Comics Lowdown: Cartoonists entitled to freedom of expression in India

Parents fight to remove Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ from school curriculum, Hope Larson’s ‘All Summer Long’ and more!

Legal: The high court in Madras, India, has ruled that political cartoonists are entitled to freedom of expression, stating that since it is their job to sway public opinion, often by making fun of public figures, they should not be vulnerable to lawsuits:

Upholding cartoonists’ unbridled freedom of expression, Justice Swaminathan stated that the “art of the cartoonist is often not reasoned or even-handed, but slashing and one-sided.”

He went on to quote extensively from US Supreme Court Justice William Rhenquist’s celebrated judgement in Hustler Magazine Inc v Falwell (1988): “The political cartoon is a weapon of attack, of scorn, ridicule and satire; it is least effective when it tries to pat some politician on the back. It is usually welcome as a bee sting, and it is always controversial in some quarters.”

The judge and several other commentators made numerous references to American cartoons, including the New Yorker cover depicting Donald Trump naked.

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Comics Lowdown: ‘XIII’ creator William Vance passes away

Plus: Police investigate Mangamura, the world’s largest comics collection and more.

Passings: The Belgian artist William Vance, creator of the French-language series XIII, has died at the age of 82 from Parkinson’s disease. Born William van Cutsem in Belgium in 1935, Vance served a year in the military and then studied for four years at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. He began working for Tintin magazine (not the eponymous series, as stated in one obituary) in 1962, drawing four-page stories, and then launched the his first series, Howard Flynn (written by Yves Duval). He also was the artist for Bruno Brazil, and then he took over as the artist of Bob Morane, a series that had been started by Dino Attanasio. In 1984, he and Jean van Hamme launched XIII, a complex series partially inspired by Robert Ludlum’s Bourne character. Vance illustrated 18 volumes of XIII, which sold over 14 million volumes and was adapted into a television series. In 2010 he announced his retirement due to Parkinson’s disease.

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Comics Lowdown: Looking at the big picture

Comics retailers discuss the comics market, Lion Forge profiled and more.

The Biz, Part I: It’s generally agreed that 2017 was a lackluster year (at best) for comics retailers. Publisher’s Weekly’s Shannon O’Leary went to the source, asking retailers in the direct market and bookstores with a large graphic novel section to discuss what’s going wrong—and right—in the comics market. There’s lots to chew on here, with commentary about Marvel, Image, and the structural issues in the direct market.

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Comics Lowdown: The Diversity issue

Black comics festivals, indy publishers, and the history of women in comics.

Festivals: West Coast: It’s Martin Luther King Day, and this past weekend brought festivals celebrating black comics to both sides of the country. In San Francisco, Nanette Asimov writes about the Black Comix Arts Festival, which runs through today, and interviews creators Tony Medina and John Jennings as well as an attendee.

Festivals: East Coast: At the New York Times, George Gene Gustines turns his focus to the Black Comics Festival, which took place this past weekend at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, and he interviews David Heredia, the creator of the animated video series Heroes of Color and a guest at the festival.

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Comics Lowdown: Charlie Hebdo, 3 years later

Charlie Hebdo survived the 2015 attack, but at a steep cost. Also: Phoenix Comic Con changes its name, museum exhibit focuses on photo comics, and retailers reflect on a difficult 2017.

The Long Con: The convention formerly known as Phoenix Comicon has changed its name and will henceforth be known as Phoenix Comic Fest. The reason? “In recent months, the use of the word Comic-Con, and its many forms, has become litigious,” says the official press release. “We would prefer to focus on creating the best events and experiences for our attendees.” This is undoubtedly a reaction to the court decision late last month that stated that Comic-Con International, the organization that runs Comic Con in San Diego, owns the trademark for the term “comic con.”

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Comics Lowdown: Off to a roaring start

Zunar sues his persecutors, Bosch Fawstin is booted (temporarily) from Twitter, and the Best of the Year lists keep rolling in.

