Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]
Publishing | The Penguin Group plans to wade into the market for children’s graphic novels with a new line aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers. “Clearly it’s a huge, growing market, the kid’s graphic novel market,” Penguin’s Rich Johnson told ICv2 at New York Comic Con. “You see those titles making the bestsellers list all the time. So we are looking to do work in that area to get more kids reading comics.” [ICv2]
Creators | Feisty as ever, Stan Lee talks about his World of Heroes YouTube channel and breaks up the camera crew a couple of times in an interview shot New York Comic Con. [MTV Geek]
Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]
Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]
Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Rumors have been flying that DC Thomson was considering shutting down The Dandy, and today the publisher confirmed the news, announcing it will cease print publication of the United Kingdom’s longest-running comic following the Dec. 4 release of the 75th anniversary issue.
It’s strictly a matter of numbers, with the magazine selling fewer than 8,000 copies each week. This may not be curtains for The Dandy, however: It appears the comic will continue in digital form, with chief executive Ellis Watson telling The Guardian that, “It’s what comes online then that will set the tone for the next 75 years.” Perhaps there The Dandy will find the larger audience it deserves. The website was taken down a few days ago to deter potential hackers, but the current incarnation invites visitors to leave their e-mails so they can be “the first to know,” which implies there may be news in the future.
The Dandy writer Lew Stringer offered his reactions to The Dandy‘s possible demise, and urged people to pick up a copy of the comic, although he acknowledged that may not be easy to do, as many newsagents no longer carry it. Artist Jamie Smart had an article in The Guardian about why The Dandy is important, and he has more at his blog:
Organizations | Jillian Kirby, the 16-year-old granddaughter of Jack Kirby, makes a pitch for Kirby4Heroes, a campaign to encourage donations to The Hero Initiative on Aug. 28, which would have been the legendary creator’s 95th birthday. [Los Angeles Times]
Comics | Roger Rautio, who’s spearheading an effort to establish a physical Comic Book Hall of Fame, said he’s received responses from officials in four cities — Chicago, Cleveland, New York City and San Jose — and he may meet with a Chicago city council member as early as next month. [North Country Now]
Creators | Cartoonist Reinhard Kleist discusses his graphic novel The Boxer, the true story of Polish Jew Harry Haft, who had to fight other prisoners at Auschwitz for the entertainment of the Nazi soldiers. [Deutsche Welle]
Drawn and Quarterly has post a preview of its upcoming Pippi Longstocking comic on its blog.
Somehow this news had eluded me up till now, but Quill & Quire had the full scoop back in January: The comics were written by Pippi author Astrid Lindgren and drawn by Ingrid Vang Nyman, the original illustrator of the books, between 1957 and 1959 for the Swedish edition of the children’s magazine Humpty Dumpty.
Pippi is usually drawn as tall and thin in the illustrations to the prose books, but D+Q creative director Tom Devlin explained that Vang Nyman drew her as shorter and stockier to fit better into the comics panels.
Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth
By Jon Chad
Roaring Brook Press $15.99.
This is a clever, literally slim book, designed as skinny as possible in order to highlight its central conceit. You see, the running gag here is that you have to turn the book sideways to follow Leo on his downward trek to the Earth’s core, and then turn it another 180 degrees as he heads back up.
The book combines science with fantasy, with Leo discovering lost worlds filled with crazy monsters while spouting out science facts like “Some countries like New Zealand and Iceland harness the awesome power of lava for their own uses in heating and generating electricity. Though the juxtaposition of fantasy and hard facts seems a bit jarring, it actually adds to the book’s charm. There’s something about a guy standing on a giant underground ogre while discussing thermal generators that’s too silly to dislike.
Though Leo himself is one step up from a stick figure, Chad fills the pages with as much detail as possible and his ornate underworld scenes take on a “Where’s Waldo”-like mania at times, especially as he eschews panel borders to instead depict various versions of Leo crawling across a wide (but narrow) vista. Basically, it’s a fun introduction to geology that the elementary-school set will really dig (sorry, couldn’t help the pun).
The American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association has unveiled its annual list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. The 56 titles come from 24 publishers, led by First Second Books with nine and Marvel/Icon with seven.
Chosen by the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee from among 78 official nominations, the books are recommended for readers age 12 to 18 as meeting “the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens.” In addition, the committee singled out 10 titles “that exemplify the quality and range of graphic novels appropriate for teen audiences”:
- Zahra’s Paradise, by Amir and Khalil (First Second)
- Scarlet, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (Marvel/Icon)
- Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgal (First Second)
- The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media, by Brooke Gladstone, Josh Neufeld and others (W.W. Norton and Company)
- Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Vols. 1 and 2, by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee and others (Marvel)
- Infinite Kung Fu, by Kagan McLeod (Top Shelf Productions)
- A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)
- Axe Cop, Vol. 1, by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle (Dark Horse)
- Daybreak, by Brian Ralph (Drawn and Quarterly)
- Wandering Son, Vol. 1, by Takako Shimuro (Fantagraphics Books)
The complete list of the 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens can be found at the YALSA website.
