Tintin in the Congo
Conventions | Japan’s Comic Market (aka Comiket), the world’s largest convention dedicated to self-published comics, stands to lose about $117,900 because of a decision to bar artist groups (“circles”) dedicated to the manga Kuroko’s Basketball following a threat letter. Organizers are refunding entrance fees to about 900 Kuroko’s Basketball circles that registered for the Dec. 29-31 event, and must help pay for increased security in cooperation with local police and the Tokyo Big Sight complex. Since October, letters containing powdered and liquid substances have been sent to more than 20 locations linked to Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. At least six Kuroko’s Basketball doujinshi events have been canceled. [Anime News Network]
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Publishing | IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams discusses the company’s new IDW Limited program, which will produce small print runs of deluxe editions that will be marketed direct to the consumer. How small? The print run for the Blue Label edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Deluxe Limited Edition will be 10 copies. “The only fair thing to do is to give the fans direct access on a first come first served basis,” he said. “We’re putting an incredible emphasis on quality, and that directly affects the quantity of books IDW Limited can produce. We’re designing new covers, building custom cases and paying the artists to do hand drawn sketch work to go with these books. The reality is that that’s all very expensive and unfortunately it makes it difficult for us to offer this line at the deep discount needed for traditional retail distribution.” [ICv2]
Libraries | Following the firestorm sparked last month when a youth library in Stockholm briefly removed Tintin comics because of their racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs, a survey finds that 10 percent of Swedish libraries have removed or restricted Herge’s books due to “racist content.” [The Local]
A youth library in Stockholm pulled Tintin comics from its shelves on the grounds that the racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs are not suitable for children before quickly backpedaling after the removal triggered a media firestorm in Sweden.
“I wanted to highlight an opinion piece about issues of discrimination, but realize now that it’s wrong to ban books,” explained Behrang Miri, the Kulturhuset library’s youth director.
Although the articles don’t specify which Tintin books were pulled, it’s safe to say the primary culprit was Tintin in the Congo, published in 1930, in which the Belgian creator Herge depicted Africans in crudely stereotyped ways. The book has come under heavy criticism in the United States and in Europe, and several attempts have been made, some successful, to remove it from libraries and bookstores (in February, a Belgian court rejected a five-year-old bid to ban the book).
So it’s something of a surprise to learn that Tintin is actually quite popular in the Congo, with locally made statues of the characters and mockups of the covers selling briskly to European tourists. While the director of the national museum objects to the proliferation of Tintinabilia, preferring to focus on the rich native heritage of the country, artisan Auguy Kakese, who makes and sells Tintin figures for a living is more sanguine:
Legal | A Belgian court has rejected a five-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have the 1946 edition of Herge’s Tintin in the Congo banned because of its racist depictions. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, who launched the campaign in 2007 to ban the book, plans to appeal. [The Guardian]
Publishing| John Rood, DC’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development, discusses the results of the New 52 readership survey, noting right of the bat that it’s “not indicative of the actual system wide performance,” which makes you wonder what it’s good for. He has some interesting things to say about bringing back lapsed readers and the demographics of DC readers in general, though. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | IDW’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein attributes a bump in the company’s September sales to several factors, including DC’s big relaunch: “The reality is the DC New 52 brought some people into comic book stores that hadn’t been in comic stores for a while, and we had the opportunity to sell them some of our books as well as the other books that are available to them. But clearly, people who had not been focused on comics came out of the woodwork a bit.” It didn’t hurt that IDW had its own launches of properties familiar to those outside of comics, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, an ongoing Star Trek series and the Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover. [ICv2]
Legal | A Belgian judicial adviser has recommended that the nation’s courts reject a four-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have Herge’s 1931 Tintin in the Congo banned, or at least restricted, because of its racist depictions. The recommendation is being viewed as a major setback for the case, as the opinion of the Procureur du Roi (Senior Crown prosecutor) is requested and typically followed by the court. [The Guardian]