"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" Trailer Officially Released
Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who entered a plea deal in December to avoid more jail time on child molestation charges that date back to 2000, could find himself back behind bars for his use of social media. Kramer, who’s no longer associated with DragonCon, ended years of legal wrangling with an Alford plea that, among other stipulations, barred him from having any direct or indirect contact with anyone under the age of 16. A registered sex offender, Kramer set up a Twitter account under his real name in 2011, but didn’t do much with it until a couple of weeks ago, when he suddenly became active and began following people — including a 14-year-old girl. His Google+ page also shows a connection with the then-14-year-old boy he was charged with molesting. Kramer lists his address as Brooklyn on his social media accounts, but he apparently is still in Georgia. The Gwinnett County district attorney is investigating; a violation of the plea agreement could result in a 60-year prison sentence, 20 years for each of the three counts of child molestation. Heidi MacDonald has more at The Beat. [Gwinnett Daily Post]
Passings | Eisner Hall of Fame nominee Fred Kida has died at the age of 93. Kida was an active comics artist for almost 50 years; he got his start drawing Airboy for Hillman Comics in about 1940 and went on to work for Lev Gleason and then Marvel. He assisted Will Eisner occasionally on The Spirit and also drew a number of newspaper strips, including Flash Gordon and The Amazing Spider-Man. “He was a good, dependable artist who drew beautiful women, handsome heroes and some of the ugliest villains in comics,” said Mark Evanier. [News from ME]
Publishing | ICv2 has a two-part interview with Dynamite Entertainment CEO Nick Barrucci, who has plenty to say about variant covers, the launch of Twilight Zone and Legenderry, their Gold Key properties, and what’s coming in the year ahead. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
Kevin Blankenship used to be a newspaper cartoonist — you might have seen his strip @random in your local paper, and there’s a hefty sample of his work at his website — but we all know that’s a tough field nowadays. So a few years ago, when he had kids, Blankenship put away his pen and focused on his day job in advertising.
He still manages to be creative every Sunday morning, however, when he makes his kids’ favorite breakfast: pancakes. He has turned it into sort of a cartoon challenge — the children tell him what to draw, and he sketches it on a hot griddle, using thinned-out pancake batter in a squeeze bottle. Over time he has refined his technique to create a three-toned look by putting down the darkest lines first, letting them brown a bit, then adding two more layers, one at a time. He started posting his pancake creations on Instagram and Twitter, and now he’s on Tumblr as well.
Pancakes turn out to be a rather forgiving medium. “As long as the pancakes taste good,” he told Business Insider, “you don’t have to worry too much about messing up the shape.”
Check out Blankenship’s Tumblr for more images like the ones above and below; he has been on a roll with Christmas pancakes lately, including two versions of the leg lamp from A Christmas Story.
Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Tierney Sneed went to the Women in Comics panel at New York Comic Con and then hit the floor to talk to creators (and also yours truly) about the mismatch between the number of women comics readers and the industries that cater to them, including the publishers and cons like NYCC (where women made up 35% of attendees but only 6% of guests). [U.S. News & World Report]
Digital Comics | I interviewed Darya Trushkina, vice president for business development of NARR8, a digital comics app that features motion comics with some gamelike features. Here’s what caught my attention: When I asked her why they went with motion comics, she said “It boosts our retention rate and boosts usage significantly.” Their retention rate—readers who return to the app—is 50%, and the average session is 15 minutes. [Good E-Reader]
Creators | Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s turn on in the reality show Bigg Boss seems to have ended badly: Trivedi was tossed off the show, perhaps due to political pressure, and his political commentary did not make the final cut. In true reality-show fashion, he left in a cloud of acrimony, saying that his fellow contestant Salman Khan “overstepped the bounds of decency” with another cast member, Sapna Bhavanani. And apparently the producers did not deliver on their promise to allow him to use the show as a platform for his views: “I and Sapna were constantly talking about corruption and women`s empowerment inside the house, but after coming out, I was zapped to learn that none of those things were telecast. … These guys lied to us. We were told – `you will not have to do any naach gana [melodrama] and you will just have to put forth your views on revolution, society and corruption.` But it was all humbug!” [India TV News]
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!'” [MTV Geek]
Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]
Passings | Dr. Scott Henson, who retired from a career as a neurosurgeon and became a cartoonist, has died at the age of 52. Henson, who treated Superman actor Christopher Reeve after his fall, took up the pen after his health problems forced him to leave the medical field and created the panel cartoon Natural Selection under the pen name Russ Wallace. The cartoon was picked up by Creators Syndicate and syndicated nationwide. [The Charleston Gazette]
Publishing | Deb Aoki provides a thorough analysis of Tokyopop’s Anime Expo panel, in which the once-shuttered manga publisher announced a new title and hinted at more. [About.com]
Creators | Paul Levitz discusses Worlds’ Finest, his buddy comic featuring Power Girl and Huntress: “There’s always been a certain level of humor and cool confidence in a light way associated with Power Girl that’s been fun, and the Huntress has always been the more determined of the women in the DC Universe — a woman with a sense of mission and a crossbow ready to take your eye out. [USA Today]
Legal | The Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on charges of possessing 39 drawings that violated the country’s child-pornography laws. The court found that while the images are pornographic and do depict minors, they are obviously drawings and cannot be mistake for real children. “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court ruled. [The Local]
Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. [TCJ.com]
Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]
Comic strip historian Allan Holtz has posted a 1926 interview with Frank King, creator of the long-running strip Gasoline Alley, and parts of it sound quite modern. King hands out some general good advice (“The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing”) and discusses the genesis of several of his characters, which is pretty interesting, but this is what caught my eye:
In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix’s birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix’s parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.
King obviously didn’t originate this story; it seems to be one of those Paul-is-dead pieces of fan folklore that might have even started with someone’s fan fiction and somehow went viral. It’s a reminder that in their heyday, newspaper strips had the same kind of interactivity as webcomics do now, with readers sending in comments and suggestions via the old-fashioned mail and the creators commenting in articles like this one. It all just moved slower.
(via The Comics Reporter)
Publishing | The 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece has sold more than 3 million copies in Japan in less than two months, beating the two previous volumes to that goal. No other manga has sold that many copies so quickly since the market research firm Oricon began releasing sales figures in April 2008. [Anime News Network]
Comic strips | After 33 years on the comics page, Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia is hanging up her cigarette and typewriter and calling it a day. Hollander is upfront about the reason: “After the Chicago Tribune dropped Sylvia, my income was cut by half and Sylvia disappeared from my hometown. I felt the loss.” She will continue to post vintage Sylvia strips on her blog. [Bad Girl Chats]
Creators | Dean Haspiel discusses his frustration with creating stories for franchise characters, even working with regular artists and writers for the series, and never hearing back from the editors: “I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.” [Welcome to Trip City]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat talks about his decision to shift from portraying generic characters in his cartoons to zeroing in on a real person, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the consequences of that choice. Farzat’s drawings started showing up on protest signs, and then he was attacked and savagely beaten by three men: “”I could hear them saying ‘break his hands so they never dare challenge his masters again.'” Farzat is now living in Kuwait but hopes to return to Syria some day. [Reuters]