Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]
Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]
“We are progressive, and we do reflect what’s going on with the kids today, but we also have that Mayberry R.F.D. vibe, and that will never change either. Riverdale is a place where everyone is welcome, everyone’s included, and you’re not judged by anything but the content of your character.”
– Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, in a column at Slate.com
in which writer Ruth Graham observes a shift to the left in Riverdale with the introduction, and subsequent marriage, of gay character Kevin Keller, the wedding of Archie and Valerie, and the arrival of the Occupy movement. Goldwater points out, however, that Archie isn’t a Democrat; he’s an independent: ““Archie goes with whomever is doing the right thing for his friends, for his town, and for his family.”
Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 #1, which bears the logo “Stan Lee Comics” on the cover but is published by Archie Comics, is, as you may guess from the cover—which also features Stan Lee’s floating head exhorting one of the book’s virtues—is a new Stan Lee joint.
It is a pretty bad comic book, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s a remarkably, even exceptionally bad comic book. But there’s still an irrepressible, hard-to-hate charm about the entire endeavor.
That’s probably down to the magic of Stan Lee. At this point in his career, the guy’s entered into a sort of lovable old rascal phase, and I often find myself forgiving him a lot in the same way I forgive older relatives and relations a lot, putting negatives down to either “Well, he’s old” and “But think of what he’s done in his life, he deserves some slack.”
That, and there is a genuinely inspired idea here, although Lee’s floating head does a poor job of selling it on the cover (and Lee’s back-of-the-book editorial does a worse job of it). The contents of the book orbiting that one inspired idea are so completely generic and derivative that I kept wondering if they were intentionally so.
Conventions | WonderCon was held in Anaheim, California, this year because the traditional venue, San Francisco’s Moscone Center, was closed for renovations. Heidi MacDonald wonders whether the shift will be permanent, and a lively debate ensues in comments. SFBay, meanwhile, informally surveyed exhibitors, and found many retailers saw a steep drop in sales from last year, while many artists saw an increase in revenue. [The Beat]
Retailing | ICv2 sees an uptick in manga sales in comics stores and speculates that the Borders bankruptcy has led readers to a variety of different channels, including the direct market, which could be an opportunity for comics stores to expand their customer base. [ICv2]
Digital comics | Digital distributor comiXology will offer HD versions of all its comics for readers who use the new third-generation iPad, and Jason Snell says the new retina display and the HD comics make for a much better reading experience. [Macworld UK]
Just when you think they had run out of ways to shock us, Archie Comics delivered some startling news last week: The latest twist in the Life With Archie series is that Cheryl Blossom, the pretty, flirty, wealthy girl of Riverdale, has run up against a problem she can’t take care of with a smile or a credit card: She has breast cancer. (Note for Archie newbies: Life With Archie follows the Riverdale characters as twentysomethings and is not part of the regular Archieverse.) We checked in with Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater to find out what happened and how this storyline will be handled.
Robot 6: First of all, why Cheryl Blossom? Is it because her identity is so tied up with her appearance?
Jon Goldwater: Well, Cheryl’s such a recognizable character—to fans and people only loosely familiar with Archie. We really wanted this story to resonate, so it had to be an important character that fans could connect with.
Robot 6: Can you tell us a bit about how this particular plot will unfold—how did Cheryl find out she has cancer, how serious is it, how do her family and friends react?
Jon Goldwater: We’ll see how her family reacts in the coming issues—mainly her brother, then her “extended” Riverdale family, which consists of Archie and friends. Cheryl set out to become a big star in LA and gradually found out how difficult that was. In the process, she also discovered that she had breast cancer and realized she had to come home to Riverdale for treatment.
