"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Business | Marvel parent company Disney has reportedly laid off as many as 17 of the 60 full-time employees at DisneyToon Studio, the Glendale, California-based division that produces animated direct-to-video sequels and prequels, such as The Lion King 1 1/2 and Mulan II, the Disney Fairies releases and the occasional feature film, most recently Planes: Fire & Rescue. While Disney has been cutting positions throughout the company for the past few years — dating back to 2011 with the elimination of 200 jobs in its interactive division and about a dozen at Marvel — Variety chalks up these layoffs to the declining home-video market. [Variety, Deadline]
Passings | Dan Lynch, former editorial cartoonist for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, died Sunday at age 67. Lynch also worked for the Kansas City Times, and his cartoons were syndicated nationally and appeared in Time and Newsweek. However, his career was cut short by a debilitating stroke in 2001. “Dan had (what I thought was) a fabulous drawing style,” said Julie Inskeep, publisher and president of The Journal Gazette. “And, in the 20-plus years he worked at the JG, he provided a vast array of cartoon topics – always welcome, though not always in agreement with our editorial board. But he got people to think and react in his special and powerful way.” [Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]
Legal | A former Marvel intern has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging he was incorrectly classified and unfairly denied “minimum wages.” Kenneth Jackson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, claims he’s owed back pay for the work he performed for Marvel from August 2008 to December 2008, and seeks to include in his motion “all similarly situated persons who are presently or formerly employed by Marvel Entertainment, LLC.” [TheWrap]
Passings | Pran Sharma, the creator of the Indian comics character Chacha Chaudhary, died late Tuesday of complications from cancer. He was 75. The first comic featuring Chacha, “a wise old man who solves problems with his sharp intellect,” was published in 1971, and the character went on to star in his own comics and animated series. Sharma also created the teenage character Billoo. “If I could put a smile on the face of the poor, I would consider my life successful,” he once said. [The Wall Street Journal]
Passings | Jay Maeder, who was the last writer for the comic strip Annie (formerly Little Orphan Annie), passed away Tuesday at age 67. A former New York Daily News columnist and editor who authored Dick Tracy: The Official Biography and contributed to The Encyclopedia of American Comics, Maeder worked on Annie, together with artist Andrew Pepoy, from 2000 its cancellation 2010. He created Amelia Santiago, a pilot and CIA agent, and once said of the strip, “I tell people it’s Indiana Jones with chicks.” [The New York Times]
Manga | Deb Aoki rounds up the manga news from Comic-Con International, including UDON’s license of Kill la Kill and Drawn and Quarterly’s plans to publish Shigeru Mizuki’s biography of Hitler. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Frank Cummings, an artist for the comic strip Blondie, has died at age 55, according to a posting on Blondie.com. No cause of death is given, but this obituary (in Italian) states he had a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Cummings started his career as a commercial artist and self-published his own satire magazine, JAB. Later on he illustrated the newsletter of diet and exercise guru Richard Simmons and did movie parodies for Cracked. He joined Blondie in 2004 as an assistant to head artist John Marshall. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | Former DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz has debuted an “occasional” column on the retail news and analysis site ICv2. [ICv2.com]
Conventions | Organizers of the growing Asbury Park Comicon have announced that, after three years, they’re relocating the New Jersey convention to the Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus and renaming it East Coast Comicon. Founders Cliff Galbraith and Robert Bruce say the nearly 40-mile move was triggered by a sharp increase in rates at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, but the hotel’s manager thinks it’s because the venue couldn’t accommodate the dates requested by organizers. The inaugural East Coast Comicon will be held April 11-12, 2015. [Asbury Park Press]
Passings | Amadee Wohlschlaeger, who drew the comic strip Weatherbird for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 70 years, has died at age 102. Weatherbird, which debuted in 1901, is the oldest continuously published comic in the United States, and Wohlschlaeger (who went by just his first name) is one of just four cartoonists to draw it. He was named one of the top 10 sports cartoonists in the country, and his drawing of Stan Musial inspired the statue at Busch Stadium. [KSDK]
Longtime New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti, famed for his dog cartoons, passed away late Monday at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 80 years old.
