EXCLUSIVE: Battleworld Gets Dangerous in Marvel's July 2015 Solicitations
“I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against ‘self-censorship,’ one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority — her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.
[…] What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”
— Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, no stranger to controversy, talking about Charlie Hebdo‘s Prophet Muhammad cartoons as part of his remarks on receiving the George Polk Career Award at Long Island University.
Auctions | A page of original artwork from 1971’s Asterix and the Laurel Wreath sold at auction Sunday for more than $158,000, with proceeds going to benefit the families of those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices. The art included a special dedication by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, who came out of retirement in the days after the attack to draw tributes to the victims. The auction house Christie’s waived its commission for Sunday’s sale. [BBC News]
Political cartoons | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who has been sued, threatened and reprimanded by his own government because of his political cartoons, revealed last week that he has also received threats from an Ecuadorean member of ISIS over a cartoon making fun of the extremist group. While he ultimately decided the threat wasn’t credible, Bonilla said, “It has to be understood within this climate of hostility and harassment that’s been created within the country. It’s gotten to the point where even humor is being persecuted and oppressed by the president.” Reporter Jim Wyss also looks at some other cases of government suppression of political cartoons in Latin America [Miami Herald]
Manga | ICv2 kicks off a week of manga coverage with a two-part interview with Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s senior director of sales and marketing. Sales are up, with particularly strong growth in the direct market, where their older and darker series, like the Signature line, tend to do better. Interestingly, sales of shoujo (girls’) manga are up 20 percent in the direct market as well. In bookstores, as measured by BookScan, they are the number one graphic novel publisher of 2014, and they had five of the top ten best-sellers. Given all that, Hamric is genial about ceding the top spot to a Kodansha title: “Attack on Titan is #1, but whatever works and brings people into the stores and into the category is good for everybody.” In Part 2, he reveals what he expects to be the biggest book of 2015, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. [ICv2]
Legal | A 48-year-old man has been charged in the theft of the extensive comics collection of artist Jim Wheelock last month from a storage facility in Brattleboro, Vermont. William Brown pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 17 counts of burglary, petit larceny and unlawful mischief after he was allegedly recorded on security camera breaking into numerous units. Brown said he sold all of the items, and none of Wheelock’s comics has turned up in searches of the suspect’s home and car. [Brattleboro Reformer]
Retailing | Comics retailers surveyed by ICv2 were more optimistic than ever before, thanks to strong sales and excitement around upcoming titles in the superhero, creator-owned, and kids/teens sectors; the analysis also includes charts of the top-selling properties during the fall and holiday season of last year. [ICv2]
Publishing | The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before armed gunmen attacked its offices last month, but the outpouring of support that followed has changed the financial picture: The first issue after the attack sold millions of copies, 250,000 new subscribers signed up, and the paper even received more than $4.5 million in donations. The flush of wealth is causing dissension among the staff, Sam Schechner reports, with some arguing that the publication should become a cooperative. At the same time, they’re discussing how Charlie Hebdo will keep its edge under the new circumstances. A new issue, the second since the attacks, is out on newsstands today. [The Wall Street Journal]
Political cartoons | Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki said in a Japanese radio interview that it was a “mistake” for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. “For me, I think it’s a mistake to make caricatures of what different cultures worship,” he said when asked about the January attack on the magazine’s offices that left 12 dead. “It’s a good idea to stop doing that.” Miyazaki reportedly said cartoonists should use caricature to target their own country’s politicians. “”It just looks suspect to go after political leaders from other countries,” he explained. [Kotaku]
Retailing | Susana Polo interviews several members of the Valkyries, the organization of women who work in comic shops, and examines the “Valkyrie Bump,” the sales boost that some comics, such as Sex Criminals, Lumberjanes and Batgirl, get when they benefit from their extra support. [Publishers Weekly]
Political cartoons | Reporter James Hookway interviews the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges, and provides some background on Malaysian politics and trial of Anwar Ibrahim, which is the topic of some of Zunar’s controversial cartoons. [The Wall Street Journal]
Crime | Artist and collector Jim Wheelock talks about the loss of his comics collection, which was stolen from a storage unit in Brattleboro, Vermont: “I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of.” Vermont-based cartoonists James Kochalka and Harry Bliss weigh in on what such a loss would mean. Wheelock’s thousands of comics included extensive runs of The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four, in some cases beginning from the first issues. [Seven Days]
Legal | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered an investigation into a cartoon he claims depicts the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoonist, Mohammed Sabaaneh, denied that on his Facebook, saying, “The intention was not to represent the prophet. [It was to] symbolise Islam and its role of disseminating light and love on the human race.” It was a reaction to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, not an attempt to imitate them: “My point was to defend religion in the face of attempts to distort it, by using the same means: a caricature,” he said. The newspaper that ran the cartoon, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, apologized and stated that the cartoon was not supposed to be an image of Muhammad. Sabaaneh, who spent several months in an Israeli prison on charges of “contacts with a hostile organization,” has been summoned by the Palestinian Authority for questioning. [Middle East Eye]
