Artist Alison Bechdel Receives MacArthur Fellowship

They say good things come in threes, whether or not the adage is true, that’s exactly what’s happened to Alison Bechdel this summer.

Thing One: a six-week artist residency in a 15th-century castle in rural Umbria, Italy.

Thing Two: the news that Bechdel’s musical Fun Home — which had a critically acclaimed run at New York City’s Public Theater last year — is going to be produced on Broadway. And no sooner had she settled in at the castle than Thing Three happened: a call from the MacArthur Foundation telling Bechdel she’d won a fellowship.

The five-year grant comes with $625,000. The MacArthur website explains: “The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements.”

This is not an award one applies for; individuals are nominated and selected anonymously for a MacArthur. So to say Bechdel was surprised is an understatement.

“I really felt like — it was almost like someone hit me, like a physical blow,” she said in a phone call from Umbria, where she’s about to finish up her residency. “First I get to come to this amazing place, then I find out about Fun Home, then I get the call about the MacArthur.”

Ever modest, Bechdel said she initially struggled with feelings that she wasn’t worthy. “So many people deserve it,” she said, then quickly added, “It would be criminal to have any kind of negative reaction to it. But it’s pretty stunning and hard to get used to.”

Since the selection committee is anonymous, no one is available to be asked, “Why Alison Bechdel?” But the bio provided by the foundation fairly answers that question. An excerpt:

Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist and graphic memoirist exploring the complexities of familial relationships in multilayered works that use the interplay of word and image to weave sophisticated narratives. Bechdel’s command of sequential narrative and her aesthetic as a visual artist was established in her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983–2008), which realistically captured the lives of women in the lesbian community as they influenced and were influenced by the important cultural and political events of the day.

Garnering a devoted and diverse following, this pioneering work was a precursor to her book-length graphic memoirs. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) is a nuanced depiction of a childhood spent in an artistic family in a small Pennsylvania town and of her relationship with her father, a high school English teacher and funeral home director. An impeccable observer and record keeper, Bechdel incorporates drawings of archival materials, such as diaries, letters, photographs, and news clippings, as well as a variety of literary references in deep reflections into her own past.

The Fun Home musical, based on Bechdel’s graphic memoir, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama and was honored with other awards including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. When it reopens at Circle in the Square next spring, it will be completely restaged but have the same director, Obie-winning Sam Gold, according to a notice in the New York Times. Bechdel said she didn’t know if any, some or all of the Public Theater cast would come to Broadway. “It’s pretty much out of my hands,” she said. “I’m just decorative.”

Fun Home is expected to open for preview performances on April 4, 2015, and open on April 22. That’s just before the deadline for Tony Award nominees at the end of April, noted the Times.

IMG_10091-337x450At Umbria’s Civitella Ranieri, Bechdel produced and documented on her blog, a 10-meter-long scroll filled with life-size drawings in charcoal. Many of them are of herself practicing strenuous yoga poses. The physical activity, she said, helped get her “out of her head.” In one of the more humorous panels on the scroll, Bechdel is shown wearing a monk-like robe and washing her clothes in a sink. A downside of living in a castle, she noted: no washing machine.

A glance at the foundation’s website suggests there aren’t many other drawbacks. The enormous 400-year-old castle is nestled among lush, green hills and a nearby vineyard. She’s one of 10 fellows from five countries in residence right now, so there’s plenty of international stimulation. She’s spent her time there, Bechdel said, focused on drawing. And that scroll? “People actually want it here,” she said, sounding relieved about not having to ship it home. “They have plenty of room to display it.”

After Bechdel finishes up her residency in Umbria, she’ll travel for a week and then come home. And she’s looking forward to it. “I’ve been working and traveling so much,” she said. “I miss Vermont.”

To see more of that work, check out the video below:

Upstate NY Retailer to Create a Different Kind of Comic Shop

sound-go-round-jay-104396Jay Cross, owner of Sound Go Round, the largest independent record store in the Binghamton, New York area announced at the Twin Tiers Comic Con he’ll be opening a comic shop within his store.

