Legal | The trial resumed today, if only briefly, in Tunis for the president of a Tunisian television network accused of “insulting sacred values” when he aired the adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Tensions were so high in the courtroom that proceedings were postponed until April. The Oct. 7 broadcast resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui, who apologized in October, is charged with “insulting sacred values, offending decent morals and causing public unrest” because of the outrage triggered by a scene in Persepolis showing God, which is prohibited by Islam. [AFP]
Organizations | Stumptown Comics, the organization that puts on the Stumptown Comics Fest every year in Portland, Oregon, has added three new members to its board: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein, Boilerplate co-author Anina Bennett and editor Shawna Gore. [Stumptown Comics]
Libraries | The Center for Cartoon Studies has found a new home for the Schulz Library, whose previous location was damaged in a flood in August: the old post office in downtown White River Junction, Vermont. The school was able to purchase the building with the help of Bayle Drubel, a real estate developer and founding CCS board member who bought the post office in 2004. Renovations are set to begin this winter to create room for instruction space, faculty offices and the Schulz Library cartoon collection. [The Center for Cartoon Studies, via The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | The Atlantic profiles Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith. [The Atlantic]
Creators | Artist Fabio Moon talks about teaming with Zack Whedon on the new Serenity comic that makes up one-half of one of their Free Comic Book Day offerings. [ComicsAlliance]
You would think that having written a 600-page epic that everyone is talking about, Craig Thompson might rest on his laurels for a while, or at least go to Disneyland. But he’s already back in the studio, working on not one but three projects, and he has a snippet of art from each one on his blog.
All three have very different concepts and looks: An all-ages comic, which has sort of a magical look to it; a “nonfiction/essay-like book”; and an erotic graphic novel. “Habibi explores sexual trauma,” he writes. “This one’s to be a book with actual (drawn) sex.”
Thompson seems to be expanding his horizons in a number of different directions at once, and if all three of these come to fruition, he will have an extraordinarily well-balanced body of work. In the meantime, he promises to share bits of his progress as he goes along, as he did with Habibi, so we can expect lots more teases in the months to come.
Season’s Greetings and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guests are Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows, editors of Devastator: The Quarterly Comedy Magazine for Humans. Their latest issue has a video game theme, with contributions from James Kochalka, Corey Lewis, Danny Hellman and many more. And if you head over to their website between now through Dec. 16, the code ROBOT6 gets you 20 percent off single issues.
To see what Amanda, Geoffrey and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Sales charts | Responding to an iFanboy article that speculates on what titles Marvel might cancel next, Men of War and Viking writer Ivan Brandon makes the case against sales charts and the subsequent analysis of them each month: “There’s an ongoing debate, for a bunch of years now. There are numbers that circulate every month, inaccurate numbers, people track them, people use that flawed ‘data’ to comment on what they see as the progress or decline on the list. A lot of comics professionals are against this, for a lot of reasons. In my case, for my books, the books I personally share copyright on … my reason is, and no offense to anyone out there: My income is none of your business. Just as your income is none of mine.”
Tom Spurgeon offers a counterpoint: “Sales information seems to me an obvious positive, not because it reveals the bank accounts of creators, but because what sells and to what extent is basic information about a marketplace, and the shape and potency of a marketplace seems to me a primary item of interest for anyone covering that marketplace. It’s foundational to our understanding of how things work and why. Certainly this information is already manipulated to brazen effect by companies with something to put over on customers; I have to imagine this would become worse under a system of no information at all being released.” [Ivan Brandon, The Comics Reporter]
I’m not even paraphrasing! In a lengthy and fascinating interview with Nadim Damluji, the writer whose thoughtful critique of Craig Thompson’s Habibi spearheaded the discussion of Thompson’s use of Orientalist tropes and stereotypes in his depiction of Arab and Islamic culture and people (particularly women), Thompson comes right out and welcomes all the sticky, tricky, at times uncomfortable and unpleasant associations his use of harems, slavers, sultans and so on call to mind.
Creators | Longtime Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont is donating his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The collection includes materials for all of his major writing projects over the past 40 years, notebooks with story ideas, drafts of short stories, plays, novels and comic books, and materials from his early training in the theater and his career as an actor. “We hope this is the first of more comics papers to come to the University,” said Karen Green, Columbia University’s ancient/medieval studies librarian and graphic novel librarian. “We want it to be a magnet for these kinds of archives in New York City, where the comics medium was born.” [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Michael Cavna talks to two comics creators with very different takes on Occupy Wall Street, sequential journalist Susie Cagle, who was arrested as part of the Occupy Oakland protests, and conservative editorial cartoonist Nate Beeler, who walks past the Occupy D.C. site every day and regards it as “quaint,” smelly, and out of step with the rest of the country.” [Comic Riffs]
Whatever you end up thinking of it, settling in with a comic book as big as Craig Thompson’s Middle Eastern fantasia Habibi is one of the great pleasures of being a comics reader: “That thing you like doing? Now you’re gonna get to do it for a long, long time.”