Comics | Bryan Young talks to Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater about the attempted boycott of Life With Archie #16, which featured the marriage of Kevin Keller, as well as the changes that have taken place within the company to make that marriage possible. “When I got to Archie my first mandate was to talk to the staff and creators and say ‘Change things up. Try new things. Be bold. Be daring. Be creative.’ If there was an idea I felt was out of line or too crazy, I’d nix it. But for the most part, people like Dan Parent came to me with excellent ideas and suggestions. Kevin Keller is a perfect example of that. I don’t think you would have seen the previous regime publish Kevin.” [The Huffington Post]
Awards | Cartoonist Alison Bechdel has won the 24th annual Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing. [GalleyCat]
Digital | Archie Comics will begin selling its comics through its Facebook page, which connects readers with Graphicly. With almost 120,000 fans, the page does seem like fertile ground. “It’s really a major move toward connecting the potential reader to the product,” said Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. “We make it easy and hopefully create a new, lasting part of our fan base.” [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Matthew Price takes the temperature in the room at ComicsPRO and says that retailers want stability — they credit the consistent shipping schedule for the New 52 for part of that line’s success — and creativity. The overall mood seemed to be optimism, with Diamond Comic Distributors reporting that comics sales were up slightly in 2011. [NewsOK.com]
Legal | A judge refused to dismiss DC Comics’ lawsuit against Gotham Garage, a manufacturer of custom-made Batmobiles, ruling that the design of Batman’s vehicle is indeed copyrightable. DC sued the California company in May for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming Gotham Garage is confusing the public into thinking the cars are authorized products. The manufacturer asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Gotham Garage “ignores the exception to the ‘useful article’ rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Nancy Hass provides a broad overview of the legal battle at Archie Comics that pits Co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit against each other for control of the 73-year-old company. Silberkleit, who spoke briefly to Hass before a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order last month, called claims that she’s threatened and harassed the publisher’s employees and vendors “completely untrue.” [The Daily Beast]
Just a week after Archie Comics Co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater sued to remove Nancy Silberkleit as a director and co-CEO, a New York judge has barred her from entering the company’s offices, or performing any work for the 73-year-old publisher.
The temporary restraining order was issued by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in response to charges that Silberkleit ignored a Nov. 28 injunction prohibiting her from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.
Goldwater’s lawsuit insists “the ink was barely dry” on Kornreich’s previous order when Silberkleit violated it by having unnecessary contact with staff. According to the New York Daily News, Silberkleit acknowledged under oath Tuesday that she contacted freelance writers about participating in an anti-bullying comic announced last week.
“I thought it was a good idea to do a book about bullying, because I’m right here in the midst of it myself,” she testified. “I’m the one being harassed and abused here.”
Issuing the new order ahead of a Feb. 2 contempt hearing, Kornreich didn’t mince words: “She is not to do anything for Archie Comics Productions.”
Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit claims the company’s lawsuit against her is merely “a thinly veneered attempt to smear my name and gain complete corporate control” for her counterpart Jon Goldwater.
The lawsuit, filed early last month, accuses Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees, and sought to bar her from the publisher’s Mamaroneck, N.Y., headquarters and from representing the company at Comic-Con International. A judge allowed her to return to work and attend the San Diego convention, but she’s not permitted to talk to vendors.
According to Archie, Silberklet’s “offensive” behavior dates back to 2009, when she stepped into the co-CEO role following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of co-founder Louis Silberkleit. In one incident, she allegedly interrupted a meeting and pointed to each of the four men in the room, shouting “PENIS, PENIS, PENIS, PENIS.” In another, she reportedly complained that her “balls hurt.” Another employee asserts he heard Silberkleit say, “All you penises think you can run me out.”
The company contends it hired an outside firm to investigate employee allegations of Silberkleit’s actions, and was advised to cut ties with her.
However, The Journal News reports that Silberkleit denies the allegations and claims that Goldwater, son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater, is a chauvinist who’s attempting to drive her out of the company.
“He has called me ‘stupid,’ a ‘moron,’ and ‘despicable,’” the former art teacher said in an affidavit filed last week. “In the presence of others he has told me to ‘shut up’ and ‘why can’t you be sweet, nice and quiet like a lady?’ ”
She accuses Goldwater of making corporate decisions without her, canceling a children’s literacy tour without telling her, and turning employees against her. “Mr. Goldwater long ago and repeatedly has told some employees and also people within the industry that he would get rid of me one way or the other,” Silberkleit wrote.
