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Comics A.M. | Comics rebound in 2011 while graphic novels slump

Justice League #4

Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]

Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]

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Evangelicals weigh in on Superman’s underpants


There are a lot of places where I’d expect commentary about Superman’s costume changes for the New 52 and the Man of Steel movie. A blog for evangelical Christian leadership wasn’t one of them.

What I love about it is that it’s not a moralistic rail against pop culture a la the Jeff Lamb/Action Comics kerfuffle, but a fannish lament much like the ones we’ve seen on most comics and movie blogs. Pastor and author Skye Jethani calls it a “blasphemy against my childhood hero,” but the tone of his article is actually pretty thoughtful and balanced. In the end he decides to judge Man of Steel on its storytelling rather than Superman’s Underoos.

He also, appropriately for his blog, pulls some leadership lessons from the missing trunks: the power of symbolism, generational differences, compromise, and how much influence leaders (religious, political, or Warner Bros.) actually have. The piece is a fascinating and unexpectedly comfortable blending of religion and pop culture.

Grant Morrison clarifies that, yes, ‘GD’ is a grunt, not a blasphemy [Updated]

It looks as if The Great “GD” Controversy has ended as quickly as it began, with Action Comics writer Grant Morrison assuring anyone concerned that Superman didn’t utter a blasphemy in the first issue of the DC Comics series.

“It should go without saying that the offending panel and caption, a mere ‘GD’, is a sound effect grunt – to suggest Superman’s breath being forced through gritted teeth – much like ‘DHH’, ‘GNUHH’ or the many others used throughout this book and in general in the comics business,” Morrison said in a statement posted this morning on DC’s Source blog. “It’s not in any way representative of God or a curse.”

The clarification may satisfy Jeff Lamb, owner of The Comic Conspiracy in Asheboro, North Carolina, who on Thursday announced a boycott of Action Comics and all Morrison titles after he interpreted “GD” — see the offending panel below — to mean the Man of Steel was taking God’s name in vain. Labeling Morrison as “a liberal Scottish schmuck,” he called the first issue of Action “a slap in the face to Superman, Christians and Superman creators Siegel and Shuster!!” Lamb announced his intention to cancel orders for the second issue of the series, writing on his store’s Facebook page that, “I ask my customers to understand as best they can. I understand that it’s only a comic and it’s not the real world, but I feel that as a Christian I have to draw the line somewhere.”

But earlier this morning, Lamb indicated that a statement from Morrison could make the whole problem go away. “The bottom line is that nobody but Grant Morrison knows the TRUE intent behind the GD letters. This issue could be easily resolved by a simple post from either Mr. Morrison or the editors at DC Comics,” he wrote on Facebook, adding, “I will say that this was NOT a publicity stunt. I will be back later in the day for a final, and I do mean final, rebuttal. (Unless of course we hear from Grant or DC) As of now though, all things considered … the boycott stands.”

Jeff Lamb, the ball’s in your court.

Update: Lamb has responded to Morrison’s explanation, writing on The Comic Conspiracy Facebook page: “Thank you Grant Morrison. The boycott is lifted. Once again my apologies to Grant for the unwarranted name calling. Thank you to those who supported my stance. To those who didn’t… I respect your opinions. To those who only posted to bash Christians and people with opinions different from yours … grow up and get a life.”

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Retailer boycotts Action Comics, Morrison over perceived blasphemy

From Action Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales

A North Carolina retailer has declared he’s boycotting all Grant Morrison comics after what he views as religious blasphemy in this week’s Action Comics #1.

“If you want Action Comics, you will have to buy it elsewhere,” Jeff Lamb, owner of The Comic Conspiracy in Asheboro, North Carolina, wrote on the store’s Facebook page. He called for Christian comics readers and retailers to join in the Morrison boycott, characterizing the first issue of the relaunched DC Comics series as “a slap in the face to Superman, Christians and Superman creators Siegel and Shuster!!”

That “slap in the face” is a single panel (above) in which the Man of Steel, when struck by artillery fired from a tank, utters “GD.” What many read as a grunt — Superman says “GNUHH,” “HNN” and “GGAAAAAA” in the same scene — Lamb interpreted as an abbreviation for “goddamn” (or maybe simply “God”?), an affront to his religious beliefs.

“I could see Guy Gardner and maybe even Hal Jordan (Green Lanterns) saying it,” he wrote. “I could see Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) saying it. I could easily see Damian Wayne (Robin) or MAYBE even Bruce Wayne saying it. But Superman was created to be the ‘perfect’ super-hero. Unblemished. Superman is an American icon. […] This wasn’t creative flow. It wasn’t necessary in the story. It isn’t Superman at all. And it goes against a basic Christian principle. It was a blatant stab.”

