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.

Scaring the Kiddies: The French publisher Humanoids has announced it will publish Halloween Tales, an all-ages collection of three horror stories.

Manga Manga Manga: I rounded up all the manga announcements from Anime Expo, which is the big event of the manga/anime world.

Editoral Cartoons

Clay Jones’s winning cartoon. He declined the award.

A Fine Line: Editorial cartoonist Clay Jones is happy to skewer Donald Trump and other politicians, but he’s not about to play into another country’s hands. That’s why he has turned down the award he won in the Trumpism Cartoon and Caricature Contest held by House of Cartoon in Tehran, Iran. Jones, who entered the competition via e-mail following a Facebook invitation, didn’t realize the nature of the contest, or that the same organization had held a Holocaust cartoon contest as well. “I have an issue with a contest sponsored by the government of Iran that’s critical of free speech in the United States when they don’t allow freedom of speech, or freedom for the press in their nation,” Jones said on his blog. “I have an issue with a contest that was a wolf whistle for anti-Semitism.” Indeed, as Michael Cavna writes, many cartoonists are critical of House of Cartoon—and even one of the organizers, Nikahang Kowsar, is dismayed by the direction it has taken. “It’s great to make fun of world leaders and collect masterpieces, but the question is: Why doesn’t the Islamic regime let Iranian cartoonists draw caricatures and cartoons of ayatollahs, the Revolutionary Guard’s General [Qasem] Soleimani … and all those leaders in charge of massacres and mass executions in the 1980s?” he says, adding that the show reduces the Iranian artists to “bait for the regime’s propaganda.”

Here Comes the Judge: Editorial cartoonist Joel Pett describes his experience as a judge in the 2017 Aydin Dogan cartoon contest, which was held in Bodrum, Turkey. Among other things, Pett observes that there were no entries lampooning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I assume that’s because he has imprisoned so many journalists that the rest have gotten the hint,” he writes. “To which I say, Donald Trump, eat your heart out.”

Read more here:

Interviews and Profiles

Talking at Length: Dan Nadel talks to Simon Hanselmann in depth at The Comics Journal, on the occasion of the publication of Hanselmann’s third Megg and Mogg book, One More Year.

Writing Black: Jamal Igle talks about his comic, Black, the politics of race, and the controversy over Howard Chaykin’s cover for The Divided States of Hysteria #4—which has a similar subject matter, although a very different tone, to one of the covers of Black.

Making the Zine Scene: In advance of Pete’s Mini Zine Fest, which takes place this weekend, Marguerite Dabaie talks about her comic, A Voyage to Panjikant, her other minis, and why she enjoys hanging out with zinesters.

Web Inks: The New York Times profiles Spider-Man inker Joe Sinnott, who has been working with Stan Lee for 67 years. It’s incredibly exacting work, he says: “It just takes time putting all those lines, and the tiny spider on Spider-Man’s chest, in such a small space.” It’s worth a click just to see his drawing of Mount Rushmore with the addition of Stan Lee.

Morale Booster: The cartoons of British artist Carl Giles, who provided many weary readers with much-needed chuckles during World War II, have been compiled for the first time into a book, Giles’s War. That’s very interesting, but this article in The Guardian also has a behind-the-scenes peek at Giles’s departure from the paper where he got his start to the larger Express, along with the juicy tidbit that his official biographer loathed him. Tim Benson, an expert on British cartoons, explains his appeal: “Benson says he was a hopeless caricaturist, who got by with Hitler with a small moustache, Stalin with a huge moustache, and Mussolini as a blob, but his genius was as a draughtsman, and for portraying the war from the viewpoint of the little man or woman, often an authority-loathing but heroic bumbler, making tea while shells whistled past.”

Reviews, Recommendations, and Commentary

Different Strokes: Deb Aoki curates a Twitter discussion about what readers find in manga that they don’t find in American comics.

Good for Teens, Good for Grownups: The Young Adult Library Aervices Association, a.k.a. YALSA, has updated its Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominations list. There’s plenty in here for adults to enjoy as well.

Cover Story: Since everyone was talking about comics covers this week, Jim Zub seizes the moment to talk about what goes into making a good cover.

The Biz

Location, Location, Location: At the age of 19, Jonan Garcia has already figured out something important about writing a comic shop: Put it where the fans are. In this case Garcia opened up the aptly named Hollywood heroes between the entrances to two movie theaters in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He’s cashing in on the popularity of comic book movies, but he has also done his research: He knows that women make up 51% of comics readers, and he took a field trip to C2E2 in Chicago this year to study his potential customers. “We studied all the different people there. I mean like there was a lot,” he says. “Overall, my goal was to take a piece of that environment and bring it back to Grand Forks.”

Goodbye, San Diego: Retailer Mile High Comics announced on its website that it will not be at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year for the first time in 44 years. Mile High president Chuck Rozanski said the cost of the booth has gone up from $40 in 1973 to $18,000 this year. At the same time, foot traffic was down. The deciding factor, however, was what Rzanski perceived as Comic-Con’s indifference to a major snafu with delivery of products last year. “I will very much miss San Diego,” he concluded, “but I doubt if the convention management will even notice that I am gone. Such is life.”

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