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Comics A.M. | Belgian comics revival? Craig Thompson in Jordan

From "Garden Raiders," by Juliette Etrivert

Publishing | Belgium, birthplace of Tintin and the Smurfs, is beginning to see its government-funded efforts to revive the country’s once-thriving comics scene pay off, with small publishing houses, self-publishers and digital comics portals springing up. [Deutsche Welle]

Creators | Habibi creator Craig Thompson posts an account of his recent trip to Jordan, which coincided with the troubles in Libya. Disconcertingly, he learned that Habibi is banned there, but his experiences in the schools and studios he visited stand in stark contrast to what the rest of us were watching—and even what he experienced while traveling from place to place. (Craig also gives a shout-out to a couple who got engaged while waiting in line to see him at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC; the groom-to-be concealed the ring in a hollowed-out copy of Blankets.) [Craig Thompson]

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Celebrate Banned Books Week with banned comics

Banned Books Week kicks off today, and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has lots of resources for those who are interested, including a blog and lists of the most challenged books over the past 10 years or so.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a co-sponsor of Banned Books Week, has a comics-specific list on their site as well, compiled by Betsy Gomez. Click on the title of any comic and you will get more details about the book, why it was challenged, and what the outcome was. The list includes everything from J. Michael Straczynski’s The Amazing Spider-Man to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and you could do a lot worse than to just spend the week reading those graphic novels.

The CBLDF also has a list of ComicsPRO retailers who are having special events around the country to celebrate banned comics, and offers brochures and other resources for retailers who want to have their own events.

Quote of the Day | Matt Loux on the Sidescrollers controversy

Sidescrollers is a fun slacker romp with some crass humor, and swearing (god forbid) but an overall positive, anti-bullying, message. Whether it belonged on a school reading list in the first place isn’t for me to decide. I AM bothered by the Enfield Board of Education’s knee-jerk reaction to yank it from their list and disallow the individual schools the ability to decide on titles all because of a single parent’s complaint who’s child apparently did not even attend this school. Schools are so frequently bullied by outside influences that they become overly sensitive to the slightest hint of controversy, resulting in a sterile and uninteresting curriculum. This neglects student development and could even forever stunt their interest in education. But when it boils down to it, the schools of Enfield have the right to do what they will and I respect their decision, however cowardly it may be. But never forget, kids aren’t stupid. They deserve the freedom to explore new ideas for themselves even if some don’t agree with them. I truly believe that kids, especially of high school age, should be free to read ANYTHING they want.”

– cartoonist Matt Loux on the removal of his graphic novel Sidescrollers from the Enfield, Connecticut, public schools’ list of summer reading for incoming freshmen. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has asked the school district to reconsider, noting the board did not follow its own procedures in removing the book from the reading list.

Comics A.M. | CBLDF goes to bat for SideScrollers in Connecticut

SideScrollers

Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]

Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]

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Threadless debuts Gaiman tees by Cassaday, Templesmith & more

Nearly lost in the hustle and bustle of Comic-Con International was the release of the sixth installment of Threadless’ Comics-On Tees, which features Neil Gaiman’s poem “The Day the Saucers Came” as interpreted in four T-shirt designs by John Cassaday, Brandon Graham, Ben Templesmith, and Estudio Verso (the winner of the website’s Comic Book Legal Defense Fund challenge). A quarter of the sales generated from Estudio Verso’s design all four designs will be donated to the CBLDF.

You can check out all four designs below.

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SDCC ’12 | Marvel, indy character drawings for CBLDF auction

Art by Francesco Francavilla

Things From Another World has posted original sketches of Marvel and independent and creator-owned characters that have been collected for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s annual charity auction at Comic-Book International. You’ll find drawings by the likes of Charlie Adlard, Gabriel Ba, Jeffrey Brown, Tyler Crook, Francesco Francavilla, Roger Langridge, Steve Lieber and Erika Moen, Philip Tan and others.

The auction will be held Saturday, July 14 at 8 p.m. in room Sapphire AB at the Hilton Bayfront, with all proceeds going to the CBLDF. The event has raised more than $70,000 for the organization in the past three years. Check out some of the art below; visit the TFAW website to see more.

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CBLDF, other organizations defend Alan Moore’s Neonomicon

In one of the dumbest library challenges ever, Carrie Gaske of Greenville County, South Carolina, earlier this month caused Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon to be pulled from the shelves of the Greenville County library system after her 14-year-old daughter checked the book out and Gaske discovered it contained adult material.

