Legal | Artist Al Plastino has asked a New York judge to order Heritage Auctions to reveal the name of the consignor who put up for sale his original art for the 10-page story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.” Heritage says the sale has been canceled and the art returned to the consignor, who bought it at a Sotheby’s auction a decade ago. The JFK story was originally scheduled to run in a DC comic dated November 1963, but it was quickly pulled when Kennedy was assassinated. The story was published the following year at the request of the Johnson administration. The last panel of the comic stated the artwork was to be donated to the Kennedy Library, and Plastino believed that to be the case until this fall, when he discovered it was being put up for auction. [Reuters]
Crime | Tokyo police say they have security camera footage of a suspicious man in a mask and gloves near a convenience store where a small amount of nicotine was found in a Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snack. The snacks were recalled after 7-Eleven and other convenience store chains received threatening letters, part of a barrage of threat letters that have been sent out to venues associated with the Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The amount of nicotine found in the Kuroko’s Basketball wafers was well under a lethal dose. [Anime News Network]
We reported earlier this month on a truly weird case unfolding in Japan: Someone is sending threatening letters to venues connected to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball, including convention centers that host doujinshi (fan comic) events, bookstores that sell the manga, and Sophia University, where creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki attended school. Some bookstores have removed the manga, and convenience stores, including 7-Eleven, also pulled Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks after receiving letters saying they had been poisoned.
There were two developments in the case last week. The first was that a small amount of nicotine was found in one of the recalled snacks; the package appeared to be “suspiciously” sealed. However, investigators said the amount found was 1/100th of a lethal dose.
The other other was that Tokyo police announced they may have security camera footage of the suspect — and, in fact, they may have questioned him more than a year ago.
Creators | Newsday picks up the story of Al Plastino’s original art for the John F. Kennedy comic that was canceled when the president was assassinated, and then published a few months later at the request of the Johnson administration. Plastino, now 91, had been told the artwork would be donated to the Kennedy Library, but last month at New York Comic Con he learned that a private individual had the art and was planning to sell it through Heritage Auctions, which now says it won’t move forward until the ownership question is resolved. Copyright lawyer Dale Cendall, former DC Comics President Paul Levitz and artist Neal Adams weigh in on the case. [Newsday]
Kickstarter | In the wake of the successful Fantagraphics Kickstarter campaign, Rob Salkowitz looks at the evolution of the crowdfunding platform from a way for individual creators to connect with their audiences to a pre-sale mechanism that eliminates a lot of the risk for smaller publishers. [ICv2]
In a true-crime story unfolding across Japan, stores are pulling products and venues are canceling events related to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball because of a series of threatening letters targeting locations linked to the manga’s creator, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, the manga, and doujinshi (fan comic) events related to it.
The first threat letters, at least one of which may have contained deadly poison, were sent more than a year ago, but the pace seems to be accelerating: The sender has hinted he or she may commit a crime on Nov. 4, and a new set of letters has emerged claiming the perpetrator is negotiating with the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump, which serializes the manga.
On Monday, the Japanese manga, video and game rental chain Tsutuya confirmed it has removed all copies Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The Yurindo and Reliable bookstore chains are also removing the books. However, a number of bookstores, including Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo and Miyawaki, say they will continue to carry the manga despite receiving threatening letters demanding its removal.
In addition, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain is removing Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks from 1,500 locations after receiving a letter that said, “I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven.” The letter included a photograph of the snacks. Another convenience chain has stopped carrying a line of Kuroko’s Basketball tie-ins, including character dolls and plush toys.
Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]
Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]
Publishing | We noted in late April that Archie Comics appeared to be embracing cultural and political commentary with its upcoming Kevin Keller miniseries, which features Riverdale’s first openly gay character and his father, a retired three-star general. But now the publisher, or at least the character, is going a step further, marching into the middle of the debate over gays and lesbians openly serving in the armed forces by revealing that Kevin aspires to be a journalist, but only after attending the U.S. Military Academy and becoming an Army officer. “Even though we don’t tackle the specific issue of Don’t Ask Don’ Tell, the goal was to show that patriotism knows no specific gender, race or sexual orientation,” cartoonist Dan Parent says. “While it sounds like heavy subject matter, I tried to show it simply that Kevin, like his dad, loves his country. Being gay doesn’t effect that in any way.” [The Associated Press]
Publishing | DC Comics’ line-wide reboot has received extensive coverage by mainstream media outlets, based largely on the original USA Today article or The Associated Press report. But my favorite piece is this one by George Gene Gustines that turns back the clock to 1985 and attempts to explain to The New York Times audience the effects, and problems, of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the publisher’s subsequent attempts to streamline continuity: “… If the goal was to make the DC universe easier to understand, the end result was the opposite: to this day, fans frequently mention ‘pre-Crisis‘ and ‘post-Crisis‘ as a way to distinguish stories. Twenty years later, in the Infinite Crisis limited series, DC tried to clean continuity up again: Superman’s career as Superboy was back; Batman knew who murdered the Waynes; and Wonder Woman was a founder of the Justice League again.” [The New York Times]
Although the final volume of Scott Pilgrim has come and gone, Bryan O’Malley’s epic comic lives on overseas — with new cover art by O’Malley himself!
