Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.
Awards | Brian Crane (Pickles), Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) have been nominated for the 2012 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented by the National Cartoonists Society. [National Cartoonists Society]
Awards | Nominations are being sought for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, which will be presented July 19 at Comic-Con International during the Eisner Awards ceremony. The deadline is April 5. [Comic-Con International]
Legal | EC Comics writer and editor Al Feldstein and the estate of Mad editor and artist Harvey Kurtzman have taken steps to reclaim the copyright to their early work under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (the same provision invoked by the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster). Feldstein has already reached an agreement with the William M. Gaines Agency, which holds the rights to Tales from the Crypt and other classic EC comics of the 1950s; the deal will bring him a small amount of money and the freedom to use the art any way he wants in his autobiography. Kurtzman’s people are in the early stages of negotiations with Warner Bros./DC Comics, which holds the rights to Mad magazine. [The Comics Journal]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels list for October makes for strange bedfellows, with The Walking Dead Compendium Two at No. 1, Chris Ware’s Building Stories at No. 2, and the third volume of Gene Yang’s Avatar: The Last Airbender at No. 3. It’s an interestingly mixed list, with the usual sprinkling of manga (Sailor Moon, Naruto, Bleach), a volume of Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine compilations, and four more volumes of The Walking Dead. And bringing up the rear, at #20, the perennial Watchmen. [ICv2]
Conventions | John Giuffo does a compare-and-contrast between Comic-Con International and New York Comic Con. While San Diego has more Hollywood presence, NYCC has grown with stunning rapidity — it’s hard to believe that first event had just 25,000 people and shared the Javits Center with a travel convention; this year attendance was 116,000, gaining hard on San Diego’s 125,000. One key difference is that CCI spills out of the San Diego Convention Center into the surrounding neighborhood, which has restaurants and bars and parks, while the area around the Javits is pretty barren, limiting opportunities for parties or even a decent lunch, let alone the sort of outside activities that have sprung up in San Diego. [Forbes]
Legal | A Missouri man has pleaded guilty to federal obscenity charges stemming from comics depicting minors having sex with adults and other minors. The prosecutor has asked that he be sentenced to three years in federal prison without parole. [Anime News Network]
“When I started, if you got syndicated, you were basically set — you’d make a good living, and you wouldn’t have to worry much else. In the 11 years since then, that door has basically closed. There is no new great syndicated strip, and there probably won’t be. Literally, there are no new launches. Now, to make it, you have to go that web route. Many of those guys, from Penny Arcade to Cyanide and Happiness to The Perry Bible Fellowship — which are all excellent — claim to make a living, but how do you know? I can tell you that even if someone does a strip and it’s fairly popular online, the money is not online. I question a lot of claims about the money being made, and the question remains that if things continue to go that route for newspapers, and you have to make money online, how do you do it?”
– award-winning cartoonist Stephan Pastis, on how the market for comic strips has changed since Pearls Before Swine received wide syndication in 2002
Graphic novels | The seventh volume of Sailor Moon was the top-selling graphic novel in bookstores in September, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto,Vol. 58, an Avengers character guide, the third volume of Batman: Knightfall, and vol. 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise. ICv2 notes that, the Avengers book aside (and it is published by DK Publishing), Marvel is completely absent from the top ten, although DC makes a strong showing. [ICv2]
Creators | Hope Larson, who adapted Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time into graphic novel form, chats with Margaret Ferguson, her editor on the project. [Publishers Weekly]
Richard Thompson is taking a couple of weeks off from his daily strip Cul de Sac to do some physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and he has not one but six guest artists filling in while he’s way. Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!) Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Corey Pandolph (The Elderberries) and Ken Fisher (Tom the Dancing Bug) will all be taking their turns on the daily and Sunday strips over the next five weeks. What’s that going to be like?
“I let them have free rein to re-create ‘Cul de Sac’ as they saw fit,” Thompson tells ‘Riffs, “hoping only that no one introduced anything too bizarre, like an angry talking Rat, or a Pigeon with some kind of bus-mania.”
Yeah, right. Good luck with that. Willems, Pastis, Peirce, Jantze, and Fisher were all contributors to the Team Cul de Sac art book, which is being sold to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The invasion of guest cartoonists begins on Feb. 20.
Legal | A judge refused to dismiss DC Comics’ lawsuit against Gotham Garage, a manufacturer of custom-made Batmobiles, ruling that the design of Batman’s vehicle is indeed copyrightable. DC sued the California company in May for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming Gotham Garage is confusing the public into thinking the cars are authorized products. The manufacturer asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Gotham Garage “ignores the exception to the ‘useful article’ rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Legal | Nancy Hass provides a broad overview of the legal battle at Archie Comics that pits Co-CEOs Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit against each other for control of the 73-year-old company. Silberkleit, who spoke briefly to Hass before a New York judge issued a temporary restraining order last month, called claims that she’s threatened and harassed the publisher’s employees and vendors “completely untrue.” [The Daily Beast]
The world of comics is filled with tortured souls, but Bil Keane was not one of them.
