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Pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner passes away

morrie turner2Wee Pals creator Morrie Turner, the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, passed away Saturday in a Sacramento, California, hospital. He was 90 years old.

Raised in Oakland, Turner was a self-taught artist who drew cartoons for Army newspapers while serving during World War II with the 477th Bomber group. Following his discharge, he worked as a police clerk while also creating strips for a number of publications.

In 1959, the black daily newspaper the Chicago Defender began publishing his all-black strip Dinky Fellas, created with the encouragement of his friend Charles Schulz after Turner expressed a desire for a comic that reflected his childhood experiences. But it wasn’t until Turner diversified the cast, introducing kids from different ethnic backgrounds, that Wee Pals was born.

“All the kids were different,” the cartoonist recalled in a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “White, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, black. It was a rainbow. I didn’t know that wasn’t the way it was other places. Oakland was that way before the war. We were all equal. Nobody had any money.”

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Jackie Estrada launches Kickstarter to fund comics photo book

Comic Book People D1.inddIndustry mainstay Jackie Estrada, administrator of the Eisner Awards and co-publisher of Exhibit A Press, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a coffee-table book collecting photos of creators she took of comic creators and related figures in the 1970s and ’80s.

Titled simply Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, the hardcover collects about 600 photos taken at comics and sci-fi conventions and other events, and includes shots of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, C.C. Beck, Murphy Anderson, Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Archie Goodwin, Moebius, Osamu Tezuka, Charles Schulz, Chuck Jones and many more.

“These are rare shots from the days before comics and conventions were big pop culture events,” Estrada explains on the Kickstarter page, “when the founding fathers of the artform were still among us and today’s top talents were just aspiring young pros trying to get noticed. If you were there, this is a great way to recall fond memories. If you weren’t, these photos are a candid and unfiltered picture of a simpler time, familiar but far away.”

Her goal is $18,000; to help get there, she’s offering incentives like postcards and a calendar featuring photos from the book, signed copies and a one-of-a-kind booklet containing photos selected by the backer.

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Comics A.M. | Small Press Expo table lottery begins Friday

SPX

SPX

Conventions | Registration begins Friday for the Small Press Expo 2014 Exhibitor Table Lottery, a new system designed to both bring the old process into the 21st century and address rapidly increasing demand. Online registration will continue through Feb. 14, with lottery winners announced on Feb. 21. There’s a good deal of information to absorb, but convention organizers have created a lottery FAQ. [SPX]

Publishing | Reports of the demise of Ape Entertainment turns out to have been premature. The company, which had one of the bestselling digital comics a few years ago with Pocket God, has been quiet of late and recently canceled a number of outstanding orders. However, COO Brett Erwin emerged Tuesday to say the publisher is simply going through a period of reorganization after the departure of CEO David Hedgecock, who now works for IDW. Ape will release a new Fruit Ninja comic at the end of the month. [The Beat]

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NYCC | A round-up of Friday news

New York Comic Con picked up steam in its second day with announcements from Vertigo, Dark Horse, Marvel, IDW Publishing and Image, and the possibility of Sesame Street comics. Here are some of the highlights:

• Following in the footsteps of DC Comics: The New 52, most of Vertigo’s titles will be available digitally the same day as print.

• Geoff Johns announced that work is about to get under way on a Robot Chicken DC Comics special that will skewer the company’s superheroes in the same way that the show tackled Star Wars. The episode, written by Johns and MAD‘s Kevin Shinick, is set to air next summer.

• Confirming last-minute speculation, Ed Brubaker announced that he and frequent collaborator Sean Phillips (Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito) will release their next project through Image Comics. Called Fatale, the series blends noir elements with the supernatural world. “I’ve been wanting for a while to do something with a more supernatural element to it,” Brubaker told Comic Book Resources. “So Fatale mixes what we do and all the ways we’ve poked fun at the noir genre. If Incognito was us doing ‘What if Doc Savage, Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler had all existed in the same universe?’ then this is a weird combo of James M. Cain and Lovecraft. It’s got a real horror element to it — the first time I’ve really tried to do anything with horror — but it’s also got this really epic story to it.”

