Small Press Expo
Awards | Art Spiegelman on Sunday won the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, marking only the third time an American has received the honor (the other two were Will Eisner and Robert Crumb). “Considering my poor skills, I’m looking a little like the president Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” he told the festival by telephone from the United States. Spiegelman will serve as the grand marshal for next year’s event.
Other winners at the four-day festival, which drew an estimated 200,000 visitors, include David Mazzuchelli for Asterios Polyp (Grand Jury Prize), and Naoki Urasawa and the late Osamu Tezuka for Pluto (Intergenerational Award). The full list of winners can be found here. [Agence France-Presse]
Retailing | The beleaguered Borders Group announced on Sunday that it’s delaying January payments to vendors and landlords in an effort to save cash while it tries to complete a debt restructuring. This marks the second round of delays for the bookseller, which has been pressuring large publishers and distributors to agree by Feb. 1 to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. The bookstore chain announced just last week that it secured a $550 million credit line from G.E. Capital, but only if several tough conditions were met — including an unlikely agreement from publishers. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]
Digital comics | Hewlett Packard’s newly announced TouchSmart 310 — it’s an all-in-one touchscreen desktop PC with a starting price of $699.99 — will give users access to more than 8,000 Marvel comics, thanks to a deal between HP and Disney: “TouchSmart users will now be able to buy and download special versions of classic comics, and then literally thumb through them with on-screen controls. More than 8,000 Marvel titles are available, which HP says is the most extensive digital collection ever offered from any content partner.” [PCMag.com, TG Daily]
UPDATE: Marvel has issued a clarification, as well as an official press release: “HP TouchSmart Apps Center will offer streaming access to over 8,000 digital comics from Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. None of these digital comics will be downloadable.”
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s ruling that a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minor is unconstitutional. [press release, Game Rant]
Publishing | Chart-watcher John Jackson Miller wades into the grim direct-market sales figures for August, and notes that they mirror the state of the market in 2000: “Like 2010, 2000 was a year with a successful super-hero movie release — the first X-Men film. In that year, however, it had little impact on the market partially due to the cash-poor position of retailers at the time — and we might expect retailers were in the same position this year. [...] In 2000, by contrast, the reason wasn’t the general economy, but rather the seven-year industry recession that preceded it. Another similar element: price increases. From 1999 to 2000, Marvel went from benchmarks of $1.99 and $2.50 to $2.50 and $2.99. Other titles increased as well; $2.95 first became the industry’s median price in late 1999. The 2000 jumps are one of the more drastic previous increases by percentage — eclipsed, of course, by the current $2.99-to-$3.99 move.” [The Comichron]
Legal | India’s Delhi High Court has refused to hear a complaint by Archie Comics challenging the use of the name “Archies” by Mumbai-based Purple Creations. The court said it had no jurisdiction in the matter because Archie doesn’t have an office in India. [Deccan Herald]
Named for the character in George Herriman’s classic comic strip Krazy Kat, the Ignatz Awards are a festival prize recognizing outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning. SPX attendees vote on nominees selected by a panel of five cartoonists (this year the jury members were Anders Nilsen, David Kelly, Rob G, Joshua Cotter and Trevor Alixopulos).
The winners of the 2010 Ignatz Awards are:
Sales charts | Although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World performed poorly at the box office, it continues to boost sales of the Bryan Lee O’Malley series on which it’s based. The six volumes claimed the top six spots on BookScan’s list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in August, followed at No. 7 by the latest volume of The Walking Dead, whose television adaptation debuts on Halloween on AMC. [ICv2.com]
Legal | The owners of BATS BBQ in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are digging in for a legal battle after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from DC Comics, which objects to their attempts to trademark the restaurant’s logo. [The Herald]
The Small Press Expo, or SPX, has announced programming for their show on Saturday, Sept. 11-12 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Bethesda, Md.
You can find the complete schedule after the jump, but I wanted to point out two panels that feature our own Chris Mautner:
Spotlight: James Sturm
1:30 | White Flint Amphitheater
James Sturm is the author of several comics and graphic novels including The Golem’s Mighty Swing, Unstable Molecules, James Sturm’s America, and Market Day. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies, a unique two-year degree granting institution dedicated to cartooning. In this spotlight presentation, Sturm will discuss his work and answer questions from moderator Chris Mautner.
Critics’ Panel: How We Judge
3:00 | Brookside Conference Room
The accessibility of online publishing alongside traditional media has enabled a diversity of critical voices who are addressing the broad spectrum of comics being published today. A diverse group of critics will discuss the disparate bases for their own critical opinions, and the extent to which they regard different kinds of work in different ways. Join moderator Bill Kartalopoulos for a discussion with Johanna Draper Carlson (Comics Worth Reading), Gary Groth (The Comics Journal), Tim Hodler (Comics Comics), Chris Mautner (Robot 6), Joe McCulloch (Jog the Blog/Comics Comics), Ken Parille (Blog Flume), and Caroline Small (The Hooded Utilitarian).
I love the Small Press Expo. My five-plus-hour drive down to its Bethesda location from Long Island guarantees me an annual 36-hour immersion in the lifeblood of alternative comics, and there’s nothing about it I like better than getting back to the hotel room or my library at home and spreading out all the new comics I dredged up from the depths. Here’s a look at what I picked up this year.
