DC Comics' July Highlights: "Batgirl," "Nightwing" and a "New Super-Man"
Despite the widely publicized objections by some incoming freshmen, Duke University appears to be standing by the selection of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home for its summer reading program.
“With a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking,” Michael Schoenfeld, the university’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement issued Monday. “We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not.”
The debate about the 2006 graphic novel, which chronicles Bechdel’s childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, began on the Facebook page for Duke’s class of 2019, where incoming freshman Brian Grasso wrote that reading Fun Home would require him to “compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs.” While the ensuing discussion, first reported by Duke’s student newspaper, included support for the book, others admitted they were bothered by its depiction of sexual acts.
Creators | Responding to the removal of Maus from Moscow bookstores as the Russian government cracks down on Nazi symbols, Art Spiegelman said, “It’s a real shame because this is a book about memory. We don’t want cultures to erase memory.” Retailers fear the swastika on the graphic novel’s cover may be enough to run afoul of a new law prohibiting “Nazi propaganda” as the country prepares to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Germany. “I don’t think Maus was the intended target for this, obviously,” the cartoonist told The Guardian. “But I think [the law] had an intentional effect of squelching freedom of expression in Russia. The whole goal seems to make anybody in the expression business skittish.” [The Guardian]
Agence France-Presse reports the move comes as Russian authorities seek to purge the capital of swastikas and other Nazi insignias ahead of May 9, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over German forces in World War II. Raids have already been conducted on toy and antique shops, and bookstore owners are anticipating similar actions.
Of course, Art Spiegelman’s celebrated Maus, released in Russia in 2013, isn’t “Nazi propaganda”; it’s pointedly anti-fascist, telling a story about the horrors of Nazism. However, bookstore owners appear to be erring on the side of caution, figuring the large swastika on the cover is enough to make the title — and retailers — a target.
Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son and successor of influential Christian minister Billy Graham, claims Marvel’s outing of Iceman is part of a larger effort to “indoctrinate” young people.
“Today the Marvel comic character Ice Man, from the X-Men series, is coming out as gay,” Graham wrote Wednesday on his Facebook page. “This is another attempt to indoctrinate our young people to accept this destructive lifestyle. God’s Word says homosexuality is a sin, and we are to be on guard against all sin. God calls us to repent, turn from our sins, and put our trust in His Son Jesus Christ who died and rose again to pay the penalty for sin.”
Political cartoons | Cartoonist Milt Priggee stands by his editorial cartoon, which appeared in the Kitsap (Washington) Sun, depicting a recently slain toddler as an angel and “America’s gun culture” as the devil. Priggee and the newspaper’s editor have come under fire from the public and from the grandfather of the 2-year-old, who accuse him of using a tragedy to score political points. Priggee said his goal was to get people to think critically about gun culture: “A cartoon is a simple machine to make the reader think, not joke. It’s not a comic strip, it’s not entertainment, and this is where newspapers have fallen down. They have not taken any kind of opportunity to educate the public because a lot of times people come to an editorial cartoon and they say, ‘Well there’s nothing funny about this. Why is this in the newspaper?'” [MyNorthwest.com]
Fandom | Rob Salkowitz writes about the controversy over this year’s Hugo Awards nominations and the “Sad Puppies” slate, and how skirmishes such as this are further fueled by the media: “The net effect of this, as observed by commentator Ezra Klein, is the politicization of just about everything, dragging a lot of randomly hostile and belligerent people into conflicts that don’t really concern them, but in whose outcome they have been persuaded they have a stake. Media outlets profit, but fan culture, which at its best unites people from all demographics across the political spectrum in their enthusiasm for creative works and community, is the victim.” [ICv2]
After responding first with vulgarity and flippancy to criticism that he used an artist’s GIF without permission or credit, Grammy-winning producer Diplo has changed his tune, even if he can’t quite muster a full-throated apology.
“Sorry if I hurt your feelings, or trivialize your art,” he wrote in a message to illustrator Rebecca Mock, before effectively blaming everyone else for Wednesday’s social media firestorm that led Defamer to run the headline “Diplo Is a Dick.” Which really, at this point, is pretty difficult to dispute.
Grammy-winning producer Diplo on Wednesday teased the new Jack U collaboration with Missy Elliot with an Instagram video, which should’ve been a harmless bit of self-promotion. Instead, it led to a flurry of mocking and misogynistic tweets aimed at Rebecca Mock and others after the illustrator pointed out the DJ had used one of her GIFs without permission or credit.
