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26. The politics of green shopping

By Thomas Jundt


On this day forty-four years ago, some 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and lecture halls for an event billed as a national environmental teach-in—Earth Day.

When he announced plans for the event, Wisconsin Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson, a longtime conservationist, hoped it would gather enough attention to pressure his colleagues into passing environmental legislation that he had been struggling to push through Congress. It did. President Nixon and policymakers responded to the growing environmental fervor with some of the most significant environmental laws in the nation’s history. Although Nixon once called environmental issues “just crap,” he was a savvy politician who understood that the public mood required some sort of action.

On 1 January 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law. The National Environmental Education Act, which mandated environmental education in public schools, was signed into law in October. By President Nixon’s executive order the Environmental Protection Agency came into being two months later, charged with overseeing the enforcement of federal environmental policies. The Marine Mammal Protection Act followed in 1972.

Girl Scout in canoe, picking trash out of the Potomac River during Earth Week. O'Halloran, Thomas J., photographer 1970 April 22. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Girl Scout in canoe, picking trash out of the Potomac River during Earth Week. Photo by Thomas J. O’Halloran, 22 April 1970. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Environmentalists had urged such action for decades. The brutal light of atomic bomb flashes revealed a vulnerable planet, and key intellectuals soon recognized other ways that humans might destroy the earth. The head of the New York Zoological Society, Fairfield Osborn, warned of “man’s conflict with nature” in his 1948 bestselling book, Our Plundered Planet. Among the many planetary threats he addressed was the chemical DDT, made public shortly after the war. “The new chemical is deadly on many kinds of insects—no doubt about that,” he conceded. “But what of the ultimate and net result to the life scheme of earth?”

Big business was at the epicenter of this threat. “One of the most ruinous limiting factors is the capitalistic system,” William Vogt emphasized in his own 1948 bestseller, Road to Survival. “Free enterprise—divorced from biophysical understanding and social responsibility… must bear a large share of the responsibility for devastated forests, vanishing wildlife, crippled ranges, a gullied continent, and roaring flood crests.” Desire for stronger federal environmental regulations had been building long before Earth Day, and years before Rachel Carson’s seminal Silent Spring in 1962.

The Earth Day era’s reforms proved inadequate. Rules and regulations that worked well initially were often less effective once corporate lawyers went to work figuring out how they could be exploited, and corporate lobbyists aimed their skills at softening their impact. As Denis Hayes, hired by Senator Nelson to organize Earth Day, said years later, the new laws looked good so long as you ignored things like “graft, corruption, huge campaign contributions, friendships forged on golf links, and all of the other stickiness in the system.”

The real world bore little resemblance to a political-science text. Indeed, in 1972 Nixon moved to undermine his own EPA. The president told his aid, John Ehrlichman, to have the EPA “say a number of things designed to shock the consumer that the cost of the environment will be very high and that the air quality laws are very impractical.” The EPA complied, shaking the public’s confidence enough to reduce or delay a number of antipollution regulations opposed by the automobile industry. “Whether it’s the environment or pollution or Naderism or consumerism,” President Nixon assured a gathering of Ford Motor Company executives, “we are extremely pro-business.”

None of this would have surprised many of the Americans who turned out for Earth Day. As ecologist Kenneth Watt observed in a speech at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, “More and more people are giving up on the system. This isn’t just the young people, or the poor, or the black people. I’ve been startled to discover the extent to which white, middle-class, suburban housewives have become so frustrated and are so full of despair about the ability to have any effect on the system that they’ve given up on it.” Mary Humphrey, of the activist group Ecology Action, at an EcoFair near Los Angeles concurred: “I don’t think you’ll find anyone who really thinks the government will do something.”

Perhaps the most telling admission that the political system was not up to the task was made by prominent Senate Democrat and conservationist Edmund Muskie of Maine. “The power of the people is in the cash register,” he proclaimed in an Earth Day speech. He was right.

