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Comics A.M. | U.K. political cartoonist Leon Kuhn passes away

Art by Leon Kuhn

Art by Leon Kuhn

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]

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‘Screw’ magazine founder Al Goldstein passes away

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Illustration by Danny Hellman

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).

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Comics A.M. | ‘The Dandy’ artist Charles Grigg passes away

Korky the Kat

Korky the Cat

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]

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Veteran Superman artist Al Plastino passes away

al plastino

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.

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Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing passes away

doris lessingDoris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday in London at age 94. Although she was best known as a novelist, poet, librettist and playwright, Lessing also tried her hand at graphic novels with Playing the Game, a 1995 fantasy drawn by Charlie Adlard.

Born in Iran in 1919, and raised in the African bush in Zimbabwe, Lessing began her writing career at age 15, selling short stories to South African magazines. An opponent of apartheid, her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950) addressed racial politics, while her breakthrough work, 1962’s The Golden Notebook, featured anti-war and anti-Stalinist messages and became a pioneering work of the burgeoning women’s movement. She wrote more than 50 books.

In 2007, the 88-year-old Lessing became the oldest author, and only the 11th woman, to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. As The Guardian recounts, she was returned to her London home after a day of shopping to find reporters on her doorstep. When she learned she had won the prize, which comes with $1.5 million, Lessing replied, “Oh, Christ,” adding, “I couldn’t care less.”

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Modern Tales founder Joey Manley passes away

joey manley2Joey Manley, founder of the pioneering webcomics site Modern Tales, passed away last night in a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital due to complications from pneumonia. According to his longtime partner Joe Botts, he was surrounded by family and friends. Manley was 48.

A publisher, editor, podcaster and author, Manley launched Modern Tales in March 2002, establishing one of the first workable (and profitable) subscription models for webcomics. He soon spun off Serializer, an alternative-comics site originally edited by Tom Hart; Girlamatic, a female targeted site initially edited by Lea Hernandez; Graphic Smash, the action comics site; and Webcomics Nation, a webcomics-hosting service.

The collective “Modern Tales family,” which closed in April, had published work by such creators as Gene Luen Yang, James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Chris Onstad, Shaenon Garrity and Dylan Meconis, among many others.

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Comics A.M. | Acclaimed editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson dies

Roy Peterson

Roy Peterson

Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]

Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]

Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]

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Mike Dimayuga, ‘Colt Noble’ and ‘Hero House’ artist, passes away

mikedimayugapageMike Dimayuga, the artist of the webcomic Colt Noble and the Megalords and the Arcana graphic novel Hero House, has passed away, according to reports from multiple industry professionals.

Dimayuga worked with Tim Seeley on Colt Noble and Hack/Slash #23, and illustrated a story in Action DoubleFeature #3, published digitally by Four Star Studios, co-run by Seeley. On Facebook, Seeley paid tribute to Dimayuga, whose work he first encountered through DeviantArt.

“I met up with Mike at San Diego Comic-Con for the release of Colt Noble at the Image Comics booth, and was really surprised to find he was suffering from MS,” Seeley wrote. “It had clearly not slowed him down at all artistically, and hadn’t put any kind of damper on his attitude. Via the Con Mike became friendly with all my collaborators, Steve Seeley, Mike Moreci, Mike Norton … everyone liked the dude immediately.”

James Asmus, who penned the Action DoubleFeature story illustrated by Dimayuga, wrote on Twitter, “Comics lost one of the kindest, most dedicated pros I’ve ever known. Mike Dimayuga’s passing is a genuine loss.”

In 2009, Hero House writer Justin Aclin described Dimayuga’s contributions to the project, saying, “Mike’s enthusiasm and tireless dedication to the book have truly kept it going in its darkest days. It’s no exaggeration to say Hero House wouldn’t exist without Mike, and there’s no way it would look half as good as it does without him.”

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Comics A.M. | Zip Comics relaunches as Z2, with Pope & Haspiel

Escapo

Escapo

Publishing | Calvin Reid talks to publisher Josh Frankel, who is relaunching his Zip Comics (the publisher of Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland) as Z2 Comics. The first books under the new name will be reprints of a sort: Paul Pope’s Escapo, which he originally self-published in black and white, and Dean Haspiel’s Fear My Dear, which first appeared as a webcomic at Act-I-Vate. Escapo will be colored and Fear My Dear will be re-colored. The company will publish strictly graphic novels, no periodicals, and they will be distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors. [Publishers Weekly]