Diplo, whom In the Mix once ironically dubbed the “King of Twitter,” added Mock’s credit to the Instagram post, only to trumpet his action with this vulgar exchange:
A group of Jewish activists is threatening to boycott and protest outside stores in the London borough of Camden that sell Hipster Hitler, a collection of the webcomic that satirizes hipster culture and the Third Reich.
If that doesn’t work, the Hampstead & Highgate Express reports, members of London Stands With Israel plan to buy and shred all copies of the comic, which some say is “sick” and “anti-Semitic.” They’re specifically targeting Mega City Comics, a Jewish-owned store in Camden Town.
Created in 2010 by James Carr and Archana Kumar, the webcomic stars an Adolf Hitler who wears trendy glasses, skinny jeans, thrift-store sweaters and shirts bearing slogans like “Eastside Westside Genocide,” “I (Heart) Juice” and “Death Camp For Cutie.” It also features characters like Broseph Stalin, a sendup of the Soviet leader. Hipster Hitler quickly drew attention on Reddit, inspiring an Internet meme, T-shirts and homemade Halloween costumes.
Superhero comics deal in extremes: Characters overreact, the world is in constant jeopardy, and the solution almost always involves physical combat. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when the #FireRickRemender fiasco erupted. There was no conversation. Instead, people hurled accusations and argued over whether a writer should keep his job, while others mocked the whole thing. The rest of us silently watched from the sidelines, and that was pretty much it: That was how comics professionals, fans and industry observers handled a three-page scene from Captain America #22.
I guess I should be happy that people are so passionate about these stories and the creators behind them. If we were all so blasé and detached, sales would probably not just be flat so far this year, they’d be in the gutters. Yet I can’t help but feel disappointed, because I know we can do better than this.
Retailing | While Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection cracked Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores, making it the first Marvel or DC Comics release since January to do so, the April chart was again dominated by three familiar titles: The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan and Saga, which claimed a combined 13 spots. The horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard led the trio with six volumes, followed by Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy with four, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera with three. The 36th volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s hit manga Naruto was No. 1 in April. [ICv2.com]
Events | On the eve of the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Japan Times looks at both the growing presence of manga, and Dork Shelf talks with festival director Christopher Butcher about its Comics vs. Games 3 showcase. Meanwhile, the National Post is running a series of conversations between artists attending TCAF, beginning with Georgia Webber and Seo Kim, and Réal Godbout and Nick Abadzis. You can read more of its festival coverage here. [Toronto Comic Arts Festival]
Most businesses caught up in a social-media firestorm over a product might’ve issued an apology or hunkered down and quietly waited for the controversy to pass, but not Tankhead Custom Tees.
The Murrieta, California-based company was thrust into the spotlight this week after a photo taken at WonderCon Anaheim of one of its T-shirt designs — “I Like Fangirls How I Like My Coffee […] I Hate Coffee” — was posted on Twitter, drawing intense criticism from fans and creators alike. Allison Baker, MonkeyBrain Comics co-founder and a CBR columnist, pointed to the image as an example of “what chauvinism looks like,” while writer Greg Rucka unleashed his fury on both the person selling the shirt and those who support its sentiment: “What in the name of everlovingfuck is the matter with you?”
In a Facebook post responding to “some bad word on our fan girl shirt,” Tankhead insists “a certain few bloggers” who have accused the company of sexism “completely ignored our other variant shirt on display or didn’t even bother to ask our take on it.” The statement is accompanied by a photo of a similar T-shirt that replaces “Fangirls” with “Fanboys.”
Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools. [The Washington Post]
Funding cuts proposed to punish two South Carolina universities for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs could open the door to First Amendment lawsuits, 10 free-speech advocacy groups caution members of the state Senate.
The state House last week approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s program.
With the state budget now in the hands of the Senate, a coalition that includes the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of South Carolina sent a letter on Tuesday urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject the cuts, warning, “Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect: it threatens academic freedom and the quality of education in the state, and could well expose the state to potential liability on First Amendment grounds.”
The South Carolina House of Representatives on Monday approved plans to punish two state universities for recommending gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home — as part of their summer reading programs.
According to The Associated Press, the House rejected four amendments introduced by Democrats aimed at restoring $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 trimmed from the University of South Carolina Upstate during the budget-writing process. The figures represent what the colleges spent on the programs.
The College of Charleston came under fire last summer for using Bechdel’s 2006 memoir — it’s an account of her childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian — which was labeled as “pornographic” by a South Carolina Christian group. Similar claims resurfaced last month during the House Ways and Means Committee debate, where some legislators accused the college of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), who with Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) made Monday’s unsuccessful attempts to restore funding, said legislators shouldn’t be “pushing our own moral agenda on these institutions of higher learning.”