Legal | A teenager was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for his role in the July 2010 theft of a valuable comic collection from an elderly Medina, New York, man, who later died of a heart attack. Eighteen-year-old Juan C. Javier, who pleaded guilty last fall to attempted second-degree burglary, is one of seven people whom police say were hired by businessman Rico J. Vendetti to break into the home of Homer Marciniak to steal his comics. Marciniak, 77, awoke during the burglary and was beaten, suffering only cuts and bruises. However, he had a fatal heart attack later that day. Eight people, including Vendetti and Javier, were indicted in November 2010; the indictments were dismissed against four of the accused so the U.S. Attorney could charge them with murder under federal law. [The Daily News]
Publishing | The anime and manga company Bandai Entertainment will stop distributing new products in February, although its existing catalog will continue to be available until the licenses expire. The company will shift its focus to licensing its properties for digital distribution and merchandising. President and CEO Ken Iyadomi said the decision to shut down new-product operations was made by the Japanese parent company without his input, and he strongly implied the underlying problem was that the corporate parent wanted to charge more for its anime than the current market will bear. Bandai published the Lucky Star, Kannagi and Eureka Seven manga, among others; all new manga volumes have been canceled, which means Kannagi will be left incomplete, at least for now. [Anime News Network]
Awards | The finalists for the Cybils, the blogger’s literary awards for children’s and YA books, have been posted, and they include five nominations each in the children’s and YA graphic novel categories. [Cybils Awards]
The U.K. comics scene has been heating up of late, and we can only hope that 2012 will see a British Invasion of the comics variety. The BBC has coverage of the latest development: The launch of The Phoenix, a weekly children’s comic published by David Fickling (whose David Fickling Books is an imprint of Random House). The name is apt: The Phoenix is a reprise of an earlier attempt, The DFC, which garnered a lot of praise but shut down after 43 issues. The Phoenix is launching with a nice lineup of stories and talent, including Neill Cameron, Simone Lia, Gary Northfield and Jamie Smart (who draws Desperate Dan for the long-running weekly The Dandy). Unfortunately, it’s print-only and not available digitally, so most U.S. readers won’t get to see it just yet.
Meanwhile, Strip Magazine, a monthly comic dedicated to serialized action tales, has released its second issue. Unlike The Phoenix, Strip is available digitally as an iPad app, which means we Yanks can read it, too. (I think the high point of my year was learning that The Beano and The Dandy are now available as iPad apps.)
If you’re not quite ready to let go of Christmas yet (hey, it’s supposed to be 12 days!), check out the classic British Christmas comics that Lew Stringer (another talented artist) has posted at his blog. It’s a fascinating look back in time. Dandy artist Andy Fanton posts a more modern Christmas comic (very much in the Dandy style) at his blog.
And finally, we had the U.S. release last week of Nelson, the collaborative graphic novel by 54 creators, each of whom contributed a chapter about one day in the life of a young woman. The contributors include Roger Langridge, Duncan Fegredo, Warren Pleece, Posy Simmonds and Darryl Cunningham, and publisher Blank Slate is donating the proceeds from the sale of the book to the homelessness charity Shelter.
Jimmy Gownley’s Gracieland, co-authored with his old friend Ellen Toole Austin, is a gag strip about life in Catholic school from the point of view of the kids in the plaid uniforms. Gownley, who has 11 Eisner and five Harvey nominations for his comic Amelia Rules, is anything but preachy in these strips; Amelia fans already know that he has a genius for seeing things through a kid’s eyes, warts and all. Already, with only eight strips up, Gracieland has broken new ground: Gownley said to me yesterday, “I think we are the only Catholic-themed web strip that used the word ‘Fallopian’ that wasn’t about natural family planning.”
Gownley will be live-Tweeting the creation of the Thanksgiving strip today.
It looks as if Sesame Street, the television series that’s educated and entertained children since 1969, could be making the move to comics.
It all seems very tentative, but Ape Entertainment has announced it’s in talks with Sesame Workshop to produce a series of a series of comic books featuring such beloved characters as Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo. If the deal pans out, the comics would debut next year in print and digital editions.
All this week at Robot 6 we’re interviewing some of the many contributors to First Second’s new anthology, Nursery Rhyme Comics. Today Brigid Alverson talks to the editor, Chris Duffy.
Chris Duffy is the former editor of Nickelodeon Magazine‘s comics section and the current editor of SpongeBob Comics. I was interested in hearing the inside story of Nursery Rhyme Comics—how he rounded up this diverse array of talent and what sort of marching orders he gave them—and Chris obliged with some interesting insights into the making of Nursery Rhyme Comics.
Brigid Alverson: You have some really big names contributing to this book. Were you the one who recruited them, and if so, how did you get them to participate?
Chris Duffy: Almost everyone we asked wanted to be a part of the book. That’s the good news with a collection with a great, clear concept like this book has. Everyone wants in! The challenge was paring down our list to 50 cartoonists (harder than you might think) and just making all those phone calls and emails. I did most of the contacting, though Mark Siegel and Calista Brill broke the ice with a lot of creators who they knew well. I should mention that the idea began with former First Second publisher Lauren Wohl.