Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Just in time for Banned Books Week, the Cleveland, Texas, city council declined to act on a local pastor’s request that the public library remove all occult-themed books, including the wildly popular Vampire Knight manga series, from its young-adult room.
As we previously reported, Rev. Phillip Missick of the King of Saints Tabernacle Church addressed the city council on Aug. 12, demanding the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.”
He also complained about the decor of the Young Adult room, which includes a Sorting Hat and a figure of Dobby the Elf, both from Harry Potter, and a bouquet of dried roses. (We’ll get back to the roses.) Missick filed a formal Statement of Concern with the library, asking for the removal of five specific books, and he wrote a letter requesting a general ban on anything with an occult theme, saying, “As ministers of Christ, it is our responsibility to ‘watch’ and ‘warn’ against Satanic assaults against the hearts and minds of our children.”
Creators | Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama estimates that the blockbuster manga series will end in three years. “I’d like to end things quickly, with a tight pace of story developments,” he told Japan’s Da Vinci magazine, “and then I always end up feeling like I should qualify that with a ‘but,’ so for now, I can’t say anything more specific.” [RocketNews 24]
Conventions | Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has a thriving entertainment industry, and comics are blossoming there as well. At The Beat, Deji Bryce Olukotun interviews Ayodele Elegba, co-founder of this past weekend’s Lagos Comic Con, about the popularity of comics, what makes the Nigerian comics scene different from others, and the ever-present problem of piracy. [The Beat]
This is Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of all the books that someone, somewhere, thought was objectionable — which usually means they make good reading. This year, the focus is on comics and graphic novels, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is working with the other sponsors, including the American Library Association, to produce a number of resources for librarians and others, including a Banned Books Week Handbook; the organization has also posted a handy list of Banned Book Week events across the country (including this panel discussion, which I’ll be part of).
Creators | Cartoonist Roz Chast talks about her memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? landing on the 2014 longlist for 2014 National Book Award. It’s the first time a graphic novel has been nominated in that category, and Chast is the only woman on this year’s list. When The Wall Street Journal noted that, between this nomination and Alison Bechdel’s MacArthur “genius grant,” “it’s a good day to be a female cartoonist,” Chast replied, “I totally agree. Actually my first thought was just it’s good for cartoons, for the graphic form.” [Speakeasy]
Creators | Alex de Campi talks about her pioneering digital comic Valentine, widely regarded as the first long-form comic to make extensive use of digital techniques. She doesn’t think the medium has come too far since then: “We’re all still in the shallow end, congratulating each other for getting our feet wet. There’s been no significant innovation since us. The DC and Marvel stuff is still based on half-page increments so it can go to print. The Madefire stuff I have seen (not a lot, maybe it’s gotten better) is just embarrassing motion comics. It pisses me off because there is so much more to be done. And I want to do it. But it would take an investor, or a very daring multi-media entertainment company. And big entertainment companies are many things, but daring is not one of them.” [Digital Spy]
Graphic novels | Sales of graphic novels are up 10 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to Neilsen BookScan, which tracks sales in bookstores and other general retail channels. In terms of unit sales, that’s about 5.6 million books sold this year, as opposed to 5.1 million in 2013. The trend is echoed by Diamond Comic Distributors’ numbers for the direct market, which show graphic novels up 3.8 percent in dollars and 5.8 percent in unit sales year to date. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Alison Bechdel is having a busy week: Following the news that she has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, she announced her new book: The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a memoir of her obsession with exercise and a history of American fitness fads, to be published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [The New York Times]
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]
Library Card Sign-up Month kicked off Monday, with Stan Lee serving as its honorary chair.
An annual campaign of the American Library Association, it’s intended to remind parents, educators and children that a library card is an important tool to academic success. Lee’s image appears in print and online in public service announcements containing the quote, “The smartest card in my wallet? It’s a library card.”
“When you have a library card it’s like having a key to all the information in the world,” the 91-year-old creator says in a video (below). “When you have a library card, you can read anything about anything, and I have found that whatever you read, it doesn’t matter, it increases your fund of knowledge. So a library card is the ‘Open Sesame’ to all the knowledge in the world.”
In the video, Lee recalls as a child being a frequent visitor to public libraries first in Manhattan and then in the Bronx because he couldn’t afford to buy all the books he wanted to read. “Without libraries, I just wouldn’t have read as much as I did, so it would’ve been a great loss, to me,” he says.
A Texas minister wants the local public library to remove all books from its young-adult section that deal with supernatural romance, a genre that includes the Vampire Knight manga as well as the Twilight and House of Night novels.
According to the Dayton News, Phillip Missick, pastor of All Saints Tabernacle in Cleveland, Texas, addressed the city council during the public comment period of its Aug. 12 meeting. He also submitted a petition, signed by a number of local ministers, that he had circulated at the Cleveland Ministerial Alliance. He requested that the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.” However, at least two of the ministers who signed the petition have since backed off from it.
