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Empowering vs. protecting the children

powerpuff girls6Where is the line? When is an image empowering, and when is it too risque? While the case of the contested variant cover of The Powerpuff Girls #6 has a lot of silly aspects, its core speaks to larger issues the comic book industry has been wrestling with of late, and may find itself wrestling with even more. The questions it raises aren’t always easy to answer — as is so often the case, the devil is in the details.

All-ages comics have a larger presence now than they have in decades. Every month, tie-ins to popular kids’ shows and original books suitable for readers are released in high enough numbers that you could open a comic book store that’s just for kids. Many stores have increased their kids sections, and with events like Free Comic Book Day, it’s easier for those shops to prove themselves to parents as a safe place. Meanwhile, awareness of the industry’s female readership has never been higher; in October, digital comics platform comiXology released some startlingly specific data: Its average female reader is “17-26 years old, college-educated, lives in the suburbs, and is new to comics. She prefers Tumblr to Reddit. She may have never even picked up a print comic.” In six years, female readership on comiXology increased from less than 5 percent to 20 percent.

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Comics A.M. | Remembering ‘Wee Pals’ creator Morrie Turner

Robinson with Turner

Robinson with Turner

Passings | Bomb Queen and Five Weapons creator Jimmie Robinson writes a touching remembrance of pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner, who passed away Saturday at age 90. Widely recognized as the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, the Wee Pals creator frequently spoke at schools, and it was during one of those visits that he inspired a young Jimmie Robinson: “When he came to our class he spoke about his craft and showed us how he worked and what his job demanded. He spoke about his newspaper comic strip and how he had to write it every day. He spoke about the diverse cast of characters in his strip, but he never once spoke about the issue of his race. But for me he didn’t have to. The fact that he, a black artist, even existed, spoke volumes.” The New York Times also has an obituary for Turner. [Jimmie Robinson]

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Jackie Estrada launches Kickstarter to fund comics photo book

Comic Book People D1.inddIndustry mainstay Jackie Estrada, administrator of the Eisner Awards and co-publisher of Exhibit A Press, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a coffee-table book collecting photos of creators she took of comic creators and related figures in the 1970s and ’80s.

Titled simply Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, the hardcover collects about 600 photos taken at comics and sci-fi conventions and other events, and includes shots of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, C.C. Beck, Murphy Anderson, Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Archie Goodwin, Moebius, Osamu Tezuka, Charles Schulz, Chuck Jones and many more.

“These are rare shots from the days before comics and conventions were big pop culture events,” Estrada explains on the Kickstarter page, “when the founding fathers of the artform were still among us and today’s top talents were just aspiring young pros trying to get noticed. If you were there, this is a great way to recall fond memories. If you weren’t, these photos are a candid and unfiltered picture of a simpler time, familiar but far away.”

Her goal is $18,000; to help get there, she’s offering incentives like postcards and a calendar featuring photos from the book, signed copies and a one-of-a-kind booklet containing photos selected by the backer.

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Quote of the Day | ‘Let’s steer into the curve’

bitch planet“No one gets to have their cake and eat it too. So I don’t get to talk about the problems with the lack of diversity in both the books we put out and the creators behind them, I don’t get to speak up about that and then not have my gender brought up as an issue as well. … People will often apologize when they ask me about feminist issues in the industry, and it’s tough. I don’t want them to apologize. These are things that need to be discussed. … My husband’s [comics writer Matt Fraction] gender never comes up in an interview. I think it’s a thing that, if we want it to get better, we have to talk about it. It’s on the table whether we like it or not, so let’s go ahead and – if it’s there, let’s sit down and feast.

I’ve been accused of putting forth sort of an agenda in Captain Marvel, which I actually don’t think I’m doing at all. I think I’ve been very true to what the character was created for, the roots of the character that I had nothing to do with. I was 7 years old when that character’s first book came out under Ms. Marvel. I’ve been accused of putting forth an agenda and so on and so forth. There’s a certain part of me that’s just like, ‘If I’m going to take the heat for it, well … let’s do it then. Let’s steer into the curve.’”

– writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, discussing Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel and feminism


Image, BOOM! top 2013 Gem Awards as publishers of the year

diamond gem awardsImage Comics and BOOM! Studios were voted Best Comic Book Publishers of the Year in their respective divisions in the 2013 Diamond Gem Awards.

DC Entertainment led with six awards, including Top Dollar Comic of the Year for Superman Unchained #1, with Dark Horse closed behind with five wins, including Original Graphic Novel of the Year for Hellboy: The Midnight Circus hardcover. Marvel earned honors for Top Dollar Comic Book Publisher of the Year and Comic Book of the Year (Under $3), for The Superior Spider-Man #1 NOW!

