TVLine has the first look at the Comic-Con International exclusive that everyone will be wearing … or stepping over on the convention floor: Fox’s Bart Simpson crowns. They’re made of heavy paper, like something you might snag at Burger King, but considering their limited-edition nature, they’ll probably end up becoming considerably more valuable.
The crowns will be available at the Fox Fanfare booth (#4313) on a first come, first serve basis. There’s also a Simpsons panel scheduled for 12:45 p.m. Saturday, with executive producer Al Jean, supervising producer Mike Anderson and voice actor Yeardley Smith in attendance.
After more than three decades, and 1,669 installments, Matt Groening has ended Life in Hell, his influential weekly comic strip starring bitter anthropomorphic rabbits and a pair of gay lovers. Although the final strip appeared Friday, reruns will be offered to newspapers through July 13.
“Thirty-two years is a long time to do it,” The Simpsons creator told USA Today. “I love the characters, I love doing it, but it was just time.” Groening added to The Poynter Institute, “I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way, but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off.”
Sales charts | The American Booksellers Association has released its list of the top-selling graphic novels in indie bookstores for the eight weeks ending May 27. At first glance, it looks like it’s mostly literary graphic novels (Habibi, Are You My Mother?) with a healthy sprinkling of The Walking Dead. [Bookselling This Week, via The Beat]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses the second issue of Batman Incorporated, which features Batman’s lover and Robin’s mom, Talia al Ghul. [USA Today]
Comics history | Could comics history have been radically different if Jerry Siegel had a different last name? Larry Tye, the author of the new Superman a biography, talks to Fresh Air about the origins of the Man of Steel and how he changed over the years: “The editors in New York over time started to exercise their editorial control. They saw this as both a character and a business. They would go down to the level of dictating just what his forelocks looked like. They could be too curly. His arms should be shorter and less ‘ape-like.’ And Joe should get rid of his hero’s ‘nice fat bottom.’ His editor told him that he worried that that made Superman look too ‘la-dee-dah.’ And they were really concerned about the image of the character.” [NPR]
For nearly a quarter of a century, we’ve been been plagued by one nagging question: Where, oh where, is Springfield (“Meanest Town in America”)?
The town’s location has been a recurring joke, with viewers teased repeatedly by the writers of The Simpsons. But now, at long last, the mystery has been solved, by none other than creator Matt Groening. In an interview with Smithsonian magazine, the cartoonist finally reveals Springfield (pop. 30,720) is in his home state of Oregon.
“Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon,” he says. “The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, ‘This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.’ And they do.”
Asked whether he’d ever divulged that tidbit before, Groening says, “I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, ‘Yup, that’s right.’”
When Disney bought Marvel Comics in 2009, much of the coverage of the move cited the publisher’s catalog of 5,000 characters. DC Comics, which was founded a few decades earlier and had gobbled up the character catalogs of many other publishers over the decades, must have a catalog of characters even deeper.
The cast of The Simpsons hasn’t grown quite that large, despite its 23 seasons and over 500 episodes, but there are an ever-increasing number of name characters within the city limits of Springfield, most of whom should be capable of supporting their own comic book. At least for one issue, right?
Case in point: Ralph Wiggum, Lisa Simpson’s dim to the point of zen nothingness classmate and the son of incompetent Police Chief Wiggum. The malapropism-spouting bit player usually only gets a cameo in episodes, when he appears at all, but those appearances tend to be the funnier bits of the episodes (and I say that as a lapsed fan who thinks the show might have climaxed a good 10 or 15 seasons ago, and started running on fumes a few seasons back).
Of course, on the show, Ralph works in small doses. Can he work in bigger doses? Bongo Comics gave us the chance to find out this week, with Ralph Wiggum Comics #1, a 25-page one-shot full of short stories starring Springfield’s most guileless resident.
Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]
Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Wonder Woman is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Judge Bao and the Jade Phoenix - A detective story set in ancient China. Plus: cool name.
Dicks #1 – Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s humor makes my top hat explode and my monocle fly off my face, but I remember this being pretty popular back in the day and I imagine that it’s new presentation in color and leading into a new storyline could make it popular again.
Ralph Wiggum Comics #1 – This, on the other hand, is exactly my kind of funny. Kind of like 30 Days of Night, I’m astonished no one’s thought of it before. Too bad it’s just a one-shot, but hearing that Sergio Aragones is one of the contributors makes me want to poke myself with my Viking helmet to see if I’m dreaming.
Four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves … welcome to day three of our holiday gift-giving guide, where we ask comic pros:
1. What comic-related gift or gifts would you recommend giving this year, and why?
2. What gift (comic or otherwise) is at the top of your personal wish list, and why?
A great big thank you to everyone who helped us out this year, including the ones who’ll be showcased tomorrow. Be sure to come back then for our big wrap-up!
1. The Simpsons/Futurama Crossover Crisis. Leela helps Maggie deal with school bullies. Homer and Bender go drinking. England invades the USA. Come on, you need this.
Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery. The most ludicrous and wonderful supporting character from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol got his own miniseries, and it’s just now being reprinted for the first time. I loved this miniseries when it first came out, and I’m gearing up to love it all over again.
Starstruck. The great Lee/Kaluta sci-fi epic, now between two robust hard covers. I should declare an interest: I wrote the intro. But I did that because it’s awesome beyond the feasible limits of possible awesomeness.