Crime | The Wow Cool Alternative Comics store in Cupertino, California, has been burglarized for the second time in two months, and it looks as if it was the same crew both times. The thieves took cash and pretty much every minicomic and digest in the store, as well as a box of Marvel and DC comics. [Wow Cool Comics]
Political cartoons | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges in his home country, has been invited to speak at a United Nations forum next month in Geneva, Switzerland, titled “Defending Artistic Expression — Time for the UN to Act.” “In my speech, I will reaffirm my stand that freedom of expression for artistes including cartoonists is paramount and cannot be compromised,” he said, and he will also criticize the UN’s lack of commitment to the issue, which has “given more power to corrupt regimes and extremist bigots to be more repressive toward artists.” [The Rakyat Post]
Auctions | A restored copy of Detective Comics #27, which marks the first appearance of Batman, is expected to bring in more than $100,000 in a Feb. 20 sale held by Heritage Auctions. According to the company, this would be only the second restored copy of that issue reach that milestone (several restored copies of Action Comics #1 have broken $100,000). A CGC-graded 4.5 copy of Batman #1 is expected to fetch more than $65,000 in the same auction. [Antique Trader]
Passings | Cartoonist Joseph Farris, whose work appeared in The New Yorker and other publications for almost 60 years, died last week at his home in Bethel, Connecticut. He was 90. Farris served in the Army during World War II, and he later wrote a memoir, A Soldier’s Sketchbook, that included drawings he did while on the front lines in France and Germany. He recently completed another memoir, Elm Street, about growing up in Danbury, Connecticut. Farris once described his work as “subtly political,” adding that his goal was to make the reader laugh, then stop and think “Wait a minute. What did he say?” [The News-Times]
The Angoulême International Comics Festival ended today, and while the winner of the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, Katsuhiro Otomo, was announced on Thursday, the closing ceremony brought the announcements of the official prizes of the festival.
The prize for the best comic of the year (Fauve d’or/Prix du meilleur album) went to Riad Sattouf’s L’Arabe du Futur, the first volume of an autobiographical trilogy about his childhood, which was spent in France and Syria. Chris Ware’s Building Stories was recognized with a special jury prize, which is not given every year, only when the jury wants to draw attention to a work of special merit. The best series prize went to Last Man, which First Second will be releasing beginning in March. And there was a special Freedom of Expression prize, Prix De La Liberté D’Expression, which honored the five Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who were slain on January 7; this prize will be awarded in future years to creators who have advocated for freedom of speech.
Here’s the complete list:
The president of last year’s festival, and the winner of the previous year’s Grand Prix d’Angoulême, was Willem, a staff cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo. He didn’t like to attend staff meetings, so he wasn’t in the office on Jan. 7 when two gunmen killed 12 people, including another Grand Prix winner, Wolinski.
“The 2015 festival will be a time to remember but we also want to demonstrate that life goes on,” said festival director Franck Bondoux. The commemorations include a special exhibit on Charlie Hebdo, a virtual album with contributions by artists from around the world, and a new award, the Charlie Prize, which will be awarded posthumously to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists this year, and in future years will recognize creators who have fought for freedom of expression. The town of Angoulême will also festooned with posters of Charlie Hebdo covers.
Legal | Kuala Lumpur police raided the office of the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and seized 149 copies of his books Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar and Pirates of the Carry BN. They were looking for the cartoonist himself, but he was in the United Kingdom, speaking at Oxford and Cambridge universities and giving a talk in London titled “To Fight Through Cartoons.” In a press release, Zunar said the raid occurred under the Printing Presses Act, Sedition Act and Penal Code, and that he would be called to the police station on his return to the country; he was arrested under that act in 2010. He also tweeted, “If the cartoons are defamatory, those who feel aggrieved should file a civil suit. No problem. I oppose the use of criminal laws like the Sedition Act” [The Malaysian Insider]
Political cartoons | Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Zineb El-Rhazoui, on a fundraising tour in Canada, said the terrorists who attacked the magazine’s offices and killed 12 people were the ones who made a mockery of religion, not the cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. “This is the most ugly caricature, that this is the most ugly picture of their religion,” she said. “It is not the pictures made by Charlie Hebdo.” [CTV News]
Legal | A 16-year-old in Nantes, France, was arrested last week for posting a cartoon on Facebook that mocks the Charlie Hebdo killings; the charge is “advocating terrorism.” The cartoon shows someone holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo and being struck by bullets. Electronic Intifada posts what is most likely the offending cartoon (it had been shared widely on social media), a takeoff on one of the more notorious Charlie Hebdo covers, accompanied by the text, “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.” The original cover featured a cartoon of an Egyptian protestor holding the Koran, with text that read, “The Quran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullets.” [France 3]
Publishing | Sales were down in 2014 for Diamond Book Distributors, even though the industry overall had an up year. The reason: DBD lost a key client, Dark Horse, to Random House. Nonetheless, Vice President Kuo-Yu Liang sees good things in store for 2015, including strong sales of indie graphic novels, expanding international sales, and the much-anticipated March: Book Two, which was released this week. [Publishers Weekly]