SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Manga | Japanese publisher East Press has released a manga adaptation of the Koran as part of its series devoted to classic or historical literature. “The Koran is the foundation of the daily life and ideology of people who believe in the teachings of Islam,” the publisher writes on its website. “The name Islam is often heard in the daily news, but because we Japanese aren’t usually familiar with it, a perverted image [of Islam] as abstemious or linked to terrorism is liable to persist. So what kind of teachings do [Muslims] actually believe in? What are they thinking about? To understand the modern international community and Islam, let’s try to experience the scriptures where all that is written down.” East Press has adapted 133 famous works, ranging from War and Peace to the Bible to Mein Kampf. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Garry Trudeau has some straight talk for those who criticized him for basing Sunday’s Doonesbury on the controversial Rolling Stone expose of the University of Virginia’s handling of rape cases — or thought maybe the strip was submitted before a number of commentators cast doubt on the lead anecdote in that article. The cartoonist insists that’s not the point: “We had some internal discussion about whether the flaws in the [Rolling Stone] reporting mattered here, and we concluded they didn’t. UVA is only used as setup to get the reader to consider the larger problem of institutions prioritizing their reputations over the welfare of those they’re charged with safeguarding.” [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Three assistants of the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar were arrested last week for selling his books. They were set up near the Putrajaya courthouse, where opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is on trial for sodomy, a charge Ibrahim claims is politically motivated. In a press release, Zunar said the three assistants were “investigated under The Sedition Act, Penal Code and Printing and Press Act” and released on bail. It has only been a month since a Malaysian appeals court overturned a government ban on two of Zunar’s books. [Cartoonists Rights Network International]
Creators | Garry Trudeau discusses his portrayals of different presidents, and politics in general, in Doonesbury and Alpha House. [The New York Times]
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]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
I should add that this post contains SPOILERS for Batman #28 and All-New X-Men #23, so read at your own risk. Now let’s get to it …
The renewal of Garry Trudeau’s Amazon Studios comedy Alpha House means there won’t be any new weekday Doonesbury strips until at least fall. New Sunday installments will continue to run for the time being.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist announced in May he would take a summer sabbatical to work on Alpha House, a political satire about four senators who share a home in Washington, D.C. New Sunday strips reappeared in September, but daily versions were delayed until November; according to the Chicago Tribune, vacation repeats began running this week.
“As I discovered last year, the demands of producing the show are considerable, and my efforts to return to the daily strip while we were still in production had to be abandoned,” Trudeau said in a statement released this morning.
He declined to offer a return date, saying, “There’s no way of knowing how many seasons of Alpha House lie ahead. I could be back drawing Doonesbury full-time in the fall.”
However, Trudeau acknowledged to The Washington Post that the break from Doonesbury may have a price: “A hiatus comes with uncertainty, of course: I can’t assume I’ll be welcomed back a year or two from now.”
Graphic novels | Image Comics had a strong December in bookstores, snagging nine slots on BookScan’s Top 20 chart: Eight volumes of The Walking Dead (including the very first one, at No. 4), plus the first Saga collection, which was originally released in October 2012. The first two volumes of Attack on Titan, which are more than a year old, were also on the chart. [ICv2]
Legal | Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Jihad Jane,” was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison for her role in a failed conspiracy to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew images of the Prophet Mohammed that offended many Muslims. [The New York Times]
Creators | Garry Trudeau is extending his hiatus from the daily Doonesbury strip until November, although new Sunday strips will begin running this weekend. “I have hit the wall,” Trudeau explained in a letter to newspapers that carry Doonesbury, saying that the demands of writing and producing Amazon Studios’ Alpha House are keeping him from returning to the daily strip on schedule. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | Mary and Bryan Talbot discuss their work in a short video shot at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. [Forbidden Planet]
Editorial cartoons | The Cartoonists Rights International has given its 2013 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award to Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan, who was arrested in his newspaper office in Hama, Syria, about six months ago and has been held incommunicado since then; reliable sources report that he has been tortured while in prison. Raslan will be tried on Monday in a special court on an array of charges, including insulting the president and incitement to sedition, stemming from his cartoons. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Creators | Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers is donating the prize money from the Thomas Nast Award he recently received to the CRNI. Rogers’ donation will go directly to a cartoonist who’s in hiding for fear of being deported to his home country of Syria. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Conventions | The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival has come to an end, after establishing itself in just four short years as one of the most loved indie-comics events. A message posted on the event’s blog under the headline “Thank You and Good Night” reads simply, “We have decided not to continue with BCGF. We had a great run and thank all of our colleagues for their support.” [The Beat]
Creators | Garry Trudeau talks about Doonesbury, supporting wounded warriors, and his Alpha House show in a video interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | Michael Aushenker profiles Rutu Modan, whose The Property, a tale of a Jewish woman returning to Poland to reclaim an apartment lost during the Holocaust, debuted at Toronto Comic Arts Festival: “When I go to vote, I have to decide who is bad and who is a good guy, but when I write I can support the Poles and the Jews. I’m much more interested in the gray areas. They’re more closer to reality.” [The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles]
Continuing its busy week, comiXology has announced a deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing to bring Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate and Scott Adams’ Dilbert and other comic strips to the growing digital platform beginning today. Additional AMP releases will be available in later months.
