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Comic strips | In what Michael Cavna so accurately describes as “a seismic shift” for the world of newspaper syndication, United Media has announced it will outsource all editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution functions for its 150 comics and other features to Kansas City-based Universal Uclick. (Tom Spurgeon likens the move to Marvel outsourcing all of its titles to DC Comics.) The transition begins immediately, and is expected to be complete by June 1. United Media’s stable of strips include Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Rose Is Rose and Marmaduke. Universal Uclick’s lineup includes Doonesbury, Non Sequitur, Garfield, For Better or For Worse and the recently added Peanuts and Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Anant Pai, who’s credited with launching India’s comic industry in the 1960s with his series Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 81. Affectionately known by his fans as “Uncle Pai,” he also created the children’s series Tinkle and had spent the past three years working on Glimpses of Glory, which chronicles 40 defining moments from Indian history. After falling and fracturing his foot, Pai underwent surgery of Saturday, which prevented him from attending the first Indian Comic Con, where he was to be given a lifetime achievement award. [The Associated Press, India Real Time]
Retailing | The financially troubled Borders Group reportedly could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as today or Tuesday, setting the stage to close about 200 of its 674 Borders and Waldenbooks stores and eliminate thousands of jobs. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | Diamond Comic Distributors revealed that 98 percent of the more than 500 direct market stores visited by secret shoppers during the first month of day-early delivery were found to be in compliance with the program’s street-date requirements. According to Diamond, of the 10 stores discovered to be in violation of the agreement, one was reported by another retailer while the others were discovered by secret shoppers. [ICv2.com]
Comic-Con | Badges for Comic-Con International sold out Saturday during a marathon online-registration session that taxed the servers of convention sales partner TicketLeap and frustrated ticket buyers. Four-day passes were gone by about 2 p.m. PT; the event sold out by 6 p.m. (Additional passes may become available as cancellations are processed.) As we noted earlier, San Francisco comics retailer Isotope is memorializing Saturday’s experience with a “San Diego Comic Con 2011 Registration Disaster Commemorative Fail Frog button,” featuring a modified version of the TicketLeap logo that frustrated users saw every time they refreshed their web browser.
On the TicketLeap company blog, CEO Chris Stanchak acknowledged that “our platform experienced capacity issues for a 4 hour period” on Saturday: “While we knew the event was going to put significant demand on our system, we did not expect the traffic we received. [...] The traffic we received yesterday was several orders of magnitude higher than our high end estimate. Due to the heavy strain on the system, users for all events across our system received ‘Over Capacity’ errors. This prevented ticket buyers from buying tickets and it prevented event organizers from managing their events.” Tom Spurgeon offers commentary. [Comic-Con International]
Conventions | Comiket 79, the winter installment of the self-published comic book fair held twice a year in Tokyo, set a turnstile attendance record last week with 520,000 people over three days. That’s just 20,000 less than the summer record — and the equivalent of about four Comic-Cons. [Anime News Network]
Legal | Archie Comics reportedly has threatened legal action against the in-production Indian film Boys Toh Boys Hain, which, according to this description, is “based on the lines of the celebrated [Archie] comic book but set in Delhi instead of Riverdale.” However, the director now claims that, “We never made any statement which suggested that the film is inspired from Archie comics. One of my actors may have said in an interview that the film has a feel similar to Archie, but never that the film is based on it.” The publisher was dealt a blow in an unrelated legal matter in September when India’s Delhi High Court refused to hear a complaint challenging the use of the name “Archies” by a Mumbai company. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie Comics doesn’t have an office in India. [Hindustan Times]
Creators | Renowned artist Steve Rude has announced that money raised from an online art and comics auction has enabled he and his family to keep their home: “When I saw the bread coming in after Gino made her announcement (this was unbeknownst to the oblivious Dude), I was, and still am, in a mild state of stupefication. The outpouring of generosity was clearly far beyond what Gino and I could’ve asked for. Your contributions poured in from all corners of our planet; the sizeable backstock of comics and Dude related ‘higher reading paraphernalia’ were ordered by the spit-load; and Erik Larson bought his complete Next Nexus 3 issue! All said, we saved the house.” The Nexus creator is still working to regain his financial footing, so he’s selling 2011 calendars and, soon, a new sketchbook. [DudeNews]
