"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Publishing | Dark Horse founder and CEO Mike Richardson looks back at 30 years in the business in a two-part interview that covers the rise of shoujo manga and the way it changed American comics, the evolution of comics distribution and the direct market, the status quo and future plans for Dark Horse, and how the comics world is changing and continues to change: “The internet, of course, has changed the industry dramatically. The comic book industry was pretty much focused on the East Coast. As the internet rose, it helped companies like Dark Horse build a comics industry here in Portland. Portland right now is probably the epicenter of the comic book industry in the United States — companies, creators, organizations, all related to comics. We have a huge comic book population here from all angles of the business. It’s pretty amazing.” [ICv2]
Comics | In an excerpt adapted from his new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, Glen Weldon delves into the long history of the gay subtext in the relationship between Batman and Robin, noting that it’s been there from the Boy Wonder’s 1940 debut: “Remember: Queer readers didn’t see any vestige of themselves represented in the mass media of this era, let alone its comic books. And when queer audiences don’t see ourselves in a given work, we look deeper, parsing every exchange for the faintest hint of something we recognize. This is why, as a visual medium filled with silent cues like body language and background detail, superhero comics have proven a particularly fertile vector for gay readings over the years. Images can assert layers of unspoken meanings that mere words can never conjure.” [Slate.com]
Comics | How do you say “Bam! Pow!” in Russian? A group of Russian translators is calling for comics translators to use words derived from the official languages of the Russian Federation rather than simply rendering the existing sound effects in the Russian alphabet. “In comic books you can often encounter words imitating sounds,” the translators said in a letter to the Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “How can one express the sound of a phone ringing, of a creaky door, or a soda can being popped open, or the crinkle of an ice cream wrapper, or the sound of a motorcyclist’s foot rubbing against the ground? Often translators simply transliterate the English words.” Instead, they recommend using indigenous substitutes such as “chorkh” (scratching) and “khurt-khurt” (swallowing), both derived from Lezgian, a language spoken in Dagestan and Azerbaijan. [The Moscow Times, The Calvert Journal]
Digital comics | To celebrate One Piece’s new Guinness World Record, Shueisha’s Shonen Jump+ digital manga app has released the entire July 1997 issue of Weekly Shonen Jump for free. That’s the issue that launched Eiichiro Oda’s wildly successful fantasy adventure. The publisher has also unveiled a One Piece app (in Japanese only) that updates daily with a new chapter in color, starting from the very beginning of the series. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | The online sales platform Selz has informed creator Dale Lazarov that it won’t sell his gay comics (despite previous assurances that it would) because its banking partner won’t permit the sale of adult materials. Lazarov reproduces the company’s letter and his response on his Facebook. ComiXology, Gumroad and Ribbon have also declined to carry his comics. [Bleeding Cool]
Agence France-Presse reports the move comes as Russian authorities seek to purge the capital of swastikas and other Nazi insignias ahead of May 9, which marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over German forces in World War II. Raids have already been conducted on toy and antique shops, and bookstore owners are anticipating similar actions.
Of course, Art Spiegelman’s celebrated Maus, released in Russia in 2013, isn’t “Nazi propaganda”; it’s pointedly anti-fascist, telling a story about the horrors of Nazism. However, bookstore owners appear to be erring on the side of caution, figuring the large swastika on the cover is enough to make the title — and retailers — a target.
Censorship | The Tanzanian government has banned a regional newspaper, The EastAfrican, apparently because of a cartoon by Godfrey Mwampembwa (GADO) that was critical of President Jakaya Kikwete. [The Washington Post]
Creators | “My idea is that if you want to defend Islam against cartoons, you do it by drawing cartoons, not by killing the cartoonists,” says Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh, who is back on the job after being suspended for a cartoon that some interpreted as being a likeness of the Prophet Muhammad (Sabaaneh insists it was not). This profile of Sabaaneh includes an interview with the creator and a nuanced look at the milieu in which he works. [The Independent]
In 2011, we reported on an epic act of vandalism: A graffiti artist in Sofia, Bulgaria, transformed a monument dedicated to the the Soviet Union’s 1944 “liberation” of the country into a superhero tableau. The eclectic group includes Superman, Captain America, the Joker and Ronald McDonald, who I guess is kind of a superhero if you’re hungry.
This week, the Russian government gave us an excuse to revisit the story by complaining to the Bulgarian government that it wasn’t trying hard enough to stop repeated vandalism of the statue and bring the culprits to justice.
Legal | At the request of a state-owned distributor, the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor is investigating charges that Marvel comics are “propaganda of a cult of violence,” specifically, violence against Russian targets. The agency will review Avengers #1, due out in Russia in August, “regarding the use of Soviet symbols, the presentation of the characters as Russian service personnel, and the incitement of violence and cruelty,” according to the the Russian Legal Information Agency. This seems to be about the Winter Guard and specifically about Vanguard, who wears a hammer-and-sickle logo; the European publisher, Egmont, plans to remove the logo for the Russian release. Roskomnadzor has the option of issuing an official warning; a publisher who gets two of these in a year may have its license revoked. [CNET]
Crime | Police in St. Charles, Missouri, have arrested 24-year-old Adam Radigan and charged him in the Monday-morning robbery of a comic store employee. The robbery occurred in the parking lot as the employee walked out of the Fantasy Shop with a bank bag that contained $26 in coins. The suspect allegedly indicated he had a gun and demanded the bag; after the employee handed it over, fled on foot. Nearby schools were briefly locked down after the incident. [The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, KDSK]
Comics | “Seattle and the Northwest have carved a lasting niche in the comics world by applying the same traits to cartoons that we apply to music — lo-fi, provocative and introspective. Our comics are often funny as in peculiar, not necessarily funny as in laugh-out-loud, our heroes bumbling rather than swashbuckling”: Tyrone Beason looks at Seattle’s thriving alt-comics scene, and talks with Peter Bagge, Ellen Forney, Tom Van Deusen and the organizers of the Short Run Comix and Arts Festival. [The Seattle Times]
Publishing | The Archie gang has canceled a (fictional) trip to Russia because of that country’s draconian anti-gay laws. One law would allow the arrest of foreigners suspected of being gay or “pro-gay,” while another defines any pro-gay statement as pornography and therefore makes it a criminal act to make such statements in front of anyone under the age of 18. Archie cartoonist Dan Parent, who created Riverdale’s first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, is taking a stand in his own way: “Russia should be boycotted, so much so that actually in an upcoming special four-issue story arc I’m writing the Archie gang are going to take a world tour to four countries. Russia was to be one of them. But they’re not going there now. They just can’t and they won’t. They love and support Kevin.” [Back2Stonewall]
This was my first introduction into THE SOVIET SUPER SOLDIERS – Ursa Major, Darkstar, and Vanguard – the team that would eventually become THE WINTER GUARD. I was only a few months into collecting and reading comics at that point – and I got the book admittedly because of the Speedball cameo in the beginning of the story. As a teenager, I found the cover disturbing – could the Avengers really have murdered this team of Russian superheroes? The truth, of course, was a little more complex – and, of course, I was hooked on the revelation!