Comics Lowdown is back!

Your roundup of essential comics news is back, with an Angoulême update, cussin’ Stan Lee and more!

Big publishing news: Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, announced the day before Thanksgiving that it will buy Simon & Schuster. This will affect graphic novels and manga in a big way, because PRH and S&S distribute a LOT of graphic novels and manga.

In a series of Tweets, Ed Chavez sketches out what the manga landscape will look like, and why it matters. ICv2 lists all their comics/distribution clients; keep in mind that this is in addition to the graphic novels the companies themselves publish under a variety of imprints: Random House has RH Graphics and Pantheon (which publishes the works of Chris Ware and other literary graphic novels), and S&S has Gallery 13 and, just announced, two new lines of graphic novels for young readers.

Conventions and festivals: The Angoulême Comics Festival usually takes place in January, but this year it will be split into two events, a small, partly online event in January and a larger event in late June, at a time when (the organizers hope) people will be able to gather in person. The organizers held a press conference last week, attired in hot-pink PPE, to announce the date of the second festival and unveil the official selections of the festival. (All links are in French.)

UK comics: The venerable British children’s comic Beano has published a comic for adults for the first time in its 82-year history. BeanOLD, a special pullout section, mixes the usual Beano hijinks with political satire, as the parents of Dennis the Menace (their version) and his nemesis Soppy Walter somehow get mixed up with the denizens of 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson and (till last week) Dominic Cummings. The demand for this actually came from the kids, according to editorial director Mike Stirling:

Stirling said the Beano had a team of kids they call “trendspotters” who form the Beano Brain and let the writers know what children all over the UK are talking about.

Both Johnson and Cummings have been huge subjects for the average 10-year-old, he said. One of the comic’s young trendspotters described the latter as someone who “broke all the rules. He got corona and got his kids to their grandparents … you’ve got to stick to the rules even if they are your own rules.”

Comic strips: Garry Trudeau picks 10 defining Doonesbury comics to mark the strip’s 50th anniversary; they’re worth a read for his commentary, for the way they resonate with today’s politics and culture, and to see the one strip that actually did change the world (or, at least, Palm Beach).

Interviews: British cartoonist Joe Decie interviews British cartoonist Hannah Eaton, whose horror comic Blackwood just came out in the UK.

Cover of My Dearest Self with Malice Aforethought

New manga for your screens: Kodansha Comics has a pretty aggressive digital publishing program, and they have just announced eight new series that will debut in January and February 2021. Pictured here: My Dearest Self with Malice Aforethought, one of the February titles. Look for a new digital series every Tuesday.

Passings: Manga creator Takao Yaguchi has died at the age of 81. As a young man, Yaguchi quit his job in a bank to devote his life to creating manga, and despite initial obstacles he succeeded. His best known work is Tsurikichi Sanpei (Fisherman Sanpei), a fishing manga; although his work was popular in Japan, it has not been published in English.

Passings: Washington, D.C. area cartoonist Justin Benedict died after being struck by a car in Alexandria, Virginia, on Nov. 20. Benedict was an editor and cartoonist for Street Sense, a newspaper by and for homeless people in the D.C. area, and lampooned national politics on his website, Vagrancy Comics. He was 55 years old.

NSFW: Stan Lee riffs on why the F-word should be “legalized” in a recording session that was later turned into a short cartoon.

Recommendations: Escape from holiday/pandemic/2020-in-general stress with Ann-Marie Cahill’s list of 11 comics to relax with.

Podcasts: Writer Mark Russell talks about his new graphic novel, Billionaire Island, as well as Second Coming and his other work, at Comic Book Herald.

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