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Bullet discovered at scene of 1990 comic store murder

Michael George

Michael George

An unfired bullet discovered last year in the Clinton Township, Michigan, building that once housed Comics World will be tested to see whether it’s connected to the 1990 murder of co-owner Barbara George.

Her husband Michael George was twice tried and twice convicted — first in 2008 and then in 2011 — in the fatal shooting, which prosecutors claim he staged to look like a robbery so he could collect money from an insurance policy and a shared estate, and start over with another woman. George, now 53, is serving life in prison without parole.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the bullet was found in February 2013 by an employee of the company that manages a building while he was cleaning the backroom where Barbara George was shot nearly 23 years earlier. It was turned over to township police, leading defense attorney Joseph Kosmala to file a motion in January for the bullet to be tested for ballistics, fingerprints and DNA (there was a filing delay because of a miscommunication between Kosmala and Michael George’s appellate attorney). Macomb County Circuit Judge Mary Chrzanowski granted that motion last week.

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Comics A.M. | Michael George loses appeal for new trial

Michael George

Michael George

Legal | Former comics retailer Michael George has lost his appeal for a new trial. He was convicted twice for the 1990 murder of his wife, first in 2008 and then in a 2011 retrial. George is serving life in prison without parole. [The Macomb Daily]

Creators | John Sutter profiles Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, whose hands were broken by government troops in an (unsuccessful) attempt to keep him from ever drawing again. [CNN]

Creators | Michael Diana, the first artist in the United States to be convicted of obscenity (for his comic Boiled Angel), returns to Miami after more than 20 years for a show of his work at the Miami Art Museum — which paid his remaining fines so he could enter the state without risk of arrest. [Miami New Times]

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Comics A.M.| New motion in Superman legal feud; a case for optimism

Superman

Legal | In a motion for summary judgment filed Monday in the long-running legal battle for the rights to Superman, attorneys for Warner Bros. are revisiting their 2009 argument that the estate of Joe Shuster has no grounds to reclaim the artist’s share of the copyright to the Man of Steel. They point to a 1992 agreement in which the estate relinquished all claims in exchange for “more than $600,000 and other benefits,” which included DC Comics paying Shuster’s remaining debts follow his death earlier that year, and providing his sister Jean Seavy with a $25,000 annual pension. Daniel Best has the documents, while Jeff Trexler provides context, noting that the new filing “filing wasn’t a Perry Mason-esque unveiling of surprising new facts. Rather, it was a routine motion for summary judgment.” A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20. [20th Century Danny Boy, The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Michael George denied retrial; DC to close forums

Michael George

Legal | A judge denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of Michael George, the former comic book store owner and convention organizer convicted of killing his wife in 1990, dismissing the defense’s argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction. George is serving a life sentence. [Detroit Free Press]

Publishing | DC Comics announced last night it will shut down its message board in early March as part of an overhaul of the publisher’s website that will include Facebook-hosted commenting and integrated Twitter feeds. [The Source]

Creators | About 15 people threw eggs at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks as he spoke on freedom of speech at the University of Karlstad. Vilks has raised the ire of some Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Vilks told the audience, “Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves, it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don’t think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough.” None of the eggs hit the cartoonist, and the protestors were removed from the room. [UPI.com]

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Comics A.M. | Matt Groening donates $500,000 for UCLA chair

Matt Groening, by Matt Groening

Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]

Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con co-founder Richard Alf passes away

Richard Alf

Passings | Richard Alf, who as a teenager fronted the money for the first three years of San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con, the annual event that later became Comic-Con International, passed away Wednesday from pancreatic cancer. He was 59. Alf, who co-chaired the first convention in 1970 and became chairman the following year, later opened Comic Kingdom in North Slope, a business he sold by the end of the decade. [U-T San Diego, Mark Evanier]

Conventions | iFanboy, San Francisco’s Isotope Comics and Grant Morrison are teaming up for MorrisonCon, which will feature “A once in a lifetime opportunity to see Grant Morrison and 9 hand picked comic creator superstars, all together for one weekend, one time only.” They’ve released few details so far, but the website says it’ll occur next fall. [MorrisonCon]

Awards | Comic-Con International is now accepting submissions for the 2012 Eisner Awards, which will be presented in San Diego in July. The deadline for submitting materials for consideration is March 6. [CCI]

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Retailer Michael George gets life sentence for wife’s murder

Michael George

Former retailer and convention organizer Michael George was sentenced this morning to life in prison for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store.