The creator of The Family Circus passed away Tuesday at the age of 89, after what was by all accounts a wonderful life. Keane started drawing The Family Circus in 1960, and it is still going strong today — his son Jeff took over in recent years — and his 60-year marriage to Thelma Keane, the model for the mother in the cartoon, was a love match. Keane served as the president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1981 to 1983 and emceed its awards banquet for 16 years. Even before he died, his fellow cartoonists unfailingly described him as the nicest of nice guys, and startlingly funny. His niceness, apparently, had a bit of an edge.
Keane took The Family Circus seriously, seeing his mission as providing “good, wholesome, family entertainment,” a sort of cartoon comfort food for readers whose real-life families may not have been quite as warm as his fictional clan. In fact, one of the most touching tributes to his work came from Lynda Barry:
I was a kid growing up in a troubled household. We didn’t have books in the house, but we did have the daily paper, and I remember picking out ”Family Circus” before I could really read. There was something about looking through a circle at a life that looked pretty good to me.
For kids like me, there was a map and a compass that was hidden [in] “Family Circus.” The parents in that comic strip really loved their children. He put that image in my head and it stayed with me.
Comics | David Brothers argues that the problem with Miles Morales is that he is being defined as “the black Spider-Man” rather than simply “Spider-Man”: “Miles Morales is notable for being the first black Spider-Man, particularly in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, but it isn’t his blackness that makes him special. It’s the fact that he’s not Peter Parker. The fact that he’s half-black, half-Puerto Rican, (and how cool would it be if his dad was a dark skinned Puerto Rican and his mom was light skinned black?!), that it looks like he’s taking part in a lottery to get into a good school in the preview images, and that he’s thirteen years old is just sauce. It’s not the meal. It’s part of the meal, sure, but you do yourself and the character (or rather, the concept, what the character represents, or something, because we do not respect characters ’round these parts) a disservice by boiling him down to “black Spider-Man.” He’s so much more than that, judging by the press run Marvel just went on, that breaking him down to being the black Spider-Man is… it’s garbage, it’s lazy, it’s stupid.” [4thletter!]
Retailing | A judge on Friday approved a proposal to pay Borders Group executives up to $6.6 million in bonuses as the bookseller reorganizes under federal bankruptcy protection. The company had originally requested $8.3 million — that figure met with objections from the U.S. bankruptcy trustee — in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. Since Borders filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 16, 47 executives and director-level employees have left, leaving only 15 people in senior management positions.
The approved plan comes with conditions, tying some bonuses to the company’s ability to pay creditors and save $10 million over the next two years in leases on the remaining stores or in non-personnel cost reductions. [Businessweek, AnnArbor.com]
Publishing | Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson talks more about the publisher’s recent layoffs, saying that some reports of the cutbacks were overblown: “We have 150 employees. We let seven people go across three different divisions. What is that 4%, 5%? Our staff was just getting too large. The real reason for the layoffs is that we get worried about the cost of doing business. We’re sitting there looking at the rising health insurance costs, the changes in the cost of doing business. We thought we were going to get some relief in the form of cover prices moving to $3.99, but I guess the market’s made a really strong statement on that price. Meanwhile we’re getting squeezed on paper and printing costs at the same time — and creators certainly don’t want to take any less money.” [ICv2.com]
Comic-Con | Registration opened this morning at 6 PST for Comic-Con International following technical problems on Nov. 1 that forced organizers to shut down sales after only a handful of badges were purchased. Registration is for daily passes and four-day memberships without Preview Night. Those with the Wednesday preview sold out on the final day of this year’s convention (more could be released later, depending on returns and cancellations). Prices have increased slightly, from $100 to $105 for four-day memberships and from $35 to $37 for single-day passes ($20 for Sunday). Comic-Con International will be held July 20-24 in San Diego. [Comic-Con International]
Legal | Sankaku Complex wades into Tokyo’s resurrected “anti-loli” legislation, and finds the revised bill has been expanded to target manga, anime and video games that “‘improperly glorify or emphasise’ illegal sexual acts, such as rape, groping, BDSM, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc., by extension including underage sexual activity as well.” The previous version focused on the depictions of “fictional youths,” a controversial term that’s been dropped from the legislation. [Sankaku Complex]
Over the past few months, I’ve been introducing my son to the wonder of Calvin and Hobbes, the nationally syndicated comic strip that ran from 1985 to 1995. So creator Bill Watterson was already on my mind, when I gained access to a preview of Nevin Martell’s Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. The book aims to trace “the life and career of the extraordinary, influential, and intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes”. In this new email interview, Martell and I get a chance to discuss the ground he covers in the book and the folks he got to interview in his pursuit.
Tim O’Shea: You did some advanced marketing of the book a few months back by releasing the first chapter of the book for free upon request. Did you find that helped generate buzz for the project?
Nevin Martell: The free chapter giveaway turned into an insane bonanza of buzz, which, frankly, I was totally unprepared for. My publishers told me that super successful versions of this kind of promotion in the past had garnered a couple of hundred requests. But then the offer got written up by BoingBoing and NPR, not to mention a slew of comic-related blogs and the Twittersphere, so suddenly I had hundreds of requests pouring in. Since I was initially answering all these requests individually, it turned into three days of hitting reply, attaching a file, writing a quick note, and then repeating. Ultimately over 4,000 people requested the chapter, which just blew my mind. Actually, my mind is still blown.