Finn Wields a Lightsaber in New "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Footage
Graphic novels | The National Arts Council of Singapore has withdrawn a $8,000 publication grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, a biography of the Singaporean comics pioneer that depicts some tumultuous events in the nation’s history. “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions,” said Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the literary arts sector of the NAC. He did not specify what the “sensitive content” was, but the book makes satirical references to Singaporean politics and history. The publisher, Epigram, will return the $6,400 that was disbursed already and will cover the NAC’s logo on the book cover with a sticker. The book will be published next year in the United States by Pantheon. [Straits Times]
Conventions | Chicago’s RedEye has an overview of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, which kicked off this morning at McCormick Place, and talks with Brian Stephenson of producer ReedPop about the future of the five-year-old show. “It has all the potential in the world to be bigger than San Diego [Comic Con] or New York, all based on the square footage at McCormick,” he said. Meanwhile Chicagoist checks in with a convention food guide, while Chicago Now offers a rundown of the best after-parties. [Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo]
Although Drew Struzan is rumored to be returning to paint posters for the new Star Wars trilogy, the famed artist came out of retirement a little early for another project: Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World, a documentary chronicling the events of Nov. 15, 2013, when San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City to fulfill the wish of 5-year-0ld leukemia patient Miles Scott to be Batman.
Deadline unveiled the poster, created for free by Struzan, who’s legendary for his iconic posters for such films as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner and Back to the Future. The artist retired in 2008.
Crime | Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested two men on Friday on charges of stealing $5,000 worth of comics from a local collector. After the robbery, the collector contacted local comic shops and asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen goods. Several retailers gave police information, including a license plate number, that led to the arrests of Gino Saenz and Jose Gonzalez on charges of theft. [San Antonio Express-News]
Digital comics | Humble Bundle sold $3 million worth of DRM-free digital comics in 2014, the first year in which the company included e-books and comics in its bundles. Total e-book revenues were $4.75 million, of which $1.2 million went to charity (including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). That may sound like a lot of money, but as director of e-books Kelley Allen said, “The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” because the audience for the latter is so vast. Humble Bundle’s e-books are DRM-free, which has been a stumbling block for traditional book publishers, but comics publishers are more flexible, Allen said. [Publishers Weekly]
Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World will have its world premiere in January at the Slamdance Film Festival.
The crowdfunded documentary chronicles the events behind the scenes on Nov. 15, 2013, when San Francisco was transformed into Gotham City to fulfill the wish of 5-year-0ld leukemia patient Miles Scott to be Batman. Although the Make-A-Wish Foundation expected a few hundred people to turn out to cheer on Batkid as he and Batman captured Penguin and the Riddler, the celebration drew an estimated 14,500 in the city alone. The event also captured the attention of people around the world, as more than a billion used social media to encourage Batkid; President Obama even used Vine to deliver a special message to Miles.
Retailing | The Books-A-Million retail chain reported significant growth in the last quarter, due in part to strong sales of manga and strategy games. “Sales in the graphic novel category … grew nicely on the strength of a significant resurgence in the interest in several manga series, particularly Attack on Titan,” CEO Terry Finley said in an earnings call. The chain’s sales increased 1.2 percent, and same-store sales were up 1.8 percent last quarter compared to the same quarter last year; by contrast, fiscal year 2013 sales were down by 9.4 percent from the previous year. [ICv2]
Creators | Jeff Lemire talks about his new graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth One, which reflects his love of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s The New Teen Titans: “I wanted a fresh and clean take on a teen super-team without having to rely on other heroes or continuity. So I gravitated to these unique teen characters Marv and George had created, and re-envisioned them through my own sensibilities along with artist Terry Dodson, who really helped them come to life.” [The Kindle Post]
The Canadian cartoonist simply known as Seth has been the focus of two remarkable events in recent weeks: a documentary, Seth’s Dominion, that just won the grand prize for best animated feature at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival, and an exhibit of his model town, Dominion, at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The film was directed by Luc Chamberland and is a mix of live-action and animation based on Seth’s art. Chamberland described the start of the process in an interview:
Events | The driver who plowed through the crowd last month at the annual SDCC ZombieWalk: San Diego, injuring a 64-year-old passersby, has given an interview providing his version of the event, saying he had turned off the engine to wait for the parade to pass when participants began surrounding his car. The situation quickly escalated, he says, when a spectator sat on the hood and hit the windshield, shattering it, and another person opened the back door. “I got scared. That’s when I plowed my car through the crowd,” says the unidentified 48-year-old. “I had to do this to save my family because of the crowd. I couldn’t tell if the parade was done.” He adds, “I felt awful about it. I just couldn’t believe that I actually hit the old lady.” [iDeafNews, Times of San Diego]
Retailing | Image Comics took seven of the Top 20 spots on Nielsen BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in May, with multiple volumes of Saga and The Walking Dead once again appearing, joined by the first collection of Sex Criminals. Kodansha Comics took six spots, with the most recent volume of Attack on Titan at the top of the chart, followed by the first volume. Four more volumes were scattered around the list. Legendary’s Godzilla movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening, placed at No. 3. [ICv2]
Legal | The Japanese legislature has moved forward with a bill that would criminalize possession of child pornography, which is expected to pass the Diet before it recesses on June 22. The new law would ban photos and videos made using real children but excludes manga and anime. [The Japan Times]
Gravitas Ventures has debuted a new full-length trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson, the Kickstarter-funded documentary that explores the influence of cartoonist Bill Watterson and his beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
It’s a six-year passion project by director Joel Allen Schroeder, who raised $25,000 in 2010 so he, producers Christopher Browne and Matt McUsic, and cinematographer Andrew P. Waruszewski could interview a slew of cartoonists, editors and fans, and then another $96,772 in 2012. Dear Mr. Watterson, which had its festival premiere in April at the Cleveland International Fan Festival, will debut Nov. 15 in theaters and On Demand.
NPR television critic Linda Holmes has spent the past couple of weeks tweeting from the Television Critics Association press tour, which ended with a panel on the PBS documentary Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle. Debuting Oct. 8, the three-part miniseries was directed by Michael Kantor, who was on the panel with comic book writers Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway.
Holmes noted that the panelists asked about the lack of diversity in superhero comics, but unfortunately, the response to that question wasn’t very satisfying. She paraphrases four reasons cited by the panel:
Documentary filmmaker Miguel Cima has a passion for comics and wonders why more people don’t. It’s a valid, perplexing question considering the variety of genres and formats they come in. Comics are much more ubiquitous in Japan and Europe, so what’s preventing them from taking hold the same way in the United States?
Cima explored that some in his 2008 short documentary Dig Comics (Tim O’Shea interviewed Cima about it for Robot 6 at the time). You can watch the entire, 20-minute film, which includes interviews with Jeph Loeb and Scott Shaw, below.
The filmmaker wants to do more than just ask the questions, however: He also wants to help figure out the solution. To that end, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a feature-length version of Dig Comics. The $250,000 budget includes filming in New York City, France and Japan to gather more insight into the history of American comics and what makes comics so popular overseas. The feature is just a step in Cima’s larger plans, though. If it’s successful, he’d also like to develop a television series to continue the campaign to make comics as popular in North America as they are in other places and once were here.
Sequart Research & Literacy Organization and Respect! Films, the folks behind the documentaries Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts, are next turning their camera on bestselling author and comics writer Neil Gaiman.
Directed by Patrick Meaney, the documentary is described as “an all-access look at the scribe’s illustrious, media-spanning career, from his first foray into published writing all the way up to the current signing tour for his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” It will include footage from Gaiman’s lectures and readings, as well as from his performances with Amanda Palmer, and interviews with his fans, contemporaries and collaborators.
More details are expected to be revealed over the summer, with the documentary premiering in 2015. In the meantime you can check out the teaser trailer below.
There are two remarkable things about Dave Kellett’s Kickstarter for his documentary Stripped. The first is that the pitch video includes a snippet of what Kellett claims is the first-ever audio interview with reclusive Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. That alone is going to make this film a must-see for a lot of people.
The second is that this is a Kickstarter for a project that’s already fully funded. What Kellett is looking for with this second campaign is access to more licensed footage:
San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Chicago may be better known as comics towns, but Boston has a thriving indie comics community, and now the city has a documentary about it as well. In this 11-minute film, The Amazing and Fantastical Boston Comics Creators, director Frank Duran talks to an array of local talent, including Jesse Lonergan, Jerel Dye, John Hilliard and Ming Doyle. It’s well worth a look both to see the amazing art some of these creators are producing and to hear them talk about their process as well as the importance of the Boston Comics Roundtable in bringing them together and nurturing their work.