Other winners include Archie Comics’ Afterlife with Archie #1 for Comic Book of the Year (Under $3), Top Shelf Productions’ March: Book One for Indie GN of the Year, and Image Comics’ East of West for Best New Comic Book Series. The complete list can be found below.

Nominees were selected by a panel of Diamond Comic Distributors product specialist based on their impact on the industry (for the vendors), and sales performance and quality (for the products). The winners were then chosen by direct market retailers.

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Comics A.M. | Small Press Expo table lottery begins Friday

SPX

SPX

Conventions | Registration begins Friday for the Small Press Expo 2014 Exhibitor Table Lottery, a new system designed to both bring the old process into the 21st century and address rapidly increasing demand. Online registration will continue through Feb. 14, with lottery winners announced on Feb. 21. There’s a good deal of information to absorb, but convention organizers have created a lottery FAQ. [SPX]

Publishing | Reports of the demise of Ape Entertainment turns out to have been premature. The company, which had one of the bestselling digital comics a few years ago with Pocket God, has been quiet of late and recently canceled a number of outstanding orders. However, COO Brett Erwin emerged Tuesday to say the publisher is simply going through a period of reorganization after the departure of CEO David Hedgecock, who now works for IDW. Ape will release a new Fruit Ninja comic at the end of the month. [The Beat]

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ComiXology reveals 51% of its users are outside U.S.

ComiXology logoFifty-one percent of comiXology users are outside the United States, the New York City-based company revealed overnight. The announcement was accompanied by a global heat map (below) illustrating the popularity of the digital comics platform by country.

Following last week’s news that comiXology was the top-grossing non-games iPad app last year in the United States, the company added that it’s the top-grossing iPad book app in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. It’s also currently the No. 1 iOS book app in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, The Philippines and other countries.

ComiXology expanded its international reach in 2013 with the opening of a Paris-based European division, followed by distribution agreements with French publishers Delcourt, Glénat and a dozen others, as well as with Viz Media Europe.

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Comics A.M. | Police auction off criminal’s comics on eBay

Some of the seized comics

Some of the seized comics

Auctions | The Leicestershire (England) Police are auctioning about 1,200 comics — most of them are post-2000 DC Comics titles, described as in mint condition — seized as criminal assets in Dorset (the police force doesn’t have its own eBay account). “Some are signed by the artists and they are mainly Superman and Spider Man, that sort of thing,” said Dave Hargrave, proceeds of crime asset realization manager. “[...] The person who had the comics was obviously a collector.” About 400 comics have been sold, bringing in £600 (about $985 U.S.). [Leicester Mercury]

Publishing | Avatar Press has returned to Diamond Book Distributors as its distributor to bookstores, the mass market, library services, and other markets. Avatar left DBD in 2011 to sign on with BOOM! Studios to distribute its books through Simon & Schuster in the United States and HarperCollins in Canada. [ICv2]

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Comic-Con International to sell only single-day badges

comic-con

Comic-Con International organizers have announced that four-day passes will not be sold for this year’s event, and that the Preview Night option will only be available to those who buy badges for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The news arrives just a month after preregistration was postponed until early this year so EPIC Registration could “fine-tune” the online system that so often frustrates would-be attendees. No specific time frame was offered for when preregistration will be open to those who bought badges in 2013, only “sometime in early 2014.”

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Submissions open for 2014 Eisner Awards

eisnerawards_logoSubmissions are being accepted through March 17 for the 2014 Will Eisner Comics Industry Awards, which will be presented July 25 during Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Tentative categories — they may be altered at the discretion of the judges — are: best short story, best single issue, best continuing comic book series, best limited series, best new series, best publication for kids, best publication for teens, best humor publication, best anthology, best digital comic, best graphic album–new material, best graphic album–reprint, best reality-based work, best archival collection, best U.S. edition of foreign material, best writer, best writer/artist, best penciler/inker (individual or team), best painter (interior art), best lettering, best coloring, best comics-related book, best scholarly/academic work, best comics journalism periodical or website and best publication design.

Publishers who wish to submit entries must send one copy each of the comics or graphic novels, along with a cover letter that includes what’s being nominated, and in what categories, and the names of the creators. Creators may submit works for consideration if their publisher is no longer in business or is unlikely to submit nominations itself.

Entries should be mailed to: Jackie Estrada, Eisner Awards Administrator, Comic-Con International, P.O. Box 128458, San Diego, CA 92112. Submissions for the best digital comic category can be emailed to Estrada. The full list of nominees will be announced in April.

Additional details can be found on the Eisner Awards website.

