SDCC: "Gotham" Cast, Producers Tease Court of Owls, Cult of the Joker in S3
Comic Books, TV
Passings | Nine Culliford, the woman who made the Smurfs blue, died on July 5 at the age of 86. Nine met Pierre Culliford, the artist who would later take the pen name Peyo, in 1946, the same year his first cartoon was published. Nine was the colorist for the Smurfs from their first appearance in “Johan et Pirlouit” (English title: “Johan and Peewit”) in 1958 until her husband’s death in 1992, and she continued to be active on Smurf projects after her son Thierry and her daughter Véronique took over. It was Nine who came up with the idea of coloring the Smurfs blue, as she felt the color would stand out agains the green, wooded backgrounds of the comic. [The Blue Print]
Comics | Sales of comics and graphic novels have crashed through the $1 billion threshold, according to calculations by Milton Griepp of ICv2 and John Jackson Miller of Comichron. That includes $350 million in sales through retail book channels, $90 million in digital, and $20 million in newsstand sales, with the rest coming through the direct market. Griepp and Miller estimate that graphic novels account for $535 million in sales and serial comics for $405 million. Griepp attributed the growth in sales to increased attention to comics properties from the media and an expanding audience, as more women and children come to the medium. [ICv2]
Conventions | This year’s Space City Comic Con in Houston seems to have had a number of organizational problems. Among other things, the Sons of Anarchy cast reunion did not occur, and actor Charlie Hunnam left early after encountering problems with payment; there are unconfirmed reports of a testy encounter in which security was called. Hunnam’s early departure caused a cascade of problems, with some unpaid volunteers walking out after being berated by angry fans, and attendees who paid up to $2,000 for VIP tickets looking for refunds (and in at least some cases, getting them). Sons of Anarchy cast member Kim Coates called it “a complete breakdown by upper management,” and there does seem to be some internal wrangling, with some members of organization that runs the con trying to remove organizer George Comits. [Houston Chronicle]
Publishing | Japanese publisher Kadokawa is buying a 51 percent stake in the American manga publisher Yen Press, which will become a joint venture between Kadokawa and Hachette Book Group. Founded in 2006 as a manga and graphic novel imprint of Hachette, Yen Press publishes Black Butler, Alice in the Country of Hearts, and the Twilight graphic novels, and it will release a new edition of Fruits Basket beginning this summer. In recent years it has expanded its line to include light novels (prose novels aimed at young adults), and that seems to be what Kadokawa, a major publisher of light novels, is interested in. With this deal, the top three manga publishers in the United States are wholly or partially in Japanese hands: Viz Media is co-owned by Shueisha and Shogakukan, and Kodansha Comics is a subsidiary of Kodansha. Vertical Inc., a smaller publisher, is partially owned by Kodansha and Dai Nippon Printing. [Yen Press]
Manga | As part of its Cool Japan initiative, the Japanese government plans to build the “Manga National Center” — a museum dedicated to manga, anime and video games — in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Expected to cost about $90 million, the project will be funded through a mixture of public and private-sector money. [Chicago Tribune]
Passings | Augie Scotto, an artist whose work appeared in Will Eisner’s PS magazine, passed away March 15 at age 88. He began his career in 1949, drawing largely crime and Western stories for such early publishers as Eastern Color, Atlas and Charlton. Scotto seems to have left comics for a while around 1953, but returned in 1968 as the penciler for Tower Comics’ Dynamo and as an inker for DC Comics until around 1978. [Timely-Atlas-Comics]
Comic Strips | The Portland Oregonian pulled three Non Sequitur strips that made fun of the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after one of the occupiers was killed. “The strip, which had been making fun of such groups, seemed jarring and in poor taste given that someone now was dead,” said Oregonian editor Mark Katches. “That decision has yielded a grand total of two reader complaints.” Cartoonist Whitey Miller said he did not know the strips were being pulled and replaced with older ones. “This is the first I’ve heard about it,” he said. “Not controversial to my knowledge.” [Willamette Week]
Creators | Set aside some time this weekend to read Robert Ito’s in-depth profile of Daniel Clowes, which covers his life and career from his childhood through his most recent work, Patience. The piece is illustrated with drawings by prominent cartoonists such as Seth, Rutu Modan, and Richard Sala, as well as photos by Ian Allen. [California Sunday]
Music | Daniel Auerbach, half of the blues/rock duo The Black Keys, is creating a soundtrack album to go with the new comic book miniseries Murder Ballads, which publisher Z2 Comics describes as a “rock ’n’ roll noir story about the music industry and redemption.” The comic, by Gabe Soria and Paul Reinwand, will debut later this year. [Vulture]
Julia Wertz, creator of the wry graphic memoirs The Fart Party, Drinking at the Movies and The Infinite Wait, has turned her hand to a different sort of subject matter: little-known aspects of the history of New York City.
