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Libraries | Digital media distributor Midwest Tape has announced a new e-book and comics service for libraries, which will be accessed via its hoopla platform. Unlike the widely used Overdrive, the service will allow multiple checkouts for a single book, rather than limiting checkouts to one user at a time. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | The trial began Tuesday for Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani on charges of spreading propaganda and insulting members of parliament, stemming from a cartoon she posted on Facebook depicting politicians as monkeys and other animals. Farghadani has been an activist in other ways as well, meeting with the families of people killed during the 2009 presidential elections. She was arrested last August and sent to prison, released, and then arrested again after posting a video online describing beatings by prison guards. She has been in solitary confinement since January and suffered a heart attack in February, after being on a hunger strike for three weeks. [The Washington Post]
Comics | More than 3,000 copies of the comic book Brink City Special Edition: Kids Lives Matter will be distributed to children in Cleveland to promote gun safety and encourage toy gun buy-back programs. Just last November, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in Cleveland by a police officer who mistook his airsoft pistol for a real one. Funded by private foundations, the comic was produced by the Rid-All Green Partnership. [Fox 8]
Passings | Mennonite cartoonist Joel Kauffmann, creator of the religious-humor strip Pontius’ Puddle, died last week at age 64. The son of a Mennonite pastor, Kauffmann grew up on a farm in Hopedale, Illinois, and started drawing early: “He was always drawing wherever he was, including the many hours he spent in church,” said his sister, Mary Kauffmann-Kanel. Pontius’ Puddle ran for over 30 years in over 200 publications; Kauffmann also wrote the screenplay for the movie The Radicals, which told the story of two early leaders of the Anabaptist movement, and he was producing content for the Museum of the Bible project funded by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green. [Mennonite World Review]
Passings | Dexter Taylor, the longtime writer and artist of The Adventures of Little Archie, has died at age 84. He began working for Archie Comics in the 1950s, first in the production department and then as an assistant to artist Bob Bolling on Little Archie before taking the reins on the title in 1965. His run continued until the series ended in 1983. “The first day I came to work at Archie Comics I met the nicest, most helpful, friendliest and honest person: Dexter Taylor,” Victor Gorelick, Archie’s longtime editor-in-chief and co-president, said in a statement. [Archie Comics, Den of Geek]
Political cartoons | Cartoonist Milt Priggee stands by his editorial cartoon, which appeared in the Kitsap (Washington) Sun, depicting a recently slain toddler as an angel and “America’s gun culture” as the devil. Priggee and the newspaper’s editor have come under fire from the public and from the grandfather of the 2-year-old, who accuse him of using a tragedy to score political points. Priggee said his goal was to get people to think critically about gun culture: “A cartoon is a simple machine to make the reader think, not joke. It’s not a comic strip, it’s not entertainment, and this is where newspapers have fallen down. They have not taken any kind of opportunity to educate the public because a lot of times people come to an editorial cartoon and they say, ‘Well there’s nothing funny about this. Why is this in the newspaper?'” [MyNorthwest.com]
Passings | Manga creator Cocoa Fujiwara died March 31 at age 31. Fujiwara’s Inu x Boku SS, a story about humans with yokai blood who live together in a special apartment building, with some serving as bodyguards for others, is being published by Yen Press and has been made into an anime. Her first manga, a short story titled “Calling,” was published when she was just 15, and she chose not to go to high school in order to pursue a career as an artist. Her current series, Katsute Mahō Shōjo to Aku wa Tekitai Shiteita, runs in Square Enix’s Gangan Joker magazine, as did Inu x Boku SS. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | The driver killed early Sunday when her car crashed into the Mile High Comics store in Denver, Colorado, has been identified as 17-year-old Karen Lopez. There were no passengers in the car, and no one was in the store at the time. Mile High Comics will hold an auction to benefit Lopez’s family; in an earlier news report, owner Chuck Rozanski described what happened and said, “When someone suffers a violent death like this within your space, I mean this is my building, I love this building and I love being here every day and now to know someone died here it’s going to alter my perception forever.” [KDVR]
Every year, I participate in my city’s Community Reading Day, in which adults in various professions read a book to an elementary school class. Everyone loves to read to the little kids, so I always volunteer for the older grades, and of course I bring comics.
Sometimes I get a good response and sometimes I don’t, but this year was really great, because of both the book and the kids.
The book was a no-brainer: Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, which was the top selling graphic novel in bookstores last year and the top pick on the Good Comics for Kids blog’s list of the best children’s graphic novels of 2014.
