X-POSITION: Bennett Talks "Years Of Future Past's" Teenage Mutant Savior Heroes
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.”
Creators | Market Day creator James Sturm explains he’ll be boycotting The Avengers movie because he believes Jack Kirby, co-creator of many of Marvel’s longest-lasting characters, “got a raw deal”: “What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel’s media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain. As Stan Lee famously wrote, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’” Tom Spurgeon notes the position seems to mark a shift for Sturm, who wrote the Eisner-winning 2003 miniseries Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules for Marvel. [Slate, The Comics Reporter]
Retailing | Rumors have begun to swirl that online retail giant Amazon plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle within the next few months to help gauge the profitability of a chain. The store reportedly won’t just sell e-readers and tablets, but also books from Amazon’s newly launched publishing division. [Good E-Reader, Gawker]
Publishing | Japanese publisher Shueisha Inc. released the 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece last week with a first printing of 4 million copies, tying the record set in November by the previous volume. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Retailing | Howard Ackler writes about the final days of Dragon Lady Comics, the Toronto retailer that closed last week after 33 years in business. [National Post]
Passings | Tom Wilson Sr., creator of the long-running comic strip Ziggy, passed away Sept. 16. According to a press release from Universal Uclick, Wilson, 80, had suffered from a long illness and died in his sleep. For more than 35 years, Wilson served as a creative director at American Greetings. Wilson first published Ziggy in the 1969 cartoon collection When You’re Not Around. The Ziggy comic panel, syndicated by Universal Uclick (formerly Universal Press Syndicate), launched in 15 newspapers in June 1971. It now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers and has been featured in best-selling books, calendars and greeting cards. Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., took over the strip in 1987. [Universal Uclick]
Awards | The Chill by Jason Star and Mick Bertilorenzi won an Anthony Award this weekend at Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention. The Vertigo Crime selection won in the Best Graphic Novel category, while Birds of Prey writer Duane Swierczynski took the Best Original Paperback category with his novel Expiration Date. [Examiner]
The Poynter Institute’s Jim Romenesko (always the go-to source for journalism news) reports that Newsday and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have joined the Chicago Tribune in refusing to run this week’s Doonesbury strips, which include excerpts from Joe McGinniss’ book The Rogue, an unauthorized and extremely salacious biography of former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Shawn McIntosh, editor of the Journal-Constitution, has this response to readers who commented:
Mr. Trudeau has based this series of comic strips on an as-yet unpublished book by author Joe McGinnis about Sarah Palin. Since the book is not yet published, Ms. Palin has not had an opportunity to comment publicly on the content included in the book and picked up in the cartoons. Nor has the book yet been reviewed for accuracy. In essence, the cartoons would be reporting news, not commenting on news that is already public.
That raises an interesting question: Would the papers run the cartoons two weeks from now, after the book has been published? According to The Washington Post, McGinniss sent cartoonist Garry Trudeau an advance copy and later approached him about “an exclusive first-serial arrangement.” Honestly, this sounds as much like blatant product placement as an attempt to break news on the comics page.
Sales charts | Dollar sales of comics sold through Diamond Comic Distributors were up more than 15 percent in August, while graphic novel dollar sales rose by more than 31 percent when compared to the year-ago period. ICv2 puts the gains in perspective, noting that comic sales were down 17 percent in August 2010 and graphic novel sales were down 21 percent. August 2010 also had four ship weeks compared to August 2011’s five. DC Comics topped the August charts with Justice League #1, followed by Flashpoint #5, Fear Itself #5, Flashpoint #4 and Ultimate Comics Fallout #4. Serenity Better Days and Other Stories from Dark Horse was the no. 1 graphic novel for August. John Jackson Miller offers commentary as well as a look at the best-selling comics of this century, a list that will include Justice League #1. [ICv2, Comichron]
Comics | The Centers for Disease Control has awarded a roughly $145,000 contract to Terminus Media to create motion comics to educate young people about HIV. The comics will be offered on “internet-capable platforms” including desktop computers, laptop computers, video gaming systems, wireless phones and tablet computers. [Politico, Via]
Hello and welcome to another week of What Are You Reading?, where we talk about what comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. This week our special guest is Robin McConnell of Inkstuds fame, who will be guest blogging with us as well. Robin has a new book out that collects 30 of his interviews with folks like Jeff Lemire, Joe Sacco, Kate Beaton, Jaime Hernandez and many more; you can find more details on it over on his website.
To see what Robin and teh rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below.
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors has announced it will close its Los Angeles distribution center in March, with the facility in Olive Branch, Mississippi, taking over its functions. Regional Manager James Nash will relocate from L.A. to Olive Branch. There’s no word on how many jobs will be eliminated in the move, but ICv2 reports that “other staff has been encouraged to apply for positions in Olive Branch after their tenure in Los Angeles ends at the end of March.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Following Tuesday’s announcement that Ron Perazza has been named vice president of online for DC Entertainment comes word of two more additions to the department: DC Comics Online Editor Kwanza Johnson will be digital editor for DC Entertainment, and Technology Editor Dave McCullough will become director of online, both based in Burbank, Calif. The department will be headed by former WildStorm Vice President Hank Kanalz, who was promoted in October to senior vice president, digital. Heidi MacDonald also has a letter to freelancers from DC Vice President Terri Cunningham announcing that the Editorial Administration department will become Talent Relations & Services, which will remain in New York City. [Twitter, Twitter]
Legal | The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is resurrecting a revised bill to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. An earlier version of the controversial proposal was voted down in mid-June. The new bill removes vague defining terms like “nonexistent youth” and reportedly avoids references to “characters younger than 18,” increasing the likelihood that the proposed legislation will pass. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | As the small independent retail chain Joseph-Beth Booksellers files for bankruptcy protection, its president warns of even tougher times ahead for bookstores. “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Neil Van Uum says. [Lexington Herald-Leader, via ICv2.com]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller delves into September’s grim direct-market sales figures and discovers a (relative) bright spot: Sales of lower-tier titles — those that don’t crack Diamond’s Top 300 — appear to be increasing, to record levels. “How do we know?” Miller writes. “Believe it or not, a record for high sales was actually set in September. The 300th place comic book, Boom’s Farscape #11, sold more copies to retailers in September than in any month since November 1996: 4,702 copies. That’s a record for the period following Marvel’s return to Diamond. This bellwether tells us about the shape of the market, and how prolific the major and middle-tier publishers are; when many of their titles are being released and reordered, higher-volume titles tend to push farther into the list.”
However, the higher you go on the list, the worse things look: “The average comic book in the Top 25 is selling more poorly in 2010 than in 2003. At the very top of the chart, 2010’s average top-sellers are about 25% off what the best-sellers of 2003 were doing.” [The Comichron]
Digital publishing | As expected, Barnes & Noble on Tuesday unveiled its Nook Color e-book reader, priced at $249. The 7-inch LCD touch tablet runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, and offers web browsing, audio and video playback, and basic games (CNET notes that Barnes & Noble is pushing the device as a “reader’s tablet”). The device ships on Nov. 19. [CNET, Salon, paidContent]
Internet | PayPal has announced its much-anticipated micropayments system, with Facebook and a number of other websites lining up behind it. PayPal describes the new product, available later this year, as an “in-context, frictionless payment solution that lets consumers pay for digital goods and content in as little as two clicks, without ever having to leave a publisher’s game, news, music, video or media site.” Scott McCloud is quick out of the gate with reaction: “This is so close, in almost every respect, to what we were asking for over a decade ago, it’s almost eerie. They’re even using the same language to describe it.” [TechCrunch]