WATCH: "Fantastic Four" Power Up In New Promo Spot
Fandom | Rob Salkowitz writes about the controversy over this year’s Hugo Awards nominations and the “Sad Puppies” slate, and how skirmishes such as this are further fueled by the media: “The net effect of this, as observed by commentator Ezra Klein, is the politicization of just about everything, dragging a lot of randomly hostile and belligerent people into conflicts that don’t really concern them, but in whose outcome they have been persuaded they have a stake. Media outlets profit, but fan culture, which at its best unites people from all demographics across the political spectrum in their enthusiasm for creative works and community, is the victim.” [ICv2]
Crime | A comic-shop robbery went awry when the suspect set down her weapon — a hammer — so she could pick up a comic. A woman walked into Conspiracy Comics in Burlington, Ontario, around 8 p.m. Friday and purchased a comic. When the clerk opened the cash register, the customer allegedly pulled out a hammer and said “Empty the till.” When she set down the hammer to pick up the comic, however, another employee grabbed it, gave her the change, and told her to get out. Police checked the hammer for fingerprints and arrested Mary Margaret Ross on charges of robbery. “It was something that was unexpected and shocking,” said store clerk Anton Litvanyi, who wasn’t in the store at the time of the robbery. “At the same time, it is something that is comical … It’s not something that any retailer expects, but especially in a comics store.” [Hamilton Spectator]
If you’re looking lay your hands on a million-dollar comic, New Dimension Comics probably can’t help you. However, if you want to browse a million $1 comics, that’s the place to be on Saturday.
Todd McDevitt, owner of the Ellwood City, Pennsylvania store — the state’s largest — is holding a $1 sale so big, that it spills over from New Dimension’s Lawrence Avenue location to a neighboring storefront and a former VFW Post.
Legal | The Malaysian government today charged cartoonist Zunar with nine counts of sedition stemming from his tweets about the sodomy conviction of opposition party Anwar Ibrahim. Zunar was released on bail, then held for questioning when an image appeared on his Facebook page depicting the prime minister’s wife (a frequent target of the cartoonist) in prison garb. Zunar said he knew nothing about the drawing and was released again. The Malaysian government has been ramping up its prosecutions under the colonial-era Sedition Act, which critics contend is being used to suppress dissent. “This is a record, being charged nine times and using the sedition law,” said Zunar’s lawyer, Latheefa Koya. “It is excessive and targeted at silencing vocal critics.” If found guilty, Zunar could face 43 years in prison. Before he was even released, Zunar tweeted a defiant cartoon of himself in handcuffs, drawing with a pen in his mouth. [The Associated Press]
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]
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
Star Clipper, the St. Louis comic store that closed last month after 27 years, will reopen in April with new owners and a new location.
Riverfront Times reports that Fantasy Books Inc. owners Steve Unverferth and Tony Favello had already bought Star Clipper’s fixtures for a new downtown location (a former art gallery and dojo), and even hired some of its stuff. And then on Feb. 21 they purchased the Star Clipper name.
