"Rowdy" Roddy Piper Reported Dead at 61
Creators | The Southern Poverty Law Center, which compiles an annual list of hate groups operating in the United States, said it will add artist Bosch Fawstin to its 2016 report. He drew the winning entry in the Prophet Muhammad contest in Garland, Texas, where two gunmen were killed Sunday in a foiled attack. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sponsored the competition, is already included on the list. Heidi Beirich of the SPLC described Fawstin’s work as “virulently ugly” and “hate views.” The artist, who was raised as a Muslim but is now an outspoken critic of Islam, responded, “So they want to put a cartoonist on there who doesn’t act out violently? Go for it.” Fawstin, creator of the “anti-jihad superhero” Pigman, also vowed to continue his work despite fears for his safety: “I understand the threat, but I’m not going to be cowed by it. I still intend to go up there and I still intend to speak out.” [Reuters]
Publishing | Papercutz, which has had an extremely successful program of LEGO graphic novels based on the Bionicle, Ninjago and Legends of Chima properties, is losing that license to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which will have its own graphic novels in bookstores by the end of this year. Papercutz reveals it will continue to publish Bionicle and Ninjago through the end of this year, and Legends of Chima through mid-2016. [Publishers Weekly, ICv2]
Passings | Fred Fredericks, who drew the Mandrake the Magician comic strip from 1965 to 2013, has died. In addition to his daily newspaper work, Fredericks drew comics for Western Publishing and Marvel. [ComicMix]
BOOM! Studios entered into a similar first-look agreement last year with Cartoon Network.
As part of the deal, Papercutz to publish a new version of Nickelodeon Magazine, which ceased publication in December 2009. Set to launch in late June, the revived magazine will feature a mix of comics previews, new property debuts, and games, puzzles and other activities for young readers.
The first two Nickelodeon properties to make the move to comics under the partnership are Sanjay and Craig, a comedy adventure about an excitable 12-year-old boy and his talking pet snake, and Breadwinners, which follows SwaySway and Buhdeuce, two carefree ducks who fly around in a rocket van, delivering bread.
Creators | “This is really a government of the cartoon, for the cartoon and by the cartoon,” Malaysian cartoonist Zunar said in an interview following the police raid on his Kuala Lumpur office. Zunar was in London at the time of the raid but expects to be summoned to the police station on his return to face charges under the Printing Presses Act, Sedition Act and Penal Code. “Why are the police involved in this?” he said. “If it is true I have defamed certain people, why not filed a civil suit? The government condemned Charlie Hebdo’s attacker but now they are ‘attacking’ me.” He also sent out some photos of the raid. [Malaysian Digest]
Freedom of Speech | Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, called the raid Zunar’s office “shocking and outrageous” and demanded the government to return the confiscated books and drop all charges against him. [The Malaysian Insider]
DC Comics and Marvel are gearing up for all-out wars next summer involving various versions of their most popular heroes and villains, but the WWE is beating them to the punch.
In the current arc of Papercutz’s WWE Superstars, wrestler-turned-writer Mick Foley is heading up a clash of the champions with modern-day superstars going up against their predecessors in the primes. Hulk Hogan versus John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus Daniel Bryan, the Big Show versus Vader, and the Legion of Doom versus, well … everyone.
Conventions | Following reports that New York Comic Con attracted 155,000 attendees this year, surpassing Comic-Con International’s 133,000, Kerry Dixon scrutinizes producer ReedPOP’s counting system and finds it leaves “a lot of room for guesswork and error in attendance size”: “So did New York Comic Con beat out San Diego to take over the title of the largest pop culture and comics convention this side of the globe? Well, not really.” [Unofficial SDCC Blog]
Publishing | Filip Sablik, BOOM! Studios’ president of publishing and marketing, talks about the company’s new offering: a $20 bundle of 50 kids’ comics that can be handed out to trick-or-treaters. The selection includes Adventure Time, Peanuts, Garfield and other comics from the kaBOOM! line. [Comicosity]
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe has withdrawn the appeal of his conviction last month on charges of sending more than 400 threatening letters to venues in Japana connected with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The 37-year-old former temporary worker admitted to all charges during his first day in court, but mpoved to have his conviction overturned after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Watanabe, who said he doesn’t feel guilty for what he did and won’t apologize, acknowledged that he sent the letters out of jealousy of the success of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. [Anime News Network]
Manga | The most promising new market for manga right now? India, where the comics market in general is exploding. Kevin Hamric of Viz Media says manga is already well known there and fans can’t get enough, while Lance Fensterman of ReedPOP, the company behind New York Comic Con, talks about the planned collaboration with Comic Con India. The one obstacle: the same one that afflicted the American manga market, Japanese publishers’ reluctance to license their properties. [The Japan Times]
Events | An extensive exhibit in Taipei, Taiwan, devoted to Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga and anime has drawn more than 100,000 visitors since its opening on July 1. Overseen by Oda, the exhibition is the first of its kind outside of Japan, where it was held from 2012 to 2013 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the insanely popular manga. “One Piece Exhibition: Original Art x Movies x Experience Pirate King Taiwan” runs through Sept. 22. [Kotaku]
It’s easy to become so wrapped up in the monthly direct market horse race that we overlook success stories in other channels. Oh, not the bookstore performances of The Walking Dead, Saga or Attack on Titan; we get regular reminders of that from BookScan. In this case we’re talking about Ninjago, the LEGO toy line turned animated TV series turned graphic novel line.
