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Japanese retail chains remove basketball manga after threats

Kuroko's BasketIn a true-crime story unfolding across Japan, stores are pulling products and venues are canceling events related to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball because of a series of threatening letters targeting locations linked to the manga’s creator, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, the manga, and doujinshi (fan comic) events related to it.

The first threat letters, at least one of which may have contained deadly poison, were sent more than a year ago, but the pace seems to be accelerating: The sender has hinted he or she may commit a crime on Nov. 4, and a new set of letters has emerged claiming the perpetrator is negotiating with the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump, which serializes the manga.

On Monday, the Japanese manga, video and game rental chain Tsutuya confirmed it has removed all copies Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The Yurindo and Reliable bookstore chains are also removing the books. However, a number of bookstores, including Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo and Miyawaki, say they will continue to carry the manga despite receiving threatening letters demanding its removal.

In addition, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain is removing Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks from 1,500 locations after receiving a letter that said, “I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven.” The letter included a photograph of the snacks. Another convenience chain has stopped carrying a line of Kuroko’s Basketball tie-ins, including character dolls and plush toys.

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Comics A.M. | Second-best month for comics sales this century

Superman Unchained #2

Superman Unchained #2

Publishing | John Jackson Miller dissects the latest sales numbers and finds July 2013 to be the second-best month for comics sales in the direct market so far this century—actually, since 1997. Combined comics and graphic novel sales were up almost 17 percent compared to July 2012, and year-to-date sales are up almost 13 percent compared to last year. [The Comichron]

Retailing | Brian Hibbs, one of the founding members of the direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO, has left the group “because of the reactions of the Board to recent DC moves.” He revealed his decision in the comments on his blog post about DC’s allocation of 3D covers for Villains Month: “The org that I formed was intended to look out for the little guy; the current Board seems much more interested in keeping the big guys big. Democracy in action, I suppose, so I vote with my dollars.” [ICv2]

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Incredible manga fireworks light up the sky in Japan

"One Piece" fireworks

“One Piece” fireworks

I’ve always disliked fireworks, an aversion I blame on a crippling childhood fear that they would rain down on me like the white-hot fire of a sparkler. That said, I might be convinced to change my mind about them if there were more manga-themed pyrotechnic displays like the one held Thursday in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture.

At Kotaku, Brian Ashcroft writes that Shonen Jump held its own fireworks celebration at a summer festival, with the focus on many of its own hit properties, like One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball and Gintama. Judging from the photos, and the video below, Luffy’s hat was definitely my favorite. You can see many more images at Kotaku.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Airwolf,’ ‘Saved by the Bell’ revived as digital comics

Saved by the Bell

Saved by the Bell

Publishing | Lions Forge Comics announced a partnership this morning with NBC Universal to create digital comics based on five television series from the 1980s and 1990s: Knight Rider, Airwolf, Miami Vice, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell. The comics will be released on a variety of e-book platforms, including Kindle, Nook and Kobo, but there was no mention of comics apps such as comiXology. [USA Today]

Publishing | Denis Kitchen’s Kitchen Sink, long a packager whose comics were published by others, will now be an imprint of Dark Horse, releasing four to six books a year. The imprint will include art books, reprints of archival material, and new graphic novels; it will kick off with The Best of Comix Book: When Marvel Went Underground!, a collection of works from the Marvel magazine, which was edited by Kitchen and Stan Lee. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | IDW’s CEO talks digital strategy, book market

IDW Publishing

IDW Publishing

Publishing | ICv2 posts a three-part interview with IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams that covers a multitude of subjects, including the company’s digital strategy, the Artists Editions, news that Scholastic has picked up its My Little Pony comics, and that the publisher’s book sales are up, even though Borders is gone: “The book market used to make me crazy on this returnable basis basically forever. That was never a sustainable business model. Where we are today is we are able to sell product in a reasonable way so that the bookstores get a chance to sell the product and we don’t get these giant returns. ” [ICv2]

Piracy | Earlier this year, the Chinese Internet company Tencent inked a deal with Shueisha, the publisher of Shonen Jump and thus the licensor of some of the most popular manga in the world. One consequence of this deal has just hit home with the Chinese reading public: Scanlations are disappearing from the web, and fans are not happy. [Kotaku]

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Comics A.M. | Siegel & Shuster heirs fight DC’s interference claim


Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]

Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]

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Comics A.M. | ComiXology inks Delcourt deal; Detective #27 auction


Digital comics | ComiXology, which earlier this week announced the opening of a European branch, has revealed its first big score: a digital-distribution agreement with Delcourt, the top independent publisher in France. And comiXology kicked off the agreement by updating its dedicated Walking Dead app to include a French interface and the French editions of the comic. The company also plans a dedicated Lanfeust of Troy app, and of course it will roll out Delcourt titles on its regular app as well. [ComiXology]

Auctions | A copy of Detective Comics #27, which contains the first appearance of Batman (or, as he was called in 1939, “the Bat-Man”), will go on the auction block later this month. The comic, which is CGC rated 6.5, is expected to fetch $500,000, but there’s no reserve, so this might be an opportunity to pick up a bargain. [Art Daily]

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Comics A.M. | The rising stars of IDW; Alvin Lu leaves Viz Media

IDW's The X-Files

Publishing | The X-Files is in the headline, but this interview with IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall covers a lot of ground, including the logistics of continuing a defunct TV franchise as a comic, the standouts among IDW’s young creators, and the challenges of being a comics writer. [Hero Complex]

Publishing |  Alvin Lu has left his position as executive vice president of the manga publisher Viz Media. Lu had been at Viz for 13 years and was one of the top executives in the company, reporting directly to CEO Hidemi Fukuhara. [ICv2]

Comics | The graphic novel Metro, once banned in Egypt, is available in Cairo once more. [The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Rob Liefeld is a ‘Doer'; critic Les Coleman passes away

Prophet #21

Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. […] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” []

Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]

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Barefoot Gen creator Keiji Nakazawa passes away

Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima as a child and wrote the internationally acclaimed Barefoot Gen about his experiences, died Dec. 19 of lung cancer. He was 73.