In a study that asked those who attended Earth Day events in 1970 what actions they would take to help the environment, the plan most frequently cited, by 40% of Earth Day attendees polled, was to change their “consumer behaviors.” In comparison, only about 8% mentioned changes in activities such as joining others to take action.

For critics, this is a troubling example of businesses’ ability to co-opt the ideals of reformers and sell them back to them as organic soy lattes. They charge those who practice personal politics through consumption with avoiding the more difficult work required to organize for traditional politics.

But the retreat to eco-consumerism is understandable. Lacking political solutions, with a two-party system beholden to the very corporations pillaging the planet, citizens concerned about the environment have turned to alternative green consumption. They are not lazy or indifferent, and they are certainly not ignorant. The fact is policy and enforcement favor business at the expense of citizens and the environment.

Organics and other products believed to be environmentally friendly exploded in popularity as producers recognized a ready market in the millions who turned out for Earth Day events across the nation. Today, nearly all consumer products seem to offer a choice of greener alternatives, and for most Americans, consumer choice remains the most popular, if ironic, expression of environmental concern.

During the Cold War Americans heard about citizens in the Soviet Union who coveted Beatles records and blue jeans. Although it might have been a desperate and limited response, we comprehended that type of counterculture consumption as an under-standable reaction to political conditions Soviet citizens felt powerless to change. Green consumption is similar, limited yet understandable. With government in thrall to corporations and chamber of commerce ideologues, as we watch the seas rise, buying a Prius seems like the only game in town.

Thomas Jundt is a visiting assistant professor of history at Brown University, and author of Greening the Red, White, and Blue: The Bomb, Big Business, and Consumer Resistance in Postwar America.

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27. Global responsibility, differentiation, and an environmental rule of law?

By Duncan French and Lavanya Rajamani


As we celebrate Earth Day this year, it is timely to reflect on the international community’s commitment to halting serious environmental harm. The idea that all States have a ‘common interest’ in promoting global environmental responsibility — as evidenced most clearly through their active participation in multilateral environmental agreements — has been a cornerstone of international environmental policy for the last few decades. At the heart of this responsibility is the recognition that sovereign self-interest is enhanced, rather than compromised, through collective responses to matters of global concern. And that universal participation of diverse states in pursuit of common objectives is best secured through differential treatment of states tailored to their responsibilities and capabilities.

But this ideal of responsibility — common but differentiated responsibility — is facing serious challenge. In particular, the increasing questioning of differential treatment as a valuable tool in achieving common objectives has highlighted — if nothing else — a breakdown of previous certainties, however fragile the consensus ultimately was.

Since the 1990 London Amendments to the 1987 Montreal Ozone Protocol, differentiation in commitments and obligations of financial and technological support towards developing countries has characterised, and partially defined, international environmental law. Even among multilateral environmental agreements, the climate change regime is distinctive for the nature and extent of differential treatment it contains in favour of developing countries. The extent of this differential treatment, however, has proven deeply contentious over the years.

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Indeed, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, while representing the high-water mark of differential treatment in international environmental law, is set, to come to an end in 2020. This is partly due to the deep divisions concerning the differential treatment it contains. The latest round of negotiations, under the auspices of the Ad Hoc Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) and which are to conclude in 2015, has been mandated to produce an outcome that is ‘applicable to all’. Although, ‘applicable to all’ implies universality rather than uniformity of application, the use of the term, given the political context of the negotiations, is suggestive of a shift towards greater symmetry and more nuanced differentiation between Parties. The battle over differentiation — the existence, nature and extent of it — is raging in the ongoing climate negotiations, and will no doubt prove to be one of the final issues to be resolved in Paris, 2015.

It could of course be argued that such a shift in the climate regime is but a function of larger geo-political shifts that have occurred in international relations in the past two decades; differentiation as it was originally conceived being an artifact of the period in which it was negotiated. Traditional North-South dichotomies have since disintegrated in the face of economic growth in some developing countries and the shrinking of some first world economies. Such differential treatment in favour of developing countries, especially those that are today in the middle income or higher income brackets, is an anachronism, and thus the move towards greater symmetry, it might be argued, is both natural and politically necessary. Moreover, some developed countries have become disenchanted with differentiation over time, particularly when it is rigidly structured and increasingly viewed as artificial, particularly since the global economic collapse of 2007 and the challenges faced by many ‘developed’ economies.

