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This past weekend, politician and genuine American hero John Lewis made the trip to Comic-Con International to spread the word about “March: Book Two,” the second volume of the graphic novel trilogy detailing his experiences in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. But as detailed by the Washington Post, Rep. Lewis didn’t just drop in for a quiet appearance, he marched through the convention center with a group of children in tow. Wearing a trench coat and backpack filled with copies of “March,” Lewis arrived at Comic-Con “cosplaying” as his 25-year-old self, who led hundreds on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
— Nate Powell (@Nate_Powell_Art) July 12, 2015
Co-written with his staffer Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell (“Swallow Me Whole”), the “March” books are a three-part set of memoirs telling Rep. Lewis’ story from his days as a young boy in segregated Alabama, to being beaten in the Selma march of 1965, to his time as U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, a position he’s held since 1987.
On Saturday, Lewis took the stage at Comic-Con International alongside Aydin and Powell to discuss the books, his lifelong message of nonviolent protest and share a preview for “Book Three.” In attendance were a group of third-graders from San Diego’s own Oak Park Elementary, who then accompanied the congressman in a march from the panel to his signing at Top Shelf Productions’ booth, echoing his “Bloody Sunday” march.
— TopShelfProductions (@topshelfcomix) July 11, 2015
— TopShelfProductions (@topshelfcomix) July 11, 2015
Retailing | The driver killed early Sunday when her car crashed into the Mile High Comics store in Denver, Colorado, has been identified as 17-year-old Karen Lopez. There were no passengers in the car, and no one was in the store at the time. Mile High Comics will hold an auction to benefit Lopez’s family; in an earlier news report, owner Chuck Rozanski described what happened and said, “When someone suffers a violent death like this within your space, I mean this is my building, I love this building and I love being here every day and now to know someone died here it’s going to alter my perception forever.” [KDVR]
Legal | A 16-year-old in Nantes, France, was arrested last week for posting a cartoon on Facebook that mocks the Charlie Hebdo killings; the charge is “advocating terrorism.” The cartoon shows someone holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo and being struck by bullets. Electronic Intifada posts what is most likely the offending cartoon (it had been shared widely on social media), a takeoff on one of the more notorious Charlie Hebdo covers, accompanied by the text, “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.” The original cover featured a cartoon of an Egyptian protestor holding the Koran, with text that read, “The Quran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullets.” [France 3]
Publishing | Sales were down in 2014 for Diamond Book Distributors, even though the industry overall had an up year. The reason: DBD lost a key client, Dark Horse, to Random House. Nonetheless, Vice President Kuo-Yu Liang sees good things in store for 2015, including strong sales of indie graphic novels, expanding international sales, and the much-anticipated March: Book Two, which was released this week. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Jillian Tamaki has won the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Prize for children’s literature illustration for her work on This One Summer, a graphic novel collaboration with cousin Mariko Tamaki (who was nominated in the text category). Their first book, 2008’s Skim, was previously nominated in the text division, further demonstrating a separation of illustration and story that Jillian Tamaki finds “strange.” ““I think we are both creators of the book,” she tells the Edmonton Journal. “You can’t read a comic without either component, it won’t make sense. It’s something I will always be addressing when talking about the award. But I am completely flattered by the honor and will be sharing the prize with my cousin.” [Edmonton Journal, via The Comics Reporter]
Graphic novels | Although BookScan’s September list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores is populated largely by old stalwarts — The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan, Saga, Watchmen — Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1, the only Marvel title on the chart, clung to the Top 20 in its second month of release (although it slipped from No. 4. to No. 20). Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds, meanwhile, climbed in its third month to No. 6. One new manga debuted at No. 12: Noragami, about a homeless god who does odd jobs as he tries to build up his reputation; the anime is already out, which probably gave it a boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | A television reporter pays a visit to the Last Gasp offices to talk about the Kickstarter recently launched by the longtime publisher of underground comics (and other quirky books). It’s worth a look just to see the owner’s amazing collection of oddities. [NBC Bay Area]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, looks at the uptick in comics conventions — he pegs ticket sales at $600 million, which is 80 percent of the dollar value of the whole comics market — and discusses some recent events and trends, including the new cons that are popping up all over and the increased international interest in connvetions outside the United States. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter makes the list of “10 Inspirational Leaders Who Turned Around Their Companies.” [Entrepreneur]
Creators | Colleen Coover posts the full transcript of her recent interview with Paste magazine about sexism in the comics industry. [Colleen Coover]
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]
History | Michael Dooley celebrates Banned Books Week with a look at the comics singled out by Dr. Fredric Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent as particularly corrupting of our youth; Dooley juxtaposes scans of the pages with Werthem’s commentary. [Print]
Creators | Lynda Barry is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) as well as the UW-Madison Department of Art; she was an artist in residence at the university last year. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]
Creators | Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell talk about their involvement in the graphic novel March. [Free Comic Book Day]
The first volume of March, released this week by Top Shelf Productions,just oozes respectability. Its author and protagonist is a well-known and well-respected figure, no less than a venerated U.S. congressman. It’s about an important subject – race relations – and set in a iconic and turbulent time period – the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s the kind of book that both the comics industry and the mainstream media like to trip over themselves in holding aloft as an example of the sort of general interest, literate work that would not only appeal to a non-comics reading public, but can be shown as an example of how the medium is capable of more than mere spandex fisticuffs.
