Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
Conventions | The Phoenix Convention Center was evacuated Thursday, the first day of Phoenix Comicon, after a fire alarm was triggered by a damaged heat sensor (something similar occurred during last year’s event). Attendees were allowed back in to the venue after about 30 minutes. The convention, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people (leading organizers to cap attendance), continues through Sunday. [The Arizona Republic]
Retailing | Kirby Tardy, owner of Collectors Comics in Grand Rapids, Michigan, looks back at 35 years in the business. The store opened downtown in 1979 as Opalia’s Amorphium, and started out carrying a wide range of merchandise; since then it has gone in the opposite direction from many comics shops and focuses mainly on comics themselves, not peripheral items like figures or games. At one time there were several branch locations, and Tardy and his wife Debbie spent a lot of time going to comics conventions in the 1990s. The couple is planning to retire next year, but hopes the business will continue with new owners. [MLive.com]
Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
History | Michael Dooley celebrates Banned Books Week with a look at the comics singled out by Dr. Fredric Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent as particularly corrupting of our youth; Dooley juxtaposes scans of the pages with Werthem’s commentary. [Print]
Creators | Lynda Barry is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) as well as the UW-Madison Department of Art; she was an artist in residence at the university last year. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]
Creators | Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell talk about their involvement in the graphic novel March. [Free Comic Book Day]
Legal | A dancer seriously injured last month during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark insists the accident was caused by malfunctioning equipment and not, as the show’s producers contend, by human error. Daniel Curry made the claim in documents filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court that seek to prevent the production from altering or destroying the computerized stage lift before his experts can inspect the equipment in preparation for a potential civil lawsuit. He’s also requesting maintenance records and any internal reports about the accident. The 23-year-old Curry was injured during the Aug. 15 performance of Spider-Man when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door. According to court papers, he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and has had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. [New York Daily News, The New York Times]
Once more, it appears, Fredric Wertham may have been right.
For the latest evidence, look no further than a Philadelphia preschool, which has purportedly banned “wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games,” because they’re resulting in injury.
Reddit user Oremar posted a May 17 letter (below) brought home by his son that states, “Recently it has come to our attention that the imaginations of our preschool children are becoming dangerously overactive causing injuries within our pre-k community. Although we encourage creative thinking and imaginary play, we do not promote out [sic] children hurting one another. Wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games will not be permitted here at [name redacted]. In addition, please monitor the different media that your children may view. The re-enactment of televisions [sic] shows/movies are being done during active paly [sic] times in school.”
Graphic novels | April was a slow month for new graphic novel releases, so the BookScan Top 20 had plenty of room for some backlist titles. The Walking Dead dominated, of course, but the 10th volume of Sailor Moon was there for a second month and actually moved up a notch. And the first volume of Saga came in at No. 12, perhaps because people were curious as to what all the fuss is about. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | Nick Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle, has responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s criticism of Jack Ohman’s cartoon with a cartoon of his own. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Jeff Smith, Brian Wood, Sean Murphy and Raina Telgemeier are the headline guests at the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland on May 19. [Foster’s Daily Democrat]
Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
Crime | Comix Experience in San Francisco was robbed at gunpoint Friday afternoon, with two young men demanding that owner Brian Hibbs empty the cash register containing about $75 and turn over an iPhone used for credit card transactions. A Lower Haight neighborhood blog interviewed Hibbs about the incident: “Divis [Divisadero Street] is generally pretty safe these days, so I was a LITTLE shocked at, y’know, a ‘brazen daylight armed robbery’ of it — but I am kind of more shocked that anyone thought that a comic book store was a high value target about an hour after they opened. Hell, life is like 85% credit cards these days, so even at our fattest there’s seldom enough to risk that kind of jail time, in my opinion …” [Haighteration]
History | Scholar Carol Tilley gives a first-person account of her research on Fredric Wertham, the super-villain of comics history, and how looking through his papers led her to an unexpected conclusion: His published works misrepresented what his research subjects had told him: “For many hard-to-articulate reasons, I didn’t want to write the scholarly paper on Wertham and the problems I found in his evidence, but not to write it seemed a disservice to the young people whose words and experiences Wertham distorted to help make his case against comics.” [Boing Boing]