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Ben Hatke talks comics, does backflips

Zita the Spacegirl creator Ben Hatke is apparently pretty new to the publicity machine, as he actually was excited to do an author appearance in a bookstore—and he chronicles his adventures in this absolutely adorable comic strip at the website of First Second, his publisher. It’s a nice look at the experience through the eyes of the main attraction—and even better, one who is not jaded yet. Plus it shows off Hatke’s loose, fluid style, which gets tightened up a bit in his published work.

Here’s a preview of Zita the Spacegirl, which is kid-friendly but fun for adult readers as well.

Udon invites you to pay tribute to Mega Man

Udon Entertainment, which has published several Mega Man manga, is putting out an artbook paying tribute to the venerable video game-cartoon-comics franchise, and they are inviting everyone to participate:

UDON is sending out a call to comic artists, video game artists, freelance illustrators, and fan artists all around the world to show us your artistic tribute to Mega Man! Give us your best artwork featuring the cast of Mega Man®, Mega Man® X, Mega Man® Zero, Mega Man® ZX, and Mega Man® Legends. All styles are welcome – anime, western comic style, cartoon, pixel-based, sculptures – whatever you can come up with as your tribute to the blue bomber!

The fine print includes some fairly specific legal stipulations. Characters from the Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force series are not allowed, and crossovers are also verboten. And the characters have to be from the games only, not comics or animation. “For example, the green Mega Man from the Captain N animated series is not allowed.” Got that? And no fan-created characters: “You may not, for example, create your own Zebra-themed Robot Master named ‘Zebra Man’.” Damn! Plus no drinking, smoking, or nudity, although now that I think about it, those elements probably be hard to integrate into a Mega Man comic anyway. (Not impossible, but difficult.)

On the other hand, the editors are open to a variety of different styles. The top 300 entries will be published and the creators will get a copy of the book.

Why do webcomics work?

The action at NEWW (photo by Mike Peterson)

Mike Peterson went to the New England Webcomics Weekend, and if you are curious how it went but not familiar with all the names involved, his is the account to read, as he gives a good general overview of the event. plus a few conversations with individuals. I liked this in particular, from part two of his account:

There was a lot of laughter and a lot of conversation, but it was basically a mass book-signing event, with this important difference:

What makes webcomic fans so loyal is the sense of community that springs up around a successful webcomic. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of emailing back-and-forth with individual fans, but it does mean creating place online where they can feel their input and their presence is of value to you and perhaps has some effect on the cartoon itself. “Success” and “community” are inseparable, and it’s a major reason why, as mentioned yesterday, you can’t hide in your garret churning out amazing art and expect to succeed in this medium.

(His hiding-in-a-garret point is from part one.) A lot of the successful webcomics that I see have blogs or comment areas, which helps promote the feeling of community, and of course everyone is on Facebook and Twitter nowadays. The result is that while the Stan Lee of my childhood was a distant figure sitting at a desk in a skyscraper in New York (itself an abstract concept to a Midwestern kid like me), todays comics creators are all over the place, and their readers can interact with them on more than one level—read the comic, buy the T-shirt, follow them on Twitter, chat with them at cons. Of course, print comics creators have gotten a lot more accessible as well, but it seems to be more fundamental to the webcomics model.


A real-time graph of webcomics income

Dorothy Gambrell, creator of the webcomic Cat and Girl, tracks her income via some nicely designed bar graphs that make interesting reading for anyone curious about the webcomics model. The graphs show not only how much she makes but what she makes it on as well as big expenditures (trip to MoCCA, printing books). In one way, Gambrell is living the stereotype: Her biggest source of income in most months is T-shirt sales, although she sold a lot of books in August. Freelance work also gives her a boost. The bottom line: So far this year, she has taken in $10,087.56 from her comic, a respectable second income but not enough to live on. And that isn’t her net—she has yet to deduct taxes, PayPal fees, and other expenses. One encouraging sign is that the overall trend is up; she had a dip in July, but August was her best month yet. Sean Kleefeld analyzed the numbers a bit and figures she’ll end the year with a gross income of about $20,000.

Sam Costello’s Tales from the Cashbox

Split Lip creator Sam Costello has written a series of four articles for iFanboy about the publishing life, and they are all worth a look, but the last one is particularly compelling because he reveals the real numbers behind his publishing operation.