On sexual harassment and bad behavior in general

MariNaomi2MariNaomi’s first-person testimony of being sexually harassed onstage during a convention panel made the rounds of the comics blogsphere Thursday like lightning. Heidi MacDonald wrote about it at The Beat, and shortly afterward veteran writer Scott Lobdell outed himself as the person MariNaomi was talking about and publicly apologized. Usually when Heidi speaks on an issue like this, I don’t have much to add, but what struck me about the incident is that it’s a textbook case of something that happens to women all the time, and that many men, even those of good will, don’t always understand.

Sexual harassment is a difficult topic, and sometimes we tie ourselves up in knots trying to define and discuss it. But in MariNaomi’s account of the panel, it was very clear: Her harasser wasn’t just making some crude sexual jokes, he was ignoring what MariNaomi was saying and drawing attention away from it by focusing on her sexuality as a woman. He was denying everything about her except one aspect, her sexual attractiveness. That’s what sexual harassment is about.

It’s not necessarily about trying to pick up someone; that happens between consenting adults all the time. It’s not about dirty jokes, either. In context, with the right people, those can be fine.

It’s about not regarding women as full, complete people on an equal footing with men. It’s about not listening to what a woman has to say and focusing instead on her physical attributes. Pickup lines and dirty jokes are just the tools a sexual harasser uses to do the real job: belittling the other person.

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Comics A.M. | Details emerge about ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ threats suspect

Kuroko's Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball

Legal | More details have emerged about Hirofumi Watanabe, the 36-year-old man suspected of sending more than 400 threatening letters to convention centers, retailers and other sites in Japan associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun revealed Watanabe studied anime at a vocational school but dropped out at age 20. Also, a search of Watanabe’s apartment turned up toilet bowl cleaner, a scrap of paper that said “creating hydrogen sulfide” and, not surprisingly, several volumes of Kuroko’s Basketball.

Oddly, Watanabe claims to be two different perpetrators who use two different accents, standard Japanese and a Kansai accent, and many of the statements he made in his letters and online postings, including that he was acquainted with Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, appear to be false. Anime News Network also reports that when he was arrested, Watanabe had about 20 threat letters in his backpack, and that he told police he was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. [Anime News Network]

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Brevoort: Traditional numbering is ‘comfort food and nostalgia at best’

daredevil1Although superhero comics fans typically react to series relaunches with howls of derision, there’s little arguing with the sales numbers: Somebody is buying all of those new No. 1 issues. Just ask Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing.

Responding to a loaded question on his Formspring account — “Why is Marvel terrified, no dare I say PETRIFIED, of having a book reach more than 15 issues before getting reset to issue number 1?” –  Brevoort explains, “We’re not terrified, nay PETRIFIED, of any such thing. But neither are we living in the past.”

“The number is there to serve a function, but it has no intrinsic value in and of itself,” he continues. “It’s comfort food and nostalgia at best. On this, we follow what you and your fellow readers do more than what you say. We hear complaints about renumbering every time we do it, but every time we do it it results in higher sales, which is the whole ballgame — so if it were your time and your effort, what would you do?”

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Comics A.M. | What the growth of tablets means for comics

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | Ethan Gach contemplates what the popularity of tablets means for the comics industry, with a particular focus on comiXology. He points out that the digital distributor offers not only bestsellers but also titles that appeal to a broader audience — and has brought success to some indie creators via its comiXology Submit program. [Forbes]

Academia | Tom Spurgeon talks to Professor Benjamin Saunders, director of the Comics & Cartoon Studies Program at the University of Oregon, which just received a major donation that will serve as an endowment for the program. [The Comics Reporter]

Manga | Kodansha will release a second printing of the January issue of Aria magazine, which features the debut of Hikaru Suruga and Gan Sunaaku’s Attack on Titan spinoff No Regrets. The first printing was five times greater than the magazine’s usual press run — Aria has a verified circulation of 13,667 copies — so with this new printing, the January issue will have 10 times the number of copies of the  average issue. [Anime News Network]

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Comic-Con postpones pre-registration until early 2014

comic-conTwo and a half weeks after informing attendees that pre-registration for Comic-Con International 2014 wouldn’t occur in November, organizers have announced they’re postponing the process until early next year to “fine-tune” the online system.

“Although we have been working around the clock with EPIC Registration, there is still room for improvement,” states the new update on the convention’s blog. “Because we want to have as fully developed a product as possible we have decided to postpone Comic-Con 2014 badge preregistration until early next year. We know this is a disappointment and are sincerely sorry for the delay. However it really is our hope to avoid some of the issues we’ve had in the past and the additional time will allow us and EPIC to best address those issues.”

Organizers say the hope to implement new features, including a shopping cart that “should allow you to hold available badge inventory for all members of your party during your registration session,” single-session purchasing for multiple badges, a unique registration code to help weed out the landing page and waiting room, and extensive load-testing.

Comic-Con International 2014 will be held July 24-27 in San Diego.


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