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Passings | Frank Cummings, an artist for the comic strip Blondie, has died at age 55, according to a posting on Blondie.com. No cause of death is given, but this obituary (in Italian) states he had a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Cummings started his career as a commercial artist and self-published his own satire magazine, JAB. Later on he illustrated the newsletter of diet and exercise guru Richard Simmons and did movie parodies for Cracked. He joined Blondie in 2004 as an assistant to head artist John Marshall. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz has debuted an “occasional” column on the retail news and analysis site ICv2. [ICv2.com]
In case today’s date isn’t indication enough that Comic-Con International is rapidly drawing closer — it’s July 1 already! — here’s an unmistakable sign: Organizers have released this year’s exhibit hall map and exhibitor list.
In a scene reminiscent of the annual rush for Comic-Con International badges, the New York Comic Con ticket website crashed Thursday as hopefuls jostled for passes to the Oct. 9-12 show.
A perusal of the event’s Twitter feed provides a catalog of some of the problems as organizers offered advice to frustrated ticket buyers — “If you’re in the queue, do not hit refresh” — before announcing sellouts of four-day and three-day passes, and tickets for Saturday and Kids Day. As of this morning, tickets remain available for Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
The Insightful Panda offers a play-by-play of what it contends “went wrong” with the process, highlighting a mix of technical difficulties and apparent miscommunication. The blog also notes that three-day passes have already made their way onto StubHub, where they’re listed at 400 percent of their original price.
Wizard World Inc. announced this morning that it will add add nine cities to its 2015 schedule, which will include new conventions in Las Vegas, Cleveland, Fort Lauderdale and Raleigh, North Carolina, bringing the total to at least 22.
Four stops that debuted with this year’s lineup — Atlanta, Louisville, Kentucky, Reno, Nevada, and San Antonio, Texas — don’t appear on the initial 2015 calendar, raising the possibility that Wizard World has decided to focus resources elsewhere. However, the press release states “additional cities (new and returning) may also be added in the coming weeks” (Atlanta is listed as “TBD” on the Wizard World website).
Twenty-two conventions marks a high for Wizard World, which just last year boasted 16, and is nearly twice the number it boasted in 2011, when it emerged as a publicly traded company following the closings of Wizard and ToyFare magazines (that figure was quickly whittled from 12 to eight).
The winners of the seventh annual Inkwell Awards, which recognize creative achievement in the field of inking in American comics, were announced over the weekend at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Nominees were selected by a nominating committee and then presented for online voting. Another committee chose two recipients of the annual Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award. The winners are:
Three organizations representing Hollywood actors, directors and screenwriters have thrown their weight behind an effort to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal by the heirs of Jack Kirby that could have ramifications far beyond Marvel and the comics industry.
The case, as most readers know by now, involves the copyrights to the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Thor and other characters created or co-created by Kirby during his time at Marvel in the 1960s. The artist’s children filed 45 copyright-termination notices in September 2009, seeking to reclaim what they believe to his stake in the properties under the terms of the U.S. Copyright Act. Marvel responded with a lawsuit, which led to a 2011 ruling that Kirby’s 1960s creations were work for hire and therefore not subject to copyright reclamation. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision in August 2013, which brings us to the Kirby family’s petition to the Supreme Court.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Screen Actors Guild-Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America have filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief that insists the Second Circuit’s ruling “jeopardizes the statutory termination rights that many Guild members may possess in works they created.”
Comics | Liam Burke, editor of the essay collection Fan Phenomena: Batman, discusses the enduring appeal of the Dark Knight, who of course turns 75 this year: “This isn’t a guy who’s from an alien planet, this isn’t someone who was bitten by a radioactive spider. This is an average guy, albeit incredibly wealthy and incredibly intelligent, at the peak of human fitness, but an average guy nonetheless. That sort of aspirational quality has been identified as the reason Batman sort of stands above Spider-Man, Superman or any number of heroes.” [RN Drive]
Publishing | David Harper looks at the economics of monthly creator-owned comics, as well as how trades fit into the picture; for creators, the monthlies provide a regular stream of income so they can always be working on the next issue. Brandon Montclare, Jim Zubkavich and others provide some first-hand commentary on how things work in the real world. [Multiversity Comics]
In an interesting analysis, Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter sees signs the U.S. Supreme Court might consider the five-year dispute between Jack Kirby’s heirs and Marvel over the copyrights to many of the company’s most popular characters.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in August upheld a 2011 ruling that Kirby’s Marvel creation in the 1960s were work for hire, and therefore not subject to copyright reclamation by his children. (They had filed 45 copyright-termination notices in September 2009, seeking to reclaim what they saw as their father’s stake in such characters as the Avengers, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk; Marvel fired back with a lawsuit.) In their March petition to the Supreme Court, the Kirby heirs took aim at the Second Circuit’s “instance and expense” test, arguing that it “invariably finds that the pre-1978 work of an independent contractor is ‘work for hire’ under the 1909 Act.”
Gardner points out the the justices discussed the petition at a May conference, and then requested that Marvel respond (the company initially didn’t file a response). Those p0tential portents were followed by a pair of friend-of-the-court briefs: one filed by Bruce Lehman, former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on behalf of himself, former U.S. Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman, the Artists Rights Society and others, and the other by attorney Steven Smyrski on behalf of longtime Kirby friend Mark Evanier, Kirby historian John Morrow and the PEN Center USA.