Comic strips | Cartoonist Jim Davis has issued an apology for an ill-timed Garfield strip that appeared on Veterans Day. The strip, which appeared in newspapers on Thursday, featured a standoff between Garfield and a spider, and referred to “an annual day of remembrance” called “National Stupid Day.” In a statement, Davis explained that the strip was written almost a year ago, “and I had no idea when writing it that it would appear today — of all days.” [CNN, The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | The 60th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first four days of release. It’s the first book to move more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales since the Japanese market survey company Oricon began reporting its charts in 2008. As we reported last week, this volume’s 3.4 million-copy first printing set a record, and propelled the series past the 200 million-copy mark. [Anime News Network]
Editorial cartoons | Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies has been laid off by the Gannett-owned Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Abrams has made three comics-related promotions: Susan Van Metre to senior vice president and publisher, overseeing all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books; Charles Kochman to editorial director of Abrams ComicArts; and Chad W. Beckerman to creative director, overseeing design for all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. [Abrams]
Publishing | Veteran writer J.M. DeMatteis has resigned as editor-in-chief of Ardden Entertainment, fledgling publisher of Flash Gordon and partner in the planned revival of Atlas Comics. DeMatteis, who joined Ardden in February 2008, cited creative differences with Co-Publishers Brendan Deneen and Rich Emms. Deneen has assumed the role of editor-in-chief. [J.M. DeMatteis' blog]
Comic strips | Non Sequitur cartoonist Wiley Miller comments on the decision by more than 20 newspapers to replace the Oct. 3 installment of his strip because it mentioned the Prophet Muhammad: “[Editors] didn’t see the satire was on them, of being petrified to run anything related to him. But this whole thing has just gotten so silly over the years. It’s something I can’t lay off. It’s my job as a satirist to point out the stupidity in the world. And the editors fell right in line with proving how stupid it is.” Andrew Alexander, ombudsman for The Washington Post, criticized his newspaper for pulling the strip. [Fox News]
Editorial cartoonists seem to be going the way of buggy-whip makers; the past few years have brought a litany of layoffs and, at least from the outside, it looks like staff cartoonists are becoming a thing of the past.
Cartoonist Daryl Cagle posted some surprisingly frank advice for editorial cartoonists on his blog this week. Depending on how you look at it, this is shrewd business advice or an enticement to dumb down and sell out.
Some of this is good nuts-and-bolts advice for freelancers: Think of what your editors want (not what you want to draw), plan ahead for holiday and seasonal cartoons, sell your archived cartoons on a per-use basis, and avoid local papers — there’s no money in that market. Learn to draw — words alone can’t carry a cartoon.
But it is also rather disturbing. Let’s return to that first point, about pleasing editors:
The Daily Cartoonist’s Alan Gardner reports that over 20 papers have requested a replacement strip for Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur this Sunday, because of potentially controversial content. It’s pretty thin gruel:
The cartoon by Wiley Miller depicts a lazy, sunny park scene with the caption, “Picture book title voted least likely to ever find a publisher… ‘Where’s Muhammad?’” Characters in the park are buying ice cream, fishing, roller skating, etc. No character is depicted as even Middle Eastern.
Miller’s reaction: “the irony of editors being afraid to run even such a tame cartoon as this that satirizes the blinding fear in media regarding anything surrounding Islam sadly speaks for itself. Indeed, the terrorists have won.”
That’s a bit over the top. The terrorists haven’t won because newspapers won’t print a comic that is even mildly controversial; it’s a longstanding American tradition, although the humor in this one seems to be on a par with jokes in which Jesus walks across the water hazard on a golf course.
In another post, Gardner points to an interfaith group’s call for cartoonists to stop depicting Osama Bin Laden, on the grounds that it might make public discourse less stupid. That’s certainly a noble goal, but I doubt kicking Bin Laden off the comics pages will accomplish it.