Manga | Dark Horse has announced the September release of Astro Boy Omnibus Volume 1, an oversized collection featuring nearly 700 pages of Osamu Tezuka’s most popular creation, billed as the first in a series. The news follows the recent announcement of the publisher’s oversized editions of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. [Dark Horse]
Publishing | David Carter takes a hard look at Vertigo as part of his analysis of DC Comics’ December sales. He notes that most of the series are selling poorly (under — often well under — 15,000 copies) and speculates that the reason may be that creators, even those who do work for DC, are taking their creator-owned books to Image Comics. He also thinks Vertigo’s trade policy isn’t working, as releasing the trades early and pricing the first one low encourages readers to skip the monthly comics — but then there’s a high probability they will forget about a new series altogether. [The Beat]
Passings | Bermuda-based cartoonist Peter Woolcock died Wednesday after being struck by a car as he was walking to the office of The Royal Gazette to deliver his weekly cartoon. He was 88. Born and raised on a farm in Argentina, Woolcock served on a British tank crew in World War II (during which time he also kept a sketchbook) and worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for almost 60 years, first for children’s magazines in the United Kingdom and then, after moving in 1981 to Bermuda, as an editorial cartoonist. Both his editors and the politicians he depicted have kind things to say in this lengthy obituary, which notes that his final cartoon was about San Diego losing the bid to host the America’s Cup. [The Royal Gazette]
Creators | Candorville cartoonist Darrin Bell talks about the political cartoons he drew in response to the non-indictments of the police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as his own experiences as a black man who got “the talk” when he was 6 or 7 years old and will some day have to give it to his own son. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | Former Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint against cartoonist Musa Kart over a cartoon caricaturing Erdoğan’s attempts to cover up a graft investigation. The prosecutor initially decided that there were no grounds for legal action, but Erdoğan took his case to the Bakırköy 14th High Criminal Court, which ruled that the cartoon exceeded the bounds of normal criticism and allowed the indictment to proceed. Kart could face nearly 10 years in prison if convicted and given the maximum sentence.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have dropped charges against all 209 of the people suspected in participating in the actual corruption Erdoğan is accused of covering up; those charges would have included “the transfer of lands with a value of billions of dollars at very low prices, the seizure of mines from businessmen by force, tender-rigging, illegally giving state tenders worth billions of dollars to businessmen, changing the status of protected areas through bribery, opening these [areas] for construction and making large profits off of them.” [Today’s Zaman]
Conventions | ReedPOP Senior Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about how New York Comic Con reached 151,000 attendees this year, what went well, what could have gone better, and what he learned for next time. The new badges and check in/check out system, introduced last year, let producers know exactly how long people stayed at the show, and that turned into a nice surprise for two attendees: “There was a couple [last year] who literally spent every minute that was possible at New York Comic Con for three and a half days. We reached out to them and did something special for them—gave them a bunch of free stuff and free tickets because they were at the show longer than anyone who wasn’t paid to be at the show.” [ICv2]
Political cartoons | Egyptian cartoonists Mohamed Anwar and Andeel discuss the difficulty of critiquing Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who doesn’t tolerate dissent; Anwar is a cartoonist for a mainstream newspaper and pulls some punches as the tradeoff for reaching a wide audience, while Andeel has moved over to the alternative press, where he can speak more freely. [The Guardian]
Graphic novels | Although BookScan’s September list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores is populated largely by old stalwarts — The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Saga, Watchmen — Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1, the only Marvel title on the chart, clung to the Top 20 in its second month of release (although it slipped from No. 4. to No. 20). Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, meanwhile, climbed in its third month to No. 6. One new manga debuted at No. 12: Noragami, about a homeless god who does odd jobs as he tries to build up his reputation; the anime is already out, which probably gave it a boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | A television reporter pays a visit to the Last Gasp offices to talk about the Kickstarter recently launched by the longtime publisher of underground comics (and other quirky books). It’s worth a look just to see the owner’s amazing collection of oddities. [NBC Bay Area]
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]
Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]
Creators | Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama estimates that the blockbuster manga series will end in three years. “I’d like to end things quickly, with a tight pace of story developments,” he told Japan’s Da Vinci magazine, “and then I always end up feeling like I should qualify that with a ‘but,’ so for now, I can’t say anything more specific.” [RocketNews 24]
Conventions | Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has a thriving entertainment industry, and comics are blossoming there as well. At The Beat, Deji Bryce Olukotun interviews Ayodele Elegba, co-founder of this past weekend’s Lagos Comic Con, about the popularity of comics, what makes the Nigerian comics scene different from others, and the ever-present problem of piracy. [The Beat]
Creators | Cartoonist Roz Chast talks about her memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? landing on the 2014 longlist for 2014 National Book Award. It’s the first time a graphic novel has been nominated in that category, and Chast is the only woman on this year’s list. When The Wall Street Journal noted that, between this nomination and Alison Bechdel’s MacArthur “genius grant,” “it’s a good day to be a female cartoonist,” Chast replied, “I totally agree. Actually my first thought was just it’s good for cartoons, for the graphic form.” [Speakeasy]
Creators | Alex de Campi talks about her pioneering digital comic Valentine, widely regarded as the first long-form comic to make extensive use of digital techniques. She doesn’t think the medium has come too far since then: “We’re all still in the shallow end, congratulating each other for getting our feet wet. There’s been no significant innovation since us. The DC and Marvel stuff is still based on half-page increments so it can go to print. The Madefire stuff I have seen (not a lot, maybe it’s gotten better) is just embarrassing motion comics. It pisses me off because there is so much more to be done. And I want to do it. But it would take an investor, or a very daring multi-media entertainment company. And big entertainment companies are many things, but daring is not one of them.” [Digital Spy]