"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Legal | In their largest raid ever, police departments across Japan arrested 40 people between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 on suspicion of copyright infringement for illegally sharing anime, manga, music and live-action film and television dramas online. The suspects, all men ranging in age from 21 to 65, are accused of uploading such materials as Detective Conan, XXX Holic, The Wind Rises and the Mobile Suit Gundam UC soundtrack. In Japan, such unauthorized uploads are criminal acts punishable by up to 10 years in jail or fines of about $84,000. [Crunchyroll]
Crime | Artist and collector Jim Wheelock talks about the loss of his comics collection, which was stolen from a storage unit in Brattleboro, Vermont: “I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of.” Vermont-based cartoonists James Kochalka and Harry Bliss weigh in on what such a loss would mean. Wheelock’s thousands of comics included extensive runs of The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four, in some cases beginning from the first issues. [Seven Days]
Crime | The Wow Cool Alternative Comics store in Cupertino, California, has been burglarized for the second time in two months, and it looks as if it was the same crew both times. The thieves took cash and pretty much every minicomic and digest in the store, as well as a box of Marvel and DC comics. [Wow Cool Comics]
Political cartoons | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges in his home country, has been invited to speak at a United Nations forum next month in Geneva, Switzerland, titled “Defending Artistic Expression — Time for the UN to Act.” “In my speech, I will reaffirm my stand that freedom of expression for artistes including cartoonists is paramount and cannot be compromised,” he said, and he will also criticize the UN’s lack of commitment to the issue, which has “given more power to corrupt regimes and extremist bigots to be more repressive toward artists.” [The Rakyat Post]
Legal | Kuala Lumpur police raided the office of the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and seized 149 copies of his books Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar and Pirates of the Carry BN. They were looking for the cartoonist himself, but he was in the United Kingdom, speaking at Oxford and Cambridge universities and giving a talk in London titled “To Fight Through Cartoons.” In a press release, Zunar said the raid occurred under the Printing Presses Act, Sedition Act and Penal Code, and that he would be called to the police station on his return to the country; he was arrested under that act in 2010. He also tweeted, “If the cartoons are defamatory, those who feel aggrieved should file a civil suit. No problem. I oppose the use of criminal laws like the Sedition Act” [The Malaysian Insider]
Political cartoons | Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Zineb El-Rhazoui, on a fundraising tour in Canada, said the terrorists who attacked the magazine’s offices and killed 12 people were the ones who made a mockery of religion, not the cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. “This is the most ugly caricature, that this is the most ugly picture of their religion,” she said. “It is not the pictures made by Charlie Hebdo.” [CTV News]
Being a webcomics creator has its challenges, but here’s one you don’t see too often: finding out the title of your long-running strip is being used by someone who tweeting bomb threats to airlines. That’s the surreal situation Mark Mekkes found himself in on Saturday.
Mekkes is the creator of the long-running Zortic, which he describes as “a weekly science fiction, comedy adventure comic with a lot of parody and popular references.” The comic has been running for 14 years, but on Saturday, Mekkes noticed a spike in traffic and social media mentions. He didn’t think too much of it until he got a phone call from his brother-in-law, who had seen “Zortic” mentioned on the national news. The reason: Somebody using the Twitter handle “King Zortic” had tweeted bomb threats to Delta and Southwest airlines, resulting in two planes being escorted by fighter jets to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta and then scoured by bomb squads. The threats were ultimately determined to be a hoax.