Whether this move in international environmental law towards greater symmetry and more nuanced differentiation in obligations for Parties, albeit with greater deference to national circumstances, is likely to either result in a more efficient approach, which in turn will promote more ambitious legal outcomes or be sufficient to appease the majority of the global South remains uncertain. Undoubtedly there appears to be a systematic dismantling of a pervasive architecture of differentiation that had assumed a stronghold in international environmental law in the past three decades.

Does this matter; should not international environmental law reflect changing political and economic realities? Should not a regime be negotiated in a manner that seeks to include as many countries as possible? And where a regime such as Kyoto has become so contested, is it not better to seek an alternative that more States can endorse?

While these are valid arguments, they do not account for the fact that differentiation was not adopted merely to improve treaty compliance or prevent a zero-sum outcome in participation. Differentiation reflected a broader ambition; that environmental obligations should be fair and equitable as well as effective. That the international community should not be allowed to neglect historic injustices, enduring differences and considerable disparities in wealth when responding to the environmental challenges. Of course, differentiation can be achieved in many different ways and with greater or more limited financial and technological assistance attached thereto. But the bedrock of differentiation — and even stringent versions of it — had seemingly been accepted. Should this now be disregarded?

There are perhaps equally valid perspectives on this matter that transcend both politics and law. But some queries do arise in this context. If the international community is a community of law, bound within a legal framework, should such a framework to be with or without a moral core? And if the former, what role does equity play and what weight should be placed on it as a characteristic of any legal system? The parties to the climate regime might be right to reconsider their approach to differentiation; but in doing so, equity must still be a valid consideration.

Duncan French is Professor of International Law and Head of the University of Lincoln Law School, UK. He was previously co-rapporteur of the International Law Association’s Committee of International Law on Sustainable Development and is presently Chair of its Study Group on Due Diligence in International Law. Lavanya Rajamani is a Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. She writes, teaches and consults on international environmental law, in particular international climate change law. Her current work is in the field of treaty law (negotiation, design, architecture and interpretation), legal principles and models of differentiation in international agreements.

In recognition of Earth Day this year, we have looked across Law, History, Economics, Literature, Life Science, and Social Sciences to identify key articles in environmental studies, all made freely available.

The Journal of Environmental Law has established an international reputation as a lively and authoritative source of informed analysis for all those active in examining evolving legal responses to environmental problems in national and international jurisdictions.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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Image credit: Wild Nature via iStockphoto

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28. Tove Jansson at 100

       2014 is quite the centennial year for authors -- Arno Schmidt, William S. Burroughs, Hopscotch-author Julio Cortázar -- and Tove Jansson.
       Impressively, there's a Tove 100 site, and there's also a Jansson exhibit at the Helsinki Ateneum -- scroll down and click on the different pictures to see her impressive range.
       Several of her books are under review at the complete review -- all worth a look:

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29. The Oxopetra Elegies and West of Sorrow review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of 1979 Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis' The Oxopetra Elegies and West of Sorrow, just out in a bilingual edition in the Harvard Early Modern and Modern Greek Library.

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30. Mein Kampf, in the public domain

       Apparently the copyright runs out on Hitler's Mein Kampf at the end of next year, posing something of a problem for the German authorities, who have tried to keep the book out of local circulation. At The European Timothy W. Ryback -- author of Hitler's Private Library -- argues The €500,000 Solution -- "an authoritative edition of Mein Kampf, complete with annotations and context-setting academic commentary" -- is a pretty good way to go.

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31. The Compleat Earth Day

First published by Izaak Walton in 1653, The Compleat Angler remains one of the most original and influential books about the environment ever written in the English language. Walton’s narrative depicts a group of urbanites whose appreciation of the natural world deepens as they go fishing in the countryside north of London. In honor of Earth Day, here are some interesting facts about The Compleat Angler as an environmental text.

