Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Notable Links for 03/30

* "A Japanese comic book sold at a Scholastic book fair in the Norwin School District that contained questionable material is being pulled from the company's sales list, a spokeswoman said Monday. The magazine, 'Shonen Jump,' an offshoot of the Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards and television cartoon popular among elementary and middle school students, showed a hero crediting his defeat of an opponent with the power he gained from smoking cigarettes. Other story lines included mild profanity, violence, a character with a swastika on his forehead, and a female character who asks readers to pick up the next issue to see which 'hot guy' would be the next to die." Read more here, courtesy of Pittsburgh Live.

* The Pulse has more information on Steve Geppi's mysterious illness here.

* "Marvel Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: MVL), a global provider of entertainment content, announced that effective with the commencement of trading today, the share price for its outstanding common stock will adjust to reflect shares issued Friday, March 26, 2004 pursuant to its 3-for-2 stock split. As a result of this stock split, which was announced on March 2, 2004, Marvel's common shares outstanding have increased to approximately 109 million. Marvel's stock split was in the form of a dividend of one additional share of the Company's common stock for every two shares held at the close of business on March 12, 2004. Fractional shares will be paid in cash." Read the press release, along with some surprisingly intelligent commentary (at least for us non-fiscally-oriented types) here, courtesy of Newsarama.

* "Diamond Comic Distributors and TOKYOPOP Inc. have announced a distribution agreement that makes Diamond the exclusive distributor of the publisher's English-language graphic novels to the comic book specialty market and hobby stores in North America. As part of this new agreement, the two companies have committed to working together to achieve timely release of TOKYOPOP's titles in these markets." Read the press release here, courtesy of The Pulse.

* "Mitsubishi Corp and publisher Shufunotomo Co said Monday they will set up a joint venture in Shanghai in April to distribute Japanese magazine articles and comics to local publishers. The move is in response to the growing popularity of Japanese fashion and music among Chinese people, officials of the two companies said." Read more here, courtesy of Japan Today.

* There seems to be a lot of venom pouring over Marvel's recent decision to utilize Souce Interlink to be their rack jobbers for "big box" retail chains like Borders, Barnes & Noble and their ilk (if you don't know what a rack jobber is, ask your mom). In case you missed the original story, you can catch up here, and then read a disgruntled retailer's take on matters here (links courtesy of ICV2). The key quote here is Rich Keefe's assertion that "Marvel has absolutely no interest in supporting the current specialty market model." To which I say: very astute, Mr. Keefe. Of course, I can't possibly imagine why a successful business like Marvel would want to look outside the direct market for their business' future... I mean, we've all seen the incredible economic gains the direct market has made the past few years, with all these great new stores being opened everywhere, right? And we've all seen what a great job the existing retailer base has done of selling Marvel's product to anyone but the dwindling hordes of fanboys, right? Why just today I saw a six-year old down the street curling up with a nice copy of "Ultimate Spider-Man"...


* "When it comes to exporting popular American kidculture to other parts of the planet, the Walt Disney Co. is the out-and-out, hands-down, no-doubt-about-it world champ. Now Disney is turning the tables and importing a fad. You heard right. Batten down the hatches and lock up your young ones. It's a book! It's a TV show! And it just might be a multimedia, money-minting onslaught coming straight from Italy. It's 'W.I.T.C.H.'" Read more about the fad-in-the-making here, courtesy of the Washington Post.

* Lots of crunchy tidbits over at Lying In The Gutters this week (link courtesy of Comic Book Resources). First, and most importantly, he's got rumors of DC Comics being effected by the Time/Warner megalith attempting to move closer to the FCC's current decency standards - which could be interesting for Vertigo and similar "Mature Readers" projects. Also, there's more fuel to the fire that Walt Simonson might be making a return to the pages of "Thor" (can't say whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing - on the one hand, he's pretty much the only creator short of Kirby who made "Thor" a must-read book... on the other hand, its kind-of "been there, done that." Time will tell, I guess.) But most interesting, at least to me, is the news about Crossgen's upcoming "American Power."

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Crossgen's "Hail Mary." Taking their most popular artist off their most popular book (and cancelling said book in the process) in favor of what seems to be a frankly exploitive and controversial project - I think that reeking stench wafting up from Florida is the pungent smell of flop sweat. And is this the Crossgen who swore up and down they'd never do superheroes? I knew from the beginning that this wasn't going to be a satirical or nuanced take on the genre - that it wasn't going to be anything worth reading at all - because of Chuck Dixon's involvement. Now, I make it a point not to buy Crossgen comics, because I don't think they're very good - and I make it a point not to buy Chuck Dixon comics, because I don't think they're very good, either... so it goes without saying I would never even consider picking this abomination up. There was some discussion a while back about the political alignment of superheroes - I can assure you that "American Power" will be a superhero book aligned as far to the right as "Channel Zero" was to the left. From the looks of things this is just going to give the average Muslim another reason to think that Americans are at war with Islam as a whole, while giving the real villains - al Quaeda and their ilk - ever more glee at the widening cultural divide between the west and Islam (which was their goal all along). But, if it makes you feel better to play cowboy, go right ahead. It's a free country, at least for the time being.

* Well, I'll be damned: here's an actual article profiling Mr. Gary Barker, the man who actually draws Jim Davis' "Garfield" strip. I remember a conversation with someone or other a long time ago wherein the consensus was that the ghosts who worked in modern strip cartooning would never be allowed to talk to the press while still employed... well, that looks to be changing some. But notice they still didn't show the guy's face? Link courtesy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

* "The timing could not have been better. As the April-May polls are approaching fast, a cartoonist in Andhra Pradesh captured the politicians in their true colours. Sekhar does not spare anybody. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party are cheek in jowl with the main oppositon leaders and those from the state's ruling Telugu Desam Party.
The huge crowds at the exhibition were enthralled by the cycle- handle moustache of sandalwood smuggler and the uneasy crown-like head-gear of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The visitors had a hearty laugh at the expense of political leaders who they said had lost probity associated with public life." Read more here, courtesy of WebIndia123.

