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Comics A.M. | Kadokawa buys 51% stake in Yen Press

Kadokawa

Kadokawa

Publishing | Japanese publisher Kadokawa is buying a 51 percent stake in the American manga publisher Yen Press, which will become a joint venture between Kadokawa and Hachette Book Group. Founded in 2006 as a manga and graphic novel imprint of Hachette, Yen Press publishes Black Butler, Alice in the Country of Hearts, and the Twilight graphic novels, and it will release a new edition of Fruits Basket beginning this summer. In recent years it has expanded its line to include light novels (prose novels aimed at young adults), and that seems to be what Kadokawa, a major publisher of light novels, is interested in. With this deal, the top three manga publishers in the United States are wholly or partially in Japanese hands: Viz Media is co-owned by Shueisha and Shogakukan, and Kodansha Comics is a subsidiary of Kodansha. Vertical Inc., a smaller publisher, is partially owned by Kodansha and Dai Nippon Printing. [Yen Press]

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Comics A.M. | Longtime artist Ken Barr passes away

"The Rampaging Hulk" #1, by Ken Barr

“The Rampaging Hulk” #1, by Ken Barr

Passings | Longtime comic artist Ken Barr has passed away at age 83. Born in Scotland, Barr his start drawing covers in the 1950s for the science fiction magazine Nebula, moving on to covers and posters for Star Wars, Star Trek, and the first 14 issues of the British comic Commando. Barr moved to the United States in 1968 and began drawing covers for comics published by Warren (Creepy, Vampirella, Doc Savage, Planet of the Apes). He was a penciler, inker and writer for a number of DC’s war comics under editor Joe Kubert, and he drew the first Losers story in Our Fighting Forces. He also worked on some of Marvel’s black-and-white comics, and continued to create book covers and trading cards until his retirement in 1987. [Down the Tubes]

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Comics A.M. | SDCC, Salt Lake in talks over trademark dispute

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

Conventions | Organizers of Comic-Con International and Salt Lake Comic Con are reportedly attempting to reach a settlement in their trademark dispute over the term “Comic Con.” Weeks after issuing a cease-and-desist letter in July 2014, Comic-Con International sued the Utah event, insisting organizers were attempting to “confuse and deceive” fans and exhibitors with their use of the term “Comic Con.” The producers of Salt Lake Comic Con have called the lawsuit “frivolous,” arguing that Comic-Con International’s trademarks are invalid. After being granted the trademark in July for “Salt Lake Comic Con,” organizers claimed victory in the feud, but Comic-Con International maintained nothing had been resolved. Now Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg says lawyers  updated a federal judge about that case on Tuesday, and that both sides are still working to come to an agreement. A hearing scheduled for next month. [Fox13]

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A Month of Wednesdays: The Smurfs, The Pet Avengers and every new graphic novel I read in July

The Astro Smurf (Papercutz) Despite mild—or should I say morbid?—curiosity, I’ve decided to  hold off on seeing the new Smurfs movie until it’s on DVD. Or has been on DVD for a few years. Mostly because I’m afraid that seeing it will make it that much harder for me to enjoy Papercutz’ repackaged reprints of Peyo’s original Smurfs comics, which, even in the seventh volume, remain a surprising amount of fun.

The Astro Smurf features the unnamed Smurf whose defining characteristic is to be the first Smurf to fly into outer space and visit another planet. Papa Smurf and the rest of the village go to great (bordering on insane) lengths to make the little Smurf’s dream come true, even if it’s not technically possible for Smurf technology to send a Smurf into outer space. It’s paired with another story of Smurf tech, as a pair of Smurfs invents a submarine, and Gargamel builds his own sub to destroy it (That one’s titled “The Smurf Submarine,” not “The Hunt For Blue October”).

As with previous volumes, there are some less-than-perfect packaging decisions and questionable translation choices, but they’re more glitches than mortal wounds—The Smurfs trades remain one of the better amount of quality comics to price of comics values on the stands.

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