By Marjorie Swann

(1)   Before The Compleat Angler, fishermen were regarded as loners, but Walton’s book transformed angling into a sociable activity that draws men together through their shared experiences of the natural world.

(2)   Walton champions core principles of wildlife management, including closed seasons, size limits, and restrictions on fishing methods.

(3)   For Walton, outdoor recreation enhances spirituality:

“So when I would beget content, and increase confidence in the Power, and Wisdom, and Providence of Almighty God, I will walk the Meadows by some gliding stream, and there contemplate the Lillies that take no care, and those very many other various little living creatures, that are not only created but fed (man knows not how) by the goodness of the God of Nature, and therefore trust in him.”

(4)   Walton was an early advocate of food security. Without environmental laws to guarantee sustainable food production, Walton argues, fish stocks will drop so precipitously that the population of England “will be forced to eat flesh.”

(5)   As Londoners visiting rural Hertfordshire, Walton’s anglers are exemplary ecotourists. They treat the natural environment they visit respectfully and take care to compensate fairly the local inhabitants who provide their food and lodging.

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Otter in Southwold, Suffolk, England. By Catherine Trigg (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons.

(6)   Walton censures “conservators of the waters”—officials charged with overseeing rivers and their fisheries—who turn a blind eye to illegal (and environmentally harmful) fishing practices.

(7)   Walton’s anglers practice environmental justice by giving financial donations and most of the fish they catch to poor residents of the countryside.

(8)   Reading The Compleat Angler can also help us to appreciate how our attitudes toward the environment have changed over time. Walton regarded otters as pests that should be controlled in order to protect fish populations and in The Compleat Angler, Walton’s fishermen join an otter hunt at Amwell Hill in Hertfordshire. Otters became extinct in Hertfordshire in the 1970s, but in the 1990s, the Otter Trust successfully reintroduced otters to the Amwell Nature Reserve. The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is now working to improve otter habitat in the Amwell Nature Reserve by creating “fish refuges.”

(9)   In the 1890s, the Pullman Company created a special railway car for American sportsmen called the “Izaak Walton.” Staffed by both a cook and a waiter, the car could hold twelve passengers and was fitted out with dog kennels, gun racks, an ammunition room, an ice-chest for game, and a wine closet.

(10)   Walton’s depiction of a “brotherhood” of environmentally-conscious anglers inspired the creation of the Izaak Walton League of America, a mass-membership conservation organization founded in 1922 that now has more than 43,000 members in the United States and Britain.

Marjorie Swann, Associate Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Curiosities and Texts: The Culture of Collecting in Early Modern England. She has edited a new edition of The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton for Oxford World’s Classics and is now writing a book about Walton’s Angler and its post-seventeenth-century afterlives.

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32. Wondercon audience hungry for Bob’s Burgers

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Bob’s Burgers’ Louise Belcher (via wsj.com)

If large crowds and enthusiastic cosplayers at Wondercon are any indication, Fox TV’s Bob’s Burgers is definitely gaining in popularity. With two years in a row of Emmy nominations in the Best Animated Series category and past episodes currently airing in syndication on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, after four seasons and a fifth in the works, Bob and the rest of the Belcher clan are cultivating a devoted and loyal fan base.

For those unfamiliar, Bob’s Burgers centers around the titular small diner staffed by Bob Belcher, his wife Linda and their three weird kids, Louise, Tina and Gene. The writing is always hilarious, often subversive, and kind of unexpectedly heartwarming. The Beat had the pleasure of getting a brief sitdown with show creator, Loren Bouchard and voice actors Kristen Schall (Louise Belcher), Dan Mintz (Tina Belcher), and John Roberts (Linda Belcher) before their standing room only panel Saturday evening at at Wondercon.