The horror graphic novel was shelved, appropriately, in the adult section. Minors over 13 can check out adult books with a parent’s permission, so Gaske skimmed through the book, saw nothing offensive, assumed it would be a children’s book anyway because it’s a comic, and allowed her daughter to check it out. It wasn’t until they got home, and the daughter asked the meaning of an unfamiliar word, that Gaske realized it actually was an adult graphic novel and flipped out. She has challenged the book, and the library has removed it from circulation so a committee can review it. In other words: The library classified the book appropriately as an adult book, Gaske chose to ignore that classification, and now she wants to put it off limits to everyone.

On Monday, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund teamed with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter to the Board of Trustees of the Greenville Public Library calling for the book’s return to the shelves. The letter points out that withdrawing the book, even temporarily, infringes the First Amendment rights of all the adults who use the library.

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Gaiman and Mack team for tattoo/print that benefits the CBLDF

Writer Neil Gaiman and artist David Mack have teamed up to create a new piece of art that features a poem written by Gaiman. The CBLDF are selling a print of it to raise funds for their cause, limited to 90 copies, but the rarest version is on the back of Burton Olivier:

Burton Olivier’s back

“He’s the person who wrote to me and asked if I’d write a comic for his back … and I said yes, if it could also do some good for the CBLDF,” Gaiman said on his Tumblr. “And then I asked who he’d want to draw it, and he said, David Mack. So I asked David, who also said yes.”

The CBLDF is selling the “variant blue test run” versions of the print, which were created in very limited quantities prior to the standard edition grey run. Check out the print, which is on a French paper called Madero Beach rather than, um, human flesh, after the jump.

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con to resell 5,000 one-day passes

Comic-Con International

Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]

Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]

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Three more ways to spread The Avengers love (and some money)

Earlier this week we spotlighted Jon Morris’ call for comics fans who’ll file into theaters this weekend to watch Marvel’s The Avengers to match their ticket price with a donation to The Hero Initiative as a “thank you” to the people who created those characters in the first place.

It’s a fantastic suggestion, of course, which led me to think of a few other options for showing some financial appreciation. Think of it as the comics version of trickle-down economics, or something:

A Buck For Jack: Launched last year by cartoonist Nat Gertler, this campaign encourages fans to donate $1 for each of the movies they’ve watched that features characters co-created by Jack Kirby. “If we could get just 1% of the people who see a Kirby-inspired movie to throw in that buck — and yes, 1%, as small as that sounds, would be a huge and unlikely success, I admit — that would be hundreds of thousands of dollars per movie going to the Kirby legacy,” he writes. The money collected through the Buck For Jack website goes to the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, although Gertler notes that, “if I ever find a way to give it to the Jack Kirby heirs instead, I will start directing the money there.”

The Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center: If you’d prefer, you can donate directly to the Jack Kirby Museum. Established in 2005, it still only exists online, but the trustees are working to change that. The organization, whose mission is “to promote and encourage the study, understanding, preservation and appreciation of the work of Jack Kirby,” has established a Brick & Mortar Fund in hopes of finding a temporary “pop-up” location for the museum in New York City, preferably near the Lower East Side neighborhood where Kirby grew up, with an eye toward of a permanent home.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Familiar to creators, retailers and fans alike, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to the protection of First Amendment rights of the comics art form and community. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, advice and representation, and frequently joins in opposition against legislation that poses a threat to free speech.

Help turn a Neil Gaiman poem into a rad T-shirt for charity

The Day The Saucers Came

I’ve linked before to the series of Comics-On Tees that the T-shirt site Threadless has created, featuring stories and artwork by everyone from Brian Azzarello to Jhonen Vasquez. In fact, a new round of them debuted this weekend at C2E2.

Their next round of shirts will debut at the San Diego Comic Con, and this time they’ve gone to Sandman writer Neil Gaiman to provide the story … or in this case, a poem. They plan to adapt his awesome poem “The Day The Saucers Came” onto four shirts, featuring artwork by John Cassaday, Ben Templesmith, Brandon Graham and … well, maybe you. Threadless is holding an open contest for submissions based on the first two lines of the poem, the ones about aliens and zombies. I’ve embedded a dramatic reading of the poem with some familiar artwork after the jump; you can also read it on the Neverwear site, where they were selling a pretty awesome print by artist Jouni Koponen that I’d tell you to buy, but it has sold out.

