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Fighting sexual violence in India with ‘Priya’s Shakti’

Priya coverPriya’s Shakti is a comic that aims to change the world, or at least, one part of it.

The creation of writer Ram Devenini and artist Dan Goldman, Priya’s Shakti uses elements of Indian religion and mythology to take on the difficult topic of rape and send a strong message that it’s a crime and the victim is not to be blamed for it. The comic tells the story of a rape survivor who’s cast out by her family, a situation that angers the gods; the resolution comes with a call to action.

The comic is available for free on comiXology and debuts in print this week at the Mumbai Film and Comics Convention. However, it’s not limited by the usual distribution structures: As Devenini explains to ROBOT 6, the creators have partnered with the Indian charitable trust Apne Aap Women Worldwide to get the title out to girls in classrooms and communities far from comics shops. They also painted street murals in Mumbai that include an augmented reality feature; when viewed with a smart phone, parts of the murals are animated.

I spoke with Devenini and Goldman about making the comic, the special features, and how they plan to spread the word.

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New comic tackles the problem of rape in India

Priya's-Shakti

Priya’s Shakti is the first comic released in India to use augmented reality, a digital effect that animates some of the panels when they are viewed with a smart phone.

That’s impressive, but it’s not the most remarkable thing about the comic. What sets Priya’s Shakti apart is the subject matter: It’s a story about rape. In the comic, a rape survivor and the goddess Parvati travel around the country and the world, fighting sexual violence and the attitudes that underlie it.

Producer and writer Ram Devineni and artist Dan Goldman (Red Light Properties) created the comic, which has been awarded a 2014 Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund grant, and they partnered with the NGO Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which works for social and policy changes to improve the standing of women throughout the world, to help get it into as many hands as possible.

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Comics A.M. | ‘One Piece’ edges out ‘Attack on Titan’ in Japan

One Piece, Vol. 75

One Piece, Vol. 75

Manga | The top-selling manga in Japan this year was One Piece, with nearly 11.9 million volumes sold; Attack on Titan came in a close second, with 11.7 million. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Jim Zubkavich updates his post from last year about the long-term sales and profitability of his series Skullkickers. There are some interesting angles to this, including the cost of his deluxe collected editions, the boost he got from his “reboot,” and the importance of digital sales in the long term: “Since there’s no print run or storage limit with digital they continue to build profitability over the long haul (particularly with the early issues as new readers sample the series during comiXology sales). Many issues that lost money in their initial print release have been able to make back their losses thanks to digital.” [Zub Tales]

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Comics A.M. | Ed Kramer wants conviction thrown out

Ed Kramer

Ed Kramer

Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer is seeking to have his December 2013 conviction for child molestation thrown out, insisting he was forced into a plea deal by prosecutorial misconduct. His attorney Stephen Reba also claims that Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers ruled in 2009 that Kramer could determine whether he was healthy enough to stand trial, something she deemed unlikely. With the trial suspended, Kramer — who was accused of molesting three minors — was permitted to leave Georgia under conditions that included he not be alone with anyone under the age of 16. He was found in a Connecticut motel room in 2011 with a 14-year-old and subsequently extradited back to Georgia.

Reba claims that Beyers colluded with Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter to improperly reopen the case and denied Kramer the medical accommodations he needed to stand trial, forcing him into a plea deal. Porter has been removed from the case, as he is now a witness, and Reba wants Beyers removed as well. Nonetheless, Porter said the case is not going to go away: “The only way it will die is he’ll have to die or I’ll have to die and even that might not stop it.” [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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Comics A.M. | Three of Zunar’s assistants arrested

Legal

Legal

Legal | Three assistants of the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar were arrested last week for selling his books. They were set up near the Putrajaya courthouse, where opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is on trial for sodomy, a charge Ibrahim claims is politically motivated. In a press release, Zunar said the three assistants were “investigated under The Sedition Act, Penal Code and Printing and Press Act” and released on bail. It has only been a month since a Malaysian appeals court overturned a government ban on two of Zunar’s books. [Cartoonists Rights Network International]

Creators | Garry Trudeau discusses his portrayals of different presidents, and politics in general, in Doonesbury and Alpha House. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Attack on Titan’ creator honored by hometown

