Franco Urru, the Italian artist best known to American readers for his work on Spike: Asylum, Spike: Shadow Puppets and Angel: After the Fall, has passed away, reports IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall.
“Between flights now, I just got terrible news that Angel artist and wonderful person Franco Urru passed away,” Ryall wrote this morning on Twitter. “Rest peacefully, dear friend.”
Urru, who began working in comics in Italy as an assistant, inking, penciling backgrounds and conducting research for established artists, broke into the U.S. industry in 2006 with Spike: Asylum. “I landed into that wonderful script after a friend showed my pages to Chris Ryall,” he told The Comic Book Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2009. “At the time Brian Lynch had written his first story for IDW and I started to work immediately on the covers of the entire mini. After finishing the first cover I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be.”
In Italy, Urru worked in a variety of genres, ranging from fantasy to superheroes to erotic comics. His death follows the passings this week of alternative comix pioneer Spain Rodriguez and 30 Days of Night and Willow Creek artist Josh Medors.
Awards | Following the nomination of two graphic novels for the Costa Prize, the new chairman of the Man Booker Prize said he would welcome submissions of graphic novels as well. [The Telegraph]
Passings | Former Wizard staff member Marc Wilkofsky, whose efforts on behalf of Friends of Lulu earned him their Volunteer of the Year award in 2005, has died at the age of 42. He was also an enthusiastic member of the NYC Comic Jams. [Andrew Kardon, The Beat]
Conventions | Richard Bruton files a comprehensive con report on the recent Thought Bubble festival in Leeds, England. [Forbidden Planet]
Awards | Graphic novels for the first time have made the shortlist for the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards): Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes in the Biography category, and Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart in the Novel category. [The Guardian]
Passings | Indian politician and former editorial cartoonist Bal Thackeray has died at the age of 86; Thackeray was in the news most recently supporting fellow cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was jailed briefly on charges of sedition. [The Comics Reporter]
Awards | The Australian Cartoonists Association has bestowed their highest honor, the Gold Stanley Award, on David Pope, cartoonist for The Canberra Times. [The Canberra Times]
Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
Comics | The August direct market sales numbers are in, and things look good: Comics sales are up almost 20 percent over August 2011, and graphic novels are up 15 percent. This isn’t just a fluke, either: Year-to-date sales are up about the same in both categories. DC had a slight edge in market share, Marvel did slightly better on unit sales, and interestingly, the Big Two stole back a bit of market share from everyone else. And as with bookstore sales, Batman ruled the direct market: “The influence of The Dark Knight Rises is more obvious in the bookstore channel with its tendency to foster backlist sales (Frank Miller’s 1980’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns was tops in the bookstores), while the direct market sales are concentrated more on the most recent releases such as Johns’ Batman: Earth One, which was released in July and Snyder’s New 52 volume that was out in May.” [ICv2]
Passings | Illustrator and panel cartoonist Art Cumings has died at the age of 90. Mike Lynch describes Cumings as “an illustrator’s illustrator and a cartoonist’s cartoonist”; his work appeared everywhere from Dr. Seuss books to Penthouse magazine, and it’s worth hitting the link to see his Balloonheads cartoons from the latter. (NSFW, but in a cute, colorful way.) [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Passings | Italian comics artist Sergio Toppi has died at the age of 79. Most of his work seems to have been in Italian and French, but Archaia has plans to publish an English-language edition of his version of the Arabian Nights, Sharaz-De. [The Beat, Archaia]
Comics | Brian Truitt marks Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary by talking to creators from Stan Lee to Brian Michael Bendis about the 10 traits that make the web-slinger special. On a related note, Complex runs down the 50 most iconic Spider-Man images. [USA Today]
Publishing | If you’re interested in self-publishing, Todd Allen’s latest article about Ingram’s new, lower-cost color print-on-demand service is a must-read. Allen does the math for several different scenarios, in terms of format and distribution method, and boils it down into several handy charts. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Artist and writer Harry Harrison, who worked with Wally Wood on many EC Comics — and persuaded them to start their sci-fi line — has died at the age of 87. Harrison is best known in science fiction circles as the author of the Stainless Steel Rat stories, and the movie Soylent Green was based on his 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Marvel is ending its Premiere Classics line of hardcovers collections with Vol. 106. [Blog@Newsarama]
Conventions | ComiCONN is this weekend, and although it is the largest comics and sci-fi show in Connecticut, you won’t need your jet pack to navigate it, says Life With Archie writer Paul Kupperberg. Kupperberg and Peter David will be among the guests. [Connecticut Post]
“Kubert was a giant of our industry, a singular talent up there on the mountaintop with masters like Gil Kane, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby,” J.M. DeMatteis wrote on his blog. “His art was dynamic, powerful and, most of all, rich with humanity and emotional impact. Like Kirby, he was one of comics’ greatest cover artists. Like Eisner, Kubert got better with time and age (one look at his recent graphic novel, Yossel, more than proves that point): his work achieved a kind elegance and simplicity that made storytelling seem effortless, easy.”
