Comics Lowdown: Political cartoonist arrested

Plus: IDW stumbles, SyFy makes a list, and Darryl Cunningham draws another science comic.

Political Cartoonist Arrested: Government authorities in the African country of Equatorial Guinea arrested political cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé on September 16 and are reportedly preparing criminal defamation charges against him, according to Human Rights Watch. Equatorial Guinea’s defamation law, which dates back to its days as a Spanish colony, makes it a crime to criticize the president or other government officials. Ebalé, who no longer lives in Equatorial Guinea but was visiting to renew his passport, frequently caricatures President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; he visited the U.S. in 2016 to distribute his book, Obi’s Nightmare, which imagines what the president’s life would be like if he had to live as an ordinary person in his country.

25 of the Best: The SyFy folks have done the research (presumably!) and come up with a list of the 25 best comics writers of the past 25 years. If nothing else, this gives everyone something to argue about!

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Comics Lowdown: Police reopen 30-year-old case of murdered cartoonist

Also: Dave Gibbons talks about writing, Dyer and Dorkin discuss ‘Calla Cthulhu,’ and ‘Criminy’ finds a publisher.

Sketch of what the gunman who shot al-Ali might look like now
Cold Case Files: Thirty years after the murder of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, London police have appealed to the public for any information they may have on the case. Ali was shot in the back of the neck on July 22, 1989, near the London office of the Kuwaiti publication Al-Qabas, and he died on August 29 of the same year. Police released descriptions of the two suspects and a sketch of what the shooter might look like today.

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Comics Lowdown: New charity helps retailers

Also: Manga dominates the BookScan chart, Crumb originals bring in big bucks, Cecil Casetellucci talks ‘Soupy.’

Retailers Help Their Own: A group of comic shop owners has started an organization, Helping Comics Retailers with Issues (a.k.a. HCR Issues) to, well, do just what the name says: They will help pay down the debt to Diamond of comic shops that have run into rough waters. Secretary and co-founder Dr. Christina Blanch, owner of Aw Yeah! Comics in Muncie, Indiana, says that plans were in the works for a while, but Hurricane Harvey sped things up.

Back to School Again: ICv2 has the BookScan top 20 graphic novels chart for August, and vol. 9 of the superhero-school manga My Hero Academia takes the top spot. In fact, Viz has ten of the top 20 titles, with four volumes of My Hero Academia (1, 2, 8, 9), two volumes of Tokyo Ghoul (the first and the last), and assorted other titles. Add in vol. 22 of Attack on Titan and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up, and you’ve got a chart dominated by manga. On the other hand, there are no Marvel titles at all and the only DC books on the chart are Watchmen and The Killing Joke. BookScan covers bookstores and other retail channels such as Amazon, so their charts are often very different from Diamond’s, which only cover comic shops.

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Comics Lowdown: Jack Kirby special edition

A roundup of some of the Jack Kirby 100th birthday news this week!

Not only is it “Kirby Week” here on Smash Pages, but the entire comic industry has come together to honor and remember one of the industry’s greatest and most influential creators, Jack Kirby, for what would have been his 100th birthday. Here’s a round-up of links related to “The King.”

The first place to check is Marvel.com, which has an entire section dedicated to Jack Kirby. The colorful articles have been posted throughout the month of August, with reading lists, character features and articles by Jim Zub, Carlos Pacheco, Mark Waid and Mike Allred. Plus there are several videos about the life of Jack Kirby.

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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: 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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