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CARTOONING AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Altie cartoonist Jen Sorensen at fusion.net reports that “Washington, DC-based cartoonist Carolyn Belefski recently scored a new gig with a major client: the White House. As part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, Belefski [whose portfolio includes comic book covers and webcomics as well as the comic strip Curls] was commissioned to create a series of comics raising awareness of Healthcare.gov. The comics, all of which can be seen on the White House website, began rolling out on social media the last week in January, in advance of the February 15 enrollment deadline.” Nearby is a sample.

Belefski1

Belefski said it was the White House that initiated the relationship, approaching her via e-mail. The agreed-upon approach to this visual storytelling was through the use of character types — individual comics that whimsically spotlight a bearded hipster, say, or an athlete or a daredevil.

Sorensen wanted to know if Belefski was given a script or did she have some latitude to produce the material herself.

Said Belefski: “I was given the personas (caregiver, hipster, daredevil, etc.) and developed sketches of the character designs for approval. At this time I provided three layout options on how best to show the stories on social media.

Belefski4

We went with the character head in the center and the text around the middle so it would not get cut off on certain sites in preview. The White House provided me with the dimensions, and I pitched how to show the panels and text. They provided me with a script and did allow me to contribute to the story. It was a complete collaboration with a minimal edit, but no art edits. I actually revised two panels on my own before it was right to send to them.”

Belefski had no complaints: “There is the approval process [with freelance work], which depending on the client, can sit on someone’s desk for months, or there is a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ design-by-committee situation. Working with the White House had a great flow and no hold-ups.

“It is amazing to have creative people at the White House,” she continued, “and I am happy that I was on their radar to contribute to their project. They have been doing some really cool interactive work too, including the recent State of the Union. It’s always nice to have clients everyone can recognize because of familiarity. In addition, as a artist, it feels good to use my talents for America — as a cartoonist for America. I appreciate and thank the White House for showcasing art to get their message out. My hope is that the cartoons appeal to people who might not be aware of the issues or react to visual information.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

NCS TO HONOR MORT DRUCKER

Poster art for NCS’s 2015 Reuben Awards weekend, May 22-24 in Washington, D.C., identifies guests and honorees (clockwise from top left): Mort Drucker (Mad) and Jeff Keane (Family Circus), as well as the weekend event’s newly announced speakers: Brian Crane (Pickles) and Nick Galifianakis; the Washington Post’s animating editoonist, Ann Telnaes; D.C.-based illustrator/author Juana Medina; Andertoons.com’s Mark Anderson; and comic-book artist Doug Mahnke.

Reubens2015

NCS President Tom Richmond did the caricatures, as he has for several years lately, but this year, there’s a difference: Richmond inherited the legendary Drucker’s caricaturing gig at Mad, and now he’s rendering his take on a one-man institution. At Michael Cavna’s ComicRiffs, he was asked: What’s it like? Said Richmond: “Let’s see — I’m drawing a caricature of one of the greatest caricature artists in the history of illustration who is also a personal hero, a picture that is going to be mailed to the members of an organization made up of the greatest cartoonists in the world. Nope — no pressure.”

At the Reuben Awards Banquet, Drucker will receive the newest NCS award, the NCS Medal of Honor, created last fall to honor lifetime achievement by persons who aren’t eligible for the Society’s already extant lifetime achievement award, the Milton Caniff Award. Yes, that’s right: the NCS now has two lifetime achievement awards.

In 1987, Drucker won the NCS’s Reuben Award, which recognizes the “cartoonist of the year.” Until now, the group’s only lifetime achievement honor was the Milton Caniff Award, but in an odd quirk of the Society’s rules, a Reuben recipient cannot subsequently be awarded the Caniff honor. The Medal of Honor was created to enable the erstwhile verboten to be boten.

Oddly, it’s okay the other way around: a Caniff recipient can subsequently receive the Reuben, as Jack Davis did in 2000 (having received the Caniff Award in 1996).

Said Richmond in announcing the inaugural winner of the Medal of Honor: “Drucker was chosen as the first recipient by unanimous vote.”

Drucker, 85, began as a comic-book assistant shortly after World War II, and became an iconic staple of Mad, drawing decades of film and TV parodies when the magazine was at its pop-culture zenith in Boomer-generation popularity, reaching millions of readers.

Drucker is undeniably deserving of the lifetime achievement award, but I think he should have been given the Caniff Award, which, named after one of the founding members of the Society (who personally kept it functioning during some lean years), seems to me a more prestigious award than one made up expressly to circumvent a silly rule. If the NCS board could invent a new award, surely it could have just as easily revised the rules.

On the other hand, for Drucker, this makes the Medal of Honor an even more prestigious award: he is held in such esteem by his colleagues that they invented an award just for him.

