comic book legal defense fund
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down a California law that would have banned the sale or rental of “violent” video games to minors, ruling that such a restriction violates the First Amendment.
With a 7-2 vote, the justices upheld a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the 2005 law, which never went into effect because of legal challenges but would have imposed $1,000 fines on businesses that sell violent games to those under the age of 18. According to ABC News, nine similar laws were passed across the nation, but all were blocked.
“Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in the courtroom. “The most basic principle of First Amendment law is that government has no power to restrict expression because of its content. [...] There is no tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. Certainly, the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — have no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.”
Retailing | As the bankrupt Borders Group weighs competing bids, Barnes & Noble — the largest book chain in the United States — reports a loss of $74 million for the fiscal year, in part because of heavy investment in its digital initiatives. However, the company saw a 50-percent sales increase at BN.com, fueled by Nook devices and digital content sold through the Nook Bookstore. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Lew Sayre Schwartz, one of Bob Kane’s ghost artists on Batman and Detective Comics, passed away June 7 as the result of an injury suffered in a fall. He was 84. Schwartz drew as many as 120 Batman stories between 1948 and 1953, all signed “Bob Kane,” before leaving comics after a junket entertaining troops in Korea. Eddie Campbell quotes Schwartz as saying, “’When I got back, I couldn’t stand drawing another page’ of Batman.” He went on to work in television advertising, co-founding the commercial production company Ferro, Mogubgub and Schwartz. [Mark Evanier, ComicMix]
Conventions | Scott Lewis looks at the plan by Mayor Jerry Sanders to pay for the $500-million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center: the Convention Center Assessment District, an entity that will add an additional 3 percent tax on room bills for hotels downtown, 2 percent on those out to Mission Valley, and 1 percent on those farther away. [Voice of San Diego]
Publishing | May marked the worst month of the year for the direct market since January as sales of comic books and graphic novels fell 11.21 percent versus May 2010. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller chalks up the decline to a combination of retailers ordering more Free Comic Book Day titles than “for-profit” books and publishers’ summer events heating up a little later this year. Marvel led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of top comics for the month with Fear Itself #2, followed by the first issue of DC’s Flashpoint. Avatar topped the graphic novel chart with Crossed 3D, Vol. 1. [The Comichron]
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has joined a coalition that includes booksellers, media companies and the ACLU of Utah in seeking to permanently stop enforcement of a 2005 Utah statute that would regulate Internet speech that some consider “harmful to minors,” including works of art, graphic novels, information about sexual health and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The law has not gone into effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction until the case can be decided. [press release]
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is getting some help from one of our favorites, Brandon Graham, who provided them not only a piece of King City original art to auction off, but also seven copies of Escalator, a collection of his early short stories. Each volume carries a CBLDF signature plate that Graham tagged with a custom full-color sketch and signature.
You can find all these items and more — including some sweet signed Amanda Conner prints — on the CBLDF’s eBay page.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and The Beat are hosting a party in New York Saturday night featuring a wide array of guests who worked on Marvel’s Strange Tales anthologies, with proceeds benefiting the CBLDF. You can find complete details after the jump or in the above flyer by Paul Maybury.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be at WonderCon this weekend (booth #323) with a lot of cool stuff that Frank Quitely fans should dig. First up is a stunning print, above, that they’ll sell for $20, along with a signed and numbered black and white facsimile edition of the original art that’ll cost you a $50 donation. It’s limited to just 50 pieces
In addition, they’ll have two sets of CBLDF Signature Series postcards. Each set is a $10 donation, with one set featuring Quitely’s full-color character designs and the other set featuring some of his figure sketches.
As we noted late last year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been tracking trends in both the United States and abroad that show customs authorities searching and in some cases seizing computers and other electronic devices that had adult comics material stored on them. Today the CBLDF released an advisory prepared by their legal counsel, Robert Corn-Revere, titled “Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders with Comic Book Art.”