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Bob’s Burgers Wondercon cast selfie (including John Roberts, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schall, and creator, Loren Brouchard) via Kristen Schall’s Twitter

As anyone who tuned into last night’s episode, Ambergris, probably knows, the episode introduced a new character, the nare do well brother of the Belcher’s eccentric landlord, Mr. Fishodor (guest-voiced by comedian and actor, Zach Galifinakis). Bouchard told us the character will be around “doing some extra landlording” for a three episode arc that will culminate in this season’s finale. Bouchard also shared that next season will open with a musical episode centering around young Gene Belcher’s musical aspirations. He said that, “over the course (of the episode) you end up watching Diehard: The Musical and Working Girl: The Musical.”

Although, according to Bouchard and crew, Fox currently has no merchandising plans in the works, they frequently receive handmade gifts from fans. When informed that there were a lot of convention goers wearing homemade replicas of Louise’s trademark bunny-eared hat at the show ,Schall, said, “Oh, nice!” and told us that she is the proud owner of a few fan-made hats. They are, however, releasing an album featuring music from the show later this year on iTunes from 20th Century Fox.

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Tina and Louise Belcher cosplayers at Wondercon

There’s also a new five issue comic series from Dynamite (reported at last year’s Comic Con) that’ll hopefully be out later this year. Time seems to be an issue though, as Bouchard (presumably along with members of his writing team from the animated series) will also be writing the comic. “You know, it’s funny,” he says, “Adventure Time interests me but I’ve only seen the comic, I haven’t seen he show. But I have kids now and we were reading the comic book together and it’s actually had a big effect on me. I love the way it’s put together.” He added that the comics will not “not necessarily be a long narrative” and that “each character kind of has their own section.”

With lots more Belcher fun on the way and with all the other tidbits fans of Bob’s Burgers are eating up, it sounds like the comics will go down nicely too.

1 Comments on Wondercon audience hungry for Bob’s Burgers, last added: 4/21/2014
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33. Shakespeare and the music of William Walton

By Bethan Greenaway


On 23 April 2014 we celebrate the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Nearly 400 years after his death he is still a source of inspiration for countless authors, composers, and artists all over the world. His plays are performed again and again in hundreds of languages, and have been the inspiration for numerous operas, ballets, and films. The most well-known and highly acclaimed Shakespeare films are the trilogy made in the 1940s and 50s, starring Sir Laurence Olivier and featuring music written by a famous William of the twentieth century — William Walton.

Walton and Olivier had met in 1936 on the set of As You Like It (another Shakespearean film featuring music by Walton) and again at a BBC recording of Christopher Columbus. By 1944, when he was approached to write the film score for Henry V, Walton had already made a name for himself with his ceremonial and dramatic music (including Crown Imperial March for the coronation of George IV in 1937), and music to accompany various patriotic films during World War II. Olivier and Walton were to work together on three films: Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), and their most successful partnership, Henry V (1944).

All three film scores where highly acclaimed in their day, Henry V and Hamlet attracting Oscar nominations. What made them so very successful was Walton’s unerring ability to reflect the nature of each play in his music; he knew exactly how and when to heighten emotions, create tension, and provide moments of light relief. The scores for both Richard III and Henry V rely heavily on pastiches of “Shakespearean-style” music, including folk songs (at the suggestion of another OUP composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams), brass-heavy battle fanfares, and the use of the harpsichord, whilst Hamlet has a darker, motif-led, more brooding score, again reflecting the mood of the play.

Hamlet, by William Walton

Click here to view the embedded video.

Henry V, by William Walton

Click here to view the embedded video.

Richard III, by William Walton

Click here to view the embedded video.

The original film score of Henry V was arranged into two suites; in 1945 by Malcolm Sargent and again in 1963 by Muir Mathieson (the conductor on the original film soundtrack). Henry V remains not only Walton’s most well-known film score but also one of his most popular orchestral works. In fact, in an interview given to the BBC in 1977, Laurence Olivier himself remarked that the film would have been “terribly dull” without the music. High praise indeed.

In March 2014 Oxford University Press published the final volume in its magnificent William Walton Edition. Walton’s entire output, including his film music, is now available to scholars and performers in a definitive and fully practical edition.

