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Comics A.M. | Tezuka Productions and Diamond ink distribution deal

Astro Boy

Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]

Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]

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Comics A.M. | Viz’s digital strategy; keeping Fantastic Four fresh

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha

Digital comics | I talked to Viz Media Executive Vice President Alvin Lu and the head of Viz Labs, Gagan Singh, about the company’s digital strategy, which includes the recent announcement that their digital magazine Shonen Jump Alpha will publish manga chapters simultaneously with Japan; the idea, Lu explains is to create the same sort of weekly ritual that superhero comics readers have, and to use the digital releases to build a community both online and in the real world. [Good E-Reader]

Creators | Fantastic Four was the first Marvel Universe comic, so it has been around for a while, but writer Matt Fraction is doing his best to keep it fresh: “Anything you can do to run contrary-wise to expectation to keep people guessing and wondering and entertained and surprised, you should do because otherwise people are going to dismiss the book as ‘Been there, read that.'” [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Zapiro lawsuit dropped; Jose Luis Ferrer passes away

Legal

Legal | South African President Jacob Zuma has formally withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (who goes by the pen name Zapiro) and will pay a portion of his court costs as well. Zuma dropped part of the case last week, a claim of 4 million rand for “impairment of dignity.” A spokesman for Zuma said the president had more important things on his mind and didn’t want to set a precedent that “may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech.” [The Citizen]

Passings | The Catalan artist Jose Luis Ferrer, who signed himself simply “Ferrer,” died Monday of a brain tumor. Ferrer’s work appeared in 2000AD, Starlord and other British comics, but he was an international artist with work published in Germany, France, Sweden and the United States as well. [Down the Tubes]

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Comics A.M. | Could NYCC become ‘the comic convention’?

Jacob Javits Center

Conventions | Jason Knize makes a case for New York Comic Con potentially becoming “the Comic Con” next year, surpassing Comic-Con International as the completion of renovations on the Jacob Javits Center frees up an additional 90,000 square feet of space. However, he notes that space and attendance — NYCC’s 116,000 this year versus CCI’s 130,000 or so — certainly aren’t the only determining factors. [Panels on Pages]

Comics | Don MacPherson, who’s a newspaper reporter as well as a comics blogger, ponders Clark Kent’s departure from The Daily Planet in this week’s Superman #13: “In the scene in which Clark issues his ideological proclamation, Perry White retorts, ‘Go easy on us mortals, Clark. Times are changing and print is a dying medium.’ The challenges the Planet faces in the story reflect not only real-world ones in the newspaper industry, but also those faced by DC Comics itself as it struggles to stave off ebbing readership and find a way to foster an audience for online comics. Digital-publishing initiatives in the world of comics aside, I feel it important to argue Perry is wrong. Print isn’t a dying medium. What’s dying are past business models.” [Eye on Comics]

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Comics A.M. | JManga launches unlimited-access site

JManga7

Digital comics | The Japanese web portal JManga today launched an unlimited-access site JManga7, although it won’t be putting any actual content on it until October. Unlike JManga, which sells digital manga one volume at a time, JManga7 operates on an “all-you-can-eat” model, with single chapters of a variety of titles available for free, and a wider selection with a paid subscription. The site will be updated daily and will include a mix of genres, with some new content that is being published close to its Japanese release date as well as some older series. The idea is for readers to check out the manga at JManga7 and ultimately buy them for keeps at JManga. To encourage readers to pre-register, JManga is raffling off seven Nexus 7 tablets and seven free subscriptions. Plans for the site were unveiled last month at Comic-Con International in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources. [JManga]

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Comics journalism overload [Updated]

First of all, we need to think up some new terms to distinguish journalism done via comics — as practiced by, say, Joe Sacco — from journalism about comics. Suggestions gleefully accepted!

Whatever we call it, sequential-art reporting is definitely coming into its own, and we have the links to prove it. For starters, here’s a video of the Comics and Journalism in a New Era panel at Comic-Con International, moderated by Publishers Weekly comics editor Calvin Reid and featuring a stellar lineup of Susie Cagle (who has been involved in as well as reporting reported* on Occupy Oakland), Andy Warner, Stan Mack, Ed Piskor, Dan Carino and Chris Butcher.

