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Passings | Comics journalist and commentator Bhob Stewart died Monday at the age of 76. Stewart kicked off his career in 1953, at the age of 16, by publishing an EC fanzine; the following year, as Carol Tilley documented in a recent talk, he sent a copy to anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, along with some tart commentary. Stewart went on to become an influential voice in the conversation about comics; he wrote several books, taught classes at the School for Visual Arts, and curated the first exhibit of comics art in a major American museum. Heidi MacDonald credits him with inventing both Wacky Packages and the term “underground comics.” [The Beat]
Editorial cartoons | German cartoonist Burkhard Mohr has apologized for a cartoon depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a hooked nose, an image that critics said was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The cartoon appeared in the early editions of the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, but Zuckerberg’s face was replaced by an empty hole in later editions. “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr said. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me” [ABC News]
Advocacy groups are criticizing a vote by South Carolina legislators to cut the budgets of two universities that recommended gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home — to incoming freshmen as an attack on free speech and academic freedom.
“This kind of censorship not only threatens the core of academic freedom but also inhibits the free exchange of ideas so important to progress,” Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said in a statement issued jointly with South Carolina Equality. “The First Amendment was intended to protect all speech – even speech we don’t agree with — and politicians shouldn’t be in the business of dictating what we think.”
The state House Ways and Means committee voted 13-10 on Wednesday to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston, which came under fire last year for its selection of Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 memoir for its summer reading program, and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate, which assigned Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show. The figures represent the amount each college spent on the programs.
A South Carolina university that came under fire over the summer for including the gay-themed Fun Home as recommended reading for incoming freshmen now may see its state funding reduced for the decision.
The Charleston Post and Courier reports the state House Ways and Means committee on Wednesday approved a budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s summer reading program in retaliation for recommending Alison Bechdel’s Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir as part of “The College Reads!” (Contrary to widespread reports, the graphic novel wasn’t required reading.)
According to the newspaper, the 13-10 vote came after a lengthy debate in which “some House members accused the college of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students.”
The University of South Carolina Upstate also faces a loss of more than $17,000 for assigning Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show. The figures represent the amount each college spent on the programs.
Legal | Daniel Curry, the actor who was seriously injured in August during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages, claiming the producers and other defendants knew a mechanical lift could be dangerous. Curry was hurt when an automated door pinned his leg; he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. The producers have insisted the accident was caused by human error and not malfunctioning equipment. [The New York Times]
Events | Japan’s ambassador to France has expressed his country’s displeasure with a South Korean exhibit at the Angouleme International Comics Festival devoted to “comfort women” who were forced into sex slavery during World War II by the Japanese military. Ambassador Yoichi Suzuki said the exhibit, which attracted about 17,000 visitors, promotes “a mistaken point of view that further complicates relations between South Korea and Japan.” [GMA News, Yonhap News Agency]
It’s little surprise that the editorial board of the conservative Washington Times didn’t embrace the announcement that the new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Muslim from New Jersey, but the newspaper’s actual response is a bit … bewildering. One might even describe it as eerie.
Beginning a Sunday editorial with a declaration that “diversity and quotas are more important than dispatching evil” — because, as we all know, heroes can’t be diverse and fight villains! — the writer engages in a little concern trolling, warning that Ms. Marvel, and by extension Marvel, will have to be careful not to anger “militant Islam” if there’s any hope for newsstand sales in Muslim nations. Of course we’re told in the very next paragraph that, “Ms. Marvel probably won’t appear in comic books in Saudi Arabia, anyway,” which apparently takes care of that problem.
Once we slog through the bumbling writing and odd aside involving Secretary of State Kerry, however, we arrive at the crux of the Washington Times’ argument, such as it is: that diversity is strange and frightening.
The students of Lane Tech College Prep High School, who rallied in March to protest the ordered removal of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from Chicago Public Schools, have been honored with the Illinois Library Association’s 2013 Intellectual Freedom Award.
The protest, organized by the student body and the 451 Degrees Banned Book Club, was sparked by an email from the principal calling for the removal of the graphic novel from Lane Tech’s library and classrooms ahead of what was thought to be a Chicago Public Schools ban. Within hours of the news circulating, and amid outcry from teachers, parents and students, district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarified that Satrapi’s autobiography wasn’t being removed; rather, it was being pulled from the seventh-grade curriculum over concerns that some of its content may not be age-appropriate. Chicago Public Schools released images from the graphic novel depicting a man being whipped, burned with an iron and urinated on, which Byrd-Bennett referred to as “powerful images of torture.”
Depicting Satrapi’s experience is a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award.
A retailer who last week ripped a copy of Pretty Deadly #1 in half in front of customers, triggering heated online reaction as well as responses from Image Comics and writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, has apologized for his actions.
“A small group of long time customers who know me well asked me what I really thought of the book,” Steven LeClaire, owner Comics Ink in Culver City, California, explained in a post on the Bleeding Cool forum (it was deleted and made into a standalone article). “For dramatic effect, I ripped a copy of the book after giving my review. I personally found the book lacking a coherent storyline and the art too muddy to follow. That was my opinion. The book was still on the shelves for sale for all those who wanted it. I made a mistake of thinking I was having a private talk with a small group of friends. I apologize for my actions.”
The incident was first mentioned Thursday by CBR columnist Hannibal Tabu in “The Buy Pile,” where he wrote that he agreed with the retailer’s assessment of the issue — by DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles — although he didn’t mention LeClaire by name. Word of the comic’s destruction quickly spread online, with Zero writer Ales Kot questioning whether the act was prompted merely by “anger about the product, or also by misogyny,” and leading Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson to offer to take back the remaining copies of Pretty Deadly #1 from Comics Ink and have Diamond Comic Distributors cancel orders for subsequent issues.
