"Batman's" Gotham Was... Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Legal | Rico J. Vendetti of Rochester, New York, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday for planning a 10 home-invasion robbery that led to the death of 78-year-old comic book collector Homer Marciniak. According to prosecutors, Vendetti had been running eBay scams for years, selling merchandise shoplifted by others, and planned to do the same with Marciniak’s $30,000 collection of comics, which dated back to the 1930s. During the home invasion, the robbers hit Marciniak, threatened him and tied him up; he died shortly afterward. Vendetti pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge. Co-defendant Donald Griffin, who admitted hitting Marciniak, was also sentenced to 20 years in prison this week. [Buffalo News]
Awards | Ta-Nehisi Coates, the writer of Marvel’s Black Panther, has won a 2016 PEN Literary Award recognizing the art of the essay for his acclaimed memoir Between the World and Me. The author and journalist has already received a National Book Award and a MacArthur “genius grant,” as well as a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. The PEN award comes with a $10,000 prize. [PEN]
Beginning today, new chapters of Hajime Isayama’s blockbuster manga Attack on Titan will be available in English on comiXology and the Amazon Kindle Store the same day they’re released in print in Japan.
Chapter 80 went on sale this morning on the digital platforms, along with all previous chapters of the dark fantasy series.
One of the highlights of Tokyopop’s move into original English-language manga was undoubtedly I Luv Halloween, the 2005 horror-comedy by veteran creator Keith Giffen and newcomer Benjamin Roman. The book, which centered on a group of kids as they went trick-or-treating each Halloween, spawned two sequels and launched Roman’s career.
The cartoonist followed I Luv Halloween with such works as The Cryptics (with Steve Niles) and the children’s book House of They (with Joe Kelly), but then he stepped away from comics for while. However, now Roman is back with a five-issue miniseries, P.A.C.O. and Donut, which debuts today on comiXology.
Awards | The Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois has chosen Ben Hatke’s Little Robot as the winner of this year’s Gryphon Award for Children’s Literature. The award honors children’s books that bridge the gap between being read to and reading on one’s own. “Hatke’s graphic novel is both cleverly crafted and utterly irresistible,” said Assistant Professor Deborah Stevenson, the head of CCB and chair of the committee. “Our young heroine is an admirable adventurer and capable wielder of a tool belt, and the little robot she finds, repairs, and befriends is an endearing pet/sidekick. The balance between wordless sequences and simple speech-balloon dialogue (plus the robot’s sound effects) will reassure tentative readers and encourage them to decode narrative from both visual and textual clues.” [University of Illinois]
Awards | Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona has made the shortlist for the National Book Awards, only the third graphic novel to make it that far. At 23, Stevenson is apparently the youngest NBA finalist ever. Nimona is based on an idea Stevenson began toying with in high school and developed into her senior thesis at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She started posting the comic online, and a literary agent spotted it and signed her on. “I don’t know if I actually expected anything to come from signing with an agent — I assumed I’d self-publish, like most webcomic creators did,” she said. “Then my agent called me when I was in the middle of a class critique to tell me that he had sold it to HarperCollins, and that was that.” [Comic Riffs]
ComiXology will give away limited-edition print variants of select Submit comics next week at New York Comic Con.
As announced this morning at EW.com, throughout Oct. 8-11 convention, 500 copies of each of these titles will be available on a first come, first serve basis: Aw Yeah, Comics #1, by Art Balthazar and Franco; the Fresh Romance anthology, edited by Janelle Asselin; Gamma #1, by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas; Heathen #1, by Nastasha Alterici; and Revenger #1, by Chuck Forseman.
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on last week’s Diamond Retailer Summit, where the news was mixed: Comics sales are up this year, but the increase is smaller than in 2013, triggering fears that the market is cooling down. Some publishers are retrenching, with Image announcing it will no longer release variant covers, Marvel simplifying its ordering requirements for variants, and BOOM! Studios cutting the number of titles it will release next year by 15 percent. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar announced Monday that another of his books is drawing government scrutiny, as police are questioning the sales assistant who handles online sales of his book Sapuman – Man of Steal. “My sales assistant did nothing illegal as the ‘Sapuman – Man of Steal’ is not officially banned by the government” Zunar said. “On the contrary, the police should investigate who took RM2.6 billion of public funds instead of clamping down on book sellers who sell books legally.” The cartoonist is currently facing nine charges of sedition stemming from one of his Tweets, and his books have been banned and his assistants harassed in the past. [The Malaysian Insider]
With Labor Day behind us, for most folks it’s back to work. But by the time you read this I will be out of town, well into a two-day seminar. Naturally I take comics with me for the down time, and more often than not I take a couple of thick reprint books. Picking out specific volumes got me thinking about the changing nature of DC Comics’ reprints.
Now, I’ll try not to let this descend into some nostalgic pining, and I recognize that reprint formats aren’t the most exciting things. However, while today’s comics are available in print or digitally, and are collected routinely into more durable books, I’m not sure the older material is getting as much attention as it once did. To be certain, the older material is getting older all the time, with more added to it as the years go by; and modern audiences might well be satisfied with, say, just the past 20 years’ worth of DC’s output. Still, there’s value in those older stories, even if it’s just on an academic level; and I think it’s helpful to see how DC has treated it.
