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Comics A.M. | ‘The 99′ creator questions reasons for Saudi ban

The 99

The 99

Publishing | In the wake of the ban in Saudi Arabia of the animated adaptation of The 99 comic, creator Naif Al-Mutawa writes about what he had to go through in the first place to get approval in that country for the Islamic superheroes (one of the steps was the sale of Cracked magazine at a loss so his company would be sharia-compliant to the satisfaction of an Islamic bank). He looks at what led to the fatwa, and concludes by seeking one of his own, posing questions for the clerics who issued the decree. [The National]

Publishing | As part of its five-year anniversary celebration, Multiversity Comics surveys such industry figures as Eric Stephenson, Rachel Deering, Tom Spurgeon and Gina Gagliano about the biggest changes that have taken place during that time, and where comics are headed. [Multiversity Comics]

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Comics A.M. | TOON Books launches imprint for older readers

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

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]

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Comics A.M. | Con’s response to cosplayer sparks backlash

Cherry City Comic Con

Cherry City Comic Con

Conventions | Ross Lincoln gathers up the threads of a story that’s been unfolding over social media for the past few days: A cosplayer expressed concern that the Facebook cosplay gallery for the inaugural Cherry City Comic Con in Salem, Oregon, featured significantly more women in costume than men. Displeased by the dismissive reply from the administrator of the Facebook page, she sent a private message asking for a refund of her convention registration fee, explaining, “I don’t think this will be a safe place for female cosplayers.” Organizer Mark Martin posted that request on his personal Facebook page with the response, “despite the no touch policy, the family friendly policy, the 3 security guards at all times, and the fact that you’re bat-shit crazy? Refunded!”

Several prominent cosplayers picked up on that, and it became a cause celebre on Twitter and Facebook for a couple of days; meanwhile, things got more complicated with sock puppets and a possibly fictitious con representative getting involved. In the end, Martin apologized; to give organizers their due, the convention includes a harassment policy in its official rules and policies. The con will take place on May 10-11. The Daily Dot has more. [The Escapist]

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How many ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ variants are there (and what do they look like)?

asm1-variants

Marvel welcomed back Peter Parker this week in a relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man that brought with it an avalanche of variant covers that undoubtedly triggered ’90s flashbacks with some readers (that may explain why you suddenly began worrying about Ross and Rachel and the whereabouts of your Rollerblades). But just how many covers are there?

The publisher hasn’t released an official figure, but best counts put the number close to 50, most of which are retailer custom covers purchased exclusively by stores and conventions. To get their hands on one of those exclusives, a retailer (or a convention, or a trade group like the Comic Book Retailers Alliance) had to order a minimum of 3,000 copies of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 for a standard edition; for a sketch version, the number dropped to 1,500 (both are the standard numbers for Marvel’s custom variants).

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British Library debuts trailer for ‘Comics Unmasked’

Comics scholar Paul Gravett, reimagined

Comics scholar Paul Gravett, reimagined

The British Library has debuted a trailer — a “Curators’ Introduction” — to promote “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” the largest comics exhibition to date in the United Kingdom.

Opening Friday to the public, “Comics Unmasked” spans the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries. The exhibition kicks off with a screening of the documentary Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot, followed by a conversation with Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth.

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Comics A.M. | A demand for rollback on same-day digital release?

"The Amazing Spider-Man" #1 variant by John Romita Sr.

“The Amazing Spider-Man” #1 variant by John Romita Sr.

