Conventions | Stan Lee has canceled his appearance at Denver Comic Con, held May 31-June 2, citing a conflict with filming for a cameo in a Marvel movie. William Shatner has stepped in to take his place. Nonetheless, a reporter snagged a pre-convention interview with Lee, in which he talks about what makes a convention great and how comics help kids learn to read, and counters a common criticism: “Some people will say, ‘Why read a comic book? It stifles the imagination. If you read a novel you imagine what people are like. If you read a comic, it’s showing you.’ The only answer I can give is, ‘You can read a Shakespeare play, but does that mean you wouldn’t want to see it on the stage?’” [The Denver Post]
Charities | Matthew Price rounds up efforts by the comics community to help those in Oklahoma devastated by the tornadoes. [NewsOK.com]
Conventions | The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival has come to an end, after establishing itself in just four short years as one of the most loved indie-comics events. A message posted on the event’s blog under the headline “Thank You and Good Night” reads simply, “We have decided not to continue with BCGF. We had a great run and thank all of our colleagues for their support.” [The Beat]
Creators | Garry Trudeau talks about Doonesbury, supporting wounded warriors, and his Alpha House show in a video interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Creators | Michael Aushenker profiles Rutu Modan, whose The Property, a tale of a Jewish woman returning to Poland to reclaim an apartment lost during the Holocaust, debuted at Toronto Comic Arts Festival: “When I go to vote, I have to decide who is bad and who is a good guy, but when I write I can support the Poles and the Jews. I’m much more interested in the gray areas. They’re more closer to reality.” [The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles]
Conventions | The University of Calgary’s student newspaper looks at the rapid growth of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, and the problems that go with it: Last year, ticket holders had to be turned away because the event was over capacity. “Last year it was really a shame that people had so much trouble,” says Lyndsay Peters, owner of Dragon Chow Dice Bags. “We saw a lot of frustrated customers and we talked to a lot of frustrated people. I know there are some people who won’t be coming back this year. But everything we have been told as vendors and everything that has been communicated to us shows that they are taking it very seriously this year.” This year’s convention will be held April 26-28. [The Gauntlet]
Awards | The jury has been announced for the Doug Wright Awards. [Doug Wright Awards Blog]
Digital comics | Today, Viz Media marks the first anniversary of the launch of its digital magazine by changing its name from Shonen Jump Alpha to Weekly Shonen Jump (the same as its Japanese counterpart) and going to simultaneous release of most series with Japan as well. Editor-in-Chief Andy Nakatani talks about the changes as well and looks back at how the magazine has done in the year since it changed from a print monthly to a digital weekly. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The U.K. children’s comic The Phoenix just became available internationally with its release as an iOS app, and I interviewed Russell Willis of Panel Nine, which created the app, about the challenges involved. Panel Nine has also published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John comics, David Lloyd’s Kickback, and the works of underground cartoonist Hunt Emerson as standalone apps, and Willis has big plans for more digital indy comics in the future. [Good E-Reader]
This is the first year to start without The Dandy on the shelves of U.K. newsagents since 1937, making it strange times indeed for the kids’ comics market in the British Isles. For most industry-watchers over here, as the decades passed, comics came and went, and all were vulnerable to the specter of sudden cancellation, with little certainty in the field other than there would always be The Beano and The Dandy. Waking up to a world without one or the other in it was once as unthinkable as a night sky without the moon.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.
To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
I love this: Neill Cameron is a great proselytizer for comics, regularly holding workshops for kids at any venue that will have him — schools, libraries, conventions, book fairs, shops, anywhere you can swing a Sharpie at a whiteboard. He’s also a regular contributor to the U.K.’s best kids comic, The Phoenix, and is using his blog to promote its new competition challenging children to create their own comics.
