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Comics A.M. | Comic sales surpass $1 billion, ‘Smurfs’ colorist passes away at 86

smurfette

Passings | Nine Culliford, the woman who made the Smurfs blue, died on July 5 at the age of 86. Nine met Pierre Culliford, the artist who would later take the pen name Peyo, in 1946, the same year his first cartoon was published. Nine was the colorist for the Smurfs from their first appearance in “Johan et Pirlouit” (English title: “Johan and Peewit”) in 1958 until her husband’s death in 1992, and she continued to be active on Smurf projects after her son Thierry and her daughter Véronique took over. It was Nine who came up with the idea of coloring the Smurfs blue, as she felt the color would stand out agains the green, wooded backgrounds of the comic. [The Blue Print]

Comics | Sales of comics and graphic novels have crashed through the $1 billion threshold, according to calculations by Milton Griepp of ICv2 and John Jackson Miller of Comichron. That includes $350 million in sales through retail book channels, $90 million in digital, and $20 million in newsstand sales, with the rest coming through the direct market. Griepp and Miller estimate that graphic novels account for $535 million in sales and serial comics for $405 million. Griepp attributed the growth in sales to increased attention to comics properties from the media and an expanding audience, as more women and children come to the medium. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | How an aneurysm led to the creation of Koyama Press

koyama-social

Publishing | Zainab Akhtar looks at the success of Koyama Press and how it changed the comics small press world as a whole. She starts with the amazing origin story: Founder Annie Koyama nearly died from a brain aneurysm, and while she was recovering she played the stock market so successfully that she was able to quit her job and launch Koyama Press. For six years she provided funding for artists without taking anything for herself, and she also searched for and promoted emerging artists. “On an immediate level, Annie’s generous yet meritocratic approach validated the work of artists who were otherwise written off by the established alternative comics community, which often views this new generation of cartoonists working primarily online as somehow less legitimate,” Akhtar writes. “On a broader scale, her commitment to taking risks on emerging artists reflected an ongoing paradigm shift affecting the way alternative comics are produced and consumed.” [The Fader]

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Comics A.M. | Wizard World CEO resigns after $4.3 million loss

wizard world logo

Business | John Macaluso resigned last week as chief executive officer and president of Wizard World after four years in the position. His resignation, revealed Monday in filings with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, came on the same day the company reported $4.3 million in losses in 2015, due largely to a drop in per-show revenues and a money-losing investment in the startup ConTV. Board chairman John D. Maatta will succeed Macaluso as CEO and president. [Street Insider]

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Comics A.M. | Wizard World suffers $4.3 million loss in 2015

wizard world logo

Conventions | After bringing in a profit of almost $1 million in 2014, Wizard World took a hard swing in the other direction last year with a loss of $4.3 million, with about half the shortfall coming in the fourth quarter. At least part of the reason seems to be simple math: Per-show revenues were down, costs were up. In addition, Wizard’s share in ConTV was a money-loser, to the tune of $1.3 million; Wizard has reduced its stake in the joint venture with Cinedigm. On the upside, its subscription box service has done well, netting $48,000. It’s possible that the North American convention market is being saturated, and Wizard is responding by cutting back from 25 shows in 2015 to 19 this year. [ICv2]

Comics | Writer Kurtis Wiebe announced that, “after long consideration,” he’s placing his acclaimed Image Comics fantasy series Rat Queens on hiatus. [Twitter]

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Comics A.M. | Charting the growth of Chicago’s C2E2

Cosplay at C2E2 2015

Cosplay at C2E2 2015

Conventions | Ahead of this weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, the Chicago Tribune looks at the growth, and the economics, of the convention, which last year drew a reported 71,000 attendees — about 40 percent of which come from outside Illinois. [Chicago Tribune]

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Comics A.M. | Noelle Stevenson’s ‘Nimona’ earns Nebula nomination

nimona

Awards | Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona has been nominated for a Nebula Award, presented presented by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. As Gary Tyrrell points out, the Nebulas (unlike the Hugos) don’t have a specific graphic novel category; Nimona is nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. [SFWA]

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Comics A.M. | It’s Flash Appreciation Day!

flash appreciation day

From “Justice League Unlimited”

Fandom | Feb. 11 is Flash Appreciation Day, a holiday drawn from the 2006 Justice League Unlimited animated series “Flash and Substance.” Last year, fans petitioned the White House (unsuccessfully), asking President Obama to pay tribute to the Scarlet Speedster. This year, however, they’re marking the occasion with special content spread across nine blogs, and a call for donations to The Hero Initiative. Jim McLauchlin, the organization’s president, participated in an interview and also rounded up creators Mark Waid, George Pérez, Walt Simonson, Dennis O’Niel and Jim Valentino to discuss their favorite versions of The Flash. [Nothing But Comics]

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Comics A.M. | Two ‘banned’ Judge Dredd strips to see print again

From the Judge Dredd "Burger Wars" episode

From the Judge Dredd “Burger Wars” episode

Legal | A Judge Dredd comic that makes fun of McDonald’s and Burger King is finally being reprinted in a collection, thanks to a change in the European Copyright Directive, which now allows creators to use copyrighted characters if the intent is clearly parody. In the “Burger Wars” story, first published in 1978, Judge Dredd is captured on a trip to the United States and force-fed fast food; the story includes images of Ronald McDonald and the McDonald’s logo. Another story, “Soul Food,” has a mad scientist creating versions of the Jolly Green Giant and the Michelin Man. Ben Smith of Rebellion Publishing says fans have been asking for years for these story to be reprinted in their collected editions, but they were held back for fear of legal action. When the law was changed, Smith said, they took another look: “It was like a light bulb went on. We thought: ‘Surely this means we can look at Burger Wars?’ We looked into it and here we are. This is straight-out pastiche, parody and arch satire. There didn’t seem any reason not to bring them to the public again.” [The Independent]