Her attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. A hearing is set for Aug. 16 in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.
It may have seemed daring for Archie Comics to introduce their first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in Veronica #202 last year, but it’s a move that has paid off handsomely. Not only did the move draw a lot of attention to the publisher, but Kevin himself has proved to be a popular character, and his creator, Dan Parent, has been fleshing out his personality and backstory in a four-part miniseries that debuted last month. Today, the New York Times revealed that Kevin will get his own series next year, and readers will get some glimpses of the grown-up Kevin in the Life With Archie magazine, which features dual storylines in which Archie marries Veronica and Betty, respectively. And yes, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater says, they are going there: Kevin will get married in early 2012.
Parent has already taken on another controversial topic in the current miniseries, which reveals that Kevin’s father is in the military and Kevin himself would like to serve someday. The comic also tackles homophobia head-on but in a very Archie kind of way, by having the kids who are taunting Kevin turn out to be friends from his old school who were just trying to get a rise out of his Riverdale buddies. These new friends are a refreshing addition to the cast, and hopefully they will stick around for a while. Parent says that Kevin will be class president in the new series, but he adds, ” “Even the most popular kids are not popular with everybody. There’s some adversity he’ll have to deal with.”
As for controversy, Goldwater says it’s a non-issue: “Out of all the people who subscribe to the Archie books, we only had seven total cancellations,” he told the Times.
Publishing | May marked the worst month of the year for the direct market since January as sales of comic books and graphic novels fell 11.21 percent versus May 2010. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller chalks up the decline to a combination of retailers ordering more Free Comic Book Day titles than “for-profit” books and publishers’ summer events heating up a little later this year. Marvel led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of top comics for the month with Fear Itself #2, followed by the first issue of DC’s Flashpoint. Avatar topped the graphic novel chart with Crossed 3D, Vol. 1. [The Comichron]
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has joined a coalition that includes booksellers, media companies and the ACLU of Utah in seeking to permanently stop enforcement of a 2005 Utah statute that would regulate Internet speech that some consider “harmful to minors,” including works of art, graphic novels, information about sexual health and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The law has not gone into effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction until the case can be decided. [press release]
Comic strips | In what Michael Cavna so accurately describes as “a seismic shift” for the world of newspaper syndication, United Media has announced it will outsource all editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution functions for its 150 comics and other features to Kansas City-based Universal Uclick. (Tom Spurgeon likens the move to Marvel outsourcing all of its titles to DC Comics.) The transition begins immediately, and is expected to be complete by June 1. United Media’s stable of strips include Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Rose Is Rose and Marmaduke. Universal Uclick’s lineup includes Doonesbury, Non Sequitur, Garfield, For Better or For Worse and the recently added Peanuts and Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Anant Pai, who’s credited with launching India’s comic industry in the 1960s with his series Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 81. Affectionately known by his fans as “Uncle Pai,” he also created the children’s series Tinkle and had spent the past three years working on Glimpses of Glory, which chronicles 40 defining moments from Indian history. After falling and fracturing his foot, Pai underwent surgery of Saturday, which prevented him from attending the first Indian Comic Con, where he was to be given a lifetime achievement award. [The Associated Press, India Real Time]
Broadway | Michael Coehl, lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has responded to the thrashing the $65-million production received this week from some of the country’s top theater critics. The Julie Taymor-directed show, which finally opens on March 15, was labeled by The New York Times and The Washington post as one of the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Any of the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period,” Coehl told Entertainment Weekly. [PopWatch]
Publishing | Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus gives another interview about the abrupt closing of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, his expanding stable of regional conventions, plans for a weekly online magazine, and the state of the industry: “The market’s changed. When I started 20 years ago, I was pioneering in the publishing world in terms of creating a product that got people excited about being involved in the comic book and toy and other markets, and we could do a lot of really cool and innovative things. Unfortunately right now being involved in the print world is very stifling, in terms of being able to leverage your content and your media and your access to the world out there.” Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon and Martin Wisse comment on Shamus’ previous interview, which is pretty much the same as the new one. [ICv2.com]