Comics Lowdown: Diversity reigns at Lion Forge

Also: Who is the writer of Death Note? Victoria Jamieson, drawing and depression, big list o’ cons this weekend and more!

Diversity in All Things, Including Diversity: Lion Forge senior editor Joe Illidge talks about Catalyst Prime, his company’s new superhero universe that emphasizes diversity in its characters and creators:

“We don’t always want to do straight lines, because in a weird way that segregates talent,” Illidge said. “That only says, well if you’re black, you can only write black characters or if you’re a woman you can only write a female character. We want to show that we can expand beyond that.”

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Comics Lowdown: Trump tweets swiped and altered cartoon

Plus: Tramp’s closing down, submissions open for a feminist critique of Whedon and more!

Indianapolis Star cartoonist Gary Varvel was surprised, and none too pleased, when Donald Trump Tweeted one of his cartoons—with some unauthorized alterations. The original cartoon, which was published in January, was a play on the “Trump train” trope, showing a Trump-branded locomotive with a donkey plastered on the front. (Varvel was careful to note that the donkey is “resisting” the train but not being flattened by it: “No cartoon donkeys were killed in the making of this cartoon,” he said.) Trump retweeted another version that replaced the donkey with a CNN logo, added a line about “fake news,” and cropped out Varvel’s signature.

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Comics Lowdown: RIP Alfonso Azpiri

Also: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Gabe Soria, comics for Costa Rican kids, Shigeru Mizuki, ComiXology, Rocket and Groot prints

Passings: Spanish artist Alfonso Azpiri, a frequent contributor to Heavy Metal magazine, died on August 18 at the age of 70. (The headline of the linked article gives an incorrect birth year.) From the obit:

Azpiri’s most famous creation was Lorna, a sexually insatiable space adventurer (often compared to Barbarella), accompanied on her travels around the galaxy by a pair of artoo-threepio-ish robots named ADL and Arnold. Azpiri will also be remembered for Mot, a more family-friendly series about a boy who has adventures with his huge monster companion.

His work was first published in Heavy Metal in 1984, and three issues of the magazine were devoted almost entirely to Lorna stories.

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Comics Lowdown: Legal woes for political cartoonists Ted Rall and Zunar

Plus: Hell’s Kitchen is trendy, fun and socially progressive comics, Alex Simmons and Erica Henderson celebrated, industry of immigrants

Legal: Political cartoonist Ted Rall has lost another round in his lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times. Rall, a former freelancer for the Times sued the paper for defamation and wrongful termination last year, after the editors determined a blog post he had written about his treatment by the Los Angeles Police Department was inaccurate. The Times dropped Rall as a freelancer and published an editor’s note stating that the blog post was incorrect. Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin ruled that because Rall was a public figure, the editor’s note and any other articles about him are protected by the First Amendment. Consequently, Kalin granted the motion by the Times’s parent company, Tribune Media, to strike the complaint.

Legal: The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar (pictured above) has filed a lawsuit against the government and the police, including 16 individual police officers, for seizing his books and T-shirts at a fund-raising event last December. Zunar had organized a “Tea with Zunar” event at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on December 17, but before it began, police arrested the cartoonist and an assistant who was in charge of sales, and they confiscated 1,187 books and 103 T-shirts. Zunar and his assistant were released, but the merchandise was not returned. In the suit, Zunar alleges that the arrest and seizure were illegal and that some booksellers will no longer carry his books because of the fear they will be confiscated.

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Comics Lowdown: Businessman wins against Marvel, DC Comics to use  the word ‘superhero’

Plus: assistant principal fired for Pepe the Frog book, new Madefire/DC Comics digital deal, and the hunt for H. G. Peter photos

When Graham Jules (pictured above) wrote his book, Business Zero to Superhero, he had no idea he would end up in a battle against the two largest comic publishers in the world. When his book was about to be published in 2014, he received a letter from Marvel and DC Comics claiming the word infringed on their jointly owned trademark since 1979. Jules, who also studies law, decided to represent himself in the case. A two-and-a-half year legal case ensued and this week, the two comic giants decided to drop the case for “commercial reasons.” The entrepreneur estimates that he spent a total of £200 and 200 hours in writing letters.