The image at right is for a Japanese edition of Scott Pilgrim that collects vols. 5 and 6. The image, colored by Mariel Kinuko Cartwright, is a not-so-subtle homage to a classic illustration for Street Fighter Zero 2 (also known as Street Fighter Alpha 2).
Although his follow-up project to Scott Pilgrim hasn’t been announced yet, O’Malley has done several new Scott Pilgrim illustrations for foreign editions of his series that you can view on his website, Radiomaru.com.
That didn’t take long: As Japanese anime and manga artists continue to draw hopeful images to cheer up the populace after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a group of American animators have taken a different tack and illustrated an actual e-mail from a colleague in Japan.
Joe Is Japanese is a graphic novel (currently serialized on the web) and animated cartoon about the adventures of a 35-year-old man and his animator pals in Japan. It’s loosely based on real life, so when the earthquake hit, and Joe’s real-life counterpart, Koga, sent the creators an e-mail about his experiences, they went ahead and made it into an 11-page comic, Koga’s Email. It’s a fascinating first-hand account of the quake—it’s one thing to read about it, another thing altogether to see it happen. (Yes, comics are better than plain prose!) Koga’s English is a tad unidiomatic, but the animators gloss nicely over that by depicting their own puzzlement in places. It’s a quick read and well worth the click.
Publishing | The 61st volume of Eiichiro Oda’s insanely popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first three days of release, according to the Japanese market-survey firm Oricon. It’s the fastest-selling book in the Oricon chart’s nearly three-year history, breaking the previous record set by the 60th volume of One Piece, which sold more than 2 million copies in four days. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald talks to Dave Bowen, Diamond’s director of digital distribution, about the newly announced deal with iVerse Media that will allow retailers to sell digital comics in their stores: “The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. [...] It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.” Meanwhile, Todd Allen dissects what he describes as “a particularly silly digital download scheme.” [The Beat, Indignant Online]
As expected, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on Wednesday passed a controversial bill to further restrict the sale or rental to minors of manga and anime containing “extreme” depictions of sexual acts.
The amendment to the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance, which already prohibits the sale of “harmful publications” to anyone under the age of 18, also calls for the industry to self-regulate by toning down content designed for general release.
Requirements for self-regulation and restrictions on sales will take effect on April 1 and July 1, respectively. The amended ordinance includes a non-binding clause stating that the city government will carefully consider a work’s artistic and social merits in the evaluation process. According to BBC News, publishers, studios and retailers who break the law face fines of up to 300,000 yen (about $3,575).
The bill has generated strong opposition from publishers and creators. On Friday 10 Japanese publishers, including including Kadokawa Shoten, Shueisha, Shogakukan and Kodansha, announced they will boycott next year’s Tokyo International Anime Fair, sponsored by the Tokyo government.
Legal | The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is resurrecting a revised bill to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. An earlier version of the controversial proposal was voted down in mid-June. The new bill removes vague defining terms like “nonexistent youth” and reportedly avoids references to “characters younger than 18,” increasing the likelihood that the proposed legislation will pass. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | As the small independent retail chain Joseph-Beth Booksellers files for bankruptcy protection, its president warns of even tougher times ahead for bookstores. “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Neil Van Uum says. [Lexington Herald-Leader, via ICv2.com]
One day everyone will have a comic book created by or with Stan Lee. Following the news from this past weekend that Lee is working with the NHL, MTV and 1821 Pictures on new projects, GalleyCat reports that Lee will team with Yoshiki, co-founder of the Japanese band X Japan, on a motion comic featuring a superhero based on the singer.
Yoshiki is doing the music for the project, while Lee will do “whatever else needs to be done,” he said at the New York Comic-Con.
X Japan, a metal band founded in the early 1980s by Yoshiki and Toshimitsu “Toshi” Deyama, has sold over 30 million records and sold out the Tokyo Dome 18 times. After disbanding in 1997, the group reunited in 2007 for an Asian tour, and their first North American tour kicked off late last month. They plan to release their first studio album in more than a decade next year.
Imagine your elementary school, if your elementary school was filled with comics.
Filled with them, from floor to ceiling, all in alphabetic order, to simply remove from the shelves and read to your heart’s content. Books all the way back from the 1940’s, comics you can only see in reprints or expensive collections, and no one scolds you for daring to get your fingers on something expensive or for reading for too long. Some magical school where you can read comics from 10am until 6pm (admissions close at 5:30).
I have seen the future and, unsurprisingly, it’s in Japan. My tens of readers (Hi Mom!) might have noticed a short absence from my musing duties here at The Fifth Color, and I am proud to report to you that I took a short trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, mostly to get rid of some of that fat Comic Shop Employee cash you just get laying about from selling comics all day. Secondly, to enjoy the adventure of traveling somewhere that wasn’t the San Diego Comic Con, to live where hot dogs are for breakfast and waffles are a dinner dessert. To see the great green expanses, to marvel at historical landmarks and to fly at 150mph on a bullet train. To have a public toilet entertain me with music.
When the Kyoto International Manga Museum was but a short walk from my hotel, there was no way I could resist.
Pink Tentacle shares an awesome series of posters “that appeared in the Tokyo subways between 1976 and 1982.” They offer riders etiquette lessons and reminders, and feature a wide variety of pop culture icons — including Superman, Astro Boy, John Wayne, Santa Claus and Jesus, among others.