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]
A permanent exhibit will open Oct. 11 at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport honoring Superman and his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who dreamed up the superhero as teenagers living in the city’s Glenville neighborhood.
The project was spearheaded by the Siegel & Shuster Society, which raised about $50,000 through donations by fans to allow the idea to take flight. Cleveland City Council approved the proposal in January.
It’s never too early to learn what a cesspool of shady business practices and money-driven infighting the industry responsible for creating and promoting your favorite noble champions of justice really was.
That’s the thought that kept running through my head as I made my way through Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, author Marc Tyler Nobleman’s follow-up to his 2008 Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.
Like his previous work, Boy Wonder is a non-fiction picture book aimed at children. At least in presentation; I can’t imagine very young children being as interested in it as grown-ups though, and for grown-ups, there’s an excellent all-prose, six-page article marked “Author’s Note” at the end, fleshing out the more simplified story that fills the bulk of the page count with plenty of detail and discussing Nobleman’s process of research for the book.
The story of the late Bill Finger — who is, of course, the Bill in the title — doesn’t quite fit into a picture book format as easily as that of young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. There are a lot of similarities between the creators of Superman and the uncredited co-creator of Batman, including their backgrounds, the settings their stories occurred in, the impact of their creation and their unfortunate lack of participation in the rewards of that success, but Finger’s story is a lot more complicated than that of the boys from Cleveland, and lacks the natural melodrama of their hard-luck childhood and the epiphany nature of their hero’s inception (as presented in Boys of Steel, following Siegel’s own accounts, Superman’s transformation from a concept the young writer toyed with over the years into the world’s first superhero came in a sort of fever dream fit of inspiration one night).
In 1954, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency began an investigation of the comic book industry and its effects on juvenile delinquency. In the course of its hearings, the subcommittee called upon a number of witnesses, including EC Publisher William Gaines. At the time, EC published a number of crime and horror comics, including The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror and Tales From The Crypt. The WNYC radio archives have posted nearly two hours of the investigative hearing with two key, but contrasting, witnesses: Gaines and psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham.
The audio of the hearing is lengthy, but while listening, it’s very indicative of the feeling toward comics at the time — Wertham goes so far as to say, “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger. They teach them race hatred at the age of 4 before they can read.”
The hearing was also where the following now-famous exchange between U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver and Gaines took place, as Kefauver held up a cover of Crime SuspenStories #22:
Matt Madden created the above six-panel comic for an article by Professor Paul Lopes, author of Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book. Lopes is an associate professor of sociology for Colgate University, which published the article in its online magazine Scene. The New York liberal arts college not only doesn’t offer a major in dentistry (a joke surely never before stated on or near the campus), it also doesn’t appear to offer any significant studies in comics or graphic novels.
That didn’t stop Colgate from inviting Lopes to comment on how comics have grown up over the decades and how our culture has responded to them. A lot of it is introductory but the sociological context gives it a different filter to view this information, even if Lopes sometimes seems annoyed at the superhero genre and the dated stereotypes that surround it. (Although even this stance isn’t completely consistent. He opens sneering that The Avengers movie was an “aesthetic black hole” but ends confessing that he cheered while watching it.) And while he sets up the simplistic, and again, frankly dated paradigm of mainstream superhero fans vs. alternative comix readers, he does admit that “like all art, comic artworks, artists, and readers fall more along a continuum between pure mainstream on one end and pure avant-garde on the other.” This is becoming increasingly true if recent chart toppers The Walking Dead and Smile are any sign of the evolving landscape.
Saturday’s programming for this year’s Comic-Con International continues the grand “big movie panels” tradition typically associated with the third day of the con. Both Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios are on the schedule for Hall H; no doubt Marvel will have more than just Iron Man 3 to talk about at that 6 p.m. slot. Warner Bros., meanwhile, will talk about Man of Steel in their panel, which will also include The Hobbit and Pacific Rim.
Comic publishers are well represented, with BOOM!, Marvel, DC Comics, Archie, Archaia, Dark Horse, Image, Top Cow, Drawn & Quarterly, Skybound, Vertigo, Top Shelf and more scheduled for various panels on Saturday. CCI also puts the spotlight on Mark Waid, Morrie Turner, Klaus Janson, Stan Goldberg, Gary Gianni, Jim Lee and many more creators, and celebrates anniversaries for Funky Winkerbean, Love & Rockets, Bob the Angry Flower, Courtney Crumrin and the Gays in Comics panel. And don’t forget about the always entertaining masquerade.
Here are some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
Like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have released the programming schedule for Friday, July 13, the second full day of the San Diego convention. It sees publishers kicking things into high gear, with Marrvel’s “Cup O’ Joe” and DC Comics panels on the New 52 and Justice League and Green Lantern groups, as well as presentations from IDW Publishing, Oni Press, BOOM! Studios, UDON, and Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.
That’s only for starters, though, as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The CW’s Arrow make Comic-Con appearances, and creators as diverse as Joss Whedon, Kate Beaton, Larry Hama, Scott Snyder, Lynn Johnston, Dan Piraro, James Robinson and Jeff Lemire get the spotlight. There are also tributes to legendary creators Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon, as well as Comic-Con co-founder Richard Alf.
And to keep off the day, there’s the 24th annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards.