Crime | Two cosplayers on their way to G-Anime were arrested Friday in Gatineau, Quebec, and their fake weapons were confiscated. The two men, who were wearing camouflage and carrying what appeared to be guns, were spotted in a parking lot near a number of government buildings (the Canadian Parliament was attacked by a lone gunman in October). Someone called the police, and they dispatched about a dozen officers who cordoned off the area and searched for the men. The cosplayers, who were both 18, were taken into custody and fined $270 for violating a municipal bylaw that prohibits carrying certain weapons in public or in a vehicle, although the law seems to be aimed at knives, bows and arrows, and swords, not guns. Their car was impounded, and their weapons are being held as evidence. G-Anime organizers posted a notice Friday asking attendees wearing camouflage or carrying replica weapons to wait until they arrive a the convention to change into costumes. [Ottawa Sun]
Publishing | U.K. comics distributor Impossible Books will close up shop on Feb. 28, after two years in the business. On their blog, owners Camila Barboza and Taylor Lilley explained they simply don’t have the time and energy for the enterprise any longer. They are putting their titles on sale in the meantime, and Zainab Akhtar has some recommendations for bargain-minded readers. [Comics & Cola]
Crime | Daryl Cagle’s website, which hosts a lot of editorial cartoons, went down last week after being hit by a Distributed Denial of Service attack. Cagle tells Alan Gardner that his site gets attacked by hackers fairly frequently, but the latest was different in that the only goal was to take down the site. Gardner speculates it may be related to cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad and Charlie Hebdo. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Legal | There’s one fewer party in the lawsuit over the use of the term “comic con”: Newspaper Agency Corp., which produces materials for Salt Lake Comic Con, has settled with the organizers of Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic-Con sued both in August, claiming trademark infringement. Update: A Comic-Con International spokesman clarified that the settlement with the Newspaper Agency Corp. — a printing, advertising and delivery company owned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News under a joint operating agreement — is already in effect, with the company agreeing to a court order that prevents it from using the mark “Comic-Con,” “Comic Con” or its variants in the materials it produces. The lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con organizers continues. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Crime | Someone tossed a homemade fire bomb into the offices of the German newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost at about 2 a.m. on Sunday. Firefighters put out the fire quickly, and no one was in the offices at the time. The paper published three of the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo on Thursday with the headline “This much freedom must be possible!” [The Telegraph]
Editorial cartoons | Michael Kupperman relates his frustrating, and short-lived, experience as a cartoonist for The New York Times. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
A Texas company has sued Harris County and its district attorney’s office over high-priced comic books that were seized in an embezzlement case, only to be stolen by investigators.
As you may recall, attorney Anthony Chiofalo was charged in January 2013 with siphoning from employer Tadano America upwards of $9.3 million, much of which he spent on sports memorabilia and vintage comics, including a Detective Comics #27 worth about $900,000. His house and storage units were raided, and the collectibles seized as evidence — all standard procedure.
But then two investigators with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office allegedly hatched a scheme to steal some of those comics — worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — and sell them at a Chicago convention. Lonnie Blevins, who left the DA’s office before his arrest in February 2013 on federal charges, pleaded guilty in May 2014 to stealing the vintage comics; his former partner Dustin Deutsch was indicted just last month. Not to be forgotten, Chiofalo was sentenced in May to 40 years in prison.
Now, Courthouse News Service reports, Tadano America is seeking damages for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and fraudulent concealment, accusing the DA’s office of failing “to notice that their employees removed several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of highly collectible comic books” from storage units. The crane manufacturer obtained an $8.9 million judgment against Chiafalo in 2012, making those comics the company’s property.
Crime | Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested two men on Friday on charges of stealing $5,000 worth of comics from a local collector. After the robbery, the collector contacted local comic shops and asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen goods. Several retailers gave police information, including a license plate number, that led to the arrests of Gino Saenz and Jose Gonzalez on charges of theft. [San Antonio Express-News]
Digital comics | Humble Bundle sold $3 million worth of DRM-free digital comics in 2014, the first year in which the company included e-books and comics in its bundles. Total e-book revenues were $4.75 million, of which $1.2 million went to charity (including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). That may sound like a lot of money, but as director of e-books Kelley Allen said, “The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” because the audience for the latter is so vast. Humble Bundle’s e-books are DRM-free, which has been a stumbling block for traditional book publishers, but comics publishers are more flexible, Allen said. [Publishers Weekly]
Crime | Artist Josh C. Lyman reports that thieves broke into his car sometime on Monday or Tuesday and stole about 40 pieces of original art (some of it commissioned), 1,200 prints, plus convention setup materials, art supplies and clothes. “I’m more devastated in the fact my originals are all gone … some of my better non-commissioned work of the last 3 years … along with all of my tools I have earned and acquired during the aforementioned periods. Tshirts and the like I can slowly replace … but it’s the matter of having all this potential art for shows gone; along with all the posters I had left,” he writes. Lyman contacted police and has notified local comic shops to keep an eye out for the missing work, and he has posted images of the stolen art. [Facebook, via Bleeding Cool]
Censorship | Rachael Jolley takes a long and wide view of the pressures that political cartoonists are subject to, looking at several recent attempts to suppress editorial cartoonists as well as the history of tensions between creators of political cartoons and those they portray; the article also includes comments from Neil Gaiman on the topic of censorship. [The New Statesman]
The Wow Cool | Alternative Comics store, opened early this year in Cupertino, California, by Marc Arsenault, was burglarized over the weekend, with the thieves making off with “several hundred dollars of comics and books.”
