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Comics A.M. | Judge bans note-taking in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | The judge in the trial of former retailer Michael George banned note-taking in the courtroom on Friday out of concern that two women were sharing information with George’s wife Renee. George is on trial for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, and Renee George has been barred from hearing the testimony of other witnesses because she may be called to the stand herself. Also, on Friday a witness testified he had called George’s store at around 5:30 on the day of the murder to ask why an Amazing Spider-Man comic had jumped in value from $5 to $40. Michael Renaud said he spoke to George for about five minutes and that George seemed to be in a hurry to get off the phone; the testimony places him at the crime scene rather than at his mother’s house, where he claimed to be at the time of Barbara’s murder. [The Detroit Free Press]

Conventions | Nearly 5,000 people turned out over the weekend for the second annual Detroit Fanfare, held at the Cobb Center. That’s slightly more than the number who attended the first event at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency, but half what organizer Dennis Barger Jr. had hoped for this year. [The Detroit News]

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Comics A.M. | New lead in Michael George case; SLG’s digital priority

Legal

Legal | Authorities in Clinton Township, Michigan, tracked down two men mentioned in police reports by comics retailer Michael George after his wife’s 1990 murder who were never questioned. The judge gave police 48 hours to locate and question them. One of the men passed away, while the other, John Fox, will be questioned Friday about a family car that is similar to one seen near the comic book store where Barbara George was killed. [Detroit Free Press]

Digital comics | Heidi MacDonald talks to SLG Publisher Dan Vado about plans to release the company’s serialized comics digitally rather than in print. Vado reveals SLG’s popular Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez will be released in digital format. [The Beat]

Comics | Lisa Fortuner notes that this week’s Green Lantern Corps #1 story shares a title with a Nazi propaganda film: “That’s a beheading, followed by cutting a woman in half, followed by the loss of a finger, followed by a reference to an infamous Leni Riefenstahl film. For those of you who are new to the Internet and it’s population of history snobs, Leni Riefenstahl was an early 20th Century pioneer who made inroads for women in the field of Evil. She did a Nazi propaganda film called ‘Triumph of the Will’ which to this day is still inspiring horror of authoritarian power in film classes and museums. It is probably not the best choice of titles for a book where the main heroes are fueled by willpower.” [Written World]

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Comics A.M. | Dragon*Con co-founder arrested; Michael George trial begins

Ed Kramer

Legal | Edward Kramer, co-founder of the 25-year-old Dragon*Con held each Labor Day in Atlanta, was arrested Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment of a child after police allegedly found him in a Connecticut motel room with a 14-year-old boy. Kramer, who was first charged 11 years ago with child molestation and aggravated child molestation, never went to court after his lawyers argued that Kramer was physically incompetent to stand trial, due to a degenerative spinal condition and chronic pain. Kramer was under house arrest until 2008, when a judge ruled that he could travel, although conditions of his bond stipulated that he report his whereabouts on a weekly basis to the district attorney’s office and that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16. On Wednesday a judge signed an order revoking Kramer’s bond, and the district attorney said Kramer will be extradited back to Georgia.

Pat Henry, current chairman of Dragon*Con, posted a statement on the convention’s website: “Edward Kramer resigned from the Dragon Con Convention in the year 2000 after being indicted on felony charges in Gwinnett County. He has not had any role in Dragon Con planning or activities since that time. Since 2000 the convention has been managed by three of the other founders. These men have been involved with the convention since the beginning. They are chairman Pat Henry, and board members Dave Cody and Robert Dennis. In these eleven years the convention attendance has grown from less than 10,000 to over 46,000 this past Labor Day.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

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Comics A.M. | SPX attendance up; more on Justice League #1 sales

SPX

Conventions | Executive director Warren Bernard said attendance at this year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, was up 10 to 15 percent, with exhibitors reporting strong sales and many sell-outs. “A great line-up of new material was partially responsible, but the region itself is also a factor — the economy around metro DC has remained relatively stable even in the recession, and a lot of people with good jobs seem to save up their money for the whole year just to spend at SPX,” reported Publishers Weekly’s Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid. Because of the growth, next year the show will move to a bigger room with about 50 percent more space. Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware scheduled to attend. [Publishers Weekly]

Organizations | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, meanwhile, reports that it raised $12,500 at SPX, thanks to efforts like the Jeff Alexander Memorial Benefit auction and fundraising activities involving Craig Thompson, Roz Chast and Sara Varon. [press release]