Although the debut of the latest book atop The New York Times bestseller list should’ve provided a clue to how well it’s doing, Papercutz has trumpeted that with the release of LEGO Ninjago, Vol. 9: Night of the Nindroids, the series has surpassed 2 million copies in sales.
“LEGO Ninjago titles have been a phenomenon for us,” Papercutz President Terry Nantier said in a statement. “We’ve been back to press numerous times and it seems like we’re always struggling to keep up with consumer demand. I’ve been in the graphic novel publishing business for quite some time and I’d be hard pressed to name a lot of other kids ‘series that have hit that level of sales.”
Things are going so well that the publisher, perhaps unsurprisingly, is expanding the line in May with a series of graphic novels based on Ninjago “Legends of Chima” LEGO sets.
Creators | A memorial service for Morrie Turner, pioneering creator of the Wee Pals comic strip, will be held Sunday at the Grand Ballroom at the Claremont Hotel Club and Spa in Berkeley, California. It’s open to the public. The family plans to hold a private service in February in Sacramento. [Contra Costa Times]
Publishing | As the movie version of 2 Guns heads toward theaters this weekend, BOOM! Studios CEO Ross Richie talks about his company’s “creator share” model and his career in comics publishing, from Malibu Studios to Atomeka to BOOM!, which he co-founded on a suggestion from Keith Giffen, whom he describes as “the Aerosmith of comics”: “If Steven Tyler came up to you and said, ‘You really ought to produce albums,’ you probably would listen.” [The New York Times]
Legal | The prosecutor for Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided not to pursue sedition charges against cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was arrested in April on charges stemming from a cartoon at his Demon-Cratic Singapore Facebook page. Chew still faces charges of contempt of court for “scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore.” That case will be heard on Aug. 12. [Straits Times]
As the Comic-Con International hangover sets in and the industry goes silent while creators, editors, publishers and publicists stagger home from San Diego, we’ll take a few minutes to try to collect the comics-related highlights of this year’s event. We’ll attempt to update as more panel reports appear and other information trickles out.
• Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Hawkeye‘s David Aja, and Building Stories by Chris Ware were the big winners at the 2013 Eisner Awards.
• At Diamond Comic Distributors’ Retailer Appreciation Lunch, Marvel teased the arrival of Marvelman — it’s been four years since the publisher revealed it had acquired the rights to the property — and, scheduled for January, a new wave of Marvel NOW! titles. In convention panels, the company announced: Wolverine: Origin II, by Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert; the return of Nightcrawler in the first arc of Amazing X-Men, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness; the November debut of Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, by Chris Hastings and Jacopo Camagni; “Afterparty,” a two-issue arc of Young Avengers that celebrates Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s first year on the series; Steve McNiven will join Rick Remender in November on Uncanny Avengers; Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, a Galactus-focused Ultimate Universe event by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley; and the January-launching Revolutionary War, in which writer Andy Lanning and “various superstar artists,” will resurrect some of the Marvel UK characters.
Last month we pieced together the news that Papercutz had signed a deal with wrestling company WWE to produce some comics, and today ROBOT 6 the exclusive scoop direct from the publisher: Papercutz will be publishing not one but two WWE-related comic series.
The first title is a ongoing monthly comic series starting in December simply titled WWE, which is essentially the wrestling world come to life. WWE Hall of Fame wrestler (and New York Times bestselling author) Mick Foley will write stories set in the actual continuity of WWE storylines, complete with matches, backstage segments and of course the company’s superstars — both past and present.
“WWE’s Superstars are truly larger-than-life, with the kind of personality and raw power that makes a comics page crackle with excitement,” said Papercutz Editor-In-Chief Jim Salicrup in a press release. “It’s the kind of action and drama that’s just perfect for comics, and Mick Foley is just the WWE Legend we need to make it happen.”
Foley is no stranger to comics: He’s written a miniseries for 12 Gauge Comics, partnered with Jill Thompson on several kids books, and was even a childhood friend of the son of comics legend John Buscema. This WWE comic series is described by the publisher as “Teen+”, and will be part of a full line of titles for that age group to be revealed later this year.
What a maneuver!
WWE, and the wrestling industry in general, has a long and complicated history in the comics medium, with WWE itself having a string of comic books produced over the years at Valiant, Chaos, Titan and even on its own. But this new partnership sees the publicly traded wrestling company go down a more all-ages route with fans.
Robot 6 has reached out to Papercutz for more on this story, but has not received comment.
Papercutz has been releasing its translated versions of Pierre “Peyo” Culliford’s classic Smurfs comics since 2010, and it’s the sort of publishing project that is so welcome that one doesn’t like to complain too loudly about some of the less important choices made in the republication.
I’ve only ever had two real complaints about Papercutz’s presentation of the comics, of which the publisher has released 16 slim volumes.
First, there was their size: At 9 inches tall and 6-and-a-half inches wide, the four- or five-tiered page layouts could result in Smurf-sized panels. The comics were never illegible or even all that hard to read, but with an artist of Peyo’s caliber, I and many other readers would have preferred to be able to see the pages and panels bigger, to better appreciate their construction and line work (this is the complaint I’ve heard most often regarding the new Smurfs line).
Second, there’s the lettering, particularly regarding sound effects: It had a tendency to look more cut-and-pasted than organic, drawing unwanted attention to itself and away from the story being told.
Papercutz just released the first new volume in a new Peyo series that should address those exact concerns, however: The Smurfs Anthology Vol. 1 is a hardcover 11-and-a-quarter inches high and 8-and-three-quarter inches wide.