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Comics A.M. | Remembering ‘Wee Pals’ creator Morrie Turner

Robinson with Turner

Robinson with Turner

Passings | Bomb Queen and Five Weapons creator Jimmie Robinson writes a touching remembrance of pioneering cartoonist Morrie Turner, who passed away Saturday at age 90. Widely recognized as the first nationally syndicated African-American cartoonist, the Wee Pals creator frequently spoke at schools, and it was during one of those visits that he inspired a young Jimmie Robinson: “When he came to our class he spoke about his craft and showed us how he worked and what his job demanded. He spoke about his newspaper comic strip and how he had to write it every day. He spoke about the diverse cast of characters in his strip, but he never once spoke about the issue of his race. But for me he didn’t have to. The fact that he, a black artist, even existed, spoke volumes.” The New York Times also has an obituary for Turner. [Jimmie Robinson]

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‘Attack on Titan’ comes to life in terrifying Subaru TV ad

attack-on-titan-subaru

Hajime Isayama’s dystopian manga Attack on Titan is as unstoppable as its human-eating giants, selling 15.9  million copies last year in Japan alone — it was second only to One Piece — buoyed by the popularity of the television anime. It’s infiltrated the North American book market, too, placing five volumes in the Nielsen BookScan Top 20 for September. The are also Attack on Titan video games and a light novel, not to mention the live-action adaptation in development by director Shinji Higuchi.

If you’re curious how the grotesque Titans will translate to the big screen, Higuchi provides a sneak peek in this incredible TV commercial for the Subaru Forester, which has been has racked up more than 6.5 million views since its debut Friday on YouTube.

One of Japan’s top special effects supervisors, Higuchi is best known for his work on the Gamera trilogy. Attack on Titan is scheduled for release in 2015.

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‘The Simpsons’ pays tribute to Hayao Miyazaki

simpsons-anime

In addition to guest appearances by Stan Lee and Harlan Ellison, Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons will also feature a tribute to anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement from filmmaking in September, only to return his attention to manga.

The hallucinatory sequence, which you can watch below, features Homer and a salaryman stumbling through the streets after a night of drinking, and encounter a veritable parade of nods to Miyazaki’s classics, from Otto as Catbus to Patty and Selma flying on broomsticks to a moving Kwik-E-Mart.

In case you don’t recognize all of the references, Salon.com has put together a video that annotates most of them (also below).

The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

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Grumpy Old Fan | 10 from 2013, 10 for 2014

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Lead On, O Bat Eternal

Time once again to revisit some thoughts about the year just ended, and offer some thoughts on the year to come.

First, let’s see how I did with 2013:

1. Man of Steel. Last year I asked “a) how well will it do with critics and moviegoers; and b) yes, of course, will it help set up Justice League?” It got a 55 percent (i.e., Rotten) ranking from Rotten Tomatoes (although 76 percent of RT visitors who cared to vote said they liked it).  Financially, Box Office Mojo called it a “toss-up,” putting it in the same category as Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Wolverine, The Hangover Part III, Pacific Rim and, uh, The Smurfs 2. I liked it well enough — I seem to like a lot of things “well enough” — but perhaps Super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s musings about missed opportunities speak best to the film’s reception. MOS itself didn’t help set up a Justice League movie, at least not as expressly as, say, Nick Fury talking about the Avengers; but I think it’s safe to say that the sequel will go a long way in that regard.
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Guy Davis nominated for Annie Award for ‘Simpsons’ opening

simpsons-treehouse

Among the nominees announced earlier this week for the 41st annual Annie Awards is none other than Guy Davis, creator of The Marquis and longtime artist of B.P.R.D., for his contribution to the opening titles of The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror XXIV.” He shares the nod for Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production with director Guillermo del Toro and storyboard artist Ralph Sosa.