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]
Comics | The editor-in-chief of the Boston Phoenix denies accusations that the alternative weekly canceled Karl Stevens‘ satirical comic Failure because advertiser Anheuser-Busch was offended by last week’s strip, which referred to Bud Light as “diluted horse piss.” Stevens, whose comic has appeared on ThePhoenix.com since 2009, claims he was told by the art director that Failure was being canceled specifically because of the Bud Light jab. “Apparently I offended Bud Light, and cannot be trusted,” Steven told Publishers Weekly. However, Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli called the accusation “categorically false,” insisting Failure was canceled because it no longer fit The Phoenix, which has changed from a weekly newspaper to a weekly magazine. “It is categorically false that Karl’s strip was discontinued due to any outside objections. As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue Failure,” Carioli told The Boston Globe. “There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.” [Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe]
The U.K. comics scene continues its angst-ridden inner debate following news that The Dandy will cease print publication in December. For the living legend John Wagner, it’s a matter of regret close to shame that a comics institution of nearly 75 years will end on our watch. Others see the debate as hand-wringing — “pious sackcloth-and-ashes nonsense” to quote one U.K. comics writer on Facebook — that, between technological advances and the Darwinism of the newsstand, the kids have spoken: Comics are no longer the chosen literature of children, so move on. Publisher DC Thomson certainly seem to have — The Dandy‘s website now makes no mention of the print comic at all, linking purely to the Apple App store.
For some creators, the debate is more about spotting a widening hole in the market, and developing a product to fill that niche. So far, the following cartoonists have waded in on this theme:
First, a heads-up on the British Invasion of Toronto: This weekend, Toronto Comics Art Festival will host a number of creators from the United Kingdom, including Sean Azzopardi (Necessary Monsters), Darryl Cunningham (Psychiatric Tales), Joe Decie (Accidental Salad), Tom Gauld (Goliath), Lizz Lunney (Depressed Cat: Nine Miserable Lives) and Luke Pearson (Hilda and the Midnight Giant). Publishers Blank Slate, Nobrow Press and SelfMadeHero will also be in attendance. I ran into some other British creators at MoCCA this weekend; you’ll be hearing about that shortly.
Comics | Gary Northfield shows off some of the art from his comic Gary’s Garden, which runs in the weekly children’s comic The Phoenix:
Part autobiography, part made-up nonsense (well, mainly completely made-up nonsense to be fair), Gary’s Garden delves into my favourite thing ever – me spying on the comings and goings of all the little dudes and dudettes who dwell in my garden.
This makes me wish more fervently than ever that The Phoenix would get an app or somehow make itself available outside the UK, digitally or on paper. Adding to my pain: Jim Medway offers a peek at his new comic Chip Charlton & Mr. Woofles of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The U.K. comics scene has been heating up of late, and we can only hope that 2012 will see a British Invasion of the comics variety. The BBC has coverage of the latest development: The launch of The Phoenix, a weekly children’s comic published by David Fickling (whose David Fickling Books is an imprint of Random House). The name is apt: The Phoenix is a reprise of an earlier attempt, The DFC, which garnered a lot of praise but shut down after 43 issues. The Phoenix is launching with a nice lineup of stories and talent, including Neill Cameron, Simone Lia, Gary Northfield and Jamie Smart (who draws Desperate Dan for the long-running weekly The Dandy). Unfortunately, it’s print-only and not available digitally, so most U.S. readers won’t get to see it just yet.
Meanwhile, Strip Magazine, a monthly comic dedicated to serialized action tales, has released its second issue. Unlike The Phoenix, Strip is available digitally as an iPad app, which means we Yanks can read it, too. (I think the high point of my year was learning that The Beano and The Dandy are now available as iPad apps.)
If you’re not quite ready to let go of Christmas yet (hey, it’s supposed to be 12 days!), check out the classic British Christmas comics that Lew Stringer (another talented artist) has posted at his blog. It’s a fascinating look back in time. Dandy artist Andy Fanton posts a more modern Christmas comic (very much in the Dandy style) at his blog.
And finally, we had the U.S. release last week of Nelson, the collaborative graphic novel by 54 creators, each of whom contributed a chapter about one day in the life of a young woman. The contributors include Roger Langridge, Duncan Fegredo, Warren Pleece, Posy Simmonds and Darryl Cunningham, and publisher Blank Slate is donating the proceeds from the sale of the book to the homelessness charity Shelter.