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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]
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]
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.”
A Maine school board voted overwhelmingly last night to allow the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age to remain in middle-school libraries after a parent challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.”
The Sun Journal reports the board of Regional School Unit #10 in Dixfield agreed with a recommendation made last month by a special committee that the book be made available only with parental permission. Superintendent Tom Ward said this is the first time in his eight years as head of the district that a book has been challenged.
Edited by Ariel Schrag, the 2007 anthology features contributions by such cartoonists as Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Dash Shaw and Lauren Weinstein. As the title suggests, the frank stories focus on the highs and lows of life in seventh and eighth grade, from first loves to first zits. It was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its 2008 Books for the Teen Age.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter to Ward last month saying that Stuck in the Middle “may not be right for every student at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School. But the library has a responsibility to represent a broad range of views in its collection and to meet the needs of everyone in the community – not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority. While parents and community members may – and should – voice their concerns and select different materials for themselves and their children, those objecting to particular books should not be given the power to restrict the rights of other students and families to access the material.”
Board member Cynthia Bissell disagreed with that notion, arguing the anthology does nothing to fulfill the function of schools. ““I read it cover to cover,” she said. “I was appalled. This book does nothing to elevate students. It implies that everyone speaks and acts that way.”
This isn’t the first time Stuck in the Middle has been challenged: In November 2009, a South Dakota school board voted to remove the book from middle-school libraries while making it available to teachers to use in class.
Jeffrey Brown, Ming Doyle, Michael Kupperman and several other creators have contributed to The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!, a mini-comic that highlights the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s current casework. In particular, the comic highlights the case of “Brandon X,” who is facing a minimum sentence of one year in prison for possessing horror and fantasy manga on his laptop computer. His case is expected to go to trial in 2012, and legal expenses are estimated to run around $150,000.
Legal | Cartoonist Susie Cagle, who was arrested last month while covering Occupy Oakland, says she has been cleared of all charges by the Oakland Police Department. The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Oakland police condemning the arrest, which ultimately assisted in getting the charges dropped. The letter called out the department’s crowd management policy, which says, “Even after a dispersal order has been given, clearly identified media shall be permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where arrests are being made, unless their presence would unduly interfere with the enforcement action.” [Fishbowl LA]
Conventions | San Diego City Council approved a plan to have San Diego hotels pay for a $520 million convention center expansion. The plan moves to a second hearing in January and requires a vote of two-thirds of the hotels that cast ballots for approval. [NBC San Diego]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has named Alex Cox as its deputy director, responsible for oversight of the organization’s home office and fundraising program. Cox, who came to the CBLDF in 2010, previously served as development manager. [CBLDF]
Publishing | Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno is leaving the publisher for a position at San Francisco-based software company The Apollo Group. Previously editor of Harris Comics, Alimagno handled freelance scheduling at Marvel, working with David Bogart, the publisher’s senior vice president of business affairs and talent management. [The Beat]
Graphic novels | The Texas Library Association posts its 2012 Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List of recommendations for tweens and teens. [Texas Library Association]
Just like we did with Black Friday, we’ve rounded up various deals on comics and comic-related stuff that you can get on Cyber Monday. And since at least one of the deals kicks off at midnight Pacific time, I thought I’d go ahead and post the list now instead of waiting for tomorrow morning. I’ll add any additional deals I discover throughout the day.
Also, if you did check out our Black Friday list, some of these are repeats from it, as several places have deals that have been running all weekend and go through Monday. I’ve put the new stuff up top, after the deal that starts at midnight …
Dark Horse Comics has another digital deal set up for Cyber Monday: the first 500 customers through Dark Horse Digital will get a 50 percent discount. There’s a $20 minimum, and the deal runs for 24 hours beginning at midnight Pacific Time on Nov. 28; you’ll also need a coupon code: dhcyber. You can find more details here.
And if you buy $100 worth of stuff from Things from Another World on Monday, they’ll give you $10 worth of digital Dark Horse Comics.
Comics | An original page by John Byrne and Terry Austin from Uncanny X-Men #137, the 1980 issue that featured the death of Phoenix, sold at auction Wednesday for $65,725. As ICv2 notes, the sale continues the trend of 1980s comic art going for high prices; a page of Frank Miller art from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #3 sold for $448,125 in May. [ICv2.com]
Digital | ICv2’s Milton Griepp makes the case for publishers to provide sales information on digital comics. “Why would this information be useful? There are a number of reasons. One is that it would help distributors (most importantly, Diamond Comic Distributors) and retailers selling physical comics and graphic novels identify which titles have the largest audiences in digital form. They could then make sure that they’re merchandising the top digital titles appropriately, so they can take advantage of demand for physical titles that results from digital exposure (we’ve been hearing that there’s a significant phenomenon of digital purchasers looking for collections of comics they’ve purchased online). Digital demand can also indicate potential demand for physical books from consumers that aren’t purchasing digitally; a good book, after all, is a good book, and if digital purchasers are finding a title that’s not as popular in physical form, it may indicate that there’s an untapped market of consumers of physical books as well.” [ICv2.com]
I know a lot of people who would likely love to win this costume. Heck, some of them even blog here at Robot 6. And really, what comic fan wouldn’t want to appear on a Star Trek comic cover saving the life of their favorite comics retailer?
