal that during his Christmas vacation, he plans to file a police complaint against the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, alleging it stole about 3,000 photocopies of Kirby’s pencil work. Theakston gave the photocopies to the museum, but he contends it was intended to be a loan, while the museum says it was an outright donation. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Theakston has been threatening legal action since August. [The Comics Journal]
Creators | Paul Tumey posts a charming series of letters from Pogo creator Walt Kelly to a young pen pal (who had a pet alligator named Albert), along with plenty of backstory. [The Comics Journal]
Crime | A man was spotted on security video last week at New York Comic Con stealing a one-of-a-kind, 20-inch Dunny figure hand-painted by by Jon-Paul Kaiser valued at $2,000, plus two other items, from the Clutter Magazine booth. [DNAinfo New York]
Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, who uses the pen name “Biantai Lajiao” (Perverted Chili Pepper), has applied for a visa to remain in Japan, saying he’s afraid to return to China. Liming’s account on the Chinese social media site Weibo, where he published his cartoons, was shut down in August, and the People’s Daily newspaper has called him a traitor and accused him of being pro-Japan. Last year, he was arrested and held overnight on charges of “suspicion of causing a disturbance.” “China’s situation surrounding freedom of speech has worsened during these six months,” Wang said in an interview. “I have no idea where the borderline is (between what is permissible and what is not anymore).” [The Asahi Shimbun]
Publishing | Both Marvel and the manga publisher Yen Press are caught in the middle of the Amazon/Hachette dispute: Hachette is accusing Amazon of suppressing sales of Hachette titles in order to force the publisher to agree to its terms, according to The New York Times. Marvel uses Hachette as its distributor and Yen is a Hachette imprint; ICv2 found evidence that several of Amazon’s cited tactics, which include shipping delays and lower discounts, were being used on their titles. In fact, Amazon is offering no discount at all on Yen Press titles at the moment. [ICv2]
Comics sales | ICv2 runs the numbers on April comics sales, and The Amazing Spider-Man #1 is the spring phenom: After three months of no comic selling more than 100,000 copies, ASM #1 sold more than 500,000, thanks in no small part to its nearly 50 variant and retailer custom covers, generating a record $3.19 million. Two other comics, Superior Spider-Man #31 and Batman #30, also hit the six-figure mark. ICv2 has the numbers for the top 300 comics and graphic novels as well. [ICv2]
The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
A 1966 original daily Peanuts comic strip from fetched $26,450 at auction earlier this month, surpassing pre-sale estimates of between $15,000 and $20,000.
Featuring Peppermint Patty, Linus and Snoopy, the strip was the top-grossing item in a multi-estate auction held Jan. 18 in Lynbrook, New York, by Philip Weiss Auctions. The auction was devoted primarily to Golden Age comic books, sports memorabilia and comics art, along with some original Disney production cels and paintings.
Efforts that started back in 2010 to put Snoopy on license plates in California have hit a milestone — the special plates, featuring artwork by Charles Schulz, are now available for order. And once 7,500 have been ordered, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin production.
The proceeds from the official Snoopy license plate will go toward a grant program administered by the California Cultural and Historical Endowment to support California’s museums. The plates cost $50 for for a sequential plate or $98 for a personalized plate, with a portion of the higher fee also supporting programs to protect California’s environment. If 7,500 plates aren’t ordered in the first year (Rats!), you’ll have the option to try again next year or have your money refunded.
If you live in California and want to help Snoopy hit the road, you can order your plate here.
Conventions | This Japan Times article about Comiket provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of the dojinshi (self-published manga) fair, which each August and December new draws between 560,000 to 590,000 visitors to Tokyo Big Sight. However, even that massive convention center is becoming too small for the event; of the 51,000 booth applications for August’s Comiket 84, only 35,000 were granted because of space limitations. Incredibly, the organizing Comic Market Committee has just eight full-time employees (but more than 3,000 volunteers). [The Japan Times]
Creators | MariNaomi discusses her experience of being sexually harassed by another creator while participating in a panel at a comics convention. That’s right, she was sexually harassed onstage. [xojane]
Legal | Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has filed a legal complaint against his daughter Sylvie and her husband Bernard Choisy, claiming “psychological violence.” The dispute began in 2007, when Sylvie and Bernard were dismissed from their positions at Les Éditions Albert René, which published Asterix; a year later, Uderzo sold his stake in the company to Hachette Livre. The two filed their own legal challenge in 2011, claiming Uderzo, who is now 86, was being exploited by others. In this week’s filing, Uderzo says he is perfectly capable of managing his own affairs, and adds, “The sole purpose of these acts is to undermine our psychological integrity and to hasten our debility, in order to get their hands on our legacy, which they covet.” [The Guardian]
You can add Charles Schulz to the long list of artists who have been featured in IDW’s Artist’s Edition series. Along with the Jim Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America editions, the Dave Gibbons Watchmen edition and Jack Kirby’s New Gods edition came the news that IDW will release a Peanuts Artist’s Edition.
“Having grown up with Charlie Brown, Linus and his blanket, Snoopy and the Red Baron…I could not be happier about bringing them into the IDW family,” said Ted Adams, CEO and Publisher of IDW Publishing, in a press release. “In the world of comic art, it does not get any bigger than Peanuts.”
The first is Batter Up, Charlie Brown, another in the series of Peanuts collections organized around a theme, rather than chronologically. It’s due in April, just in time for Opening Day. As Tom notes, this must mean that last year’s Christmas-themed book went over pretty well, and he also points out that the 65th anniversary of the strip is coming up in 2015.
Next up is The Complete Eightball, collecting the first 18 issues of Daniel Clowes’ comic in a deluxe format, two hardcover volumes in a slipcase. Eightball has been collected before, but not like this: In addition to the prestige format, the new edition, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of Eightball‘s debut, includes material that has only been published in the original comics. Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds told Spurgeon there is “a not-insigificant amount of strips that for whatever reason, Dan never wanted to collect.” The book will also include additional commentary by Clowes, making it sort of the director’s cut of Eightball. Watch for it in August 2014, and start saving now, as the list price is $95.
Finally, there’s Buddy Buys a Dump, the latest collection of Peter Bagge’s Buddy Bradley comics, and the first to appear in seven years. The 144-page book will include some previously unpublished material, and the expected publication date is in April.
Auctions | The original art for two Peanuts Sunday comics, one of them autographed by Charles Schulz, sold for a combined price of $78,200 at auction on June 6. [artdaily.org]
Creators | Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon, who are doomed to be forever yoked by the parenthetical phrase “no relation,” reminisce about the days when they were paid for their work in beef, and talk about their digital-first strategy, serializing Zander’s Heck and Kevin’s Crater XV in their monthly digital magazine Double Barrel before releasing them in print. Mark Waid drops in to praise the Cannons for their digital strategy, saying, “If you let the audience access your material over the Web rather than force them to search — often in vain — for a retail outlet, they’ll be your fans for life.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]