LOOK: Justice League Assembles in First Team Photo
Crime | The thieves who broke into the Pop Culture Company store in Houston, Texas, early Tuesday knew what they were doing: Surveillance video shows just three minutes elapsed between when they hurled a sledgehammer through the store’s glass door and when they left with the cash register, the safe, a laptop and a tablet. Although the three burglars ignored the comics and toys, damage to the store is estimated between $7,000 and $8,000. The speed of the robbery has police and store owner Robert Quijano thinking these are seasoned pros. “This is obviously what they do,” Quijano said. “I get up in the morning, I come to work, I sell comic books. They get up in the evening and they go out and they steal things from people.” [Click2Houston]
Manga | More than 2.5 million copies of the English-language editions of Attack on Titan in print, Kodansha USA announced earlier this month at Anime Expo. Although that may seem like a lot, there are more than 44 million copies of the same 15 volumes of Hajime Isayama’s post-apocalyptic manga in print in Japan. The Asahi Shimbun estimates the U.S. comics market as one-fifth the size of the Japanese market. [The Asahi Shimbun]
Passings | Bill Garner, the editorial cartoonist for The Washington Times from 1983 to 2009, has died at age 79. Garner was born in Texas and attended the Texas School of Fine Arts, then went to the University of Texas at Austin for one year. He served in the Army from 1956 to 1962, then went to work as an illustrator for The Washington Star. His editor there suggested he try his hand at cartooning, and it took. He moved on to become the editorial cartoonist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where in 1981 he won a National Headliner Award. His best-known cartoon is one he drew for the Times shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, showing a tank with the bumper sticker “Saddam Happens” driving over a sand dune. [The Washington Times]
Legal | A judge has ordered Matthew Pocci to stand trial on charges of felony reckless driving for an incident at last year’s SDCC ZombieWalk: San Diego that left one woman seriously injured. In a preliminary hearing held Wednesday, the defense argued that Pocci, who is deaf, was scared for his and his family’s safety, and was just trying to drive through an opening in the crowd of spectators, but the prosecution countered that he had grown angry and impatient. [CBS 8 San Diego]
Comics | Michael Dooley looks at Marvel’s Daredevil through the years, with an emphasis on the art. [Print Magazine]
Passings | Underground comics artist Michele Wrightson has died. As Michele Brand, she was a contributor to the first all-women underground comics anthology, It Ain’t Me Babe, with a story titled “Tirade Funnies” that still rings true 45 years later. That comic spawned the ongoing Wimmen’s Comix, to which she was also a contributor. Wrightson was also a colorist for Marvel and several other publishers and was married first to cartoonist Roger Brand and then to artist Bernie Wrightson, with whom she collaborated on the Creepshow graphic novel. Stephen Bissette has more in a Facebook post, including the fact that she helped Louise Simonson get her first job in comics. [The Beat]
Controversy | More than 80 creators and other industry figures, including Jaime Hernandez, Kate Beaton, Alison Bechdel, Warren Ellis, Eleanor Davis, Jeet Heer and David Brothers, have signed an open letter asking Franck Bondoux, head of the Angoulême International Comics Festival, to cut the event’s ties to Israeli soft drink company SodaStream, which has its main plant in an occupied area of the West Bank. A similar action was taken last year regarding the company’s sponsorship of the festival. [Comics & Cola]
Passings | Dutch underground comics artist Peter Pontiac died Tuesday at age 63. Born Peter J. G. Pollmann, Pontiac came of age in the 1960s and started out drawing covers for bootleg songbooks, then moved on to create comics inspired by his own life and experiences, including The Amsterdam Connection, Requiem Fortissimo and the illustrated novel Kraut. His comics appeared in the Dutch underground comics magazines Modern Papier and Tante Leny Presenteert, as well as in the American Anarchy Comix and Mondo Snarfo. He later collected many of his comics in the seven issues of The Pontiac Review. He received the Stripschapprijs, a Dutch lifetime achievement award for comics creators, in 1997 and the Marten Toonder Prize in 2011. Pontiac suffered from liver disease and ran a crowdfunding campaign to finance a book about death and his disease, but he passed away before it could be completed. [Lambiek Comiclopedia]
Legal | There’s one fewer party in the lawsuit over the use of the term “comic con”: Newspaper Agency Corp., which produces materials for Salt Lake Comic Con, has settled with the organizers of Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic-Con sued both in August, claiming trademark infringement. Update: A Comic-Con International spokesman clarified that the settlement with the Newspaper Agency Corp. — a printing, advertising and delivery company owned by The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News under a joint operating agreement — is already in effect, with the company agreeing to a court order that prevents it from using the mark “Comic-Con,” “Comic Con” or its variants in the materials it produces. The lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con organizers continues. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Crime | Someone tossed a homemade fire bomb into the offices of the German newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost at about 2 a.m. on Sunday. Firefighters put out the fire quickly, and no one was in the offices at the time. The paper published three of the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo on Thursday with the headline “This much freedom must be possible!” [The Telegraph]