Attack on Titan, Vol. 12

Attack on Titan, Vol. 12

Creators | Hajime Isayama’s hometown of Hita City has named him “Tourism Friendship Ambassador to the ‘Beautiful Riverside Location of Hita.'” Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan (which describes a city under siege by man-eating giants and defended by teenagers), came to town over the weekend for a cultural event titled “Shingeki no Satogaeri” (“Attack on Returning Home”), and he mentioned in a speech that the area was his inspiration for the scenery in the manga. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Dark Horse announced there are 500,000 copies of its Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon graphic novel in print; this presumably means that sales are in that range as well. The key here may may be that the book is available at Scholastic book fairs, where the numbers really add up. [Dark Horse]

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Comics A.M. | Wally Wood estate sues Tatjana Wood over art

Wally Wood self-portrait

Wally Wood self-portrait

Legal | The Wally Wood estate has sued Tatjana Wood, ex-wife of the late cartoonist, claiming she’s in possession of 150 to 200 pages of his art erroneously sent to her address in 2005 by Marvel. The couple were married in 1950 but divorced in the 1960s; Tatjana later worked extensively as a colorist for DC Comics. Wally committed suicide in 1981, leaving “all bank accounts, whether savings, checking, Certificates of Deposit, or otherwise” to Tatjana, and everything else to his estate, supervised by John H. Robinson. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | “I’m an acquired taste,” says Howard Chaykin, who was speaking to the press in advance of this weekend’s Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. He talks about working for small publishers, his unhappiness with the licensed Star Wars comics he did for Marvel, and the current trend of movies based on comics: “It’s really just a matter of the guys who beat us up in high school finally figuring out a way to make money off our asses.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

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Comics A.M. | Cosplay, and the fight against harassment

NYCC's "Cosplay Is Not Consent" poster, designed by Amy Reeder

NYCC’s “Cosplay Is Not Consent” poster

Cosplay | Visiting New York Comic Con, Andrea Romano takes a look at the world of cosplay, the issue of sexual harassment — one person notes it’s certainly not exclusive to cosplay, observing, “There’s harassment when a woman is just wearing a crop top on the street” — and efforts being made to stop it.  Convention organizers placed their new anti-harassment policy front and center this year, and it seems to have helped: There were just eight reported incidents of sexual harassment during the four-day event. [Mashable]

Conventions | Fensterman talks at greater length about NYCC’s anti-harassment measures in this article, which contrasts the comics scene with what’s going on in the gaming world. [Time]

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Comics A.M. | A peek behind the scenes of New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con

Conventions | ReedPOP Senior Vice President Lance Fensterman talks about how New York Comic Con reached 151,000 attendees this year, what went well, what could have gone better, and what he learned for next time. The new badges and check in/check out system, introduced last year, let producers know exactly how long people stayed at the show, and that turned into a nice surprise for two attendees: “There was a couple [last year] who literally spent every minute that was possible at New York Comic Con for three and a half days. We reached out to them and did something special for them—gave them a bunch of free stuff and free tickets because they were at the show longer than anyone who wasn’t paid to be at the show.” [ICv2]

Political cartoons | Egyptian cartoonists Mohamed Anwar and Andeel discuss the difficulty of critiquing Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who doesn’t tolerate dissent; Anwar is a cartoonist for a mainstream newspaper and pulls some punches as the tradeoff for reaching a wide audience, while Andeel has moved over to the alternative press, where he can speak more freely. [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | The New York Times apologizes for cartoon

The New York Times cartoon

The New York Times cartoon

Editorial cartoons | The New York Times has apologized to readers who were offended by an editorial cartoon about India’s space program that depicted the country as a man in traditional dress, leading a cow and knocking at the door of the “Elite Space Club.” “The intent of the cartoonist, Heng Kim Song, was to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries,” reads the apology, signed by editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal. “Mr. Heng, who is based in Singapore, uses images and text — often in a provocative way — to make observations about international affairs. We apologize to readers who were offended by the choice of images in this cartoon. Mr. Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens.” [The New Indian Express]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ blackmailer withdraws appeal

