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Indie comics news: Dark Horse Comics, Gem Awards, and "Powerpuff Girls" scandal

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The latest bit of independent comic book related news items for January 25th - 27th 2014!

Dark Horse Comics does their part to help kids with cancer!

Comic book companies have taken major steps towards aiding in noble causes lately - the biggest example is DC Comics and their bid to combat famine in Africa. Third party publisher Dark Horse Comics are keeping things closer to home in aiding the "Children's Cancer Association". As reported originally by "the Beat", Dark Horse has allowed free access to their digital comics archive to the CCA; such an act of generosity is made less complicated as Dark Horse sells their digital comics via their own online shop (rather than through ComiXology). That means that across some three dozen hospitals across the United States, kids fighting cancer can open up an app and read all the Dark Horse comics they want for free. Considering that children in hospitals often have little to do but read in their beds and recovery rooms, this is quite a nice gesture to help them forget their pain for a little bit.

Diamond Distribution chooses third party companies for their Gem Awards!

Diamond Comic Distribution, which have been the "middle man" for comic book retail sales since the 1990's, have revealed their annual "Gem Awards" for the best comic book publishers from their perspective. That perspective includes "sales and quality" of product from the previous year. For 2013, Image Comics was announced as the Gem Award winner for top comic book publisher with over 4% of market share. DC Comics had won the award for four straight years until this point. In 2013, Image Comics climbed up to controlling 8% of the comic book market, which is a boon the company hasn't seen since the late 90's.

In addition, BOOM! Studios won the Gem Award for top comic book publisher with under 4% of market share. This is merely proof of how far the company has climbed since its founding in 2005 through its many creator owned and licensed comic products. Iconic writer Mark Waid served as editor in chief and then chief creative officer of BOOM! Studios from 2007-2010 before stepping down to redouble his efforts as a freelance writer.

"Wee Pals" creator dies!

Morrie Turner, the first African-American cartoonist to create and draw a nationally syndicated comic strip, passed away over the weekend at the age of 90. His health had been failing as he underwent dialysis treatments.

Inspired by Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" strip, Turner created his own strip called "Wee Pals" that features the adventures and exploits of a group of children. The series was notable for including black characters among its main cast, which in 1965 (during the height of the civil rights era) was controversial. In the strip's infancy, it was carried by five newspapers; after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., that number ballooned to sixty. At the strip's height, it was read by 25 million people and included a character from virtually every ethnic group and "class" of kid (even the handicapped) to create a rainbow of a cast. The series was briefly adapted to an animated series by Rankin-Bass Productions called "Kid Power" which aired on ABC from 1972-1973. "Wee Pals" was still carried by a hundred newspapers, and as GoComics reveals, Turner kept illustrating them to the bitter end.

IDW Comics pulls "sexualized" Powerpuff Girls cover; artist fires back!

When IDW Comics added the "Powerpuff Girls" license to their treasure trove of comic book properties, they likely never envisioned a scandal breaking out not long after. Unfortunately, that is precisely what has happened. The variant cover for "Powerpuff Girls #6" featured art by Mimi Yoon who was initially contacted by Cartoon Network for the work. Unfortunately, the cover proved offensive for one retailer, Dennis Barger Jr., who wrote on his Facebook account and other venues that the cover was too "sexualized" by featuring buxom and older versions of the toddler aged heroines. Last week, Cartoon Network ordered that the cover be nixed over the firestorm.

Mimi Yoon, whose work often ranges into the "spicy" side, fired back by claiming her cover intended to the show the girls as "sassy" and that Barger had a "perverted" and "dirty mind" in being offended by it and projecting his feelings onto it. Things got so ugly that Yoon posted pictures of Barger from a 2012 convention showing the retailer posing with strippers from Larry Flynt's Hustler Club to make her point (or make an "ad hominem" argument, depending on one's views). In the end, Yoon's claim that the controversy caused the cover to be spread across the internet and seen by far more people than originally imagined may have revealed the affair as moot.

IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall offered a sign of solidarity with Yoon, at least in that IDW is going to commission at least one more variant cover from her - albeit "a fun one" which hopefully won't be as "sassy". Retailers who ordered enough copies for the variant would get a replacement, although what it would look like is unknown. Regardless of where one falls in this fight, it is quite a bit of unexpected attention for what IDW likely figured would be another harmless "kiddie" book.

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