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Comics A.M. | Amazon’s long fight against online sales tax

Amazon

Amazon

Retailing | As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, Jacob Weisberg looks at how Amazon and Congress have managed to delay online sales taxes for more than a decade, giving online retailers a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon, which has long fought any attempts to collect sales tax through lobbying, campaign contributions and threats to move to warehouse jobs, now supports the legislation, with Weisberg contending the retail giant “has played out the clock longer than it dared hope and would now like to be able to build warehouses everywhere without doing state-by-state battle over its ‘physical presence.’” The bill seems likely to pass the Senate, but its fate in the House is far less certain. [Slate.com]

Publishing | DC Comics has put together a guide to its graphic novel backlist, which will be available both in print and digitally. [Publishers Weekly]

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Exclusive: STAPLE! announces lineup for March 2-3 expo

Organizers of STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo have provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at the details for their ninth annual event, held March 2-3 at the Marchesa Hall & Theater in Austin, Texas. Billed as the premier indie-comics convention in the Southwest, STAPLE! showcases a range of performers, exhibitors and artists, with an emphasis this year on independent table-top gaming, web TV, animation and pop-culture podcasting.

The announced panelists are: comics creators James O’Barr, Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson; veteran game designers Jason Morningstar, Jeff Dee and Marc Majcher; web TV icons Danni Danger, Sara Reihani and Jessica Mills; animators Dax Norman, Kyle Sullivan, Bill Byrne and Mongrel Studio Productions; and podcasters Geek Bombast, Chris Cox, Martin Thomas, The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen and The Random Access Web TV Podcast. See the panelist biographies below. A full list of exhibitors can be found on the STAPLE! website.

The event, and its official “Live Art Show” after-party, also will feature performances by the macabre musical troupe After Midnight, nerdcore hip-hop artist Bad Barry, DJ LD and chiptune artist Run/DMG.

Two-day passes can be purchased for $15 from the Marchesa Hall & Theater website, or at the door.

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Comics A.M. | Radical raises $3 million for digital, licensing

Radical Studios

Publishing | Radical Studios has secured $3 million in its first round of fundraising to further develop its catalog, expanding its digital publishing efforts and licensing capabilities. The publisher, which ultimately hopes to raise $9.5 million, has two comic-book adaptations in development at major studios: Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise, at Universal Pictures, and Hercules: The Thracian Wars, starring Dwayne Johnson, at Universal Pictures. [Variety]

Retailing | Dave and Adam’s Card World, billed as the largest online seller of baseball cards, has branched out, with an eye toward becoming the largest online seller of vintage comic books by 2014. “We were somewhat shocked and surprised that vintage comic books are more popular than vintage baseball cards. As a card collector, that just hurts,” c0-founder and CEO Adam Martin joked. [Lockport Union-Sun & Journal]

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Mike Holmes answers ‘Where Did the Internet Come From?’

There’s been a lot of disinformation about the origins of the series of tubes that sprang fully formed from the mind of Al Gore. At last, the truth has been told, and in handy comics form by cartoonist Mike Holmes. He created this for a magazine last year that never got off the ground and it’s been making its way around the Tumblr.

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Comics A.M. | Indian court blasts police for cartoonist’s arrest

From a cartoon by Aseem Trivedi

Legal | The Bombay High Court had sharp words for the Mumbai Police regarding the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on a sedition charge. “How can you (police) arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression,” said justices DY Chandrachud and Amjad Sayyed during a hearing in the case. The court will issue guidelines for the application of the sedition law, said the justices, who called the arrest of Trivedi “arbitrary.” “We have one Aseem Trivedi who was courageous enough to raise his voice and stand against this, but what about several others whose voices are shut by police.” [The Economic Times]

