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: 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: 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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Comics Lowdown: My Favorite Thing Is Comics

Awards, best of the year, comics journalism comics, and how the shift in retail channels is changing the industry.

The Best of the Year lists are starting to roll out. Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow tops Amazon’s list, which also includes Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer and Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. That book shows up on Publisher’s Weekly’s list as well, but the similarities end there.

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Comics Lowdown: One cartoonist free on bail; another remains in prison

Plus: Kickstarters, Leo Baxendale, and how Chuck Rozanski escaped poverty—with comics!

Indian Cartoonist Free on Bail: A judge in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadhu, India, has granted bail to cartoonist G. Bala, who was arrested on Nov. 5 for creating a “demeaning caricature” of several local officials. The cartoon critiqued the local government, including the collector, after a laborer and his family who were in deep debt to loan sharks set themselves on fire in front of the collector’s office. The entire family, including two children ages two and four, died of their injuries.

“The self-immolation and the burning children disturbed me a lot… I could not sleep for two days as if my children had charred. I had done nothing personal against the Collector, the complainant of the case against me. When he initiated steps for the ‘Wall of Kindness’ to help the poor, I felt so proud about him. When he failed to act on the repeated petitions of a usury victim, it forced a youth to take the extreme step that disturbed me a lot and I just reflected my agony through my caricature,” a visibly moved Mr. Bala told the waiting reporters while emerging from the court after being enlarged on bail.

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