INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
Manga | Huge news for manga fans this weekend: Yen Press has picked up the license for Fruits Basket, one of the top-selling shoujo (girls) manga of all time. The story of Tohru Honda, a teenage orphan who becomes involved with a large family that suffers from an ancient curse, Fruits Basket was originally published in North America by Tokyopop and arguably helped create the manga boom of the mid-2000s. The series often made the USA Today bestseller charts, and together with Sailor Moon, it brought girls and women into the comics world in large numbers for the first time in decades. Also, it’s a cracking good read. Yen Press will publish it in deluxe two-in-one omnibus format with a new translation. [Anime News Network, Yen Press]
For years after the ill-fated 1986 film, Howard the Duck was considered a joke character by many. However, the March-debuting new series from writer Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals) and Joe Quinones (Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell) looks to be taking Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik’s character more seriously than most recent depictions, while still having fun.
The latest evidence: a variant cover by Paul Pope — making a rare Marvel appearance — for Howard the Duck #1, revealed on Twitter earlier today by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. The cover channels Shakespearean pathos with a downright somber-looking Howard, albeit juxtaposed with a rubber ducky.
Pope’s full cover follows below.
Conventions | Thousands filed into Moscow’s Crocus Expo over the weekend for what’s billed as Russia’s first-ever comic convention. While Misha Collins of long-running CW series Supernatural was a big celebrity draw, the main attraction appeared to be the idea of the convention itself. “I’ve wanted to come for years,” 31-year-old Elena Formina told The Guardian. “There have always been geeks and fans here, it’s just now they call it Comic-Con. American, Russian – all fans are the same. They love their heroes. It’s about sharing that love.” [The Guardian]
Passings | Italian comics creator Lorenzo Bartoli died Sunday at the age of 48. Bartoli made his comics debut in 1988 in the pages of the comic anthology L’Eternauta but is best known as the co-creator, with Roberto Recchioni, of John Doe, a comic about an employee of a firm that deals with the management of death. His series Dolls was published in the United sTates by Sirius, and his Morrigan appeared in Heavy Metal. He also wrote two cyberpunk novels under the name Akira Mishima. [Comicus]
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Awards | The finalists for the inaugural Kirkus Prize literary awards include two graphic novels: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is one of six nominees in the Nonfiction category, and Cece Bell’s El Deafo is one of the picks for the Young Readers award. The winners in all three categories, who will receive $50,000 each, will be announced during a ceremony held Oct. 23 in Austin, Texas. [The Washington Post]
Manga | A prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s classic Astro Boy manga is in the works for the Japanese magazine Monthly Hero’s. Tezuka’s son, Makoto Tezuka, is supervising the production of the story, which focuses on the time before the “birth” of the iconic robot boy. [Anime News Network]
Legal | A former Marvel intern has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging he was incorrectly classified and unfairly denied “minimum wages.” Kenneth Jackson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, claims he’s owed back pay for the work he performed for Marvel from August 2008 to December 2008, and seeks to include in his motion “all similarly situated persons who are presently or formerly employed by Marvel Entertainment, LLC.” [TheWrap]
Passings | Pran Sharma, the creator of the Indian comics character Chacha Chaudhary, died late Tuesday of complications from cancer. He was 75. The first comic featuring Chacha, “a wise old man who solves problems with his sharp intellect,” was published in 1971, and the character went on to star in his own comics and animated series. Sharma also created the teenage character Billoo. “If I could put a smile on the face of the poor, I would consider my life successful,” he once said. [The Wall Street Journal]
Co-written and co-directed by Sridhar Reddy, who’s also developing an adaptation of Pope’s The One Trick Rip-Off, the space Western centers on a serviceman who’s tasked with repairing a large terraforming robot in a barren desert, where his campsite is surrounded by seven Rock Creatures, weaponized monsters thought to be extinct. When a young surveyor, unaware of the danger, shows up, they must work together to survive the night.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has teamed with Heritage Auctions to auction original art to benefit the nonprofit organization. Although Charlie Adlard’s contribution has already been snatched up, the rest of the inaugural lot — original art by Jim Lee and Paul Pope, and a letterpress broadsheet signed by Neil Gaiman — are up for bid through Saturday.
“CBLDF’s important work on behalf of the comics industry makes them an important organization to support,” Lon Allen, Heritage’s managing director for comics and comics art, said in a statement. “We’re proud to join the artists who donated these pieces by contributing our services to help the Fund reach our bidder community. We hope to make a meaningful impact on their work protecting comics!”
To help promote the April 14 release of the new edition of Paul Pope’s long-out-of-print 1999 graphic novel Escapo, Z2 Comics has released a video in which the artist describes his vision of the book, and more.
