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Comics A.M. | ‘The 99′ creator discusses fatwa, death threats

The 99

The 99

Creators | In an article translated from an Arabic newspaper, The 99 creator Naif Al-Mutawa discusses what life has been like since a fatwa was issued earlier this year in Saudi Arabia against the animated adaptation of his comic: “You can imagine the call I had with my parents and my children when the front page of Kuwait’s leading daily newspaper quoted various death threats. ‘Look on the bright side,’ I told my parents, ‘This shows the impact of The 99.’” He ends on a chilling note: “Why would anyone invest in media content if the producers can be sent off to the public prosecutor’s office and potentially serve jail time? Isn’t it just easier to keep dubbing Turkish, Mexican and American dramas? And if we keep doing that, aren’t we diluting our culture?” [The Beat]

Censorship | The Hartford Courant published two of the most influential editorials of the great comics scare of the 1950s — one was reprinted by Readers’ Digest — so it’s appropriate that David Hajdu, author of The Ten Cent Plague, will visit the city next week during Banned Books Week. This article includes an interview with Hajdu and an excerpt from a 2008 interview with former managing editor Irving Kravsow, who wrote one of the scare pieces. [The Hartford Courant]

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Comics A.M. | Longtime retailer Steve Koch passes away

Steve Koch

Steve Koch

Passings | Customers and family mourn the passing of Steve Koch, longtime owner of Comic Headquarters in St. Louis, who died Aug. 31 of a suspected heart attack. He was 55. “He knew the true value of a comic book was in the story and the art, not as it being a collectible,” said his wife Carla, whom he introduced to comics with a copy of X-Men #1. Koch’s customers praised him for running a store that was welcoming to everyone, no matter what their tastes; some have been shopping there since they were children. [Riverfront Times]

Crime | Police in Lexington, Kentucky, believe the man who robbed a local comics and hobby shop D20 Hobbies late last month is also behind three other robberies. In all cases, the robber wore a clown mask and indicated he had a weapon but didn’t show one. D20 owner James Risner was puzzled at first as to why anyone would rob a comic shop, but he speculates the thief didn’t realize his business had taken over from the previous tenant of the site, a Quick Cash store. “I guess he figured we had a lot of money,” Risner said. “Thankfully we didn’t have that much.” [Lex18.com]

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Comics A.M. | Customers rally around store after burglary

Kingdom Comics

Kingdom Comics

Crime | The comics community of Kirkcaldy, Scotland, just north of Edinburgh, has rallied around a local comics shop after thieves broke in two weeks ago and stole cash, a computer, a two-and-a-half-foot-tall Darth Vader figure and a copy of New Mutants #98 (the first appearance of Deadpool), with a total value of more than £500 (about $835 U.S.). It could have been worse: The thieves left some comics boxed up, ready to go, but apparently they were interrupted. But you won’t believe what happened next: Kingdom Comics owner Andrew Magee says customers donated their own comics and DVDs to help rebuild his stock, and a number of local artists have donated art to be auctioned off to help the store. [The Courier]

Creators | Bryan Lee O’Malley discusses his new graphic novel Seconds, and how it reflects where he is in his life. [BoingBoing]

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Comics A.M. | Alcaraz’s ‘Hate City’ cartoons spark legal threat

One of Lalo Alcaraz's cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

One of Lalo Alcaraz’s cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

Editorial cartoons | The public-relations consultant hired by the city of Murrieta, California, after residents protested the arrival of refugee children to be processed there, told cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz that referring to Murietta as “Hate City USA” was “actionable.” “There IS a fine line between your constitutional right to draw cartoons and expressed (sic) your opinions,” Hermosillo wrote in a comment on Alcaraz’s Facebook page, “and falsely, deliberately, and maliciously labeling and attacking an entire community as racist or as ‘Hate City.’ You are working overtime to damage Murrieta and such a false premise is actionable. There’s a fine line between humor and stupidity. You may have crossed that line at your own peril.” Murrieta spokesperson Kim Davidson walked that back, however, saying the city has no plans to sue Alcaraz. [The Press Enterprise]

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Comics A.M. | Archie Comics responds to Singapore ban

