"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Political cartoons | While speaking to a youth leadership group, Maine Gov. Paul LePage was asked by Nick Danby, the son of Bangor Daily News cartoonist George Danby, what he thought of his father’s work. LePage’s response: “I’d like to shoot him.” The audience laughed, but the joke triggered a storm of criticism in the media, coming as it does in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings. The elder Danby certainly didn’t find it funny, saying that while he is critical of the governor, it’s well within the boundaries of satire. And, he added, “My other thought was, what if this was reversed? If I had made a comment. I’d be in big trouble today.” [The Huffington Post]
Lianne Sentar is a member of the generation that came to comics through manga and stuck with it, moving from reading to creating to publishing. The author of Tokyo Demons, she was writing Sailor Moon novels for Tokyopop when she was still a teenager and later worked as an adaptor and editor.
Two years ago, Sentar teamed up with former Tokyopop senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and two other women to create Chromatic Press, an independent publisher of comics, fiction and audio dramas. Their flagship publication, Sparkler Monthly, is a digital magazine that is based on the Japanese model of serialized stories. They caught the attention of manga fans immediately by getting the rights to one of the best-regarded graphic novels from Tokyopop’s global manga line, Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat. Their lineup also includes Christy Lijewski (RE:play) and rem (Priscilla Hamby), who won the Japanese Morning International Manga Competition for non-Japanese creators. Jason Thompson just dedicated his weekly “House of 1000 Manga” column to an in-depth review of the magazine.
Conventions | As comics conventions continue to become an international phenomenon, ReedPOP bags a big one: The company behind New York Comic Con, C2E2, Star Wars Celebration and Penny Arcade Expo has announced a partnership with Oz Comic-Con, which runs several conventions in different locations in Australia. [press release]
Passings | Paul Burgarino reports on Sunday’s memorial service for Wee Pals cartoonist Morrie Turner, who died last month at the age of 90. Wee Pals was the first comic strip by a black creator to get a national syndication deal, and speakers remembered him as both a pioneer and an inspiration. “Through your unique artistry and personal kindness, you’ve helped show the world what we can be, should be and must be,” said David Shaffer, the son of one of Turner’s close friends. [Contra Costa Times]
Newly minted indie publisher Chromatic Press has announced two new series for its digital anthology Sparkler, which will launch in July as a monthly magazine: Dire Hearts, a magical-school-battle story by Christy Lijewski, creator of RE:Play and Next Exit, and Gauntlet, an illustrated prose novel written by Ellery Prime and illustrated by T2A.
In addition to that news, Chromatic reached a milestone of sorts last week: It began shipping print copies of the first two volumes of Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, which were funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Off*Beat was originally released by Tokyopop, which stopped publishing original English manga before the third volume was finished. Chromatic bought the rights from Tokyopop and gave the full copyright to Quick; in return, she signed to publish the full series with Chromatic.
Chromatic Press is run by four women with a ton of experience in comics and other media, including former Tokyopop editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, freelance writer and editor Lianne Sentar, freelance manga editor Rebecca Scoble, and Jill Astley, who works for a big bank by day and is heavily involved in otome game fandom when she’s off the clock.
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
Tokyopop has come back to life, sort of: The manga publisher unveiled its revamped website a few days ago, and the company is once again selling books, in partnership with Right Stuf (for print) and Graphicly (for digital). The only Japanese manga available on the new site is Hetalia; Tokyopop’s licenses for other series lapsed, and most of them probably aren’t coming back, although CEO Stu Levy dangled the possibility of some new licenses in a panel last week at Anime LA. What’s left is a good-sized collection of Tokyopop’s Original English Language (OEL) manga and a few graphic-novel imports from countries other than Japan.
Although Tokyopop’s OEL line earned a fair amount of derision at the time, many of the books were actually pretty solid. In addition, they provided paying work for many young and veteran artists. Here’s a look at six that are of interest either because of the creators or because they are so strong (or both).
East Coast Rising: Becky Cloonan’s first full-length graphic novel, this urban-pirate story earned a nomination for Best New Series in the 2007 Eisner Awards. Alas, there was never a second volume.
One of the more interesting phenomena of the past few weeks has been the slow re-awakening of Tokyopop, which has returned to life after shuttering its manga operations more than a year ago; the current plan is to co-publish a small number of books as print-on-demand with the anime retailer RightStuf. The first few were volumes 1-3 of Hetalia: Axis Powers, a hugely popular Japanese manga; the next was the final volume of the OEL manga series Bizenghast; and the latest is the third volume of Psy-Comm, another original graphic novel.
Tony Salvaggio, the former manga columnist for Comic Book Resources, is the writer of Psy-Comm and has kept the flame burning for a number of years now, since the first volume came out in 2005. He had to get a new artist for the second volume, and the third just missed the chance to be published before Tokyopop shut down its original graphic novel line in 2008. Tokyopop did publish it online, for free, the following year, but when the company took down its site, the book disappeared as well. With the new announcement, we checked in with Salvaggio about making Psy-Comm, working with Tokyopop, and staying with a comic for the long haul.
Robot 6: Let’s start with the book. It’s been a while. Can you give us a quick description of what Psy-Comm is about?
Tony Salvaggio: Psy-Comm is set in a world where corporations have replaced nations and countries and exist as Corp-States and war has been replaced with televised battles that settle the differences between them. Each Corp State has its own Psychic Commando — the Psy-Comms –media superstars that inspire even the non-psychics to fight in the wars for fabulous prizes. One Psy-Comm’s past comes back to haunt him and he decides to run away from his Corp-State and celebrity status, taking along a rival Psy-Comm in training.
Del Rey, once the otaku favorite, no longer publishes manga, but they still have a line of global manga, and the newest announcement is causing a bit of a stir.
Leviathan author Scott Westerfeld is the latest prose writer to make the leap over to graphic novels. Sci-fi site io9 has the scoop on Westerfeld’s SDCC announcement: Del Rey will produce four manga-style graphic novels based on his Uglies novels, which are set in a future where all teenagers have plastic surgery to make them beautiful when they are 16. Westerfeld will come up with the storylines, which will change the point of view of the story from the character Tally Youngblood to Shay. Devin Grayson (USER, Nightwing) will script the graphic novels, and Steven Cumming will handle the art. Watch for the first volume in May 2012. Oh, and there’s a movie in the works as well.