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, IDW and CBS have gotten together to give one comic fan and their retailer of choice the chance to do just that. They’ve kicked off the Star Trek “Be A Redshirt” contest, an essay contest where fans explain in 300 words or less why their retailer is the best. The grand-prize winner will appear on a limited edition variant cover of Star Trek #5, along with their retailer. The cover is limited to 300 copies; 100 will go to the fan, 100 to the retailer and 100 to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who will use them to raise funds. The fan will also receive the original art for the cover.
A “redshirt,” for those who may not know, is a character who dies soon after being introduced. On the original Star Trek television show, they’d typically send an away team to a hostile planet consisting of several show regulars along with a no-name actor or actress in a red shirt. Chances were, the “redshirt” wouldn’t make it back to the ship or out of the episode alive.
As redshirts are famous for always catching the phaser in Star Trek episodes, and as comic fans can be so loyal in defending their local retailer, it’s the perfect contest,” said Dirk Wood, IDW’s director of retailer marketing. “And partnering with the CBLDF is perfect, because no one knows more about defending retailers than they do.”
To enter the “Be A Redshirt” contest, e-mail your explanation in 300 words or less about why your retailer is the best to IDW at contests@IDWPublishing.com with the subject: Save My Retailer.
Awards | The Visual Effects Society has named Stan Lee as the recipient of the VES 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose “lifetime body of work has made a significant and lasting contribution to the art and/or science of the visual effects industry by way of artistry, invention and/or groundbreaking work.” Previous recipients include George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Harryhausen and James Cameron. The award will be presented Feb. 7 at the 10th annual VES Awards. [press release]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reports it raised $12,500 last weekend at New York Comic Con. [CBLDF]
Awards | Comic-Con International has opened nominations for the The Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, which awarded to “an individual retailer who has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.” [CCI]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d first grab hold of my favorite of DC’s New 52, Batwoman #2 (DC, $2.99). J.H. Williams III has successfully kept up to the immense expectations he accumulated following his run with Greg Rucka, and the artwork seems to benefit even more by J.H.’s input into the story as co-writer. Next I’d dig down for two of my regular pulls, Northlanders #45 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and Uncanny X-Force #16 (Marvel, $3.99). For my final pick, I’d have to miss a bunch of other titles for the chance to get the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 #4 (Image, $4.99). I love the anthology format, and having that plus the good cause plus the a-list talent makes it a must get; seriously, can you imagine one comic book containing new work by Frank Quitely, Williams, Mark Waid, J. Michael Straczynski, Matt Wagner AND Craig Thompson? BELIEVE IT!
Legal | The fate of Michael George was placed in the hands of the jury Thursday after closing arguments in the trial of the former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Although a comic collector places George in the shop around the time of the shooting, George’s mother insists he was asleep on her sofa. The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday, and is expected to continue this morning. [Detroit Free Press]
Legal | Manga blogger Melinda Beasi contemplates the larger implications of the arrest of Brandon X for bringing manga into Canada that authorities deemed to be child pornography: “What terrifies me about Brandon’s case is that each time we allow our courts or communities (any courts or communities) to criminalize comics (any comics), we are inviting them to criminalize our own.” [CBLDF]
In an ironic footnote to comics history, the Comic Magazine Association of America has given the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund the rights to the iconic Comics Code Seal of Approval.
The CMAA administered the Comics Code, a self-censorship scheme agreed upon by publishers, from the 1950s until January 2011, when it was officially disbanded. For most of its existence, the code was enforced by distributors, who would not carry a comic that did not bear the seal. Dr. Amy Kyste Nyberg chronicles the rise and fall of the Comic Code in a nice article on the CBLDF website.
Now the seal goes to the CBLDF, which dedicates itself wholeheartedly to fighting censorship — and even more appropriately, the transfer was announced during Banned Books Week! In keeping with its mission, the CBLDF will not put the seal on comics but instead emblazon it on T-shirts to raise money for the protection of the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers and readers. Said CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, “It’s a progressive change that the Comics Code seal, which is yesterday’s symbol of comics censorship, will now be used to raise money to protect the First Amendment challenges comics face in the future. That goal probably would have been unimaginable to the Code’s founders, who were part of a generation of comics professionals that were fleeing a witch-hunt that nearly trampled comics and any notion that they deserved any First Amendment protection.”
Conventions | Executive director Warren Bernard said attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, was up 10 to 15 percent, with exhibitors reporting strong sales and many sell-outs. “A great line-up of new material was partially responsible, but the region itself is also a factor — the economy around metro DC has remained relatively stable even in the recession, and a lot of people with good jobs seem to save up their money for the whole year just to spend at SPX,” reported Publishers Weekly’s Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid. Because of the growth, next year the show will move to a bigger room with about 50 percent more space. Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware scheduled to attend. [Publishers Weekly]
Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, meanwhile, reports that it raised $12,500 at SPX, thanks to efforts like the Jeff Alexander Memorial Benefit auction and fundraising activities involving Craig Thompson, Roz Chast and Sara Varon. [press release]