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Passings | MAD Magazine writer Lou Silverstone has died at age 90. Silverstone was the writer of many of MAD‘s movie and television satires in the 1960s and 1970s, starting with “Bananaz,” a parody of Bonanza. Later he went to work for Cracked, MAD‘s chief competition, and he also wrote for the Jackson 5 animated series and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic, a gig that he got through former MAD artist Wally Wood. The MAD website also pays tribute to Silverstone. [News From ME]
Conventions | Oregon’s Cherry City Comic Con has a new owner and a new attitude. The con fell on hard times last year, and at one point this year’s show was canceled. New owner John Roache bought the show when he heard that news; he and his wife, artist Nicole Brune, had been to last year’s show and enjoyed it. He’s keeping the name but changing the format to more of a pop-culture convention, with a long list of entertainment guests, and he has expanded the number of slots available for vendors. The show is scheduled for April 11-12. [Statesman Journal]
Graphic novels | ICv2 has the January graphic novel chart from Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales in book channels. Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? tops the list, with the fourth volume of Saga coming in second, and the 22nd volume of The Walking Dead in third. The list is a bit different from previous months because the chart began including nonfiction graphic novels just last month, and going forward ICv2 will break the titles into three categories: superhero/genre, manga and “author” graphic novels. The retailer-oriented website throws in some interesting bits of analysis, including the fact that six of the Top 20 titles — including books No. 1 and 2 — had female creators or co-creators. [ICv2]
Awards | Longtime MAD Magazine cartoonist Mort Drucker has been named as the first recipient of the National Cartoonists Society’s Medal of Honor. [Comic Riffs]
Crime | Sigolène Vinson, a writer for Charlie Hebdo, gives her account of the Jan. 7 shootings that killed 12 at the French satire magazine’s headquarters. Vinson was in the kitchen and heard brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi shoot her coworkers; she hid in a colleague’s office but came face to face with Saïd Kouachi, who told her “Don’t be afraid, calm down. I won’t kill you. You’re a woman, we don’t kill women. But think about what you do, what you do is bad. I’m sparing you and because I’ve spared you, you will read the Qur’an.” (However, Chérif killed writer Elsa Cayat, the only female victim of the attack.) [The Guardian]
Awards | This year’s grand prix de la ville d’Angoulême, the lifetime achievement award given every year at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, won’t be given to the staff of Charlie Hebdo, despite a petition started by jury president Gwen de Bonneval that garnered 1,200 signatures plus significant support on Twitter and Facebook. Two Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, Wolinski, who was killed in the Jan. 7 attack, and Willem, who wasn’t in the office that day, have been awarded the grand prix in previous years. The festival has announced a special Charlie Hebdo award that will go to a cartoonist whose work embodies resistance to oppression and censorship, and organizers will also publish a special album of cartoons drawn in response to the attacks. [France Inter]
Retailing | The Books-A-Million retail chain reported significant growth in the last quarter, due in part to strong sales of manga and strategy games. “Sales in the graphic novel category … grew nicely on the strength of a significant resurgence in the interest in several manga series, particularly Attack on Titan,” CEO Terry Finley said in an earnings call. The chain’s sales increased 1.2 percent, and same-store sales were up 1.8 percent last quarter compared to the same quarter last year; by contrast, fiscal year 2013 sales were down by 9.4 percent from the previous year. [ICv2]
Creators | Jeff Lemire talks about his new graphic novel Teen Titans: Earth One, which reflects his love of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s The New Teen Titans: “I wanted a fresh and clean take on a teen super-team without having to rely on other heroes or continuity. So I gravitated to these unique teen characters Marv and George had created, and re-envisioned them through my own sensibilities along with artist Terry Dodson, who really helped them come to life.” [The Kindle Post]
Creators | Hajime Isayama’s hometown of Hita City has named him “Tourism Friendship Ambassador to the ‘Beautiful Riverside Location of Hita.'” Isayama, the creator of Attack on Titan (which describes a city under siege by man-eating giants and defended by teenagers), came to town over the weekend for a cultural event titled “Shingeki no Satogaeri” (“Attack on Returning Home”), and he mentioned in a speech that the area was his inspiration for the scenery in the manga. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Dark Horse announced there are 500,000 copies of its Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon graphic novel in print; this presumably means that sales are in that range as well. The key here may may be that the book is available at Scholastic book fairs, where the numbers really add up. [Dark Horse]
Creators | A U.K. researcher argues that Marie Duval was the real creative force behind the wildly popular 19th-century British comic Ally Sloper, which is largely credited to her husband Charles Ross. Duval, the pen name of French cartoonist Emilie de Tessier, drew the character at the height of his popularity in the 1860s and ’70s, but historian David Kunzle now questions what role Ross actually played in his creation. [The Guardian]
Commentary | Chase Magnett pushes back on Chris Suellentrop’s statement, made in a column about GamerGate, that comics are “a medium that has never outgrown its reputation for power fantasies and is only very occasionally marked by transcendent work (Maus, or the books of Chris Ware) that demands that the rest of the culture pay attention to it.” [Comicbook.com]
It’s pretty widely known by now that one of the smells in the special rub-and-sniff Harley Quinn Annual #1 is of a less-than-legal, but incredibly distinctive, drug. As a result — even at New York Comic Con 2014 — there have been many jokes about the results of rubbing and smelling the marijuana-scented section of the comic.
