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Censorship | China may have banned 38 manga and anime series, including Attack on Titan and Death Note, but fans are still finding ways to read and watch them — and Death Note is one of the most popular topics on the social media service Sina Weibo. “Chinese authorities are used to a certain degree of permeability in their various bans and directives,” says Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History. “The issue with a lot of Chinese censorship isn’t about a blanket ban that keeps 100% of material out. It’s about making life as difficult as possible for people who actually want it. A ban like this is about restricting casual access.” [BBC News]
Events | An extensive exhibit in Taipei, Taiwan, devoted to Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga and anime has drawn more than 100,000 visitors since its opening on July 1. Overseen by Oda, the exhibition is the first of its kind outside of Japan, where it was held from 2012 to 2013 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the insanely popular manga. “One Piece Exhibition: Original Art x Movies x Experience Pirate King Taiwan” runs through Sept. 22. [Kotaku]
Passings | Tom Medley, creator of the comic Stroker McGurk, which ran in Hot Rod magazine for many years, died on March 2 at the age of 93. Medley was a hot-rodder himself, which is how he got his big break: He used to post his cartoons at a local hot-rod builder, and the publisher of Hot Rod, which was just getting off the ground at the time, spotted them and hired Medley as his comics and humor editor. Medley’s son Gary said his father’s humor sometimes foreshadowed reality: “Stroker’s — or Medley’s — inspired genius came up with a host of crazy ideas that appeared impractical at first, but were later adopted by everyday car builders and racers. Multi-engine dragsters, wheelie bars, and drag chutes all sprung from Stroker’s fertile mind before they were embraced in the real world.” [AutoWeek]
Digital comics | Casey Baseel has more details on Kadokawa’s new digital manga service ComicWalker, which will launch on March 22. The service will include a mix of original comics and manga that are currently serialized in Kadokawa’s magazines, such as Shonen Ace. The comics will be available in English and Chinese as well as Japanese, although initially just 40 will be translated. Kadokawa hopes to add French translations as well, to bring in readers in France and French-speaking Africa, which is not well served by manga publishers right now. The first three chapters of each series will always be available for free; collected editions will be available online two weeks after print publication and will remain available, for free, until the next volume comes out. The idea is clearly to use digital to entice people to buy the volumes in print, and to draw new readers to older series, Kadokawa is adding color pages to the classics Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. [Japan Today]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out.
This week we focus in on some great new comics, including Veil and Afterlife with Archie, as well as the benefit auctions for Stan Sakai and his wife. Plus free comics! What’s better than that? So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Legal | It looks as if Tunisian cartoonist Jabeur Mejri will not be released from prison any time soon, despite being pardoned by President Moncef Marzouki for charges stemming from his cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. It turns out that the mysterious other criminal case that’s been holding things up is a charge of embezzlement that dates back a few years to when Mejri was working for the Tunisian railways. Neither Mejri’s lawyer nor his family had been aware of the charge, but the judge in the case issued a warrant for Mejri’s continued detention on Jan. 9. His lawyer will submit a bail request, which he hopes will be granted next week. [Independent Online]
Creators | Chris Ware talks about his Building Stories in an interview that was recorded before a live audience in Portland, Oregon. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]
Voting for the 2013 Eisner Awards concludes Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about them. Last year, I had the privilege of being an Eisner judge, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. This year I’m back to being a civilian, and that means once again I can complain about the judges’ choices. Let the games begin!
Actually, I thought the selections were pretty good, and I’m happy that the judges decided to continue having three categories for young readers, as we did last year. However, children’s and YA graphic novels are a burgeoning sector of the market, and there’s a lot of good work out there. Here are six graphic novels that I would have been arguing for this year had I been in the judging room. And incidentally, all of them are good reads for adults as well.
Little White Duck, written by Na Liu, illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez: This book deserves the Eisner for the beautiful art alone, but the story is wonderful as well. It’s Liu’s tale of growing up in China in the 1970s, and she starts with her parents mourning the death of Chairman Mao. The view of Chinese life in the Communist era is very different from what we are accustomed to; Liu writes matter-of-factly about the hardships (their family had two children, so she was not allowed to go to school) but also the joys of family life. It’s a very personal and three-dimensional perspective on an era we often view in flat black and white, and both Liu and Martínez are master storytellers.
