"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Censorship | During a panel at Comic-Con International, members of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund criticized a student’s attempt to have four graphic novels banned from her college campus. Crafton Hills College student Tara Shultz and her father, Craig Shultz, have called for Fun Home, Persepolis, the first volume of Y: The Last Man, and the second volume of The Sandman, all of which were included in a course on the graphic novel as literature, to be removed not only from the course but also from the college bookstore. The school has refused. CBLDF director Charles Brownstein noted that this is part of a troubling new trend: Graphic novel challenges at the college level. The CBLDF has been involved in 18 college cases so far this year, up from 10 in all of 2014. [Redlands Daily Facts]
Creators | “Opus’s [voice] came screaming back at me — true— when I faced those four empty panels that I hadn’t done since 1989,” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed told Michael Cavna, explaining why he is returning to his comic strip Bloom County after a lengthy absence. He also discusses the possibility of self-publishing rather than going with a newspaper syndicate: “Dead-tree media requires constancy and deadlines and guarantees. This flattens the joy. It also presents a huge income. It’s an interesting trade-off, isn’t it?” [Comic Riffs]
Commentary | David Brothers critiques Marvel’s plans to publish hip-hop themed variant covers, given that none of the newly announced creators for Marvel titles are black. [i am davidbrothers dotcom]
Creators | Kate Beaton talks about her family, webcomics, princesses, and her pony character’s guest appearance on Adventure Time. [Time]
Conventions | Image Comics content manager David Brothers explains why this year’s Comic-Con International was a great convention, pointing out that there’s a lot more to the event than movies and television, and there’s a lot more to comics than the Big Two: “Marvel and DC are comics, just like the other publishers, and they make some great ones when they let the creators do their own thing. But at this point? You can’t treat them like the entirety of the comics industry, or even two companies that can dictate the future of comics. They run the movies, and that’s cool, but running comics? It’s just not true any more. Image in particular outsells Marvel in the book market as far as trade paperbacks go, and that holds true in the comics market lately, too. That’s no coincidence. People enjoy Marvel and DC, but they want more than Marvel and DC.” [io9.com]
Creators | Jim Toomey sets his comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon under the sea, and now he’s going to get a close-up look at underwater life: As the artist in residence on Alvin, a Navy deep-sea submersible vehicle, he will get an up-close look at undersea life in the Gulf of Mexico. “Only three people are able to go down on the sub at a time, so it’s a very coveted opportunity,” said Toomey, who will talk to his children’s class from aboard the submersible and has set the current Sherman’s Lagoon story in the Gulf so he can introduce the sea creatures he is seeing firsthand. [The Washington Post]
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
Passings | British cartoonist Gordon Bell has died at the age of 79. He was a contributor to DC Thomson’s children’s comics, including The Beano and The Dandy, in the 1960s and ’70s; his creations include The Bash Street Pups. After that, he went on to become a political cartoonist (under the nom de plume Fax) for the Dundee, Scotland, newspaper The Courier, which is also apparently owned by DC Thomson. Lew Stringer has posted a sampling of his work at Blimey! [The Courier]
Passings | Another U.K. creator who drew for weekly children’s comics, Anthony John “Tony” Harding, has also died. While Bell’s work was on the goofy side, Harding drew soccer stories for action-packed boys’ comics such as Bullet, Hornet and Victor. His best-known gig was as the artist for “Look Out for Lefty,” the story of a hotheaded soccer player with a skinhead girlfriend, which got a bit too close to reality with its depictions of violence during soccer games. Again, Lew Stringer posts some of his work. [Down the Tubes]
Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]
Creators | Colorist Jordie Bellaire launches a protest against a convention that refuses to include colorists as guests. “Your one sentence, ‘this is not a colorists thing,’ was surely the most pigheaded and dismissive thing I’ve been told since I began professional coloring,” she writes, and then goes on to point out all the things colorists do to make comics great and make a forceful argument for including them (as many major cons already do). In a later post she explains why she won’t name the convention. [Jordie Colors Things]
Graphic novels | A study soon to be released by a University of Oklahoma researcher shows that students who read a textbook in graphic novel form retained more than those who read a straight prose textbook. [The Oklahoman]
Christopher Butcher has a nice reminiscence of how he discovered comics that shows up both the advantage the newsstand had and its fatal shortcoming. Little Christopher spotted The Transformers #3 in his local convenience store:
I loved Transformers, and didn’t realize that there were comics. I knew that there WERE such things as comics, I’d see them in the Beckers’ convenience store across the street from my house, but I wasn’t really interested … I asked (probably demanded) that my mom get it for me, that there are TRANSFORMERS ADVENTURES NOT ON TV AND LOOK IT ALSO HAS SPIDER-MAN IN IT THAT’S CRAZY. She relented.
But when he went back to the store, he learned that, unlike TV, the comics industry doesn’t churn out a new episode every day, and he would have to wait a month for the next comic — which, when it came in, was Issue 5. Which was equally awesome, but … what about Issue 4? I remember this problem — specifically, I remember when comics went from being mostly self-contained in a single issue to four-issue arcs, and suddenly it mattered what the number on the cover was. Here’s the thing about newsstands: They were everywhere, and you had the serendipity of just running across a comic you never knew existed, but because distribution wasn’t consistent (and neither were trips to the drugstore), you never knew if you would be able to get the next issue. Chris’ story has a happy ending (spoiler): His parents discovered a local comics shop and got the missing issues, and now grown-up Chris runs one.
On the other side of the coin, David Brothers writes about how he has gradually given up his Wednesday visits to the comics shop for reasons of both quality and space.
