Legal | Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has filed a legal complaint against his daughter Sylvie and her husband Bernard Choisy, claiming “psychological violence.” The dispute began in 2007, when Sylvie and Bernard were dismissed from their positions at Les Éditions Albert René, which published Asterix; a year later, Uderzo sold his stake in the company to Hachette Livre. The two filed their own legal challenge in 2011, claiming Uderzo, who is now 86, was being exploited by others. In this week’s filing, Uderzo says he is perfectly capable of managing his own affairs, and adds, “The sole purpose of these acts is to undermine our psychological integrity and to hasten our debility, in order to get their hands on our legacy, which they covet.” [The Guardian]
Prolific artist Al Plastino, who in recent weeks lobbied for the return of his original art for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” has passed away after a battle with prostate cancer, Mark Evanier reports. He was 91.
Born Dec. 15, 1921 in New York City, Plastino began illustrating for Youth Today magazine after he graduated from the High School of Industrial Arts. His first comics credit was on Dynamic Publications’ Dynamic Comics #2, cover-dated December 1941.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Plastino returned to freelance work and learned in 1948 that DC Comics was searching for a new Superman artist; according to his website, the publisher paid $55 a page at the time. For the next two decades, Plastino drew Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superboy, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and with writer Otto Binder created the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl.
Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
Comics are truly entering the mainstream: They’ve become an annoying Facebook app.
Bitstrips allows its 20 million users to create comic strips of themselves as status updates, with a friend or as a greeting car; they can then be shared via the Facebook app or the new mobile app. And no, “20 million” is not a typo. Potentially some 20 million people are interacting with the language of comics in a way most never do – trying to create and clearly tell a story. Sure, that story is usually the equivalent of an inane status update, and “creating” is used very liberally here, as users choose from a finite number of backgrounds and settings that they customize.
Despite looking like a cross between Bratz dolls and Wii avatars (ie, bright and garish, squarely aimed at pre-teens), Bitstrips sprung forth from a comic artist. According to Know Your Memes, the mysterious Ba (surname unknown) was tired of re-drawing characters for a comics project, so he created a system where he could re-use customized characters and settings instead of drawing them from scratch every time. He teamed up with four other guys — graphic designers and comic fans — and launched Bitstrips at the 2008 South By Southwest in Austin. Bitstrips for Schools launched soon after as an educational tool, but things didn’t start to take off until 2011, when they caught the attention of Cartoon Network.
A historian believes he has identified the designer of the Bayeux Tapesty, an 11th-century embroidered cloth once characterized by Bryan Talbot as “the first known British comic strip.”
Embroidered on linen with colored woolen yarns, the 230-foot “tapestry” consists of about 50 scenes depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Although some scholars have long theorized it was commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, the name of the actual designer has been elusive.
But now Medievalists.net reports that in a paper published in the journal Anglo-Norman Studies, Howard B. Clarke credits Scolland, abbot of St.Augustine’s monastery in Canterbury, with the work.
Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2′s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]
With Halloween just around the corner, Forbes has released its weird (and probably a little morbid) annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities, led by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. But at No. 3, for the second year in a row, is the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
The cartoonist, who passed away in 2000 at age 77, is estimated to have earned $37 million this year — or at least his creations did. They’re owned by Peanuts Worldwide, a joint venture formed by Iconix Brand Group has partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz, which in 2010 bought the rights to Peanuts from E.W. Scripps Co. (it was part of a $175 million deal for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert and Fancy Nancy). The property’s 1,200 licensing agreements generate annual retail sales of more than $2 billion worldwide.
Creators | Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson discuss their mutual admiration and their excitement about exhibiting their work together next spring at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Luming, who uses the nom de plume “Rebel Pepper,” was arrested Wednesday, one day after he posted an online cartoon critical of police who were facing off with protestors rather than helping flood victims in the city of Yuyao. Residents have been critical of the government response to the flood, which put 70 percent of the city underwater, but a recently passed law suppressing online commentary has muted the criticism on social media. The Beijing Times (part of of the traditional media, which is heavily controlled by the Chinese government) claimed that Wang was arrested not because of the cartoon but because he spread a false rumor online (Reuters reports the police told his girlfriend it was because he forwarded a post about a woman and her child who starved to death in the floods). He was released Thursday and tweeted, “When I have time, I’ll tell you about the interesting night I spent at the police station.” [Foreign Policy]
Gravitas Ventures has debuted a new full-length trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson, the Kickstarter-funded documentary that explores the influence of cartoonist Bill Watterson and his beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
It’s a six-year passion project by director Joel Allen Schroeder, who raised $25,000 in 2010 so he, producers Christopher Browne and Matt McUsic, and cinematographer Andrew P. Waruszewski could interview a slew of cartoonists, editors and fans, and then another $96,772 in 2012. Dear Mr. Watterson, which had its festival premiere in April at the Cleveland International Fan Festival, will debut Nov. 15 in theaters and On Demand.
Less than six months after bringing Calvin and Hobbes, Pearls Before Swine and others to mobile phones and tablets with its GoComics app, Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal Uclick have announced they’ll release three collections of Bill Watterson’s beloved comic strip as e-books.
It’s another digital first for Calvin and Hobbes, which made its (legal) debut on mobile devices in April with GoComics.
The three collections, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes (1988), The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (1990) and The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes (1992), will go on sale for tablet format only on Nov. 12 for $12.99 each. The hardcover and paperback editions have sold a combined 10 million copies.
Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]
Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]
Giant robots and wisecracking cats. They’re such great cartoon tropes that you wonder why someone hasn’t tried to mesh them together before now. But mesh they do in Brian Ralph’s Reggie-12, an episodic comic strip about an constantly plucky, ever-optimistic Astro Boy-like robot who constantly is saving the city he lives in from danger (usually in the form of other, bigger robots), only to face withering indifference from everyone back home, especially the afore-mentioned cat.
Originally serialized in the pages of Giant Robot magazine and other assorted comics anthologies, the Reggie-12 strips have now been collected in a handsome, oversize, hardbound book from Drawn and Quarterly. Ralph was at the Small Press Expo this year, signing copies of his new book and generally helping man the D& Q booth. I pulled him away for a bit and, once we found a place to sit down, peppered him with questions about Reggie-12.
Chris Mautner: When was the first appearance of Reggie-12? Do you remember when you started these strips?
Brian Ralph: You know, I don’t. I had done comics in Giant Robot earlier before Reggie-12. There was this thing I did called The Legend of Giant Robot. It wasn’t funny. It was trying to be an ongoing serialized comic. I just didn’t have the storytelling chops yet. I ended it and wanted to start something new. That’s when Reggie-12 started and it was such a better fit for the magazine. It’s hard to do a daily strip in a magazine that comes out every month. I got so much more story packed into a smaller space. I don’t know the exact year [it began] though. Ten years ago?
Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]
Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]