Nakazawa was 7 years old on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was walking to school and stopped to answer a question from an adult, when suddenly, in an instant, the whole world changed: “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.”

He was standing next to a concrete wall, so he was partially shielded from the blast, although he was covered in rubble, and a nail went through his cheek. The adult he had been speaking to was burned to death on the spot. There was more horror to come: His father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them. Nakazawa recounted these events, which his mother told him about later, in a 2007 interview:

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Comics A.M. | Ohio’s Superman license plate moves closer to reality

Superman specialty plate

Comics | Ohio drivers moved a little closer to getting their Superman specialty license plate Wednesday as the proposal was outlined for a state Senate committee. The bill, which already passed the state House, is on track to go to the full Senate for a vote before the end of the year. The Siegel & Shuster Society launched the campaign for the plates in July 2011 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Man of Steel in 2013; the character, which debuted in 1938, was created six years earlier in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The original plan for the plates to include the slogan “Birthplace of Superman,” that met with objections from Warner Bros., which insisted he was born on Krypton. The legend will now read, “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” [Plain Dealer]

Manga | Tony Yao summarizes a recent article from The Nikkei Shimbun that analyzes the readership of Shonen Jump, which is 50 percent female despite the magazine being targeted to boys (“shonen” means “boy” in Japanese). They break down the popularity of series by gender and discuss how the female audience affects editorial decisions. [Manga Therapy]

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Comics A.M. | Usagi Yojimbo video game on the way

Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin

Video games | Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai has revealed a video game will be released later this year for smartphones, tablets and personal computers based on his long-running historical action-fantasy comic. Called Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, it’s not the first video game to feature the samurai rabbit: Samurai Warrior: The Battles of Usagi Yojimbo debuted in 1987 for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. Expect more details next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego. [Facebook]

Conventions | Organizers of the Denver Comic Con anticipate that this weekend’s show was their second-largest ever. Batgirl writer Gail Simone praised the show, noting it sold out Friday and Saturday: “Sheesh, both Friday and Saturday completely sold out, the place was packed. There are tons of interesting guests, lots of great panels, and a real emphasis on diversity. The attendees have huge percentages of females, there’s more cosplayers here than any con this size I have been to, and very welcome indeed, there are lots and lots of kids.” [Denver Post]

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Comics A.M. | Ailing artist Oliver Nome’s call for help

Wonder Woman, by Oliver Nome

Creators | Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. [Blog@Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. [The Comichron]

Awards | The voting deadline for this year’s Eisner Awards is Monday. [Comic-Con International]

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Comics A.M. | Batman #1 fetches record $850,000 in private sale

Batman #1

Comics | A near-mint copy of 1940’s Batman #1, which marks the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman, sold this week for $850,000 — a record for that issue — in a private transaction arranged by Heritage Auctions. The seller purchased the comic just two years ago for $315,000. [CNN]

Publishing | Cory Casoni is leaving his position as director of marketing for Oni Press for a position with NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. as the head of marketing for ShiftyLook comics. Thomas Shimmin and Amber LaPraim, who joined Oni earlier this year, are taking joint positions as marketing coordinators. [press release]

Creators | Alison Bechdel discusses her family, her psyche, and the challenges of drawing a memoir that’s set in therapy sessions: “I watched all the episodes of “In Treatment” at one point, to see how they managed to make two people sitting in a room so very dramatic. And it was basically just good writing and good acting. So that gave me the hope that I could pull this story off without adding a car chase or an explosion. Though there is a kind of a car chase, now that I think of it, when a Sunbeam bread truck almost runs me off the road. My story also goes in and out of other texts — movies, psychoanalytic papers, children’s books — which creates some more overt visual excitement. And I use a dream to begin each chapter. I know you’re not supposed to write about your dreams, but the dreams have a dramatic sweep that everyday life doesn’t.” [The New York Times]

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Viz lowers the boom on scanlators

Just two weeks after Viz debuted Shonen Jump Alpha, its digital replacement for Shonen Jump, the publisher has forced a group of fan translators to stop posting chapters of a number of Viz series.

The scanlation group Mangastream posted the news on Saturday that Viz had forced it to stop releasing chapters of seven series, including the ultra-popular Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, which are included in Shonen Jump Alpha. They couldn’t resist a snort of derision:

They’ve succeeded in little more than invoking inconvenience to the community as their digital magazine missed the mark; it runs several issues behind and only features 3 of the above series. So long as their product continues to be slow, awkward and inferior to something a ragtag group of nobodies can churn out in a few hours – fans will continue to look to scanlation groups and aggregators for their weekly fix.

This is the first time that I can recall (someone will probably correct me on this if I’m wrong) that a publisher has gone after the scanlators themselves, rather than the sites that carry their work., once one of the top 1,000 sites on the whole internet, and most of the other “free manga” sites are aggregators who depend on a handful of speed scanlators to bring them the latest chapters of the most popular titles. While shutting down those sites has proved problematic, cutting off their source of material may be more effective than a cease-and-desist letter. On the other hand, it may not: one aggregator site lists 363 translators for Naruto alone.

One fan took their complaint right to the source, the Shonen Jump forum:

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