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Read Joe Sacco’s Kushinagar comic online

This is sort of a good news-bad news post. The good news is that Joe Sacco’s latest comic Kushinagar is available online, for free, thanks to the Indian “narrative journalism” magazine The Caravan. Sacco, who perfected the art of journalistic comics in works like Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde and Footnotes in Gaza, has shifted his focus in this comic from war to the everyday struggles of the Dalit (members of the caste once known as the untouchables) in a rural village in Uttar Pradesh.

The bad news is that the comic is embedded in a Flash-based reader that is balky and slow to load, so reading it is going to take some time. It was buggy in my Safari browser and wouldn’t load at all in Chrome. It’s worth the wait, though: The comic is an eye-opening look at the inequality that still exists in India and the castes-within-castes that rank people — and give some power over others — in a system that is difficult to change.

(via The Comics Journal)

Zack Soto premieres Study Group Magazine

And while we’re on the subject of big BCGF news, how’s this: Cartoonist and editor Zack Soto has announced the launch of Study Group Magazine, with a first issue slated to debut at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on December 3rd. Spinning out of Soto’s long-running Studygroup12 anthology (the last issue of which debuted at last year’s BCGF) and co-edited by Soto and former Comics Journal editor Milo George, Study Group Magazine will include both comics and comics journalism. On the latter score, the first issue will feature an interview with Craig Thompson by George, an interview with cover artist Eleanor Davis by Soto, and a profile of Brecht Evens by Greice Schneider. As for the comics themselves, look for contributions from Soto, Michael DeForge, Jonny Negron, Trevor Alixopulos, David King, Aidan Koch, Daria Tressler, Chris Cilla, Malachi Ward, and Jennifer Parks. And be sure to visit Soto’s blog for some gorgeous purple-and-yellow two-tone preview art.

Cartoonists chronicle Occupy movement

Shannon Wheeler's view of Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street and the related protests in other cities are proving fertile ground for comics journalists—by which I mean those who use sequential art to report about an issue rather than journalists who cover comics. The comics-journalism site Cartoon Movement posted an Occupy Sketchbook this week featuring work from Susie Cagle, Sharon Rosenzweig, and Shannon Wheeler, and they promise another installment next week. At Comic Riffs, cartoonist and Cartoon Movement editor Matt Bors explains why cartoonists and Occupiers get along so well:

“Corporate media is met with skepticism by protesters — and with good reason,” Bors tells ‘Riffs. “I’ve found that sitting and talking to people with a sketchbook is a far better way to gain insight than shoving a network camera in their face. That only yields sound bites.

“Susie Cagle’s approach of essentially being an embedded journalist with the movement,” Bors continues, “will no doubt result in great comics and the kind of insight you aren’t going to find on television.”

Many of the comics in the Occupy Sketchbook are sound bites too, but Shannon Wheeler’s drawing of Occupy Wall Street is a birds-eye view that a camera simply couldn’t capture as well.

Read a sneak preview of Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem

Oh man, this was an unexpected treat to find in my Google Reader today: A six-page preview of comics memoirist-cum-journalist Guy Delisle’s upcoming travelogue Jerusalem, courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly. Delisle recounts a trip to an Israeli checkpoint as Palestinians attempt to pass through to attend Friday services at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the resulting pages are a gorgeous demonstration of how to convey controlled chaos with a handful of lines and graytones. The full book, Delisle’s longest to date, comes out in April 2012.

Susie Cagle cartoon exposes fake women’s clinics

Susie Cagle’s What Every Woman Should Know is a good example of how sequential art can mimic a documentary film. Cagle herself went to a First Resort clinic, a “crisis pregnancy center” that provides no medical care, just encouragement to go ahead and have the baby. She brings in big-picture statistics about contraception and abortion rates and interviews with representatives of First Resort and Planned Parenthood to provide a surprisingly complete story in just 18 pages.