Davis, who provided the monster designs for del Toro’s Pacific Rim, has been described by the director as “one of the best monster designers alive right now!” Their collaborations go beyond those two projects, however: Davis is a concept artist for FX’s upcoming vampire thriller The Strain, based on the horror novels by del Toro and Chuck Hogan (the filmmaker co-wrote and directed the pilot, and serves as an executive producer), and on the long-discussed feature adaptation of Pinocchio.

The Simpsons couch gag, which you can watch below, is an epic homage to some of the director’s own works as well as horror classics, filled to the brim with references to Ray Harryhausen, Alfred Hitchcock, H.P. Lovecraft and more.

The winners of the Annie Awards, which recognize excellence in animation, will be announced Feb. 1.

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Hey, DC: Ellison has an unproduced Two-Face script for ‘Batman’

harlan ellison-brain moviesThis tidbit seems perfectly timed, considering both the success of DC Comics’ digital-first Batman ’66, and Tom Bondurant’s recent column about DC-inspired movies and television series that should make their way to comics: Author and screenwriter Harlan Ellison wrote a (fittingly) two-part Two-Face story for the classic Batman TV show that, alas, was never produced.

Neil Gaiman discovered that detail over the weekend — “WHY IS THIS NOT NEWS?” he tweeted — in the description for the fifth volume of Harlan Ellison’s Brain Movies, a series that collects his original teleplays.

The listing reads: “SEE ELLISON’S FIRST ADVENTURE WITH THE CAPED CRUSADER: Though Harlan’s written numerous comic book scripts for the Dark Knight, his first slide down the Bat-Pole was in 1966 when he pitched an episode to ABC’s Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Tragically—for reasons explained in the editor’s notes—’The Two-Way Crimes of Two-Face’ treatment was never produced, but now you can read what the Unrepentant Harlequin had in mind for the Dynamic Duo and their Bifurcated Foe.”

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Batkid battles the Joker on ‘Good Morning America’

batkid-gma

After rescuing San Francisco from the grip up of the Riddler and the Penguin, Batkid traveled this morning to New York City — “the real Gotham,” as Mayor Michael Bloomberg said — to take on the Joker and save rapper/producer Pitbull in a takedown arranged by Good Morning America.

Although the GMA hosts behaved as if they’re never interacted with children before, the segment was nice for the spotlight it shined on Miles Scott — the 5-year-old who has battled leukemia for three years — and the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Also, the morning show’s set was transformed into a pretty good facsimile of the Batcave from the ’60s Batman TV series, with the Batmobile parked outside.

“He’s in remission so this has kind of been like the after-party for him, a way to kick it off,” Miles’ father Nick said. “Chemo is all he’s ever known. That’s the life that he’s known but this is kind of a way to celebrate the ending.”

Watch the video below.

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Decaying ‘Walking Dead’ ads in Berlin target female viewers

germany-walking dead1

To help promote the fourth season of The Walking Dead, Fox Germany opted for an approach that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek — or, rather, finger in cheek.

Electronic billboards in select Berlin subway stations advertise what appears to be a makeup remover called “Good Night Cleansing Program,” and show a model demonstrating the product. But as pedestrians walk by, the image changes to reveal a zombie (below), accompanied by information about when and where to watch the hit comic-book adaptation.

The ad was created by German agency Saint Elmo’s, which was inspired by the realization that horror genre is as popular with women as it is with men.

As Creative Managing Director Dennis Pfisterer explained in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter, “We drastically countered the outdated cliche that all horror fans are male by using a cliched image in the style of a beauty product ad, so that we could appeal above all to female horror fans, alongside male fans, with this concept of a ‘makeup removal program for good TV nights.’”

The campaign, which debuted earlier this month, ends Monday, but Fox Germany indicates it could expand beyond Berlin to other major cities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

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Should ‘The Walking Dead’s’ zombie apocalypse be over by now?

The Walking Dead #16

A math-minded 4chan commenter has done a bit of number-crunching to arrive at an interesting theory: that The Walking Dead‘s zombie plague should’ve ended after a year, simply by biter attrition.

