Passings | Lew Stringer reports that British artist Charles Grigg died Wednesday at age 97. Grigg is probably best known for drawing Korky the Cat, whose adventures graced the cover of the weekly comic The Dandy for decades, and he drew a number of other strips for The Dandy and The Topper as well. After he retired he had a second career drawing naughty postcards. [Blimey!]
Retailing | The direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO has announced its annual membership meeting will be held Feb. 26-March 1 in Atlanta. [ICv2.com]
Creators | Art Spiegelman talked to students at Lakeland College recently and then sat down to answer some questions about his love of comics, how his depression affected his work, and whether he has any regrets about the way he portrayed his father in Maus. [The Lakeland Mirror]
“When you think of Superman in the 1950s, only a handful of artists come to mind – and Al Plastino’s one of them. Along with the likes of Wayne Boring and Curt Swan, Plastino brought a level of humanity to Superman that had never been seen before. This amazing, super-human being now had a smile like you or me. He brought out the human side of a modern myth. It was nuanced but game changing. We can’t thank him enough for his work at DC, and we’re thinking of all those close to him during this difficult time.”
– DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, discussing the work of prolific Superman artist Al Plastino, who passed away at age 91
Prolific artist Al Plastino, who in recent weeks lobbied for the return of his original art for the 1964 story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy,” has passed away after a battle with prostate cancer, Mark Evanier reports. He was 91.
Born Dec. 15, 1921 in New York City, Plastino began illustrating for Youth Today magazine after he graduated from the High School of Industrial Arts. His first comics credit was on Dynamic Publications’ Dynamic Comics #2, cover-dated December 1941.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Plastino returned to freelance work and learned in 1948 that DC Comics was searching for a new Superman artist; according to his website, the publisher paid $55 a page at the time. For the next two decades, Plastino drew Action Comics, Adventure Comics, Superboy, Superman, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and with writer Otto Binder created the Legion of Super-Heroes and Supergirl.
Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday in London at age 94. Although she was best known as a novelist, poet, librettist and playwright, Lessing also tried her hand at graphic novels with Playing the Game, a 1995 fantasy drawn by Charlie Adlard.
Born in Iran in 1919, and raised in the African bush in Zimbabwe, Lessing began her writing career at age 15, selling short stories to South African magazines. An opponent of apartheid, her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950) addressed racial politics, while her breakthrough work, 1962′s The Golden Notebook, featured anti-war and anti-Stalinist messages and became a pioneering work of the burgeoning women’s movement. She wrote more than 50 books.
In 2007, the 88-year-old Lessing became the oldest author, and only the 11th woman, to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. As The Guardian recounts, she was returned to her London home after a day of shopping to find reporters on her doorstep. When she learned she had won the prize, which comes with $1.5 million, Lessing replied, “Oh, Christ,” adding, “I couldn’t care less.”
Joey Manley, founder of the pioneering webcomics site Modern Tales, passed away last night in a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital due to complications from pneumonia. According to his longtime partner Joe Botts, he was surrounded by family and friends. Manley was 48.
A publisher, editor, podcaster and author, Manley launched Modern Tales in March 2002, establishing one of the first workable (and profitable) subscription models for webcomics. He soon spun off Serializer, an alternative-comics site originally edited by Tom Hart; Girlamatic, a female targeted site initially edited by Lea Hernandez; Graphic Smash, the action comics site; and Webcomics Nation, a webcomics-hosting service.
The collective “Modern Tales family,” which closed in April, had published work by such creators as Gene Luen Yang, James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Chris Onstad, Shaenon Garrity and Dylan Meconis, among many others.
Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]
Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]
Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]
Dimayuga worked with Tim Seeley on Colt Noble and Hack/Slash #23, and illustrated a story in Action DoubleFeature #3, published digitally by Four Star Studios, co-run by Seeley. On Facebook, Seeley paid tribute to Dimayuga, whose work he first encountered through DeviantArt.
“I met up with Mike at San Diego Comic-Con for the release of Colt Noble at the Image Comics booth, and was really surprised to find he was suffering from MS,” Seeley wrote. “It had clearly not slowed him down at all artistically, and hadn’t put any kind of damper on his attitude. Via the Con Mike became friendly with all my collaborators, Steve Seeley, Mike Moreci, Mike Norton … everyone liked the dude immediately.”
James Asmus, who penned the Action DoubleFeature story illustrated by Dimayuga, wrote on Twitter, “Comics lost one of the kindest, most dedicated pros I’ve ever known. Mike Dimayuga’s passing is a genuine loss.”
In 2009, Hero House writer Justin Aclin described Dimayuga’s contributions to the project, saying, “Mike’s enthusiasm and tireless dedication to the book have truly kept it going in its darkest days. It’s no exaggeration to say Hero House wouldn’t exist without Mike, and there’s no way it would look half as good as it does without him.”