Creators | Grant Morrison talks about the guy who (literally) ate a copy of Supergods, why he is moving away from superheroes, and his upcoming Pax Americana, which is based on the same Charlton characters as Watchmen: “It’s so not like Watchmen. In the places where it is like Watchmen people will laugh because it’s really quite … it’s really faithful and respectful but at the same time satiric. I don’t think people will be upset by it, in the way that they’ve been upset by Before Watchmen which even though it’s good does ultimately seem redundant … This one is its own thing but it deliberately quotes the kind of narrative techniques used in Watchmen and does something new with them.” [New Statesman]

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Group sketch blog The Sindiecate closes down

It must be hard work keeping these group sketch blogs going. While some keep ticking along like clockwork (Eclectic Micks, Scotch Corner), some other favorites have been on lengthy, near catatonic, hiatuses (What Not, Comic Twart). David LaFuente has posted an announcement on The Sindiecate that, after one year of regularly promoting indie comics through character sketches, they’ve decided to call it a day:

Lafuente here with a final report.

THE SINDIECATE is closing down its doors. This month marks the first year of the collective authors and initiative to pay tribute to independent comics. And it’s a good moment to call it a day.

Thanks to Jorge Muñoz, James Harren, Mike Choi, Ryan Ottley, Colleen Coover, Matteo Scalera for joining me on this project. It’s great to look back on that idea I had for the website and see what has become thanks to them.

And thanks to the people who liked our homages, helped spread the word and maybe make some new readers for the indie authors behind the books.

Adios! : )

Perhaps their mission has been accomplished: certainly, Indie comics do seem to be in a healthier state now than even a year ago.  High profile writers and artists seem to be flocking back in that direction, and with the massive sales numbers of The Walking Dead #100, the zeitgeist’s pendulum seems to swung further to the side of creator-owned than anytime since the early 1990s.

Comics A.M. | DiDio and Lee on state of DC and industry

Jim Lee

Publishing | ICv2 sits down for a three-part interview with DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio that takes the long view of the past year, covering the launch of the New 52, the effect of digital and the loss of Borders, and the recent discussions around creators’ rights. “It’s a cyclical thing. It’s an issue that constantly comes back,” DiDio said. “We hear about the great jobs and the great books that creators might participate in, but what we don’t hear about are all the books we’ve invested in over the years that never delivered, where we’ve invested in the talent and the time to make sure they had the opportunity to tell the stories they tell. It’s a very big picture, and it’s a very complex issue that can’t be boiled down. One thing I feel the most strongly is that I feel extraordinarily confident that we do everything we can to make this a very creator friendly company, to make sure they have an opportunity to tell the stories they want to tell with our characters and also in their creator owned stories too.” [ICv2]

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Quote of the day | Theft or fair use?

Here’s a nice coda to the whole Affaire d’Oatmeal: Political cartoonist Donna Barstow takes exception to the site Something Awful posting her cartoons without consent, and in the process, sums up about three weeks’ worth of lengthy posts in one pithy exchange:

“Are you talking about people posting them on the forums and making fun of them?” responded Something Awful’s David Thorpe. “I think you might be confused about the internet”

“I think you’re confused about money,” came Barstow’s retort. “Can I send an invoice your way?”

And there we have it: Legitimate commentary or picking someone’s pocket?

UPDATE: Here’s a link to Barstow’s site.

Tommy Lee Edwards, Edgar Wright join forces for Brandon Generator

Turf artist Tommy Lee Edwards is teaming with Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World director Edgar Wright to created a crowd-sourced online animated story with Internet Explorer called The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator. There aren’t a lot of details, but it appears to be a Choose Your Own Adventure-style project that follows a would-be writer named Brandon “whose world unravels as he seeks to break the dam in his head and let the ideas flood out.”

Each episode of the noir-inspired series will call on the audience to decide the story’s direction. The Mighty Boosh star Julian Barratt will narrate. Check out the too-brief teaser below, and follow the Brandon Generator Facebook page for updates.

