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Passings | Maine cartoonist Jeff Pert, best known for his cartoons and illustrations of lobsters and moose, died Friday on his way to the hospital with chest pains. He was 55. His cartoons adorned souvenir postcards and coffee cups, but he was also an active part of the local comics community in Brunswick, Maine, a regular at Casablanca Comics, and a participant in the Maine Comic Arts Festival. Pert created his first comic when he was in fifth grade and sold copies to local comic shops. “They probably gave us the money and then threw them in the garbage, but we were happy,” said his collaborator (and best friend) Jon Dumont. Pert was known for supporting other artists and even persuaded his local state representative, Maggie Daughtry, to start drawing her own comics: Daughtry knocked on Pert’s door when she was campaigning for office, and, she said, “Within an hour of meeting him, he literally changed my life.” When Daughtry told Pert that she had dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, he encouraged her to start drawing again, which she did. [Portland Press Herald]
Manga | Attack on Titan is as much of a manga juggernaut in its native Japan as it is the United States, and the 13th volume had a print run of 2.75 million copies, a new record not only for the series but for publisher Kodansha. [Crunchyroll]
Comics | Tom Risen has a thoughtful piece, which includes an interview with Axel Alonso, on how superhero comics have changed since the War on Terror began: “Superheroes since the 2000s have increasingly held up a mirror to controversies like mass surveillance, remote killings using drones and the ‘with us or against us’ mentality espoused by former President George W. Bush. Misuse of military technology also played a key role in recent movie adaptations featuring Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, showing how fighting dirty to defeat evil can make America its own worst enemy.” [U.S. News & World Report]
Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]
Passings | Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Lucius Shepard, whose work included Life During Wartime and The Jaguar Hunter, passed away March 18. He was 66. Shepard ventured into comics writing on a few occasions, with the series Vermillion, part of DC Comics’ short-lived Helix imprint, and with contributions to Vertigo anthologies Gangland and Flinch. [Tor.com, BoingBoing]
Creators | American Vampire artist Rafael Albuquerque talks about the upcoming “Second Cycle” of the Vertigo series, which returns after a hiatus of more than a year. [Hero Complex]
Passings | Tom Medley, creator of the comic Stroker McGurk, which ran in Hot Rod magazine for many years, died on March 2 at the age of 93. Medley was a hot-rodder himself, which is how he got his big break: He used to post his cartoons at a local hot-rod builder, and the publisher of Hot Rod, which was just getting off the ground at the time, spotted them and hired Medley as his comics and humor editor. Medley’s son Gary said his father’s humor sometimes foreshadowed reality: “Stroker’s — or Medley’s — inspired genius came up with a host of crazy ideas that appeared impractical at first, but were later adopted by everyday car builders and racers. Multi-engine dragsters, wheelie bars, and drag chutes all sprung from Stroker’s fertile mind before they were embraced in the real world.” [AutoWeek]
Passings | Comics journalist and commentator Bhob Stewart died Monday at the age of 76. Stewart kicked off his career in 1953, at the age of 16, by publishing an EC fanzine; the following year, as Carol Tilley documented in a recent talk, he sent a copy to anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, along with some tart commentary. Stewart went on to become an influential voice in the conversation about comics; he wrote several books, taught classes at the School for Visual Arts, and curated the first exhibit of comics art in a major American museum. Heidi MacDonald credits him with inventing both Wacky Packages and the term “underground comics.” [The Beat]
Editorial cartoons | German cartoonist Burkhard Mohr has apologized for a cartoon depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a hooked nose, an image that critics said was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The cartoon appeared in the early editions of the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, but Zuckerberg’s face was replaced by an empty hole in later editions. “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr said. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me” [ABC News]
Word has only recently begun to circulate about the Dec. 25 death of Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford, a prominent figure in both the Texas and national convention scenes of the 1980s and early ’90s. He was 53.
“I will always remember him as a pioneer of the Texas convention scene,” Arlington retailer Cole Houston wrote on the funeral home’s memorial page, “someone who got me started as a convention vendor, inspired the tiny conventions I produced, and brought me and other attendees of the Fantasy Fairs memories that will last a lifetime.”
A veteran of the D-Con sci-fi/comics events held sporadically throughout the 1970s, Lankford launched the Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1982, attracting such guests as Frank Miller, John Byrne and Gil Kane to the inaugural show. By 1988, the convention had become so successful that he spun off three smaller two-day events in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Those were followed in 1992 and 1993 by a series of well-remembered Dallas Minicons, one-day expos that drew about 500 attendees each.
Raised in Oakland, Turner was a self-taught artist who drew cartoons for Army newspapers while serving during World War II with the 477th Bomber group. Following his discharge, he worked as a police clerk while also creating strips for a number of publications.
