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Gilbert Shelton, creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, recently turned 75, and the digital comics app Sequential is celebrating with a free collection of his work.
It includes some classic Freak Brothers strips, covers and a history of the comic, as well as a few interesting bits of ephemera such as the package design for the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers rolling papers and the label for Tall Toad ale, Fat Freddy’s favorite brew. The sampler is available for free through the end of June.
Shelton was one of the pillars of the underground comics movement of the 1960s and early 1970s, a co-founder of Rip Off Press as well as the creator of the Freak Brothers and Wonder Wart-Hog. He was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 2012 (I was proud to be one of the judges that year).
The small publisher Koyama Press announced yesterday that they are making a selection of their works available digitally via the Sequential app, which is an iOS-only app that focuses on indy comics and graphic novels.
The initial lineup seems to all be older books, or at least, there don’t appear to be any from this year, but there are some solid titles here from well-regarded creators: Julia Wertz’s The Infinite Wait, Nathan Bulmer’s Eat More Bikes, Julie Delporte’s Journal. And this is just the start—more titles are on the way.
The books are on sale this weekend for half off the print price, so this is a good opportunity to check out some comics you may have missed—especially as some of them are out of print.
Passings | Maine cartoonist Jeff Pert, best known for his cartoons and illustrations of lobsters and moose, died Friday on his way to the hospital with chest pains. He was 55. His cartoons adorned souvenir postcards and coffee cups, but he was also an active part of the local comics community in Brunswick, Maine, a regular at Casablanca Comics, and a participant in the Maine Comic Arts Festival. Pert created his first comic when he was in fifth grade and sold copies to local comic shops. “They probably gave us the money and then threw them in the garbage, but we were happy,” said his collaborator (and best friend) Jon Dumont. Pert was known for supporting other artists and even persuaded his local state representative, Maggie Daughtry, to start drawing her own comics: Daughtry knocked on Pert’s door when she was campaigning for office, and, she said, “Within an hour of meeting him, he literally changed my life.” When Daughtry told Pert that she had dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, he encouraged her to start drawing again, which she did. [Portland Press Herald]
Russell Willis of Panel Nine has announced the iPad app Sequential will now carry a selection of titles from NBM Publishing, including Rick Geary’s Madison Square Tragedy, Margreet de Heer’s Science: A Discovery in Comics and Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics, and Renaud Dillies’ Abelard, Betty Blue, and Bubbles and Gondola.
Sequential began as a U.K. app and launched in August in the United States. With a strong focus on indie and underground graphic novels, it started out with titles from U.K. publishers like Blank Slate, Myriad Editions and Knockabout but has since added titles from U.S. publishers Fantagraphics and Secret Acres. While comiXology goes wide, with apps for every device and comics for every taste, Sequential has taken a different path, with a curated catalog of graphic novels for a particular audience and a sleek interface for a single device, the iPad.
It must be working: Sequential’s other announcement is that it will be a major sponsor of the MoCCA Arts Fest, together with the School of Visual Arts, Blue Sky Studios and Wacom. That sponsorship makes a lot of sense, as MoCCA features the sort of independent, literary comics and graphic novels that appeal to Sequential’s audience — including NBM.
Legendary comics writer Alan Moore will turn 60 on Monday, and the digital comics distributor Sequential is celebrating with a free download of Gary Millidge’s Alan Moore: An Extraordinary Gentleman, as well as a sale on all of its Moore comics.
Millidge originally put together the 20-page bio-comic in 2003 to celebrate Moore’s 50th birthday, and he has revised and updated it for this occasion. It’s text-heavy, with a two-page introduction followed by the story of Moore’s life told in panels from his comics, overlaid with lots and lots of text boxes. It’s certainly an interesting comic and worth checking out if you have an iPad. Millidge is the creator of the self-published comic Strangehaven and the editor of the anthology Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman.
Sequential is also offering discounts on a number of Moore’s comics: From Hell is $3.99, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century and Nemo: Heart of Ice are priced at $2.99 each.
If you’re wondering, “Is it worth it to download another app just for these cheap comics?” the answer is probably yes, if you have an iPad and you like indie and underground comics, particularly those from the United Kingdom. Sequential has a very nice presentation, and there’s quite a bit of free material, including the collection of Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales (which includes Moore’s Leviticus) and the digital comics magazine Infinity.
Starting today, UK underground comics publisher Knockabout Comics and digital-comics publisher Sequential are teaming up to publish Neil Gaiman’s Lost Tales, a collection of Gaiman’s comic strips from the 1980s, for free—and they will donate 50 cents to charity for every download.
The 100-page collection, which is available only via the Sequential iPad app, includes stories from Outrageous Tales from the Old Testament and Seven Deadly Sins, as well as a science fiction story from 2000AD and other material. Some of the comics are collaborations with other creators, including Bryan Talbot and Dave McKean, and many are long out of print. Also included is a 1988 interview with Gaiman.
Legal | Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit is in court again, this time claiming sexual harassment by former friend Sam Levitin, who was her liaison to Archie after her legal feud with the company and C0-CEO Jon Goldwater was settled last year. Levitin has responded that Silberkleit “lacks functional communication skills and has an unstable temperament” and has a “venomous and destructive effect” at the company. Levitin asked the court in December to remove Silberkleit as a trustee of the company, and she responded in April with the allegation of sexual harassment against both Levitin and Archie Comics. An outside firm hired by Archie determined that her claims were “unfounded,” and the publisher is not a party in the latest lawsuit. [New York Daily News]
Legal | Jeff Trexler takes an in-depth look at the copyright battle between Marvel and Jack Kirby’s children. [The Comics Journal]
Tokyo-based software developer Panel Nine has now made its digital graphic novels app Sequential available in the United States and worldwide. The free iPad app, which “specializes in sophisticated digital graphic novels designed for adults from the world’s leading creators,” launched in May in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The company has already partnered with U.K. publishers Blank Slate Books, Myriad Editions, Great Beast, Tabella and Knockabout, and deals with SelfMadeHero and Walker Books forthcoming. U.S. publishers are promised soon.
Editorial cartoons | The Cartoonists Rights International has given its 2013 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award to Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan, who was arrested in his newspaper office in Hama, Syria, about six months ago and has been held incommunicado since then; reliable sources report that he has been tortured while in prison. Raslan will be tried on Monday in a special court on an array of charges, including insulting the president and incitement to sedition, stemming from his cartoons. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Creators | Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers is donating the prize money from the Thomas Nast Award he recently received to the CRNI. Rogers’ donation will go directly to a cartoonist who’s in hiding for fear of being deported to his home country of Syria. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Today Panel Nine launches Sequential, a storefront app that will make available digital editions of several publishers from the current U.K. renaissance in graphic novel publishing, including Blank Slate, Knockabout and Myriad Editions, with others set to follow.
I always think of Blank Slate Publisher Kenny Penman as one of the great patrons of the comic arts. One of the world’s most successful comics retailers, his love of the medium has led him into also becoming one of its most innovative publishers. He’s also not shy with his opinions. Recalling some distinctly anti-digital comments from him on Twitter, I asked him about his change of heart, and how going digital can only help spread the word about the great work coming out of the United Kingdom.