Legal | The Bombay High Court had sharp words for the Mumbai Police regarding the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on a sedition charge. “How can you (police) arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression,” said justices DY Chandrachud and Amjad Sayyed during a hearing in the case. The court will issue guidelines for the application of the sedition law, said the justices, who called the arrest of Trivedi “arbitrary.” “We have one Aseem Trivedi who was courageous enough to raise his voice and stand against this, but what about several others whose voices are shut by police.” [The Economic Times]
Creators | Grant Morrison talks about the guy who (literally) ate a copy of Supergods, why he is moving away from superheroes, and his upcoming Pax Americana, which is based on the same Charlton characters as Watchmen: “It’s so not like Watchmen. In the places where it is like Watchmen people will laugh because it’s really quite … it’s really faithful and respectful but at the same time satiric. I don’t think people will be upset by it, in the way that they’ve been upset by Before Watchmen which even though it’s good does ultimately seem redundant … This one is its own thing but it deliberately quotes the kind of narrative techniques used in Watchmen and does something new with them.” [New Statesman]
Organizations | Jillian Kirby, the 16-year-old granddaughter of Jack Kirby, makes a pitch for Kirby4Heroes, a campaign to encourage donations to The Hero Initiative on Aug. 28, which would have been the legendary creator’s 95th birthday. [Los Angeles Times]
Comics | Roger Rautio, who’s spearheading an effort to establish a physical Comic Book Hall of Fame, said he’s received responses from officials in four cities — Chicago, Cleveland, New York City and San Jose — and he may meet with a Chicago city council member as early as next month. [North Country Now]
Creators | Cartoonist Reinhard Kleist discusses his graphic novel The Boxer, the true story of Polish Jew Harry Haft, who had to fight other prisoners at Auschwitz for the entertainment of the Nazi soldiers. [Deutsche Welle]
The Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has bestowed the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award on two artists who have experienced persecution for their work, Syrian Ali Ferzat and Indian Aseem Trivedi.
Ferzat, who is 60 years old, has been a cartoonist for many years, but he didn’t encounter trouble until 2011, when he drew a number of cartoons critical of dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of the democracy movement. Syrian security forces abducted Ferzat and beat him, deliberately breaking both his hands. This did not silence him; on the contrary, he went public about the abuse, and his work is available (in Arabic) at his website. He also has a Facebook page.
Trivedi is the force behind the Cartoons Against Corruption website, which collects editorial cartoons protesting against not only government corruption but also attacks on free speech, including restrictions on the internet. Trivedi was charged with treason and “insulting national symbols” for this, but he nonetheless remains active in the free speech movement in India.
CRNI will present the awards during the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in September.
Creators | Dean Haspiel discusses his frustration with creating stories for franchise characters, even working with regular artists and writers for the series, and never hearing back from the editors: “I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.” [Welcome to Trip City]
Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat talks about his decision to shift from portraying generic characters in his cartoons to zeroing in on a real person, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the consequences of that choice. Farzat’s drawings started showing up on protest signs, and then he was attacked and savagely beaten by three men: “”I could hear them saying ‘break his hands so they never dare challenge his masters again.’” Farzat is now living in Kuwait but hopes to return to Syria some day. [Reuters]
Wisconsin state assemblyman Steve Nass (R-La Grange) has filed criminal charges against political cartoonist Mike Konopacki, claiming that Konopacki’s use of Nass’ letterhead for a gag press release constitutes a felony.
It all started when Nass pressured officials at the University of Wisconsin’s School for Workers to cancel an arts festival, “The Art of Protest,” that would have featured cartoons and other works of art inspired by the labor protests that took place in the state last year. The school called off the festival after Nass and his chief of staff, Mike Mikalsen, threatened to cut the school’s funding. Mikalsen said upfront that Nass feels the funding for the school should be cut altogether, and added, “But we mostly reminded them that Rep. Nass and other Republicans are working closely with UW-Extension on WiscNet and some other pretty important issues, and that if this issue were to go bad and upset conservatives and our supporters around the state, we’d have a problem working together.”
In other words: Nice little school you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to the funding.
