Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Comic strips | The art from cartoonist Bill Watterson’s surprise return to the comics page earlier this month for a three-day stint on Pearls Before Swine will be auctioned Aug. 8 on behalf of Team Cul de Sac, the charity founded by Chris Sparks to honor Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, who has Parkinson’s disease. The proceeds benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. A painting by Watterson of one of Thompson’s characters sold in 2012 for $13,000 as part of a benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac. [Team Cul de Sac]
Creators | The tech news site Pando has fired cartoonist Ted Rall, just a month after hiring him, along with journalist David Sirota. While Rall wouldn’t comment on the reason for his dismissal, he did say the news came “really truly out of a clear blue sky. I literally never got anything but A++ reviews,” and he added that editor Paul Carr gave him complete editorial freedom. While Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku speculates that the two had rubbed investors the wrong way, Carr disputes that, as well as other assertions in the article. Nonetheless, both Rall and Sirota confirmed they were let go. [Valleywag]
Bill Watterson has granted so few interviews in the 18 years since Calvin and Hobbes ended that when the rare one does surface, it certainly deserves attention. Such is the case with this new, if brief, Q&A released this morning by The Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
The chat centers on Exploring Calvin and Hobbes, an exhibit of original strips and specialty pieces opening Saturday, but broadens to include topics like Watterson’s process, the digital arena, and the decreasing likelihood another comic strip will resonate with so many people the way his did.
Creators | Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson discuss their mutual admiration and their excitement about exhibiting their work together next spring at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Luming, who uses the nom de plume “Rebel Pepper,” was arrested Wednesday, one day after he posted an online cartoon critical of police who were facing off with protestors rather than helping flood victims in the city of Yuyao. Residents have been critical of the government response to the flood, which put 70 percent of the city underwater, but a recently passed law suppressing online commentary has muted the criticism on social media. The Beijing Times (part of of the traditional media, which is heavily controlled by the Chinese government) claimed that Wang was arrested not because of the cartoon but because he spread a false rumor online (Reuters reports the police told his girlfriend it was because he forwarded a post about a woman and her child who starved to death in the floods). He was released Thursday and tweeted, “When I have time, I’ll tell you about the interesting night I spent at the police station.” [Foreign Policy]
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Manga | Hiroaki Samura will bring his long-running samurai revenge epic Blade of the Immortal to a close in the February issue of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine (on stands Dec. 25) after 19 years. The series is published in the United States by Dark Horse; the 25th volume was released in North America in August. [Anime News Network]
Political cartoons | NPR talks to several editorial cartoonists about the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s decision to run cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed. The general sense seems to be that while the magazine had the right to do so, it wasn’t a good idea given the turmoil already caused by the YouTube trailer for Innocence of Muslims. Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker said, “Over the last few years, people have gotten the idea that cartoons are radioactive because they have the power to inspire riots. That doesn’t help cartooning in a certain sense.” And Daryl Cagle observes that the long-term effect is to make editors more timid. [NPR]
Richard Thompson ended the five-year syndicated run of Cul de Sac on Sunday with a funny and touching salute to “the dying art form” of the comic strip. The cartoonist revealed last month that his struggle with Parkinson’s disease had just become too much for him to meet deadline demands.
”At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed” Thompson said in a statement at the time. “Last winter, I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.”
This morning many client newspapers announced comics-page replacements for Cul de Sac, with Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate and Hilary Price’s Rhymes With Orange emerging as apparent favorites (although the Las Vegas Review-Journal opted instead to bring back Bruce Tinsley’s Mallard Fillmore). Tom Spurgeon notes that Thompson’s syndicate is re-running Cul de Sac online from the beginning.
For those that aren’t in the know, it was announced last week that Richard Thompson (the cartoonist, not the Fairport Convention guitarist) is bringing to a close his daily comic strip Cul de Sac due to the demands of his ongoing struggle with Parkinson’s disease. It’s rotten news, both in the sense that a talented artist is being denied the opportunity to make a living doing what he loves and, from a more selfish perspective, the sense that readers like myself will be denied the opportunity to enjoy what I regard as the best comic strip going, no arguments.
In honor of Mr. Thompson (who, by the way, I’ve had the great pleasure of interviewing and is a warm, funny and lovely man) I thought, rather than try to sift through and pick my favorite individual strips (a madman’s game if ever there was one) I’d list some of my favorite characters instead. Hopefully my meager descriptions will be enough to spur those of you unfamiliar with the strip to check it out, either online, in a book or — dare I imagine it — an actual newspaper.
1. Mr. Danders. Mr. Danders is the guinea pig that resides at Blisshaven Preschool, which young Alice Otterloop (ostensibly the strip’s main character due to her sheer force of will) attends. He’s easily the most erudite and sophisticated creature in the strip — not that it does him any good, being stuck in a cage all day and all. He’s a bit given to overstating his own importance and stretching the truth from time to time (the hermit crab next door dubs him a “resume-padder”). Still, he serves an important role at Blisshaven, “gweeping” encouragement to the students whenever possible. Not that they notice.