George was found guilty a second time on Oct. 11 after his 2008 conviction was overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct and the release of potential new evidence. Prosecutors contend that George shot his wife in the head in the back room of their store July 13, 1990, and then staged the killing to look like a robbery so he could collect money from an insurance policy and a shared estate, and start over with another woman.

The Detroit News reports that 51-year-old Michael George, who maintains he was asleep on his mother’s sofa at the time of the shooting, was also ordered to pay restitution of $130,000 to John Hancock Life Insurance Co.

A tearful Michael George, sitting in a wheelchair, addressed the court, saying, “Something will be found. Someone will come forward. I have never harmed a woman in my life. Let’s not forget no one saw me there — no one.” He plans to appeal the conviction.

Barbara George’s sister and brother also spoke, directing their comments to Michael George as well as his daughters Tracie and Michelle, who supported their father but were absent from the courtroom today at his request.

“We think about you all the time,” Christine Ball said, reading from a prepared statement. “Your mother lost everything. She didn’t get to hold you and watch you grow up. I know we sit at opposite sides of the courtroom, but we have and always will love you.”

Comics A.M. | Sparkplug to continue; Michael George in jail

Sparkplug Books

Publishing | Emily Nilsson, wife of Sparkplug Books publisher Dylan Williams, said she plans to continue running the publishing company after the death of her husband. “We need your support now as much as ever,” she said in a post on the Sparkplug blog. “We are grieving at the same time as we are trying to keep business afloat, and trying not to overstrain ourselves. We want to publish again soon but that is a step we will consider more once we get through the next few months.” Nilsson, Virginia Paine and Tom Neely will continue to run Sparkplug, with plans to continue online sales and attend conventions like the upcoming MIX in Minneapolis next month and the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December. Williams passed away in September due to complications from cancer. [Sparkplug]

Legal | Michael George, the former comics retailer found guilty of murder for the second time, is in the Macomb County (Mich.) jail after his bond was revoked following Tuesday’s verdict. George was found guilty of murdering his first wife Barbara in the back of their comic book store in 1990. “The family’s ecstatic,” said Barbara’s brother Joe Kowynia. “There’s no way a jury is going to get this wrong twice. I feel sorry for my nieces, this is long overdue. Now that this is over, Barb can rest in peace. And we can move on and he can rot in jail.” [Detroit Free Press]

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Former comics retailer Michael George found guilty in second murder trial

Michael George

The jury in the second Michael George murder case found the former comics retailer and convention organizer guilty today, according to the Detroit Free Press.

George, 51, was accused of fatally shooting his wife, Barbara, on July 13, 1990 in the back room of their Clinton Township (Mich.) comic book store. This is George’s second trial and second guilty verdict. Macomb County Circuit Judge James Biernat Sr. overturned the first verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the release of new evidence that could lead the jury to believe another person was responsible for the murder of Barbara George. The first trail resulted in George being sentenced to life in prison before it was overturned.

The jury deliberated Thursday, Friday and today for a total of about 14 hours before delivering the verdict.

Comics A.M. | Jury weighs fate of Michael George

Michael George

Legal | The fate of Michael George was placed in the hands of the jury Thursday after closing arguments in the trial of the former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Although a comic collector places George in the shop around the time of the shooting, George’s mother insists he was asleep on her sofa. The jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday, and is expected to continue this morning. [Detroit Free Press]

Legal | Manga blogger Melinda Beasi contemplates the larger implications of the arrest of Brandon X for bringing manga into Canada that authorities deemed to be child pornography: “What terrifies me about Brandon’s case is that each time we allow our courts or communities (any courts or communities) to criminalize comics (any comics), we are inviting them to criminalize our own.” [CBLDF]

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Comics A.M. | Haven Distributors closing? George defense rests

Haven Distributors

Distributors | Johanna Draper Carlson catches a couple of tweets from publishers indicating that independent-comics distributor Haven, formed in 2008 from the assets of Cold Cut Distribution, is shutting down at the end of the month. Calls for confirmation this morning to Haven’s Skokie, Illinois, offices went to voicemail. The company’s closing would leave Diamond without any significant competition for independent comics distribution — print comics, at least. As Johanna notes, the industry giant still has a rival in another quarter: digital distributor comiXology. [Comics Worth Reading]