* Paul O'Brien, writing for Ninth Art, examines the question of why superhero audiences are reluctant to by other types of comics here. It's an interesting essay, and I would say that just looking off the top of my head he makes a lot of good points - or, at least, new points. I'll leave off any judgement until the Greater Blogosphere has had the chance to chew on it for a while. Meanwhile, Franklin Harris, who you might remember was the fellow who started this particular leg of the Never-Ending Battle, weighs on on O'Brien's essay here. The thing is, I don't see how what O'Brien says is necessarily mutually exclusive to either point of view... but again, I'll have to mull this one over for a while.

* David Fiore posts the first of hopefully many essays on Grant Morrison's "Doom Patrol" here. I will say I love reading Fiore's take on this stuff, but I gotta stick up for my homie Dirk here. I think just abour everyone misunderstood what Dirk was saying about pornography in relation to superheroes. Porn isn't "cooler" than superheroes because more people buy porn that superheroes... hell, porn probably isn't cooler than superheroes anyway. But porn is something that appeals to people... something that most people have some affinity for, whether they admit it in public or not. Porn exploits a very basic human urge, and there never has been and never will be a want of customers in the porn industry - whereas superheroes are just sort of a weird hybrid genre that doesn't have much of a following outside of the occasional successful movie or TV show. Dirk was not arguing that porn was better than superheroes (although Steven Grant has been known to make a pretty good argument for just that opinion), merely trying to put the limited scale of superhero comics' success in the context of a genuine cultural phenomenon. (If I'm wrong, Dirk, feel free to correct me.) And anyway, superhero books are repressed... the things are just full of sublimated sex and misplaced aggression, the type of stuff that appeals to - ahem- sexually repressed tweens and teens (not to mention those sexually repressed members of the electorate who are old enough to vote and drink). If you don't see it, I don't know what to say, other than I have no more time or desire to discuss this now. (Was that a weasel answer or what?)

* The Toronto Star talks to cartoonist Seth about the impending release of two books - the first volume of "Clyde Fans" as well as "Bannock, Beans and Black Tea," a biography of his father - here.

* "Which literary characters have done the most to promote Britain across the Channel? Not Hercule Poirot, Oliver Twist or even Noddy, but two middle-aged toffs whose favourite expressions are 'By Jove' and 'The devil.' Their names? Blake and Mortimer. For close to 60 years, the comic strip adventures of Captain Francis Blake, the dashing head of MI5 perpetually in his RAF uniform, and Professor Philip Mortimer, a red-haired Scottish nuclear physicist never far from his pipe, have delighted French-speaking children." Read more here, link courtesy of The Guardian.

* Johanna Draper Carlson has updated "Comics Worth Reading" with this month's "Previews" rundown as well as a review of Steve Rolston's "One Bad Day." Also, over at Comics Unlimited, Ms. Carlson takes a gander at a pile of manga, including "Chobits" and "Maisan Ikkoku" here.

* Jennifer Contino at The Pulse talks to leading Christian comics creator Jamie Cosley (Megazeen Online), here.

* Meanwhile, since we're on the Christian Comix tip, eMediaWire has a talk with Jerry Yu Ching and Mike Onghai on the occasion of the release of their new non-violent children's book "The Greatest King" here.

* South Africa's Praetoria News takes a look at Tintin's 75th birthday, and the character's unique cultural cache, here. Reuters takes another look at Tintin's anniversary here.

* Courtesy of Mike Sterling, here's an essay published at Philosophy Now with the promising title "Sartre & Peanuts."

* "What has happened to the animated "make-believe" violence on television? When we were young, the cartoons we watched were loaded with exaggerated animated graphic violence! But in the innocent Looney Tunes era of our youth, we were able to distinguish reality from cartoon reality. We knew that Daffy Duck's buckshot-blasted bill would be restored when the next scene started, and we took for granted that the coyote's mangy fur would be singe-free seconds after being blown up with 250 tons of Acme-brand TNT. But with today's super-real animation, we're not sure that the children know how to distinguish between the two." Read more here, courtesy of The Toque.

* "As a high school student, Brett Popplewell saw bullying at first hand. As a university student, he's done something about it. The 20-year-old has produced an anti-bullying comic book to help elementary school pupils understand the pain bullying can cause and the ways in which they can defang bullies. The comic is titled the Misadventures of Bully-Boy and Rumourgirl, reflecting the fact that while boys tend to bully by hitting and kicking, girls tend to snipe verbally with gossip, innuendo and insults." Read more here, courtesy of The London Free Press.

* Jane Bowron, writing for New Zealand's Stuff, examines the lonely lives of cartoonists here.

* Courtesy of Steven Stwalley at the Journal board: "The Minneapolis Cell of The International Cartoonist Conspiracy meets at 6:30pm on the first Thursday of each month at Spyhouse Coffee, 2451 Nicollet Ave. Minneapolis, MN, unless otherwise noted on our website. The next meeting is Thursday April 4th. Generally we meet, draw jam comics, drink caffeinated beverages, and socialize. Once we're happy with the jam comics, we usually either go home or go get non-caffeinated beverages somewhere." Read more here. That has been today's social calender.

* I have to admit that when I first heard about this I thought it was a joke. What is this crazy world coming to?

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