Congratulations, Mort.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

TOP SHELF AND IDW JOIN FORCES

Chris Staros and Brett Warnock, Top Shelf founders
Chris Staros and Brett Warnock.

In a major acquisition in the comics marketplace, IDW Publishing has acquired Top Shelf Productions, a highly regarded independent comics house, reported Calvin Reid at publishersweekly.com. Founded by Chris Staros and Brett Warnock, Top Shelf publishes graphic novels with an impressive list of bestselling creators that includes Rep. John Lewis (March); Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell (From Hell); and Craig Thompson (Blankets).

According to a statement released by IDW, Top Shelf will “remain a distinct imprint within IDW.” Cofounder Chris Staros will continue with the company as editor-in-chief of Top Shelf Productions, while his longtime partner Brett Warnock will leave Top Shelf to focus on a new business venture outside of comics.

The Top Shelf staff — including publicist and marketing director Leigh Walton, designer/digital director Chris Ross, and warehouse manager Zac Boone — will remain in place at  the company’s current offices in Marietta, Georgia.

A news release from Top Shelf said IDW's main role will be the support and management of Top Shelf's infrastructure — production, sales, marketing and promotional initiatives. IDW will also provide additional funding to secure new breakout projects so that Top Shelf can direct their full attention to producing fan-favorite award-winning books.

 

IDW _ Top Shelf logos

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

BATMAN STAMPED

We know when some personage has arrived at the pinnacle of celebrity and distinction — the U.S. Postal Service issues a stamp. And now Batman joins the illustrious legions. There’s a variety of images, deploying how Batman looked at various stages in his 75-year career. Here’s what they look like:

BatmanStamps

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COMICS LAUREATE IN ENGLAND

Dave Gibbons WatchmanOn the Internet:

Bestselling graphic novelist Dave Gibbons is to become Britain’s first Comics Laureate. The announcement was made at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on 17th October.

The role of Comics Laureate is to be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field. Their role is to champion children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences. Dave Gibbons has won universal praise for his comics and graphic novel work for Marvel and DC Comics including the ground-breaking Watchmen (with Alan Moore), as well as the UK’s own 2000AD and Doctor Who.

“It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first Comics Laureate,” Gibbons said. “I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.” He took up his two-year position in February 2015.

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

NO MORE BEST

Best Editorial Cartoons 2014 cover

 

Pelican Publishing announced that it is discontinuing the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year series. The 2014 edition, available since last March, is the final volume in the 42-year run of the title. So unless some enterprising publisher picks up the series, we won’t henceforth have any more history on the hoof in ironic visual terms.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

THE NEW YORKER, ON THE MOVE

The New Yorker ended the first month of the new year by moving. For the last 15 years, the magazine that Harold Ross founded in 1925 has had its offices at 4 Times Square; effective February 1, it joined its parent company, Conde Nast, at 1 World Trade Center. This is only the fifth home for the 90-year-old magazine. When Ross launched the first issue (dated February 21, a date commemorated every year the last week of February with an anniversary issue, usually reprinting the first issue’s cover, a Rea Irvin drawing of a supercilious 19th century boulevardier), the office was at 25 West 45th Street.

Until now, the magazine has always resided in a mid-town office: in 1935, it moved to 25 West 43rd Street, where it remained for over 50 years until 1989, when it moved a few doors down the block to 20 West 43rd Street. In 1999, it moved to the location it has just abandoned to move decidedly south, far away from the old neighborhood.

On the cover of the February 2 issue, artist Bruce McCall  celebrates the move with a picture showing the Editorial staff on a flatbed heading south to the new World Trade Center skyscraper in the distance, some of the famous Times Square signs marking aspects of the magazine’s history.

 

NewYorkerMove

 

“Eustace” became the first name of Irvin’s cover dandy when Corey Ford produced in the summer of 1925 a series of ads in the magazine promoting subscriptions. Eustace’s last name, Tilley, Ford borrowed from a favorite aunt.

“Dubuque” on the side of a building refers to Ross’s notorious Prospectus for the magazine. Circulated in the fall of 1924 to drum up financial support, the Prospectus described the magazine as “a reflection in word and picture of metropolitan life” — life in New York, the life led by sophisticated readers. It would not be a national magazine; it would not be edited “for the old lady in Dubuque.”

On the back of the flatbed is an allusion to something not peculiar to the magazine. The Collyer Brothers were bachelors who lived in a mansion in Manhattan. One of them became blind, and the other began collecting magazines and newspapers and storing them in the mansion against the day when his brother would regain his sight and want to catch up on the events that had transpired during his blindness. Over the ensuing years, the rooms and hallways in the house were piled with towering stacks of periodicals. One of the brothers eventually died, and the other was found crushed under an avalanche of magazines and newspapers.