Legal | The defense rested in the Michael George trial Tuesday after the comics retailer, who is accused in the 1990 murder of his first wife, chose not to take the stand. His lawyers argued that if he were to do so, his testimony would become the sole focus of the trial. George’s current wife Renee, who was kept out of the courtroom for most of the trial in case she was called as a witness, also did not testify. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, and then the case will be sent to the jury. [Detroit Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | Alibi witnesses testify in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial  Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]

Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki’s Twitter, The Beat]

Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]

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Comics A.M. | Prosecution rests in Michael George murder trial

Legal

Legal | Prosecutors in Macomb County, Michigan, rested their case Friday in the second trial of Michael George, a former retailer and convention organizer accused of the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara in the back room of their Clinton Township comic store. The judge this morning will hear a defense motion for a directed verdict, seeking dismissal due to lack of evidence, before testimony resumes.

George, now 51, was arrested in August 2007, after a detective reopened the cold case, and convicted seven months later of first-degree murder and insurance fraud, among other counts, and sentenced to life in prison. However, the judge later set aside the verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct — George’s mug shot was shown to the jury — and the release of new evidence that could lead the jury to believe another person was responsible for the murder. His retrial began Sept. 14, and should conclude this week. Prosecutors contend that George staged the killing to look like a robbery so he could collect money from an insurance policy and a shared estate, and start over with another woman. George insists he was asleep at the time of the shooting, and that his wife was the victim of a robbery gone wrong. [Daily Tribune]

Publishing | Chip Mosher, marketing and sales director for BOOM! Studios, left the publisher on Friday after four years. Marketing coordinator Emily McGuiness will take over his duties. [BOOM! Studios]

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Comics A.M. | Janelle Asselin exits DC; Del Rey’s Betsy Mitchell retires

Janelle Asselin

Publishing | DC Comics associate editor Janelle Asselin has left the company, reportedly for a job with Disney. She clarifies on Twitter that, contrary to a report, she wasn’t escorted from the building on Tuesday but, rather, left “at my leisure.” Asselin had been with DC since 2008, working primarily on Batman books like Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, Birds of Prey and the relaunched Batman, Batwoman, Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman. [Bleeding Cool]

Publishing | Longtime editor Betsy Mitchell is taking early retirement from her post as editor-in-chief of Del Rey, where she helped create Del Rey Manga. Tricia Pasternak, a former Del Rey Manga editor herself, has been promoted to editorial director. Del Rey was established as a science fiction prose imprint; the manga line was created in 2004 and was mostly shut down in 2010, when Kodansha began publishing its manga directly in the U.S. However, Del Rey still publishes a handful of manga and graphic novels, including xxxHolic, King of RPGs, and Deltora Quest. [Publishers Weekly]

Legal | In a twist that sounds like something out of a comic (or even an ad from an old comic), a witness in the Michael George trial testified he saw someone wearing an obviously fake beard outside George’s Clinton Township, Michigan, comics shop a few minutes before George’s first wife Barbara was murdered inside the store in 1990. [The Tribune Democrat]

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Comics A.M. | Asterix co-creator retires; publisher Sergio Bonelli dies

Asterix

Creators | Eighty-four-year-old artist Albert Uderzo, who created Asterix the Gaul in 1959 with writer René Goscinny, has announced he’s retiring, saying he’s “a bit tired” after 52 years of drawing. The news came as publisher Hachette celebrated the sale of 350 million Asterix books worldwide. Uderzo, who took over writing after the death of Goscinny in 1977, said he has found an as-yet-unnamed successor to continue his legacy, beginning with a new book planned for release in late 2012. [Reuters, BBC News]

Passings | Italian comics writer and publisher Sergio Bonelli, whose company Sergio Bonelli Editore (formerly CEPIM) releases such titles as Dylan Dog and Nathan Never, passed away Monday in Milan. He was 79. [UPI]

Legal | A witness testified Monday in Michael George’s murder trial that she heard the defendant and his first wife Barbara George have a particularly heated argument in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store on July 13, 1990, only hours before Barbara was shot and killed. [Detroit Free Press]

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