Comics Lowdown | Chinese government upset by Danish coronavirus cartoon

Plus: Changes at Kodansha, Cullen Bunn goes ‘Rogue’ and whatever happened to Lion Man?

Editorial Cartoons: A cartoon in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, depicting the Chinese flag with the stars replaced by coronaviruses, has, predictably, angered the Chinese government. (Jyllands-Posten is the same paper whose cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad caused an uproar in 2005.) The Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen has demanded an apology, but Jyllands-Posten editor Jacob Nybroe has refused, and the Danish prime minister is backing him up.

The Biz: Restructuring at Kodansha USA means a promotion for Alvin Lu, previously the general manager of Kodansha Advance Media. Publishers Weekly reports that Kodansha’s subsidiaries, including its digital arm Kodansha Advanced Media and the manga and novel publisher Vertical Inc., will be folded into Kodansha USA. Lu will be the CEO, and Ivan Salazar, former public relations and events specialist at ComiXology, has been hired as senior marketing director.

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Comics Lowdown: Con wars, comics in Spanish, new kids’ imprint

Plus: Asterix, Jason Lutes, Derf Backderf, James Romberger and more!

Creator Talk: At The Beat, Matt O’Keefe interviews Chris Eliopoulos about his graphic novels (Cow Boy, Cosmic Commandos), his picture books (Ordinary People Change the World), the difference between comics and book publishing, and how he began his career as a comics letterer—his lettering firm, Virtual Calligraphy, still does a lot of lettering for Marvel.

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Comics Lowdown: Outhungering ‘Hunger Games’

Brian Fies reflects on going through the California fires a second time, Jamal Igle shows how he draws a cover, J. Caleb Mozzocco explains War Bears.

Passings: Coila Davis, longtime editorial cartoonist for the Rockford (Illinois) Register Star, has died at the age of 72.

Freedom of Expression: The nonfiction comics blog Cartoon Movement notes that they are currently blocked in China, Iran, Russia, and Turkey.

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Comics Lowdown: Rio mayor arrives too late to seize ‘Avengers’ comic

Plus: Lynda Barry, ‘Cathy,’ Brian Hibbs and more.

Censorship: The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcello Crivella, sent a team of law enforcement agents to the International Book Fair in his city to confiscate any and all copies of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, on the grounds that it shows a same-sex kiss. The mayor was concerned that it was “sexual content for minors” and would lead the children of Rio de Janeiro astray, but the joke was on him: The comic had sold out by the time his officers got there. The festival organizers took him to court and won an injunction against any further seizures or attempts to pull the festival’s permit, but the ruling was partly overturned the next day. “We will always continue to defend the family,” said the mayor, an Evangelical preacher, who apparently found a drawing of a kiss to be a more pressing matter than the fact that 40% of Brazilian children live in poverty.

Late-breaking addendum: Despite Crivello’s admonition that “Books like this need to be wrapped in black sealed plastic with a content warning displayed on the outside,” the daily newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo put the image on its front page.

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Comics Lowdown: Spiegelman withdraws essay after Marvel wanted to remove Trump reference

Plus: Hector Gonzalez Rodriguez III on the El Paso shooting, thieves caught selling comics to their actual owner; and more!

Marvel asked legendary comic creator Art Spiegelman to remove a line from his introduction for a new Golden Age comic collection for being too political. The essay refers to current president of the Unites States Donald Trump as an “Orange Skull.”

“In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America”

The graphic novelist decided to withdraw his entire essay meant for a Folio Society deluxe collection and published it online at the Guardian, fully intact, and added a few paragraphs at the end about his experience with Marvel, being edited, and about how CEO of Marvel Entertainment Ike Perlmutter donated $360,000, the maximum amount allowed, to the “Trump Victory Joint Fundraising Committee.”

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Comics Lowdown: Chelsea Saunders wins Locher Award

Plus Riverdale 10 years later, UK war comics reprinted, and a Scott Adams controversy… again.

Awards: Chelsea Saunders, whose work is often published at The Nib, is the winner of the 2019 Locher Award for emerging editorial cartoonists. Hit that link for some good reading, because the runners-up have a lot of talent as well.

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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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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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