Retailing | Dennis Barger, co-owner of Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, and the driving force behind the new retailer association CBRA (Comic Book Retailers Alliance), says direct-market stores want publishers to pull back on same-day digital release, and debut the print comics first. He says ComicsPRO, the established, much larger, trade organization, is taking the wrong approach in trying to adapt to digital. Barger also feels that hand-selling by employees, not social media, is what propels sales of comics, especially non-Big Two titles: “The employees at local comic shops pushing these books is the difference in being in the top 200 and the bottom 300 in sales for those books.” A shift to digital, which removes the local comics shop from the equation, would thus harm second-tier publishers such as Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios and IDW. The association was able to purchase an exclusive variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #1, drawn by John Romita Sr., for its members. [The News-Herald]

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Longtime ‘MAD’ editor Al Feldstein passes away

al feldsteinAl Feldstein, who as editor steered MAD Magazine to the height of its popularity and influence, passed away Tuesday at his home in Livingston, Montana, The Associated Press reports. He was 88.

Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, Feldstein began his career as a teenager at Eisner & Iger Studio, doing menial tasks initially for $3 a week and then, after World War II, freelancing for publishers like Fox Comics. In 1948, he approached William Gaines, who had become publisher of EC Comics following the death of his father Max Gaines, and began a working relationship that would last for decades.

Although Feldstein started at EC as an artist, he soon wrote his own stories; within a couple of years, he was also editing most of the publisher’s titles. He’s credited with co-creating iconic anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Terror, Panic and Shock SuspenStories and helping to develop a stable of contributors — Otto Binder, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein, among them — whose influence is still felt in the industry.

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Quote of the Day | Advice for female creators: ‘Be fearless’

mara“If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will be cruel to you. They’ll seem to single your art out more loudly and consistently than any equivalently accomplished male counterpart’s for pillorying. They’ll call your lines ugly, and in the comments section they will call you ugly. Or, they’ll be too kind to you. It won’t matter how unattractive you may think you are, they’ll speak to you too long at conventions, they’ll stare and say you’re even prettier than your art, and that will be worse, because if you can be the target of such bombastic, lecherous praise, then maybe your art is actually just as bad as you’ve been made to feel.

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will support you. They’ll support you unfailingly, they’ll class you as a ‘woman creator’ and they’ll ask you to provide sound bites that speak for all women, though of course that’s impossible. They’ll put you on a ‘Women in Comics’ panel at every show, and often that will be the only panel you’re ever on. They’ll buy your work because you’re a woman, just because you’re a woman.”

– artist Ming Doyle, whose work includes Mara, Adventures of Superman and Young Avengers, responding to concerns from an aspiring creator “that women only get jobs from editors because they’re attractive or cute.” While Doyle encourages her to “be fearless” and notes that “editors care more about your quality of work, your timeliness and your professionalism, than any selfie,” she acknowledges that women inevitably face judgments based on their gender and on their looks.

Todd McFarlane offers a glimpse of his 350 rejection letters

mcfarlane-rejection letters

Over the course of his 30-year career, Todd McFarlane has spoken frequently about his lone road into the comics industry, one dotted with more than 700 submissions and 350 rejection letters. If you thought that was an apocryphal story akin to tales of having to walk five miles to school … uphill … both ways, think again.

On his Facebook page, the creator of Spawn shares a few photos from his submission days, featuring a sampling of his rejection letters, including one from former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, as well as a chart he created to track where he sent the packages, and whether he received responses.

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Tensions resurface as Wizard World arrives in Minneapolis

springconAs the ever-growing Wizard World tour pulls into Minneapolis, Minnesota, this weekend, KARE TV shines a spotlight on the friction between the inaugural show and organizers of SpringCon, a 26-year-old annual event that’s being held two weeks later.

“We don’t have William Shatner at $199 an autograph, we don’t have the stars and that kind of thing,” Nick Postiglione of the Midwest Comic Book Association, which organizes SpringCon, tells the TV station. “We have comic book creators, writers and artists.”

The nonprofit group’s displeasure with the timing of Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con is no secret: When the convention was announced last year as part of an expansion that included shows in Sacramento, San Antonio and Atlanta, an email circulated accusing the company of “specifically and strategically” selecting a date so close to Spring Con, contrary to assurances by chairman John Macaluso that the established event “was not on our radar.” The email also quoted Postiglione as saying Wizard had previously approached the Midwest Comic Book Association regarding the possibility of purchasing or absorbing SpringCon, an offer organizers declined.