Hilariously, through its MAD Magazine website, DC Comics has released an “important message from the DC Comics department of ethical reading,” which continues the running gag of the drug’s distinctive smell — “something called Cannibisylocibe 7-A” — and the possible side effects.
MAD may be well past its 1960s heyday, but every once in a while the magazine shows that it’s still capable of surprising us with political satire and social commentary.
The most recent reminder is MAD‘s timely take of Norman Rockwell’s famous 1958 painting “The Runaway,” which memorably depicts a kindly state trooper talking to a little boy at a diner counter. In the magazine’s update, influenced by events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent debate about the militarization of local police forces, the officer isn’t the reassuring presence he might have once been.
Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, Feldstein began his career as a teenager at Eisner & Iger Studio, doing menial tasks initially for $3 a week and then, after World War II, freelancing for publishers like Fox Comics. In 1948, he approached William Gaines, who had become publisher of EC Comics following the death of his father Max Gaines, and began a working relationship that would last for decades.
Although Feldstein started at EC as an artist, he soon wrote his own stories; within a couple of years, he was also editing most of the publisher’s titles. He’s credited with co-creating iconic anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Terror, Panic and Shock SuspenStories and helping to develop a stable of contributors — Otto Binder, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein, among them — whose influence is still felt in the industry.
Publishing | Variety speaks with Madrigall President Antoine Gallimard about how the French publishing giant and its holdings (Gallimard, Casterman, Flammarion and Futuropolis, among them) handle the film rights to their many graphic novels, and the popularity of comics as source material: “I think that the French publishing and film industries feed on, complement, and ultimately do help each other. The number of films adapted from books that are produced every year in France is eloquent testimony to this.” Noting that, “In recent years, there’s a real feeding-frenzy for graphic novels, comic books,” Gaillimard says, “Comedy, in all its variants, is the most popular of adapted materials.” [Variety]
Legal | An Algerian judge has made a preliminary recommendation of 18 months’ imprisonment for cartoonist Djamel Ghanem for drawing a cartoon, which was never published, that government officials deemed offensive. In an odd twist, Ghanem was sued by his own newspaper, La Voix de l’Oranie, which tends to favor the current administration, and as a result, he has been blackballed by the Algerian media. The cartoon is critical of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fourth term but doesn’t even depict the president — it shows two people in conversation, comparing the fourth term to baby diapers — Ghanem said the point was that Algerians were treated like children. Pressed by the district attorney to admit the cartoon was insulting to the Bouteflika, Ghanem insisted that wasn’t his intention. [Global Voices Online]
MAD joins in the end-of-the-year insanity next week as only the venerable humor magazine can, with its rundown of the “20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2013.” It’s a list that includes the best and brightest — or is that worst and dimmest? — from the worlds of politics, sports and entertainment, from President Obama and the U.S. Congress to Miley Cyrus and Paula Deen.
Coming in at No. 6, as MAD has reveals exclusively to ROBOT 6, is Manti Te’o’s dead ‘girlfriend.” As you may recall, the former Notre Dame linebacker rose to prominence not because of his Heisman Trophy candidacy but for the revelation that his girlfriend, who had battled leukemia only to die after a car crash, never existed. It turns out she was the creation of one of Te’o’s acquaintances, who admitted to orchestrating the hoax.
“It’s unclear if Te’o was in on the scam,” the magazine writes, “or just a gullible romantic who got got catfished — but either way, the whole thing is hard to swallow.”
The full list can be found in MAD #525, which goes on sale Dec. 18.
Awards | Jamie Smart’s Fish-Head Steve has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the first comic to make the list in the six-year history of the award. The prize recognizes the funniest book for children in two age categories, and the final judges will be 200 children from schools around the United Kingdom. [Forbidden Planet]
Comics | Eric Margolis reports on the difficulties U.K. creator Darren Cullen had in getting his Kickstarter-funded comic (Don’t) Join the Army printed. The format was unusual, so some shops simply couldn’t do it, but printers also took exception to the comic itself, which was an “anti-recruitment leaflet” satirizing the British army. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Acclaimed cartoonist Al Jaffee, whose work for MAD Magazine spans nearly six decades, has donated his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
According to the press release from Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, the archives will arrive in several stages, beginning with Jafee’s artwork for Esquire and Playboy, notebooks of ideas for the Harvey Kurtzman-edited magazine Humbug and Timely Comics’ Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal, press clippings, fan mail, photocopies of strips never submitted for publication, photographs, biographical material for Al Jaffee’s Mad Life and more.“I feel privileged and honored to have my work added to Columbia University’s collections,” Jaffee, widely known for the long-running MAD Fold-In feature, said in a statement. “Columbia is a jewel in the crown of New York City; keeping my work here is my way of giving something back to the city in appreciation for all that was given to me.”
The 92-year-old Jaffee, who lives with his wife Joyce in Providence, Massachusetts, still contributes to MAD.
Established in 2005, Columbia University Libraries/Information Services began its push to acquire special collections of comics work following the donation in 2011 of Chris Claremont’s archives.
Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]
Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]