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Comics A.M. | Arizona legislature passes bill censoring electronic speech

Arizona state flag

Legal | The Arizona legislature passed a sweeping bill last week that would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” While the law was intended to update the state’s telephone harassment laws to encompass the Internet, it’s not limited to one-to-one communications and thus, as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund notes, could criminalize “all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.” Media Coalition, a trade association that includes the CBLDF among its members, has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to veto the bill. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Media Coalition]

Passings | Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has died of cancer. [The Daily Cartoonist]

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con hotel reservations open Thursday

Comic-Con International

Conventions | The hotel reservation system for Comic-Con International in San Diego will open Thursday at 9 a.m. PT, as the yearly mad dash for discounted hotel rates begins. CCI has posted a list of hotels, and if you’re willing to stay in Mission Valley, you can book a room early. The process will be the same as last year — select up to 20 hotels where you’d be willing to stay, and you’ll get a confirmation email no later than April 1. You can leave your April Fool’s jokes in the comments below. Also of note this year, shuttles to and from hotels will run 24 hours a day during the show, beginning at 5 a.m. Thursday. [CCI]

Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna rounds up nine editorial cartoons commenting on the killing of Florida teenager Tryavon Martin. [The Washington Post]

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Femmes Formidables looks at powerful, fictional women in history

Ardala Valmar and Kane

Gene Phillips’ Femmes Formidables blog began in 2010 (under another name) as a method of documenting the counter-argument to an assertion that in certain areas of pop culture, “women can never have their own agency.” To disprove that notion, Phillips started cataloging powerful, female characters from fiction. After doing that for a while, he switched things up by highlighting 50 comic book fights in which women got the better of men and then let the blog alone for all of last year.

Last month, though, Phillips relaunched the blog with a focus on the historical “study of the image of the powerful female in popular (and maybe other) cultures.” After a brief history covering 1886-1928, Phillips begins his historical overview in 1929 with Wilma Deering’s first appearance in comics. As of this writing, he’s up to 1941 and the first appearance of Wonder Woman.

Whatever Phillips’ motivation for starting the blog, it’s an excellent starting point for anyone looking to dig deeper into the study of powerful women in fiction.

Comics A.M. | Michael George denied retrial; DC to close forums

Michael George

Legal | A judge denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of Michael George, the former comic book store owner and convention organizer convicted of killing his wife in 1990, dismissing the defense’s argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction. George is serving a life sentence. [Detroit Free Press]

Publishing | DC Comics announced last night it will shut down its message board in early March as part of an overhaul of the publisher’s website that will include Facebook-hosted commenting and integrated Twitter feeds. [The Source]

Creators | About 15 people threw eggs at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks as he spoke on freedom of speech at the University of Karlstad. Vilks has raised the ire of some Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Vilks told the audience, “Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves, it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don’t think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough.” None of the eggs hit the cartoonist, and the protestors were removed from the room. [UPI.com]

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This! is how women in superhero comics should be portrayed

One of many moments This! would like you to remember

I understand the importance of complaining about things that need changing — it’s the stick that gets the donkey pulling the cart in the right direction. I don’t think it’s completely effective on its own, though. In the conversation about women in superhero comics, the carrot is under-utilized, so I appreciate a blog like This Is What Women in Superhero Comics Should Be (aka This!) that points out specific examples of women used well in superhero comics. The cart needs to get moving, but it also needs a direction, and This! offers one.

The blog’s only three days old and has already captured more than 30 great moments for women, from Wonder Woman and Catwoman to Jessica Jones and Jennie Sparks. It’s pretty DC-heavy so far, but it’s taking submissions for moments from all superhero publishers.

U.S. House and Senate call off votes on PIPA and SOPA

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this morning postponed a vote on the PROTECT IP Act, a controversial anti-piracy bill that, along with the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, drew widespread online protest just two days earlier.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House  Judiciary Committee, quickly responded to the announcement by shelving SOPA “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

The delays appear to be indefinite, with Reid suggesting that PIPA sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) redraft the proposed legislation, saying in a statement, “There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved.”

“I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet,” Reid (D-Nevada) continued. “We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.”

In his statement, Smith added: “I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

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