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Comics A.M. | Amid Korea’s webtoon boom, cartoonists struggle

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]

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IDW turns to Kickstarter for ‘Kill Shakespeare’ board game

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After chronicling the story of Kill Shakespeare in comics, IDW Publishing wants to let you tell your own with friends in an innovative board game — but the company is looking for some help.

IDW announced this morning that it’s using Kickstarter to fund the Kill Shakespeare board game, the flagship title of its new IDW Games division, in an effort to publish the project as intended. According to IDW, the $25,000 goal will go toward improving “the quality and content” of the game with a series of add-on components and expansions.

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IDW & Yoe Books celebrate Valentine’s Day with ‘Weird Love’

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, IDW Publishing provided ROBOT 6 with three exclusive elementary school-style cards to promote the forthcoming collection of the 1950s and ’60s romance comic Weird Love. Packaged by Craig Yoe’s Yoe Books, Weird Love follows in the tradition of the acclaimed Haunted Horror comic collection with “kooky, kinky and klassic” romance comics.

Among stories planned for inclusion are “Love of a Lunatic” from My Romantic Adventures #50, “I Fell For A Commie” from 1953′s Love Secrets #32, and “You Also Snore, Darling” from Just Married. IDW says Weird Love culminates with a “pre-Code comics ode to the female derriere.”

Weird Love is scheduled for release in May.

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Comics A.M. | New DreamWorks imprint won’t affect licenses

DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks Animation

Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]

Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]

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Comics A.M. | Marvel Comics API launches for fans, developers

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Ultron

Technology | Marvel has launched Marvel Comics API, which “gives developers the tools to create their own Marvel-based apps and digital offerings.” The developer portal comes with a strict terms of use — no advertising, apps must be free — while Kristin Vincent, Marvel’s vice president of digital products, says it could be used by retailers “to pull Marvel’s new releases onto their websites,” as one example. [Fast Company]

Creators | A memorial service for Morrie Turner, pioneering creator of the Wee Pals comic strip, will be held Sunday at the Grand Ballroom at the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa in Berkeley, California. It’s open to the public. The family plans to hold a private service in February in Sacramento. [Contra Costa Times]

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Empowering vs. protecting the children

powerpuff girls6Where is the line? When is an image empowering, and when is it too risque? While the case of the contested variant cover of The Powerpuff Girls #6 has a lot of silly aspects, its core speaks to larger issues the comic book industry has been wrestling with of late, and may find itself wrestling with even more. The questions it raises aren’t always easy to answer — as is so often the case, the devil is in the details.

All-ages comics have a larger presence now than they have in decades. Every month, tie-ins to popular kids’ shows and original books suitable for readers are released in high enough numbers that you could open a comic book store that’s just for kids. Many stores have increased their kids sections, and with events like Free Comic Book Day, it’s easier for those shops to prove themselves to parents as a safe place. Meanwhile, awareness of the industry’s female readership has never been higher; in October, digital comics platform comiXology released some startlingly specific data: Its average female reader is “17-26 years old, college-educated, lives in the suburbs, and is new to comics. She prefers Tumblr to Reddit. She may have never even picked up a print comic.” In six years, female readership on comiXology increased from less than 5 percent to 20 percent.

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Mimi Yoon reveals one of her next covers: ‘Adventure Time’

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Artist Mimi Yoon, whose withdrawn Powerpuff Girls variant cover has been the subject of much discussion over the past several days, has revealed one of her next projects for: a cover for BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time, also licensed by Cartoon Network.

As she pointed out in the comments on her Facebook page, it was painted last year for the miniseries Adventure Time: Candy Capers, which concluded in December, but the publisher now has decided to use it for the main series. Yoon also teased that another, as-yet-unrevealed cover she created will appear before this one.

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Retailer at center of ‘Powerpuff Girls’ dust-up issues open letter

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Dennis L. Barger Jr., the retailer who last week publicly criticized the “sexualized” nature of Mimi Yoon’s Powerpuff Girls #6 variant, leading Cartoon Network to withdraw the cover, has released an open letter in which he calls upon the comics industry to police itself, and to keep film studios and television networks out of the decision-making process.

The remarks from Barger, co-owner of  Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, follow a sharp response by Yoon in which the artist criticized him, in part, because “he brought up kids and used protecting kids and kids’ perspective in his reasoning/excuse.”

In his open letter, in which he touches upon a dwindling readership and the need to reach a younger audience, Barger writes, “I will not discuss why this cover upset me and this is the last time I care to talk about it, aside from this. I did not feel that it was appropriate for the cover of a book aimed at young children, especially young girls, and many people agreed with me. A Hollywood corporate machine like Warner Bros and Cartoon Network would not have pulled it unless enough people saw that this was inappropriate in some way.”

Read Barger’s full letter below:

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Artist Mimi Yoon fires back in ‘Powerpuff Girls’ cover controversy

powerpuff girls6Artist Mimi Yoon has responded to the controversy surrounding her variant cover for IDW Publishing’s The Powerpuff Girls #6, which was withdrawn last week by Cartoon Network following complaints that the illustration “sexualized” the pre-teen animated characters.

The chain of events began early last week when retailer Dennis Barger Jr. singled out the cover (at right) on his own Facebook page, asking, “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet?”

IDW Publishing’s Dirk Wood explained that the cover was “mandated” by Cartoon Network, which selected Yoon and approved the artwork. When contacted by ICv2.com, the network’s licensing division noted that the cover was intended as direct-market collectible item; however, “We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.”

