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Welcome to Store Tour, ROBOT 6’s new weekly exploration of comics shops, and the people who run them. Think of it as the retailer version of Shelf Porn. Each Sunday we’ll feature a different store, and also get to know the person behind the register.
This week’s store is The Comic Room, located at 659 McCowan Road in Toronto, Ontario, at the intersection of McCowan and Lawrence Avenue East. We spoke with manager Sean Clement.
Awards | Cartoonist Roz Chast is one of six recipients of this year’s Heinz Awards, which recognize “exceptional Americans, for their creativity and determination in finding solutions to critical issues.” The honor comes with an $250,000 cash prize. “‘Floored’ does not begin to describe it,” says the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? “I don’t think I’ve fully absorbed it yet.” [The Washington Post]
Political cartoons | In a radio interview, Afghan political cartoonist Habib Rahman Habib talks about his work. [NPR]
Libraries | Michael Cavna talks to Drama creator Raina Telgemeier and Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about graphic novel challenges in libraries and why Drama made the American Library Association’s 2014 list of 10 most challenged books. [The Washington Post]
Political cartoons | The East African cartoonist Gado has been let go from the Kenyan newspaper The Nation, apparently due to pressure from the government. The move came after the newspaper’s owner met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who’s been pushing the publication to drop some its contributors critical of his government. Gado’s cartoons about various scandals, and his depictions of the president as a prisoner with a ball and chain and as a turbaned Sikh (following an attempted land grab that involved four entrepreneurs named Singh) have clearly hit a nerve. [Spy Ghana] Continue Reading »
If you’re looking lay your hands on a million-dollar comic, New Dimension Comics probably can’t help you. However, if you want to browse a million $1 comics, that’s the place to be on Saturday.
Todd McDevitt, owner of the Ellwood City, Pennsylvania store — the state’s largest — is holding a $1 sale so big, that it spills over from New Dimension’s Lawrence Avenue location to a neighboring storefront and a former VFW Post.
Legal | The Malaysian government today charged cartoonist Zunar with nine counts of sedition stemming from his tweets about the sodomy conviction of opposition party Anwar Ibrahim. Zunar was released on bail, then held for questioning when an image appeared on his Facebook page depicting the prime minister’s wife (a frequent target of the cartoonist) in prison garb. Zunar said he knew nothing about the drawing and was released again. The Malaysian government has been ramping up its prosecutions under the colonial-era Sedition Act, which critics contend is being used to suppress dissent. “This is a record, being charged nine times and using the sedition law,” said Zunar’s lawyer, Latheefa Koya. “It is excessive and targeted at silencing vocal critics.” If found guilty, Zunar could face 43 years in prison. Before he was even released, Zunar tweeted a defiant cartoon of himself in handcuffs, drawing with a pen in his mouth. [The Associated Press]
Star Clipper, the St. Louis comic store that closed last month after 27 years, will reopen in April with new owners and a new location.
Riverfront Times reports that Fantasy Books Inc. owners Steve Unverferth and Tony Favello had already bought Star Clipper’s fixtures for a new downtown location (a former art gallery and dojo), and even hired some of its stuff. And then on Feb. 21 they purchased the Star Clipper name.