Legal: A Malaysian High Court judge has set aside five days in April to hear the cartoonist Zunar’s lawsuit against the Inspector-General of Police and 19 other defendants. Zunar, who has been charged with sedition and is currently prohibited from leaving the country, is suing for damages and wrongful arrest. In December 2016, police stormed the venue where a “Tea with Zunar” event was about to take place and arrested the cartoonist and several other people; they also confiscated books and T-shirts. In the lawsuit, Zunar is asking for monetary damages for wrongful arrest, the return of his merchandise, and a declaration that the defendants had violated his rights.

Twitter: Cartoonist Bosch Fawstin was suspended from Twitter for “hate speech” after one of his Tweets was reported by another user. At first Twitter refused to tell him why, but then they told him his account would be unlocked if he deleted a Tweet reply that read “@NyaDnart1 There are degrees. Muslims who follow in Mohammad’s footsteps mass murder. Christians who follow in Jesus’s footsteps?” They subsequently reinstated his account with a statement that it had accidentally been caught in a spam filter.

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Comics Lowdown: Don’t quit the day job

Jim Zub has advice for an aspiring creator. Also: Best comics of 2017, trends to watch in 2018.

Sitcomics, a comics publisher based in Santa Monica, is rolling out Binge Books, a line of 64-page comics priced at $3.99, with a new strategy that they call “Sell-Through Distribution”: Bypassing the usual distribution system, they will go directly through retailers. They will start distributing a free catalog to retailers on January 3; customers can order the comics until January 25, and they will be delivered on January 31, a much faster turnaround than standard distribution. The comics will also be returnable by retailers.

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Comics Lowdown: Comic-Con International wins trademark suit

‘Comic con’ belongs to Comic-Con! Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix! Plus Connor Willumson, behind the scenes on comiXology’s Guided View, recent personnel changes and more!

Legal: Comic-Con International won its trademark suit against Salt Lake Comic Con on Friday, when a jury determined that “comic con” is a trademark, and that Salt Lake Comic Con’s use of it was likely to confuse the public. However, the jury did not grant CCI the $12 million in damages that was requested in the lawsuit; stating they did not believe the infringement was intentional, they awarded CCI $20,000 for advertising to clear up any confusion.

Rob Salkowitz lays out the history of the case and the possible implications at Forbes, pointing out that some conventions already pay CCI a licensing fee for the use of the term. He also noted that the organizers of SLCC, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, tried to paint themselves as the Davids to CCI’s Goliath and ran a crowdfunding campaign to pay for their legal fees—but they also gave themselves $225,000 in bonuses. At the trial, however, CCI produced a survey that showed more than 70 percent of respondents identified the term “comic con” with the San Diego event.

In a statement released later that day, CCI reiterated that the trademark was theirs and that they had worked for almost 50 years to build that brand. “From the beginning all that we asked of the defendants was to stop using our Comic-Con trademarks,” the statement said. “Today we obtained a verdict that will allow us to achieve this. For that we are grateful.”

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Comics Lowdown: Who created Batman?

Cape Cod man says his dad invented Batman! Plus: Pepe the Frog, Frank Miller, another comic convention legal battle and more!

Batman Claim: Although his claims have been met with some skepticism, Frank Foster III is firmly convinced his father invented Batman. The Cape Cod octogenarian has a number of sketches by his father, Frank Foster II, which depict a superhero with many of the same characteristics as DC’s Batman; the sketches are dated 1932, and one of them has several possible names, with a checkmark next to “Batman.” Frank Foster II went to art school with Li’l Abner creator Al Capp and in the 1930s, when he was living in New York, showed his portfolio to several comics publishers; the younger Foster believes someone may have seen the sketches and stolen the idea. He tried to interest several auction houses in the drawings, but none would take them, so he will be selling them on eBay. Foster elaborates further on his claims at his website.

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