The comics run in The New Yorker under the title “N.Y.C. Mystery History Hour,” and the subjects so far include Fiorello LaGuardia’s ban on pinball machines, the story of Bottle Beach in Dead Horse Bay, the fate of the uniquely designed lampposts made for the 1964-45 World’s Fair and, most recently, the Hess Spite Triangle. She has also done a fascinating then-and-now piece on the theaters of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Publishing | Kodansha Comics announced Tuesday that its North American release of Makoto Yukimura’s historical manga Vinland Saga could end following the seventh volume. “Please preorder and don’t let this great series die!” the publisher wrote on Twitter, adding, “We’re hoping we’ll be able to license the next arc, but it’s up in the air at the moment.” Kodansha began the U.S. release of the series in October 2013. The seventh volume will be published Dec. 29. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Although it may seem way too early to begin the countdown to Comic-Con International, badge sales open Saturday at 9 a.m. PT for those who attended the 2015 convention and preregistration (this isn’t the annual mad dash, which arrives in a few months). If you’re eligible, you should receive your registration code by email at least 24 hours before badge sales open. Comic-Con provides a detailed walk-through of the process. [Toucan]
Legal | The Malaysian Federal Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the government shouldn’t have banned two books of Zunar’s political cartoons, 1Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun. “This is a victory for all cartoonists, it tells the Home Ministry and the government that drawing cartoons is not a crime,” Zunar said. He also said the ruling means that the government must also lift bans on all his books and drop sedition charges against him. “Stop raiding this my office, stop harassing my webmaster for selling the books online, and stop raiding and threatening printers and shops involved in the production and sales,” he said. [Malaysyakini]
Conventions | The organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con next month hope to break the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as comic book characters. The current record of 1,530 was set April 2011 at the opening of World Joyland theme park in China. Since then, several conventions have sought to seize that crown, but none has succeeded. It’s not as easy as it may sound, as to be counted for the record, the character must’ve first appeared in a comic book. And that’s just for starters. Salt Lake Comic Con has a rundown of the rules on its website. [KSL]
Creators | Imprisoned Iranian political cartoonist Atena Farghadani is grateful she received the Cartoonist Rights Network International Courage in Cartooning Award, her father said after a visit to her in Evin Prison, and she’s hoping an appeals court will reduce her sentence. Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for drawing a cartoon showing the members of the Iranian parliament with animal heads. [International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran]
Manga | The Naruto spinoff Naruto: The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, which is running simultaneously in the Japanese and American versions of Shonen Jump, will end in the July 6 issue. [Anime News Network]
Fandom | Rob Salkowitz presents results of a recent survey of convention-goers conducted by the online ticket platform Eventbrite. Interestingly, they found almost complete gender parity (48.9 percent female, 48.7 percent male, and 3.1 percent non-binary/other) among convention-goers in general but much bigger skews in individual categories: “Comics, toys and gaming are predominantly male, while media, anime/manga and sci-fi/fantasy fandom are predominantly female.” A typical con-goer spends between $100 an $500, with comics fans being the biggest spenders and prints and original art the most popular thing to buy. There’s a lot more detail in the article about what people like and don’t like (biggest beef: lack of wi-fi an connectivity in convention centers). The survey updates and expands on a similar survey conducted last year. [ICv2]
Conventions | Chicago’s RedEye has an overview of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, which kicked off this morning at McCormick Place, and talks with Brian Stephenson of producer ReedPop about the future of the five-year-old show. “It has all the potential in the world to be bigger than San Diego [Comic Con] or New York, all based on the square footage at McCormick,” he said. Meanwhile Chicagoist checks in with a convention food guide, while Chicago Now offers a rundown of the best after-parties. [Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo]
Crime | Two cosplayers on their way to G-Anime were arrested Friday in Gatineau, Quebec, and their fake weapons were confiscated. The two men, who were wearing camouflage and carrying what appeared to be guns, were spotted in a parking lot near a number of government buildings (the Canadian Parliament was attacked by a lone gunman in October). Someone called the police, and they dispatched about a dozen officers who cordoned off the area and searched for the men. The cosplayers, who were both 18, were taken into custody and fined $270 for violating a municipal bylaw that prohibits carrying certain weapons in public or in a vehicle, although the law seems to be aimed at knives, bows and arrows, and swords, not guns. Their car was impounded, and their weapons are being held as evidence. G-Anime organizers posted a notice Friday asking attendees wearing camouflage or carrying replica weapons to wait until they arrive a the convention to change into costumes. [Ottawa Sun]
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
By Roz Chast
In Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast has produced an amazingly honest and clear-eyed memoir of her relationship with her parents in their declining years. It’s both a universal story of something many of us will go through and a very particular account of a single family of quirky individuals.
Chast had an unusual upbringing: She was an only child (a sister died at birth 14 years before she was born), and her parents had her late in life, so she always felt like a bit of an interloper. Her mother had a domineering personality and a sharp temper — she described her own outbursts as “A blast from Chast.” Her father was quieter, easier to get along with, but also plagued by anxieties and phobias, which led him to rely completely on her mother. They were, as Chast describes them, “a tight little unit,” and they seemed to believe that if they carefully avoided the subject of future unpleasantness, nothing would change. She depicts this perfectly in a single panel in which the hooded figure of Death roars “What’s THIS??? The Chasts are talking about me! Why, I’ll show THEM!!!”
Passings | Brian Jacoby, owner of the Tallahassee, Florida, comic shop Secret Headquarters and a well-known presence on Twitter and comics discussion boards, died suddenly on Thanksgiving. The news was first released in a tweet from the store. His memorial service will be held Tuesday. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | Bob Staake’s New Yorker cover showing a broken Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a commentary on the events in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, received a lot of attention just before Thanksgiving — and even more when it got around that syndicated cartoonist R.J. Matson had drawn a similar cartoon in August. Matson brushes that aside, however, pointing out that editorial cartoonists often come up with similar visuals: “Finding a good joke is like solving a puzzle and very often there is one very best solution to the puzzle. Any cartoonist worth his salt would kick himself or herself for not finding that solution.” And when five cartoonists do it on the same day, he said, “we call it a Yahtzee.” [The Washington Post]