Kuroko's Basketball, Vol. 24

Kuroko’s Basketball, Vol. 24

Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]

Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]

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Comics A.M. | Gaiman, McCloud & Smith on Banned Books Week

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Banned Books Week | Michael Cavna talks with Jeff Smith, Scott McCloud and Neil Gaiman about the importance of Banned Books Week. Says Gaiman, “I get tired of when people say that no books are banned just because [you can get it elsewhere]. Say you’re a kid in a school district [that banned a book] and there’s not a local Barnes & Noble and you don’t have 20 or 50 bucks in disposable income … That book is gone. It was there and now it’s not. The fact you can buy it on Amazon doesn’t make that any less bad.” [Comic Riffs]

Banned Books Week | Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, discusses comics and censorship in a video interview. [Reason Magazine]

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Comics A.M. | Longtime retailer Steve Koch passes away

Steve Koch

Steve Koch

Passings | Customers and family mourn the passing of Steve Koch, longtime owner of Comic Headquarters in St. Louis, who died Aug. 31 of a suspected heart attack. He was 55. “He knew the true value of a comic book was in the story and the art, not as it being a collectible,” said his wife Carla, whom he introduced to comics with a copy of X-Men #1. Koch’s customers praised him for running a store that was welcoming to everyone, no matter what their tastes; some have been shopping there since they were children. [Riverfront Times]

Crime | Police in Lexington, Kentucky, believe the man who robbed a local comics and hobby shop D20 Hobbies late last month is also behind three other robberies. In all cases, the robber wore a clown mask and indicated he had a weapon but didn’t show one. D20 owner James Risner was puzzled at first as to why anyone would rob a comic shop, but he speculates the thief didn’t realize his business had taken over from the previous tenant of the site, a Quick Cash store. “I guess he figured we had a lot of money,” Risner said. “Thankfully we didn’t have that much.” [Lex18.com]

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Comics A.M. | Salt Lake Comic Con attendees were mostly local

Salt Lake Comic Con

Salt Lake Comic Con

Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con may have achieved near-San-Diego proportions in just two years, with an estimated 120,000 attendees, but most of those seem to be locals, according to Scott Veck of Visit Salt Lake: Just 800 hotel rooms were booked through the local tourist organization, as opposed to 3,000 for the big Outdoor Retailers trade show. About 15 percent of Salt Lake Comic Con attendees were from out of state. [Fox News 13]

Creators | Mumbai, India, editorial cartoonist Kanika Mishra was infuriated when controversial religious leader Asaram Bapu said the victim of a highly publicized gang rape shared responsibility for the crime. When the news broke that Asaram was accused of raping the 16-year-old daughter of one of his followers, Mishra drew a series of cartoons about it — and then, when his supporters threatened and harassed her, she drew about that, too: “I decided not to send this message that I am afraid of these goons. I made more and more cartoons on Asaram as his followers abused and threatened me.” Mishra is one of two recipients of this year’s Cartoonists Rights Network International Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. [India West]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ manga comes to an end

"Kuroko's Basketball," on the cover of "Weekly Shonen Jump" #39

“Kuroko’s Basketball,” on the cover of “Weekly Shonen Jump” #39

Manga | Tadatoshi Fujimaki is bringing his manga Kuroko’s Basketball to an end. The final chapter will run in the Sept. 1 issue of Shonen Jump, followed in October by the release of the 29th and final collection. The manga isn’t licensed in North America (although the anime is), but it became famous worldwide after more than 400 threat letters were sent to venues in Japan hosting Kuroko’s Basketball events and to retailers selling the series. The perpetrator confessed to the crimes, and was sentenced last week to four and half years in prison. [Anime News Network]

Creators | Brian Truitt interviews two creators of Cloaks: actor David Henrie, who created the main character Adam, a street magician in New York who is recruited by a black-ops group, and Caleb Monroe, who wrote the comic. Says Monroe, “As a magician, Adam looks for underlying realities, those things many of us have forgotten or deceived ourselves about. Then he develops ways to slip those back into people’s lives disguised as entertainment.” The first issue is due out next week from BOOM! Studios. [USA Today]

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