Comics A.M. | Bill Blackbeard passes away; Borders probes data leak

Passings | Writer, editor and historian Bill Blackbeard, widely credited with saving the American comic strip from the ash heap of history, passed away on March 10 at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif. He was 84. A lifelong collector of comic strips, Blackbeard founded the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art in 1968, filling the garage and basement with thousands of bound volumes of old newspapers let go by libraries when they converted their archives to microfilm. His collection grew by the 1990s to 350,000 Sunday strips and 2.5 million dailies, which eventually made their way to Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Blackbeard wrote, edited or contributed to more than 200 books on cartoons and comic strips, including The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, 100 Years of Comic Strips and Fantagraphics' Krazy & Ignatz series.

Numerous obituaries and reminisces have appeared since yesterday, most notably from R.C. Harvey, Tom Spurgeon, Jeet Heer, Dylan Williams, ICv2.com, and Dan Nadel, who collected a handful of tributes. [The Comics Journal]

Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group, the second-largest book chain in the United States, is investigating whether any of its customers' personal data was exposed on a website that purportedly contained information about its loyalty program. The website, which has been taken offline, reportedly published a searchable database of information associated with Borders Rewards, which has more than 41 million members. The site was apparently set up by the marketing firm that helped the bookseller design and implement the program. [AnnArbor.com]

Retailing | Judith Rosen surveys independent bookstores in New York, and finds things are better than one might expect. [Publishers Weekly]

Creators | Danny Graydon talks with Fables writer Bill Willingham about the origins of the Vertigo series, collaborating with Mark Buckingham, the forthcoming original graphic novel Werewolves of the Heartland, and the title's enduring appeal: "It’s a story in which you can understand what we’re trying to do in a single line – characters you know from fairy tales in a modern setting – so it’s available and open to people who wouldn’t be inclined to pick up a brand new series. The other thing is that we have been blessed with a fanatical and evangelical readership. They put these things in the hands of their non-comic book reading father or mother or girlfriend and what have you and say 'This is why I love comics' and a lot of people get attracted to the series that way. [Danny Graydon, via Forbidden Planet International]

Creators | Paul Morton interviews Shaun Tan. [The Millions]

Crime | A man was wounded Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, after a shotgun being used as a prop in an amateur Spider-Man movie fired, striking him in the leg. No charges were filed. [WBNS-10TV]

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