According to the Kansas City Star, he had undergone undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation following a March 2013 brain cancer diagnosis, and spent several weeks in hospice care.
Passings | Retailer, creator, superhero fan and occasional crime-fighter Geoffrey Patterson Sr. died Sunday at age 72. The owner of Geoffrey’s Comic Shop in Gardena, California, Patterson created the character Captain Greedy, who appeared on local access TV and in the shop, as well as in comics. “Patterson was well-known for his eccentric love of super heroes,” writes Jordan England-Nelson. “His home in Torrance is decorated inside and out with super-hero statues, wooden cutouts and other comic book memorabilia. The home would get hundreds of visitors on Halloween, when Patterson would hand out comic books with candy and let people check out his superhero-themed graveyard.” And Patterson chased down purse snatchers and other wrongdoers on several different occasions, at least once while wearing his Captain Greedy costume. [The Daily Breeze]
Publishing | Calvin Reid looks at how publishing is done on Kickstarter, and interviews Maris Kreizman, the general publishing manager, and Jamie Tanner, who oversees the comics category and is himself a comics creator. Comics campaigns have a success rate of nearly 50 percent, making them the fourth-highest category on Kickstarter (and way ahead of general publishing, which has a 32 percent success rate). Tanner sees the popularity of comics as an indication that people still like a print product, and, he pointed out, “setting up a [Kickstarter comics] project, offering rewards and a delivery date, is very much like any conventional comics publishing project.” [Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP’s global senior vice president, talks about his company’s strategy of focusing on a few big shows, rather than a lot of smaller ones, and gives the numbers for last month’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo: Attendance was about 62,900, up 18 percent from last year, and the show floor grew by 15,000 square feet. Attendees are mostly in the 18-to-35 age group, and the majority are male, although the proportion of women at C2E2 has increased by 6 percent since 2011. Male or female, many of the folks on the floor seem to be “casual consumers” rather than “hardcore fans”: About 50 percent of attendees at New York Comic Con were there for the first time. “Depending on which exhibiting company you’re talking to, they either love it or they’re not sure what to do with it,” Fensterman said. “You’re delivering new readers and new potential consumers. We think it’s cool that you’re getting that fresh perspective, not quite so jaded (been there, done that).” [ICv2]
Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, Feldstein began his career as a teenager at Eisner & Iger Studio, doing menial tasks initially for $3 a week and then, after World War II, freelancing for publishers like Fox Comics. In 1948, he approached William Gaines, who had become publisher of EC Comics following the death of his father Max Gaines, and began a working relationship that would last for decades.
Although Feldstein started at EC as an artist, he soon wrote his own stories; within a couple of years, he was also editing most of the publisher’s titles. He’s credited with co-creating iconic anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Terror, Panic and Shock SuspenStories and helping to develop a stable of contributors — Otto Binder, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein, among them — whose influence is still felt in the industry.
Passings | Isabelle “Barbara” Fiske Calhoun, who as Barbara Hall was an artist for Harvey Comics during World War II, died Monday at age 94. Calhoun and her first husband, Irving Fiske, left New York in 1946 and founded a commune in Vermont on land they bought with their wedding money. The commune became the Quarry Hill Creative Center and is “Vermont’s oldest alternative and artist’s retreat.” While the obituary mentions Calhoun’s comics career only in passing, Trina Robbins has more detail in Pretty in Ink: She says Calhoun drew the Black Cat, one of the first comic-book superheroines, and then was the artist for the Speed Comics feature, Girl Commandos, an all-woman team of Nazi fighters led by Pat Parker, War Nurse. “She left comics when her husband-to-be persuaded her to give up cartooning and become an oil painter, a gain for the world of fine art but a loss for comics,” Robbins writes. [Burlington Free Press]
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]