Comics Lowdown | ‘Gender Queer’ creator responds

Plus: More book challenges, creator interviews, and recommended reading.

In a thoughtful op-ed in the Washington Post, Maia Kobabe responds to critics who have challenged her book Gender Queer in school libraries. She writes that when she was growing up, she turned to books to help her understand something she couldn’t put into words, and that she wrote Gender Queer primarily for her own family, who were supportive but also puzzled. And she ends with this:

Three weeks after I first heard about the “Gender Queer” ban at Fairfax County Public Schools, I received this message:

“You probably won’t ever see this but I am a queer FCPS student! My mom and I read your book. I loved it! I related to almost everything you said. I felt so understood and not alone. I think my mom understands me better and I’m more confident in confiding in her since she read your book. Thank you so much for creating your memoir!”

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Comics Lowdown | DC FanDome triples its viewership

Plus: New graphic novels from the Mayo Clinic, the Andrew Carnegie Awards and more!

Viewership for last weekend’s DC FanDome tripled this year to 66 million views worldwide, according to DC. The event was available in multiple languages in more than 220 countries.

“With triple the fan traffic of last year, DC FanDome 2021 exceeded all of our expectations,” said Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks, in a press release about the event. “We continue to innovate across the company in service of our fans, and I cannot overstate the creativity and hard work that went into this highly curated, global digital event. We gave fans what they wanted – the very best of all things DC – and their engagement and response have been fantastic. We’re as excited as they are to deliver on all the great content DC FanDome highlighted.” 

It was also a popular topic on social media, with “DC FanDome” trending at No. 1 on Twitter for eight hours in the U.S. and in the top 50 in 53 countries around the world. In addition to new Batman trailers and gold boots for The CW’s Flash, FanDome also revealed several bits of comic news, including the return of Blood Syndicate, a Wonder Woman-centric crossover event and a new Monkey Prince series.

DC will hold another virtual event today at 4 p.m. Pacific as Wonder Woman is inducted into the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame.

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Comics Lowdown | A look back at this weekend’s big comics events

Check out the news from both DC FanDome and NCS Fest, both of which had sessions you can still watch online.

This past weekend was filled with comics events of all shapes and sizes, from DC FanDome — which was about way more than comics, but they still had a strong presence — to the annual NCS Fest, which again went virtual and incorporated content from both the National Cartoonists Society and the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival in the UK.

In case you missed any of it, here’s the lowdown …

DC FanDome

This year’s FanDome was much shorter than last year’s, as DC opted for one day of livestreaming content rather than two. And it was better for it. The production was very tight, and I haven’t seen any issues raised about connection issues or the sorts of problems that can plague events like this.

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Comics Lowdown | Texas school reverses ‘New Kid’ ban

Plus: Penguin Classics to publish Marvel classics, Joe Ollmann’s ‘Fictional Father’ nominated for Governor General’s award, and more!

Cover of New Kid by Jerry Craft

School administrators in Katy, Texas, have returned Jerry Craft’s New Kid to library shelves and rescheduled a video visit from the creator, according to NBC News. The district pulled the book and canceled the visit after a parent started a petition claiming that New Kid espoused critical race theory. The district told NBC that it had “determined the appropriateness” of the book, which was the first graphic novel to be awarded the Newbery Medal. In a statement last week, Craft said his intention was simply to portray children of color in a realistic setting: “Books aimed at kids like me seemed to deal only with history or misery. That’s why it has always been important to me to show kids of color as just regular kids, and to create iconic African American characters like Jordan Banks from ‘New Kid.’ I hope that readers of all ages will see the kindness and understanding that my characters exhibit and emulate those feelings in their day-to-day lives.” However, parent Bonnie Anderson, who started the petition, disagreed, saying, “The books don’t come out and say we want white children to feel like oppressors, but that is absolutely what they will do.”

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Comics Lowdown | Seuss settlement scotches mash-up

Plus: Politician under fire for threatening cartoonist, Al Plastino’s house is for sale, and more!

Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the creators of a Star Trek-themed parody of the perennial graduation gift Oh, the Places You’ll Go have settled out of court, and the news is not good for mash-up makers.

Johanna Draper Carlson has a quick summary, with links, at The Beat: Former Star Trek writer David Gerrold and artist Ty Templeton mashed up the Seuss book with Star Trek characters and themes to create Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!, which was supposed to be published by ComicMix. The famously litigious Seuss estate sued on grounds of both trademark and copyright infringement; the courts dismissed the trademark case in 2017, and in 2019 a judge found the book was sufficiently “transformative” and met the conditions for fair use. The Seuss folks appealed, and the parties settled out of court this week.

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Comics Lowdown | More ‘Gender Queer’ controversy

Plus: Tanzanian cartoonist arrested, NYCC manga news, and more!

Gender Queer Challenged and Defended: The Brevard, Florida, Public Schools have removed a book from the Melbourne High School public library because it contained “adult images that have no place in education.” While they did not name the book, Florida Today speculates that it was Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, which was the subject of a recent discussion on a local Facebook page. Superintendent Mike Mullins said that “BPS staff immediately agreed that this book violates our guidelines and that it has no place in our school district,” and he added that he has instructed the staff to check that there are no other such books in the school libraries. Gender Queer was also removed from the Fairfax, Virginia, public school libraries, but local station WTOP reports that students have pushed back: Over 400 students from across the district have signed a letter protesting the removal of the book. And in Williamstown, Michigan, parents are objecting to their children getting library cards because the book is in the local public library, according to the Lansing CityPulse.