“Most people do not know that their constitutional rights are not guaranteed, even from U.S. Customs agents, when they cross international borders,” Corn-Revere said. “Their books, papers, laptop computers, and even cell phones are subject to routine search and possible seizure by the government, even without any suspicion of criminal activity. This is important to know in an age when many people carry with them a great deal of highly personal information in electronic form.”
The document offers an overview on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policies and how border searches lack traditional legal protection. It also offers suggestions on avoiding intrusive searches. The CBLDF Advisory is available as a Word document and a PDF file.
Last year comic writer and author Neil Gaiman, artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee and letterer Todd Klein collaborated on an illustrated poem called “100 Words” that appeared in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Comics anthology and is also available as a limited edition print from Neil Gaiman’s NeverWear site. Today DC Comics announced that the seven-page poem is now available via its digital apps and its website.
It’s available for 99 cents, and DC is donating their proceeds from it to the CBLDF — making it a very easy and inexpensive way to benefit a good cause.
Cryptozoic Entertainment is working with The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to create a set of 70 trading cards that chronicle the history of comic book censorship. The cards will be released in July, no doubt just in time for Comic-Con International in San Diego.
In addition to the base set, special sketch and autograph cards will also be available. Already signed on to participate are Geoff Johns, Neil Gaiman, Darwyn Cooke, Gail Simone, Mark Waid, Brian Azzarello, Paul Levitz, Denny O’Neil, Frank Quitely, Phil Hester and many more. You can see some of the sketch cards that have already been created on the CBLDF site.
“The generous response from the creative community has been overwhelming,” said CBLDF Board President Larry Marder. “The most impressive gesture has been how many creators are briefly lending CBLDF their Intellectual Property for this project only. Creators letting us borrow their characters for these artists to sketch include Jeff Smith, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, John Layman, Jim Valentino, Matt Wagner, Rob Liefeld, Stan Sakai, Eric Powell, Mike Richardson, and many others.”
You can find the complete press release after the jump.
Broadway | The New York Times reports the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are considering delaying the $65 million musical for a sixth time, until as late as June, a move that would make the show ineligible for this year’s Tony Awards. Speculation about another possible postponement follows a wave of scathing reviews, reports that comics writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had been approached to rewrite the book, and the hiring of veteran conductor and musical supervisor Paul Bogaev to help improve the production. A spokesman for the show would only say that, “Opening night remains scheduled for March 15.” [ArtsBeat]
Comic-Con | Hotel reservations for Comic-Con International will open at 9 a.m. PT on March 9. A preliminary list of hotels included in the Comic-Con block is available on the convention website. [Comic-Con International]
Publishing | More details have begun to emerge about the abrupt closings of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, and the announcement of a new public company headed by Gareb Shamus. ICv2.com reports that Wizard World Inc. was taken public through a reverse merger with a shell company, a failed oil and gas venture known as GoEnergy Inc., which acquired the assets of Kick the Can, a corporate repository for the assets of Shamus’ Wizard World Comic Con Tour. Following the acquisition, GoEnergy’s chairman and chief financial officer resigned and was replaced by Shamus. In the process, the new company raised capital through the issuance of $1.5 million in preferred stock. Meanwhile, an anonymous Wizard staff member reveals to iFanboy he was informed that the magazine had folded during a phone call Sunday evening, and was not permitted to collect personal belongings. A freelance contributors writes at Bleeding Cool that he learned about the closing through a Facebook message on Monday morning.
The comics Internet is swarming with reaction pieces: Andy Khouri points out the huge number of comics editors, bloggers and journalists who got their starts at Wizard; Heidi MacDonald does the same, noting that it was “a total boys club”; Albert Ching surveys numerous creators and editors; and Robot 6 contributor, and former Wizard staffer, Sean T. Collins comments on the magazine’s demise and rounds up links.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is using the funding site Kickstarter to raise money to publish a Transmetropolitan art book. Transmetropolitan, for those who may not be familiar with it, was a Vertigo series that starred Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo journalist in a depraved future, who, along with his assistants and a three-eyed cat, battled corrupt politicians, crazy cults and castrated police officers. Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson, the book was published from 1997 to 2002.