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Comics A.M. | Ted Rall claims he’s ‘vindicated’ by enhanced LAPD tape

Ted Rall

Ted Rall

Political cartoons | Cartoonist Ted Rall, who was cut loose last week by the Los Angeles Times after the Los Angeles Police Department cast doubt on a blog post he wrote for the newspaper about being stopped in 2001 for jaywalking, has posted an enhanced version of the audiotape of that incident, which he says backs his version of the story. [aNewDomain]

Creators | Stan Lee waxes philosophical in an interview conducted at Boston Comic Con: “I think people need somebody to look up to as a role model, you know? Just like people need to believe in God, you need to feel there’s someone somewhere who can help you because you’re aware this is not a perfect world.” [Boston Herald]

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Comics A.M. | Despite ban, ‘Death Note’ is still big in China

Light Yagami, from "Death Note"

Light Yagami, from “Death Note”

Censorship | China may have banned 38 manga and anime series, including Attack on Titan and Death Note, but fans are still finding ways to read and watch them — and Death Note is one of the most popular topics on the social media service Sina Weibo. “Chinese authorities are used to a certain degree of permeability in their various bans and directives,” says Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History. “The issue with a lot of Chinese censorship isn’t about a blanket ban that keeps 100% of material out. It’s about making life as difficult as possible for people who actually want it. A ban like this is about restricting casual access.” [BBC News]

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Comics A.M. | Alan Kupperberg passes away, Staples talks “Archie” redesigns

Alan Kupperberg

Passings | Artist and writer Alan Kupperberg has died of thymus cancer at the age of 62. Kupperberg got his start writing dummy letters for Marvel in the late 1960s, then moved to the production department at DC and in 1974 was hired by the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics, where he played a variety of roles, including letterer, colorist, and editor. That company folded after a year, and he went to Marvel, where he worked on a number of different titles, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Savage Sword of Conan, and Amazing Spider-Man. He created the one-shot comic Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men working entirely solo, and he drew the weekly Howard the Duck newspaper comic as well as the comic-strip version of The Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. His magazine work included National Lampoon, Cracked, and Spy. Kupperberg also taught at the School for Visual Arts, and he was the brother of writer Paul Kupperberg. [ICv2]

Manga | Hiromi Bando has translated Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen into Chinese and is looking for a publisher, but she has been told the Chinese government will not approve its publication. Bando, who is Japanese, was inspired to translate the manga, an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, after hearing of her father’s experiences fighting in China during World War II. The manga is taught in the original Japanese in a few universities in China. [Asahi Shimbun]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ as a reflection of Japan’s politics, history

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Manga | Vernieda Vergara examines the way Attack on Titan reflects Japanese politics and history as well as the current sense of social anxiety experienced by young people of creator Hajime Isayama’s generation: “One of the biggest criticisms levied against Japan’s youth is that they lack the ambition of previous generations. But if the majority have no hope of advancement due to a corporate wall, why is that a surprise? In the manga, most people are content to live inside the walls. It’s safe. But as the manga’s protagonist, Eren, says, that’s like living in a cage. There’s no hope for something more. Eren, along with his allies, don’t accept this fate as easily. They fight against it actively.” [Women Write About Comics]

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China bans ‘Attack on Titan’ and ‘Death Note’

attack on titan-v1

Attack on Titan, Death Note and Black Butler are on a list of 38 manga and anime the Chinese Ministry of Culture has designated as “severely improper content” and banned from print or digital distribution within the country.

The ministry announced Monday it has shut down eight websites and sanctioned 29 more for carrying comics and anime that either were unlicensed or featured violent content, and it’s threatening to issue warnings and fines to websites that don’t remove the blacklisted titles.

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Comics A.M. | Singapore agency pulls grant for Sonny Liew GN

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Graphic novels | The National Arts Council of Singapore has withdrawn a $8,000 publication grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography of the Singaporean comics pioneer that depicts some tumultuous events in the nation’s history. “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions,” said Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the literary arts sector of the NAC. He did not specify what the “sensitive content” was, but the book makes satirical references to Singaporean politics and history. The publisher, Epigram, will return the $6,400 that was disbursed already and will cover the NAC’s logo on the book cover with a sticker. The book will be published next year in the United States by Pantheon. [Straits Times]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoonist Luz resigns

Rénald Luzier

Rénald Luzier

Creators | Saying his job has become “too much to bear,” cartoonist Renald Luzier (Luz) is leaving the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He said he worked too hard in the aftermath of the January attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in which 12 people, most of them his co-workers, were killed, and he did not give himself time to grieve. “I needed time but I carried on for solidarity and not to let anyone down,” he said. However, the loss is taking its toll: “Each issue is torture because the others are gone.” He had previously announced he would no longer draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, saying it no longer interested him, and he is tired of the media attention. “We are not heroes, we have never been, we never meant to be,” he said. “Everyone evokes the spirit of Charlie for anything and everything now.” [The Independent]

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