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Comics A.M. | Pioneering comics journalist Bhob Stewart dies

Bhob Stewart

Bhob Stewart

Passings | Comics journalist and commentator Bhob Stewart died Monday at the age of 76. Stewart kicked off his career in 1953, at the age of 16, by publishing an EC fanzine; the following year, as Carol Tilley documented in a recent talk, he sent a copy to anti-comics crusader Fredric Wertham, along with some tart commentary. Stewart went on to become an influential voice in the conversation about comics; he wrote several books, taught classes at the School for Visual Arts, and curated the first exhibit of comics art in a major American museum. Heidi MacDonald credits him with inventing both Wacky Packages and the term “underground comics.” [The Beat]

Editorial cartoons | German cartoonist Burkhard Mohr has apologized for a cartoon depicting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a hooked nose, an image that critics said was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. The cartoon appeared in the early editions of the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, but Zuckerberg’s face was replaced by an empty hole in later editions. “I’m very sorry about this misunderstanding and any readers’ feelings I may have hurt,” Mohr said. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies that are totally alien to me” [ABC News]

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Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford passes away

dallas fantasy fair-1985Word has only recently begun to circulate about the Dec. 25 death of Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford, a prominent figure in both the Texas and national convention scenes of the 1980s and early ’90s. He was 53.

“I will always remember him as a pioneer of the Texas convention scene,” Arlington retailer Cole Houston wrote on the funeral home’s memorial page, “someone who got me started as a convention vendor, inspired the tiny conventions I produced, and brought me and other attendees of the Fantasy Fairs memories that will last a lifetime.”

A veteran of the D-Con sci-fi/comics events held sporadically throughout the 1970s, Lankford launched the Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1982, attracting such guests as Frank Miller, John Byrne and Gil Kane to the inaugural show. By 1988, the convention had become so successful that he spun off three smaller two-day events in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Those were followed in 1992 and 1993 by a series of well-remembered Dallas Minicons, one-day expos that drew about 500 attendees each.

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Pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner passes away

morrie turner2Wee Pals creator Morrie Turner, the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, passed away Saturday in a Sacramento, California, hospital. He was 90 years old.

Raised in Oakland, Turner was a self-taught artist who drew cartoons for Army newspapers while serving during World War II with the 477th Bomber group. Following his discharge, he worked as a police clerk while also creating strips for a number of publications.

In 1959, the black daily newspaper the Chicago Defender began publishing his all-black strip Dinky Fellas, created with the encouragement of his friend Charles Schulz after Turner expressed a desire for a comic that reflected his childhood experiences. But it wasn’t until Turner diversified the cast, introducing kids from different ethnic backgrounds, that Wee Pals was born.

“All the kids were different,” the cartoonist recalled in a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “White, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, black. It was a rainbow. I didn’t know that wasn’t the way it was other places. Oakland was that way before the war. We were all equal. Nobody had any money.”

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Comics A.M. | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn passes away

Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn

Passings | Animator and blogger Michael Sporn died Sunday in New York City from pancreatic cancer. He was 67. Sporn’s short film Doctor DeSoto, based on William Steig’s book, was nominated for an Oscar, and his The Man Who Walked Between the Towers won several awards. He created animated adaptations of a number of children’s books, including Lyle Lyle Crocodile and Goodnight Moon, for HBO. In comics circles, he was also known as a blogger who turned up cool bits and pieces of animation and art. [Variety]

Publishing | Torsten Adair crunches some numbers from The New York Times 2013 bestseller lists, looking at each category and, in some cases, each publisher separately and breaking down the charting books into easy-to-follow pie charts. [The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Author’s crusade to get Bill Finger credit

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Creators | Author Marc Tyler Nobleman tells Michael Cavna about his crusade to gain recognition for Bill Finger as one of the co-creators of Batman — including a push to have Google honor him with a Google Doodle on his birthday: “As it currently stands, even the mighty Christopher Nolan could not legally credit Bill as co-creator. However, prior to The Dark Knight, I asked DC if they could use non-subjective language to acknowledge Bill. I proposed: ‘Batman was first called “the Dark Knight” in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.’ DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, and the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word ‘Batman’ — it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. Alas, they said no.” [Comic Riffs]

Passings | Tulsa, Oklahoma, cartoonist Larry Pendleton, who created the syndicated single-panel cartoon Graphic Nature, has died at the age of 59. [Tulsa World]

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Gary Arlington, pioneering retailer and comix guru, passes away

gary arlingtonGary Edson Arlington, who in 1968 opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, widely considered the country’s first comic book store, passed away Thursday at age 75.

