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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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: Artist OK with defacement of Zunar mural

Also: Moto Hagio returns to the Poe saga, Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez talk ‘Assassinistas,’ and Annie Koyama looks back at her first decade as a comics publisher

Someone has defaced a mural of the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar—but the artist who created the mural is OK with that. “I don’t see it as ruined but as a response, and it does not matter to me who is responding,” said Bibichun, the artist. “It’s in the public domain and it’s for members of the public to consume in their own way.” The mural depicted Zunar with his mouth covered by the flag of UMNO, the dominant political party of Malaysia (and therefore a frequent target of Zunar’s cartoon). Recently, an unknown man painted the flag black. “The piece was a response to the suppression of Zunar’s exhibition at the Penang Literary Festival last year,” said Bibichun. “I’m surprised it took Umno supporters such a long time to respond.” Zunar recently canceled a planned exhibit of his work out of concern that it, too, would be attacked.

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Comics Lowdown: Mohammed Cartoons Conspirator Extradited

One more conspirator in the Lars Vilks case heads to court. Also: Comics about the news, Bruce Tinsley mollifies a fan, and the July BookScan numbers.

Ali Charaf Damache will be arraigned in Philadelphia on August 28 on conspiracy charges related to the attempt to kill a cartoonist who drew the Prophet Mohammed as a dog. Prosecutors allege that Damache conspired with two women (one of whom styled herself “Jihad Jane”) and a high school student to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Although the group never carried out their plans, the co-conspirators have already been sentenced to prison terms. Damache, who is 52, was indicted in 2011 but only recently extradited from Algeria to the U.S.

Monstress #7 (Image Comics)

Hot Books: ICv2 has the BookScan graphic novels chart for July, and it’s definitely eclectic. The number one book is Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book, and no, those aren’t typos; check out the @jomnysun Twitter account for more. The next four books are like a modern graphic novels bingo card: Monstress, vol. 2; March, Book One; The Ancient Magus’s Bride, vol. 7; and Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up. Viz has eight titles on the top 20; Marvel has one (a Star Wars title) and DC has the perennial best-sellers Watchmen and The Killing Joke.

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