“The thief or thieves were bizarrely selective in their choices of books to remove,” Arsenault, who purchased Alternative Comics in 2012, writes on the Wow Cool website. “Several new Alternative Comics-published books were removed, including copies of Derf Backderf’s True Stories, Devin Flynn’s Hawd Tales and four copies of Noah Van Sciver’s A City of Whiskey and Fire. Also missing were about 2/3 of a couple of shelves of big fancy art books and our hodgepodge shelfs of larger art books and political and slice of life comics including books by Henriette Valium, Keith Knight, Lloyd Dangle, and Neil Gaiman, including at least one signed edition.”
Arsenault said the thief, or thieves, used “a very large rock” to shatter a window and enter the store, which shares space with multimedia studio/mail-order house Wow Cool and indie publisher Alternative Comics.
Crime | Wichita, Kansas’ KWCH TV is showcasing the Nov. 19 burglary of comics and collectibles store Riverhouse Traders as its Crime Stoppers crime of the week. The thieves apparently knew what they were looking for, and stole a reported $300,000 worth of rare comic books and memorabilia, leaving owner Mark Rowland with an unwanted shift in priorities: He has always given free comics to local children who get As on their report cards, and he provides gifts to local families at Christmas, but this year he has to cut back to pay for a security system. [KWCH]
Creators | Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Terry Dodson discuss their new graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth One. George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s Teen Titans were Lemire’s gateway to comics, so he was particularly enthusiastic about this project, and, he that affected his choice of a cast: “My decision early on was just to use the unique characters that Marv and George created that weren’t sidekicks, and that freed me from having to establish the adult superheroes in this world.” [Comic Riffs]
A Rochester, New York, businessman admitted Friday he orchestrated a 2010 home invasion that resulted in the death of a 77-year-old comic book collector.
Although Rico J. Vendetti faced federal murder charges, The Buffalo News reports he pleaded guilty to racketeering for planning the robbery of the $30,000 comic book collection of retired custodian Homer Marciniak, and hiring seven people to pull it off.
Prosecutors contend that Vendetti had long operated an eBay scam in which he hired “professional boosters” to steal $665,000 in merchandise from stores in the region and then sell it to him for 25 cents on the dollar. He in turn would list the items on Craiglist and eBay, earning an estimated $42,000 a month.
Vendetti allegedly had a similar scheme in mind when he learned about the classic comic collection of Marciniak, a well-liked man who lived alone in the village of Medina, New York. Authorities say the hired criminals cut the phone line to Marciniak’s house on July 5, 2010, only to be confronted by him once they were inside. The burglars beat the homeowner and knocked him to the floor, and made off with the comics, safes, cash, coins and guns.
Crime | Nineteen people were sent to hospitals early Sunday following what appears to have been the intentional release of chlorine gas at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont, Illinois, host of the Midwest FurFest furry convention. The incident began shortly after midnight, when firefighters and hazmat crews responded to a complaint of a noxious odor on the ninth floor of the hotel, where they found high levels of chlorine gas. Guests were evacuated, with many sent to the nearby Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Hazmat technicians found what they suspect to be powdered chlorine in a stairwell at the ninth floor. The Rosemont police are treating the event as a crime, as it appears the gas release was intentional. The hotel was decontaminated and the attendees were allowed to return around 4:20 a.m. Midwest FurFest, which with nearly 4,000 attendees in 2013 claims to be the second-largest furry convention in the world, issued a statement about the incident. [Chicago Tribune]