Creators | Novelist and X-Club writer Simon Spurrier recounts how he gave up his seat on a panel at last weekend’s London Super ComicCon to creator Tammy Taylor, in the spirit of “Panel Parity”: “Paul’s idea is that you can’t expect true gender parity in comics unless you create the conditions to facilitate it. Even if one has to dabble in positive discrimination, even if one must expect outraged cries of ‘tokenism!,’ ‘political correctness gone mad!,’ ‘patronising cockcentric condescension!,’ it’s worth it. So Paul created a movement he called ‘Panel Parity’ in which he planned to exercise the only real power he has – like any of us in the weird world of industry conventions – to make a difference. Paul pledged that whenever he’s invited onto a panel which doesn’t feature at least 50% women, he’ll surrender his own seat to a female speaker. Even if that means tracking down someone less ‘well-suited’ to discussing the topic at hand than himself. Even if it means disappointing people in the crowd who travelled to the show specifically to see him talk. As long as Said SheGuest is able to contribute in some way to the conversation, Paul feels her presence on stage is more valuable than his own. Which is a brave and important and splendid thing to say.” [Simon Spurrier]
Legal | A judge denied a motion for acquittal and a new trial in the case of Michael George, the former comic book store owner and convention organizer convicted of killing his wife in 1990, dismissing the defense’s argument that there was insufficient evidence for conviction. George is serving a life sentence. [Detroit Free Press]
Publishing | DC Comics announced last night it will shut down its message board in early March as part of an overhaul of the publisher’s website that will include Facebook-hosted commenting and integrated Twitter feeds. [The Source]
Creators | About 15 people threw eggs at Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks as he spoke on freedom of speech at the University of Karlstad. Vilks has raised the ire of some Muslims with his cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. Vilks told the audience, “Insults are part of democratic society. If we begin censoring ourselves, it will mean undermining freedom of speech in the long run. I don’t think that the problem is that artists are too provocative but that we are not provocative enough.” None of the eggs hit the cartoonist, and the protestors were removed from the room. [UPI.com]
Legal | Neil Gaiman comments briefly on the settlement agreement that ends his decade-long legal dispute with Todd McFarlane over Medieval Spawn, Angela and Cogliostro, and a handful of derivative characters: “The main thing is, I feel like an awful lot of good things have come out of it. … I think the various decisions, particularly the [Judge] Posner decision, were huge in terms of what the nature of dual copyright in comics is. What is copyrightable in comics is now something that there is a definite legal precedent for. There were a lot of things that were … misty in copyright [law] that are now much clearer. And it’s of benefit to the creator.”
While the details of the settlement are confidential, it’s known that Gaiman and McFarlane now share ownership of Spawn #9 and #26, as well as the first three issues of an Angela spin-off series. [Comic Riffs]
Look, I’m not even going to pretend to be familiar with the work of Ali Ferzat, a Syrian political cartoonist who has emerged as an outspoken critic of dictator Bashar al-Assad and his bloody crackdown against anti-government protestors over the past several months. But you can bet Assad and his regime know his work, and hate it, because their security forces abducted Ferzat, beat him, made a point of breaking his hands, and dumped him on the side of the road. This Washington Post article lays out the details as they are known right now, and included the terrifying Facebook picture above. The news comes via Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter, generally your best source for information on the pressures faced by political cartoonists worldwide.
Though people like Mike Diana, Jesus Castillo, and Christopher Handley provide us with sad exceptions to this rule, in general, no one in America is subject to legal (or extralegal) punishment for the comics they draw, sell, or consume. We’re lucky. And while it’s impossible not to be gobsmacked by not just the brutality but the arrogance of a government that would punish a cartoonist critic in such an overtly symbolic manner, it’s just as impossible not to be awed by the bravery of an artist who knows he’s up against a government that would do a thing like that, but goes up against them anyway.
They’re two Left tastes that’ll taste Left together: This Modern World cartoonist Tom Tomorrow and progressive pundit and activist Markos Moulitsas Zúniga have announced that Tomorrow is leaving his slot at the online magazine Salon to become the first-ever Comics Editor for Moulitsas’s popular liberal blog and political community, Daily Kos. Tomorrow’s final Salon comic ran today.