Bethan Greenaway is Production Controller for Printed Music at Oxford University Press.

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34. Introducing a new resource page for working in comics

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At the MGA Con a few weeks ago I was on a panel on breaking into comics, and someone asked about resources for writing comics. I said I would throw up some reference, and I didn’t have time until now, but it’s a great idea. I’ve started a page for it, which is thus far called Information on How To Get Into Comics and Survive Once You’re There. With the help of Steve Morris and Matt O”Keefe I threw together some links on breaking in, craft, writing, digital, agents and some other stuff. This is very much a work in progress, and as I have time I’ll break it out some more and add more stuff. Feel free to suggest things in the comments.

There is a lot of great information out there, not only on process and technique but surviving the freelance life. Colleen Doran has a ton of great posts about that stuff. I put up a general link now but I’ll probably spotlight a few of her best posts later on.

I know people love sample comics script formats, as well, so if you have any links to those feel free to suggest them.

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35. Saga, Foglio Nominated for Hugo Awards

Girl GEnius Volume 13

The Hugo Award nominations, which honor the best in science fiction, were announced over the weekend, and the graphic story nominees are

BEST GRAPHIC STORY (552 ballots)
Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
“The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who” written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics )

“Time” by Randall Munroe (XKCD)

This is a little interesting, since The Foglio book won the first few times this category was added to the Hugos and I think they had informally pulled out or something – but no, they are back! Saga Volume 1 won the award last year. I’m glad to see Munroe’s immense Time nominated as it is one of the most daring and unique comics-related achievements of the last 12 months.

Some other comics germane categories:

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST (624 ballots)
Galen Dara

Julie Dillon

Daniel Dos Santos

John Harris

John Picacio

Fiona Staples

BEST FAN ARTIST (316 ballots)
Brad W. Foster

Mandie Manzano

Spring Schoenhuth

Steve Stiles

Sarah Webb

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) (995 ballots)
Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)

Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)

Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

And in the Hugo Controversy category, after avowed feminist Jonathan Ross was publically bounced as host of the Hugos (held this year in London), the avowed racist/misogynist Vox Day was nominated for best short story. You win some, you lose some.

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36. New sodium intake research and the response of health organizations

The American Journal of Hypertension (AJH) recently published the findings of a comprehensive meta-analysis monitoring health outcomes for individuals based on their daily sodium intake. The results were controversial, seemingly confirming what many notable hypertension experts have begun to suspect in recent years: that levels of daily sodium intake recommended by governmental agencies like the CDC are far too low, perhaps dangerously so.

Media outlets were quick to broadcast the findings, and the response from the CDC and organizations like the American Heart Association were much the same as in the past, dismissing the analysis, without pointing to specifics, as relying on “faulty methodology” and “flawed data.”

We recently spoke to Dr. Niels Graudal, lead author of the meta-analysis published in AJH, to understand, among other things, the details of his research and his opinion on the reaction of governmental health agencies to new findings on sodium intake.

Could you start by talking to us about the nature of a meta-analysis? What about your meta-analysis makes its findings more valid than, say, a single, localized study?

Population studies are accepted in health science as a means to define associations between health-factors. For instance, the associations between blood pressure, cholesterol, and mortality have been defined by such studies. Meta-analyses integrate the results from many individual studies to provide an average of the association of the “risk factor” to outcome. Such analyses help to reach a consensus, and constitute the core of the Cochrane Collaboration, which systematically organizes medical research information on the basis of scientific evidence.

Was there a common methodology among the studies included in your meta-analysis?

In population studies on sodium intake, the individually-measured sodium intake is used to categorize the participants in groups of low, intermediate, and high sodium intake. The groups are followed for years, while mortality (death rate) and morbidity (disease rate) in the different groups are recorded. Successively, the association between sodium intake and mortality/morbidity is calculated.

heart rate

What are some possible obstacles encountered in population studies like this?

