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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Comics Lowdown: RIP James Vance

The man who finished ‘Omaha the Cat Dancer’ passes away, Frank Quitely finally gets that degree, and more.

James Vance

Passings: James Vance, the author (with artist Dan Burr) of the graphic novels Kings in Disguise and On the Ropes, died on June 5 at the age of 64. Kings in Disguise was first published as a limited series by Kitchen Sink Press in 1988 and in 1989 won the Eisner and Harvey awards for Best New Series, and the first issue won the Eisner for Best Single Issue. W.W. Norton published a collected edition in 2006, with an introduction by Alan Moore. The sequel, On the Ropes, was published by Norton in 2013. Vance was married to Omaha the Cat Dancer writer Kate Worley from 1994 to 2004, and many years later he collaborated with Omaha artist Reed Waller to complete the story, which was left unfinished at Worley’s death; it was published in 2013. Vance, who was also a playwright, talked about his work with Alex Dueben at CBR in 2013. His illness and death leaves his family in a difficult financial situation, so a GoFundMe has been set up to help.

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Comics Lowdown: The woman behind Wonder Woman

Plus: ‘Revolutionary Girl Utena’ returns, Red Planet opens in Albuquerque, Melanie Gillman, Alex Segura, Harley Quinn and more.

The Wonder Woman movie has lots of people looking at the history of the character and how she has evolved over the years. The Fresh Toast has a great interview with Trina Robbins, the first woman to draw Wonder Woman and a pioneering underground comics artist and comics historian as well. She’s a delightful person who has had a fascinating life, and this interview is a great way to start off your week.

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Comics Lowdown: Comics will break your heart

Plus: Jillian Tamaki on Q, Comic Nurse compiles HIV stories, Drawn to Change wins, Chris Ware, Captain Harlock returns

Today’s thoughtful read is a painful one: Maggie Umber chronicles the end of her marriage and the struggle to make 2dCloud a successful indy publisher. It’s a reminder that nothing is ever simple when viewed from the inside—she writes poignantly about the part she played in 2dCloud and the tension between that and her own career as a cartoonist, and the strain that put on her relationship with her soon-to-be-ex-husband Raighne Hogan:

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