Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Today 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.
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]
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]
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]
It’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:
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 …
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.
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]
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]
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.
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)
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 …
Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading, where we all sit around the virtual coffeehouse and talk about the books we’re currently enjoying (or not as the case may be). Our guest this week is Wilfred Santiago, author of the soon to be released biography of Roberto Clemente, 21. Look for an interview with me and Santiago about his new book in the coming weeks. In the meantime, click on the link below to see what he and my fellow Robot 6ers are reading this week.
Publishing | Thursday’s news that DC Comics will replace the nearly 60-year-old Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval with its own rating system was followed on Friday by an announcement by Archie Comics that it, too, will drop the Code. The two were the last publishers to abandon the CCA — Marvel withdrew in 2001, Bongo just last year — which means that as of next month, the once-influential self-regulatory body created by the comics industry in the wake of the 1954 Senate hearings on juvenile delinquency will cease to exist. Before a series of revisions in 1971, the Code prohibited even the depictions of political corruption, or vampires and werewolves, and the use of the words “horror” or “terror” in titles.
Christopher Butcher wonders whether DC’s decision to drop the Code was made with an eye toward the bottom line, while Johanna Draper Carlson offers an overview of the CCA’s history. Elsewhere, Mike Sterling asks whether any retailers ever “experienced any kind of real-world impact of the Comics Code Authority?” And Tom Mason makes some tongue-in-cheek recommendations for DC’s new rating system, including “G – GREYING MAN-BOYS” and “R – REFRIGERATOR.” [Newsarama]
The Ten-Cent Plague tells the story of not one but several campaigns against comics on the grounds that they were violent and bad influences on children. And, to be fair, the crime and horror comics of the time were pretty damn gruesome, repulsive enough that a lot of folks were willing to set aside the First Amendment on the grounds that the Founding Fathers couldn’t possibly have envisioned the Crypt-Keeper, and they certainly wouldn’t want to defend that. Hajdu documents a flurry of legislation banning all sorts of comic books throughout the country, mostly promoted by people who genuinely cared about children (but who also seem to have forgotten that children have brains of their own).
A similar impulse led California legislators to pass a law in 2005 banning the sale of violent video games to anyone under 18, but the law was struck down by a lower court, because apparently you can only protect youngsters from sex, not violence. This led Justice Antonin Scalia to become the unlikely hero of video gamers everywhere, as he argued on Tuesday that while the First Amendment definitely wasn’t designed to protect obscenity, it should apply to everything else, even violence.