Comics Lowdown: Satire comic gets Warsaw Comics Festival in trouble

Plus: profiles on ‘Black’ creator Kwanza Osajyefo and ‘Top Ten’ artist Gene Ha, the Ledger Awards shortlist, and Montreal’s AstroBooks turns to crowdfunding to pay its tax bills.

The Warsaw (Poland) Comics Festival will lose three years’ worth of city subsidies, totaling $44,500, because a comic ridiculing Polish nationalists was distributed at this year’s event. Tomasz Lesniak and Rafal Skarzycki’s Poland: The Champion of Poland, lampooned nationalists, racists and anti-Semites, and that didn’t sit well with the local nationalists, who complained to the city council. The council released a statement saying, “After reviewing the comic we explicitly declare that we do not accept its content,” and announced it would sanction the festival.

Awards

Indian cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty has won the World Wildlife Fund’s President’s Award for his cartoons about wildlife and conservation.

Hailing from Nagpur (also known as the tiger capital of India), Chakravarty was an enthusiastic bird watcher since childhood. He was on his way to becoming a dentist when the sighting of a magnificent tigress at a waterhole at Nagzira Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra threw his planned career off gear. It fired up the wildlife lover in him, compelled him to leave dentistry and instead use doodling as a conservation tool.

The shortlist has been announced for the Ledger Awards, the Australian comics awards. The awards aren’t divided into categories; there’s simply a list of works, and the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals will be announced on June 16. Creators on the list who may be familiar to American readers include Ryan Lindsay and Queenie Chan.

Interviews and Profiles

Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo talks about his early years as a manga-ka, how he developed his themes and his characters, and what he’s been working on lately.

Artist Gene Ha talks about working with Alan Moore on Top 10 and creating a new future as the setting for Cable’s early years in The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix.

Kwanza Osajyefo, who was a digital comics pioneer at Marvel and DC and is now the creator of his own comic, Black, talks about digital comics, creator-owned comics, his own comic, and the problems with the current “duopoly” of Marvel and DC—and he calls for more diversity on the editorial side of comics:

“Growth among minority consumers means money in brown skin for sure, and hiring more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ creatives is great, but without staff who have intrinsic motivation and personal perspective to champion certain content, that future is dubious. I can tell you from experience DC is not an inherently welcoming environment to anyone who isn’t playing to the status quo of their office dynamic. They’d need to install a POC with rank, agency, and be invested in the cultural shifts it would create – regardless of discomfort and displacement. We’ve seen the results of that lack of internal perspective in gaffes like Marvel’s VP of Sales talking sideways about diverse characters/content hurting their sales. That was amateur hour that industry pundits, and retailers who don’t serve homogenous areas, debunked in 24 hours.”

Artist Brian Williamson reminisces about his days working on the Marvel UK title The Real Ghostbusters.

The Biz

The Montreal comic shop AstroBooks is resorting to crowdfunding to pay off a $25,000 tax bill, as well as its continuing expenses. The store is run by the brother-sister team of Betty and Paul Stock, although 71-year-old Betty does most of the work these days, as Paul is in poor health. Nonetheless, they are one of the biggest comics retailers in Canada, with 400 pull-list customers (down from 600 in its heyday) and a brisk mail-ordre business in addition to its retail store.

Reviews and Commentary

Anthony Strand is not too impressed with the first two issues of Archaia’s The Power of the Dark Crystal, the comics sequel to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal movie; his beef is that the comic focuses on the least interesting aspects of the original.

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