Archie: The Married Life, Vol. 3

Archie: The Married Life, Vol. 3

Publishing | Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater responds to Singapore’s ban of the third volume of Life With Archie, which features the wedding of Kevin Keller and Clay Walker: “Riverdale will always be about acceptance, equality and safety. I’m sad readers in Singapore will miss out on the chance to read such a pivotal moment in comics.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

Business | Devin Leonard looks at the possible effects of a Fox/Time-Warner merger on superhero movies; Time-Warner owns DC Entertainment, and Fox has the movie rights to some Marvel characters. The New York Times offers a broader overview. [Business Week]

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Comics A.M. | Ed Kramer may have violated terms of plea deal

Ed Kramer

Ed Kramer

Legal | DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer, who entered a plea deal in December to avoid more jail time on child molestation charges that date back to 2000, could find himself back behind bars for his use of social media. Kramer, who’s no longer associated with DragonCon, ended years of legal wrangling with an Alford plea that, among other stipulations, barred him from having any direct or indirect contact with anyone under the age of 16. A registered sex offender, Kramer set up a Twitter account under his real name in 2011, but didn’t do much with it until a couple of weeks ago, when he suddenly became active and began following people — including a 14-year-old girl. His Google+ page also shows a connection with the then-14-year-old boy he was charged with molesting. Kramer lists his address as Brooklyn on his social media accounts, but he apparently is still in Georgia. The Gwinnett County district attorney is investigating; a violation of the plea agreement could result in a 60-year prison sentence, 20 years for each of the three counts of child molestation. Heidi MacDonald has more at The Beat. [Gwinnett Daily Post]

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Comics A.M. | Taiwan ‘One Piece’ exhibit draws 100,000 in first week

Taipei Metro cars were wrapped in "One Piece" ads for the exhibition

Taipei Metro cars were wrapped in “One Piece” ads for the exhibition

Events | An extensive exhibit in Taipei, Taiwan, devoted to Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece manga and anime has drawn more than 100,000 visitors since its opening on July 1. Overseen by Oda, the exhibition is the first of its kind outside of Japan, where it was held from 2012 to 2013 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the insanely popular manga. ”One Piece Exhibition: Original Art x Movies x Experience Pirate King Taiwan” runs through Sept. 22. [Kotaku]

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Comics A.M. | U.K. charity store receives comic book windfall

Books For Amnesty

Books For Amnesty

Retailing | An American collector donated about 800 comics to the Books For Amnesty charity store in Bristol, England, just ahead of a planned sale of comics and graphic novels. Volunteer Richard Wallet said the collection, which goes back to the 1960s, is probably worth tens of thousands of pounds. The store, which benefits Amnesty International, recently had another windfall when someone donated a copy of the Beatles album Revolver signed by the designer, Klaus Voormann, and valued at £1,000 (about $1,716 U.S.). [Bristol Post]

Comics | Jim Rugg interviews retailer Andrew Neal about the Ghost Variant cover program, which was created by a group of store owners. The idea was to commission a prominent artist to do a special variant cover for a particular comic and release it, through the stores in the group only, with very little promotion. It turns out that some comics buyers like a little mystery! [BoingBoing]

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Comics A.M. | Gallery’s Denver Comic Con proceeds stolen

The Hall of Justice art gallery

The Hall of Justice art gallery

Crime | A successful weekend at Denver Comic Con turned sour for Zac and Mindy Conley, the owners of The Hall of Justice art gallery, after a thief stole a cash box containing their proceeds from the show, about $1,000, and some special orders for Mindy Conley’s artwork, which would have earned the couple another $1,500. The Conleys say they were planning to use the money for rent for their home and studio and the payment for their booth at next year’s Denver Comic Con. “We’ve been fighting to turn this place into some really cool. And every month we’re wondering if we’re going to survive,” Zac said. However, friends are rallying around: Illustrator Drew Litton, who will be showing his work at the gallery next month, will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Conleys, and gifts are also coming in through their Facebook page. [The Denver Post]

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Comics A.M. | Happy 80th birthday, Donald Duck

Donald Duck

Donald Duck

Pop culture | Eighty years ago today, Donald Duck was introduced as a supporting character in the animated short “The Wise Little Hen,” part of Walt Disney Productions’ Silly Symphonies series. His comic strip debut came a few months later, in an adaptation of the short by Ted Osborne and Al Taliaferro that ran in Sunday newspapers between Sept. 16 and Dec. 16. To mark the milestone, the National Turk publishes “a love letter to the duck,” while The Telegraph offers 10 surprising facts about the character. [National Turk, The Telegraph]