In a lengthy remembrance, Mark Evanier shares a story from a mid-1970s San Diego Comic-Con:
Everyone loved Joe. Everyone respected Joe. He was among a handful of artists whose speed and natural ability caused others to gape and express their envy. One year at the Comic-Con in San Diego (the same mid-seventies con where I took the above photo), Joe was asked to do a drawing for a charity art auction. He stepped up to an easel with a big, yard-high piece of drawing paper on it. He picked up a box of pastel chalks. He turned to the easel —
— and in under a minute, there was this drawing there of Hawkman. It was an incredible, detailed drawing that might have taken another artist an hour and been a third as good. Other artists working on nearby easels stopped and blinked in amazement.
Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]
A memorial service will be held Monday evening in New York City for original Static co-writer Robert L. Washington III, who passed away June 6 at age 47.
Upon learning that Washington, who had been homeless a few times and only sporadically employed in recent years, faced indigent burial in an unmarked grave on Hart Island, former classmates and colleagues joined with The Hero Initiative to raise money for a funeral and interment. According to Craig Hicks, who attended school with Washington from fifth through eighth grades and helped to spearhead the fund-raising campaign, that goal has been reached.
“Thanks to the efforts of many generous fans and friends — and loads of support from the Hero Initiative — Robert Washington’s remains will now get a proper burial,” Hicks wrote last night in a comment on Robot 6.
Fans, friends and colleagues are invited to the memorial service Monday at 7 p.m. at Ross-Roden Funeral Home, 725 E. Gun Hill Road, Bronx, New York City. Those unable to attend can sign the guest book, or send flowers or sympathy cards, through the funeral home’s website.
Comic Book Resources last week published Washington’s final interview, in which the writer discussed his comics work, receiving assistance from The Hero Initiative, and contributing a story to the organization’s 2012 anthology.
Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]
Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]
Wednesday brought the sad news that Ray Bradbury passed away peacefully at age 91. The author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes and (my favorite) The Halloween Tree, Bradbury introduced us to the Butterfly Effect, has his own asteroid and lent his name to a starship class on Star Trek.
“For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury’s death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world. But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values. There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
At The Beat, Torsten Adair recounts many of the honors Bradbury received over his lifetime. He influenced pop culture in all its forms, including comics and their creators.
“Some authors I read and loved as a boy disappointed me as I aged,” Neil Gaiman wrote in a piece for the Guardian. “Bradbury never did. His horror stories remained as chilling, his dark fantasies as darkly fantastic, his science fiction (he never cared about the science, only about the people, which was why the stories worked so well) as much of an exploration of the sense of wonder, as they had when I was a child.”
You can read more from Gaiman on Bradbury here, and a collection of thoughts from J.M. DeMatteis here. Many comic folks have taken to Twitter to remember the author, and I’ve rounded up some of their tweets below:
Writer Robert L. Washington III, who with Dwayne McDuffie and John Paul Leon introduced Static in 1993, passed away Wednesday at Mount Sinai Queens in New York City after suffering multiple heart attacks. He was 47.
Although perhaps best known for co-writing the first 18 issue of Static, he also worked on Shadow Cabinet for Milestone Comics, Extreme Justice for DC Comics, Timewalker for Valiant, and Ninjak for Acclaim.
However, Washington, like many other creators, had difficulty finding work in the industry following the mid-1990s comics implosion. He’d lately been employed sporadically by a call center and catalog warehouse.
Washington had been homeless a few times, and had received assistance from The Hero Initiative with rent and food, which he recounted in his final work — a one-page autobiographical strip he contributed to Hero Comics 2012 (below), the charity comic released last week to help raise money for the group.
Conventions | ReedPOP has officially announced it will fold the New York Anime Festival into New York Comic Con, rather than continue them as separate events held at the same location. “This move has nothing to do with our loyalty or commitment to the anime community and everything to do with the growth and identity of New York Comic Con as a leading pop culture event,” ReedPOP’s Lance Fensterman said in a statement. “NYCC embraces all elements of the pop culture world, including anime, and we have evolved to a point where the existence of NYAF outside our universe is almost a contradiction. We will be better able to serve the anime community from within the NYCC infra-structure rather than have a show which is separate and which will always be dwarfed by everything that New York Comic Con represents and is.” [press release]
Passings | Cartoonist Jim Unger, whose one-panel comic Herman served as an inspiration for Gary Larson’s The Far Side, passed away Monday at his home in British Columbia. He was 75. The comic appeared in about 600 newspapers worldwide from 1974 until Unger’s retirement in 1992. [The Daily Cartoonist]