X-POSITION: Yost Gives His X-Men an "Amazing" End
Blade of the Immortal, Hiroaki Samura’s samurai tale, reaches the end of its long run this week with the publication of Volume 31. Dark Horse began publishing the series in 1996, at a time when manga was not only flipped but chopped into single-issue comics. The world has changed a lot since then, and so has Blade. Samura spent almost 20 years writing and drawing the series, and his storytelling style evolved quite a bit over the years.
Samura’s superb art belies the startling violence of his story: Manji, a renegade samurai, cannot die because his body harbors bloodworms that heal every wound. To shake the curse of immortality, he must kill 1,000 evil men. This task gains focus when he teams with Rin, the daughter of a dojo master whose father was slain in front of her; she seeks not only to avenge his death but also to stop his killers from slaughtering the members of the other dojos to consolidate the power of their own school of fighting, Ittō-ryū. Samura fills the pages with baroque villains and and elaborate weapons of his own invention. The early volumes have a punk feel to them, but eventually he settles into a more traditional style.
Libraries | A parent plans to appeal a decision by a New Mexico school district to keep Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar on the shelves of the Rio Rancho High School Library. Catrenna Lopez complained in February after her 14-year-old son brought home the acclaimed hardcover, insisting it contained “pornographic” images and promoted prostitution. A review committee appointed by the superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools voted 5-3 last week to retain the book. In response to the decision, Lopez said, “To me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” If she follows through with her plan, the appeal would go to the school board, which would take a public vote on its decision. [KRQE]
Retailing | The driver died early Sunday after crashing a car into Mile High Comics’ Jason Street “mega store” in Denver. There were no passengers, and no one was in the store at the time of the accident. [CBS Denver]
Manga | Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto ended its weekly serialization in Shonen Jump magazine in November, but a spinoff miniseries, Naruto Gaiden: Nanadaime Hokage to Akairo no Hanatsuzuki (Naruto Spinoff: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring Month), will launch in the April 27 issue of Japanese Shonen Jump. The magazine teases, “”Urgent News: The story enters a new generation …” [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
Creators | Cerebus creator Dave Sim was scheduled for surgery Tuesday after checking himself into the emergency room for severe stomach cramps. According to Sim’s friend, Dr. Troy Thompson, “the presumptive diagnosis is cecal volvulus, which is a twisting of the colon causing obstruction.” However, nothing will be known for sure until after the surgery. Sim was already feeling better after doctors inserted a nasogastric tube to remove the contents of his stomach. [A Moment of Cerebus, which is offering updates]
Legal | Matthew Pocci Jr., who in July drove into the crowd of ZombieWalk: San Diego, held annually during Comic-Con International, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of felony reckless driving. His lawyer said that Pocci, who is deaf, was scared for his safety and that of his family when his car was engulfed by a crowd of people during the event. He initially stopped the car but then restarted the engine and moved forward, striking several people. [UT-San Diego]
Publishing | Papercutz, which has had an extremely successful program of LEGO graphic novels based on the Bionicle, Ninjago and Legends of Chima properties, is losing that license to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which will have its own graphic novels in bookstores by the end of this year. Papercutz reveals it will continue to publish Bionicle and Ninjago through the end of this year, and Legends of Chima through mid-2016. [Publishers Weekly, ICv2]
Passings | Fred Fredericks, who drew the Mandrake the Magician comic strip from 1965 to 2013, has died. In addition to his daily newspaper work, Fredericks drew comics for Western Publishing and Marvel. [ComicMix]
Lianne Sentar is a member of the generation that came to comics through manga and stuck with it, moving from reading to creating to publishing. The author of Tokyo Demons, she was writing Sailor Moon novels for Tokyopop when she was still a teenager and later worked as an adaptor and editor.