Comic creators James Hudnall and Batton Lash have come under fire for a recent comic strip posted on the conservative website BigGovernment.com.
The duo regularly contributes a comic strip called “Obama Nation” — a play off of “abomination”– to the site, part of Andrew Breitbart’s online network. The Feb. 12th strip featured President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama eating dinner, with the president eating very small portions and the first lady eating a plate filled with hamburgers as they discuss her now one-year-old anti-obesity campaign. You can see the full strip for yourself after the jump.
MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell called it “a racist obscenity” on his program yesterday, while Mediamatters.org said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve expected anything approaching comity from the conservative media, but this is the sort of stuff most of us left at the grade school playground.” And on Technorati, Bill Schmalfeldt wrote, “… Brietbart’s hack comic drawers don’t understand satire. Instead, they show the First Lady as fat and scarfing down cheeseburgers, which she doesn’t do, they show Obama’s ears as impossibly large, the cartoon isn’t funny in the first place, and there’s no grain of truth on which to hang the satire.”
Hudnall, a former writer of Alpha Flight and Strikeforce Morituri, as well as creator of the ESPers and Harsh Realm, responded to the criticism: “There is nothing racist about the cartoon. The artist (Batton Lash) merely drew the first couple in caricature, which is what political cartoonists do. All we’ve done was to take a mild poke at the hypocrisy of the first lady. The press has already detailed the kind of foods served at white house dinners. It’s rarely diet friendly. Such as the menu at their super bowl party.”
Lash, the creator of Supernatural Law, said: “What’s racist about it? Cartooning — specifically political cartooning– has always been about exaggeration, whether it was Nixon’s prominent jowls, Carter’s toothy smile, or Bush ll’s beady eyes. If our current president is exempt because of the color of his skin, I think that would be racist. By the way, I didn’t depict the First Lady as fat — just a hearty eater!”
Comic-Con | Lori Weisberg provides a reminder, and a primer, for online registration for Comic-Con International, which goes live Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific. Registration is for daily passes and four-day memberships without Preview Night. Those with the Wednesday preview sold out on the final day of the 2010 convention (more could be released later, depending on returns and cancellations). Prices have increased slightly, from $100 to $105 for four-day memberships and from $35 to $37 for single-day passes ($20 for Sunday) — plus a $2 processing fee for each badge. Comic-Con will be held July 20-24 in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
Retailing | Responding to reports that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy as early as next week, a spokeswoman asserts the struggling book chain intends to stay in business. “Our goal is to have a strong Borders for the long term, ” Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis said. “As such, Borders is involved in discussions with multiple parties – including lenders, vendors, landlords and other business partners – to determine the route that will provide it with the best opportunity to move forward with its business strategy.” [The Plain Dealer]
Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]
Face it, tiger-lovers — you just hit the jackpot: Check out this terrific gallery of early and rare art by Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson. Included are pieces from the Kenyon College yearbook and student newspaper, covers from the political-cartooning journal Target, Watterson’s own editorial cartoons from the Cincinnatti Post, illustrations for an essay in The Comics Journal, self-portraits, a collection of Calvin & Hobbes sketches, and much more. The site design indicates that this is about a million Internet years old and thus many of you may have seen it before, but I sure haven’t, and it’s great way to see whole new side of Watterson — and a demonstration that his chops were ample even at a tender age.
It is with great pride that I report that my facetious headline of the other day became… a thing! As you may remember, I picked up on a story of Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly bullying an editorial cartoonist who did an unflattering portrayal of him, and suggested we do Everybody Draw Bill O’Reilly Day.
The artists at Drawbridge, a daily sketch blog, saw the post and decided to make it their theme for the day! Check out this awesome gallery of Bill O’Reilly caricatures by George O’Connor, Joe Infurnari and their compatriots.
And independent of that, Bryant Paul Johnson was inspired to do his own O’Reilly caricature. One thing several people mentioned is that O’Reilly is fun to draw, which may make him a more frequent target in the future.