Both creators are participating in the new art book, with Robertson providing a cover and Ellis a foreword. In addition, the book will include artwork by Cliff Chiang, Cully Hamner, Milo Manara, Jeff Lemire, Sam Kieth and many more.
Susan Auġér, the project manager for the art book, and Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, were kind enough to answer my questions about the project.
JK: Where did the initial idea to do a benefit book come from?
Susan: A fan approached Darick Robertson’s table at Emerald City Comic Con, the best comics convention out there to meet and greet with creators. Darick agreed that it was a good idea, and the plan took shape shortly after that. You could say it was the perfect jumping off point: a book suggested by a fan, populated by many fans, produced for the fans.
Charles: Shortly after Darick appeared to benefit the CBLDF at WonderCon last year, we sparked up a correspondence with Susan, who had been organizing a project involving a variety of great pieces inspired by Darick and Warren’s iconic series. She did the legwork to get approval from DC Comics to make this book happen as a benefit for CBLDF, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. There’s some great stuff coming through, and we’re gonna be thrilled to see it, to spread the word, and to do some good for people in comics with the funds that come from it.
If you’re planning on traveling abroad this holiday season, you may want to be wary of what comics you’re bringing on your computer, phone or other device. During a call with his fellow Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board members yesterday, writer Neil Gaiman tweeted about a trend the CBLDF has been watching: “On @CBLDF Board of Directors call. Just learning about Customs officers confiscating computers because they didn’t like the comics on them.”
According to Executive Director Charles Brownstein, both the CBLDF and the American Civil Liberties Union have been tracking the trend.
“The CBLDF legal team has been tracking trends in customs here in the U.S. and abroad that show authorities searching, and,in some cases, seizing the computers, portable devices, storage devices, and other items of travelers who have adult comics material stored on those devices,” Brownstein told Comic Book Resources. “The ACLU is tracking similar customs abuses from a privacy point of view. There’s a recent incident about which we’re not at liberty to discuss specifics involving this trend, where we were asked to provide information and letters of support. Because this is a pending matter, I’m not at liberty to discuss further specifics at this time.”
He added that in response, the CBLDF is working on a “best practices” document for comic fans going through customs. “This document will cover what they need to know to help mitigate their risks in this area,” Brownstein said. “We plan to issue this document in the first quarter of 2011.”
Brigid did a round-up yesterday of various holiday gift-giving suggestions, so I thought I’d follow suit with some that I’ve seen lately.
• The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning off original art by Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Gabriel Hardman, Tom Fowler, Dan Paosian and many more, as well as lunch with Chew writer John Layman in New York next week.
• I remember shoveling a whole bunch of quarters into the X-Men arcade game back in the day; my friend Mike and I beat the game as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. If you have an Xbox fan in your life, they too can fight the Blob, Magneto and more in side-scrolling action, as the game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade Dec. 15.
The PlayStation Network, unfortunately, won’t get it until February, so you’ll have to find something else this holiday season for the PS3 fan in your life. Joy to the world! The game will hit the PlayStation Network Dec. 14!
• Comics creator Ben Towle has a 20 percent off sale going in his web store, where you can purchase original art from books like Midnight Sun, signed copies of Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and superhero commissions.
Publishing | Eiichiro Oda’s blockbuster pirate manga One Piece has sold 32.34 million copies in 2010, more than double what it sold the previous year. According to Japanese market survey company Oricon Communications, the series’ five newest volumes have sold a combined 12.5 million copies. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Comico co-founder Gerry Giovinco weighs in on an eBay listing that includes original artwork apparently left in the stewardship of his former partners Dennis and Phil LaSorda when the company went bankrupt in 1990: “It always was Comico policy to return all art to the creators. If there is art that was not returned, we are in total agreement that it should be returned to the rightful owners of the work. If you are a creator that believes your work could be among this lot, we would suggest you fight to get it back.” [CO2 Comics Blog]