While the passage of time is difficult to discern in either the comic or the TV series, it would appear to be about two years since the outbreak began in the former, and a little less in the latter — more than enough time to dispatch the flesh-eating hordes. In theory, anyway.

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Steve Lieber stars in TV spot to promote Portland shopping

steve-lieber2

As is only fitting for a city so closely associated with comic creators, Travel Portland turned to Steve Lieber (Whiteout, Underground) to star in a television ad to promote Portland, Oregon’s tax-free holiday shopping. Better still, the 30-second spot features some of Lieber’s artwork.

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‘March’ sales spike after ‘Rachel Maddow Show’ segment

maddow-march

Last night, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show devoted a full 10-minute segment to March, its creators Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and to Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, the 1958 comic that helped to inspire the civil-rights movement.

While many authors, musicians and politicians have cited increased sales and profiles following their appearances on The Colbert Report — the frequently mentioned, by Stephen Colbert himself, “Colbert Bump” — March seems seems to be the beneficiary of the lesser-known  “Maddow Bump”: Following last night’s episode, the book rocketed to No. 12 on the Amazon Best Seller list, its peak position.

Maddow, an avowed comics fan, recently conducted a one-hour interview with Lewis about March at the Kentucky Author Forum. CBR spoke with the March team in June, and in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

As we reported earlier this week, publisher Top Shelf Productions has partnered with Fellowship of Reconciliation to offer Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in a digital bundle with March. Watch the Maddow segment below.

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Vertigo debuts ‘The Sandman: Overture’ television spot

sandman-overture-tv-spot

Vertigo has debuted the television commercial for The Sandman: Overture, the new miniseries by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III.  The DC Comics imprint is billing the comic as “the first new Sandman story in 17 years,” which seems to overlook the 2003 graphic novel The Sandman: Endless Nights.

There’s no word yet as to where the ad will air, but last year’s Before Watchmen campaign was in heavy rotation on IFC, BBC America and (the now-defunct) G4.

The Sandman: Overture #1 was released Oct. 30.

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Blockbuster to close remaining 300 U.S. stores

blockbusterBlockbuster, a video-rental chain that at its peak in 2004 had more than 9,000 stores and as many as 60,000 employees, will close its remaining 300 U.S. locations by the first of the year.

Owner Dish Network, which bought the already-struggling company in a 2011 bankruptcy auction announced this morning it will also end the Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December and shutter its distribution centers. According to Reuters, 2,800 employees will lose their jobs.

As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?

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Neil Gaiman writes ‘Doctor Who’ e-book for 50th anniversary

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith on the set of "Doctor Who"

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith on the set of “Doctor Who”

Neil Gaiman has written the final short story in a series of e-books released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, each centering on one of the Time Lord’s 11 incarnations. Titled “Nothing O’Clock,” it stars the Eleventh Doctor (as played by Matt Smith) and Amy Pond.

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‘The Simpsons’ pays moving tribute to Marcia Wallace

simpsons-chalkboard-krabappel

Although the tribute didn’t go exactly as planned, The Simpsons last night bid a touchingly appropriate farewell to actress Marcia Wallace, and her character Edna Krabappel, with a somber chalkboard gag in which a sad-eyed Bart writes “We’ll really miss you Mrs. K.”

Fox originally announced it would send off Wallace, who passed away Oct. 25 at age 70, with a 7:30 showing of “Bart the Lover,” the 1992 episode for which the actress received an Emmy Award. However, “technical issues” led to its last-minute replacement by “The Ned-Liest Catch,” the Season 22 finale in which Edna begins dating Ned Flanders.

The chalkboard bit was added to the opening of the new episode that followed, “4 Regrettings and a Funeral. Showrunner Al Jean announced the day after Wallace’s death that The Simpsons will “retire” Edna Krabappel.

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