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Manga | As part of its Cool Japan initiative, the Japanese government plans to build the “Manga National Center” — a museum dedicated to manga, anime and video games — in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Expected to cost about $90 million, the project will be funded through a mixture of public and private-sector money. [Chicago Tribune]
Passings | Augie Scotto, an artist whose work appeared in Will Eisner’s PS magazine, passed away March 15 at age 88. He began his career in 1949, drawing largely crime and Western stories for such early publishers as Eastern Color, Atlas and Charlton. Scotto seems to have left comics for a while around 1953, but returned in 1968 as the penciler for Tower Comics’ Dynamo and as an inker for DC Comics until around 1978. [Timely-Atlas-Comics]
Political cartoons | While speaking to a youth leadership group, Maine Gov. Paul LePage was asked by Nick Danby, the son of Bangor Daily News cartoonist George Danby, what he thought of his father’s work. LePage’s response: “I’d like to shoot him.” The audience laughed, but the joke triggered a storm of criticism in the media, coming as it does in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. The elder Danby certainly didn’t find it funny, saying that while he is critical of the governor, it’s well within the boundaries of satire. And, he added, “My other thought was, what if this was reversed? If I had made a comment. I’d be in big trouble today.” [The Huffington Post]
Passings | MAD Magazine writer Tom Koch passed away March 22 at age 89. He was a writer for the Bob and Ray radio comedy show in 1957, when MAD was trying to broaden its reach by featuring work by popular comedians. Koch adapted some routines he had written, and editor Al Feldstein realized his work was a good fit and asked him to to become a contribute. He wrote for the magazine for nearly four decades, contributing more than 300 pages, but he said he was proudest of a 1965 work, “43-man Squamish.” It’s still the magazine’s most requested reprint. [News from ME, MAD Magazine]
Legal | Attorney Evan Stassberg finds two significant problems with Comic-Con International’s trademark-infringement claim against Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “Comic Con”: There are a lot of shows called “comic con,” so it could be argued it’s a descriptive term that’s not specific to the San Diego event, and precisely because there are so many events that use that term, it could be argued that Comic-Con International organizers haven’t been policing their trademark. Strassberg adds, “The Salt Lake organizers’ steadfast defiance and ongoing gravitas has turned a simple trademark dispute into a national news story with mountains of free publicity for the Salt Lake event. If this was intentional, it is an astonishing display of marketing genius. If this was mere happenstance, it is the comic book convention equivalent of the accidental invention of Post-It notes.” [Deseret News]
Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]
Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]
Baby Blues creator Rick Kirkman and Pickles creator Brian Crane shared the Reuben Award this year, which honors the outstanding cartoonist of the year. According to the Daily Cartoonist’s Alan Gardner, this is only the second time in the award’s history that two cartoonists have shared the award, the previous time being in 1968.
The National Cartoonist Society presented the Reuben and its divisional awards in Pittsburgh, Penn. last night. Other winners included Rich Webber, director of the Aardman segments that appear on Cartoon Network’s DC Nation, as well as Joann Sfar for the animated The Rabbi’s Cat, Chris Ware for Building Stories, Bernie Wrightson for Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, and Vince Dorse for the Untold Tales of Bigfoot webcomic.
The complete list of winners can be found below.
THE REUBEN AWARD for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year:
Rick Kirkman and Brian Crane
Rich Webber, Director, Aardman Animation Studios, DC Nation
Creators | Writer Peter David shares a “Fan/Pro Bill of Rights” related to proper behavior at conventions, starting with a “Prime Directive”: “Fans and Pros have the right to be treated by each other with the same courtesy that they themselves would expect to be treated. Fans and Pros who act like jerks abrogate the right to complain when they themselves are treated like jerks.” [Peter David]
Crime | A Denver judge sentenced Aaron Castro to 45 years in prison after Castro pleaded guilty to drug and extortion charges. Prosecutors say he ran a major methamphetamine distribution ring and laundered the profits by buying and selling valuable comics in the collector’s market. [KMGH Denver]
Digital | Robot 6 contributor Graeme McMillan catches an error in Marvel’s press release from last week: Marvel was not the first comics publisher to release an entire line of comics simultaneously in print and digital—Archie Comics was. [Blog@Newsarama]
Legal | Authorities in Clinton Township, Michigan, tracked down two men mentioned in police reports by comics retailer Michael George after his wife’s 1990 murder who were never questioned. The judge gave police 48 hours to locate and question them. One of the men passed away, while the other, John Fox, will be questioned Friday about a family car that is similar to one seen near the comic book store where Barbara George was killed. [Detroit Free Press]
Digital comics | Heidi MacDonald talks to SLG Publisher Dan Vado about plans to release the company’s serialized comics digitally rather than in print. Vado reveals SLG’s popular Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez will be released in digital format. [The Beat]
Comics | Lisa Fortuner notes that this week’s Green Lantern Corps #1 story shares a title with a Nazi propaganda film: “That’s a beheading, followed by cutting a woman in half, followed by the loss of a finger, followed by a reference to an infamous Leni Riefenstahl film. For those of you who are new to the Internet and it’s population of history snobs, Leni Riefenstahl was an early 20th Century pioneer who made inroads for women in the field of Evil. She did a Nazi propaganda film called ‘Triumph of the Will’ which to this day is still inspiring horror of authoritarian power in film classes and museums. It is probably not the best choice of titles for a book where the main heroes are fueled by willpower.” [Written World]