Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
This doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us, but a recent study confirms what’s been theorized for years: Comics are a stronger learning tool than text books. It’s gratifying to see for the already-converted, but it should also be a strong signal to publishers and educators that the recent exploration of comics in schools is the right way to go. After all, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it processes text.
Image-based storytelling is a powerful educational tool. Comics are probably more able to combine story and information simultaneously, more effectively and seamlessly, than almost any other medium. Just look at how easily we superhero fans memorize our favorite character’s power levels, sound effects, costumes and history. I could chronologically sort Cyclops’ outfits over the past 50 years faster than I could list the first 10 presidents of the United States. Why? Because there is a colorful narrative in comics form tied to Cyclops that captured my imagination when I was young. Meanwhile, there was a dry narrative tied to the U.S. presidents, probably more like a litany of facts occasionally brought to life by a good teacher. That doesn’t mean a history comic needs to give George Washington a ruby-quartz visor and Spandex, of course (although that would be pretty awesome!). U.S. history is actually pretty crazy and interesting on its own, but the engagement level will increase exponentially if we actually experience the story of Washington crossing the Delaware. And not just the one moment (already captured by Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting) but the sequential moments before, during and after, which builds understanding and context, not just temporarily memorized facts.
Creators | Colorist Jordie Bellaire launches a protest against a convention that refuses to include colorists as guests. “Your one sentence, ‘this is not a colorists thing,’ was surely the most pigheaded and dismissive thing I’ve been told since I began professional coloring,” she writes, and then goes on to point out all the things colorists do to make comics great and make a forceful argument for including them (as many major cons already do). In a later post she explains why she won’t name the convention. [Jordie Colors Things]
Graphic novels | A study soon to be released by a University of Oklahoma researcher shows that students who read a textbook in graphic novel form retained more than those who read a straight prose textbook. [The Oklahoman]
Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]
Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]
Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]
Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]
Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]
Retailing | The inventory Arizona retail chain Atomic Comics, which abruptly closed its four locations in late August amid the bankruptcy of owner Michael Malve, will be sold at auction
Jan. 3 Jan. 10 in Phoenix, both live and online. Known nationally for its in-store signings, innovative marketing and sheer size, the 23-year-old chain gained international exposure last year when its name and logo were featured prominently in Kick-Ass, the film adaptation of the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Photos of the inventory to be liquidated can be found on the website of the auction company. Update: The date of the auction has changed to Jan. 10. [Sierra Auction Management]
Publishing | Tim Stroup, co-founder of the Grand Comics Database, recently dug up some old comics sales figures from the 1940s; John Jackson Miller analyzes them and reaches an interesting conclusion: “comics may be reaching far fewer eyeballs, but it’s a more profitable business to be in today.” [The Comichron]
Creators | Out magazine has included writer Charles “Zan” Christensen and artist Mark Brill in its 17th annual “Out 100″ list highlighting the 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of the year. Christensen and Brill are the creators of The Power Within, an anti-bullying comic book published by Northwest Press. “Inspired, or rather upset, by Tyler Clementi’s tragic death last year, the pair set out to create an empowering story of an eighth-grader picked on for being gay,” the magazine writes. Northwest Press has distributed over 700 free copies of the book to more than 50 gay-straight alliances, schools, churches, community centers and other youth organizations. [Out]
Creators | Uncanny X-Men writer Kieron Gillen considers the accessibility of the relaunched comic in light of reviews he’s read around the web, particularly the fact that some people were thrown by the X-Men living in San Francisco: “Of course, I can see the reason why it’s thrown the people … they know the X-Men live in a mansion in Westchester. That they’re not living in Westchester is the problem. It’s not about giving the information to read the story that’s there. It’s about correcting pre-existing assumptions. In other words, it’s not a problem about being accessible to new readers – because a genuinely new reader would accept the fact the X-Men live on Utopia in the same way that they except that Bilbo lives in the Shire – but rather a problem with the readers being old readers. They feel lost not because of the story on the page, but the gap between the old story in their heads and the story on the page, and wanting to know what connects the two.” [Kieron Gillen]
Cartoonist Frank Santoro (Cold Heat, Storeyville, Kramers Ergot) has long taken his knowledge about comics and cartooning straight to the masses. From his curated longboxes, whose hand-selected ’80s genre-comic treasures bring a touch of the back-issue bin to the alternative comics conventions he attends, to his popular columns on page and layout for The Comics Journal, he’s brought idiosyncratic intensity to the study of making comics. Now, from his Tattooinesque wind-and-solar-powered redoubt in New Mexico, Santoro’s offering an eight-week correspondence course for more in-depth study.
Conducted over email, snail mail, and phone, the class will begin on Oct. 28 and cost $500 per student. Each student’s instruction will vary, designed with Santoro to be tailored to their specific needs and the kinds of comics they want to make. In the announcement, Santoro sets up his course as an alternative to schools like CCS, SVA, and SCAD: “You don’t have to move to a different city to attend one of the few schools that exist for making comic books. Put your money directly towards training – not living expenses.” But act fast: The course is only open to ten students.
Find more details, including the application requirements, at The Comics Journal.