Auctions | A page of original artwork from 1971’s Asterix and the Laurel Wreath sold at auction Sunday for more than $158,000, with proceeds going to benefit the families of those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices. The art included a special dedication by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, who came out of retirement in the days after the attack to draw tributes to the victims. The auction house Christie’s waived its commission for Sunday’s sale. [BBC News]
Political cartoons | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who has been sued, threatened and reprimanded by his own government because of his political cartoons, revealed last week that he has also received threats from an Ecuadorean member of ISIS over a cartoon making fun of the extremist group. While he ultimately decided the threat wasn’t credible, Bonilla said, “It has to be understood within this climate of hostility and harassment that’s been created within the country. It’s gotten to the point where even humor is being persecuted and oppressed by the president.” Reporter Jim Wyss also looks at some other cases of government suppression of political cartoons in Latin America [Miami Herald]
Awards | Roz Chast has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography for her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast’s tale of taking care of her parents in their declining years seems to be one of those books that crosses the usual boundaries, winning recognition not only in comics circles but in general book awards such as the Kirkus Awards and the National Book Awards. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | ICv2 continues its focus on manga with a profile of Boston’s Comicopia, where they stock a lot of manga (4,000 volumes) and the staff really understands it. Most of the manga is simply shelved by title, reflecting the fact that readers often cross the target demographics (i.e. a lot of girls read Shonen Jump), but Comicopia also has sections for yaoi, all-ages manga, and “Manga for People that Don’t Like Manga.” [ICv2]
Manga | ICv2 kicks off a week of manga coverage with a two-part interview with Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s senior director of sales and marketing. Sales are up, with particularly strong growth in the direct market, where their older and darker series, like the Signature line, tend to do better. Interestingly, sales of shoujo (girls’) manga are up 20 percent in the direct market as well. In bookstores, as measured by BookScan, they are the number one graphic novel publisher of 2014, and they had five of the top ten best-sellers. Given all that, Hamric is genial about ceding the top spot to a Kodansha title: “Attack on Titan is #1, but whatever works and brings people into the stores and into the category is good for everybody.” In Part 2, he reveals what he expects to be the biggest book of 2015, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. [ICv2]
Publishing | The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before armed gunmen attacked its offices last month, but the outpouring of support that followed has changed the financial picture: The first issue after the attack sold millions of copies, 250,000 new subscribers signed up, and the paper even received more than $4.5 million in donations. The flush of wealth is causing dissension among the staff, Sam Schechner reports, with some arguing that the publication should become a cooperative. At the same time, they’re discussing how Charlie Hebdo will keep its edge under the new circumstances. A new issue, the second since the attacks, is out on newsstands today. [The Wall Street Journal]
Passings | Andy Hutton, who drew the popular strip “The Q-Bikes” (which morphed briefly into “The Q-Karts”) for the British comic The Beano, died last month at age 91. Born in Calcutta, Hutton moved as a teenager to Dundee, Scotland, where he began working for Beano publisher DC Thomson at age 14. He quit that job to train to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force, but poor eyesight kept him grounded much of the time. After World War II, he got an art degree and lived in Canada for a while, working in nuclear reactor construction, before returning in 1950 to Scotland. He was a Beano artist for 25 years, and his work included Red Rory of the Eagles, Jack Flash and The Kangaroo Kid; he also taught art in a local high school. [Down the Tubes]
The couple, who’s owned the store for 33 years, recently learned their lease isn’t being renewed because the physician next door is looking to expand and offered more money. “We weren’t given a choice,” Marsha Giroux told CBS 5. “And, this beautiful store, filled with amazing stuff, is going to be a waiting room for a doctor’s office.”
Legal | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested last night on sedition charges stemming from a tweet criticizing the court that upheld the sodomy conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. On Tuesday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar posted a screencap of the offending tweet, which said, “Followers (Barua-barua) in black robes were proud in delivering judgement. Reward by Mr Politician must be lavish,” reflecting the popular opinion that the conviction was a political ploy by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to silence Anwar. Zunar then tweeted a cartoon of Najib as the judge handing down the verdict. Although his lawyer said Zunar offered to come in to answer questions, he was brought to the Dang Wangi police station, where he can be detained until Saturday — or longer, if police renew the remand order. [The Rakyat Post]
Conventions | The third Taipei International Comics and Animation Festival kicked off today in Taiwan, where organizers expect as many as 400,000 attendees over the next five days. Forty-seven artists, authors, actors and producers from Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are participating in the event, which last year attracted 409,000 fans and generated about $5.9 million in sales. [Want China Times]
Graphic novels | ICv2 has the January graphic novel chart from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales in book channels. Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? tops the list, with the fourth volume of Saga coming in second, and the 22nd volume of The Walking Dead in third. The list is a bit different from previous months because the chart began including nonfiction graphic novels just last month, and going forward ICv2 will break the titles into three categories: superhero/genre, manga and “author” graphic novels. The retailer-oriented website throws in some interesting bits of analysis, including the fact that six of the Top 20 titles — including books No. 1 and 2 — had female creators or co-creators. [ICv2]
Awards | Longtime MAD Magazine cartoonist Mort Drucker has been named as the first recipient of the National Cartoonists Society’s Medal of Honor. [Comic Riffs]