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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Comics Lowdown: More Manga, Scary Stories and an Inside Look at North Korea

A North Korean cartoonist looks at the lighter side of defection, an American cartoonist turns down an Iranian award, and Humanoids announces an all-ages horror graphic novel.

Struggles and Smiles: Former North Korean animator Choi Seong-guk was surprised at how different the comics were when he defected to South Korea: “When I first saw South Korean cartoons, I just didn’t get them,” he says. “There were no stories about patriotism or catching spies or war. They just seemed useless to me.” There were a lot of other differences too, including some idioms that he misunderstood. Now he has turned his experiences into an online comic that depicts both the funny and the serious side of the lives of North Koreans at home and in South Korea.

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Comics Lowdown: Comic-Con to Stay in San Diego

Plus: Udon to publish Daigo manga, another comics shop is robbed, a comics professor quits his job

It’s official: Comic-Con International will remain in San Diego for now, resisting the blandishments of other cities such as Los Angeles and Anaheim, which have been trying to woo it away. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced on June 30 that the city has signed a three-year deal with Comic-Con that will last through 2021; the current contract ends after next year’s show. Faulconer made a pitch for expanding the convention center, something that has been talked about for years now; the City Council recently refused his request to put a special tax on the November ballot to fund an expansion. Con-goers get a bit of a break in this new contract, though: The last contract held all hotel rooms to their 2016 prices for the duration, and the new one only allows a 4% increase over the 2018 price over the subsequent three years.

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Comics Lowdown: Manga pirates can’t go legit

Plus: ‘Check Please’ goes to First Second, ‘Infini-T’ Force goes to Udon, Jill Thompson, Red Planet and more.

A Pirate’s Life… Ain’t what it used to be. Cecilia D’Anastasio talks to several former scanlators (including NJT, who set up MangaHelpers back in the day) about their struggles to go legit, and she also talks to some legitimate translators about what they do. While scanlators defend what they do as providing a service by fans, for fans—no ugly profit involved—it’s also true that publishers may not want to license a series that is already being widely read on bootleg sites. Also, they are finding that publishers don’t want to hire them, and the pay isn’t enough to let them quit their day jobs. Because, as Kodansha Comics’ Ben Applegate observed, “Whenever there’s a large group of people giving away their labor for free, it’s going to depress pay for those who are trying to do things legitimately.”

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Comics Lowdown: Bookscan charts, female readers and the Big Two

Comics gets a wake-up call, Wonder Woman gets a long-lost brother and Ted Rall gets SLAPPed.

It’s like comics is going through its half-year review, and manga and kids’ graphic novels get high marks but Marvel and DC get a low “needs improvement.” Heidi MacDonald has a long but very readable article at The Beat summarizing what’s going on: Comics are thriving, but not monthly comics and not in comic shops:

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Comics Lowdown: Trolling the trolls

A cartoonist gets his career back, manga and kids’ comics are booming, and a con veteran offers advice for first-timers

Trolling the Trolls: Your bizarre read for the day is Emma Grey Ellis’s account of the strange career of Ben Garrison, a libertarian political cartoonist who became a sort of real-life Pepe the Frog after alt-right trolls started altering his cartoons to include Nazi imagery and seeded the internet with fake stories:

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Comics Lowdown: Bricks fly through one comic shop; Grant given to another

Plus: The mother of shojo manga, Naruto and real-life politics and more

Galactic Comics in Ocean Beach, California was vandalized. Screen cap from KGTV San Diego.
David Draize, owner of Galactic Comics in Ocean Beach, California, doesn’t know why someone hurled several bricks through his store window, but he’s grateful for the police response that followed. Security camera footage shows a man in his 40s or 50s, clad in black, throwing several bricks and cinderblocks through the store window at about 1 a.m. on June 12. Nothing was taken from the store, in part, Draize believes, because the police officers who responded stayed to guard the store till he could get there.

Amalgam University Gets Its First Grant: In happier retailing news, Ariell Johnson, proprietor of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse in Philadelphia, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to set up a programming space, which will expand the footprint of the store and allow her to create an “Amalgam University.” Johnson says that because she sells self-published work, she sees a lot of comics that have potential but are falling short in terms of craft. She hopes to offer classes to help those who can’t go to art school learn the nuts and bolts of making comics.

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