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Joe Shuster Awards announce 2014 nominees

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The nominees have been announced for the 10th annual Joe Shuster Awards, which recognize the best of the Canadian comics world. They’re named in honor of Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman.

The winners will be presented later this year, at a time and location to be announced. The nominees are:

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Comics A.M. | Judge places hold on Hastings sale

Hastings

Hastings

Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]

Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]

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‘Fanboys’: gamers evolved

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Aging video game webcomics are fascinating, as tastes and opinions change as the creator gets older. Perhaps with the pressures of work and family, he or she doesn’t have the luxury of investing so much time into playing all the latest releases. The writer, then, needs to find a new angle to keep things interesting. For instance, Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del made waves some time ago by eliminating his main cast and focusing on color-coded players who’d only appeared in gag strips.

Debuting in 2006, Scott DeWitt’s Fanboys is one of the many webcomics that seemed to appear in the wake of the explosive popularity of Penny Arcade. The setup is familiar: two guys and a girl sitting on a couch with controllers clutched in their hands. Each character was even a hardcore fan of a specific console; the childlike Lemmy played Nintendo, the grouchy Paul played Playstation, and the cheerful (yet aggressively competitive) Sylvia preferred Xbox. The three even exclusively wore clothes of their gaming system … which was the chief defining point of their characterizations. This was a Penny Arcade clone, after all, which means random humor, violence and a rude disrespect for authority.

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‘Paranatural’: It’s over 9,000 (spooks)

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Zack Morrison’s Paranatural weaves a tale of ghosts and the people who bust them. It centers on a team that acts a lot like exterminators, trapping pesky spirits in special tools. In a way, it resembles property created in the 1980s that also centers on a plucky team with a catchy theme song that once vanquished a puffy, marshmallow-like foe.

I am talking, of course, about Dragon Ball. I don’t think it’s an accident. This is, after all, a webcomic where there’s a dojo in which old men throw around fireballs and where one kid has supernatural powers that cause spiky hair. The characters also look pretty similar to Akira Toriyama’s style — cartoony, somewhat-squarish and exaggerated during the big action sequences.

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Comics A.M. | Amazon backs off Marvel in Hachette dispute

Marvel

Marvel

Retailing | Amazon’s war with Hachette has taken an odd turn: The retail giant has restored discounts and preorders for Marvel (which uses Hachette as its distributor), and the shipping delays are gone, but it seems to have doubled down on Hachette imprint Yen Press. [ICv2]

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on Diamond Comic Distributors’ year-to-date sales figures, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag, with sales of monthly comics down but graphic novels and merchandise up, for a slight uptick in overall sales. Another interesting statistic: The number of individual Diamond accounts (which is generally regarded as a measure of the number of comics shops) is up 1.3 percent for 2014 so far; last year’s increase was 3 percent over the entire year. She also reports on the numbers for this year’s Free Comic Book Day; retailers ordered 4.65 million comics, and most were happy with the way the day went. [Publishers Weekly]

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‘Breaking Cat News’ brings up-to-the-minute cuteness

Devastation in the Kitchen

I can’t remember which of my Facebook friends turned me on to Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News, but whoever it is, I want to buy them a beer. I’m not one of those people who watches cat videos all day, but the adorably deadpan news-gathering trio of Elvis, Lupin and Puck has captured my heart.

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Comics A.M. | C2E2 sees growth in attendance, floor space

C2E2

C2E2

Conventions | Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP’s global senior vice president, talks about his company’s strategy of focusing on a few big shows, rather than a lot of smaller ones, and gives the numbers for last month’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo: Attendance was about 62,900, up 18 percent from last year, and the show floor grew by 15,000 square feet. Attendees are mostly in the 18-to-35 age group, and the majority are male, although the proportion of women at C2E2 has increased by 6 percent since 2011. Male or female, many of the folks on the floor seem to be “casual consumers” rather than “hardcore fans”: About 50 percent of attendees at New York Comic Con were there for the first time. “Depending on which exhibiting company you’re talking to, they either love it or they’re not sure what to do with it,” Fensterman said. “You’re delivering new readers and new potential consumers. We think it’s cool that you’re getting that fresh perspective, not quite so jaded (been there, done that).” [ICv2]

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‘Monsterkind’: Fear, resentment and lots of blushing

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The best-known comic book allegory about prejudice is X-Men, who are feared and despised by a society that doesn’t understand them. The allegory doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, however, as attempting to differentiate between mutants who were born with powers and the beloved Marvel Universe heroes who gained theirs through accident or scientific experimentation is senseless.

And then there’s bigotry and how it relates to economic disparity. It rarely comes up. The X-Men are generally upper-middle class; at least one of them was worshiped as a goddess. I don’t think mutants, as a whole, are portrayed as poor, and are in a desperate situation where they contribute to the crime rate or are relegated to the slums. (Morlocks, maybe.)

Taylor C.’s Monsterkind tackles the latter. There’s a gap between rich and poor, and in falls along racial lines — in this case, the humans and the monsters. The humans live in District A, which everyone assumes is for the wealthy and well-off. The monsters typically live in District C, full of rundown tenement buildings and rampant poverty. There is fear and resentment.
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‘Watson and Holmes’ lead 2014 Glyph Awards

watson-holmes6Watson and Holmes, the comic by Brandon Easton and N. Steven Harris that reimagines Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuths as African-American detectives in present-day Harlem, led the 2014 Glyph Awards with wins in four categories.