2. A Very Peculiar Practice, season 2. Wow. Just how much of my life right now is ’80s nostalgia? I think I need to get some professional help. Probably from Duran Duran.
Mike Carey has written numerous comics (and a few novels) over his career, including Lucifer, My Faith In Frankie, Ultimate Fantastic Four and Hellblazer. He currently writes X-Men: Legacy and The Unwritten.
Fox has released images and an official synopsis for this week’s episode of The Simpsons, which features a guest appearance by Neil Gaiman. In addition, Gaiman posted a clip from the show which, as you can see from the above screenshot, includes a glimpse of a bookstore display showcasing the author’s work, including The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1, and The Absolute Death. Clearly they’re not in the Springfield Barnes & Noble.
Here’s how Fox describes the episode, called “The Book Job”: “Lisa becomes disheartened when she learns the shocking truth behind the ‘tween lit’ industry and her beloved fantasy novel characters. But Homer decides to cash in on the craze and forms a team to group-write the next ‘tween lit’ hit, with the king of fantasy, Neil Gaiman (guest-voicing as himself), lending his expertise to the effort. After catching the eye of a slick industry publisher (guest-voice Andy Garcia) at the Springfield Book Fair, the team gets an advanced copy of their work and discovers that the corporate lit business is a bigger operation than they imagined.”
Gaiman previously appeared in animated for in a 2010 episode of Arthur. Check out the clip and images from “The Book Job” below. The Simpsons airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
Although I stopped watching the show on a regular basis a few seasons back, I try not to miss the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode every year that for some reason is typically shown the Sunday after Halloween. I also try not to miss Bongo’s Treehouse of Horror comic special, which seems to go out of its way every year to recruit an interesting array of contributors. The last couple of years have featured everyone from cat and transforming robot cartoonist Jeffrey Brown to Lemmy of Motorhead.
This year is no different, as it features stories by Go-Go/Lady Robotika‘s Jane Wiedlin, Zander Cannon and Gene Ha of Top Ten fame and indie artist Jim Woodring. I’ll be sure to add this to my buy list when it comes out Sept. 28.
Legal | The Lithuanian publisher of The Simpsons comic has been fined for breaching laws banning the advertising of alcohol with its depiction of Duff Beer, the fictional brand consumed by Homer and other residents of Springfield.
Although Simpsons creator Matt Groening has never licensed the Duff trademark out of concern that it might encourage children to drink, companies in several countries have released beer using the Duff name (Fox and Groening sued an Australian brewery for doing so in 1995, forcing the product to be pulled from shelves and destroyed). The existence of unlicensed Duff beers apparently was enough for a government watchdog, who handed down the more than $4,000 fine. The publisher said it has stopped publication of The Simpsons while it tries to address the Duff matter — a major issue, considering that Bongo Comics reportedly doesn’t permit content changes to licensed titles. [The Australian]
Threadless has a fetching new T-shirt aimed at spreading the word about the growing epidemic of dog owners who won’t pick up after their pets. The shirt features various cartoon and comic strip dogs and their owners, um, doing their thing, including Snoopy and Charlie Brown, Scooby Doo and Shaggy, and Homer Simpson and Santa’s Little Helper. If I ever had the urge to wear a shirt featuring dogs dropping a deuce, which I haven’t, this would be the shirt for me.
Steven Kutzner was sentenced on Tuesday in Boise, Idaho, to 15 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and mandatory sex offender treatment, for possessing drawings of minors having sex. This case has received a lot of attention on comics blogs because the images mentioned in the plea agreement were all of characters from The Simpsons, and the case is one of several in recent years that have involved drawn images. Child pornography in the form of photographs or movies involves the exploitation of real children, but drawings and animation are more of a thought crime, and a robust discussion has sprung up as to whether it’s something that should be prosecuted.
Sean Michael Robinson, who has been following this case at The Comics Journal, spoke to Kutzner’s attorney D.J. Carr, who said that while he felt the statute under which Kutzner was prosecuted “puts the government in places it shouldn’t be,” this wasn’t the case to test it. The fact is, the 33-year-old Kutzner isn’t some hapless hobbyist being victimized by an overzealous prosecutor. German police and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had identified Kutzner’s computer as the one that offered a file of actual child pornography for download on a peer-to-peer network, and Kutzner admitted that he had downloaded child pornography and then wiped his computer to remove all traces of it.
This reads a bit like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, in that prosecutors knew Kutzner had downloaded child pornography, but they might not be able to prove it in court, so they charged him with possession of obscene cartoons instead. Kutzner pleaded guilty to avoid the more serious charges. In fact, there is unlikely to ever be a clean test case of laws banning drawings of child obscenity, in the sense that prosecutors would go after someone because of one or two images in an otherwise innocuous collection. The DA in this case, Jim Peters, basically said as much to Robinson in October, when Kutzner pleaded guilty:
Creators | Renowned artist Steve Rude and his family are in danger of losing their home, so the co-creator of Nexus is auctioning art in hopes of raising the money to meet a Nov. 15 deadline. [Steve Rude's Facebook, The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com suggests Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series could close out 2010 as the No. 1 graphic-novel property of the year, surpassing the top-selling adaptation of Stephen Meyer’s Twilight. [ICv2.com]
Digital comics | David Brothers wonders how the rise of digital comics might change comics “culture,” and the Wednesday ritual. [4thletter!]