Auctions | A page of original artwork from 1971’s Asterix and the Laurel Wreath sold at auction Sunday for more than $158,000, with proceeds going to benefit the families of those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices. The art included a special dedication by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, who came out of retirement in the days after the attack to draw tributes to the victims. The auction house Christie’s waived its commission for Sunday’s sale. [BBC News]
Political cartoons | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who has been sued, threatened and reprimanded by his own government because of his political cartoons, revealed last week that he has also received threats from an Ecuadorean member of ISIS over a cartoon making fun of the extremist group. While he ultimately decided the threat wasn’t credible, Bonilla said, “It has to be understood within this climate of hostility and harassment that’s been created within the country. It’s gotten to the point where even humor is being persecuted and oppressed by the president.” Reporter Jim Wyss also looks at some other cases of government suppression of political cartoons in Latin America [Miami Herald]
Awards | Roz Chast has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography for her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast’s tale of taking care of her parents in their declining years seems to be one of those books that crosses the usual boundaries, winning recognition not only in comics circles but in general book awards such as the Kirkus Awards and the National Book Awards. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | ICv2 continues its focus on manga with a profile of Boston’s Comicopia, where they stock a lot of manga (4,000 volumes) and the staff really understands it. Most of the manga is simply shelved by title, reflecting the fact that readers often cross the target demographics (i.e. a lot of girls read Shonen Jump), but Comicopia also has sections for yaoi, all-ages manga, and “Manga for People that Don’t Like Manga.” [ICv2]
Manga | ICv2 kicks off a week of manga coverage with a two-part interview with Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s senior director of sales and marketing. Sales are up, with particularly strong growth in the direct market, where their older and darker series, like the Signature line, tend to do better. Interestingly, sales of shoujo (girls’) manga are up 20 percent in the direct market as well. In bookstores, as measured by BookScan, they are the number one graphic novel publisher of 2014, and they had five of the top ten best-sellers. Given all that, Hamric is genial about ceding the top spot to a Kodansha title: “Attack on Titan is #1, but whatever works and brings people into the stores and into the category is good for everybody.” In Part 2, he reveals what he expects to be the biggest book of 2015, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. [ICv2]
Graphic novels | Once again, Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? leads the BookScan list of the top-selling graphic novels in bookstores. Volumes one and two of March also did well on the February chart, placing third and fourth, respectively. All four volumes of Saga made the list, along with three volumes of The Walking Dead and, shockingly, just one of Attack on Titan. [ICv2]
Creators | Jeff Lemire began getting calls from Hollywood even before the first issue of his new series Descender, a collaboration with artist Dustin Nguyen, came out. But while they sold the film rights to Sony Pictures, Lemire is determined the comic will come first: “I think one of the biggest things that went into us choosing Sony [was], we made it very clear — and they were very receptive — that we were going to tell the comic book the way we wanted to tell the comic. Meaning, if in the comic we wanted to veer left and they wanted to go right with the movie, we could do that.” [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before armed gunmen attacked its offices last month, but the outpouring of support that followed has changed the financial picture: The first issue after the attack sold millions of copies, 250,000 new subscribers signed up, and the paper even received more than $4.5 million in donations. The flush of wealth is causing dissension among the staff, Sam Schechner reports, with some arguing that the publication should become a cooperative. At the same time, they’re discussing how Charlie Hebdo will keep its edge under the new circumstances. A new issue, the second since the attacks, is out on newsstands today. [The Wall Street Journal]
Legal | In their largest raid ever, police departments across Japan arrested 40 people between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 on suspicion of copyright infringement for illegally sharing anime, manga, music and live-action film and television dramas online. The suspects, all men ranging in age from 21 to 65, are accused of uploading such materials as Detective Conan, XXX Holic, The Wind Rises and the Mobile Suit Gundam UC soundtrack. In Japan, such unauthorized uploads are criminal acts punishable by up to 10 years in jail or fines of about $84,000. [Crunchyroll]
Last weekend, Todd Allen wrote at The Beat that he had spotted some Dark Horse comics on the newsstand at Books-A-Million, now the second-largest bookstore chain in the country. That piqued my interest, as newsstand sales have proved to be a challenge for most comics publishers for decades now, so I got in touch with Matt Parkinson, Dark Horse’s vice president of marketing, who answered some questions about the company’s newsstand sales at Books-A-Million and its used-book subsidiary 2nd & Charles.
Robot 6: First of all, what has Dark Horse’s newsstand presence been like in recent years?
Matt Parkinson: Since the early ’90s, Dark Horse had placed titles on the newsstand through various distributors. In recent years we only enjoyed strong sales if the comic had a blockbuster movie tied to it or some major media component. Ultimately, due to the reduction of available display space and the resulting decline in sales, we discontinued all newsstand distribution in fall 2014. We would consider returning to newsstand distribution if a title demonstrated mass-market appeal.
Passings | Andy Hutton, who drew the popular strip “The Q-Bikes” (which morphed briefly into “The Q-Karts”) for the British comic The Beano, died last month at age 91. Born in Calcutta, Hutton moved as a teenager to Dundee, Scotland, where he began working for Beano publisher DC Thomson at age 14. He quit that job to train to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force, but poor eyesight kept him grounded much of the time. After World War II, he got an art degree and lived in Canada for a while, working in nuclear reactor construction, before returning in 1950 to Scotland. He was a Beano artist for 25 years, and his work included Red Rory of the Eagles, Jack Flash and The Kangaroo Kid; he also taught art in a local high school. [Down the Tubes]