Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Passings | MAD Magazine writer Tom Koch passed away March 22 at age 89. He was a writer for the Bob and Ray radio comedy show in 1957, when MAD was trying to broaden its reach by featuring work by popular comedians. Koch adapted some routines he had written, and editor Al Feldstein realized his work was a good fit and asked him to to become a contribute. He wrote for the magazine for nearly four decades, contributing more than 300 pages, but he said he was proudest of a 1965 work, “43-man Squamish.” It’s still the magazine’s most requested reprint. [News from ME, MAD Magazine]
Crime | Two cosplayers on their way to G-Anime were arrested Friday in Gatineau, Quebec, and their fake weapons were confiscated. The two men, who were wearing camouflage and carrying what appeared to be guns, were spotted in a parking lot near a number of government buildings (the Canadian Parliament was attacked by a lone gunman in October). Someone called the police, and they dispatched about a dozen officers who cordoned off the area and searched for the men. The cosplayers, who were both 18, were taken into custody and fined $270 for violating a municipal bylaw that prohibits carrying certain weapons in public or in a vehicle, although the law seems to be aimed at knives, bows and arrows, and swords, not guns. Their car was impounded, and their weapons are being held as evidence. G-Anime organizers posted a notice Friday asking attendees wearing camouflage or carrying replica weapons to wait until they arrive a the convention to change into costumes. [Ottawa Sun]
Bill Watterson’s original artwork from his surprise guest stint in June on Pearls Before Swine sold at auction Friday for a combined $74,040, with the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
According to The Associated Press, Heritage Auctions sold the three comic strips to three collectors, who wished to remain anonymous. The Dallas auction house had expected the pieces to bring in more than $30,000 combined (the June 5 strip alone went for $35,840).
The three original comic strips from Bill Watterson’s surprise guest stint last month on Pearls Before Swine will be displayed this week at Comic-Con International before they’re sold at auction Aug. 8, with proceeds benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
The collaboration, which came at the suggestion of the Calvin and Hobbes creator, marked Watterson’s return to the comics page after a 19-year absence. Pastis teased readers that the week’s storyline would “contain a mind-blowing surprise,” but didn’t reveal what it was. Nevertheless, some fans quickly uncovered clues that some of the strips were ghost-drawn by Watterson.
Comic strips | The art from cartoonist Bill Watterson’s surprise return to the comics page earlier this month for a three-day stint on Pearls Before Swine will be auctioned Aug. 8 on behalf of Team Cul de Sac, the charity founded by Chris Sparks to honor Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson, who has Parkinson’s disease. The proceeds benefiting The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. A painting by Watterson of one of Thompson’s characters sold in 2012 for $13,000 as part of a benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac. [Team Cul de Sac]
Creators | The tech news site Pando has fired cartoonist Ted Rall, just a month after hiring him, along with journalist David Sirota. While Rall wouldn’t comment on the reason for his dismissal, he did say the news came “really truly out of a clear blue sky. I literally never got anything but A++ reviews,” and he added that editor Paul Carr gave him complete editorial freedom. While Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku speculates that the two had rubbed investors the wrong way, Carr disputes that, as well as other assertions in the article. Nonetheless, both Rall and Sirota confirmed they were let go. [Valleywag]
Saturday, aka Day 2, of HeroesCon was much busier for creators, so I didn’t always get the opportunity to chat with them that I did on the first day of the Charlotte, North Carolina, convention. In those instances, in place of project updates I provide links to the creators and/or their related works.
Creators | Stan Lee arrived at Sydney Airport for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo and was immediately presented with a “Captain Australia” shield, colored gold and green rather than red and blue. The Supanova Pop Culture Expo kicked off today, and continues through Sunday. [The Daily Telegraph]
Comics | Hussain Al-Shiblawi says he doesn’t usually mind the pamphlets he regularly receives from the local Bible Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia; even though he’s Muslim, he finds them inspirational. But he takes strong exception to the latest one, a Jack Chick tract titled Unforgiven, which claims that all Muslims are going to hell. The pastor, who declined to go on camera, says his church doesn’t create the pamphlets, it just distributes them, but he’s willing to meet with Al-Shiblawi to discuss the comic. [WDBJ News]
To answer a question that many people have been speculating on: Yes, Bill Watterson did contribute to Pearls Before Swine this week.
The creator of the comic strip, Stephan Pastis, confirmed on his blog what many people have been speculating — the Calvin & Hobbes creator did indeed return to the comic strip page and teamed with Pastis on three strips this week.
Comparing the experience to searching for Bigfoot, Pastis describes how the collaboration came about. It started with a comic strip tribute to Watterson (see above) and Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis, who worked with Watterson on The Art of Richard Thompson, giving Pastis Watterson’s email address. Pastis didn’t think he’d get a response.
On Monday, cartoonist Stephan Pastis kicked off a new Pearls Before Swine arc by teasing that this week’s strips “will contain a mind-blowing surprise.” That tantalizing tweet, coupled with artwork in a decidedly different style and a couple of potential dialogues, led some readers to speculate that parts of the storyline are drawn by none other than Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.
At The Daily Cartoonist, Alan Gardner lays out some of the evidence, both for and against, and rounds up some of the Twitter chatter on the subject. He acknowledges, “I’m not fully convinced that it is Bill.”
The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
Washington Post readers looking forward to a new installment of Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine in Sunday’s newspaper instead found a rerun after editors pulled the latest strip over objections to the use of the word “midget.”
In the strip, which did appear on the Post’s website, Goat and Rat are discussing how the acceptability of some terms changes over time, with “flight attendant” replacing “stewardess,” “housekeeper” succeeding “maid” and, yes, “little person” becoming preferable to “midget.” It’s a setup for the duo’s meeting with Willy the Word Decider, who’s tasked with determining which terms are acceptable.
Legal | The creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 says he hasn’t been officially notified of a reported ban of the animated adaptation of his comic in Saudi Arabia. “Nobody ever contacted me, nobody ever asked me any questions,” Naif Al Mutawa says. There have been numerous Twitter campaigns against me for a while now and so for me it’s not new. Maybe it is true this time, but I find it very difficult to believe that a group as influential and high profile as them [Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta] wouldn’t recognize the good that The 99 has done for Muslims around the world.” He adds that the comic has been available in Saudi Arabia for seven years, while the cartoon has been airing for two and a half years, making the timing of a ban “a bit weird.” [Gulf Business]
Awards | Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange) and Mark Tatulli (Heart of the City, Lio) has been nominated for the 2013 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. The winner will be announced May 24 during the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards dinner in San Diego. [National Cartoonists Society]
Political cartoons | Cartoonist Majida Shaheen refused an interview recently, saying she continues to feel “threats and pressure” over a cartoon she posted on her Facebook page depicting he military wing of Islamic Jihad as a dog. However, Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab says his organization isn’t behind them. “No one attacked her officially from the part of the movement. I followed up on the comments on Facebook, and these comments do not express our point of view. We consider her to be merely an unknown artist seeking fame,” he said, adding, “Every person has the right to express their convictions. Yet, we were upset with the indecent approach, which is not part of freedom of expression.” [Al Monitor]
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
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]