Editorial cartoons | Michael Kupperman relates his frustrating, and short-lived, experience as a cartoonist for The New York Times. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
Conventions | It looks as if Wizard World’s convention won’t be returning to San Antonio, Texas, in 2015. A Wizard World spokesman said the company couldn’t come up with a date that fit the schedule of the city’s Henry B. Gomez Convention Center, adding, “We hope to revisit the possibility for 2016.” However, reporter Rene Guzman notes that San Antonio’s Alamo City Comic Con was a much bigger deal this year, in terms of the exhibit floor (it took up three exhibit halls of the convention center, compared to Wizards’ one) and probably attendance as well: Wizard World said its inaugural event in August drew “thousands,” and Alamo City had 73,000 attendees, almost twice as many as last year. There will be a Wizard World Austin conventionn in 2015, so anyone wanting a taste of that Wizard magic can find it a short road trip away. [San Antonio Express News]
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is being investigated once more under the country’s Sedition Act, his lawyer revealed Tuesday. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested last week for selling two of his books, neither of which has been officially banned, and his webmaster has been summoned to talk to police on Thursday. Zunar has also been called in for questioning at a future date. What’s more, the Malaysian Home Ministry has appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to remove the ban on two of Zunar’s other books. [Malaysia Chronicle]
Publishing | Red Giant Entertainment has announced that retailers ordered about 900,000 copies each of its four anthology comics, which are ad-supported and will be given away for free. The company, which also releases digital comics and paid print comics, kicked off this program with a package of four zero issues on Free Comic Book Day. [ICv2]
Felix Dennis, who passed away this week at age 67, was the founder of a publishing empire that included the men’s magazine Maxim and the news magazine The Week, but he also has a place in comics history as one of the defendants in a famous U.K. obscenity trial that drew support of many prominent figures of the time, from John Lennon to Germaine Greer.
Dennis was one of the editors of the British satire magazine Oz, which published a mix of prose, art, poetry and comics. Stung by criticism that they were out of touch with youth, the editors in 1970 placed a notice in the magazine inviting schoolchildren to contribute to a special issue. About 20 teenagers came to London, singly and in groups, to create and edit a special “Schoolkids” issue. (One of those students, Charles Shaar Murray, described the experience 30 years later, and another contributor, David Wills, has posted the full issue online.) Although the “Schoolkids issue” was created by teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily created for them. On the other hand, teenagers were obviously already reading the magazine, as that’s where the call for contributions appeared.
(Warning: Potentially NSFW image below.)
Gary Edson Arlington, who in 1968 opened the San Francisco Comic Book Company, widely considered the country’s first comic book store, passed away Thursday at age 75.
His 200-quare-foot Mission District shop quickly became a magnet for early underground cartoonists, attracting the likes of Robert Crumb, Ron Turner, Bill Griffith and Spain Rodriguez (the store’s employees included Simon Deitch, Rory Hayes, and Flo Steinberg). Arlington was, in the words of Lambiek, a guru and “godfather” of underground comics, who “encouraged and directed many artists on their path to publication.”
“San Francisco was the capitol of comix culture in the ’60s and early ’70s,” Art Spiegelman told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “and Gary Arlington’s hole-in-the-wall shop was, for me, the capitol of San Francisco.”
But Arlington didn’t stop at retailer and guru: Under the banner of the San Francisco Comic Book Company he also published such important early underground works as Skull Comics, Slow Death Comics and San Francisco Comic Book.
A bit of a firestorm erupted in the comments section of Frank Santoro’s most recent Riff Raff column at The Comics Journal. Closing with six pictures from the most recent issue of the self-published series Fukitor #9 by Jason Karns, Santoro praised the book for its use of colors on two different types of paper within the same issue, calling it “one of the most interesting print jobs out there.” Indeed, the art is visceral and eye-catching, judging by the photos of Santoro holding the comic.
