Comics Lowdown: One cartoonist free on bail; another remains in prison

Plus: Kickstarters, Leo Baxendale, and how Chuck Rozanski escaped poverty—with comics!

Indian Cartoonist Free on Bail: A judge in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadhu, India, has granted bail to cartoonist G. Bala, who was arrested on Nov. 5 for creating a “demeaning caricature” of several local officials. The cartoon critiqued the local government, including the collector, after a laborer and his family who were in deep debt to loan sharks set themselves on fire in front of the collector’s office. The entire family, including two children ages two and four, died of their injuries.

“The self-immolation and the burning children disturbed me a lot… I could not sleep for two days as if my children had charred. I had done nothing personal against the Collector, the complainant of the case against me. When he initiated steps for the ‘Wall of Kindness’ to help the poor, I felt so proud about him. When he failed to act on the repeated petitions of a usury victim, it forced a youth to take the extreme step that disturbed me a lot and I just reflected my agony through my caricature,” a visibly moved Mr. Bala told the waiting reporters while emerging from the court after being enlarged on bail.

He is scheduled to return to court on Thursday to face the charges, which could result in up to three years in prison.

Ramón Esono Ebalé

Courage in Cartooning: Cartoonist Rights Network International (CRNI) has given its 2017 Courage in Cartooning Award to Ramón Esono Ebalé, who is currently in prison on unspecified charges in his home country of Equatorial Guinea. CRNI describes the government of Equatorial Guinea as a “kleptocracy” that was so angered by Ebalé’s cartoons criticizing the ruling family that they locked him up, although they know better than to charge him outright with anything that would trigger free-speech protests; instead, they are looking to charge him with counterfeiting and money laundering but have so far been unable to come up with sufficient evidence. Ebalé’s wife accepted the award in absentia at Hofstra University on Long Island on November 4. CRNI has also put out a call to action to pressure the Equatorial Guinean government to free Ebalé.

Creators

Blast from the Past: Leo Baxendale was the genius behind the UK’s goofiest kids’ comics, including Minnie the Minx and The Bash Street Kids. He died earlier this year at the age of 86, but the Forbidden Planet has unearthed a lengthy interview with him that was done in 2012. If you’ve never heard of him, this article is well worth reading both as an oral history (he had a fascinating life) and as an introduction to his work. If you’re already a fan, well, you’re in for a treat.

Shifting Gears: Neil Swaab, creator of the decidedly adult comic Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, talks about changing over to kid-friendly material.

Conventions

No More Free Passes: The organizer of the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Comic Cons has announced he is discontinuing the policy of offering free admission to first responders and members of the military. The reason: threats from others. “We actually got threatened at our Santa Fe Comic Con,” said promoter Jim Burleson. “Somebody threatened to call their dad who was a lawyer to prove that we were discriminating.” Now he is getting threats on his Facebook page for giving in to the threats. He estimates he gave away about 3,000 of the free passes per year.

The Biz

Kickstarting Your Kickstarter: The latest Comix Launch podcast focuses on Kickstarter as a comics platform — why it is so successful and what creators can do to boost their chances of joining the “over-goal” club.

Local Hero: Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics tells the local TV news how he went from living on a ROTC stipend and food stamps to being a big wheel in comics retail; he says he has sold over $2 billion worth of comics in his lifetime.

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