Comics Lowdown: RIP Monkey Punch, Kazuo Koike

Plus: Bill Mantlo in need, halfway through ‘Saga,’ awards and more.

The manga community has lost two legends in April, as both Lupin III creator Monkey Punch and Lone Wolf & Cub co-creator Kazuo Koike have passed away. Both men died from pneumonia six days apart, and were once considered rivals when their respective manga ran in Weekly Manga Action magazine. They also worked together on the Secretary Bird manga mini-series that ran in the magazine in 1970.

Monkey Punch, whose real name was Kazuhito Kato, was 81 when he passed away. His most famous creation, Lupin III, started as a manga and was later adapted into six animated television series, eight animated feature films, two live-action feature films, two musicals and several video games. He passed away April 11.

In addition to Lone Wolf & Cub, Koike is also known for such titles as Lady Snowblood, Crying Freeman, Samurai Executioner and many other popular series. His work influenced many American creators, including Frank Miller, who drew covers for First Comics’ publication of the series. Koike also worked on a few western series, including a Hulk manga and an issue of X-Men Unlimited. He passed away April 17 at the age of 82.

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Comics Lowdown: ‘Astro Hustle’ canceled after sexual misconduct allegations against Jai Nitz

Plus: Mark Alessi passes away; DiNKy award nominees and more.

Dark Horse Comics has canceled the final two issues of Astro Hustle after writer Jai Nitz was accused of sexual misconduct.

The allegations were first published on the Her Campus website by Hannah Strader, a University of Kansas student who met Nitz when he was a guest lecturer in one of her classes. Nitz, whose recent work also includes a Suicide Squad story for DC Comics, briefly deleted his Twitter account (which is now set to private) and bailed on his appearance at 2019 Planet Comicon last weekend.

“Dark Horse takes all allegations seriously. We have cancelled future issues of Astro Hustle,” the publisher said in a statement to CBR.com. “While we were unable to prevent our distributor’s shipping of Astro Hustle #2, we are also suspending our professional ties with Jai Nitz.”

Astro Hustle artist Tom Reilly addressed the cancellation on Twitter, saying it was “for the best” and showing support for the victim. And Nitz released a statement to Bleeding Cool, saying “I am stepping away from comics and public life. I am seeking counseling and trying to live a better life for my loved ones.”

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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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Comics Lowdown: Awards round-up

See recently announced nominees and winners for several different awards.

Today seems like a good day for an awards rundown …

The nominees for the L.A. Times Book prize have been announced, including the five books chosen in the “Graphic Novel/Comics” category. They include:

  • Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell, The Pervert
  • Eleanor Davis, Why Art?
  • Aisha Franz, … Is Real
  • Jérôme Ruillier, The Strange
  • Tillie Walden, On a Sunbeam

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the University of Southern California’s Bovard Auditorium on April 12, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The L.A. Times has given an award in the graphic novel category since 2009, when Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli won the award. Other previous winners include The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez, Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines and Beverly by Nick Drnaso.

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Comics Lowdown: Comic books sales up in 2018, Marvel top publisher; stalker sets cosplayer’s car on fire

Plus: ‘Drama’ drama with the Ottawa Catholic School Board! Faith Erin Hicks! Jed MacKay! And more!

The 2018 direct market numbers from Diamond are in and comic sales are ever so slightly up from 2017. Comics saw an increase to sales by 3.3%, but graphic novels were down by 6.6%. The combined sales of the two formats mean a wee increase of 0.6% for the direct market.

Marvel Comics increased their market share slightly to gain an extra 2% over DC Comics, who seemed to have flat lined and lost 0.3% of their market share. This indicates that Marvel’s market share gains mostly come from the expense of small publishers or independent comic sales, with the exception of Image Comics, who also saw a slight increase.

The best-selling graphic novel of the year was Infinity Gauntlet. The 1991 story is enjoying a revival because of the Avengers: Infinity War movie. The best-selling comics was Action #1000, a landmark issue featuring unpublished artwork by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan and the introduction of writer Brain Michael Bendis to the DC universe.

Complete lists and more insight are available on comichron.com.

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Comics Lowdown: Batton Lash, Ron Smith pass away

Plus: News on Grant Morrison, Tintin, Stan Lee and more.

Batton Lash, the creator of the long-running comic-strip-turned-comic-book Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (later re-titled Supernatural Law) passed away Jan. 12 at the age of 65 from brain cancer.

