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Welcome to Store Tour, ROBOT 6’s weekly exploration of comics shops, and the people who run them. Each Sunday we feature a different store, and also get to know the person behind the register.
This week’s store is Ground Zero Comics, located at 2744 East Fifth St. in the Loop East Shopping Center in Tyler, Texas. We spoke with owner David Seigler.
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kadokawa will relaunch its English-language e-book service BookWalker on Oct. 8 with 700 new manga and light novel titles. BookWalker, which includes a website and iOS and Android apps, debuted last year with a library of Kadokawa books, including Sgt. Frog and Neon Genesis Evangelion, some of which have also been published by Viz Media and Dark Horse. The new site will include a wider range of books from other Japanese and North American publishers. Kadokawa also runs ComicWalker site, which offers free chapters of manga in English. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Colin McEnroe interviews Zippy creator Bill Griffith about his new book, Invisible Ink, which is the story of his late mother’s affair with a cartoonist — or, as McEnroe puts it, “Zippy Meets Freud.” [NPR]
Conventions | Organizers of Comic-Con International and Salt Lake Comic Con are reportedly attempting to reach a settlement in their trademark dispute over the term “Comic Con.” Weeks after issuing a cease-and-desist letter in July 2014, Comic-Con International sued the Utah event, insisting organizers were attempting to “confuse and deceive” fans and exhibitors with their use of the term “Comic Con.” The producers of Salt Lake Comic Con have called the lawsuit “frivolous,” arguing that Comic-Con International’s trademarks are invalid. After being granted the trademark in July for “Salt Lake Comic Con,” organizers claimed victory in the feud, but Comic-Con International maintained nothing had been resolved. Now Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg says lawyers updated a federal judge about that case on Tuesday, and that both sides are still working to come to an agreement. A hearing scheduled for next month. [Fox13]
Retailing | Variety Comics, which opened in Chicago in summer 1974, will close its doors for good Halloween. “Business is down,” says co-owner Vin Nguyen. “It’s sad but you know, it is what it is.” Nguyen and his partner Victor Olivarez bought the store in 2009 following the death of original owner Rick Vitone. [DNAInfo]
Conventions | The Houston Press looks at allegations of organizational problems and financial mismanagement at the Houston-based convention Anime Matsuri, which has been growing steadily (attendance at this year’s event was 24,000), despite leaving a trail of lawsuits, unpaid bills and angry guests. [Houston Press]
Comics | Issue 3800 of the British comic The Beano hit newsstands last week, making it officially, according to Guinness World Records, the longest-running weekly comic. Artist David Sutherland, who has been drawing the Bash Street Kids since 1961, unveiled the official plaque at Beano headquarters. [Down the Tubes]
Auctions | A copy of Suspense Comics #3, published in 1944, sold for $173,275 at auction last month, setting a new record for a non-superhero comic. The high price was probably due to the cover, by Alex Schomburg, which features a woman tied up and apparently about to be sacrificed by Nazis and the KKK, a crossover that would attract potential buyers from several groups of enthusiasts (this issue was described in an earlier auction as a ““Nazi/Bondage/Horror/War hybrid”). Plus it’s rare — the lurid cover may have suppressed sales when it was first published — and in good condition. [Observer]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s list of the Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores in August is an eclectic mix of old and new, superheroes and other genres. The top seller, for the second month in a row, is the deluxe edition of Batman: The Killing Joke, with hardy perennials Fun Home, American Born Chinese and Watchmen all making the charts, probably because of school assignments. Manga does well, with the two most recent volumes of Naruto, two volumes of Attack on Titan, the first two volumes of Tokyo Ghoul and the seventh volume of Monster Musume all making the cut. Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl also charted, as did the first volume of Saga and the 22nd volume of Fables. [ICv2]
Passings| Underground artist Stephen “The Pizz” Pizzuro has died at age 57. Pizzuro, who described his work as “Lowbrow,” started his professional career as an artist for Rat Fink Comics before moving on to do album covers and, later, gallery art. [Hi Fructose]
Legal | Game company SNK Playmore has dropped its charges against manga publisher Square Enix and will allow the manga Hi Score Girl to use its characters without penalty. Last year, SNK filed a criminal complaint against Square Enix, charging that the manga, a comedy about gamers, included more than 100 instances of unauthorized use of SNK Playmore’s characters. As a result, serialization of the manga was suspended while police pursued charges against 16 of the people involved in its publication. Today, Square Enix announced that the two companies have reached an agreement: SNK Playmore has dropped its claim, and the two companies will work together with regard to sharing their characters. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | The organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con next month hope to break the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as comic book characters. The current record of 1,530 was set April 2011 at the opening of World Joyland theme park in China. Since then, several conventions have sought to seize that crown, but none has succeeded. It’s not as easy as it may sound, as to be counted for the record, the character must’ve first appeared in a comic book. And that’s just for starters. Salt Lake Comic Con has a rundown of the rules on its website. [KSL]
Creators | Imprisoned Iranian political cartoonist Atena Farghadani is grateful she received the Cartoonist Rights Network International Courage in Cartooning Award, her father said after a visit to her in Evin Prison, and she’s hoping an appeals court will reduce her sentence. Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for drawing a cartoon showing the members of the Iranian parliament with animal heads. [International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran]
Political cartoons | The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists is calling for an independent review of the audio tape provided by the LAPD to the Los Angeles Times to refute Ted Rall’s claim he was treated roughly by an officer when he was stopped for jaywalking. “Determining the truth in this matter is important to Mr. Rall’s personal and professional reputation, and to the rights of journalists to freely express themselves,” the statement said, adding that the newspaper “should have demanded a higher standard of proof in this matter.”