“This is an amazing result. It shows that even the little guy can achieve something with determination.”

It will not be surprising if his next book is about being a superhero of trademark cases.

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Comics Lowdown: The impact of ComiXology Unlimited

David Steinberger talks digital comics, Akira Himekawa discuss Legend of Zelda and a Pakistani creator makes the world’s longest comic strip

The Digital Picture: ICv2 posts an interview with comiXology CEO David Steinberger, who talks about the platform’s gradual shift from something resembling a comic shop selling single issues to a more comprehensive service; how the company’s acquisition by Amazon three years ago has changed things; and the impact of ComiXology Unlimited, their all-you-can-read service, in terms of bringing in new readers:

One of the figures we’ve been sharing is that publishers that have been with [ComiXology Unlimited] for the year have seen overall double-digit growth this year. That’s totally opposite to what’s going on in the Direct Market.

One of the keys to their success is “personalization,” letting users tailor the experience and focus on what they are interested in—and, a la Amazon, recommend more items based on what they are reading already.

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Comics Lowdown: All is revealed!

DC announces their Writers Workshop participants, First Second unveils their Spring 2018 books, Viz licenses some new media, and Mimi Pond talks about her new book—and getting dropped from ‘The Simpsons’ because she was a woman

The Big Reveal: DC announced the names of the six writers who will take part in this year’s DC Writers Workshop: Magdalene Visaggio (Kim & Kim, Quantum Teens Are Go), Sanya Anwar (1001), Joey Esposito (Pawn Shop, Captain Ultimate), Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Last Sons of America, Warlords of Appalachia), Robert Jeffrey (Route 3, Radio Free Amerika) and Ryan Cady (Big Moose). Batman writer Scott Snyder will lead the workshop.

“It’s 13 weeks, and we meet for two, two-and-a-half hours online in a Brady Bunch-style box of windows. I teach it in such a way that it’s all superhero writing for DC. I try and make each week a lesson about a particular technique,” Snyder told Heat Vision. “My job is not to teach you how to write by formula for DC. It’s for you to come in and write the stuff you’re passionate about in your own way. I don’t care if that’s funny political, light-hearted, dark, whatever. Your job is to come in and have something to say. My job is to help you fit it into the rubric of superhero calculus and to help you maximize that story: look at where you should beef things up, slow it down, be aware of pacing. You need to come here and have something to say.”

At the end of the workshop, DC works with the writers to place them in writing slots for DC comics.

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Comics Lowdown: Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty brings the cuteness to high-energy physics, ‘Korra’ creators talk about the new graphic novel and the ‘Gotham Academy’ team look back on their three-year long school year.

Hello Kitty shows up in a lot of unlikely places, from checkbooks to the sides of airplanes, but this is a first: She’s repping for the International Linear Collider, a proposed particle accelerator that was under discussion last week at the International Conference on High Energy Physics. (CERN, where the Higgs boson was first spotted, is a donut-shaped accelerator; the ILC would run in a straight line.) Japan is one of the possible sites for the ILC, so boosters drafted Hello Kitty to the cause and gave her a new outfit, complete with pocket protector and a fancy L (for Lagrangian) on her bow.

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Comics Lowdown: We’re all doomed! Or not!

A writer predicts the demise of Marvel comics, but the DC honchos are bullish on their medium. Plus: Sitting down with Los Bros Hernandez.

Let’s kick things off with some doom and gloom! At the Disney theme park fan site The Kingdom Insider, Thom Pratt asks “Will Disney Stop Publishing Marvel Comic Books?” Pratt makes some good points: The Marvel universe most people are familiar with comes from the movies, not the comics; the comics themselves are not really accessible to most people, both literally (because of the uneven distribution and quality of comic shops) and figuratively (because the storylines cross over and the continuity is complex); and the profits are low relative to what a large corporation like Disney expects. Of course, this is all unvarnished speculation, with no insider knowledge, but there’s food for thought here—and as Pratt points out, Marvel is already outsourcing its digests to Archie and its young-readers Star Wars comics to IDW.

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