There are factors which could bias the result in a wrong direction, so-called “confounders.” For instance, sodium intake typically increases with energy intake. Sick participants with a low energy intake may therefore eat less sodium than healthy people, and overweight participants predisposed to diabetes and cardiovascular disease may eat more sodium than healthy people. Therefore, the energy intake is a confounder, which could explain a potential increased mortality in participants with a low and a high sodium intake. However, there are statistical methods that allow us to correct for such confounders in order to ensure for accurate findings; such methods are used in almost all such studies, and have been for many years.

What were the specific findings of your meta-analysis on sodium intake?

Perhaps most importantly, the implications of these findings are that the present recommendation from the CDC that individuals should reduce sodium intake to below 2300 mg/day is too restrictive, and that the majority (about 95%) of the global population presently eat sodium within the safest range (2,645-4,945 mg/day) and therefore have no need to alter their intake.
Our present analysis showed that both high sodium intake and low sodium intake were associated with increased mortality when compared with the present usual sodium intake of most individuals worldwide, which is between 2,645 and 4,945 mg per day. In spite of the fact that sodium intake is somewhat difficult to measure precisely, the signal from the nearly 275,000 participants we looked at was abundantly clear.

Perhaps most importantly, the implications of these findings are that the present recommendation from the CDC that individuals should reduce sodium intake to below 2300 mg/day is too restrictive, and that the majority (about 95%) of the global population presently eat sodium within the safest range (2,645-4,945 mg/day) and therefore have no need to alter their intake.

How did you account for those participants in your analysis that were already suffering from, say, hypertension or obesity? Might they have affected the findings in some way?

When we excluded groups of populations with diseases from our analysis and only included healthy populations, which were random samples of the general population and within which multiple statistical adjustments for confounders had been performed, the results concerning low sodium intake were even more significant, indicating that confounders could not have affected the outcome of our analysis.

Is your meta-analysis the first scientific research to suggest that extremely low levels of sodium intake like those promoted by the CDC may actually be associated with negative health outcomes?

Actually, a 1984 paper published in the journal Science questioned the wisdom of population-wide sodium intake reduction on the basis of an investigation of about 10,000 participants. The FDA immediately published a high-profile response in The New York Times, claiming that the findings were likely the result of a statistical fluke or “something wrong with the analysis.” This immediate move to quell any dissenting evidence seems to have governed the debate ever since.

More recently, though, a population study published while our meta-analysis was under review showed results very similar to ours. Two of the individual studies (1, 2) included in our analysis also concluded that there was a “U” shaped correlation between sodium intake and mortality (increased risks at very low and high doses). For the record, excluding these two studies from our analysis did not change our results. In the past year, then, four recent studies have independently confirmed increased risks associated with both high and low sodium intakes, and suggest that the present recommendation of less than 2,300 mg/day is in conflict with available science.

What are the arguments against research like this?

Often, health organizations will attempt to call into question researchers’ objectivity by labeling them biased agents of the food industry. In a recent response to a paper showing that the majority of the world’s populations had a salt intake significantly above the recommended 2,300 mg/day, representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) accusatorily asked, “why has the food and beverage industry mounted yet another campaign to try to resist beneficial changes, either directly or indirectly through their academic voices?”

Sometimes agencies will willfully misinterpret findings. In a short commentary to the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on sodium intake in populations, nine CDC employees quoted the IOM report as follows: “When it comes to sodium intake levels <2,300mg per day… the committee found insufficient and inconsistent evidence regarding the benefit or harm in certain population subgroups (e.g., individuals with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or preexisting cardiovascular disease)”. However, the actual quote from the study was this: “science was insufficient and inadequate to establish whether reducing sodium intake below 2,300 mg/d either decreases or increases CVD risk in the general population.”

Often, they claim that our data and methods are somehow flawed, though they rarely cite specific instances. In a response to our present meta-analysis, the American Heart Association (AHA) stated that the analysis relied on “flawed data and should not change the way anyone looks at sodium.” They went on to say that:

“…those studies were poorly designed to examine the relationship between sodium intake and mortality, and the findings fail to take into account well-established evidence about sodium intake. Other problems with the new study included unreliable measurements of sodium intake and an overemphasis on studying sick people rather than the general population.”

