Comics Lowdown | Marvel editors participate in #DisneyWalkout

Plus: ‘Persepolis’ under fire in Pennsylvania school district! David Gallaher, real-life superhero! News on Behemoth, Zestworld, Julie Doucet and more!

Marvel employees joined their colleagues from Pixar, Lucasfilm and other Disney-owned divisions in a walk-out on Tuesday to protest the company’s response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, which has become to be known as the “Don’t Say Gay bill.”

The bill bans lessons about sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and prohibits lessons in other grades unless they are “age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate.” Critics say the law could stigmatize LGBTQ+ students, and lead to bullying and attacks. The bill has yet to be signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but it’s just a matter of time, as the governor has expressed his support for it.

The response by Disney, the largest employer in the Orlando area, was initially very weak, but after pressure from employees and others, Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally spoke out against it at a shareholder’s meeting.

https://twitter.com/lorrainecink/status/1506326031480893440

Marvel employees noted their participation in the walk-out on Twitter, including editors Alanna Smith and Sarah Brunstad, associate editor Annalise Bissa, assistant editor Lindsey Cohick and director of creative content Lorraine Cink. They joined hundreds of employees from around Disney. Many Marvel creators posted their support of the employees who did walk out.

Disney’s initial lack of a response to the law, along with reports that the company objected to a same-sex kiss in the now-canceled movie adaptation of the webcomic Nimona, come at an interesting time, as the company gears up for Pride Month activities in June. Marvel just announced their Pride Month plans, which includes variant covers and another Marvel’s Voices Pride-themed anthology. The Beat’s coverage of those plans was a thing of beauty.

Under review: The Franklin Regional School District in Pennsylvania has pulled Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel Persepolis from its curriculum after receiving complaints from parents. The graphic novel had previously been approved to be taught in a freshman honors English course, but school officials pulled it so they can conduct a “thorough review” of it after some parents complained.

“Books can take us to places we’ve never been and teach empathy,” one parent, who opposed the ban, told school officials. “What will be challenged and maybe banned next? Why are we not trusting teachers to do what they know best? Sweeping uncomfortable topics under the rug is not the way to deal with them.” Another parent, who supported the removal, said she believes the book “pushes a liberal ideology that does not belong in our school.”

Real-life hero: David Gallaher, writer of High Moon, The Only Living Boy and many other comics, was assaulted in New York as he tried to help a girl who was being attacked. Gallaher suffered a broken cheekbone and other injuries after being attacked himself. Inside Edition did a piece on it:

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to help with his medical costs. On Twitter, Gallaher said he is “largely okay” at this point, apart from some ongoing pain and soreness.

The Biz

Acquisitions: Sumerian Records & Films, an indie rock label that has released music by Asking Alexandria, Black Veil Brides, Smashing Pumpkins and more, has bought independent comic book publisher and gaming company Behemoth Entertainment. Behemoth is the publisher of Follow Me Into The Darkness, Quad, Until My Knuckles Bleed and more.

Digital: Zestworld, the subscription-based comics website announced last year, has raised more than $9 million in funding as it looks to launch later this year. Graeme McMillan talks with Zestworld CEO Chris Giliberti about the their plans for the site, what they offer creators, their NFT plans and more.

Publishers: Speaking of funding, Vault Comics has also secured an undisclosed amount of funding from several investors, including investor Jeff Ubben, global talent agency UTA; the investment arm of music talent management firm Crush; healthcare entrepreneur Rick Matros; and Black Squirrel Partners, representing the band Metallica.

Acquisitions: The Embracer Group has completed its acquisition of Dark Horse, making them the 10th operating group within the gaming (and now comics) holding group. The deal was announced last year.

Sales: With pandemic-driven restrictions in schools continuing to lift in the United States, Scholastic reported increased revenue for their third quarter, which was partly drive by “higher than expected revenue per fair from book fairs.” Scholastic said the number of book fairs being held trended “at 70% of pre-pandemic levels,” so there’s still plenty of room to grow. The book fairs are important not only to Scholastic’s bottom line, but also to introducing kids to books and graphic novels, so it’s good to see them coming back. Looking toward the next quarter, Scholastic highlighted the upcoming release of Cat Kid Comic Club #3: On Purpose by Dav Pilkey .

Awards

Angoulême: Cartoonist Julie Doucet was awarded the Grand Prix at the 49th Angoulême International Comics Festival earlier this month. Doucet is the creator of the autobiographical comic Dirty Plotte, which she wrote and drew in the late 1980s/early 1990s. She quit making comics about 20 years ago and began focusing on other artistic endeavors, but does have a new project, Time Zone J, coming from Drawn & Quarterly next month.

Several other awards were presented at the festival as well; The Beat has a round-up of all the winners.

Oregon Book Awards: Portland’s Literary Arts organization has announced the finalists for its annual Oregon Book Awards, which includes a graphic literatire category. This year’s nominees for that category include:

  • Breena Bard of Portland, Trespassers: A Graphic Novel
  • Cat Farris of Portland, The Ghoul Next Door
  • Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber of Portland, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen?
  • Sarah Mirk of Portland, Guantanamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison
  • Aron Nels Steinke of Portland, Field Trip: A Graphic Novel (Mr. Wolf’s Class #4) 

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