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Comics A.M. | Viz Media expands Walmart deal, makes Best Buy debut

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1

Publishing | Viz Media has struck separate agreements that will expand the number of manga titles it sells at Walmart and bring its books to Best Buy for the first time. Under the Walmart deal, bestsellers Tokyo Ghoul, Pokeman, One Punch Man and the new Naruto one-shots will be available in more than 2,000 of the retailer’s locations across the United States. Under the Best Buy agreement, two Naruto titles and Assassination Classroom will be packaged with their respective anime and featured in floor displays at 687 locations. [Publishers Weekly]

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Angouleme: The Obstacle Race continues

"The Obstacle Race," by Germaine Greer

“The Obstacle Race,” by Germaine Greer

I was an art student in 1979 when Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race was published. As it happened, most of the art majors that year were women, and we all read the book and spent late nights in our studios discussing it. Women had been completely absent from our art history courses, and Greer’s book opened our eyes to that fact and the reasons behind it — not a lack of talent, but a lack of recognition and encouragement — and often the deliberate placement of obstacles.

That wasn’t difficult to believe. The university I attended had only admitted women for five years and limited them to 25 percent of the student body at the time.

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Julia Wertz goes time traveling in New York

Bottle Beach

Julia Wertz, creator of the wry graphic memoirs The Fart Party, Drinking at the Movies and The Infinite Wait, has turned her hand to a different sort of subject matter: little-known aspects of the history of New York City.

The comics run in The New Yorker under the title “N.Y.C. Mystery History Hour,” and the subjects so far include Fiorello LaGuardia’s ban on pinball machines, the story of Bottle Beach in Dead Horse Bay, the fate of the uniquely designed lampposts made for the 1964-45 World’s Fair and, most recently, the Hess Spite Triangle. She has also done a fascinating then-and-now piece on the theaters of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

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Hear Jack Kirby and Stan Lee reminisce, clash 28 years ago today

LeeToday marks the 98th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby, King of Comics. And all corners of the comics internet are celebrating the contributions of the most legendary artist in the history of the medium (see CBR’s gathering of 98 mind-blowing Kirby images or Comics Should Be Good’s artist tribute for starters).

But the birth of Kirby also marks another strange anniversary for comics historians as 28 years ago today, the artist and his longtime Marve collaborator Stan Lee had one of their very few public arguments about what went in to the creation of the Marvel Universe.

In 1987, Kirby celebrated his 70th birthday with an interview on “Earthwatch” — a cultural program on New York City public radio station WBAI. During the broadcast, hosts Robert Knight, Warren Reece and Max Schmid asked Kirby about a range of fan topics from the origins of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube to comics perceived readership in the Golden Age and beyond. But the journalists pulled a somewhat stunning “Gotcha” move on their guest by asking him about the legend of the Marvel Bullpen before inviting Lee on as a caller.

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Comics A.M. | Zunar speaks against ‘cartoon’ government

Zunar's "Pirates of the Carry-BN"

Zunar’s “Pirates of the Carry-BN”

Creators | “This is really a government of the cartoon, for the cartoon and by the cartoon,” Malaysian cartoonist Zunar said in an interview following the police raid on his Kuala Lumpur office. Zunar was in London at the time of the raid but expects to be summoned to the police station on his return to face charges under the Printing Presses Act, Sedition Act and Penal Code. “Why are the police involved in this?” he said. “If it is true I have defamed certain people, why not filed a civil suit? The government condemned Charlie Hebdo’s attacker but now they are ‘attacking’ me.” He also sent out some photos of the raid. [Malaysian Digest]

Freedom of Speech | Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, called the raid Zunar’s office “shocking and outrageous” and demanded the government to return the confiscated books and drop all charges against him. [The Malaysian Insider]

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Comics A.M. | Amazon breaks silence in Hachette dispute

Amazon

Amazon

Retailing | Finally breaking its silence regarding the feud with Hachette over sales terms, Amazon acknowledged it’s buying less print inventory and “safety stock” from the publisher and is no longer taking pre-orders for its titles. And while Amazon conceded that “Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives,” the retail giant said “we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.” The company also recognized the affect the dispute may have on authors, revealing it offered to fund 50 percent of an author pool to help mitigate the impact. Hachette responded, saying it was glad Amazon has admitted its actions have an effect on authors: “We will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon—which has been a great partner for years — but under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them, at the same time that it recognizes Amazon’s importance as a retailer and innovator.” [Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat]

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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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Where are the archives of the Comics Code Authority?

Approved_by_the_Comics_Code_AuthorityIt’s safe to say few were sorry to see the Comics Code Authority quietly fade away in 2011, having become literally no more than a stamp on the covers of a handful of titles, but it was nonetheless an important part of history.

Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, realized this three years ago and sent a letter to Heidi MacDonald, asking who had the files of the Comics Magazine Association of America, the trade association that administered the Code. While Howe thought the records had vanished, Mark Seifert was told they were donated to DC Comics.

This week, Howe reiterated his appeal on his blog:

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Ancient ‘D&D’ nerds are the coolest ‘D&D’ nerds

d20-egypt2

More than two millennia before Gary Gygax was even born, it turns out ancient Egyptians were slinging 20-sided dice.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has in its collection what could very well be the world’s oldest d20 die, dating from somewhere between 304 and 30 B.C., the tail-end of the Ptolemaic Period. That explains the Greek lettering, but not how you determine your attack roll.