Sam is the writer of Split Lip, a horror anthology comic that he describes as “along the lines of the Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt.” He hires artists to draw the comic, and he pays them up front; it starts as a webcomic, then he collects the stories into print editions, which he self-publishes. How’s that working out for him? Sam figures he lost $7,863.32 between July 2009 and June 2010. Publishing is hard, especially when you pay your artists up front (unlike, say, Bluewater Comics, which does everything on spec).

Sam spends a bit of time debating whether he should simply regard the comics thing as an expensive hobby, but he decides in the end that it’s more of an investment.

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Moto Hagio speaks

A Drunken Dream

A Drunken Dream

As manga fans well know, manga creators (manga-ka) are very reticent about talking about anything interesting. The chat sections of manga are filled with accounts of their favorite pastries or sketches of their cats, and interviews seldom go beyond “I am trying very hard to make a manga that my fans will enjoy.” So Shaenon Garrity’s interview with Moto Hagio (and her translator, Matt Thorn), is a bracing blast of fresh air. Hagio is one of the most respected manga-ka both inside and outside Japan, but her work is hard to find in English; that’s about to change with Fantagraphics’ release of A Drunken Dream and Other Stories.

In the interview, Hagio discussed her influences, including American science fiction writers Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury, as well as manga-ka Osamu Tezuka, Shotaro Ishinomori, and Leiji Matsumoto. And she gets into some issues as well:

SG: Your work also shows the influence of psychological theories. How did you get interested in psychology, and how has it affected your writing?

MH: I had always been interested in psychology, but when I was in my late twenties my relationship with my parents, which had never been very good, got worse and worse. To try to understand them, I started to read more about psychology. Unfortunately, most of the books at the time talked about people with clearly defined mental illnesses and where they could go for treatment. There wasn’t as much about people who were just ornery.

Finally I turned to a book on astrology and compared my parents’ birthdates with my own. According to the book, we were just incompatible.

Later on, Hagio discusses how that factors into her use of fantasy to describe real-life situations:

You can analyze it in different ways, and there’s a cause somewhere in there, but it’s not a cause you can explain rationally. I try to capture that feeling through fantasy.

There’s plenty more there, and at one point Hagio turns the tables and starts quizzing Garrity about why boys love manga is popular in the U.S. Good times!

Crayon Shin-chan to return despite creator’s demise

Manga Town

Manga Town

Legacy comics, which continue on long after their creator’s death, are common in the U.S. but less so in Japan. However, Crayon Shin-chan, the story of a mischievous little boy who drives his mother crazy with his smart talk and childish pranks, will continue despite the fact that creator Yoshito Usui died last September, presumably from a fall from a cliff while hiking. He had built up a big enough backlog that the series continued to run until March in the monthly magazine Manga Town, and then it stopped. But now, the Mainichi Daily News reports, thanks to popular demand, Usui’s assistants are reviving the comic starting with the September issue.

Crayon Shin-chan was first published in the U.S. by Comics One and then, after that company became defunct, it was picked up with a new translation by CMX Manga—now also defunct. One begins to wonder if it isn’t cursed, except that the anime is still going strong.

Neil Gaiman: ‘George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.’

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

Here’s the quote heard ’round the internet today, from comics writer/novelist Neil Gaiman. Specifically, he was responding to a fan of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, but just substitute Martin’s name with John Cassaday or J.G. Jones and Song of Ice and Fire with Planetary or Final Crisis, and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

The fan wanted to know if it was unrealistic “to think that by not writing the next chapter Martin is letting me down, even though if and when the book gets written is completely up to him?”

Gaiman sums it up pretty succinctly: “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch,” The Sandman creator said. “This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now.”

This reminded me of a post I did last year — it was a post about an upcoming comics convention, and one of the guests was Final Crisis artist J.G. Jones. One of the fine folks in the comments section pointed out that Final Crisis was late, and they were shocked Jones would take a weekend off to go to a convention instead of staying home to work on the book. Never mind that Jones going to a convention isn’t exactly him blowing off and screwing around; in his case, it’s actually work, and second, it’s the weekend, two days that many, many other people in the country don’t actually work.

Anyway, go check out Gaiman’s full post; sometimes it’s good to be reminded that comics, books and other forms of entertainment we all enjoy aren’t being created by machines.

Robot Love | Q&A with Love and Capes creator Thom Zahler

Love and Capes Valentine

Love and Capes Valentine

Since 2006 Thom Zahler has been chronicling the romance of Mark and Abby, a.k.a. The Crusader and, um, Abby in the self-published book Love and Capes. As a part of Robot Love week here at Robot 6, Zahler shares a little bit about the couple, romance, the future of the book and a special promotion for fans that ties into the couple’s big day.

