Comics A.M. | The rise of the custom retailer variant cover

Retailing  | The Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal looks at the increasing popularity of custom retailer variant covers, focusing on local stores Acme Comics and Ssalefish Comics, which last week debuted an exclusive red-foil variant for Wrath of the Eternal Warrior and this week will release a cover by John Romita Jr. for Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1. The latter costs Ssalefish $18,800, which covered printing of color and black-and-white covers and Romita's commission. “Even if we don’t make money back on the books, it’s still nice advertising,” said Bret Parks, owner of Ssalefish. “It’s a lot of fun and it makes our customers realize they’re getting something special, because although you might see a big stack of these ‘Eternal Warrior’ variants in our store, we’re the only store in the world that has them.” [The Winston-Salem Journal]

Passings | Henri Arnold, longtime cartoonist of Jumble ("That Crazy Mixed-Up Word Game"), a regular feature on comics pages for 48 years, died last week age 97. He started out as an editorial and sports cartoonist for the Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sunday Herald, then worked as an artist for several syndicated newspaper strips, including Brenda Starr and Terry and the Pirates, and created his own strip, This Man's Army. Arnold took over the Jumble in 1960 and made it his own, working with a number of writers until he retired in 2008. In their obit, the New York Daily News notes that Arnold also did another cartoon, Meet Mr. Luckey, which gained a following among those who played the horses because they believed there were clues hidden in the cartoon. Arnold's syndicator, Tribune Content Agency, included an appropriate farewell in its announcement of his death: "ESTR NI EACEP, HENRI." [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

Piracy | A manga and anime blogger who reads some scanlation sites provides interesting context on the recent arrests of several people in Japan for uploading manga before its release date: He says scanlation sites depend on the traffic the early releases bring them for a good part of their revenue, and he also notes that two scanlation groups have shut down in the wake of the arrests. [AstroNerdBoy's Anime and Manga Blog]

Political cartoons | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was in the United States last week to pick up his International Press Freedom Award, and he stopped to talk with Michael Cavna in a Washington, D.C., cafe. Zunar, who faces nine counts of sedition, explained why he will return to Malaysia to stand trial, even though he feels the system is rigged against him: "No, he replies immediately, he wants to be there to back up his political convictions, even if he receives a conviction for his politics. As Zunar likes to say: 'How can I be neutral when even my pen has a stand?'" [Comic Riffs]

Publishing | Smithsonian Magazine presents an interview with Francoise Mouly, publisher of RAW magazine and TOON Books and, most recently, recipient of one of their 2015 Ingenuity Awards. [Smithsonian]

Creators | Stan Lee talks about his newest creation, Lucky Man, and reflects on his lengthy career in comics and other media. [The Guardian]

Creators | The Wall Street Journal talks with Ben Katchor about the imaginary small businesses that pop up in his work. [The Wall Street Journal]

Festivals | Zainab Akhtar reports in on the Thought Bubble festival in Leeds, England. [Comics&Cola]

Retailing | Looking for Star Wars comics? The big box stores don't have 'em, says Chris Miller, owner of Phoenix Rising Games and Comics, in Salisbury, Maryland, pointing out that Marvel pulled out of Barnes and Noble's newsstands a while ago. You can get the bobbleheads at Target, but for the comic you have to go to a comic shop. [Delmarva Now]

Retailing | The owner of the local drugstore returns to get a cheerful revenge on the kid who used to read the comics without paying for them. (Warning: This is a heartwarming Thanksgiving story.) [St. Cloud Times]

Retailing | Fourcorners Comics, a newly opened shop in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is an oasis in a comics desert, but owner Art Sanchez knows location alone isn't enough to make a business a success. He plans to add drawing tables art supplies to his store to make it a creative space for customers, and invite creators to come speak there as well. [The Evening Sun]

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