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Comics A.M. | Tunisian court denies cartoonist’s appeal

Jabeur Mejri

Jabeur Mejri

Legal | A Tunisian court denied cartoonist Jabeur Mejri’s appeal of an eight-month sentence on charges of insulting a public official. Mejri was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in 2012 for drawing cartoons that insulted the Prophet Mohammed, but was pardoned by President Moncef Marzouki earlier this year. Before he was released, however, news leaked that he had also been charged with embezzlement stemming from his time working for the Tunisian railway. Mejri was released from prison in March, but six weeks later he was arrested again, this time on charges of insulting a court official. His support committee said Mejri is being subjected to “judicial harassment” and released a statement saying “It’s clear … that there is a desire not to accept the presidential pardon and to keep Jabeur in prison at all costs, to make him pay dearly for his freedom of expression and deter him from any further attempts.” [Naharnet]

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Why Toronto Comic Arts Festival matters

Raina Telgemeier, Lynn Johnston, and Kate Beaton at the opening panel at TCAF

Raina Telgemeier, Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton at the opening panel at TCAF

On the opening night of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, organizer Christopher Butcher articulated a simple and very important vision for the event:

I looked at the people we were already approaching for 2014 last year, and we had an incredibly strong lineup already of people who wanted to participate who were women who were working in the industry with a history or who were fresh faces doing exciting, wonderful material, and we decided that was going to be an unspoken theme, we were going to really try to spotlight, highlight, the work of women in the industry … This isn’t a one-year thing for us. This isn’t just a theme this year, we aren’t going to be going back to anything, I think we have done a good job of showing the diverse faces of the comics industry but we can always be better… I want us to continue to be as inclusive as possible and to include all different kinds of work. I want comics to be the theme of TCAF and that means including everyone who makes comics, and particularly people who are doing a good job.

Then Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled “Women in Comics.” At TCAF, women were simply treated as equals and judged on their merits. And trust me, I walked the halls at the Toronto Reference Library and came back with two bags of comics and graphic novels, so I know: There were no charity cases at TCAF. Every exhibitor, male and female, was top-notch. This is a show that a huge number of people want to be a part of, so organizers can pick and choose. What they did this year was simply choose more women, which makes sense in a field where women have been well represented for many years. (There were plenty of men as well, they just weren’t in the majority as they are at every other show.)

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, Motor City Comic Con marks 25 years

Motor City Comic Con

Motor City Comic Con

Conventions | The doors open today on the 25th annual Motor City Comic Con, held through Sunday in Novi, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. Comics guests include Art Baltazar, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Talent Caldwell, Chris Claremont, Matthew Clark, Gerry Conway, Katie Cook, J.M. DeMatteis, Clayton Henry, Mike McKone, Jame O’Barr, Ryan Ottley, Dave Petersen, Don Rosa, Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Soule, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. The Detroit Free Press previews the event, and speaks with Claremont, while Metro Times provides a beginner’s guide. [Motor City Comic Con]

Digital comics | Kate Reynolds looks at the recent Image Humble Bundle promotion and compares it to sales of hard copies of the individual titles in comics shops. Her key insight is that this is Image’s first attempt to sell comics directly to the video game audience rather than established readers: “Many people who check the Humble website with some frequency may have been surprised to see comics books on a video game page, and for many, surprise turned to intrigue. While it’s impossible to tell whether the purchasers of the Image bundle were frequent comic buyers or not, it’s logical to assume that many were not. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if for some, the Image bundle was the first comic purchase of their lives.” [feminism/geekery]

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S.C. Senate reaches compromise, of sorts, in ‘Fun Home’ feud

Fun Home

Fun Home

The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday overturned punitive budgets cuts of nearly $70,000 against two universities that selected gay-themed books for their reading programs for incoming freshmen, but instead will require the schools to use the money to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Republican Sen. Larry Grooms proposed the compromise after Democrats last week blocked a vote on a House proposal that would trim $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

Grooms’ amendment redirects that money to programs “related to instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.” It also ensures students who object to the reading material can opt out with no negative consequences.

The newspaper reports the amendment was approved by voice vote, which means there’s no record of the number of ayes and nos. The Senate and House will now have to agree on which version of the state budget to adopt.

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As filibuster delays ‘Fun Home’ vote, a potential compromise emerges

fun home2Staging a nearly four-hour filibuster, a South Carolina Senate Democrat on Wednesday delayed a vote on proposed budget cuts to two state universities in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs.

Although the Senate had been expected to resume debate on Thursday, that never happened. Instead, the Charleston Post and Courier reports the senator behind the filibuster, Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, said there’s a deal in the works that could allow legislators to move past the impasse.

The South Carolina House of Representatives in March approved a state budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Walking Dead, ‘Saga,’ ‘Titan’ rule bookstores in April

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

Retailing | While Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection cracked Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores, making it the first Marvel or DC Comics release since January to do so, the April chart was again dominated by three familiar titles: The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan and Saga, which claimed a combined 13 spots. The horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard led the trio with six volumes, followed by Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy with four, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera with three. The 36th volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s hit manga Naruto was No. 1 in April. [ICv2.com]

Events | On the eve of the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Japan Times looks at both the growing presence of manga, and Dork Shelf talks with festival director Christopher Butcher about its Comics vs. Games 3 showcase. Meanwhile, the National Post is running a series of conversations between artists attending TCAF, beginning with Georgia Webber and Seo Kim, and Réal Godbout and Nick Abadzis. You can read more of its festival coverage here. [Toronto Comic Arts Festival]

