Comics A.M. | '8 Man' creator Kazumasa Hirai dies at age 76

Passings | Acclaimed sci-fi novelist and manga writer Kazumasa Hirai passed away Jan. 17 at age 76. Hirai was the co-creator of several manga that spawned anime, prose and television franchises, including Genma Taisen and the classic cyborg superhero story 8 Man. He also collaborated with Ryoichi Ikegami on the Spider-Man manga, serialized from 1970 to 1971 in Monthly Shonen Jump, succeeding Kōsei Ono as writer. [Anime News Network]

Legal | The Bombay High Court heard arguments Monday on a public interest litigation petition challenging India's sedition act. The petition stems from the 2012 arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges, which were dropped after national and international protests. "It [sedition charge] can be misused any time," said Chief Justice Mohit Shah. But Advocate-General Sunil Manohar, arguing for the state, said they only acted on the Trivedi case after receiving a dozen complaints: "The cartoonist [Aseem Trivedi] ran perilously close to borderline. He is not absolutely innocent. It is not the case that the state vindictively slapped charges on him." The court did not immediately hand down a decision but has reserved judgment. [The Hindu]

Awards | The first round of nominees for Japan's Manga Taisho Awards, selected by bookstore workers, have been announced. Of the 14 titles, just one, The Ancient Magus's Bride, is licensed for North America. [Crunchyroll]

Creators | Skip Winter's comic Unit 5 started out as a promotion for the Toyota Scion, but thanks to the creator's flair for self-promotion and some help from the folks at Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (the Kevin Smith-owned store featured on Comic Book Men), it has taken on a new life of its own. [Seacoast Online]

Creators | Anthony Montgomery, who played Ensign Travis Mayweather on Star Trek: Enterprise, talks about how he created the graphic novel Miles Away, which was nominated for two Glyph Awards and is now being made into an animated film. [Yakima Herald]

Retailing | Carmel, Indiana, comic store Fanboys! has closed its doors after only about nine months in business. "I am a better man for having tried to be a comic shop owner," says former owner Matthew Hastings. "I am not a failure.” [Current in Carmel]

Exhibits | Numerous Australian cartoonists have contributed to a Charlie Hebdo-themed exhibit at Bev Aisbett's Piece Gallery in the suburbs of Melbourne. Aisbett says she has been thinking about freedom of speech since the deadly Jan. 7 attack: "I think that it's one thing to offend someone inadvertently, but another if you know that it offends someone and to repeat it, that's becoming something else, that's becoming bullying," she said, pointing to Australian cartoonist Larry Pickering's cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad as a pig being roasted on a spit as something she was uncomfortable with. (The local police offered Pickering protection, although he doesn't seem to have actually been threatened.) Aisbett adds there is a bit of self-interest in her stance, saying, "I really would prefer that my head stays on my shoulders." [ABC]

Conventions | Wizard World Cleveland Comic Con is less than a month away, and Wizard World's Jerry Milani isn't concerned about competition from Wizard World's two other shows in nearby cities, Columbus and Pittsburgh: "They are all distinct markets," he told reporter Michael Sangiacomo."We find that somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of our fans attend multiple shows, that will probably increase when we have shows close together, but the shows have enough different guest stars that we hope people will be drawn to them." Comics guests will include Neal Adams, Rob Liefeld and Thom Zahler. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Conventions | Alamo City Comic Con will be back in September, and organizers put together a Star Wars-themed trailer to announce the news. Attendance at last year's con reportedly exceeded 70,000. [San Antonio Express-News]

Conventions | Reporter Lori Carter talked to some attendees at LumaCon in Petaluma, California. [The Press Democrat]

Exhibits | The "Wonder Women" exhibit at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis will feature a mix of comics and animation art (including a comic by Jackie Ormes) and works inspired by pop culture. [Twin Cities Pioneer Press]

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