Just days before HeroesCon kicks off in Charlotte, North Carolina, organizers have released a code of conduct addressing harassment and cautioning exhibitors about images and materials that exceed the event’s PG-13 standards.
Signed by founder Shelton Drum, the policy extends beyond the exhibition floor to after-hours events at host hotels, and spells out that, “HeroesCon is dedicated to providing a fun, safe and harassment-free convention experience for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age or religion.”
Comic-Con International has announced the nominees for the 2014 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, given annually to a store that has done an outstanding job of supporting the comics medium in both the industry and in the local community.
This year, a record 37 stores were nominated from across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore. The finalists will be announced the week before Comic-Con International, and the winner revealed July 25 during the Eisner Awards ceremony. The 2014 nominees are:
Legal | Turkish cartoonist Mehmet Düzenli began serving a three-month sentence this week on charges of insulting Muslim preacher Adnan Oktar, who espouses controversial views, such as creationism and Holocaust denial. Oktar sued Düzenli over a cartoon about him, and Düzenli refused to appeal the sentence on the grounds that even if it were suspended, he still would not be able to express himself freely. “If Mr. Oktar has the right to claim that he is the Mahdi [the redeemer who is supposed to appear at the ‘end times’], I have the right to say that he is lying,” he said. [Reporters Without Borders]
Comics sales | ICv2 has sales estimates for the direct market in May, which was a good month for chart-toppers, with four titles selling more than 100,000 copies, compared to just one in each of the first three months of the year. The top seller was Marvel’s Original Sin #1, at 147,045 copies, but ICv2 notes that sales were juiced by incentives, including variant covers and a plastic eyeball, and that orders for the second issue are considerably lower. They also give the top 400 comics and the top 300 graphic novels charts for the month. [ICv2]
The announcement late last month that digital distributor Graphicly would close and its key employees join self-publishing platform Blurb was met immediately by questions, many of which centered on whether the company’s clients will be paid what they’re owed.
Originally envisioned as “iTunes for comics,” Boulder, Colorado-based Graphicly was soon overshadowed by competitor comiXology, and in 2012 shuttered its comics app to focus instead on providing visually based books and comics to eBook platforms. In its most recent incarnation, Graphicly was a digital conversion and distribution service: For a fee of $150, the company would convert a comic to ePub and other formats and distribute it to digital platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBooks. Graphicly would then act as middleman, collecting money from sales on those platforms and passing it along to the creators. Unlike other digital comics distributors, Graphicly didn’t take a cut of sales on eBook platforms, just the upfront fee.
Since Graphicly announced its closing on May 27, a number of creators have asserted publicly that the company wasn’t tracking sales correctly and hasn’t paid them what they’re owed from sales. Bleeding Cool spoke to Dave Dellecese and representatives of Th3rd World Studios, as well as a former Graphicly employee. At The Beat, Marc Ellerby and Mike Garley told similar stories, and Eric Grissom and Dara Naraghi added their names in the comments. Ellerby tweeted:
Comic-Con International is fast approaching, and so too is the deadline for online voting for the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: It’s midnight Friday (June 13).
Among those eligible to vote — you can do so here — are comics creators (writers, artists, colorists and letterers), editors, publishers, retailers, graphic novel librarians and scholars, and all nominees. The full list of nominees, which again includes Comic Book Resources for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism, can be found here.
This year’s judging panel consisted of retailer Kathy Bottarini, author/educator William H. Foster, reviewer Christian Lipski, Comic-Con International board member Lee Oeth, library curator Jenny Robb and Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist/critic James Romberger.
Comic-Con International will be held July 24-27 in San Diego. The Eisner winners will be announced Friday, July 25 during the annual awards ceremony.
Awards | The awards ceremony for the recently renamed Stan Lee Eagle Awards has disappeared from the program of the London Film and Comic Con, and has been replaced by the True Believers Comic Awards. It’s not clear whether this is just a name change or something more, as Mike Conroy, the organizer of both awards, had no comment, but the Stan Lee nominations page is gone. There is an online voting page for the True Believers Comic Awards, however. Lee is still scheduled to attend the event in person. [Down the Tubes]
Creators | Writer Caitlin Kittredge talks about her first comic, Coffin Hill. [The Kindle Post]
Creators | I interviewed the “three-headed monster” behind the Adventures in Cartooning books — James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost — about their new kids’ graphic novel Sleepless Knight. [Good Comics for Kids]
Prism Comics, the nonprofit organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender creators, comics and readers, has opened submissions for the 2014 Queer Press Grant.
The grant is awarded to writers/artists or teams self-publishing comic books, comic strips, webcomics or graphic novels with significant LGBT characters and themes; creators don’t need to be LGBT to apply. Entries are judged by the Prism board and past recipients based first on artistic merit, and then financial need, proposal presentation and the work’s contributions to the LGBT community.
The grant is funded through donations from creators and fans. Past winners include Hazel Newlevant, Robert Kirby, Eric Orner and Megan Rose Gedris.
Guidelines can be found on the Prism Comics website. The deadline for proposals is Sept. 1; the recipient will be announced at the Alternative Press Expo, held Oct. 4-5 in San Francisco.