Comics Lowdown: A meme story with a ‘fine’ ending

Plus: Fred Perry, Michael DeAdder, Kelly Sue DeConnick and more!

This Is Awesome: We all know the horror story of Pepe the Frog, who despite creator Matt Furie’s best efforts has taken on an unsavory life of his own. At Vulture, Abraham Riesman looks at a meme story with a happier ending, talking to creator KC Green about how he kept control of his “This is fine” comic, and even made some money off it as it went viral. There’s a lot here that other creators may find useful, plus it’s just fascinating to see the backstory of such a well known meme.

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MAD Memories: Talking ‘Spy vs. Spy’ with Peter Kuper & John Ficarra

As MAD Magazine closes its doors, we flash back to 2013, when Peter Kuper had just taken over ‘Spy vs, Spy.’

The internet is reverberating this week with the sad news of the changes coming for MAD Magazine. I’m one of the mourners; when I was growing up, we always had MAD in the house, and I’m one of those people who got more pop culture knowledge from the movie and TV satires than from actual movies and TV.

When I saw the news, I remembered an interview I did with Peter Kuper and then MAD editor John Ficarra back in 2013, when Kuper took over the venerable Spy vs. Spy feature. As sometimes happens, the interview slid to the bottom of the pile and never got published. Until now.

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Comics Lowdown: New player in town: Graphite digital comic subscription service

Plus: Steve Morrow passes away, New York Times stops editorial cartoons, and more!

The New York Times reports on a new digital comics service, Graphite, that operates on a subscription basis, like ComiXology Unlimited. Graphite will offer a free version with ads, and their premium ad-free version is priced at $4.99 a month, a buck cheaper than ComiXology Unlimited, but their real selling point is automated recommendations:

On other platforms, recommendations are typically offered by editors, said Tom Akel, Graphite’s chief content officer. “Ours takes into account your user behavior, what you’ve watched before, what the pool of people around you liked and cross references that the same way a Netflix algorithm will,” he said.

The real test of a digital comics service, of course, is content. Graphite’s lineup will include BOOM! Studios, Tokyopop, Dynamite, IDW and the children’s publisher Papercutz, but not Marvel or DC (both of whom have their own subscription services). This is a choice that seems to make sense for the smaller publishers; as BOOM!’s Filip Sablik commented, “We’ve had free content available for multiple years, and it hasn’t cut into our Comixology business. In fact, it has continued to grow.

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Comics Lowdown: Unearthing info on Golden Age comics artists

Plus: Matthew Inman, Seth, May sales and more.

Above: A panel from Dotty, by Jane Krom Grammer

Comics scholar Carol Tilley has unearthed new information about several Golden Age comics artists, and she presents the first fruits of her research on her blog: An account of the life and work of Jane Krom Grammer, who drew (and perhaps colored) the comic Dotty in Supersnipe Comics in the mid-1940s. Tilley has found Grammer’s pay stubs for comics that had previously been attributed to another artist, and in conversation with Grammer’s daughter, she fills out the rest of her biography.

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Comics Lowdown: C2E2 thief thwarted; Dawson on Somalia airstrikes

Plus: People moves, promotions, podcasts and more!

Crime Does NOT Pay! Stephen Bowles of Remington, Indiana, learned that the hard way: He was nabbed for allegedly stealing $9,000 worth of comics at C2E2 this past weekend, after a vendor caught him on video. The vendor had set up a camera at his booth to keep an eye on sales, and when he noticed Bowles acting sketchy he reviewed the footage and observed the 51-year-old man apparently taking comics from several booths. The vendor called the cops and they arrested Bowles, who had some of the comics on him. Three vendors reported that comics had been stolen from them.

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‘Tales of the Music Makers’ to include two Harvey Pekar stories

New graphic novel from Z2 Comics will benefit the Music Maker Relief Foundation.

Z2 Comics, which has published a number of graphic novels with musical themes, has a new one queued up for February: Tales of the Music Makers, by Gary Dumm.

The graphic novel is a benefit project for the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which is a bit like a music version of the Hero Initiative: It “provides resources to elderly, southern musicians living in poverty and keeps southern, musical culture alive by recording albums, arranging concerts and museum exhibitions, and publishing books.”

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Comics Lowdown: Olivia Jaimes to appear at CXC

Plus: Kazu Kibuishi, Katie Green, Zunar and more!

Olivia Jaimes, the pseudonymous artist who has revitalized the comic strip Nancy, will be a guest at the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus comics festival in Columbus, Ohio, next weekend. There has been considerable speculation about Jaimes’s real identity, and CXC will be asking the 40 or so lucky attendees at her panel to check their phones at the door to protect her privacy.

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SPX, TCJ, OMG: A Hot Take

Brigid Alverson responds to a recent opinion piece on TCJ.com and shares her thoughts on comiXology/Amazon’s presence at this weekend’s Small Press Expo.

I know that contentious commentary is part of the The Comics Journal brand, but maybe it’s time to drop it. Especially because the latest article isn’t just mean-spirited, it’s straight-up wrong.

I am referring, of course, to RJ Casey’s recent post, ominously titled “A Plague Comes to SPX,” in which he warns that Amazon is poised to ruin comics.

I’m at SPX, and I went to the exhibitors’ reception last night, where, like everyone else, I got a copy of Hit Reblog, the book he disparages:

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Comics Lowdown: Russ Heath, Yim Yee-King pass away

Plus: Jerusalem cartoonist fired over drawing of Prime Minister Benjamin Nettanyahu, comics at Walmart, Thi Bui and more!

Passings: Eisner Hall of Fame artist Russ Heath passed away last week after battling cancer, his grandson, Lee Kosa, reported on Twitter. “His mastery of the craft of illustration encouraged me to pursue the arts and it is a joy to see my son now filling his own sketchbooks. Thank you for passing along the joys of drawing and storytelling,” Kosa wrote.

In the late 1940s, Heath began his career at Timely Comics, which eventually became Marvel Comics. While there, he drew many of their Western titles like Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt. Later his work expanded to include their superhero titles, as well as war comics for EC Comics and DC Comics, where he co-created The Haunted Tank and worked on Sea Devils, G.I. Combat and Our Army at War, among other titles. He also worked on the “Little Annie Fanny” strip that appeared in Playboy, even moving into the Playboy Mansion in Chicago for a time while working on it. Later he’d move into animation, where he worked on G.I. Joe, Godzilla and “Pryde of the X-Men.” Heath was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2009 and received the National Cartoonists Society’s Milton Caniff Award in 2014. He was 91 when he died.

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