JK: What I love about Love and Capes is that the relationship between Abby and Mark is the kind everyone wants, the kind to root for. What kind of relationship advice do you think Mark and Abby would offer somebody less lucky at love than they’ve been?

Thom: Abby would say that you have to kiss a lot of frogs. She was a little unsure of dating Mark when they first met. She took a chance on him after a lot of bad dates with other guys, and wound up being surprised with this quiet guy. We’ll see how, too, because in an upcoming issue, we’ll see their first date.

She’d tell you to be confident, too. Your vision of yourself and how you really are don’t always mesh. Abby dating a superhero is very much like a grade-school teacher dating a rock star. You do kind of look and say “What does the rock star see in that little common person when they hang out with supermodels and actors all the time.” What the other person is looking for is something only they know, so don’t be surprised when they find it in you.

Abby’s very much Mark’s rock in a way Amazonia never could be. Some people think, “Oh, she’d NEVER go for me” or “I’m not good enough for her.” You’ve got to trust that the other person knows what they want.

And she’d also say, “Watch out for the ex.”

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Robot Love | I ♥ learning from comics

Agents of Atlas

Agents of Atlas

Editor’s Note: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’ve declared this the week of Robot Love and resurrected I ♥ Comics. In one of our favorite features, various comics creators, bloggers, retailers and fans discuss the things they love about the medium.

Today we welcome our guest Jeff Parker, creator of The Interman, co-creator of Mysterius: The Unfathomable and writer of a lot of Marvel’s comics — Agents of Atlas, Age of the Sentry, X-Men First Class: Finals and Exiles.

by Jeff Parker

These comics we read can make us smart. Or at least, able to kill Seat 28D during the InFlight Trivia Challenge.

Comics have an inordinately facile ability to get information into the reader’s head. A few years ago I was in Washington, D.C. running around looking at monuments and the like, and I took the once-a-week tour of the Federal Reserve building. It’s surprisingly cool, do it when you’re there on a Thursday sometime. At the end of the tour they gave out a COMIC BOOK that attempted to explain how the Fed works. It was badly drawn, weakly colored, and yet- it actually got across to me some understanding of the mysterious process by which the Fed sets interest rates and influences economic growth or tries to thwart inflation. I was impressed that they took the steps to make a comics giveaway, and it made me happy to retrace the steps they must have gone through. As the guide of the day had explained, one of the big hurdles the people in the Federal Reserve have is trying to explain to the public how they do what they do. The job description requires some understanding of economic theory and process to even get to the nuts and bolts. They obviously spent a lot of time trying to figure out what delivery system could get the curious up to speed, and they arrived at a flimsy newsprint comic with no coated stock cover. And I still have it. They also showed a film about the Fed, but the comic still did a better job distilling the information.

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WonderCon ’09 | Panel schedule announced

wonderconComic-Con International has posted the programming for WonderCon, which is coming up Feb. 27-March 1 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. As its run by the same folks who do San Diego, it has that same feel and variety, but is a little more laid back and low key than the madness that is the San Diego Comic Con. My brother and I were able to walk right into the X-Files panel last year just as it started … same with the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles panel. I don’t think you could ever do something like that at San Diego. In any event, it’s a great opportunity to see creators and actually chat with them a bit.

Let’s see what will be going on …

• Marvel’s been absent from WonderCon for the past couple of years, and while they don’t appear to have a booth, they do have a presence this year. Both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are guests of honor, and it looks like Jeph Loeb, Mark Paniccia and Axel Alonso, among others, will also be there. Of note is a discussion between Fraction and author Michael Chabon on Saturday that will likely be worth the price of admission alone.

• Speaking of special guests, Brian Azzarello and Dave Johnson are also attending and will host a panel on 100 Bullets on Saturday … followed by a night at Isotope Comics. And although Dan DiDio won’t be at the con this year, DC’s got Jim Lee, Will Dennis, Ian Sattler, James Robinson and Aaron Lopresti, among others.

• Oni Press, IDW, Dark Horse, BOOM!, SLG, Aspen and Top Cow will also be on hand, both on the floor and at various panels to talk about their latest projects.

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