Retailing | Could Disney’s planned $4-billion purchase of Marvel signal the return comic books to the mass market? “I see the Marvel acquisition by Disney helping to expand the genre of comic books and remove it from the dusty basement of the world,” says direct-market retailer Creswell. “I do see Disney stepping in and offering retailers outside of the direct comic book market incentives for selling Marvel products,” Creswell said. [Reuters]
Publishing | Long-struggling e-book site Wowio reportedly has informed publishers that payments for the second quarter of 2008 will be made by Nov. 15. Wowio, which was purchased last year by Platinum Studios, was sold in July to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | The inaugural Long Beach Comic Con kicks off today at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. Guests include Berkeley Breathed, Stan Lee, Tim Bradstreet, J. Scott Campbell, Amanda Conner, Geoff Johns, Dave Johnson, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Scott Lobdell, Dustin Nguyen, Darick Robertson and Mark Waid. The Long Beach Post and Gazettes Town-News have previews. [Long Beach Comic Con]
Events | 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Saturday at locations around the world. [24-Hour Comics Day]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald posts her Small Press Expo round-up/wrap-up/photo parade. [The Beat]
Business | Propelled by Disney’s planned $4-billion purchase of the company, Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter debuts at No. 230 on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the 400 richest Americans. The 67-year-old Perlmutter has an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion. [New York Post]
Creators | Several sources report that cartoonist Rusty Haller passed away this week of as-yet-unknown causes. He was 45. Haller, who began his comics career in the mid-1980s, is perhaps best known for his work in the early ’90s on Marvel’s licensed ALF and Count Duckula titles and, later, on Archie Comics’ The Flintstones. He also created Ace and Queenie, an anthropomorphic spy/romance series that appeared in the Radio Comix anthology Furrlough. [The Beat]
Publishing | Deb Aoki rounds up the license-acquisition announcements from last weekend’s New York Anime Festival. If Library War is half as awesome as it sounds — a fearless squad of librarians fight censorship! — I can’t wait to read it. [About.com]
Conventions | Now on to the Small Press Expo, and convention recaps from David Welsh, Alert Nerd and Samuel Rules. Johanna Draper Carlson reports on the Critics’ Roundtable panel, while Sean T. Collins provides the audio. [SPX]
Publishing | Arthur de Wolf comments on the debut this week of Mickey Mouse & Friends under the BOOM! Kids banner, noting that the 10-part “Wizards of Mickey” story was told in weekly installments in Italy. In the United States, it will be published monthly: “When Gladstone and Gemstone printed long Don Rosa stories in their original three parts (meant for the European weeklies), readers complained about the stories being spread out over three months. It’ll be interesting to see if readers will have the patience to follow Mickey’s wizardry adventures for nearly a year before its conclusion.” [Disney Comics Worldwide]
Creators | Using the copyright-reclamation bid by Jack Kirby’s children as a news hook, Geoff Boucher takes a look at the artist’s legacy, his creative partnership with Stan Lee, and his bitter feud with Marvel. “A lot more people know the name Stan Lee than the name Jack Kirby,” says daughter Lisa Kirby. “I’m not putting down Stan Lee’s talents but it’s difficult for us to see that he does dominate the credit. That doesn’t reflect the work or the reality. To see Jack Kirby in small letters and Stan Lee in big letters, that’s hard for us.” [Los Angeles Times]
Publishing | Jim Shelley considers what effect the recession may be having on the illegal downloading of comic books. He finds there are more downloads, but they’ve become more difficult to track. [Flashback Universe, via Kleefeld on Comics]
The winners of the Ignatz Awards were announced yesterday during a ceremony at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland.
Named in honor of the brick-wielding mouse in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strip, the awards recognize achievement in comics and cartooning. Nominees are selected by a panel of five cartoonists and then voted on by SPX attendees.
The winners of the 2009 Ignatz Awards are:
Outstanding Artist: Nate Powell, Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf)
Outstanding Anthology or Collection: Kramer’s Ergot #7, edited by Sammy Harkham (Buenaventura)
Outstanding Graphic Novel: Acme Novelty Library #19, Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)
Outstanding Story: “Willy,” Papercutter #10, Damien Jay (Tugboat)
Promising New Talent: Colleen Frakes, Woman King (self-published)
Outstanding Series: Uptight, Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics)
Outstanding Comic: Uptight #3, Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics)
Outstanding Mini-Comic: Stay Away From Other People, Lisa Hanawalt
Outstanding Online Comic: Year of the Rat, Cayetano Garza
Congratulations to all of the winners. The complete list of nominees can be found here.
Legal | Yaoi Press Publisher Yamila Abraham was arrested Monday in Las Vegas on federal fraud charges related to online sales of an “herbal” alternative to recreational street drugs. Authorities claim the product contained no herbal supplements and was actually composed of dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM), the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough suppressants. The charges date from 2005 and 2006, when Abraham operated the mail-order website Pleasureherbs.com.
If convicted, Abraham, 34, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the seven counts of mail fraud, up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of misbranding a drug, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of introducing goods in domestic commerce by means of false statement. She also could be forced to forfeit property from the proceeds of the crime up to $186,680 and any equipment used to make the drugs.
On the Yaoi Press blog, Abraham asked for everyone to “please keep a cool head, and have faith. This situation is not going to end Yaoi Press. Don’t believe the hype.” She stressed that she will continue to appear at conventions, including this weekend’s OtakuMex in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [Las Vegas Sun]
The programming schedule for this year’s Small Press Expo is up on their website, which includes spotlight panels on Gahan Wilson, Peter Kuper, Jeffrey Brown, John Porcellino and more, as well as a critics round table that features our own Chris Mautner and recent guest blogger Sean T. Collins, among many others:
A murderers’ row of comics critics will address general issues facing comics criticism today and will candidly discuss several new and recent works in a lively, no-holds-barred, roundtable conversation. Rob Clough, Sean Collins, Gary Groth, Chris Mautner, Joe McCulloch, Tucker Stone and Douglas Wolk will share their acute critical insights with moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.
Overall it sounds like a great line-up, so check it out if you’re able. SPX will be held Sept. 26-27 in Bethesda, Maryland.