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Comics A.M. | Jury selection begins in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | Jury selection is set to begin today in Mount Clemens, Michigan, in the second trial of former retailer Michael George, charged with first-degree murder in the 1990 shooting death of his first wife Barbara in their Clinton Township comic store. George, 51, was convicted in 2008, but later that year a judge set aside the conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the emergence of new evidence that might have resulted in a different verdict. [The Detroit News]

Retailing | Retailer Mike Sterling answers questions about DC’s relaunch, noting his store saw an uptick in sales before the relaunch: “In our case, comic sales have been increasing … slowly, but steadily. And judging by demand for the new Justice League #1 and the interest we’ve seen in DC’s next batch of first issues, we’re expecting a bit of a bump in sales over the next few weeks. Whether that bump sticks, even as a slight net gain after the initial excitement over the new launches peters out and we see what the sales levels on these titles will actually be, remains to be seen. But I’m optimistic. My fear was that our upward store sales trend may have been derailed by DC cancelling everything and starting again, alienating the readership we were building, but for the most part that doesn’t seem to be happening. But, you know, in six months or a year or so, we’ll know for sure.” [Progressive Ruin]

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Comics A.M. | Michael George to stand trial again; cartoonists remember 9/11

Legal

Legal | A Michigan judge on Monday denied a defense motion to dismiss the murder case against former retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who will now stand trial a second time in the 1990 shooting death of his first wife Barbara. His trial is set to begin Sept. 7. George, 51, was convicted in 2008 of killing his wife in their Clinton Township comic book store. However, later that year Macomb County Circuit Judge James M. Biernat set aside the conviction based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct and the emergence of new evidence that might have resulted in a different verdict. [The Detroit News]

Comic strips | On Sept. 11, the Sunday comics pages will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as 93 strips from six syndicates participate in “Cartoonists Remember 9/11.” After publication, the strips will be collected at CartoonistsRemember911.com. [USA Today]

Education | Updating Monday’s report about rising waters in White River Junction, Vermont, imperiling The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library, Director James Sturm says that while the building was seriously damaged, thanks to the efforts of students, staff and alumni, not a single book was lost. Cartoonist Jen Vaughn, meanwhile, details the rescue, with accompanying photos. [The Comics Reporter, The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Kirby/Marvel copyright fight continues, John D’Agostino dies

Jack Kirby

Legal | New York federal judge Colleen McMahon made several decisions last week in the case of Jack Kirby’s heirs attempting to terminate Marvel’s copyright of his works. The judge agreed with Marvel that it would be premature to make an accounting of how much money is at stake, but rejected a bid by Marvel to throw out the Kirby estate’s main counterclaim. She also ruled that the Kirby estate’s attempt to reclaim original art is barred by the statute of limitations, counterclaims of breach-of-contract and violation of the Lanham Act were tossed, and Disney will be part of the case, even though Marvel said it shouldn’t be.

“In sum, the judge has narrowed the case to its most crucial issue. Both sides disagree about Kirby’s working environment in the 1950s and 1960s when he, along with Stan Lee, conceived many of Marvel’s most popular characters. The judge will soon be tasked with looking at Kirby’s work history and some of the loose contracts and oral agreements that guided his efforts in those years,” wrote Eriq Gardner. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Creators | Artist, letterer and colorist John D’Agostino died Nov. 29. D’Agostino started his career as a colorist for Timely Comics and was head of their coloring department for several years. He also worked for Archie Comics, Charlton Comics and Marvel Comics, and lettered the first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man in the 1960s. Tom Spurgeon offers an obituary. [Mark Evanier]

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Book raises concerns about key witness in Michael George trial

Michael George

The attorney for retailer Michael George, who awaits another trial in the 1990 killing of his first wife, has requested an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the prosecution’s key witness gave an interview to a police detective after the murder, as reported in a recently released book.

George, 50, was found guilty in March 2008 of first-degree murder in the death of Barbara George, who was shot in the head at the comic store they owned in Clinton Township, Michigan. He was sentenced to life in prison in June 2008, but less than three months later Macomb County Circuit Judge James M. Biernat set aside the verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the release of new evidence that could lead the jury to believe another person was responsible for the murder. A second trial is set for Feb. 8.

In a motion filed Monday in Macomb County Circuit Court, defense attorney Carl Marlinga points to a passage in the book Dead But Not Forgotten that indicates Michael Renaud, the sole witness who placed George at the store at the time of the murder, spoke to a detective back in 1990.

Renaud testified at the first trial that he called the comic book store between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. on July 13, 1990, and spoke to George, who sounded rushed and quickly ended the telephone conversation. Police believe Barbara George was killed shortly after 6 p.m., when Michael George claims he was asleep on his mother’s sofa.

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