Made of serpentine, the die was collected between 1883 and 1906 by the Rev. Chauncey Murch, and purchased by the museum in 1910, which offers no clue as to how to roll a saving throw. I think it’s Σ plus class bonus, plus …

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Designer of Bayeux Tapestry, ‘first known British comic strip,’ identified?

bayeux tapestry

A historian believes he has identified the designer of the Bayeux Tapesty, an 11th-century embroidered cloth once characterized by Bryan Talbot as “the first known British comic strip.”

Embroidered on linen with colored woolen yarns, the 230-foot “tapestry” consists of about 50 scenes depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Although some scholars have long theorized it was commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, the name of the actual designer has been elusive.

But now Medievalists.net reports that in a paper published in the journal Anglo-Norman Studies, Howard B. Clarke credits Scolland, abbot of St.Augustine’s monastery in Canterbury, with the work.

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Comics A.M. | Is the world’s oldest comic book from Scotland?

The Glasgow Looking Glass

The Glasgow Looking Glass

History | Scholars will present their research this week on The Glasgow Looking Glass, which is believed to be the very first comic book, at the International Graphic Novel and International Bande Dessinee Society Joint Conference in Glasgow Published in 1825, the work is a satire of early 19th-century Scottish fashions and politics. [ITV]

Retailing | Aaron Muncy, owner of The Comic Shop in Decatur, Alabama, is matter-of-fact about his business: There isn’t much of a kids’ market, he says, and he has no time for collectible comics: “Since it’s worth so much money — it’s just straight to eBay and get rid of it. I’ll leave it in the store for a week or two if I pick it up, just to give my customers a chance but it’s worth too much money to have sitting around.” [WAFF]

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Comics A.M. | Did British Comic Awards underrepresent women?

British Comic Awards

Awards | Were women underrepresented in the first British Comic Awards? With three women and 13 men on the shortlist, some argue they were; Laura Sneddon follows the discussion, including those making that claim and those who responded. [The New Statesman]

Best of the year | Paste magazine lists its 10 best comics of the year, including Hawkeye, Saga and Building Stories. [Paste]

Best of the year | Rachel Cooke focuses on British graphic novels, although a few outsiders creep in as well, for her list of the best graphic novels of 2012. [The Guardian]

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UK archive features political cartoons, naughty postcards

One of the tamer postcards, still stapled to its official record

Thank you, Teleread, for turning me on to the British Cartoon Archive, and just in time for the weekend, too. The physical archive has over 150,000 comic strips, cartoons, and other interesting bits of ephemera, and they are putting a number of their holdings online. The website is searchable, and there’s also a nice little tag cloud that can hook you up with vintage Andy Capp comics, caricatures by David Low, and, of course, Hitler cartoons.

The most intriguing section of the site (so far) is the collection of double-entendre postcards that were sold at popular seaside resorts in Britain but became the focus of an anti-obscenity crusade after World War II. The site includes a fascinating account of the police tactics used to seize the offending postcards:

“We have our own method of dealing with obscene postcards”, one Blackpool police officer noted in 1951: “Upon receiving a complaint from a member of the public, a plain clothes man is sent to buy a copy of the offending card. When the stationer says that he can see nothing wrong in the card, he is asked: ‘Would you send that card to your daughter?’ If the answer is ‘No’ – as it usually is – a prosecution may follow”.

The whole story is worth reading, and as a special treat, a number of the offending postcards are presented in full color, along with their prosecution records. The collection itself is a bit of an oddity: It was created by the Director of Public Prosecutions in order to try to impose some consistency on the postcard prosecutions. As always obscenity proved to be more difficult to define than to recognize, and the whole effort was ultimately abandoned, but the collection serves as a nice little time capsule of what passed for racy humor in the 1950s.

Flannery O’Connor: Cartoonist

"Do you have any books the faculty doesn’t particularly recommend?”

You read that right. You may think of Flannery O’Connor as a writer of the sorts of books that are all words, but in her younger days she yearned to be a cartoonist—and she wasn’t half bad. Fantagraphics will publish Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons in December, and Flavorwire has a sampling of her work, while The Guardian places her cartoon work in the context of her life and career.

O’Connor did both pen-and-ink drawings and linoleum cuts like the one above, and because it was done while she was in high school and college, most of it reflects that life. Her cartoons look a bit Thurbereseque, and in fact she used to submit them to the New Yorker, but without success. Ultimately she turned to prose instead, but as the Guardian article points out, the cartoons were notable in that they show that O’Connor took the outsider’s point of view from the beginning.

(via Peter Gutierrez, on Twitter)

What Are You Reading?

Mysterius the Unfathomable

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics and other stuff we’ve been enjoying lately. Our special guests this week are Aaron Alexovich (Invader Zim, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Serenity Rose, Fables) and Drew Rausch (Sullengrey, The Dark Goodbye, Cthulhu Tales), the creative team behind the horror/comedy comic Eldritch!

To see what Aaron, Drew and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …

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