Lash’s comics career began in the late 1970s when Wolff and Byrd began running as a weekly comic strip in The Brooklyn Paper and then later in The National Law Journal. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Jackie Estrada, formed Exhibit A Press, which began publishing Wolff and Byrd comics under the title Supernatural Law. It later migrated to the web. His other works included writing the Archie Meets The Punisher crossover as well as Bongo Comics’ Radioactive Man book, which received an Eisner Award in 2002. He also collaborated with James Hudnall on Obama Nation, a conservative political comic strip that appeared on one of Andrew Breitbart’s websites.

Many of the creators and industry professionals who knew Lash have started to share their remembrances, including Heidi MacDonald and Rob Salkowitz. The Comics Reporter has a round-up of more of them.

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Comics Lowdown: Tom King’s CIA service

Plus: ‘The Arrival’ selected for Hong Kong’s first ‘One City, One Book’ campaign, the obituary Marie Severin should have received, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phoebe Gloeckner, Diamond Gem awards and more best-of-2018 lists!

Happy New Year from the Smash Pages staff! Coming back from the holiday break, let’s ring out the old and ring in the new with today’s collection of comic book news links.

Let’s start with a weird one: Last week Abhay Khosla, comics critic and past Superman writer, posted about his attempts to confirm with the CIA that Batman and Heroes in Crisis writer Tom King used to work for them. The topic of King’s former employer frequently comes up in interviews related to his Batman work (not to mention King’s Vertigo series The Sheriff of Babylon), and Khosla questioned whether any reporters who interviewed King about it had ever confirmed it. So Khosla sent the CIA a letter back in 2016 asking for confirmation, and the response he received from the agency was inconclusive.

This exchange occurred in 2016, and why Khosla decided to go public with it now isn’t clear. The point of Khosla’s post doesn’t seem to be to call out King as a liar (he starts his post by saying, “I don’t think this is really a story about Tom King”) but is more of a statement about entertainment journalism and fact-checking. He points out similar situations where a past DC writer, Micah Wright, lied about being in the armed services, as well as current Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski pretending to be Japanese early in his career.

The problem isn’t in asking the question — it’s posting about it without an answer or actually asking King about it. Like verifying facts, that’s also journalism 101. After the post went live, King was quick to respond on Twitter, showing proof that he was, indeed, in the CIA. Bleeding Cool, The Comics Reporter and Nick Hanover have more commentary on this.

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Comics Lowdown: Eric M. Esquivel fired from ‘Nightwing,’ ‘Border Town’ cancelled

Plus: Free Comics Book Day, George Freeman, Marie Javins and more!

Although it wasn’t yet announced, DC Comics has said Eric M. Esquivel will no longer co-write Nightwing. The news that Esquivel was writing the book was to be revealed today in DC’s January solicitations.

The news follows the cancellation of Border Town, a well-reviewed series Esquivel wrote with artists Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain. Both Villalobos and Bonvillain announced on social media they had quit the title after allegations of sexual abuse against Esquivel became public. In a piece titled “X, my experience with my abuser,” toy designer Cynthia Naugle detailed a history of abuse by a co-worker at a comic shop, who has since been identified as Esquivel.

Neither DC Comics nor Vertigo have commented directly on the abuse allegations. Esquivel, who had changed his Twitter account to private following the allegations, has now made it public again and posted several tweets in response. At Book Riot, writer S.W. Sondheimer says she will no longer cover Vertigo titles as a result of their silence on the matter.

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Comics Lowdown: Chris Ryall rejoins IDW; Joe Illidge out at Valiant

Plus: top comics and graphic novels at comic shops in November! Next ‘Dog Man’ book gets a 5 million copy print run! Kieron Gillen plays ‘Die,’ for real! And much more!

Chris Ryall, who left IDW Publishing in March after serving as editor-in-chief for about 14 years, has rejoined the company as president, publisher and chief creative officer.

“IDW is where I’ve spent the majority of my career, and I consider the company and its employees like family, so I am grateful for this amazing opportunity to return,” Ryall said in a press statement. “I believe that IDW has very significant opportunities to become even more valuable and important, and I am excited to further expand on what I started with the company nearly 15 years ago. I am also eager to help the company celebrate its 20th year anniversary in 2019 in varied and creatively invigorating new ways.”

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