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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Comics Lowdown: Comic Con court case kicks off

Plus: More court cases, Stephanie Zuppo, Lucy Bellwood and more!

Legal: Salt Lake Comic Con tried to “hijack” the Comic-Con brand name, an attorney for Comic-Con International said in opening arguments in the trademark suit between the two convention organizers. “You don’t need to use ‘Comic-Con’ in your name to identify your comic and popular-arts convention,” said Comic-Con International attorney Callie Bjurstrom. In making a distinction between the two, she said “Convention is a generic term. Comic-Con is a brand.” Salt Lake Comic Con attorney Michael Katz, on the other hand, said that Salt Lake organizers merely followed existing practice when adopting the comic con name, as many other conventions had before them: “They used the same formula: Salt Lake to refer to where they were, and Comic Con to refer to what they were,” he said.

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Comics Lowdown: ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ creator arrested on child porn charges

Plus: The Cartoon Art Museum gets a new home, the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the largest X-Men collection, and much more!

The manga world was rocked on Tuesday when Rurouni Kenshin creator Nobuhiro Watsuki was charged with possession of child pornography. Police didn’t target the 47-year-old manga-ka; they were investigating someone else when he turned up as a possible purchaser of child porn, and indeed he has been charged with possessions of “numerous” DVDs containing footage of nude girls in their early teens. In a deposition, Watsuki, stated that he “liked girls in late elementary school to around the second year of middle school.”

The penalty for possession of child pornography in Japan is up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 1 million yen, if convicted, but for Watsuki the consequences are already grave: His publisher, Shueisha, said it is taking the news very seriously and it has suspended his current series, Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc, which he is co-creating with his wife, Kaoru Kurosaki; it has not decided yet what to do about the volumes that are already in print. Rurouni Kenshin started in 1994 and has over 60 million volumes in print; Viz has the U.S. license and has been re-releasing the original series in omnibus format, and is publishing the Hokkaido Arc simultaneously with the Japanese release.

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Comics Lowdown: Berganza aftermath

Reflections on the industry after the firing of Eddie Berganza, plus trouble ahead for Wizard World and new manga licenses from Anime NYC.

Sexual Harassment in Comics: Buzzfeed’s exposé of DC editor Eddie Berganza’s history of sexual harassment, followed by DC’s swift action in firing him (seven years after his actions were first brought to the attention of their HR department) has brought on a round of commentary in comics circles, where this story was well known and discussed for years. Strongly recommended: Caitlin Rosberg takes the broad view with a look at the structural of the comics industry and how the current power shields harassers and makes creators vulnerable. She goes beyond gossip to address the real issues. And if you’re still not clear on what we’re talking about here, BookRiot’s Jessica Plummer takes a look at the January DC, Marvel, and Image solicitations and names the harassers—with links.

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