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Comics A.M.| Retailers on print vs. digital; Yang on comics, Christianity

Justice League #1

Retailing | Sacramento, Calif.-area retailers are relatively unconcerned about DC Comics’ newly launched digital initiative or an immediate threat to their bottom lines from digital comics. “I just see it as another way of kind of expanding the whole readership,” says Dave Downey, who runs World’s Best Comics. “If you missed an issue of Spider-Man, and you can’t find it anywhere, you can always go online and read it that way.” However, Kenny Russell of Big Brother Comics sees a time, “years off,” when that will all change: “It’s inevitable, and this is kind of the first step. In no time, iPads are going to be good enough, and it’s going to be easy enough, and it’s going to come out the same day where people are going to just read their comics on their iPads.” [Sacramento News & Review]

Comics | Gene Luen Yang explores the tangled history of comics and Christianity, both of which, he points out, were started by a bunch of Jewish guys who loved a good story. (Good-sized excerpt at the link; full article requires free registration.) [Sojourners]

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Anti-Defamation League calls Foreskin Man comic ‘deeply offensive’

I’d almost forgotten about ole’ Foreskin Man. About a year ago, the hooded champion debuted. Written and created by Matthew Hess, president of an anti-circumcision organization, the comic stars “intactivist” Miles Hastwick, who fights super villains like Dr. Mutilator and, in the second issue, Monster Mohel:

Monster Mohel and crew

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Pope to get his own manga

The Dalai Lama has his own bio-manga, so it’s only fair that Pope Benedict XVI should get one too, right? Creator Jonathan Lin has already produced two biblically themed manga, one on St. Paul and one on Judith, and now he is turning his hand to a more contemporary story, that of Pope Benedict XVI, in a manga titled Habemus Papam! (For the uninitiated, the title is the Latin phrase used to announce the election of a new pope.)

One flaw with this plan, of course, is that Benedict has had a rather sedate life compared to the others. Judith saved her people by befriending and then beheading the general of the enemy troops. St. Paul had a blinding vision on the road to Damascus, which could be a real tour de force for a serious manga artist, and he traveled quite a bit, which opens the possibility of some action-packed, if uncanonical, adventures. And the Dalai Lama’s story is filled with battles and betrayal. The pope? Not so much.

This short story captures different moments throughout the Holy Father’s life – specifically as a cardinal working with the late Pope John Paul II, and culminating in the moments leading up to his election as Bishop of Rome. The story also shows how he grows into his role as pope.

So it’s one of those more contemplative manga, then. You can’t argue with the numbers, though: Lin, who has his own publishing company, Manga Hero, plans to print 300,000 copies, which places Habemus Papem! in the same league as Twilight: The Manga, although it sounds like many copies will be distributed for free during World Youth Day in Madrid this coming August.

A sticky situation: Box Brown on the “COEXIST” bumper sticker and its enemies

from "To Exist" by Box Brown

from "To Exist" by Box Brown

How can a harmless, feel-good bumper sticker get people so riled up? That’s what Box Brown sets out to explain with his webcomic “To Exist,” which traces the history of the “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Famous or infamous, depending on your political leanings and/or feelings about sloganeering, the sticker cobbles the word “Coexist” out of symbols for major world religions and has a tendency to spur some religious and political conservatives to paroxysms of conspiratorial rage, as you can see in the excerpt above starring Representative-Elect Allen West.

In addition to cataloging some of the more outlandish reactions to the sticker, Brown also traces its origin to the work of Polish designer Piotr Miodozeniec; the version you’ve likely seen is an unauthorized knockoff, making “COEXIST” the “Calvin Peeing” of the bleeding-heart set. Brown also advances some theories about why people would answer the equivalent of “Can’t we all just get along?” with such a resoundingly angry “NO!”, all while working through what looks to me like a pretty heavy Seth influence. Read the whole thing.

(via Jess Fink)

Rob Liefeld kicks off Zombie Jesus webcomic

from 'Zombie Jesus'

Rob Liefeld, creator of Youngblood and Deadpool, among others, has launched a new webcomic on his site called Zombie Jesus.

The strip uses scripture from The Bible to tell some of the story, particularly Matthew 27:51-52: “The earth shook, the rocks broke and tombs opened and many men and women who had died came back to life again. They left the cemetery and went into the city and appeared to many people there.” And then attacked them.

