Passings | Isabelle “Barbara” Fiske Calhoun, who as Barbara Hall was an artist for Harvey Comics during World War II, died Monday at age 94. Calhoun and her first husband, Irving Fiske, left New York in 1946 and founded a commune in Vermont on land they bought with their wedding money. The commune became the Quarry Hill Creative Center and is “Vermont’s oldest alternative and artist’s retreat.” While the obituary mentions Calhoun’s comics career only in passing, Trina Robbins has more detail in Pretty in Ink: She says Calhoun drew the Black Cat, one of the first comic-book superheroines, and then was the artist for the Speed Comics feature, Girl Commandos, an all-woman team of Nazi fighters led by Pat Parker, War Nurse. “She left comics when her husband-to-be persuaded her to give up cartooning and become an oil painter, a gain for the world of fine art but a loss for comics,” Robbins writes. [Burlington Free Press]
Conventions | Attendance at comics conventions is up, but several comic con “road warriors” tell ICv2 that the experience is changing as the market broadens and consumers are less focused on buying comics: “It’s like going to the mall now,” said one comic shop employee, meaning that people are there to browse the different attractions rather than fill the gaps in their list of back issues. [ICv2]
Comic strips | On Monday, The Washington Post finally ran a Doonesbury strip it spiked the first time around, in 1973. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is on hiatus from the daily strip while he works on his TV show, so his syndicate is supplying papers with older strips — much older this week, as they go all the way back to Watergate days. In the strip, radio host Mark Slackmeyer declares former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell “Guilty! Guilty, guilty, guilty!” The official explanation, from an editorial the Post ran at the time: “If anyone is going to find any defendant guilty, it’s going to be the due process of justice, not a comic strip artist. We cannot have one standard for the news pages and another for the comics.” The backlash was swift and immediate, and Trudeau himself said that the editors missed the point: “I wasn’t saying John Mitchell was guilty. It was a parody on all the people who are over-reacting.” [The Washington Post]
Creators | Dan Slott talks about the return of Peter Parker in Marvel relaunched Amazing Spider-Man, reversing the brain-switch with Doctor Octopus. “It’s weird because when we swapped brains with Doc Ock, one of my editors said ‘You’ll know you did your job right, if when they switch him back, everyone goes “No!”‘ It’s kind of fun that there are so many people out there who have become ‘Superior Spider-Man’ fans that this has become a tragedy. No matter what you do, something’s gonna be a tragedy!” [CNN]
Creators | Patrick McDonnell explains what his strip Mutts is all about: “I always compare comic strips to poetry. It’s really about getting to the essence of something. You have so little space — so little room to tell your stories — that you really have to pare it down to what’s essential.” Also: Love. [The Huffington Post]
Creators | Colleen Doran spent two days at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, talking about her work and life as a comics creator in general. [The Oracle]
Comics | The French newspaper Le Monde is serializing a graphic novel on its website about a couple who meet on the internet and have sex remotely. The creators use a variety of visual metaphors (plunging off an obelisk, sailing through the air holding swords) to describe how virtual sex feels rather than how it looks. “We didn’t want to show sex scenes because it would have looked like porn. So we transfigured the sexual acts. We wanted to talk about sexuality without distracting the reader, without giving them the desire to have sex themselves,” said co-author Florent Ruppert. (The image is NSFW anyway.) [The Independent]
Graphic novels | A new graphic novel provides an inside look at the student occupation of a school during Chile’s “Penguin Revolution,” which called for universal free public education and other reforms. The artist, Vicente Reinamontes, was a student during that time. [Santiago Times]
Retailing | The Orlando, Florida, store Coliseum of Comics is opening a second location in Tampa. There’s an interesting angle to this: “The store is developing a manager-to-owner program that will help promote new manager Amjad Amer, a longtime employee, to a part-owner. ‘We see this as a cornerstone to our expansion plans and intend to bring in more people in the next few years to groom them into their own stores,’ said company President Phil Boyle.” [Tampa Bay Business Journal]
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