Comics Lowdown: Legal woes for political cartoonists Ted Rall and Zunar

Plus: Hell’s Kitchen is trendy, fun and socially progressive comics, Alex Simmons and Erica Henderson celebrated, industry of immigrants

Legal: Political cartoonist Ted Rall has lost another round in his lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times. Rall, a former freelancer for the Times sued the paper for defamation and wrongful termination last year, after the editors determined a blog post he had written about his treatment by the Los Angeles Police Department was inaccurate. The Times dropped Rall as a freelancer and published an editor’s note stating that the blog post was incorrect. Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin ruled that because Rall was a public figure, the editor’s note and any other articles about him are protected by the First Amendment. Consequently, Kalin granted the motion by the Times’s parent company, Tribune Media, to strike the complaint.

Legal: The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar (pictured above) has filed a lawsuit against the government and the police, including 16 individual police officers, for seizing his books and T-shirts at a fund-raising event last December. Zunar had organized a “Tea with Zunar” event at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on December 17, but before it began, police arrested the cartoonist and an assistant who was in charge of sales, and they confiscated 1,187 books and 103 T-shirts. Zunar and his assistant were released, but the merchandise was not returned. In the suit, Zunar alleges that the arrest and seizure were illegal and that some booksellers will no longer carry his books because of the fear they will be confiscated.

Reality Check: Marvel uses Hell’s Kitchen as a setting for gritty urban storylines, but Neda Ulaby tours the neighborhood with writer Fred Van Lente and Marvel editor in chief Axel Alonso, and she finds it to be more trendy than trashy, a far cry from the crime-ridden neighborhood of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Interviews and Profiles

Lumberjanes (BOOM! Box)

Comics Can Be Fun After All: Comics scholar Aaron Kashtan looks at the BOOM! Box line of comics, which manage to be entertaining, funny, and socially progressive all at the same time.

Alex Simmons and his Inkpot award. (photo: Julius Constantine Motal)

Local Heroes I: The appropriately named Riverdale Press profiles veteran comics writer Alex Simmons,who was presented with the Inkpot Award for outstanding contributions to comics at Comic-Con International last month. Simmons has written for Archie and DC Comics, created his own character, Black Jack, and runs the Kids Comic Con in the Bronx as well as numerous other kids’ comics events.

Local Heros II: There are three Eisner Awards sitting on shelves in Somerville, Massachusetts: Writer Erica Henderson, who lives there, took home the awards for Best Humor Publication for Jughead and Best Publication for Teens (13-17) for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and local comic shop Comicazi won the Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing Award.

Commentary

Huddled Masses: Former DC president Paul Levitz reminds us that the comics industry was basically created by immigrants.

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