In 1959, the black daily newspaper the Chicago Defender began publishing his all-black strip Dinky Fellas, created with the encouragement of his friend Charles Schulz after Turner expressed a desire for a comic that reflected his childhood experiences. But it wasn’t until Turner diversified the cast, introducing kids from different ethnic backgrounds, that Wee Pals was born.
“All the kids were different,” the cartoonist recalled in a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “White, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, black. It was a rainbow. I didn’t know that wasn’t the way it was other places. Oakland was that way before the war. We were all equal. Nobody had any money.”
Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]
Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]
Creators | Author Marc Tyler Nobleman tells Michael Cavna about his crusade to gain recognition for Bill Finger as one of the co-creators of Batman — including a push to have Google honor him with a Google Doodle on his birthday: “As it currently stands, even the mighty Christopher Nolan could not legally credit Bill as co-creator. However, prior to The Dark Knight, I asked DC if they could use non-subjective language to acknowledge Bill. I proposed: ‘Batman was first called “the Dark Knight” in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.’ DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, and the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word ‘Batman’ — it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. Alas, they said no.” [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Tulsa, Oklahoma, cartoonist Larry Pendleton, who created the syndicated single-panel cartoon Graphic Nature, has died at the age of 59. [Tulsa World]
Gary Edson Arlington, who in 1968 opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, widely considered the country’s first comic book store, passed away Thursday at age 75.
His 200-quare-foot Mission District shop quickly became a magnet for early underground cartoonists, attracting the likes of Robert Crumb, Ron Turner, Bill Griffith and Spain Rodriguez (the store’s employees included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg). Arlington was, in the words of Lambiek, a guru and “godfather” of underground comics, who “encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication.”
“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s,” Art Spiegelman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco.”
But Arlington didn’t stop at retailer and guru: Under the banner of the San Francisco Comic Book Company he also published such important early underground works as Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and San Francisco Comic Book.
Passings | Chris Bird pens an obituary for Leon Kuhn, a British cartoonist who was active in socialist and progressive causes and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star as well as in The Big Book of Bureaucrats. He often marched in demonstrations carrying placards of his cartoons. Kuhn died last week at age 59; the sole news article about his death simply says he “died under a train” at a London subway station and that the death is not being treated as suspicious. [Counterfire]
Manga | ICV2 rounds up Viz Media’s announcements for the beginning of 2014, including three new series. [ICv2]
Creators | Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort talk about Avengers #24.NOW, which kicks off the All-New Marvel NOW initiative. [USA Today]
Legendary pornographer Al Goldstein, whose Screw magazine published the work of cartoonists ranging from Wally Wood and Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman and Peter Bagge, passed away this morning in Brooklyn at age 77. Premature reports of his death had circulated earlier in the week.
His attorney Charles C. DeStefano told The New York Times the cause of death is believed to be renal failure.
Considered a pioneer in his industry — Screw debuted in 1968, six years before Larry Flynt’s better-known Hustler — the colorful, controversial agitator who was arrested 21 times on charges of indecency and described by New York magazine as “among the earliest of the First Amendment porno-warriors.”
Goldstein’s Screw folded in 2003 after 1,800 issues because, he said, “the Internet will give you all the porn you want” (the magazine was later relaunched by former employees).
Passings | Lew Stringer reports that British artist Charles Grigg died Wednesday at age 97. Grigg is probably best known for drawing Korky the Cat, whose adventures graced the cover of the weekly comic The Dandy for decades, and he drew a number of other strips for The Dandy and The Topper as well. After he retired he had a second career drawing naughty postcards. [Blimey!]
Retailing | The direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO has announced its annual membership meeting will be held Feb. 26-March 1 in Atlanta. [ICv2.com]
Creators | Art Spiegelman talked to students at Lakeland College recently and then sat down to answer some questions about his love of comics, how his depression affected his work, and whether he has any regrets about the way he portrayed his father in Maus. [The Lakeland Mirror]
Prolific artist Al Plastino, who in recent weeks lobbied for the return of his original art for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” has passed away after a battle with prostate cancer, Mark Evanier reports. He was 91.
Born Dec. 15, 1921 in New York City, Plastino began illustrating for Youth Today magazine after he graduated from the High School of Industrial Arts. His first comics credit was on Dynamic Publications’ Dynamic Comics #2, cover-dated December 1941.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Plastino returned to freelance work and learned in 1948 that DC Comics was searching for a new Superman artist; according to his website, the publisher paid $55 a page at the time. For the next two decades, Plastino drew Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superboy, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and with writer Otto Binder created the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl.