Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Comic strips | Prompted by the insult-filled message left by an 8-year-old for the newspaper editor who dropped his favorite comics, Michael Cavna asks Big Nate creator Lincoln Peirce whether kids are still even reading comic strips in high numbers. His answer, at least in part: “I’m a firm believer that kids will ALWAYS want their comics…but they’ll want them in whatever formats are the newest and shiniest. So: Yes, kids are still reading plenty of comics. They’re just not reading them in their daily newspapers.” It kicks off an interesting, if brief, discussion with a cartoonist who’s found a great deal of success reaching young readers. Related: Christopher Caldwell looks back on Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. [The Washington Post]
Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools. [The Washington Post]
Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.
As Kevin reported back in March, Andrews McMeel — the company that publishes the collections of popular newspaper comic strips like The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Cul de Sac, Baby Blues, Get Fuzzy, Dilbert, and Pearls Before Swine – also has new editions coming for Fox Trot, Lio, and Big Nate that are specially tailored to appeal to children. To do that, the publisher has created a new imprint: AMP!
Building on that previous announcement, AMP! has now revealed the official titles of those books and released the cover art. The books, they say, “are designed to bridge the gap between today’s mostly older-skewing comic book content and the demand from kids for comic books that are age appropriate. A boy genius, bickering siblings, and a comic book reading scientist – along with zombie bunnies, a robot maid, and a mischievous iguana – will have kids anticipating new offerings from AMP! season after season.”
It’s a cool idea, because while I don’t know that I’d keep my child away from any of the normal collections of those strips, certainly not every storyline of Foxtrot is going to appeal to him as much as the ones focusing on Jason and Quincy the iguana. Collecting just the strips that kids will most appreciate is pretty great.
The line launches next month with Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate Makes the Grade and continues in October with another Big Nate collection (all color, Sunday strips) as well as Bill Amend’s AAAA! A Foxtrot Assortment for Young Readers and Mark Tatulli’s Lio: There’s a Monster in My Socks. There are already plans for Pearls Before Swine and other series to follow.
Auctions | Bids for the $412 check from Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that includes a $130 line item for the rights to Superman have already surpassed $31,000 in less than three days at auction on ComicConnect.com. The auction ends April 16. [ABC News, The New York Times]
Creators | Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo is working on a new series that will run in a Japanese shonen (boys’) magazine. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | Richard Thompson is back on the job at Cul de Sac, with some help from Stacy Curtis, who will be inking the strip. [Cul de Sac]
Richard Thompson is taking a couple of weeks off from his daily strip Cul de Sac to do some physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and he has not one but six guest artists filling in while he’s way. Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!) Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Corey Pandolph (The Elderberries) and Ken Fisher (Tom the Dancing Bug) will all be taking their turns on the daily and Sunday strips over the next five weeks. What’s that going to be like?
“I let them have free rein to re-create ‘Cul de Sac’ as they saw fit,” Thompson tells ‘Riffs, “hoping only that no one introduced anything too bizarre, like an angry talking Rat, or a Pigeon with some kind of bus-mania.”
Yeah, right. Good luck with that. Willems, Pastis, Peirce, Jantze, and Fisher were all contributors to the Team Cul de Sac art book, which is being sold to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The invasion of guest cartoonists begins on Feb. 20.
Stumptown is over, and now it is time for the other Portland—Portland, Maine—to host its comics festival. Unlike its West Coast namesake, Portland, Maine, is not well known as a teeming hive of comics activity, but there are some homegrown cartoonists, and this festival has attracted quite a few Boston and New York creators as well.
While it doesn’t advertise itself as a kids’ comic con, the lineup is heavy on all-ages creators: Andy Runton (Owly), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon (The Last Unicorn), Rick Parker (Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid, Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring), and Colleen AF Venable (Pet Shop Private Eye) leading the pack. Maine’s own Jay Piscopo, whose Capt’n Eli books are inspired by a Down East root-beer mascot, will be there as well. The one headliner who is not best known for his children’s work is superhero artist Joe Quinones.
The full guest list reveals a wider range of creators, including Carol Burrell, Cathy Leamy, and Mike Lynch. MECAF promises the pleasures of a small con; it is creator-focused (no card tables full of longboxes), affordable ($5 admission for adults, kids are free), and likely to be blissfully free of large crowds, which makes for a more relaxed atmosphere for creators and visitors alike. If I were in Maine, I’d make a day of it.