X-POSITION: Yost Gives His X-Men an "Amazing" End
Comics fans who tuned in last night to the premiere of Fox’s ambitious reality series Utopia may have been shocked to see a familiar face: Bizarro creator Dan Piraro is the show’s host and narrator. Surprised? So is he.
“Think about it,” the Reuben Award-winning cartoonist writes on his blog. “I’m at home in my sweatpants working on my cartoon career like I’ve been doing for the past 30 years, a friend asks me if I’d like to do some voiceover work for a TV show and I’m thinking, ‘Sure. If I can make a few extra bucks talking into a microphone for a few hours a week, I’m game.’ A few weeks later I’m on national TV, posing for publicity shots, and going on press junkets. I didn’t even have an agent or a headshot when this started. People who’ve been working for this kind of break in showbiz for years must hate me, and I can’t blame them. To them, I can only say I’m sorry.”
The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).
However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]
The one-panel cartoon, titled “Divine Intervention,” depicts a trio of angels confronting God with a list of how his behavior affects others, ending with, “… and then there was the weekend bender when you reached rock bottom and created man.” It’s not the stuff of such anodyne comics-page mainstays as Family Circus or Garfield, but it hardly seems offensive.
Yet the editor of the Paris, Tennessee, Post-Intelligencer donned sackcloth and ashes in reaction to a phone call from a displeased reader. “We won’t repeat its irreverent humor, accusing God is sinning — let’s just say we were horrified that we didn’t pay attention to it in advance, when we should have refused to publish it,” states the editor’s note in Wednesday’s paper. “We apologize to all our readers offended by this particular comic strip. And we’ll try to do a better job of ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.
Publishing | With the release today in Japan of the 60th volume of One Piece, 200 million copies of Eiichiro Oda’s hit comedy-adventure will have been published. What’s more, this volume’s 3.4 million copies will break the record set by the previous volume. As of late August, One Piece had sold 20 million copies in 2010 alone — four times that of Naruto, the second-highest selling manga. On a related note, a 35-year-old Japanese man was arrested for copyright violation for allegedly distributing four manga, including the 59th volume of One Piece, online. [Japanator, The Mainichi Daily News]
Crime | Six people accused in the July robbery of a 77-year-old New York comics collector who died of a heart attack hours later could be charged with murder if police can link the crime to his death. [Democrat and Chronicle]
Conventions | Wizard Entertainment CEO Gareb Shamus announced he has acquired the two-year-old NOLA Comic-Con, which will become part of the Jan. 29-30 Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con. [press release]
Conventions | A limited number of four-day memberships for Comic-Con International will go on sale at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST today as part of hotel-stay packages. [Comic-Con]
Conventions | Michael Cieply looks at Comic-Con as a destination for filmmakers to promote their next big projects, and convention attendees as “consummate insiders” who don’t always pick the box-office winners. [The New York Times]
Legal | As a Brussels court decides whether Tintin in the Congo should be banned in Belgium, Pallavi Aiyar provides some background on the book’s history and on the civil case. [Business Standard]