The sticky part is that three of the images are from a “Special Forces Attack Squad” story that contains what could be considered as racially insensitive. Santoro also described Karns’ work as being “almost ‘too real’ to be part of the contemporary comics conversation.” He also said, “Just about everything compared to his work seems ‘pretentious.’ Karns is not trying to do a throwback style or appropriate ‘bad comics’ in order to make some sort of art comic. This is the real deal. This shit is SERIOUS!”
I’m not sure what most of that description even means. In what way is his work “too real”? Karns certainly isn’t doing journalism comics a la Joe Sacco. Santoro later admitted he could’ve done a better job of presenting Karns’ work, and the ensuing comments to his column appear to have caused him to reassess his appreciation, at least as it pertains to the subject matter. Right off the bat, the first commenter asked whether Fukitor is racist. Karns himself quickly showed up with a strange response that’s boils down to, “They’re just cartoons.” It reads as though he’s claiming the comic book form is somehow incapable of depicting racist imagery, which is pretty easily disputed by any cursory survey of World War II-era comics. Karns goes on to dig a rather big hole for himself.
Earlier this week I interviewed Gary Groth of Fantagraphics and Greg Urquhart of Alexander Street Press about the latter’s Underground and Independent Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels archive and its inclusion of The Comics Journal.
The folks at Alexander Street Press were kind enough to give me a trial subscription to the archive so I could see what it contains and get a feel for how it works. Here’s what I found.
The archive boasts an impressive collection of hard-to-find comics from the 1960s and ’70s. If you ever wanted to read Amputee Love (and I know I have) or Captain Guts but haven’t had much luck tracking them down, you’ll find this archive to be of great value. There’s also a complete run of the Arcade anthology, a complete run of Cerebus, Bizarre Sex and yes, Cherry Poptart, as well as work by Eddie Campbell, the Hernandez brothers, Peter Bagge, Harvey Pekar and more.
Of course, for many the ability to peruse the entire run of The Comics Journal — special editions included — is a major attraction. What’s nice is the searchable feature where you can type a name, like Howard Chaykin, and get a list of every issue he appears in. Clicking on the link takes you directly to the article, too, which is a nice feature. You can’t search by author however, so if I wanted to, say, read everything by R. Fiore or Bart Beaty, I’d have try searching by title or subject only.
Creators | Although he almost missed the anniversary, Mark Waid celebrates 25 years as a comics professional by recalling his first day of work at the DC Comics offices: “If you’re wondering what an Associate Editor does – or did in 1987 – I’ll list my job duties those first two days. Ready? Here we go: I erased Green Arrow pages. Eight hours a day for two days.” [MarkWaid.com]
Publishing | DC Comics’ Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne and Vice President of Marketing John Cunningham are pretty upbeat about DC’s most recent graphic novels — with some justification, as a number have made The New York Times graphic books best-seller list. “Batman: Earth One has been a runaway bestseller for us, even better than Superman: Earth One,” Wayne said. “People are familiar with the Superman: Earth One title and we don’t have explain what the new book is about.” [Publishers Weekly]
Fantagraphics announced last week it has formed a partnership with Alexander Street Press to include a complete run of The Comics Journal as part of the Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels online archive. Not knowing much about Alexander or the archive, I contacted Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Gary Groth to get some more information.
Robot 6: For the uninitiated, can you explain what Alexander Street Press is and what purpose they serve in the academic community?
Gary Groth: I’m by no means an expert on Alexander Street Press, but my understanding is that they provide searchable digital databases to academic institutions composed of classics works in a variety of disciplines — such as film, theater, literature, etc. These are provided primarily for scholarly use. I was able to go into some of their databases and poke around and they’re truly remarkable. You can search for subjects, themes, proper names, historic events, key words, etc.
How did this partnership come about? Did they contact you or vice versa?
They approached us.
Legal | Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a cartoon he drew that depicted Arak Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in a soccer jersey. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview, Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci talks about the comics market, the demise of Borders, digital comics and the slump in book sales: “[T]here are more and more trade paperbacks and hard covers coming out, so there’s less chance of getting as much attention as you’re used to, and reorders are down because of it. As the number of trade paperbacks and graphic novels increases, the number of SKUs increases, the number of units sold per SKU is decreasing. There are very few exceptions to this. I remember looking at the Diamond chart from a month or two ago and the bestselling trade paperback that month was 7,000 units. It might even have been a Walking Dead trade paperback, and as much as two years ago the bestselling trade paperback sold 12-15,000 units.” [ICv2]