"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Banned Books Week | National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary covers Banned Books Week, with interviews with frequently banned creators Jeff Smith (Bone) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants). Although Smith acknowledges he was initially shocked to see his acclaimed fantasy adventure among the 10 most challenged books of 2013, he soon came to terms with the distinction. “I mean my heroes are on this list,” he says. “People like Mark Twain and Steinbeck and Melville and Vonnegut, so part of me also kind of says, ‘OK, fine I can be on this list.'” [NPR]
Banned Books Week | Michael Dooley runs a brief excerpt from Fun Home, and Keith Knight does a show-and-tell of his comics that were too controversial for some newspapers. [Print Magazine]
Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]
Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]
It’s safe to say few were sorry to see the Comics Code Authority quietly fade away in 2011, having become literally no more than a stamp on the covers of a handful of titles, but it was nonetheless an important part of history.
Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, realized this three years ago and sent a letter to Heidi MacDonald, asking who had the files of the Comics Magazine Association of America, the trade association that administered the Code. While Howe thought the records had vanished, Mark Seifert was told they were donated to DC Comics.
This week, Howe reiterated his appeal on his blog:
Considering the Comics Code Authority is now a thing of the past, and that cufflinks are increasingly rare, it seems only fitting that English illustrator and craftsman John Turner has brought the two together: For $31.19 plus shipping, you can get custom CCA cufflinks made from glass cabochons and comic book covers.
Turner writes in his Etsy store, “Show the world that you have been officially deemed fit for popular consumption with these awesome cufflinks, made from real vintage comic book covers featuring the iconic Comics Code Authority seal, which first appeared appeared in 1954 before finally disappearing in 2011.”
If those don’t strike your fancy, he offers plenty of others, including Doctor Who-themed cufflinks.
Digital comics | Sony is shutting down its PSP Comic Store as of Oct. 30. After that, readers will no longer be able to purchase new comics from the store, although they will be able to download at least some previously purchased comics until January 2013. After that, the whole thing is just gone. Sony pulled something similar in Japan, but its new PS Vita store includes a manga service. The PSP doesn’t seem to have been a very popular medium for reading comics in the United States, but it’s too bad that those who did take a chance on it have no way to permanently preserve their comics in a way that isn’t dependent on an aging piece of hardware. [Engadget]
Publishing | The Brooklyn Daily chats a bit with Sean Howe, the writer of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, whose book includes an account of Marvel founder Martin Goodman, a Brooklynite who gave Stan Lee his first gig but was barely remembered by the company when he died. [Brooklyn Daily]
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 | Citing “distribution concerns,” Marvel has canceled plans to allow members of the ComicsPRO retail trade organization to sell the first issue of author Orson Scott Card’s Formic Wars: Burning Earth on Feb. 15 rather than Feb. 16. Announced last Friday, the move was designed to take advantage of Diamond Comic Distributors’ new day-early delivery program, which allows direct-market stores to receive comics on Tuesday for sale on Wednesday. It’s what just this week enabled the early release of the heavily publicized Fantastic Four #587. According to Rich Johnston, complaints from DC Comics and other publishers over that promotion are what led to cancellation of the ComicsPRO incentive.
But publishers weren’t alone in protesting Tuesday releases: On the retail-oriented news and analysis site ICv2.com, store owners complained about “special treatment” for ComicsPRO members, and criticized Marvel for already authorizing day-early sales. “At this rate, by the end of the year, Tuesday will be new comics day,” wrote Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations. [Marvel]
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.
Publishing | Thursday’s news that DC Comics will replace the nearly 60-year-old Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval with its own rating system was followed on Friday by an announcement by Archie Comics that it, too, will drop the Code. The two were the last publishers to abandon the CCA — Marvel withdrew in 2001, Bongo just last year — which means that as of next month, the once-influential self-regulatory body created by the comics industry in the wake of the 1954 Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency will cease to exist. Before a series of revisions in 1971, the Code prohibited even the depictions of political corruption, or vampires and werewolves, and the use of the words “horror” or “terror” in titles.
Christopher Butcher wonders whether DC’s decision to drop the Code was made with an eye toward the bottom line, while Johanna Draper Carlson offers an overview of the CCA’s history. Elsewhere, Mike Sterling asks whether any retailers ever “experienced any kind of real-world impact of the Comics Code Authority?” And Tom Mason makes some tongue-in-cheek recommendations for DC’s new rating system, including “G – GREYING MAN-BOYS” and “R – REFRIGERATOR.” [Newsarama]
This has to be the book title of the year: The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! The good folks at Abrams ComicArts have put together a pretty swell little trailer for this collection of pre-Comics Code horror and crime comics from the ’50s, edited and contextualized by Jim Trombetta with an introduction by Mr. Goosebumps himself, R.L. Stine. You can gather a couple of salient points from the video: 1) These things really were almost unbelievably lurid and gross, especially when you consider the relentlessly wholesome state of pop culture in general at the time; 2) Based on the video’s snippets from an anti-comic book TV report called Confidential File, which is included in its entirety on a DVD that comes with the book, men in suits took this stuff way too seriously back in the day.
The papers of the infamous psychiatrist at the center of the anti-comics crusades of the 1940s and 1950s are now available to the public.
In 1987, the Library of Congress acquired the papers of Dr. Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, from the estate of his wife Florence Hesketh Wertham. Now all 222 containers are open for research; previously, access was granted only those people approved by the estate.
Wertham, who died 1981 at age 86, served as head of the Court of General Sessions psychiatric clinic, which examined every convicted felon in New York City. In 1935 he testified at the trial of serial killer Albert Fish, declaring him insane. The following year Wertham was named director of Bellevue’s Mental Hygiene Clinic in New York and later became director of psychiatric services at Queens Hospital Center.
However, it was his concerns with violence and protecting children, and the 1954 publication of Seduction of the Innocent, that propelled Wertham to the national stage and forever changed the comics industry. The book paid particular attention to the gore and violence in EC Comics’ crime and horror titles, “homoerotic overtones” of some science fiction and jungle comics, and the “psychologically homosexual” nature of the Batman stories and, now quite famously, the Batman-Robin relationship.
Wertham went on to testify on the harmfulness of comics before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led the comics industry to adopt the self-regulatory Comics Code Authority.
The Library’s collection includes a selection of comics Wertham deemed offensive, along with his notations. “His copy of Kid Colt, Outlaw (1967) includes a note that of the 111 pictures, 69 were scenes of violence,” Matt Raymond writes on the Library of Congress blog. “An issue of Justice League of America (1966) includes markings calling attention to the sounds of violence like ‘thudd,’ ‘whapp’ and ‘poww’.”
(via Ars Technica)
Here’s a little something for all the scholars in the audience: The blog My Confined Space has found vintage brochure and promotional material about the Comics Code Authority designed to explain to parents and educators what the Code was about and how the self-regulating society was keeping innocent young tots from the pernicious influence of all those ugly crime and horror books. (via)