“[It’s] my attempt at at making an incredible Fellini meets Jack Kirby mash-up comic book, y’know, like the artist who escapes death,” he explains. “I thought it was time to do something really serious, y’know. I was really into Nick Cave at the time, and the Murder Ballads album came out, and he had ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Henry Lee’ and all of these beautiful songs, and it’s like, ‘Man, I think I can do something like this in comics.'”
The new edition, which Pope refers to as “a new book,” is redesigned in the French BD format by Jim Pascoe, and boasts colors by Shay Plummer, more than 50 pages of bonus content, pin-ups by other artists and a two-page alternate ending previously seen only in the French edition.
Events | The second annual Black Comic Book Festival will take place this weekend at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The lineup of guests includes Norwood Steven Harris, Grey Williamson and Tim Fielder. “It is the largest gathering of black comic book fans in the country,” says Schomburg Director Khalil Gibran Muhammad. “There is something for everyone from the aspirational 9-year-old illustrator, to the costumed superheroes, to the lifelong collectors.” [New York Daily News]
Creators | Ed Brubaker discusses the exclusive deal he and Sean Phillips signed with Image Comics, announced last week at Image Expo: ” It’s almost like having your own label or something. Just the fact that we can green-light our own projects and we have approval over format, everything. … I feel like we have such a core audience that seems to follow us from thing to thing, so let’s take advantage of that and really just experiment and go crazy and just be artists.” [IGN]
Conventions | This Japan Times article about Comiket provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of the dojinshi (self-published manga) fair, which each August and December new draws between 560,000 to 590,000 visitors to Tokyo Big Sight. However, even that massive convention center is becoming too small for the event; of the 51,000 booth applications for August’s Comiket 84, only 35,000 were granted because of space limitations. Incredibly, the organizing Comic Market Committee has just eight full-time employees (but more than 3,000 volunteers). [The Japan Times]
Creators | MariNaomi discusses her experience of being sexually harassed by another creator while participating in a panel at a comics convention. That’s right, she was sexually harassed onstage. [xojane]
Legal | More details have emerged about Hirofumi Watanabe, the 36-year-old man suspected of sending more than 400 threatening letters to convention centers, retailers and other sites in Japan associated with the manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun revealed Watanabe studied anime at a vocational school but dropped out at age 20. Also, a search of Watanabe’s apartment turned up toilet bowl cleaner, a scrap of paper that said “creating hydrogen sulfide” and, not surprisingly, several volumes of Kuroko’s Basketball.
Oddly, Watanabe claims to be two different perpetrators who use two different accents, standard Japanese and a Kansai accent, and many of the statements he made in his letters and online postings, including that he was acquainted with Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki, appear to be false. Anime News Network also reports that when he was arrested, Watanabe had about 20 threat letters in his backpack, and that he told police he was jealous of Fujimaki’s success. [Anime News Network]
Legal | Artist Al Plastino has asked a New York judge to order Heritage Auctions to reveal the name of the consignor who put up for sale his original art for the 10-page story “Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy.” Heritage says the sale has been canceled and the art returned to the consignor, who bought it at a Sotheby’s auction a decade ago. The JFK story was originally scheduled to run in a DC comic dated November 1963, but it was quickly pulled when Kennedy was assassinated. The story was published the following year at the request of the Johnson administration. The last panel of the comic stated the artwork was to be donated to the Kennedy Library, and Plastino believed that to be the case until this fall, when he discovered it was being put up for auction. [Reuters]
Crime | Tokyo police say they have security camera footage of a suspicious man in a mask and gloves near a convenience store where a small amount of nicotine was found in a Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snack. The snacks were recalled after 7-Eleven and other convenience store chains received threatening letters, part of a barrage of threat letters that have been sent out to venues associated with the Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The amount of nicotine found in the Kuroko’s Basketball wafers was well under a lethal dose. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | WonderCon organizers have announced that next year’s show, set for April 18-20, will again be held in Anaheim, California. This will be the third year for the event at that location, after having been uprooted from its longtime home at San Francisco’s Moscone Center first because of remodeling and now because of scheduling conflicts. [Los Angeles Times]
Publishing | Nick Barrucci, CEO and publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, looks back on 10 years in the business, and discusses some upcoming comics, including J. Michael Straczynski’s Twilight Zone and the new kids’ line Li’l Dynamites. [Previews World]
Attendees at Saturday’s Comic Arts Brooklyn will have the opportunity to support a great cause and get their hands on some cool Paul Pope art. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be at table D11 selling, among other things, a limited-edition Paul Pope Battling Boy print. In addition, Larry Marder (Beanworld) and Jeff Smith (Bone, RASL) will be at the booth signing autographs.
Check out the full print below. Comic Arts Brooklyn takes place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mt. Carmel Church on 275 N. Eighth Street in Brooklyn.