The awards, presented Friday at the 13th annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention in Philadelphia, recognize “the best in comics made by, for, and about people of color from the preceding calendar year.” The winners are:

Story of the Year: Watson and Holmes #6; Brandon Easton, writer; N. Steven Harris, artist

Best Writer: Brandon Easton, Watson and Holmes #6

Best Artist: N. Steven Harris, Watson and Holmes #6

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‘Zoophobia’: Fear of an animal planet

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Vivienne Medrano’s Zoophobia stars a young woman named Cameron who’s desperate for a job and will take any available position in her field of counseling. She’s basically duped. When she hears there’s a job that it involves relocation, she expects, quite reasonably, that the students will be of the human persuasion. To her surprise, she’s whisked away to Zoo Phoenix Academy in Safe Haven, a land full of anthropomorphic creatures. That’s not ideal because, as the title suggests, animals give Cameron the heebie-jeebies.

When you get down to it, Cameron’s journey is not unlike Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. A bold statement, I know, but think about it: Cameron gets suckered into counseling animals, while Ms. Eyre is duped into a teaching job at a spooky manor house inhabited by a creepy ghost woman or something. Shoot, there’s even a supernatural element established early on. It turns out that Cameron’s recruiter … is a warlock of some sort? What’s got her so interested in a clueless educator who just happens to have strange dreams at night?

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, Motor City Comic Con marks 25 years

Motor City Comic Con

Motor City Comic Con

Conventions | The doors open today on the 25th annual Motor City Comic Con, held through Sunday in Novi, Michigan, northwest of Detroit. Comics guests include Art Baltazar, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Talent Caldwell, Chris Claremont, Matthew Clark, Gerry Conway, Katie Cook, J.M. DeMatteis, Clayton Henry, Mike McKone, Jame O’Barr, Ryan Ottley, Dave Petersen, Don Rosa, Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Soule, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. The Detroit Free Press previews the event, and speaks with Claremont, while Metro Times provides a beginner’s guide. [Motor City Comic Con]

Digital comics | Kate Reynolds looks at the recent Image Humble Bundle promotion and compares it to sales of hard copies of the individual titles in comics shops. Her key insight is that this is Image’s first attempt to sell comics directly to the video game audience rather than established readers: “Many people who check the Humble website with some frequency may have been surprised to see comics books on a video game page, and for many, surprise turned to intrigue. While it’s impossible to tell whether the purchasers of the Image bundle were frequent comic buyers or not, it’s logical to assume that many were not. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if for some, the Image bundle was the first comic purchase of their lives.” [feminism/geekery]

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Goodbye, Black Brick Road

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What’s with all these Wizard of Oz adaptations these days? I can’t have been the only one who was taken for surprise when ads for an animated feature began popping up this year. Didn’t a Disney movie just come out that took visual cues from the 1939 classic?  Oz seems to be experiencing a Renaissance lately… though, really, it’s never gone out of style. It’s the American fairy tale, full of characters unique to the heart and soul of U.S. culture. Dorothy Gale even hails from Kansas, located smack dab in the middle of the country. Its main exports include wheat and heroes.

One of the latest attempts to reexamine the story is The Black Brick Road of O.Z. by Daria (who hails from Russia, pretty much the opposite side of the world as Dorothy’s Kansas). I know what you’re thinking: “The Black Brick Road of O.Z.? Sounds like yet another emo retelling of the Wizard of Oz story. How original. Do you collect those Todd McFarlane action figures too?”

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Derf ends his comic strip ‘The City’ after 24 years

The final installment of "The City"

The final installment of “The City”

Derf Backderf, creator of the acclaimed memoir My Friend Dahmer, has ended his weekly comic strip The City after 24 years.

“I’m ending the strip so I can concentrate full-time on graphic novels,” he announced today on his blog. “It’s all good. I’m not slinking away from a failed endeavor as a washed-up has-been. I’m leaving it behind in a blaze of glory, as a newly minted, internationally-best-selling comix creator. The past couple years have been the best of my career. After 30 years of toil as a (at best) cult favorite to suddenly find success? I’m loving every fucking minute of it! I simply no longer have the time, nor, quite frankly, the desire, to devote to The City. Typically, it takes almost two full workdays to write and draw one strip. That’s time better devoted to other projects.”

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Jeff Smith’s ‘Tüki’ will be published in full color

tukiOriginally solicited as black and white, the print edition of Jeff Smith’s Tüki: Save the Humans will instead be released in full color at the same $3.99 cover price.

According to the cartoonist, readers of the webcomic, which features gorgeous colors by Tom Gaadt, have been lobbying for the same treatment in print. “That’s what I hear over and over while I’m on the road at comic shows,” Smith said in a statement. “To which I say: It’s on!”

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‘The Guns of Shadow Valley’: Superheroes of the Wild West

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I’ve always loved the Wild West setting. It’s a world of arid landscapes with rocky canyons and flat horizons, where small communities composed of a few people are isolated from the comforts of an urban society. Interaction with fellow humans runs through the barest lines of transportation and communication, and they’re easily severed by bandits and the unforgiving forces of nature. The lack of electricity means pitch-black nights sometimes illuminated by the flickering glow of a campfire. The atmosphere is dominated by a sense of loneliness.

And despite how it’s typically depicted in old Hollywood movies, its population is also quite diverse. The native population still maintained a presence, settlers with European backgrounds are newly arrived to the area, resulting in a mix of people with Hispanic, African and Caucasian heritages. Chinese laborers have been brought in to lay down railroad tracks.

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