Responding to accusations of homophobia, and increasing media attention, Universal Studios Hollywood has canceled its Bill and Ted Halloween Horror Nights show, which featured a Man of Steel transformed into a mincing gay stereotype.
Part of the theme park’s annual Halloween event, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure was a play in which the title characters are transported to the Land of Oz filled with references to sex and popular culture. According to Vice.com, Bill and Ted are joined in their quest to kill four evil witches by Superman, who’s turned gay after being accidentally sprinkled with fairy dust.
“After becoming gay, Superman’s voice and posture changes,” writes Vice’s Jamie Lee Curtis Taete. “His lips purse, his toes point inward, and his wrists become limp. His new voice sounds like a homophobic uncle doing a drunken impression of Richard Simmons, complete with lisps and frequent use of the word ‘faaaaaaabulous!'”
A New Mexico school district has at least temporarily removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from its lone high school following an objection to the fantasy novel’s “inappropriate” content.” The book has been part of the 10th-grade English curriculum in 2004.
The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Nancy Wilmott, whose daughter was reading the novel as part of an assignment, was offended by a four-paragraph passage on Page 86 that “graphically describes an adulterous sexual encounter between a married man and a single woman in which the F-word is used three times, along with a brief description of groping of one’s anatomy.”
“I trusted the school system. I trusted the school district to pick proper material, and this is not,” Wimott, who contacted school officials last week about the material, told KASA Channel 2. “I did state to the principal that this is rated-R material, and she can’t get into a rated-R movie.”
On Thursday, the school district ordered Neverwhere “temporarily removed from usage” until it can be reviewed.
DC Comics has apologized to anyone offended by the controversial Harley Quinn tryout page that asks artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, and reiterated “the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone.” However, the publisher appears to be continuing the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search.
The statement was issued Thursday, shortly after the the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness expressed their disappointment in the publisher, calling the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous.”
Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”
“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”
Editorial cartoons | Ahmad Akkari, one of the leaders of the protests in 2006 against the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, now says he regrets his activities and has even apologized in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard. “I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said in an interview with The Associated Press. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.” [The Guardian]
Passings | The body of Ramen Fighter Miki creator Jun Sadogawa (real name Mutsumi Kawato) was discovered early Tuesday hanging from a tree in a park in Ibaraki Prefecture’s Kitasōma District. According to police, evidence at the scene suggested suicide. The 34-year-old manga creator had been serializing Amane Atatameru in Weekly Shonen Champion magazine at the time of his death. [Anime News Network]
Calling Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home “pornographic,” a conservative Christian group in South Carolina is criticizing the College of Charleston’s selection of the acclaimed graphic novel as recommended reading for incoming freshmen. The school, however, is standing by its choice.
The Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir, which details Bechdel’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, is part of the annual “The College Reads!” program, which provides free copies of the selected works to full-time faculty and new students. The books aren’t required reading.
However, Fun Home was labeled “A Shocking Summer Reading Assignment” by Palmetto Family, an advocacy group whose “vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model and sexual purity.”
“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” Palmetto Family President Oran Smith is quoted as saying. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”
Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University has apologized for a student mural depicting Adolf Hitler among a group of superheroes.
In a letter sent today to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which had complained about the banner, the Thai school said the administrators and students “deeply regret the appearance of this deeply offensive mural.” The university found that the students who created the image were “unaware of its significance” and have been given a verbal warning.
The enormous graduation banner, hung outside the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts building, bore the word “Congratulations” above images of Superman, Batman, the Incredible Hulk and other heroes, and included Hitler in the background giving the Nazi salute.
Although Orson Scott Card was silent amid the backlash that followed the announcement he would write a Superman story for DC Comics, the celebrated author has responded to a planned boycott of the film adaptation of Ender’s Game over his statements about homosexuality and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984,” Card wrote in a statement to EW.com. “With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.”
A board member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group dedicated to the opposition of same-sex marriage, the author has tried to link homosexuality to childhood molestation, and advocated home-schooling to ensure children “are not propagandized with the ‘normality’ of ‘gay marriage.’” Following rulings by “dictator-judges” in 2008 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Card infamously endorsed a government overthrow.
The February announcement that Orson Scott Card would write a chapter of DC Comics’ new digital-first Adventures of Superman anthology sparked controversy in some circles, as readers and retailers objected to the sci-fi author’s anti-gay activism. Card isn’t just an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, he is a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that lobbies against marriage equality.
At the time, several retailers announced they would not carry the comic, while others felt that refusing to carry the title would be tantamount to censorship.
The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, California, figured out a graceful way around the controversy: It would sell Card’s comic and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the group Freedom to Marry, which supports legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide. The owners of Illusive Comics and Games, in Santa Clara, decided to do the same. And then DC got a reprieve of sorts, when artist Chris Sprouse dropped out of the project and Card’s story was postponed indefinitely.
The first issue of Adventures of Superman was released this week with some fanfare but no controversy. Nonetheless, the co-owners of The Comic Bug, Jun Goeku and Mike Wellman, will donate 20 percent of this week’s profits to Freedom to Marry, and Illusive will do the same.
“The customers who shop at The Comic Bug are from all walks of life and with this week’s fundraiser, we want to let them know that we embrace them all,” Goeku told The Beach Reporter. Both shops will also have a jar for customers who want to make a further donation to the cause.