Cross plans to knock down walls in order to expand the already-significant comics presence in his store. Aside from bringing in new, monthly comics starting in January 2015, he will hold signings and other events, beginning at his Grand Opening with an appearance by Batman Eternal and The Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy writer James Tynion IV.

The decision to move into monthly comics is one that Cross is taking seriously; he plans to leverage the significant revenue provided by music, movie and video game sales — as well as the strong margins provided by reselling comics that come in through the store’s buy/sell/trade program — to buy a wider variety, and more independent books, than any store in his geographical area.

Interview excerpt from

1377014-720088694679200-2135841048-n-104397So, you’ve got a successful store going here. Why comics?

Customers who come in here like what comics have to offer. There are guys who come in here who are into Game of Thrones and there are going to be comics that they would enjoy. People that are into Spider-Man movies or even guys that are into music — I think it’s all related.

Can you tell me a little about your philosophy on the indie stuff?

We really want to focus on quality, not necessarily just the brand name. We want to get really quality writers and artists, support them and maybe get them in here to sign stuff.

My favorite part of the business is when a customer experiences something new. You know– “I never heard of that, I got it here.” So that’s kind of what we want to do. It’s not so much to become big but to offer things that nobody else does.

sound-go-round-104394There are a lot of comic book stores within about a 20-mile radius but nobody with the size and nobody who buys as aggressively as Sound Go Round. Is being a destination for back issues a big part of your strategy?

Yeah. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but eventually we’ll get to the point where we’re being even more aggressive about seeking stuff out. We don’t have a shortage — people walk in every five minutes with a box of something. We just keep on buying as much as we can.

The Binghamton community is looking forward to the store’s immergence into something bigger and better for both mainstream and independent comics.


An All Female Spin-Off of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ Is Planned

the-amazing-spider-girlThe Amazing Spider-Man 2” kicked off the start of summer blockbusters back in May raking in over $700 million , now several spin-offs are planned in the wake of its success, including “The Sinister Six.” However, the one that has most people talking is the Spider-Man all female spin-off series.

Deadline announced two weeks ago an all female Spider-Man spin-off series. Since then there have been confirmations, speculations and rumors about which characters from the Spider-Man cannon will be in this female version.

The “Sinister Six” will hit theaters in November 2016. While the next Spider-Man film is expected to debut in 2018. This means the all female “Spider-Women” could get fast tracked as early as 2017.

“Sinister Six” will be helmed by writer-director Drew Goddard (“The Cabin In The Woods“), the villains will be the first of several planned characters and story expansions of the Spider-Man franchise by Sony.

Lisa Joy (HBO’s “Westworld” and “Reminiscence”) will be penning the script for the “Spider-Women” and Avid Arad and Matt Tolmach will be producing.

part-2-female-centric-spiderman-spinoff-article-facebook-boom-shop-of-comics-fb-page-jpgSources and the comic book fandom believe that Silver Sable, Black Cat, Stunner, Firestar, and Spider-Woman could be possibilities for this all female superhero cast.

While an all female cast sounds exciting, and the audience seems more than open to accept it, Entertainment Weekly asks, “Will the audience be willing to see a Spider-Man spin-off without Spider-Man?”

It looks like Sony is on board to take that chance with its audience members.

Toonseum hosts launch of comic-book salute to Holocaust Heroes

CHUTZ-POW_FinalCover_SMALL_RGBPITTSBURGH, PA – “Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust” tells the true stories of five extraordinary men and women whose bravery was more powerful than any special ability.

“This is the kind of story that doesn’t need capes,” says Joe Wos, director of the Toonseum, Downtown, who worked with the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh on the project. “We wanted to show that the simplest act of standing up can transform anyone into a superhero.”

The two groups hosted a launch party to celebrate the official release of the comic book on Aug. 14 at the Toonseum. Copies of the book were available for a special price of $3.

