* Susie Cagle, a cartoonist and journalist covering Occupy Oakland, has been arrested in one of the mass-arrest sweeps of protesters by police that are becoming depressingly routine in this country. According to her twitter feed, currently being run by her partner, she and other journalists and legal observers rolled up in the arrest were initially charged with unlawful assembly and are being held at the Santa Rita jail; Cagle is slated to be released, but has been charged with “remaining at the scene of a riot, etc.” [sic!]. This is, of course, totally outrageous in a country where the freedom of the press and peaceable assembly are nominally guaranteed. Ali Ferzat winning the Sakharov Prize because his political cartoons brought retaliatory action upon him should be the exception as to how these things work, not the rule. (See also the bombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices in France, although at least there the bombers likely don’t draw government paychecks.) Cagle’s partner urges people to call the jail at 925.551.6590 and request their release.
* Marvel will offer same-day digital distribution of all its Marvel Universe comics by the end of March 2012. A year and a half ago they’d just announced day-and-date digital release of a single title; today they’re, what, third or fourth of the major publishers to do this? It happened very fast.
* Great reporting: Matthias Wivel on the crisis at L’Association, the hugely influential French alternative-comics publisher, featuring extensive quotes from the participants on both sides. L’Asso is mindblowing from the perspective of a North American observer — it’s as though the Image Seven were Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown, Charles Burns, Seth and so on instead of guys who drew the X-Men — and so the acrimony surrounding its gradual takeover by co-founder Jean-Christophe Menu and his ensuing conflicts with the publisher’s employees, creators, and other co-founders, culminating in a strike and Menu’s ouster, are doubly fascinating. When you have people like Lewis Trondheim going on record with a reporter with statements like “Menu was the driving force in the creation of L’Association, along with us, but he also ended up a threat to its existence because of his lack of social intelligence and ineptness as a boss and as a manager, and because his alcoholism and paranoia got out of hand,” that is really quite something. The link takes you to part one of the report, which brings things up to the eve of the strike; part two to come.
* My Robot 6 colleagues are posting interesting interviews left and right: J.K. Parkin interviews Ian Harker about the Image Comics tribute zine Rub the Blood, Matt Seneca interviews Benjamin Marra about layout and sequencing, and Chris Mautner interviews Kevin Huizenga about Ganges #4. Bonus Robot 6 link: J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews Daniel Clowes’s The Death-Ray.
* What Beguiling retailer/TCAF organizer Christopher Butcher thinks about superhero comics and non-superhero comics. The answers may surprise you! I think his point about how you can easily cobble together a very saleable selection of ongoing series from mainstream-accessible genres from all the publishers who aren’t DC or Marvel, plus a handful of such books from those two to boot, is especially well-taken. So too his point that whereas the big mainstream-impactful superheroes have way too many books to their names to make any one the go-to for new readers, non-superhero genre series all have nice, easy to recognize Volume Ones that can be handed to customers with the promise of more to come.
* I would imagine this issue is complicated by Marvel’s pennywise and pound-foolish decision not to emphasize its backlist by keeping it in print. Historically, DC has aligned itself behind certain perennial collections, which not only enhance their sales but, I would argue, their critical reputation. While it is perhaps true that the Marvel of the 1980s didn’t produce any single work of the caliber of Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, they could easily answer Batman Year One with Daredevil: Born Again by the same creative team, and with some canny marketing and thoughtful maintenance of stock there’s no reason they couldn’t do with Marvels, The Dark Phoenix Saga, Kraven’s Last Hunt and so on what DC has managed to do with, say, Arkham Asylum, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Kingdom Come. I’d also argue that in turn, DC (Kirby books aside) doesn’t have Silver Age runs of quality comparable to those of the great Stan Jack Steve and JRSR books, but Marvel’s program has relegated those titles to the status of historical curiosities rather than positioning them as vital to the Marvel Universe (to say nothing of the art form generally) in the here and now. There’s no reason for that to be that way, either.
* Real Life Horror: Jon Lee Anderson’s New Yorker article on the rise, reign, and fall of Muammar Qaddafi, and the Libya he left behind, makes for hugely compelling reading. You might say I have a professional interest in dictatorships, and this piece teases out some common threads I don’t think I’d thought of as common before. For example, Fidel Castro keeping the identity of his special lady a secret for years and years, Saddam Hussein’s near total disappearance from public view once his regime began taking serious black eyes, and Qadaffi’s penchant for creating a byzantine network of confusing and competing bureaucratic entities in order to both defuse potential rival power centers and diffuse culpability for poorly received actions — all three of these things were lesser-discussed items straight from Adolf Hitler’s playbook.