Creators | Laura Sneddon talks to Neal Adams about his life in comics, including the time Stan Lee offered him the opportunity to work on any comic Marvel published: “I said, ‘Ohh okay, I see. So what’s your worst-selling title?’ He said, ‘X-Men, we’re gonna cancel it in two issues.’ I said, ‘You know what, I’d like to do X-Men.’ He said, ‘I just told you we’re gonna cancel it in two issues.’ I say, ‘Well fine! You know for two issues I will do X-Men. And that will be fine.’ He said, ‘Well okay. We’ll [write/run] it as long as we can, we’ll make you a deal. You can do X-Men, then we cancel it, then you gotta work on an important book like the Avengers.’” [The New Statesman]
Legal | Forbes profiles Michael Wolk, a lawyer who’s organized the financial backing for Stan Lee Media’s prolonged, and so far unsuccessful, multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the characters co-created by Stan Lee. Wolk’s primary investor is Elliott Management, one the nation’s largest hedge funds. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. “We are in the right here,” says Wolk, who’s not actually a Stan Lee Media shareholder. “No court has ever addressed or ever decided who is the owner of the characters — all of the prior litigation got dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with who owns the characters.” [Forbes.com, via The Beat]
Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]
Conventions | Creators like Neal Adams, Tim Bradstreet, Howard Chaykin, Amanda Conner and Scott Lobdell will headline the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con, held Saturday and Sunday at the Long Beach Convention Center. “I think most of our artists are thrilled to come back each year,” said Phil Lawrence, principal sales director for the event. “This is the earliest we sold out our Artists Alley and we have almost 190 tables. By focusing on the artists and giving them their due, they seem to keep coming back and signing up earlier — and they promote the show, which helps us out, too.” [Gazettes.com]
In 1954, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency began an investigation of the comic book industry and its effects on juvenile delinquency. In the course of its hearings, the subcommittee called upon a number of witnesses, including EC Publisher William Gaines. At the time, EC published a number of crime and horror comics, including The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror and Tales From The Crypt. The WNYC radio archives have posted nearly two hours of the investigative hearing with two key, but contrasting, witnesses: Gaines and psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham.
The audio of the hearing is lengthy, but while listening, it’s very indicative of the feeling toward comics at the time — Wertham goes so far as to say, “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry. They get the children much younger. They teach them race hatred at the age of 4 before they can read.”
The hearing was also where the following now-famous exchange between U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver and Gaines took place, as Kefauver held up a cover of Crime SuspenStories #22:
The Kickstarter campaign to fund the documentary Diagram for Delinquents, the story of anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, has hit its goal of $6,000, so the film will definitely be made. Now it’s just a matter of making it better: The creators are continuing to accept donations, which will be used to buy equipment, presumably to make the film more professional. A $50 donation gets your name into the credits (and on IMDB!) and for $70 or more, they will draw you into one of the animated sequences.
Produced by Sequart Research & Literacy Organization, the short film will put Wertham’s comics commentary into the context of his life’s work, which included fighting segregation and working with juvenile delinquents (which may have led to his erroneous conclusion that comics make good kids go bad—the problem is that he never got to see the good kids). Robert A. Emmons, Jr., will direct. Regardless of whether or not they get that extra handheld, it sounds like it’s going to be a good flick.
The papers of the infamous psychiatrist at the center of the anti-comics crusades of the 1940s and 1950s are now available to the public.
In 1987, the Library of Congress acquired the papers of Dr. Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, from the estate of his wife Florence Hesketh Wertham. Now all 222 containers are open for research; previously, access was granted only those people approved by the estate.
Wertham, who died 1981 at age 86, served as head of the Court of General Sessions psychiatric clinic, which examined every convicted felon in New York City. In 1935 he testified at the trial of serial killer Albert Fish, declaring him insane. The following year Wertham was named director of Bellevue’s Mental Hygiene Clinic in New York and later became director of psychiatric services at Queens Hospital Center.
However, it was his concerns with violence and protecting children, and the 1954 publication of Seduction of the Innocent, that propelled Wertham to the national stage and forever changed the comics industry. The book paid particular attention to the gore and violence in EC Comics’ crime and horror titles, “homoerotic overtones” of some science fiction and jungle comics, and the “psychologically homosexual” nature of the Batman stories and, now quite famously, the Batman-Robin relationship.
Wertham went on to testify on the harmfulness of comics before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which led the comics industry to adopt the self-regulatory Comics Code Authority.
The Library’s collection includes a selection of comics Wertham deemed offensive, along with his notations. “His copy of Kid Colt, Outlaw (1967) includes a note that of the 111 pictures, 69 were scenes of violence,” Matt Raymond writes on the Library of Congress blog. “An issue of Justice League of America (1966) includes markings calling attention to the sounds of violence like ‘thudd,’ ‘whapp’ and ‘poww’.”
(via Ars Technica)