Publishing | Todd Allen pulls the camera way back for a broad look at four challenges facing the comics market: the shift from serial comics to graphic novels, editorial changes at DC Comics and Marvel, and the virtual monopolies that comiXology has in the digital sector and Diamond Comic Distributors has in print. How could that play out? “In the best-case scenario, Marvel’s relaunch sticks with the audience, DC restaffs and regains its footing, the Direct Market retailers embrace risk diversification and increase their stock of independent comics, bookstores continue to expand their graphic novel selections. Comics enter a legitimate golden age. In the worst case, Disney and/or Warner Bros. both tinker with their formula of making monthly print comics and Direct Market retailers face a new and uncertain business model.” [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has named its first Cartoonist in Residence: Cameron McPhail, who left his job in 2002 as chief executive of wealth management at the Royal Bank of Scotland to become a full-time cartoonist. He and his colleagues in the Kartoon Faktory collective will produce books about the animals in the zoo and possibly a comic strip as well. [Edinburgh News]
Passings | Archie Comics artist Tom Moore died yesterday at the age of 86. Moore got his start as an artist in the Navy, where he served during the Korean War: His captain found a caricature that Moore had drawn, and instead of calling him on the carpet, he assigned him to be staff cartoonist. Moore’s comic strip, Chick Call, ran in military publications, and after the war he studied cartooning in New York, with help from the GI Bill. Moore signed on with Archie Comics, drawing one comic book a month, from 1953 until 1961, when he left cartooning for public relations. “It’s important to create characters that can adapt to anything, but whose personalities are consistent,” Moore said in a 2008 interview. “Establish that, and don’t deviate. Betty doesn’t act like Veronica, and Charlie Brown doesn’t act like Lucy.” He returned to cartooning in 1970, drawing Snuffy Smith, Underdog, and Mighty Mouse, and then went back to Archie to help reboot Jughead, staying on until his retirement in the late 1980s. After retiring, Moore taught at El Paso Community College and was a regular customer at All Star Comics. [El Paso Times]
Publishing | DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio talk about the comics market as a whole, variant covers, and their move to Burbank, among many other topics, in a three-part interview. [ICv2]
Commentary | Christopher Butcher discusses the way the comics audience has diversified, and the way that parts of the industry (the parts that aren’t involved, basically) have refused to acknowledge the enormous popularity of newer categories of comics by “othering” them: “‘Manga aren’t comics,’ went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it.” Butcher sees these attitudes changing at last, though, thanks to the massive commercial and critical success of books like Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (three years on the New York Times graphic novel best-seller list!) and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer. [Comics212]
Manga | Is former manga powerhouse Tokyopop coming back? Once the largest publisher of manga in North America, the company stopped publishing new manga in 2011, but didn’t go bankrupt and never really went away. Tokyopop is selling many of its “global manga” titles digitally and in print, on demand, and it ‘s planning panels at both Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Comic-Con International in San Diego. On his blog, CEO Stu Levy drops a few hints, saying he’s “rebuilding” Tokyopop. [Tokyopop]
Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz analyzes the latest news from Amazon and comiXology and suggests there’s more to the story than meets the eye. While fans may view the renewal of Marvel’s deal with comiXology as a story about a digital comics service, Salkowitz says it’s really about bringing comics to the mass market through Amazon: “Kindle isn’t Amazon’s platform for reaching comic book readers. It’s Amazon’s platform for reaching all readers. comiXology counts its revenues in millions. Amazon counts its revenues in billions. Moving these titles from a superior specialty app to an inferior mainstream app isn’t a big deal for existing fans but it’s a huge potential expansion of the market.” [ICv2]
Digital comics | Tom Spurgeon reports that Bongo Comics has quietly left comiXology and will be putting its comics in a new Simpsons Store app instead. While users won’t be able to buy new Bongo comics on comiXology, they will still be able to access those they already purchased. [The Comics Reporter]
Political cartoons | The American Freedom Defense Initiative has a new advertising campaign, placing Bosch Fawstin’s cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on billboards around St. Louis. Transit systems in several cities, including New York and Washington, D.C., have stopped accepting political advertising rather than carry the group’s ads depicting the Prophet Muhammad. In St. Louis, they have drawn mixed reactions: Dr. Ghazala Hayat of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis says she would like to see the signs removed but not at the cost of violence or property damage, while Jim Hanson, the executive vice president of the Center for Security Policy, said that freedom of speech is more important than avoiding offense. [WKRC]
Passings | Inker Rick Ketcham has passed away. Details are sparse, but Ketcham’s Facebook quickly filled with tributes from friends and colleagues who hailed his kindness, his professionalism, and his willingness to mentor others. Ketcham worked on a number of titles for DC Comics, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image Comics and other publishers, including The Amazing Spider-Man, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, G.I. Joe, New X-Men, Runaways and Venom. [Tsunami Studios Facebook]