Political cartoons | The South African cartoonist Zapiro, himself no stranger to controversy, said the Eyewitness News cartoon depicting the South African legislature and the people who voted for them as clowns (and calling the voters “poephols,” or idiots) was a mistake. “I think the EWN cartoonists made a big error in the way they depicted the voters, what they called them and the shadow in the bottom corner, which could be misconstrued as meaning black voters,” he said. “They should have – and the editors of EWN should have – picked it up. But, they have apologised and anything that goes beyond that now is just bandwagoning by politicians.” Meanwhile, a fake Zapiro cartoon made the rounds on social media over the weekend. It’s based on a real 2002 cartoon that showed doctors finding the brain of then-president George W. Bush while giving him a colonoscopy; the fake cartoon substitutes South African President Jacob Zuma, who went into the hospital over the weekend. [Times Live]

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Comics A.M. | Judge places hold on Hastings sale

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]

Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Phoenix Comicon to cap attendance for first time

Phoenix Comicon

Phoenix Comicon

Conventions | Phoenix Comicon, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people, has placed a limit on attendance for the June 5-8 show, raising the possibility that the convention could sell out for the first time. However, convention director Matt Solberg said organizers have been working with the fire marshal to increase capacity at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s guests include Andy Kubert, Andy Runton, Camilla d’Errico, Chris Claremont, Christopher Golden, Dennis Calero, Don Rosa, Francis Manapul, John Layman, Katie Cook, Kevin Maguire, Marc Andreyko and Mark Bagley. [Facebook, via Modern Times]

Manga | Lillian Diaz Przybyl, who was the senior editor at Tokyopop until shortly before its demise, talks about her early days in fandom, her experiences at the company when it was a market leader, and the issue of piracy and creators’ rights. She also sheds some light on why the manga publishers were so slow to go to digital: The Japanese licensors were reluctant to put content from different publishers together and worried that their books would be re-imported back to Japan. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, Motor City Comic Con marks 25 years

Motor City Comic Con

Motor City Comic Con

Conventions | The doors open today on the 25th annual Motor City Comic Con, held through Sunday in Novi, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. Comics guests include Art Baltazar, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Talent Caldwell, Chris Claremont, Matthew Clark, Gerry Conway, Katie Cook, J.M. DeMatteis, Clayton Henry, Mike McKone, Jame O’Barr, Ryan Ottley, Dave Petersen, Don Rosa, Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Soule, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. The Detroit Free Press previews the event, and speaks with Claremont, while Metro Times provides a beginner’s guide. [Motor City Comic Con]

Digital comics | Kate Reynolds looks at the recent Image Humble Bundle promotion and compares it to sales of hard copies of the individual titles in comics shops. Her key insight is that this is Image’s first attempt to sell comics directly to the video game audience rather than established readers: “Many people who check the Humble website with some frequency may have been surprised to see comics books on a video game page, and for many, surprise turned to intrigue. While it’s impossible to tell whether the purchasers of the Image bundle were frequent comic buyers or not, it’s logical to assume that many were not. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if for some, the Image bundle was the first comic purchase of their lives.” [feminism/geekery]

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Comics A.M. | TOON Books launches imprint for older readers

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]

Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Fun Home’ dispute part of larger battle in S.C.

From "Fun Home"

From “Fun Home”

Politics | Framing the controversy as part of a larger political battle between South Carolina’s lawmakers and its public universities, The Washington Post wades into the ongoing saga surrounding the House of Representatives’ vote to reduce funding to two schools after they selected gay-themed books for their summer reading programs. The newspaper uses as its entry point the Monday performances in Charleston of Fun Home, the musical adaptation of the Alison Bechdel graphic novel that was chosen last summer by the College of Charleston, drawing the ire of a South Carolina Christian group and conservative lawmakers. The Post reports that several state legislators suggested they viewed the staging of the musical as “a deliberate provocation,” and will seek to cut even more funding in response. The South Carolina Senate has yet to vote on the state budget, which includes the cuts to the schools.  [The Washington Post]

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