Comics Lowdown: Trolling the trolls

A cartoonist gets his career back, manga and kids’ comics are booming, and a con veteran offers advice for first-timers

Trolling the Trolls: Your bizarre read for the day is Emma Grey Ellis’s account of the strange career of Ben Garrison, a libertarian political cartoonist who became a sort of real-life Pepe the Frog after alt-right trolls started altering his cartoons to include Nazi imagery and seeded the internet with fake stories:

In their capable hands, the then-unknown Garrison transformed into the most vicious man on the internet, with a long list of nicknames. The most popular of these was Zyklon Ben (after zyklon b, the gas used in Nazi concentration camps), but the web is still littered with threads calling him Ben “One Man Klan” Garrison or Ben “Not White? Shoot On Sight” Garrison and other bits of jingly hate speech. The trolls even got a Fox News affiliate to talk about the fictional Nazi version Garrison by flooding the comments section during the Baltimore riots. “The meme was more successful than I was,” Garrison says. “If you typed my name into Google, you’d only see posts about how I was racist, and a photoshopped picture of me in a Nazi uniform.”

Garrison, whose career was destroyed for a time, came back from the smears, not by trying to shut the trolls down but by flooding the internet with his real cartoons and waging an active social media campaign. It’s a fascinating bit of reading.

Manga League: DC Comics has teamed up with a Japanese publisher to produce Justice League manga in Japan. The series is actually titled Batman and the Justice League, and it debuted in Akita Shoten’s Champion Red magazine last week. Artist Shiori Teshirogi is drawing the series, which is not available in English yet.

The Biz

Not Just for Adults Anymore: Your long read for the day is Abraham Riesman’s comprehensive story for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog on the growth of kids’ comics. It was just 10 years ago that DC’s Minx initiative failed, causing one disgusted insider to remark “this development should be seen as a depressing indication that a market for alternative young adult comics does not exist in the capacity to support an initiative of this kind, if at all.” That turned out to be spectacularly wrong, and Riesman talks to insiders such as Scholastic’s David Saylor, retailer Brian Hibbs, and ICv2 editor Milton Griepp (and, briefly, yours truly) to better understand the boom in comics for kids and teens.

Manga Magic: The North American manga scene burgeoned in the late 1990s and early 2000s, peaked in 2007, and went into a prolonged slump. The picture has been improving over the past few years, though, and at Publishers Weekly, Deb Aoki takes the broad view and sees nine reasons for publishers to be optimistic, ranging from changes in the Japanese industry to the popularity of streaming anime to the light novel boom.

Panic at the Distro: Alex Abad-Santos explains the comics distribution system, how it works against new comics such as World of Wakanda, and why buying the comic off the shelf at a comic shop won’t help save it.

Make It Easy! Johanna Draper Carlson has some advice for publishers on making it easier for readers to pre-order their comics.

Interviews and Profiles

The Legend of Wonder Woman #1

Looking Back on Wonder Woman: In a video interview, Trina Robbins talks about working on the Wonder Woman comic in the 1980s.

Unicorn Tales: At Good Comics for Kids, I interviewed Dana Simpson, the creator of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn comics and a transgender woman who is working on a middle-grade graphic novel about her transition.

Strong Female Creators: Sharon Shinn and Molly Ostertag talk about their new graphic novel Shattered Warrior, recently published by First Second.

Comics and Graphic Novels

Science Tales: Remember when science comics were boring and didactic? Not any more, as I discovered when researching this article on science graphic novels for School Library Journal.

Like My Book? Here’s Ten More! When she accepted the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids Comics last weekend for her graphic novel Ghosts, Raina Telgemeier turned the spotlight away from herself and recommended a list of ten graphic novels by diverse creators—and then gave away copies to the audience.

Conventions and Festivals

Con Smarts: Comic-Con International is just around the corner, and Abby Hamblin of the San Diego Union-Tribune has some tips for people-watching and enjoying the con with or without a badge. There’s even a little animated cartoon!

Time for CAKE: Tom Spurgeon files his con report on the Chicago small-press and indy comics festival CAKE.

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