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Comics A.M. | Why WonderCon matters to San Francisco

WonderCon

WonderCon

Conventions | Marking San Francisco’s third year without WonderCon, pop-culture critic Peter Hartlaub relates the feelings of “confusion, withdrawal and anger” experienced by local fans, and explains why city leaders should care whether the convention ever returns from Anaheim. [SFGate]

Creators | Gary ODD Edmund combined two things he loved, comics and “marijuana culture,” to come up with the comic The Bud. While weed may be the news hook in this story, the numbers are interesting as well, as Edmund claims to have made $10,000 last year selling The Bud at comics conventions, where he typically moves 200 to 300 copies per event. He is now at the point where it’s worth his while to drop other projects to make more time for The Bud, and he figures his Bud-related income will at least triple this year. Can’t make it to a comic con? There’s a digital version as well, available via indie publisher CCP Comics. The digital release of The Bud (on 4/20, of course) drew so much traffic it crashed CCP’s website. [AOL Jobs]

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Comics A.M. | ‘The 99′ creator questions reasons for Saudi ban

The 99

The 99

Publishing | In the wake of the ban in Saudi Arabia of the animated adaptation of The 99 comic, creator Naif Al-Mutawa writes about what he had to go through in the first place to get approval in that country for the Islamic superheroes (one of the steps was the sale of Cracked magazine at a loss so his company would be sharia-compliant to the satisfaction of an Islamic bank). He looks at what led to the fatwa, and concludes by seeking one of his own, posing questions for the clerics who issued the decree. [The National]

Publishing | As part of its five-year anniversary celebration, Multiversity Comics surveys such industry figures as Eric Stephenson, Rachel Deering, Tom Spurgeon and Gina Gagliano about the biggest changes that have taken place during that time, and where comics are headed. [Multiversity Comics]

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SC Senate panel rejects bid to punish colleges over gay-themed books

fun home2A South Caroline Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a plan to cut the budgets of two state universities as punishment for selecting gay-themed books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, for their summer-reading programs.

The Associated Press reports that although Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler recommended adopting the House’s $70,000 cuts, the Finance Committee voted 11-7 against the proposal. However, matter is expected to resurface next week as the full Senate takes up the state budget.

In early March the House approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

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How’s your comics diet?

A little bit of this...little bit of that

A little bit of this…little bit of that

Remember when all there was to read was Marvel and DC Comics? OK, those days never really existed, but I would bet a significant majority of us at one time read comics exclusively, or almost exclusively, published by the so-called “Big Two.” Some of you may even do so now. If recent studies are any indication, that’s changing. A growing percentage of people have been buying more titles from Image Comics and other publishers.

How about you? How is your comics diet? Going by direct sales numbers, many of us still live off a primarily Marvel/DC superhero diet. But we all know there’s more out there. Maybe we read The Walking Dead or Saga too. Those are good reads, no doubt about it, and there’s more where those came from. Lots more. Just a casual look on this site or any comics site will reveal a growing number of books from other publishers are receiving more attention, more positive buzz from readers, more good reviews from critics, and more exciting announcements. So how to jump in?

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Comics A.M. | Golden Age artist Barbara Hall passes away

Harvey's Black Cat, by then Barbara Hall (from "Pretty in Ink")

Harvey’s Black Cat, by then Barbara Hall (from “Pretty in Ink”)

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]

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Comics A.M. | David Lloyd’s ‘Aces Weekly’ coming to comiXology

Aces Weekly

Aces Weekly

Digital comics | Aces Weekly, the digital comics anthology spearheaded by V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd, will make its back issues available through comiXology. [Pipedream Comics]

Creators | Robot 6 contributor J. Caleb Mozzocco interviews Danica Novgorodoff about The Undertaking of Lily Chen, her graphic novel about a young man who sets out to find a female corpse to be buried with his dead brother—and winds up with a woman who is very much alive. [Good Comics for Kids]

Creators | Audrey Niffenegger, author of the prose novel The Time Traveler’s Wife and the graphic novel The Night Bookmobile, describes how she collaborated with Eddie Campbell to make a comic for special comics issue of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine. [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Fun Home’ dispute part of larger battle in S.C.

From "Fun Home"

From “Fun Home”

Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools.  [The Washington Post]

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‘Saga,’ ‘xkcd’ among 2014 Hugo Awards finalists

saga-v2The finalists were announced today for the 2014 Hugo Awards, which recognize the best in science fiction and fantasy.

Presented annually since 1955 by the World Science Fiction Society, the Hugo is among science fiction’s most prestigious awards. The winners will be presented Aug. 17 in London during Loncon 3. The nominees for best graphic story are:

Girl Genius, Vol. 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, by Phil Foglio, Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
•  “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who,” by Paul Cornell and  Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW Publishing)
The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
Saga, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics )
“Time,” Randall Munroe (xkcd)

In addition, Staples and Daniel Dos Santos, whose work includes covers for Fables, Serenity: Leaves in the Wind and Tomb Raider, were nominated for best professional artist.

The first volume of Saga won the best graphic story category last year.

Bechdel & Co. are bringing ‘Fun Home’ musical to South Carolina

Fun Home Public Theater/Newman Theater

In the wake of the uproar in South Carolina over her graphic memoir Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel has joined with the producers and cast of the musical adaptation to bring the acclaimed off-Broadway show to the College of Charleston.

The Post and Courier reports tickets went on sale Tuesday for two concert-version performances to be held April 21 at Memminger Auditorium; about 750 were sold within the first 24 hours. The show, which premiered in September, was announced this week as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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