For fans of good writing about comics, The Comics Journal‘s roundtable discussion of Habibi affords similar pleasures. Over the course of some 10,000 words, a group of critics and scholars comprising Charles Hatfield, Hayley Campbell, Tom Hart, Katie Haegele, Joe “Jog” McCulloch, and Robot 6′s own Chris Mautner tackle nearly every aspect of Thompson’s remarkably fecund book. Jog’s comprehensive look at Thompson’s mysticism-derived structure for the book — probably the most complex such structure used on this scale by anyone other than Alan Moore — makes the roundtable worth a read all on its own. But I also greatly enjoyed the discussion of the influence of Will Eisner; the potential for race to be a more problematic aspect of the book than religion or culture; the tension between depicting exploitation and being exploitative oneself; the question of whether Thompson leaves room for interpretation or puts everything right there on the page… As with Habibi itself, perhaps it’s best just to dive right in and see where it takes you.
Okay, now I’m picturing the authors of Alec and Subway Series standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, fending off the critical Ringwraiths as Craig Thompson cowers Frodo-style in the background. So yeah, the headline’s a bit dramatic. But in light of critic and scholar Nadim Damluji’s thoughtful and widely linked critique of Thompson’s massive new book Habibi, I thought it worthwhile to direct you to a pair of acclaimed cartoonists’ responses.
Damluji argued that in treating the Orientalist art and literature of the past as just another genre to play with, Thompson ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he presumably set out to subvert when he decided to set his near-future fantasy in a fictional but still recognizably Arab/Islamic culture — particularly where sexuality and male-female relationships, often used by Western nations as a pretext for action against Middle Eastern ones, are concerned. Eddie Campbell responds that Thompson’s interest in these topics, or more generally Love, are consistent; the Middle Eastern trappings of the tale are just the vehicle Thompson selected to get where he’s going:
Conventions | San Diego City Council President Tony Young and Comic-Con International staff are working together on a “marquee event” at Balboa Park that around the time of Comic Con. While convention organizers are interested in a Balboa Park event, they don’t support Yong’s original proposal, a nationally televised parade that would kick off or end the con, saying that the logistics, traffic and crowding would be problematic. [Sign On San Diego]
Conventions | Ohio State University’s student newspaper covers this past weekend’s Mid-Ohio Con. [The Lantern]
Legal | The fate of Michael George was placed in the hands of the jury Thursday after closing arguments in the trial of the former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Although a comic collector places George in the shop around the time of the shooting, George’s mother insists he was asleep on her sofa. The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday, and is expected to continue this morning. [Detroit Free Press]
Legal | Manga blogger Melinda Beasi contemplates the larger implications of the arrest of Brandon X for bringing manga into Canada that authorities deemed to be child pornography: “What terrifies me about Brandon’s case is that each time we allow our courts or communities (any courts or communities) to criminalize comics (any comics), we are inviting them to criminalize our own.” [CBLDF]
King City cartoonist Brandon Graham dropped this beauty on twitpic the other day — it’s a lovely tribute to Craig Thompson’s Middle Eastern epic Habibi, centered on the book’s female lead Dodola. It’s funny: I never would have thought there’d be much visual kinship between Thompson’s lush brushwork and Graham’s thin lines, but both artists have a curvilenear sweep to their work that turns out to make their styles mesh beautifully. And obviously, Graham can pack in the Thompson-esque ornamentation like whoa.
The best thing about the illustration is that no matter what you like about it, you can find more of that thing someplace online today:
Digital comics | Following the entry this week by Image Comics into same-day digital release, 40 percent of the comics that debuted in print Wednesday were also available digitally through comiXology. Asking whether day and date comics are “hitting a tipping point,” retailer news and analysis site ICv2 notes: “Publishers are gaining confidence in the concept as evidence grows that day and date releases do not negatively impact print sales. DC’s bold move to convert its entire line to day and date digital with the New 52 has been the clearest indication yet that digital sales are not cannibalizing print.” [ICv2.com]
Legal | Kickstarter, the two-year-old crowd-funding site used by a variety of artists to fund projects, has asked a federal court to declare invalid a patent held by Brian Camelio, who founded ArtistShare in 2000. Camelio, a composer and former studio musician for the rock band Journey, has obtained a patent for a process that resembles Kickstarter’s own crowd-funding model. According to PaidContent, “Kickstarter ask a federal court to declare that the patent is invalid and that the company is not liable for infringement. If the patent, described as ‘methods and apparatuses for financing and marketing a creative work,’ is valid and Kickstarter is infringing, the site could be forced to shut down or pay significant damages.” [PaidContent]
Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]
Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki's Twitter, The Beat]
Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
It is, thankfully, the last week of September which means that, if I had $15, I only have one more week of new launches from DC to pick out potential favorites, Sophie’s Choice-style. This week: Aquaman #1, Flash #1, Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men #1, Justice League Dark #1 and Superman #1 make the cut (All DC, all $2.99 each).
If I had the chance to add some more money to take that total to $30, I’d go for some Marvel books: Brian Michael Bendis gets well-represented with Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #2 ($3.99); New Avengers #16.1 ($2.99), his “new readers jump on” issue with art by Neal Adams; and Brilliant #1 ($3.99), his new creator-owned book with Mark Bagley. Here’s hoping I’m in a suitably Bendis-y mood when I read all of these ones.
Splurgewise, it has to be Habibi (Pantheon, $35), Craig Thompson’s new graphic novel. I know a few people who’ve had a chance to read it already, and everyone has made it sound like a large leap ahead from Blankets, and something almost worth the many-year wait it’s been since his breakthrough last book. I’m really looking forward to this one.