Crime | OneBookShelf, which operates the digital-comics website DriveThruComics and several other retail sites, has suffered a data breach. “A hacker found a crack in our defenses and got in,” the company said in a Q&A on its websites. Hackers stole credit card information from transactions processed between July 10 and Aug. 6, and used the OneBookShelf’s servers to launch DDOS attack on other sites. It’s not clear which numbers were exposed, but the company recommends customers who made transactions, or had credit card information stored on the site during that time, get new cards. [ICv2]
Creators | The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has named its first Cartoonist in Residence: Cameron McPhail, who left his job in 2002 as chief executive of wealth management at the Royal Bank of Scotland to become a full-time cartoonist. He and his colleagues in the Kartoon Faktory collective will produce books about the animals in the zoo and possibly a comic strip as well. [Edinburgh News]
Aw Yeah Comics, the store founded three years ago in Skokie, Illinois, by longtime collaborators Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar with Marc Hammond, has expanded to a third location, this one in Harrison, New York.
Hammond tells local newspaper the Daily Voice that the retailers had been looking for a small town not far from a major metropolitan area that was in need of a comics store. Located 22 miles northeast of Manhattan, Harrison has a population of about 27,400.
Graphic novels | BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores in July has a decidedly different makeup than usual, with the 1988 one-shot Batman: The Killing Joke topping the list, and seven other DC Comics titles making the cut as well (however, just one of those, Batgirl, Vol. 1, is a new release). Other entries include hardy perennials American Born Chinese and Fun Home make the chart, perhaps as summer reading, and as always, the first volume of Attack on Titan. [ICv2]
Conventions | Denver, already home to one of the larger comics and pop culture conventions, is getting its own independent comics festival, the Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo (DINK), which will launch in March. The show will be held in the Sherman Street Event Center, which organizer Charlie LaGreca describes as “like something out of a Wes Anderson movie,” and is looking for sponsors with ties to the community. “The pop-culture, big-box cons are amazing and incredible, and we have them in spades now. They provide such a huge array [of options],” said LaGreca, a Denver Comic Con co-founder who exited the organization last year in a highly publicized dispute. “What’s cool about this is we can bring the focus back to just art and comics and the cross-pollination of what it means for art. It’s really embracing all comics genres, not [just] focused on sci-fi and superheroes and stuff like that.” [Westword]
Citing a slumping Canadian dollar, venerable comics retailer Silver Snail will shutter its Ottawa store after more than 25 years in business. The flagship location in Toronto will remain open.
“With the economic downturn, this location was not receiving enough traffic to bolster the steadily flagging sales over the past few years, and we had to make the difficult decision to close its doors,” the retailer wrote Tuesday on its website. “We appreciate all of the hard work put in by the staff at our Ottawa location, and give thanks to the many loyal customers who have supported the Bank Street shop over the years.”
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kodansha has launched a free Magazine Pocket manga app for iOS and Android devices, which in addition to titles already serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine features two exclusive spinoffs: Fairy Tail Spinoff: Twin Dragons of Sabertooth, springing out of Fairy Tail, and Brass of Diamond! Seidō High School Wind Instrument Club, based on Ace of Diamond. The app boasts more than 30 titles, with some chapters offered for free and others requiring a fee. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | “In Hungary there is little or nil culture for comics,” says Arpád Barabás, owner of the Budapest comic shop Trillian. “The main reason is that between 1946 and 1989 there was nothing except for the Boy Scout propaganda publications in this genre, all other things having been prohibited.” Barabás, who goes by the nickname Grif, is working hard to fill that vacuum, mostly with imported comics, but because of the cost, very few have been translated into Hungarian. [The Budapest Times]