Two years ago, Sentar teamed up with former Tokyopop senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and two other women to create Chromatic Press, an independent publisher of comics, fiction and audio dramas. Their flagship publication, Sparkler Monthly, is a digital magazine that is based on the Japanese model of serialized stories. They caught the attention of manga fans immediately by getting the rights to one of the best-regarded graphic novels from Tokyopop’s global manga line, Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat. Their lineup also includes Christy Lijewski (RE:play) and rem (Priscilla Hamby), who won the Japanese Morning International Manga Competition for non-Japanese creators. Jason Thompson just dedicated his weekly “House of 1000 Manga” column to an in-depth review of the magazine.
Awards | Roz Chast has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography for her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast’s tale of taking care of her parents in their declining years seems to be one of those books that crosses the usual boundaries, winning recognition not only in comics circles but in general book awards such as the Kirkus Awards and the National Book Awards. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | ICv2 continues its focus on manga with a profile of Boston’s Comicopia, where they stock a lot of manga (4,000 volumes) and the staff really understands it. Most of the manga is simply shelved by title, reflecting the fact that readers often cross the target demographics (i.e. a lot of girls read Shonen Jump), but Comicopia also has sections for yaoi, all-ages manga, and “Manga for People that Don’t Like Manga.” [ICv2]
Conventions | Ace Parking, which manages parking at the San Diego Convention Center and six other nearby lots, will move to a lottery system this year to assign permits for Comic-Con International (those lots are Hilton Garage, Petco Lots, Padres Parkade, Diamond View Tower, Horton Plaza and Gaslamp City Square). For a shot at one of those spaces, you have to email Ace Parking by April 12. A drawing will be held on April 15, with the winners receiving information about how to purchase permits for their assigned location. See the full details on the Ace Parking website. [SDCC Unofficial Blog]
Auctions | Sotheby’s auction of comics and comics art over the weekend in Paris brought in about $4.1 million for 189 works, including Hergé’s cover art for the 10th-anniversary issue of Le Petit Vingtième (the magazine where Tintin first ran), several Tintin pages, and pieces by Hugo Pratt, Charles Burns and Osamu Tezuka. An acrylic and crayon illustration by Dave Stevens created in 1988 for the first issue of The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine (at right) fetched $66,017, a record for the late artist’s work. [Paul Gravett, Artnet]
Creators | “Hobbes was as much my alter-ego as Calvin was”: In an excerpt from the new book Exploring Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson talks about how he came to comics, how he developed the style and characters of Calvin and Hobbes, and the continuing popularity of the strip years after it stopped running in newspapers. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Early analysis of 2014 manga sales shows that the category has appeared to turn around, with sales increasing last year, driven by the Attack on Titan juggernaut. [ICv2]
Publishing | Black Mask Studios, which started as the publisher of Occupy Comics and now publishes a number of series in different styles and genres, launched a YouTube channel this week as an outlet for its animation and motion-comics projects. [The New York Times]
Manga | ICv2 kicks off a week of manga coverage with a two-part interview with Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s senior director of sales and marketing. Sales are up, with particularly strong growth in the direct market, where their older and darker series, like the Signature line, tend to do better. Interestingly, sales of shoujo (girls’) manga are up 20 percent in the direct market as well. In bookstores, as measured by BookScan, they are the number one graphic novel publisher of 2014, and they had five of the top ten best-sellers. Given all that, Hamric is genial about ceding the top spot to a Kodansha title: “Attack on Titan is #1, but whatever works and brings people into the stores and into the category is good for everybody.” In Part 2, he reveals what he expects to be the biggest book of 2015, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. [ICv2]
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, known as the creator and grandmaster of the darker gekiga style of Japanese manga, has passed away at the age of 79.
News of Tatsumi’s passing comes from a message posted by London-based comic book journalist Paul Gravett on his website. “The news came through to me in a short email [from director Eric Khoo] yesterday, March 7th 2015: ‘Sensei passed away today,'” Gravett wrote. “His innovations were vitally important for Japanese comics and his lifetime’s work stands as some of the most psychologically powerful and humane narratives, not only in manga but in global comics culture.”
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]