Led by a possessed Judas Iscariot, the zombie hordes invade Jerusalem, with Lazarus the Immortal taking up arms against them. I’m not sure how often it will be updated, but I know I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Muslim group condemns threats to cartoonist

The American Muslim, an online newsletter, has issued a statement titled “A Defense of Free Speech by American and Canadian Muslims” that condemns the threats made to Molly Norris (who drew a cartoon advocating Everybody Draw Mohammed Day), and Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, which included a scene in which the Prophet Mohammed was depicted wearing a bear suit.

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“Everybody Draw Mohammed” cartoonist goes into hiding

Seattle Weekly reports that cartoonist Molly Norris, who came up with the idea of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” but later disavowed it, has changed her name and gone into hiding. In July, Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki called her a “prime target,” and the FBI has warned her to take that threat seriously.

Last spring, reacting to Comedy Central’s decision to pull an episode of South Park that spoofed the prophet Mohammed, Norris drew a tongue-in-cheek cartoon and suggested that May 20 be declared “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” The idea caught on but soon careened out of control: There was an Everybody Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page (which has also dialed back and is now devoted to inter-religious understanding), an opposing Facebook page (Ban Everybody Draw Mohammed Day), and even a real website for a fake organization Norris mentioned in her poster, “Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor or CACAH (pronounced ca-ca).”

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Attack of the super-atheists!

art from "S.H.O.O.T First" by Ben Bates

Over at Comics Alliance, ToyFare editor, Twisted ToyFare Theater head writer and Hero House author Justin Aclin is talking up his upcoming story for MySpace Dark Horse Presents, “S.H.O.O.T. First.” It’s a paranormal/superhero book in the vein of B.P.R.D., but with a twist: The titular team’s acronym stands for the Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce, and their mission is to wipe out any and all supernatural entities in the name of atheism. Says Aclin:

S.H.O.O.T. are basically militant atheists, tasked with hunting down supernatural creatures, especially those of religious significance, that they don’t even believe in….every time you read a comic about someone fighting the supernatural, they’re really doing it on the supernatural’s own terms. If you’re fighting a vampire, you bring stakes and holy water – that kind of thing. I don’t think there’s ever been a team like “S.H.O.O.T.” that basically thinks it’s all bunk, and just goes after any threat with science and bullets, and scientific bullets.

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Jesus Christ, comic star (Do you think you’re what they say you are?)

Faith Series: Jesus Christ

Faith Series: Jesus Christ

Bluewater Productions has received international publicity, and more than a little criticism, for its biographies of political and cultural figures ranging from Barack Obama and Sarah Palin to Princess Diana and Stephenie Meyer.

But in April the Washington-based publisher is setting its sights a little higher. No, not Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or even political pundit Rush Limbaugh (although they’re both getting biographies). Go higher.

That’s the one: Jesus Christ. Hey, his first biography still sells pretty well, so why not?

The 32-page Jesus Christ, which launches the publisher’s Faith Series line, “tackles the life of arguably the most famous person in history” and “highlights different aspects of the life of Christ to show that Jesus of Nazareth was more than just a great man in history, but proof of a providential force at work in the universe.”

So it’s safe to presume the comic, written by Don Smith and sporting a cover by Mike S. Miller — interior artist is listed as “TBA” — will have a clear point of view.

Unfortunately, however, it looks as if Faith Series: Jesus Christ will miss Easter by this much.

Vatican newspaper praises The Simpsons

The Simpsons got a somewhat unexpected gift under their tree this year … no, not another dog; L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Vatican, on Tuesday congratulated the show on its 20th anniversary in an article titled “Aristotle’s Virtues and Homer’s Doughnut.”

The article doesn’t appear to be online at the paper’s website, but the Associated Press reports the article praised the show’s “philosophical leanings as well as its stinging and often irreverent take on religion.”

“Religion, from the snore-evoking sermons of the Rev. Lovejoy to Homer’s face-to-face talks with God, appears so frequently on the show that it could be possible to come up with a ‘Simpsonian’ theology,” the article said. No doubt they were talking about segments like this:

Straight for the art | Rick Veitch’s Good Friday commission

Jesus + Swamp Thing

Jesus + Swamp Thing

Back in March I listed six comics that fell into limbo for various reasons that I’d love to see more of. Earlier this month on his blog, Rick Veitch gave a small taste of what one of those comics would have been like, as he shared the above commissioned sketch of Swamp Thing and Jesus.

Via the Forbidden Planet blog

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