In other words, I absolutely dreaded having to read the thing.
It’s not that I think that comics only work best only when they recognize their low-gutter, high-slapstick, overwrought melodrama origins or that cartoonists shouldn’t aspire to tackle complex, serious issues. It’s more that these sorts of works – biographical dramas where the central character happens to be caught in the midst of a major historical event – tend to simply not be very good, a few notable exceptions aside. All too often it seems as though the authors make the fatal mistake of assuming the subject matter itself is enough to carry the work forward and neglect to focus on things like crafting sharp dialogue, compelling page compositions or an interesting – or even comprehensible – plot. The end result is a lot of boring books with noble intentions.
Thankfully, that’s not the case with March. While the comic stays well within its basic, Bildungsroman structure, it’s an engaging, well-crafted read nevertheless.
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]
Conventions | Retailers in the Boston area talk about the importance of Boston Comic Con to their bottom line. This year’s event will be held Saturday and Sunday. [The Boston Globe]
Creators | Nate Powell, who got his start distributing photocopied minicomics at punk-rock shows, talks to his hometown newspaper about working with Rep. John Lewis on March, drawing a Percy Jackson graphic novel, and life as a full-time comic artist: “There’s a whole lot of constant hustling as a cartoon artist, and really I credit DIY punk as far as shaping the way that I navigate the world to allow me to still tap into the constant hustling necessary to keep my head above water.” [Arkansas Times]
Publishing | Lions Forge Comics announced a partnership this morning with NBC Universal to create digital comics based on five television series from the 1980s and 1990s: Knight Rider, Airwolf, Miami Vice, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell. The comics will be released on a variety of e-book platforms, including Kindle, Nook and Kobo, but there was no mention of comics apps such as comiXology. [USA Today]
Publishing | Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink, long a packager whose comics were published by others, will now be an imprint of Dark Horse, releasing four to six books a year. The imprint will include art books, reprints of archival material, and new graphic novels; it will kick off with The Best of Comix Book: When Marvel Went Underground!, a collection of works from the Marvel magazine, which was edited by Kitchen and Stan Lee. [ICv2]
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has appealed a court decision upholding his 2010 arrest and detention, claiming police acted in bad faith when they arrested him under the Sedition Act because of his book Cartoon-O-Phobia, which had not yet been released at the time of his arrest. No charges were ever filed, as the police could not identify any actual seditious content in the books. A court ruled in July 2012 that Zunar’s arrest was lawful but ordered the police to return the books they had confiscated and pay him damages. An appellate court will hear the case next week. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald takes a look at Marvel’s new graphic novel line, which will launch in October with Warren Ellis and Mike McKone’s Avengers: Endless Wartime. [Publishers Weekly]
BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.
So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.
It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.
Top Shelf Productions will publish a graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis, co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell in August; titled March, it’s the first of three books that chronicle Lewis’ life and involvement in the Civil Rights movement. This first book focuses on his youth in rural Alabama and the start of the Nashville Student Movement.
And as you can see in the image above, the back cover will sport a cover blurb from former U.S. President Bill Clinton. His quote says:
“Congressman John Lewis has been a resounding moral voice in the quest for equality for more than 50 years, and I’m so pleased that he is sharing his memories of the Civil Rights Movement with America’s young leaders. In March, he brings a whole new generation with him across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, from a past of clenched fists into a future of outstretched hands.”
— President Bill Clinton