Two to three times a week for more than a decade, Jeffrey Babbitt made the trip from his home in Brooklyn to Forbidden Planet in Manhattan to buy comics or to simply talk with the staff. But then last Wednesday, while on his regular pilgrimage, the 62-year-old retired train conductor was attacked in Union Square, just blocks from the store, and struck his head on the pavement. Babbitt was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where The New York Times reports he was eventually declared brain dead and passed away Monday morning.
According to the newspaper, the attack was apparently random, from an assailant who proclaimed he would “punch the first white man I see.” Police arrested 40-year-old Lashawn Marten, who allegedly also struck two men who tried to help Babbitt. Marten was charged with three counts of assault; in the wake of Babbitt’s death, those will most likely be upgraded.
The longtime comics fan, who cared for his 94-year-old mother Lucille, was by all accounts the kind of person everyone liked. Forbidden Planet manager Jeff Ayers described Babbitt to the newspaper as “just a really, really, really sweet guy.” He visited Babbitt at the hospital, where Lucille sat part of the time at her son’s bedside.
The store’s employees are said to be deeply affected by Babbitt’s death, and are now worried about the welfare of his mother. They plan to establish a fund to help with her care.
Creators | Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker received messages from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dolly Parton and Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of his 90th birthday today. The cartoonist, who introduced Beetle Bailey in 1950, still supervises daily work on the strip at his Stamford, Connecticut, studio. [The Associated Press]
Creators | Gene Luen Yang discusses his newest work, Boxers and Saints, a 500-page, two-volume set that examines China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of two very different characters. [Graphic Novel Reporter]
Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]
Although prolific crime author and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t have a direct connection to comic books, it’s clear from the number of tweets about his death today at age 87 that he influenced a number of comics writers. Of course, labeling Leonard a “crime author” undoubtedly does him a disservice, as he wasn’t restricted by genre; his earliest works were Westerns, like his 1952 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma,” which has been adapted twice for the big screen.
Editorial cartoons | Ahmad Akkari, one of the leaders of the protests in 2006 against the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, now says he regrets his activities and has even apologized in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard. “I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said in an interview with The Associated Press. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.” [The Guardian]
Passings | The body of Ramen Fighter Miki creator Jun Sadogawa (real name Mutsumi Kawato) was discovered early Tuesday hanging from a tree in a park in Ibaraki Prefecture’s Kitasōma District. According to police, evidence at the scene suggested suicide. The 34-year-old manga creator had been serializing Amane Atatameru in Weekly Shonen Champion magazine at the time of his death. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Ahead of the premiere of Kick-Ass 2, Abraham Reisman profiles Mark Millar, with an emphasis on his subversion of the genre — and the new prominence he’s about to achieve with the films based on his comics: “By decade’s end, he’ll have had more of his creations translated into movie form than any comics writer other than Stan Lee.” The piece also includes criticism of his work, with Colin Smith observing, ““Millar does indeed have a history of producing work which represents less powerful groups in an insensitive, and often deeply insensitive, manner. There are massive contradictions between his words and actions as a private citizen and the apparent politics of some of his books.”[The New Republic]
Conventions | Matt Arado looks forward to this coming weekend’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (it’s actually in Rosemont) with some creator interviews and a look at the way the con has evolved over the years. [Daily Herald]
Digital comics | Financial-services company The Motley Fool touches upon how digital has helped to boost the comics industry, rather than undermine print sales as some predicted it would. “Digital has not to anyone’s observation pirated the sales of comics. It looks like just the opposite,” writer and charts-watcher John Jackson Miller tells the website. And then, because it’s The Motley Fool, the story veers off into what investors can learn from digital comics — specifically, “three forces [that] conspired to transform digital from a threat into a catalyst”: quality, format and access. [The Motley Fool]
Creators | Brian K. Vaughan talks about producing the CBS sci-fi thriller Under the Dome and writing Saga as well as his digital comic The Private Eye. His take on Saga: “I definitely wanted to write about the experience of fatherhood and parenthood while also recognizing that’s extremely boring for most people. How do you talk about these mundane topics in an exciting way? Hopefully setting this story in a wacky sci-fi fantasy universe has given us room to tell this story with some visual spectacle and just Fiona Staples being awesome.” [USA Today]
It’s kind of impossible to overstate the influence Kim Thompson had on American comics. As co-publishers of Fantagraphics, he and Gary Groth transformed the way people thought about the medium, both in the pages of The Comics Journal and in the kinds of comics they published. If any one publisher can be regarded as the singular entity (and let me be clear, I’m really wary about staking that sort of claim) that made not just fans but the general public take notice and say, “Oh, hey, comics really are an art form and capable of greatness,” it was these guys.
As you might have heard, Kim Thompson died Wednesday morning after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I thought I’d try to cobble together a few words about Kim’s legacy. (And I hope you don’t mind me calling him by his first name; although we were only casual acquaintances at best, it just feels weird to refer to him in anything but familiar terms.)