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Comics Lowdown | Texas school district bans ‘The Breakaways’

Plus: Scout Comics launches Latinx imprint, Marvel’s legal battles, New York Comic Con and more!

Cathy G. Johnson’s The Breakaways joins the list of banned graphic novels making headlines over the past few weeks after Spring Branch Independent School District in Texas banned it from school libraries.

Spring Branch Independent School District, which serves part of Houston, told the Houston Chronicle that the graphic novel was removed from schools because it was “not age appropriate nor was it appropriate for its intended educational use.” A committee decided to ban it after receiving a letter from a parent.

The graphic novel is about a diverse 8th-grade soccer team that includes a trans character.

“The book includes kids of all sorts of identities to reflect the world that is around us,” creator Cathy G. Johnson told the Chronicle. “There is a transgender student who comes out in the book. He is just one of many characters who make up my book, as well as one of the identities that make up the world.”

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Comics Lowdown | Harvey Awards announce 2021 Hall of Fame inductees

Plus: Three new members join the CBLDF board, Noelle Stevenson’s Substack and more!

Harvey Awards logo

The Harvey Awards Committee have announced the five creators who will be inducted into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame this year:  Manga creator Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha); horror comics artist Bernie Wrightson, the co-creator of Swamp Thing; cover artist and painter Jeffrey Catherine Jones; artist Barry Windsor-Smith (Conan the Barbarian); and Michael Kaluta (The Shadow, Starstruck). The latter four formed an artists’ commune called The Studio in 1975; in his 2011 obituary of Jones, Tom Spurgeon explained its significance:

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Comics Lowdown | Graphic Novels challenged in TX, VA, WY

Plus: The latest on the supply chain woes!

It’s almost TOO on the nose that three book challenges involving graphic novels came up during Banned Books Week, but that’s exactly what has happened.

Cover of Jerry Craft's New Kid, showing a boy looking at a school notebook

Katy, Texas: The Katy school board has canceled a virtual appearance by Jerry Craft, after an online petition claimed that his middle-grade graphic novels New Kid and Class Act promote Critical Race Theory. TV news station Click2Houston has a good overview of what happened: After a parent complained, the school district put the Zoom visit on hold and pulled the books from the library for review, per their policy; they will review the books within 15 days and are trying to reschedule the visit outside of the instructional day. Kara Yorio at School Library Journal has more details on the backstory: The petition (since removed) urged the school board to cancel Craft’s appearance, claiming that “these books … are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.” New Kid has won numerous awards and was the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal; both books are best-sellers.

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Comics Lowdown | ‘Prophet Muhammed’ cartoonist dies in accident

Plus: Adrian Tomine named writer in residence at Substack, Justin Wong Ciu-tat apologizes to Hong Kong police, and more.

Photo of cartoonist Lars Vilks
Lars Vilks (OlofE, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Breaking: The BBC reports that the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks has died in a car accident. Vilks, 75, has been under police protection since his cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed’s head on a dog’s body garnered him both international attention and death threats. He was riding in a police car that collided with a truck in southern Sweden. The two police officers in the car with Vilks were also killed, and the truck driver was injured. The local police say that while they aren’t sure yet exactly what happened, there wasn’t any immediate evidence that anyone else was involved in the accident besides the occupants of the two vehicles.

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Comics Lowdown | RIP Takao Saito

Plus: DC does NFTs, the Uffizi opens its doors to comics, and small publishers discuss distribution.

Cover of Golgo 13, vol. 8, showing a man holding a gun and smoking a cigarette.

Takao Saito, the creator of Golgo 13, died on September 24 at the age of 84. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. Saito made his manga debut in 1955 and launched Golgo 13, which follows the exploits of a taciturn hitman, in 1968. Volume 202 of the series has just come out in Japan, making Golgo 13 not only the longest continuously running manga series but also the one with the most volumes. Saito has said he would like the manga to continue after his death, and his publisher, Shogakukan, says the series will continue.

Comics at an Exhibition: The Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy, is adding comics to its collection. The museum, which started out in the 1600s as the Medici family’s portrait collection, has commissioned 52 self-portraits by prominent Italian comics artists. The self-portraits will be on display in a special exhibit in Lucca from October 8 to November, 1, then moved to the Uffizio to join its permanent collection.

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Comics Lowdown | Marvel creators suit, CEO’s legal wrangles

Catching up with the Marvel court case, plus the latest on Ike Perlmutter, Scott Adams and Ben Garrison.

Cover of Marvel-Verse Black Widow, showing the title character wielding a glowing sword.

Marvel: In case you haven’t had time to digest the news that Marvel has sued several creators who had taken legal action to get the rights to their characters back, here’s the scoop from The Hollywood Reporter. If you have access, the New York Times talks to the lawyers on both sides.

Meanwhile, Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter has had a busy week. On Monday, the Military Times reports, the House Oversight Committee stated that Perlmutter and two others had “violated the law and sought to exert improper influence over government officials to further their own personal interests.” At the time, the three were “unofficial advisors” to Trump on Veterans Administration Affairs. Things went better for Perlmutter on Tuesday, when he succeeded in fending off a lawsuit by a neighbor, with whom he had quarreled over tennis courts, and who subsequently accused him of sending poison-pen letters to their neighbors and 1,000 prison inmates. If you like true-crime stories where all the crimes are petty misdemeanors, get comfy and settle in with THR’s coverage, which has plenty of links to the various tentacles of this story.

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