Passings | Toledo, Ohio, cartoonist Pete Hoffmann, whose comic strip Jeff Cobb was syndicated nationwide, died last week at the age of 94. Hoffman was also a ghost artist for Steve Roper and illustrated the panel cartoon Why We Say, which explained the meaning behind common sayings. He “got ambitious” and decided to strike out with his own strip, and the result was Jeff Cobb, a serial about an investigative reporter, which ran from 1954 to 1975. In this 2004 interview, he talks about his work and shows off his first published drawing, which appeared in the Toledo Times when he was four years old. [Toledo Blade]

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Forbidden Planet NYC regular killed in random attack

jeffrey babbittTwo to three times a week for more than a decade, Jeffrey Babbitt made the trip from his home in Brooklyn to Forbidden Planet in Manhattan to buy comics or to simply talk with the staff. But then last Wednesday, while on his regular pilgrimage, the 62-year-old retired train conductor was attacked in Union Square, just blocks from the store, and struck his head on the pavement. Babbitt was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where The New York Times reports he was eventually declared brain dead and passed away Monday morning.

According to the newspaper, the attack was apparently random, from an assailant who proclaimed he would “punch the first white man I see.” Police arrested 40-year-old Lashawn Marten, who allegedly also struck two men who tried to help Babbitt. Marten was charged with three counts of assault; in the wake of Babbitt’s death, those will most likely be upgraded.

The longtime comics fan, who cared for his 94-year-old mother Lucille, was by all accounts the kind of person everyone liked. Forbidden Planet manager Jeff Ayers described Babbitt to the newspaper as “just a really, really, really sweet guy.” He visited Babbitt at the hospital, where Lucille sat part of the time at her son’s bedside.

The store’s employees are said to be deeply affected by Babbitt’s death, and are now worried about the welfare of his mother. They plan to establish a fund to help with her care.

Comics A.M. | ‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker turns 90

Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey

Creators | Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker received messages from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dolly Parton and Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of his 90th birthday today. The cartoonist, who introduced Beetle Bailey in 1950, still supervises daily work on the strip at his Stamford, Connecticut, studio. [The Associated Press]

Creators | Gene Luen Yang discusses his newest work, Boxers and Saints, a 500-page, two-volume set that examines China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of two very different characters. [Graphic Novel Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Three IDW comics make their Madefire debut

Art by Dave Gibbons

Art by Dave Gibbons

Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]

Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]

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Remembering Elmore Leonard and his ’10 Rules of Writing’

elmore leonard

Although prolific crime author and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t have a direct connection to comic books, it’s clear from the number of tweets about his death today at age 87 that he influenced a number of comics writers. Of course, labeling Leonard a “crime author” undoubtedly does him a disservice, as he wasn’t restricted by genre; his earliest works were Westerns, like his 1952 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma,” which has been adapted twice for the big screen.

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Comics A.M. | Mark Millar and the subversion of the superhero

Nemesis

Nemesis

Creators | Ahead of the premiere of Kick-Ass 2, Abraham Reisman profiles Mark Millar, with an emphasis on his subversion of the genre — and the new prominence he’s about to achieve with the films based on his comics: “By decade’s end, he’ll have had more of his creations translated into movie form than any comics writer other than Stan Lee.” The piece also includes criticism of his work, with Colin Smith observing, ““Millar does indeed have a history of producing work which represents less powerful groups in an insensitive, and often deeply insensitive, manner. There are massive contradictions between his words and actions as a private citizen and the apparent politics of some of his books.”[The New Republic]

Conventions | Matt Arado looks forward to this coming weekend’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (it’s actually in Rosemont) with some creator interviews and a look at the way the con has evolved over the years. [Daily Herald]

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Comics A.M. | Digital’s role in ‘resuscitating’ comics industry

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | Financial-services company The Motley Fool touches upon how digital has helped to boost the comics industry, rather than undermine print sales as some predicted it would. “Digital has not to anyone’s observation pirated the sales of comics. It looks like just the opposite,” writer and charts-watcher John Jackson Miller tells the website. And then, because it’s The Motley Fool, the story veers off into what investors can learn from digital comics — specifically, “three forces [that] conspired to transform digital from a threat into a catalyst”: quality, format and access. [The Motley Fool]

Creators | Brian K. Vaughan talks about producing the CBS sci-fi thriller Under the Dome and writing Saga as well as his digital comic The Private Eye. His take on Saga: “I definitely wanted to write about the experience of fatherhood and parenthood while also recognizing that’s extremely boring for most people. How do you talk about these mundane topics in an exciting way? Hopefully setting this story in a wacky sci-fi fantasy universe has given us room to tell this story with some visual spectacle and just Fiona Staples being awesome.” [USA Today]

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