The allusion was, perhaps, to the sort of detritus that someone accumulates in his office over the years of his residing in it—books, magazine and newspaper clippings, all possible fodder for some future article. As Nick Paukmgarten says in this issue’s Talk of the Town, an “accretion of intention.” Exactly the situation here at the Rancid Raves Intergallactic Wurlitzer. The expression too exquisite a bon mot for me to leave it buried forever in an expired issue of one of my favorite magazines. (Favored because it, like Playboy, publishes cartoons. Yes, I buy it for the cartoons, kimo sabe, not centerfolds. Although who can overlook a centerfold?)

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

WILL THE COMIC-CON MOVE?

Once again, the Comic-Con International San Diego is contemplating a move away from its home for the past 40 years. The Con mulled over the opportunities once before — a couple years ago — but was finally persuaded to sign a contract with the San Diego Convention Center through 2016. Now, as the end of that contract approacheth, the Con is being courted again by Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Comic Con International San Diego no longer has a convention venue large enough for the Con. And that was the bone of contention before. For several years, the Con has been limited to about 130,000 registrants because the Convention Center turns into a fire hazard if more people are permitted to throng through its hallways and exhibits.

The Con was persuaded to stay in San Diego when the city announced that it would expand the Convention Center. But that plan hit a snag last summer, reported Hugo Martin and Tony Perry at latimes.com:

“The $520-million expansion lost momentum when a state appeals court ruled against a financing plan that would allow hotels around the convention center — instead of voters — to decide on a tax increase to pay for the project. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has vowed to find another way to finance the expansion.”

But he hasn’t yet, and it’s been six months or more.

The Con is big business for San Diego: “Last year, its 130,000 attendees accounted for 60,960 room nights and generated $177.8 million for the local economy.” In the world of conventions, every dollar that a visitor to a city spends has a multiplier effect of x7 on the local economy. No wonder Los Angeles and Anaheim, sensing a crisis approaching, have begun circling again.

Both Los Angeles and Anaheim have larger convention centers than San Diego, but Los Angeles' biggest problem as a site for the Comic-Con is a shortage of hotel rooms within walking distance of its convention center: fewer than 5,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the center, with only an additional 2,000 or so rooms under construction. Meanwhile, Anaheim has more than 13,000 hotel rooms within a mile of the convention center. San Diego has about 11,000 rooms within walking distance — plus several hundred more in Mission Valley, an annoying trolley-car ride away.

Still, my bet is that the Con will stay in San Diego — for a very simple reason: most of its staff lives in San Diego, and they probably don’t relish the idea of managing a big convention as far from home as Anaheim (even though WonderCon, which the Sandy Eggo crew manages, already meets at Anaheim).

San Diego’s managers will miss a bet, though, if they can’t leverage the competition to get the San Diego hotels to lower room rates. They think that they did it last time, but they didn’t. Not by much. Not enough to justify leaving $177.8 million behind in the city’s economy.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

DC AFTER CONVERGENCE

Veneta Rogers at at Newsarama.com explained that everything DC will be different after Convergence: “Beginning in June, DC Entertainment is de-emphasizing continuity and scrapping the New 52 branding of its superhero comics line” to launch a “bold new direction for the DC Universe” and a slew of new titles it's calling “inclusive,” "contemporary," and "accessible."

Rogers goes on, quoting DC co-publisher Dan Didio: “In this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity as we continue to empower creators to tell the best stories in the industry.

“In June,” Rogers continues, “DC reports it will publish 24 new No.1 issues to join 25 already-existing comics that will continue from their March numbering for a total of 49 titles. New titles will be added to the line throughout the year.” DC's new line will introduce some new creators to DC, like Ming Doyle and Gene Luen Yang, while also bringing back some familiar faces, like Garth Ennis and Bryan Hitch.”

Convergence

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DC COMICS CUTS LINE-UP DRASTICALLY (But OnlyTemporarily)

DC Convergence 2015Almost half the publisher's output is being cancelled at the end of March, reports Matt Kamen at wired.co.uk. Here are the titles ending: Aquaman and the Others; Arkham Manor; Batwoman; Green Lantern Corps; Green Lantern: New Guardians; Infinity Man and the Forever People; Klarion; Red Lanterns; Secret Origins; Star Spangled War Stories; Swamp Thing; Trinity of Sin; Worlds' Finest; and weekly titles Batman Eternal, Futures End and Earth 2: World's End.

“With the latter three shipping four to five issues per month,” said Kamen, “the culling accounts for 25 of the 52 comics DC has committed to publishing since launching its New 52 revamp in 2011.”

After this startling overture, Kamen goes on to explain that “technically, everything DC publishes is ending in March. For April and May, the entire line is replaced with an event called Convergence.”

This hiatus coincides with DC’s move from “its ancestral home in New York City” to California, where the comic book publisher will take up residence at the Burbank offices of its parent company Warner Bros. Reducing the workload for a couple of months will give the comic book staff time to move in and set up.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com