We’ve selected some of the comics-related highlights below; visit the Comic-Con website to see the complete schedule.
“Sadly, the lesson that was gained from these books was not that comics didn’t need to be hacked-out, disposable, interchangeable stories but could be well written and relevant. Instead what happened was every superhero comic, whether it lent itself to the transformation, or not, was made grim and gritty, which meant more violence, more sex. more trying to fit the superhero world into the real world.”
– John Rozum, putting the Grim and Gritty Era into historical context.
Todd Klein has posted a fascinating set of photos of the DC Comics production department circa 1979, taken by artist José Luis Garcia-López. Klein supplements the grainy, black-and-white photos with his own memories of working for DC in the late ’70s and throws in some anecdotes about the staff as well. Klein also plays history detective, puzzling out the date of the photos from the tiniest visual clues, and he also notes the staff who are not in the photos because they were laid off during the DC “Implosion.” The photos will evoke a certain nostalgia from those of us who remember how things were done in the days of paper (rubber cement, blue pencils, and photostat machines), and they should be interesting to anyone who wonders how they made comics in the pre-computer era. Todd has posted more photos, including a vintage shot of actor Christopher Reeve visiting the offices.
A production error in a reprint of a 1972 Donald Duck story led a German publisher to recall the comic after the word “Holocaust” mistakenly appeared in place of “Congratulations.”
Spiegel Online reports the error crept into a panel in the Carl Barks story “Where’s the Smoke?” in which a Duckburg dignitary honors a team of firefighters for pinpointing an “awesome” blaze. However, instead of using the word “fire” or “inferno,” the legendary cartoonist went with the phrase “awesome holocaust!”
Fast-forward some 40 years, when, according to German publisher Egmont Ehapa, “holocaust” wasn’t thoroughly removed from the original English text, resulting in the dignitary praising “our brave and always alert fire lookouts! Holocaust!” in the latest reprint.
The publisher quickly recalled copies of Micky Maus Comics #6, which was released on May 8, and blacked out the offending word by hand (as you can see above). However, The Telegraph reports the incident prompted humorous allegations in the German press about the political leanings of Donald Duck, “and revealed the occasional perils of reusing aging cartoons in different cultures.”
Conventions | A group of 21 events companies, including New York Comic Con and BookExpo America organizer Reed Exhibitions, are opposing a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tear down the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. In a letter to the governor that was also distributed to 600 other officials, the Friends of Javits said they would not patronize the much larger venue that’s to be built in Ozone Park, Queens, primarily because of its distance from Manhattan. [Crain's New York Business, via ICv2]
Conventions | Comic-Con International is just six weeks away, and you know it’s coming when Tom Spurgeon posts his annual list of tips for enjoying the convention. It’s a wealth of information, compiled over 17 years of con-going, so go, learn. [The Comics Reporter]
Comics have long been home to a variety of races, be it alien or underground or from an alternate dimension. But in the 100-plus year history of comics, one of the toughest for creators to portray accurately is that of black characters. And now Fantagraphics is putting back in print a key work examining that strained relationship, Fredrik Stromberg‘s Eisner-nominated Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History.
Originally published in 2003 but long out of print, Black Images in the Comics surveys the depiction and characterization of blacks going back to early comics like The Katzenjammer Kids to startling portrayals in Tintin in the Congo and The Spirit, all the way to their induction in superhero comics with the likes of Black Panther and John Stewart and the empowering comic strip series The Boondocks.
In this new collection, Stromberg has added over a dozen new entries in the encyclopedic-like presentation of Africans through comics’ history. The foreword by the author of Middle Passage, Charles R. Johnson, adds much to the overall understanding of the book.
I love old photos of Jack Kirby for many reasons, not the least of which is, in his day, he was one suave-looking, pipe-smoking gentleman. But Sean Kleefeld points us to Greg Theakston’s Facebook gallery, where we’re introduced to another side of the Kirby: the dancing King, bustin’ a move with wife Roz and, at a Comic-Con party, with a belly-dancer. There’s also a nice shot of he and Roz sitting (apparently at the same gathering where they danced). You can see all shots here, and visit Theakston’s gallery for many for great photos of Kirby and others. Now I’m off to start f-yeahkirbydancing.tumblr.com.
The $412 check written in 1938 by Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for, among other things, the rights to Superman sold last night at auction for a whopping $160,000. The piece of paper has been described as “the most important $412 in comics history” and “possibly the most important pop-culture artifact known to exist.”
“The concept of the superhero was born with Superman,” Vincent Zurzolo, co-owner of auction website ComicConnect, told Reuters. “That $130 check essentially created a billion-dollar industry.”
Signed by Publisher Jack Liebowitz, it included $130 for the Man of Steel, with the remaining $282 serving as payment for stories contributed to Detective Comics, Adventure Comics and More Fun Comics. Liebowitz misspelled the last names of both Siegel and Shuster, leading them to endorse the check twice.
File under “Oh, Right, the ’90s”: Over the weekend Scott Dunbier, former executive editor of Wildstorm and current special projects editor of IDW Publishing, tweeted a photo from a late 1990s New Year’s Eve party of a sharp-dressed, if “a bit tipsy,” Jim Lee … riding a camel. Lee, the Wildstorm founder turned DC Comics co-publisher, added only, “Doing my Nixon.”