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
… given the shower of riches the industry has seen, the fact that the families of the primary creators have been reduced to seeking legal redress or making threats of same for four decades now is a total embarrassment for comics, and any company seeking a press high-five on their latest win in an ugly, pathetic spectacle like this one should be stared at as if they’re crazy rather than given one back.
It’s impressive that neither writer is calling for a massive boycott of anyone’s comics. That’s got to be tempting, but those kinds of calls can end up taking the conversation off the problem by putting it on the consumer. People on the fence about the issue can feel judged and resentful and even those who agree with the reasons for the hypothetical boycott often despair that it won’t do any good anyway, so what’s the point?
What Brothers and Spurgeon are doing is simply refusing to shut up about it. That gives the rest of us room to think and consider our own courses of action without shoving us into a corner and declaring that there’s only one appropriate way out of it. But it also doesn’t let us off the hook to pretend there’s not a huge problem.
“Aside from the Fairest arc I already committed to doing, iZombie will be the last time I’ll ever write for DC,” he said, following it later with “I decided quite some time ago, but waited until after the cancellation of my book was announced to discuss it. The short version is, I don’t agree with the way they treat other creators and their general business practices.” The cancellation of iZombie, the Vertigo title Roberson does with Mike Allred, was announced at the Emerald City ComiCon earlier this month.
As for the reason for his decision, Roberson cited a recent post written by David Brothers on ComicsAlliance titled “The Ethical Rot Behind ‘Before Watchmen’ & ‘The Avengers.'” CBR reached out to Roberson for further clarification:
“My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs,” Roberson told CBR. “The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. I’d like to make clear, though, that I have nothing but nice things to say about the editorial staff at Vertigo with whom I’ve worked for the past few years.”
iZombie ends with issue #28, and I don’t think the timing of his Fairest arc has been announced yet. Despite not wanting to work with DC anymore, this doesn’t spell an end to Roberson’s comics career. “I’m not going anywhere! I’ve got loads of new stuff in the pipeline,” he also tweeted last night.
(Hat tip: Bleeding Cool)
Friday update: Roberson said on Twitter that he will no longer be working on Fairest. “Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all. It was decided my services were no longer required.”
It’s a well-known fact that you can get bootleg scans of every Marvel and DC Comics title by the afternoon of their release, but where do they come from? David Brothers and David Uzumeri did some sleuthing and speculating, and came up with a surprising answer: The Marvel scans are coming from an inside source, either someone who works for the House of Ideas or who works closely with the publisher.
While DC comics start popping up on bootleg sites one at a time on Wednesday afternoons, Marvel scans appear all at once before the digital release time of 2 p.m. ET. This suggests that while the DC titles may be from hackers who have figured out how to crack comiXology’s copy protection, the Marvel scans are from another source. Brothers goes over a number of other clues — the uniform size and quality of the Marvel scans, the placement of titles and credits, information that would only appear on a print comic, and some very telling errors — and concludes that “Someone’s got Marvel’s print-ready files before they’re finalized, and they’re slapping them up online as digital scans. Clever girl.”
Warning: People who use the phrase “playing the race card” need not apply to the following post. I guess that rules out, y’know, our entire political class, but oh well. Anyway, a trio of recent pieces have taken on the issue of race in contemporary superhero comics and movies.
Perhaps the most high-profile of the three pieces is Chris Sims’s essay on “the racial politics of regressive storytelling” for Comics Alliance. Sims argues that DC Comics’ current penchant for restoring the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, the Legion of Super-Heroes and so on has the unintentional but regrettable effect of pushing their successors — in many cases, non-white characters created to replace their slain or off-stage white predecessors — to the sidelines. While he’s quite clear that he doesn’t believe Geoff Johns or any of the other writers or editors involved are motivated by racial animus, he laments the way in which several decades’ worth of minority characters are now becoming “footnotes” in the race to create comics that evoke the creators’ and readers’ memories of their childhood favorites. I’m sympathetic to the obvious truth in Sims’s argument — replacing Ryan Choi with Ray Palmer, for example, does indeed “whiten” the Atom concept once again. But as I wrote in an essay on my own blog, I think the blame lies not with Johns and his Rebirths and Brightest Day and so on, but with the creators who, instead of creating strong non-white characters out of whole cloth like Luke Cage or Storm or Black Panther, simply put new guys in the old guys’ outfits, thus all but inviting readers to think of them as substitutes and pine for their original favorites.
Regular readers of Robot 6 will not be surprised to read we’re fans of Jim Rugg‘s work. Rugg and I recently did an email interview regarding his latest collaboration with Brian Maruca, Afrodisiac (AdHouse). The book is described here as: “Inspired by the blaxploitation films of the 1970s and classic superhero comics, the Afrodisiac collects art and comics starring the original super badass and featuring cool cars, sexy women, scary monsters, self-righteous superheroes, corrupt cops, aliens, Dracula, Richard Nixon.” Any interview so deeply focused on an unforgettable independent work of this caliber is a blast–partially also thanks to the wacky turns our discussion takes, including into the realm of Wolverine. My thanks to Rugg for his time and to longtime pal of mine (as well as a great publisher), AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer, for his assistance in arranging the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Before getting into the guts of the book, one quick question on the back cover. Who had the idea to do the female silhouette glaze (or what would it be called) on the back cover?
Jim Rugg: It’s called a spot varnish, son. When we figured out the front cover design, Chris Pitzer (Adhouse Books publisher and all-around awesome design guru) suggested a spot varnish for the glasses. That sounded great to me. So I wanted to take advantage of the spot varnish on the back too. But the illustration on the back didn’t really lend itself to the same treatment as the front. I wasn’t sure the back cover effect would work, but figured it was the back cover. Give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out.