In a curious but somewhat-amusing turn, The Boston Globe had cartoonist Ward Sutton create a parody of what the comics section might look like if it were taken over by the Tea Party. What he comes up with are strips like B.P. (rather than B.C.), Dennis the IRS Menace, Nancy (Pelosi), Calvinist and Hobbes, and so on — 18 in all.
Legal | A bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate would allow the Justice Department to seek court orders against piracy websites located anywhere in the world. The bipartisan legislation, called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, would permit the government to seek an injunction ordering a U.S. domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain names. That means a visitor attempting to access a targeted piracy site would instead get an error message. Domains outside of U.S. control could be blocked by Internet service providers upon a court order. [Threat Level, ICv2.com]
Business | Time Warner has extended the contract of Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer through December 2013 as part of a management restructuring that sees WB President and COO Alan Horn shifting from his current position into a consultancy role in six months. And in a move that may look vaguely familiar to watchers of DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. executives Jeff Robinov, Bruce Rosenblum and Kevin Tsujihara will share as part of a new Office of the President that will report directly to Meyer beginning in April. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson reports to Robinov, currently president of Warner Bros. Picture Group; it’s unknown whether that will change in the new structure. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Digital comics | Following more than two years of complaints, Apple has given developers the guidelines it uses to determine which programs can be sold through its App Store, and relaxed some restrictions on content and tools. The company recently was criticized for forcing the creators of a comic adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses to remove nonsexual nudity from some panels — Apple later changed its stance — and for initially rejecting an app from Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mark Fiore because his animated political satire contained “content that ridicules public figures.” Alan Gardner notes that the revised guidelines specifically exempt “professional political satirists and humorists” from a clause prohibiting defamatory or offensive material. [The Associated Press]
Comic strips | After 60 years with United Feature Syndicate, Peanuts will move in February to Universal Uclick. The news isn’t totally unexpected, as Iconix Brand Group partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz in April to buy the rights to the comic strip from United’s parent company E.W. Scripps. The $175 million deal was for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
After more than 85 years, the sun will no longer come out for Little Orphan Annie, Harold Gray’s Depression Era comic about a red-haired waif and the kindly capitalist who gives her a home.
Although the strip, which debuted on Aug. 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News, once appeared in hundreds of newspapers, it now runs in fewer than 20. So Tribune Media Services has decided to cancel Annie with the June 13 installment — a cliffhanger, curiously enough.
The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal reports that Sunday strip will end with Daddy Warbucks uncertain of Annie’s fate after her latest run-in with the Butcher of the Balkans.
“Annie is definitely not dying,” Steve Tippie, TMS’ vice president of licensing, tells Rosenthal. He says that while “the daily newspaper strip will go away [...] that doesn’t mean that Annie won’t come back … whether it’s (in) comic books, graphic novels, in print, electronic. It’s just too rich a vein (not) to mine.”
Indeed, Little Orphan Annie inspired a long-running radio show, three motion pictures, a television movie, and a musical — the basis for one of those films — that ran for six years on Broadway and has since been staged countless times around the world.
IDW Publishing has released four volumes of The Complete Little Orphan Annie collection through its Library of American Comics imprint.
Truth Serum creator Jon Adams sent word about two piece sof news he has … first, he has a new weekly comic called Friendship Town that’s been picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle’s “96 Hours” weekend supplement. It will also appear on the newspaper’s website.
And second, tomorrow Adams is planning a special April Fool’s Day wedding strip for Truth Serum. Read the entire announcement and see Jon’s promo piece for the big wedding after the jump …
The more I read about Portland, Ore. the more it sounds like some sort of comic book super city, where everyone is sitting around writing comics, or writing about comics, or talking about comics, or simply reading comics as they sip overpriced lattes out of recycled cups under giant Redwoods. Kind of like a mix of Hicksville and the Ewok village from Return of the Jedi. Anyway, I hope to go there someday*, but I don’t know if the real thing can live up to the image I’ve built up in my head.