“We are thrilled to bring our cutting-edge, world-renowned comics and best-selling humor books to comiXology’s global audience,” Kirsty Melville, publisher and president of Andrews McMeel’s books division, said in a statement. “Andrews McMeel prides itself on publishing exceptional and innovative content, and making it available to consumers wherever and however they choose to read. This digital engagement with comiXology, through their innovative buying and reading experience, provides a perfect way for new audiences to discover our titles.”
ComiXology kicked off the week with news that Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing iPad app in 2012, up from No. 10 the previous year. That was followed Wednesday by the debut of Continue, a continuous-bookmarking feature that permits users to pick up reading on one device where they left off on another, and the announcement this morning that Mark Waid’s Thrillbent imprint has signed a distribution deal that begins with the digital debut of Insufferable by Waid and Peter Krause.
Museums | So what is the deal with the move of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art to the Society of Illustrators? They are being “transferred and acquired,” says MoCCA President Ellen Abramowitz, although the headline on this article says “rescued.” “After the transition, the Society of Illustrators will go on to be the sole overseer and manager of the holdings. ‘It’s in excellent hands,’ said Ms. Abramowitz.” [The Wall Street Journal]
Comics sales | Torsten Adair takes a snapshot of what graphic novels were selling best on the Barnes & Noble website last week, and the results look very good if you’re Robert Kirkman: Thirteen out of 20 graphic novels to make the Top 1000 books were volumes of The Walking Dead, and overall, hardcovers outsold paperbacks. So maybe the zombie thing isn’t totally over? The top-selling graphic novel isn’t even out yet: It’s the graphic novel adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Both that and The Walking Dead Compendium cracked the Top 100, which includes all books, not just graphic novels. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times says the new iPad improves the comic reading experience: “But the iPad’s new Retina Display throws the door to digital comic books wide open. The experience of reading a comic book on either of the first two generations of iPads was, at best, adequate. If your vision is good and you’re willing to squint a little, you can possibly read comics in fullpage mode. Halfway through the first issue of a story arc, though, you’ll stop being a hero. If you’re using an open comic book editor, you’ll start zooming and scrolling. If you bought your comics from the Comixology mode, you’ll switch to their guided panel view mode.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Theme parks | Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company has begun preliminary design work that will pave the way for Marvel superheroes to one day appear alongside familiar characters in Disney theme parks. Iger told shareholders attending the annual meeting Tuesday that the company has been working on some concepts, but hasn’t announced anything yet. Disney is currently developing attractions based on James Cameron’s Avatar film for its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, which are expected to be ready in 2015. [Los Angeles Times]
Comic strips | Alan Gardner counts 57 newspapers that aren’t carrying this week’s Doonesbury comics, which address a Texas law requiring women requesting an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound. But according to Universal UClick, no papers have dropped Garry Trudeau’s strip. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller discusses the Rule of Eight, which holds that independent publishers start to falter once they put out more than eight titles per month, and goes into the nuances of the theory with its originator of the idea, Marc Patten. [The Comichron]
Some newspapers just put Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury on the editorial page; others run it next to Garfield and then are startled when they notice the tone is somewhat different. Watch for one of those moments next week: The Portland Oregonian and the St. Paul Pioneer Press have already announced they will not run a week’s worth of strips that are critical of the Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before they are permitted to have an abortion. Other papers, including the Kansas City Star, will move them to the op-ed section. Jim Romenesko has the scripts as well as statements from the two papers—and from the Dallas Morning News, which will run the strips. (Honestly, the scripts sound a bit heavy-handed, but I thought Friday’s was dead on.)
On the one hand, you can see the papers’ point. People don’t want to hear about abortion over their Cheerios, and the strips include mention of a ten-inch “shaming wand” and show a woman in stirrups in an examining room. But Doonesbury has always been controversial and by now, there is no excuse for editors not to know what they are getting into. Besides, it’s satire on a social issue that has been very much in the news these days, including the news and opinion sections of those same newspapers, so why not run it on the funny pages?
The Atlantic Wire thinks that getting himself banned is brilliant self-promotion on Trudeau’s part, noting that the Chicago Tribune pulled some Doonesbury strips last year that drew from Joe McGinniss’s book about Sarah Palin. And it’s not like he’ll take a big hit from this; Lee Salem, president of Universal UClick, which syndicates Doonesbury, figures “20 or 30″ papers out of the 1,400 that carry the strip will kill next week’s episodes.
UPDATE: In an interview with the Washington Post, Trudeau says that ignoring the latest turn in the abortion controversy would be “comedy malpractice.”