Missick was apparently referring to the Teen Room of the Austin Memorial Library, which, he states, contains 75 books about the occult, as well as “a demonic stuffed doll and a witch’s hat” (actually Dobby and the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books). He seems to be particularly concerned with books about vampires, or at least, that’s what local media have picked up on.
Comic strips | The art from cartoonist Bill Watterson’s surprise return to the comics page earlier this month for a three-day stint on Pearls Before Swine will be auctioned Aug. 8 on behalf of Team Cul de Sac, the charity founded by Chris Sparks to honor Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, who has Parkinson’s disease. The proceeds benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. A painting by Watterson of one of Thompson’s characters sold in 2012 for $13,000 as part of a benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac. [Team Cul de Sac]
Creators | The tech news site Pando has fired cartoonist Ted Rall, just a month after hiring him, along with journalist David Sirota. While Rall wouldn’t comment on the reason for his dismissal, he did say the news came “really truly out of a clear blue sky. I literally never got anything but A++ reviews,” and he added that editor Paul Carr gave him complete editorial freedom. While Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku speculates that the two had rubbed investors the wrong way, Carr disputes that, as well as other assertions in the article. Nonetheless, both Rall and Sirota confirmed they were let go. [Valleywag]
Creators | Jim Toomey sets his comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon under the sea, and now he’s going to get a close-up look at underwater life: As the artist in residence on Alvin, a Navy deep-sea submersible vehicle, he will get an up-close look at undersea life in the Gulf of Mexico. “Only three people are able to go down on the sub at a time, so it’s a very coveted opportunity,” said Toomey, who will talk to his children’s class from aboard the submersible and has set the current Sherman’s Lagoon story in the Gulf so he can introduce the sea creatures he is seeing firsthand. [The Washington Post]
This year’s Banned Books Week, slated for Sept. 21-27, will spotlight comics and graphic novels, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Banned Books Week planning committee announced today. Graphic novels have been the subject of a number of library and school challenges over the past few years, and the American Library Association’s most recent list of frequently challenged books includes, incredibly, Jeff Smith’s Bone.
Comics and graphic novels are somewhat more vulnerable to challenges because of their visual nature: While one would actually have to read To Kill a Mockingbird or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to find potentially offensive content, all a would-be guardian of morality has to do with comics is flip one open and leaf through the pages looking for Naughty Bits. That’s apparently what happened when the Chicago Public Schools attempted to remove Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from classrooms; the move was based on a few panels taken out of context.
The public library system in Hertfordshire, England, has restricted who can check out graphic novels that are classified as “adult” — which includes not only mature-reader titles but also comics aimed at a broader audience, such as Batman and The Avengers, according to the local newspaper.
Often, these sorts of stories start with a parent who is outraged to find a child checking out or browsing adult materials. In this case, however, the issue was simply one of proximity: When Louisa de Beaufort brought her two children to the public library in her small town of Harpenden, she noticed that graphic novels of an adult nature were on the other side of the bookshelves that held children’s books. What’s more, mature-readers graphic novels in the adult section were shelved alongside tamer titles.
De Beaufort used her child’s library card to borrow not one but 10 mature titles, including The Boys, Crossing Midnight and Fatale, at a self-checkout station in the library. She then complained to the staff that any child could check out any book.
Digital comics | In today’s Amazon-acquires-comiXology article, Rachel Edidin deflates much of the hype, and the panic, surrounding the deal, pointing out that comics distribution is already a monopoly, large corporations already run the comics market, and comics have been available on Kindle all along: “Is the concern […] a distribution monopoly? If so, the direct market is in no position to criticize: over the last 15 years, Diamond Comics Distributors has consumed almost all independent print distribution in comics, and dictates practices and policy to retailers and publishers alike. The idea that print comics are somehow more independent than their digital cousins — or a scrappy underdog fighting the good fight against evil corporate profiteers — is frankly ridiculous.” [Wired]
Awards | Michael Cavna talks with Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer about winning the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning. [Comic Riffs]
Bone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.
The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.
Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.
The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”
Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)
Digital comics | Jeff Gomez examines the implications of Amazon’s planned acquisition of comiXology, opining that it will give comics a wider reach but also force publishers of superhero fare to broaden their appeal beyond the core demographic: “The books will now be exposed to millions of newcomers, so it will behoove major publishers to make their stories more female-friendly, streamlined, and accessible. With comiXology’s new aim to make ‘every person on the planet a comics fan,’ publishers will need to consider new genres, greater variety, and more varied age groups.” [Business Insider]
Digital comics | ComiXology will continue to offer its Digital Storefronts for retailers, and it will not allow Amazon to target users of its Pull List service with its own offers, according to spokesman Chip Mosher. Also, no changes are planned to comiXology’s other retailer tools. [ICv2]