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: Charlie Hebdo, 3 years later

Charlie Hebdo survived the 2015 attack, but at a steep cost. Also: Phoenix Comic Con changes its name, museum exhibit focuses on photo comics, and retailers reflect on a difficult 2017.

The Long Con: The convention formerly known as Phoenix Comicon has changed its name and will henceforth be known as Phoenix Comic Fest. The reason? “In recent months, the use of the word Comic-Con, and its many forms, has become litigious,” says the official press release. “We would prefer to focus on creating the best events and experiences for our attendees.” This is undoubtedly a reaction to the court decision late last month that stated that Comic-Con International, the organization that runs Comic Con in San Diego, owns the trademark for the term “comic con.”

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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: Court strikes down gag order in ‘comic-con’ lawsuit

Plus: Top graphic novels, comics retail chat and two new manga from Jiro Taniguchi!

The 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that a gag order imposed by a judge in the trademark lawsuit between Comic-Con International and Salt Lake Comic Con is unconstitutional. The case stretches back to 2014, when Comic-Con International, which produces the San Diego comic con, sued the organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “comic con,” which CCI claims it owns. The Salt Lake organization countersued, claiming the term is widely used by other conventions and is a generic term. The trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 28, and because they were concerned that Salt Lake’s postings about the issue on social media would taint the jury pool, CCI asked that they be restrained from commenting publicly about the case. U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia placed a strict limit on what Salt Lake could post about the case, and limited that even further after CCI claimed that Salt Lake violated the ban. However, the appeals court overturned that order on Monday, saying,

San Diego Comic-Con has presented no evidence as to how many, if any, of the approximately 35,200 Twitter followers are registered voters in San Diego and Imperial counties and how many, if any, of the 120,000 attendees of the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con in Utah are even possibly members of the current San Diego-area jury pool.

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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: 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: 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: 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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