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UK’s Eagle Awards relaunched as The Stan Lee Eagle Awards

stan-lee-eagle-awardsNearly two years after their presumed demise, the United Kingdom’s Eagle Awards have reemerged with a new name and host convention: The Stan Lee Eagle Awards, to be presented July 12 at London Film and Comic Con.

Named after the British children’s comic Eagle, the fan awards were presented more or less annually from 1977 until going dormant in the early 1990s. They were resurrected again in 2000, only to be shuttered in 2012 with a surprise announcement that made public a riff between awards chair Cassandra Conroy and MCM Expo.

Conroy, daughter of Eagle Awards co-founder Mike Conroy, is again at the helm. “My dad’s intention was always to give the fans a voice, and I’m delighted that this latest initiative will take his vision to an entirely new plane,” she said in a statement.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ passes 30M in sales in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Manga | The 13 volumes to date of Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy Attack on Titan have sold a combined 30.37 million copies in Japan, making the manga only the third series to do so since market research firm Oricon began tracking the numbers in 2009 (the first two were, of course, mega-hits One Piece and Naruto). [Anime News Network]

Digital comics | John Casteele considers the acquisition of comiXology from Amazon’s point of view: “It’s easy to see how the ComiXology purchase is going to benefit Amazon. Access to the ComiXology platform not only provides the company with additional revenues from the growing digital comics market and to the comic series that had the highest-selling single issue in 2013 (The Walking Dead, which also had five of the top 10 best-selling graphic novels for the year). It could also provide synergy with Jet City Comics and the Kindle, giving both access to the ComiXology publishing platform. Amazon could also use its Kindle platform to further refine the ComiXology’s ‘Comics’ app, which is already available for the Kindle Fire but might enjoy more direct integration in the future.” [Business Insider]

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Comics A.M. | Man sentenced for role in plot to kill cartoonist

Mohammad Hassan Khalid

Mohammad Hassan Khalid

Legal | Mohammad Hassan Khalid was sentenced last week in Philadelphia to five years in prison for his part in a failed 2009 plan to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who drew the head of the Prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog. Khalid, now 20, was a teenager and an honors student when he became involved with Colleen LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” who in January was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her part in the plot. Prosecutors pointed to the fact that Khalid also translated violent jihad videos into English, which may have helped recruit new terrorists, but they also asked for leniency because he cooperated with them after his arrest. The defense claimed he was simply a vulnerable, awkward teenager who has since been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Khalid, who had been offered a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University but was arrested before graduating from high school, will get credit for the three years he has already served in prison. [Reuters]

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Eyeing the Eisners: a look at the 2014 nominees

The Oatmeal

The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman

One of my favorite times of the year is here: the announcement of the nominees for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. I love poring over each category to look for surprises, seeing books I never heard of or never got a chance to read. I guess when you get right down to it, I love getting to celebrate awesome comics.

It seems that with each year, the Eisners get better at reflecting the comics art form and industry at that moment. The judges not only hit the fan favorites and critical darlings, but also unexpected choices and hidden gems that truly benefit from this kind of recognition. It’s where quality instead of sales rule, as it should be for an award recognizing the very best of the industry.

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Quote of the Day | Comics industry’s ‘frozen adolescence’

“No idea has proven more damaging to the comics industry than the myth that its professionals — not just creators, but retailers, even distributors — work for love and not money. It’s a philosophy that has justified exploitation of creators and theft of intellectual property. It’s allowed the entire industry to pass the buck for its failures — from publishers to retailers, and retailers to — for decades. And it’s why the comics industry lingers in a frozen adolescence, clinging to a shrinking target audience like a sea captain railing at the storm — when the real problem is the rotting wood of his own hull.”

Rachel Edidin, former Dark Horse editor turned freelance writer and editor, addressing reactions to Amazon’s announced purchase of comiXology for Wired.com


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