“I think that when you are doing a long series like this, the most important thing you need to do at the end is confirm the premise. That’s why, even though the Seinfeld finale was perceived as a flop at the time, it never hurt the series in syndication. It actually works, because it confirms and affirms the world you just spent so much time in. Everyone says they love the Newhart finale, but they really don’t. It’s clever and cute for a one-off joke, but you notice that Newhart is rarely seen in syndication. Why would it be? Who would watch any of those episodes again? It was all just a dream. It’s actually the worst possible thing you could do to your audience. So my goal was to create a finale that was implied at the beginning. I think it works really well, and I love the point where we leave the characters.”
– Jimmy Gownley on winding up his eight-volume series Amelia Rules
In the first volume of the series, Amelia has just left New York for a small town, where she and her mother will live with her Aunt Tanner following her parents’ divorce. Although Amelia adjusted to her new situations, these stories have never been static; unlike many comics characters, Amelia continued to grow and change as new challenges came up. So it’s appropriate that Gownley has created an actual finale to the series, rather than just stopping at the end of a volume. It does make me wonder how many creators have the ending of their story in mind as they write the first chapter—or whether the ending becomes obvious to them after the story has been going on for a little while.
Creators | Market Day creator James Sturm explains he’ll be boycotting The Avengers movie because he believes Jack Kirby, co-creator of many of Marvel’s longest-lasting characters, “got a raw deal”: “What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel’s media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain. As Stan Lee famously wrote, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’” Tom Spurgeon notes the position seems to mark a shift for Sturm, who wrote the Eisner-winning 2003 miniseries Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules for Marvel. [Slate, The Comics Reporter]
Jimmy Gownley’s Gracieland, co-authored with his old friend Ellen Toole Austin, is a gag strip about life in Catholic school from the point of view of the kids in the plaid uniforms. Gownley, who has 11 Eisner and five Harvey nominations for his comic Amelia Rules, is anything but preachy in these strips; Amelia fans already know that he has a genius for seeing things through a kid’s eyes, warts and all. Already, with only eight strips up, Gracieland has broken new ground: Gownley said to me yesterday, “I think we are the only Catholic-themed web strip that used the word ‘Fallopian’ that wasn’t about natural family planning.”
Gownley will be live-Tweeting the creation of the Thanksgiving strip today.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, your weekly look into our reading piles. Today we’re joined by special guest Jacquelene Cohen, director of publicity and promotions for Fantagraphics Books.
To see what Jacq and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d first grab hold of my favorite of DC’s New 52, Batwoman #2 (DC, $2.99). J.H. Williams III has successfully kept up to the immense expectations he accumulated following his run with Greg Rucka, and the artwork seems to benefit even more by J.H.’s input into the story as co-writer. Next I’d dig down for two of my regular pulls, Northlanders #45 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) and Uncanny X-Force #16 (Marvel, $3.99). For my final pick, I’d have to miss a bunch of other titles for the chance to get the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 #4 (Image, $4.99). I love the anthology format, and having that plus the good cause plus the a-list talent makes it a must get; seriously, can you imagine one comic book containing new work by Frank Quitely, Williams, Mark Waid, J. Michael Straczynski, Matt Wagner AND Craig Thompson? BELIEVE IT!
Legal | A Swedish court last week upheld the copyright convictions of three founders of The Pirate Bay, billed as “the world’s most resilient bittorrent site.” Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundstrom and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg were convicted in April 2009 of copyright infringement, fined and sentenced to one year in prison. On Thursday the appeals court reduced the sentence to between four months and 10 months each for Sunde, Nij and Lundstrom while increasing the fine by about $2 million to $6.4 million. A decision regarding Warg’s appeal was postponed because of the defendant’s poor health. [CNET]
Legal | The Japan P.E.N. Club writers group and the Tokyo Bar Association last week announced their opposition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s latest effort to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, the sixth and final volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s award-winning series, sold out of its initial 100,000-copy printing at the distributor level within a few days of its release last week. Oni Press plans a quick 50,000-copy second printing, with the possibility of additional copies if they’re needed. Edgar Wright’s film adaptation of the series, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, opens on Aug. 13. [ICv2.com]
Publishing | At Comic-Con International, IDW Publishing announced plans for the Ultimate Alex Raymond Collection: The Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim, which includes every Sunday installment from both classic comic strips collected in an oversized edition. [press release]