The book features the stories of five local heroes:

• The late Dora Iwler, who escaped camp after camp by posing as a Christian

• Moshe Baran, 93, of Squirrel Hill, a partisan in the forests

• His wife, the late Malka Baran, who saved a child in the camps

• Fritz Ottenheimer, 89, of Oakland, a German born Jew who witnessed Kristallnacht, immigrated to the United States and joined the U.S. Army to fight against his mother country

• The late Les Banos, a Jewish double agent who infiltrated the Nazis, sabotaged various missions, rescued shot-down Allied pilots and hid Jews

CHUTZ-POW_PanelsOttenheimer, whose parents helped smuggle hundreds of people to Switzerland to escape Nazi persecution, appreciates the comic book’s ability to reach younger generations.

“This is definitely something young people should know about and think of in terms of a goal for their life — to help others who are being unfairly treated,” he says. “They should know these things happened and try to learn about what lead up to the conditions.”

Baran agrees.

“Reaching younger people and whatever else we can do to have people think about (the Holocaust), especially in this crazy world, is important,” he says.

Drew Goldstein, chair of the Chutz-Pow! Project, says while there were “hundreds of thousands of superheroes through the world we could draw from,” these five were selected based on recommendations from historians and academics who served as advisers for the project.

“They are people who chose to step up when it looked like there was no hope and did amazing things,” Goldstein says.

Because comic books are rooted in Jewish history, using the format to tell their stories made sense, project organizers say.

“The comics industry overwhelmingly exists because of Jewish-Americans who were here during World War II,” Wos says. “All these early artists were Jewish. They had a great wealth of stories and a rich storytelling tradition that certainly helped in developing the characters. I think they were a group of people who needed superheroes, so they created them.”

The goal is to work with educators to incorporate the book into curricula for students in grades seven to 12, Goldstein says. He hopes to organize special presentations at area schools. The comic is the first in a planned set of books featuring Holocaust survivors, he says.

“We set out to revolutionize how Holocaust education is taught to the next generation,” Goldstein says.

Written by local author and comics historian Wayne Wise, the book features artwork by professional Pittsburgh cartoonists including Christopher Moeller, Dave Wachter, Marcel Walker and Mark Zingarelli.

“We didn’t change the stories,” Goldstein says. “We didn’t give them superpowers beyond what they did themselves.”

Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust will also be traveling to Pittsburgh ComiCon September 26-28, 2014. For more information, click here.


Reblog from Tribal Media

LeakyCon 2014: Celebrating Your Inner Geek

Lets Gek OUt

ORLANDO, FL – LeakyCon, named for the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter, is a fan convention initially created to celebrate all things Potter. Now in its fifth year, it has expanded to include a multitude of fandoms: Doctor Who, Marvel and DC Comics and others. (The big announcement at the closing ceremonies: LeakyCon would go forward as a Harry Potter-only event, and GeekyCon would be launched as a new multi-fandom con)


Actress Evanna Lynch, known by many as “Luna Lovegood” from the Harry Potter series.

This year’s LeakyCon gave fans the chance to listen to and get autographs from a variety of actors who were in the Harry Potter movies, and authors of their favorite books. A number of YA authors were there, including Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins, John Green, Lev Grossman, Rainbow Rowell, and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Registration for GeekyCon 2015 (Orlando, 7/30 – 8/2) is now open.

LeakyCon 2015 details can be found in its own site as well.

First Comic Book Institute Opens in Vietnam



HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam  – Opening ceremonies have just concluded on the first institute of its kind at Ton Duc Thang Vocational Training College.

The institute, which is located on Huynh Khuong Ninh Street in HCMC’s District 1, will introduce innovative techniques of drawing comic books, producing cartoons while introducing successful models of comic books to young artists, and serve as a bridge between businesses and students.

Phan Thi My Hanh, director of Phan Thi Media Education & Entertainment Co. Ltd., is head of the new institute.

Students will be trained via courses and have the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to practice in a real working environment.

Hanh states the institute will open additional offices in the Mekong Delta, and the central and northern regions in the coming time. The Vietnam Design Association (VDAS) president Le Huyen adds that children’s demand for comic books and cartoons is increasing remarkably, especially in Hanoi and HCMC. The institute has set up development plans for the comic book and cartoon industry in Vietnam to meet that demand with additional goals to carry out research projects and develop human resources for the sector.



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