After making vague references to the dust-up on Thursday, Yoon took to her Facebook page Friday afternoon to address the matter directly:

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Cartoon Network pulls ‘sexualized’ ‘Powerpuff Girls’ variant

powerpuff girls6Cartoon Network has withdrawn a variant cover for IDW Publishing’s The Powerpuff Girls #6 following criticism that the art sexualizes the comic’s young protagonists.

ICv2.com reports that Dennis Barger Jr., owner Wonderworld Comics in Detroit, singled out the cover on Monday, writing on his Facebook page, “Are we seriously sexualizing pre-teen girls like perverted writing fan fiction writers on the internet???? is that what this shit has gotten to? DISGUSTED.”

The illustration, by Mimi Yoon, depicts Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup as teenagers dressed in short, skintight dresses and thigh-high stockings. When asked by a commenter why their outfits are shiny, Barger replied, “Because they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong.”

Dirk Wood, IDW’s vice president of marketing, explained the cover was actually “mandated” by Cartoon Network, using an artist of its choosing. “I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of ‘female empowerment’ than the kind of thing you guys are talking about,” he wrote in the lengthy comments thread, “but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here.”

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Shalvey & Mooney chat about their careers & ‘Half Past Danger’

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Declan Shalvey’s friendship with Stephen Mooney stretches back nearly a decade, to before either Irish creator was well known in the United States. So when the Moon Knight artist pitched ROBOT 6 the idea of interviewing Half Past Danger creator Mooney about the hardcover collection, arriving Jan. 29 from IDW Publishing, we didn’t hesitate to say yes, thinking the conversation would offer terrific insight into their relationship, their careers, the Irish comics scene and, of course, Mooney’s Nazis vs. dinosaurs adventure.

As it turns out, we were right.

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IDW Publishing to launch ‘Angry Birds’ comics

angry birds comics

Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment’s blockbuster mobile game turned multimedia sensation, will continue its global conquest of pop culture in June, when IDW Publishing launches a comics adaptation by such creators as Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin.

“We’re very happy to be in business with Rovio on Angry Birds comics,” IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall said in a statement. “Rovio has taken what was once a captivating game and built it into an interesting world filled with interesting and, uh, feathered characters who will make a perfect addition to our growing line of fun, all-ages comics.”

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Sci-fi meets ‘Seven Samurai’ in John Raffo’s ‘The 7th Sword’

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When you run out of bullets and bombs, a sword is a good thing to have at your side. Provided you take care of it, a blade can last you a lifetime — and make your lifetime longer, if you know how to wield it.

In April, Darby Pop (under the umbrella of IDW) will release The 7th Sword, a series that centers on the power of the sword even in futuristic times. Created by screenwriter John Raffo (The Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Relic), The 7th Sword takes his love for Akira Kurosawa’s feudal Japanese dramas and creates a new story, set in the future.

The 7th Sword uses the filmmaker’s work as launchpad to tell the story of a itinerant swordsman named Daniel Cray, who wanders from port to port, planet to planet, until he discovers a remote settlement named ZenZion in need of saving from criminal warlords using an army of robots and mercenaries in an effort to seize the enclave’s resources. Illustrated by frequent Top Cow artist Nelson Blake II, The 7th Sword mixes samurai drama with the dirty, lived-in worlds of a space frontier.

ROBOT 6 spoke with Raffo about this comics debut, the inspirations for the story, and of course, the series itself. Darby Pop has provided us with four exclusive pages from The 7th Sword #1.

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Christmas is over, but the comics deals continue

mm25-official-complete-works-2Although the United States has never really embraced the Boxing Day tradition, Americans do like a good sale. So it’s lucky for comics fans the world over that a handful of publishers are offering some post-Christmas deals.

• Dark Horse Digital continues its “2013 #1s Sale” through Dec. 29, with the debut issues of such titles as The Black Beetle: No Way Out, B.P.R.D.: Vampire, Itty Bitty Hellboy and Star Wars available for download for 99 cents.

• DC Entertainment is offering digital versions of its 25 essential graphic novelsAll-Star Superman, Batman: Year One and the first volumes of The Sandman, American Vampire and Y: The Last Man, among them — for $5.99 each through Jan. 2.

• At comiXology, you can find the digital collection of the entire Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez for $44.99 (or half price on nearly all of the individual issues and volumes) through Dec. 29. Also: Marvel NOW! titles are available for 99 cents each through Jan. 2.

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Comics A.M. | Details emerge about ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ threats suspect

Kuroko's Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball

Legal | More details have emerged about Hirofumi Watanabe, the 36-year-old man suspected of sending more than 400 threatening letters to convention centers, retailers and other sites in Japan associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun revealed Watanabe studied anime at a vocational school but dropped out at age 20. Also, a search of Watanabe’s apartment turned up toilet bowl cleaner, a scrap of paper that said “creating hydrogen sulfide” and, not surprisingly, several volumes of Kuroko’s Basketball.

Oddly, Watanabe claims to be two different perpetrators who use two different accents, standard Japanese and a Kansai accent, and many of the statements he made in his letters and online postings, including that he was acquainted with Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, appear to be false. Anime News Network also reports that when he was arrested, Watanabe had about 20 threat letters in his backpack, and that he told police he was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. [Anime News Network]

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