His 200-quare-foot Mission District shop quickly became a magnet for early underground cartoonists, attracting the likes of Robert Crumb, Ron Turner, Bill Griffith and Spain Rodriguez (the store’s employees included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg). Arlington was, in the words of Lambiek, a guru and “godfather” of underground comics, who “encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication.”

“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s,” Art Spiegelman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco.”

But Arlington didn’t stop at retailer and guru: Under the banner of the San Francisco Comic Book Company he also published such important early underground works as Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and San Francisco Comic Book.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ creator breaks silence on threats

Kuroko's Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball

Creators | Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki remained silent over the past year while hundreds of threatening letters were sent out to retail stores that sold the manga and anime, venues that hosted doujinshi (fan comics) events connected with it, and even his alma mater, but now that police have arrested a suspect in the case, he has made an official statement. Fujimaki expressed relief that the suspect had been caught, thanked the police who were involved in the investigation, and promised that more chapters of Kuroko’s Basketball are on the way. [Anime News Network]

Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con producer Dan Farr is voicing his support for the construction of a “mega hotel” near the Salt Palace convention center. The Utah state Legislature ended its legislative session without passing a $100 million bill to fund such a hotel, but backers hope to see it revived in the next session. Ticket sales for the 2013 convention topped 50,000, and Farr told the local news station, “A convention center hotel would be a big help for us.” [Fox News 13]

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Comics A.M. | U.K. political cartoonist Leon Kuhn passes away

Art by Leon Kuhn

Art by Leon Kuhn

Passings | Chris Bird pens an obituary for Leon Kuhn, a British cartoonist who was active in socialist and progressive causes and whose work appeared regularly in the Morning Star as well as in The Big Book of Bureaucrats. He often marched in demonstrations carrying placards of his cartoons. Kuhn died last week at age 59; the sole news article about his death simply says he “died under a train” at a London subway station and that the death is not being treated as suspicious. [Counterfire]

Manga | ICV2 rounds up Viz Media’s announcements for the beginning of 2014, including three new series. [ICv2]

Creators | Jonathan Hickman and Tom Brevoort talk about Avengers #24.NOW, which kicks off the All-New Marvel NOW initiative. [USA Today]

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‘Screw’ magazine founder Al Goldstein passes away

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Illustration by Danny Hellman

Legendary pornographer Al Goldstein, whose Screw magazine published the work of cartoonists ranging from Wally Wood and Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman and Peter Bagge, passed away this morning in Brooklyn at age 77. Premature reports of his death had circulated earlier in the week.

His attorney Charles C. DeStefano told The New York Times the cause of death is believed to be renal failure.

Considered a pioneer in his industry — Screw debuted in 1968, six years before Larry Flynt’s better-known Hustler — the colorful, controversial agitator who was arrested 21 times on charges of indecency and described by New York magazine as “among the earliest of the First Amendment porno-warriors.”

Goldstein’s Screw folded in 2003 after 1,800 issues because, he said, “the Internet will give you all the porn you want” (the magazine was later relaunched by former employees).

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Comics A.M. | Former Archie Comics artist Janice Valleau dies

Toni Gayle

Toni Gayle

Passings | Artist Janice Valleau Winkelman, creator of the detective Toni Gayle, passed away on Dec. 8 at age 90. Winkleman, who drew under her maiden name Janice Valleau, had polio as a child and wore a brace through school. Her first work was published in Smash Comics in 1939, when she was 16. She studied at the Phoenix Art Institute and moved to New York, where she found steady work as a penciler and inker for Archie Comics and Quality Comics. She left the industry during the anti-comic crusades of the 1950; author David Hajdu profiled her in the prologue to his chronicle of those times, The Ten Cent Plague. According to the Grand Comics Database, one of her stories was reprinted as recently as last April, in Archie Double Digest #238. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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Comics A.M. | ‘The Dandy’ artist Charles Grigg passes away

Korky the Kat

Korky the Cat

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]

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Quote of the Day | DC’s Dan DiDio on Al Plastino’s legacy

From Action Comics #252

From Action Comics #252

“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

Veteran Superman artist Al Plastino passes away

al plastino

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.

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Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing passes away

doris lessingDoris 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.”

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Modern Tales founder Joey Manley passes away

joey manley2Joey 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.

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