The comic has a point of view, but Cagle doesn’t go over the top. She actually makes the point that First Resort does have its place, providing support for women who decide to go ahead with their pregnancies. At the same time, she takes issue with their deceptive practices, advertising themselves as more than they really are and giving women misinformation about their choices.

While I’m a fan of Darryl Cunningham’s non-fiction science comics, often they end up being text boxes with pictures. Cagle takes a more flexible approach, composing each page differently and offering information in different ways. I think this comic shows how powerful sequential storytelling can be—simply reading an article about the First Resort clinic wouldn’t have had the same impact.

Cagle’s comic is hosted at Cartoon Movement, which has become an interesting hub for editorial cartoons and journalistic comics. It’s a site well worth bookmarking.

Comics College | Joe Sacco

Safe Area Gorazde: Special Edition

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

This month we’re examining the bibliography of one of the more interesting and significant cartoonists to come out of the alt-comix movement of the 1980s and ’90s, Joe Sacco.

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Phoebe Gloeckner’s Mexican odyssey

from "La Tristeza" by Phoebe Glockner

If you haven’t read much by Phoebe Gloeckner…well, frankly, I can’t blame you. I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that she’s one of the very, very, very best cartoonists working today—if I were to make a list, she’d rank in the low single digits—and that her unique prose-comics-illustration-memoir hybrid The Diary of a Teenage Girl is maybe my favorite graphic novel of all time. But since that book came out in 2002 (her only other comics collection, A Child’s Life and Other Stories, debuted in 1998), her comics work has been next to nonexistent, with only a couple of cartooned contributions to The Comics Journal‘s short-lived line of Comics Journal Specials and several photocomics here and there to her name.

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Inside the Digital Manga Guild

Late last year, the manga publisher Digital Manga Publishing announced a new initiative: The Digital Manga Guild. Basically, this is an attempt to make the scanlation model work legally: Volunteer teams would translate books into English (and other languages) and edit them, with the permission of the publishers and creators. Digital would publish the books online and readers would pay a small fee to read them; no one gets paid up front, but everyone gets a cut of the sales.

The proposal was initially met with both enthusiasm from fans who want to see more manga translated and skepticism from existing scanlators who were concerned it was just a big sting to get them to reveal their identities—and become vulnerable to legal action. Those initial fears seem to have been allayed, and a number of teams have signed up. Among them is blogger Melinda Beasi, who will be reporting on the process from the inside, with permission from Digital.

Melinda has already cleared the first few hurdles: She successfully pre-registered and passed the editor’s test. Now she has to find partners, because Digital only works with three-person teams consisting of an editor, a translator, and a typesetter. The problem is, there are plenty of editors but not so many people with enough skills for the other two jobs who are willing to work for free. There’s a matchmaking thread at the Digital Manga Guild forums, however, and it looks like Melinda may have found her partners there.

Melinda is donating all her fees to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, so she’s only in it for the experience. Most scanlators work for free, just for the love of the manga, but they also often have a lot of free time, and many are students who drop out of the scene once they are out of college. So there are two questions here: Will people who have done it as a hobby be happy doing it as a job, and will people who are essentially working for free be able to make the same commitment as a professional translator, editor, or typesetter. It will certainly be interesting to see how this works from the inside, and as our digital Nellie Bly, Melinda will certainly report on both the highs and the lows of this experience.

Comics A.M. | B&N complicates Borders talks, Stan Lee gets his star

Borders

Retailing | As the financially troubled Borders Group met Tuesday with publishers in hopes of converting delayed payments into interest-bearing debt, the bookseller’s larger rival Barnes & Noble expressed concerns that could complicate negotiations. “We think the playing field should be even,” B&N spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said in a statement. “We expect publishers to offer same terms to all other booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers.  We fully expect publisher’s will require Borders to pay their bills on the same basis upon which all other booksellers pay theirs.  Any changes in publishers terms should be made available to all.” Meanwhile, Reuters considers what the closing of Borders’ 600 stores would mean to the book industry. [The New York Times, Publishers Weekly]

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