Retailing | Tacoma, Washington, store Comic Book Ink, a seven-time nominee for the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award, could close as early as August because of mounting debt. In a plea to customers, owner John Munn attributes the store’s dire financial situation to a combination of the economy, relocation costs, an unresolved dispute with the previous landlord, the move by Diamond Comic Distributors to “call in short-term notes” in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy, and “personal trials.” In the extremely frank letter, he lays out what steps he’s taken (payment plans, using his salary from an outside job to cover payroll), and what he hesitates to do (fire staff, close the nearly nine-year-old store and declare bankruptcy): “I have juggled as far as I can juggle. I have kept a constant vigil on our shop, but currently it is resting on a house of cards and not a strong foundation (yet) that could go at any minute. [...] I need your help. This week is bad … Very bad.”
Munn asks that customers pick up any special orders or pull-list titles, purchase gift certificates, make a short-term loan or buy shares in the store. “I think we can make it,” he writes. “I wouldn’t have sent this message if I didn’t. I did not want to write this letter. I did not want to ask for help. All I ever wanted to do was to create a place where people could come and escape for awhile. A place that would invest in the community, and its organizations, that surrounded it.” [Comic Book Ink]
Retailing | The struggling Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, has reversed its January decision to close the distribution center in LaVergne, Tenn. The bookseller will instead shut down its warehouse in Carlisle, Penn., leaving the facility in Tennessee and another in California. [Nashville Business Journal, via ICv2.com]
Legal | A handful of publishers address what effect Tokyo’s revised ordinance further restricting the sale of sexually explicit manga to minors might have on the industry. “This ordinance could attack the creativity of genuine authors, not just attacking perverted comics,” says Pascal Lafine of Tonkam, a French publisher of manga. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Publishing | David Itzkoff profiles Marvel, tracing the company’s route from mid-1990s bankruptcy to its current place at the top of a struggling industry. [The New York Times]
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
Something tells me that sunny Gainesville, Florida, is about to see an influx of aspiring comics creators: Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), Leela Corman (Subway Series), and John Porcellino (King-Cat) have announced the opening of The Sequential Artists Workshop [UPDATED: link added], a new non-profit educational institution “dedicated to the prosperity and promotion of comic art and artists.” The school will offer a two-year program with its inaugural class to begin in 2012, while a “Spring Break Intensive” will be offered from March 6-12, 2011. The SAW will also feature a residency program for practicing cartoonists, online classes, gallery and performance spaces, a house anthology called The Seen in which cartoonists will do “cover versions” of pages from other artists’ creator-owned works, and the proverbial “much more.”
If you’re thinking the SAW sounds a bit like James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, you’re not alone. According to the new school’s FAQ:
Isn’t this just like CCS?
Yes, a little, and maybe no. James Sturm, who founded Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) has done a great thing in White River Junction, VT and we are in constant awe of his gumption and smarts. James has been friendly with us and he has helped us enormously by offering advice in the forming of this school. We too offer a two-year program in comic art, and will require students to publish their own work at the end of the program. Our school is new and we don’t know how it will evolve. Right now, our goals may be similar, but the places and personalities are different enough that soon the differences between the schools will become evident.
The more the merrier if you ask me.
In addition to the announced faculty of Corman, Porcellino, and founder/executive director Hart — himself a longtime School of the Visual Arts instructor — SAW’s boards of directors and advisors feature an all-star line-up that includes Lauren Weinstein, Brendan Burford, Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Bill Kartalopoulos, Donald Ault, Matt Madden, Joey Manley, Chris Staros, Phil Yeh, and William Ayers. School’s in!
Publishing | Brigid Alverson, Simon Jones, Gia Manry and Daniella Orihuela-Gruber provide commentary on Tuesday’s announcement that Viz Media is restructuring, laying off up to 60 employees and closing its New York City branch. Manry cautions that there’s little need for panic, while Jones points out that it’s unclear whether the company’s cuts are in its manga or anime divisions.
Alverson notes that the news came as such a surprise because Viz publishes the most popular manga properties (Naruto, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist) as well as some of the most acclaimed (Children of the Sea, Pluto, 20th Century Boys): “However, as publishing veterans know, acclaim does not necessarily equal sales.” [Viz Media]
Conventions | The inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew an estimated 27,500 unique attendees, slightly less than the 30,000 expected. “We felt it was an excellent launch,” Lance Fensterman, Reed Exhibitions vice president, told ICv2.com. “For the last year this show has been a theory. For the last three days people have been able to walk around and experience what the event, the concept, and the community are about, and now we can grow from here.” Christopher Borelli, Brent DiCrescenzo and Heidi MacDonald file wrap-ups from the show. [C2E2]
Publishing | According to ICv2′s annual white paper, presented during the Diamond Retailer Summit at C2E2, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada fell 5 percent last year as the total market declined from an estimated $715 million in 2008 to $680 million in 2009. In the book channel, manga sales dropped by more than 20 percent, while sales of kids and young-adult graphic novels jumped by more than 50 percent. [ICv2.com]
Thank you for joining us for a very special, educational edition of Send Us Your Shelf Porn. Today’s guest is Ohio teacher Chris Peace, who is trying to improve his students’ reading skills by introducing them to comics. He’s even put together a small graphic novel library for them, which you can see in the photo above.
But Chris does a much better job explaining his collection than I ever could, so I’ll let him take over …