Creators | Cartoonist Stacy Curtis talks about inking Cul de Sac for creator Richard Thompson, who announced last week he’s ending the celebrated comic strip because Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to maintain the schedule: “I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked. It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines. And that’s what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator’s voice say, ‘For tonight’s performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis.'” The final strip will appear Sept. 23. [Stacy Curtis]
Graphic novels | Andrews McMeel Publishing, which has focused on comic strips and comic strip compilations up to now, has announced its first original graphic novel series: The Chronicles of Desmond, by Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio and Heart of the City. The books will be published in October 2013 under Andrews McMeel’s new AMP! imprint and will be aimed at middle-grade readers. [Publishers Weekly]
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Caleb Goellner, pug lover and senior editor of ComicsAlliance.
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Cartoonist Richard Thompson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009, will end his acclaimed comic strip Cul de Sac next month, The Washington Post reports. The announcement was made this morning by his syndicate Universal Uclick.
“The last year has been a struggle for Richard,” the syndicate said in a letter to client newspapers. “Parkinson’s disease, first diagnosed in 2009, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task.” The final comic strip will appear Sept. 23.
Thompson, who received the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, explained in a statement that, ”At first it didn’t affect my drawing, but that’s gradually changed. Last winter, I got an excellent cartoonist, Stacy Curtis, to ink my roughs, which was a great help. But now I’ve gotten too unreliable to produce a daily strip.”
Launched in 2007, Cul de Sac focuses on 4-year-old Alice Otterloop and her suburban life with her friends, family, family, and classmates at Blisshaven Academy pre-school. It’s syndicated in more than 150 newspapers.
According to The Washington Post, the oil painting of Cul de Sac character Petey Otterloop fetched the highest bid of the more than 100 works donated for Team Cul de Sac, created to honor cartoonist Richard Thompson following his recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. All of the proceeds from the auction benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation to support Parkinson’s research.
Nearly $50,000 was raised by the online sale, which included original art by the likes of Sergio Aragones, Danielle Corsetto, Evan Dorkin, Cathy Guiswite, Lynn Johnston, Karl Kesel, Roger Langridge, Patrick McDonnell, Stephan Pastis, Lincoln Peirce, Don Rosa, R. Sikoryak and Mort Walker. The artwork is also collected in the book Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s, which arrived in stores Tuesday. A portion of the proceeds from book sales also benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Watterson explained his approach to Thompson’s character last year to the Post: “I thought it might be funny to paint Petey ‘seriously,’ as if this were the actual boy Richard hired as a model for his character. At first I intended to do the picture in a dark, Rembrandt-like way to accentuate the ‘high art’ of painting vs the ‘low art’ of comics — the joke being that the comic strip is intelligent and the painting is idiotic — but the picture went through quite a few permutations as it developed.”
With the Team Cul de Sac benefit art book set for release on June 5, Heritage has begun auctioning off original art from the project to, like the book, raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Like Fox, Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Up for auction are pieces by Karl Kesel (above), Sergio Aragones, Bill Watterson, Gary Trudeau, Pat Oliphant, Evan Dorkin, Bill Amend, Roger Langridge, David Malki, Mort Walker and many more. The auctions started on Monday and will run for two weeks.
There have been a few glaring omissions in the newspaper comics world over the past few days.
The more serious one is the loss of Cul de Sac, one of freshest, funniest comics around, which will go on hiatus for three or four weeks while creator Richard Thompson goes through a course of physical therapy for his Parkinson’s Disease. In his usual gracious way, Thompson finds something funny in all this:
I’ve only been in for an evaluation, but the therapy largely consists of big, exaggerated movements and sweeping silly walks that will so embarrass your body that it’ll start behaving itself, I hope. Also I’ll learn ten ways to defeat a mugger by falling on him.
The gap may not be noticeable to those who don’t look to closely, as Thompson will rerun some older Cul de Sac strips during the hiatus.
Longtime readers of Robot 6 know there is much love among the gang for Max Overacts, the popular Eisner-nominated webcomic by Caanan Grall. The webcomic came off of a brief hiatus in June 2011. Here’s the basic premise of Max Overacts: “The strip is about Max’s unbridled optimism, and his quest to be the next greatest thespian. He wears his heart on his sleeve for his self-proclaimed leading lady, Janet, and lords his ‘planned’ status over his ‘accidental’ older sister, Andromeda. His best friend is Klaus, when his ventriloquist doll, Curio, isn’t around.” In addition to discussing the strip, we also talk about his recent Muppet Thor mashup.
Tim O’Shea: How much of an effort was it to design the relatively large cast of Max Overacts? How long was it in the development stage before you found Max’s voice?
Caanan Grall: Most of the characters were pretty easy to figure out. I tried tons of different looks for Max, but inevitably ended up back at the very first one I sketched. The funny thing is, when you make up characters, and the name and character traits come first, it’s almost instinctual that the first design you do is the right one. Max’s parents probably went through the most changes, because at first, the characters weren’t defined enough. They began life on the sketchbook page as the standard harried parents, always struggling to stay one step ahead of the bank, and two steps ahead of their kids. Now, they’re still like that, but they’re fine with it. They’re not rich, but they’re happy, positive people.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kelson Vibber, Flash fan and proprietor of the Speed Force blog. To see what Kelson and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.