The designer of the winning shirt will receive $750 cash, a $250 Threadless gift certificate, a 2012 CBLDF Protector Membership, a signed and numbered Paul Pope screened print, a print featuring “The Day the Saucers Came” script (presumably the one I linked to above) and four issues of Chew signed by John Layman. A quarter of the T-shirt sales will go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Threadless on this project,” said CBLDF Deputy Director Alex Cox in a press release. “Between Neil Gaiman and the artists involved, you couldn’t ask for a more talented group. It’s going to produce some amazing shirts, and we can’t wait to see the designs that are submitted over the next several weeks. This is going to be a great fundraiser, and an awesome way to see fans and supporters show off their creative chops!”

If you think you’ve got the chops, you can find more information on the CBLDF site or on Threadless.

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Comics A.M. | Arizona legislature pulls back electronic censorship bill

Arizona state flag

Legal | A proposed Arizona law that would make it a crime to annoy or offend anyone through electronic means has been held back for revision after a number of concerned parties, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, protested that it was too broad. The bill, which was passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature, basically took the language from the statute criminalizing harassing phone calls and applied it to all electronic devices, without limiting it to one-to-one communications. As a result, the language appears to make it a crime to post anything annoying or potentially offensive on the internet. [CBLDF]

Retailing | Brian Hibbs questions Mark Waid’s math, both with regard to comic shops and the cost of self-publishing, and brings up a number of arguments in favor of the Direct Market. He argues that having gatekeepers in the market is a good thing and that rather than refusing to take a risk on a new or different comic, retailers will go out of their way to stock comics they think their readers will like. [Savage Critics]

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Comics A.M. | Arizona legislature passes bill censoring electronic speech

Arizona state flag

Legal | The Arizona legislature passed a sweeping bill last week that would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” While the law was intended to update the state’s telephone harassment laws to encompass the Internet, it’s not limited to one-to-one communications and thus, as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund notes, could criminalize “all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.” Media Coalition, a trade association that includes the CBLDF among its members, has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to veto the bill. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Media Coalition]

Passings | Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has died of cancer. [The Daily Cartoonist]

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Comics A.M. | Ryan Matheson speaks on Canadian manga case

From a CBLDF campaign

Legal | Ryan Matheson, who was stopped at the Canadian border in 2010 and charged with criminal possession of child pornography because of a manga image on his computer (which even the officials who arrested him couldn’t agree was child pornography), talks about his ordeal in a personal statement on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund site. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced Thursday that the Canadian government has dropped all criminal charges against Matheson. [CBLDF]

Comics | Leah Moore sees two things: a huge number of women who like comics, and a comics industry that is in serious trouble, and thinks it’s time to connect the dots and start making comics that appeal to the other 50% of the audience. “Okay, well, let’s say, instead of jumping in and writing comics designed to attract women readers (Minx comics discovered this is harder than it looks), how’s about writing comics which don’t actually put women off? How’s about a bit less objectifying, a bit less sexualisation, a bit less pervy gusset shots and tit windows? Just a bit? Make some of the regular mainstream big name books everyone enjoys reading a bit less eyewatering and weird about women. That would be a great start.” [Warren Ellis]

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Fox affiliate targets DC for ‘using sex and violence to sell’

Nearly five months after the debut of DC Comics’ “New 52,” the Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate has taken aim at the “edgy makeover,” zeroing in on the controversial first issues of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

For the Fox report, titled “Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence to Sell” on the affiliate’s website, correspondent Sherri Ly turns to child psychologist Neil Bernstein, who characterizes the much-discussed sex scene between Batman and Catwoman as, “sort of like a fictionalized Playboy for kids at its worst.”

He goes on to suggest the comic may pose a danger to young readers, as overexposure to sex and violence could encourage aggression. Yes, really. “I think too many kids would be put in harm’s way or at risk,” he said.

Bernstein also dissects Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, in which Starfire propositions Roy Harper for sex, later saying, “Love has nothing to do with it.” “We want our kids to think sex is an act between two consenting mature individuals who care deeply for one another,” he says. “That doesn’t really come across and it’s too easily to misconstrue things particularly for a kid.”

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