This is a small selection of the arguments which have been raised for years by representatives of public institutions (WHO, FDA, NIH, CDC, AHA) in response to scientific investigations that don’t agree with their population-wide sodium reduction agenda.

So that we can avoid generalizations, what are the specific studies these organizations usually cite in support of population-wide sodium reduction, and what do you think are their flaws?

The rebuttals of health organizations are almost invariably propped up by vague references to an “immense” – usually unspecified – body of research which “proves” the beneficial effects of sodium reduction for the general population. If they do cite specific studies, it’s usually either

  • A group of randomized trials in which the baseline blood pressure of participants was actually much higher than the average 71 mmHg of the general population: 80-89 mmHg, 83-89 mmHg, borderline hypertensives and hypertensives, and hypertensives (>90 mmHg). Though these studies are obviously not useful for general population policymaking, they are, nonetheless, used to bolster the population-wide sodium reduction agenda of health organizations.
  • A meta-analysis (which, ironically, would have the same hypothetical methodological weaknesses the AHA and CDC supposedly see in ours) that finds increased risk of stroke in individuals consuming more than 4,945 mg/day. The results don’t conflict with our findings (our healthy range is 2,645 – 4,945 mg/day), but also don’t examine negative outcomes for low sodium intake, so are irrelevant to debate around determining an intake range.
  • Follow-ups (1, 2) of two older studies, pooling and analyzing their data with cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and all-cause mortality (ACM) as outcomes. These showed no significant difference between the low sodium group (ACM = 2.3%) and the normal sodium group (ACM = 2.6 %) (p = 0.58), thus confirming that sodium reduction may have no effect. The authors did, however, on several occasions, dissect the results by means of multiple adjustments, and did succeed in finding a few marginal or borderline significant results in favor of sodium reduction. The analyses behind these results, though, were not predefined in a protocol and should therefore be considered as having an extremely high risk of bias.


These flawed or irrelevant studies tell us that, concerning the general population, the blood pressure surrogate link between sodium intake and mortality is unreliable. As a matter of fact, the blood pressure surrogate link has been opposed by a meta-analysis that accounted for the full range of global population blood pressure and showed negative side effects for sodium reduction.

Where does this leave us?

As blood pressure is obviously not a reliable link between sodium intake and mortality, the conclusion of the aforementioned 2013 IOM report based on evidence from population studies is the best we have. This report was conducted by independent researchers and sponsored by the CDC, who, for less-than-transparent reasons, chose to follow the example of the AHA by rejecting their own report. As previously mentioned, this report found no evidence to establish whether reducing sodium intake below 2,300 mg/day either decreases or increases CVD risk in the general population. It also found no evidence in support of recommending different sodium intakes to diseased and normal groups, and did find evidence for potential harm in a sodium intake below 1,500 mg. However, the report failed to specify the dimensions of a safe sodium intake zone, but, by implication, indicated that such a safe zone does exist, consistent with the experience of all other essential nutrients.

In your opinion, what should organizations like the CDC and AHA, who control the development and implementation of public health policy, be doing now, in light of this new research?

Any policy like the current one that would aim to have 95% of the world’s population drastically alter their diet ought to be based upon strong, irrefutable scientific evidence.
I think that, instead of immediately moving to accuse dissenting scientists of economic and intellectual corruption, it may be more appropriate for powerful health organizations to ask what scientific mind would buy a theory as simplistic as the one currently governing sodium intake policy (sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, which leads to death) without a modicum of skepticism? Would it be so unreasonable for these groups to at least take our skepticism seriously, instead of reflexively attempting to explain away the results?

Our study provides evidence that a U/J shaped curve exists for the association between sodium intake and health outcome, as it does with all other nutrients. I will be the first to admit that this evidence is based on observational population studies, which are inevitably subject to flaws caused by imprecise measurements and confounders. These flaws, though, are greatly mitigated by the inclusion of a large number of participants, by statistical adjustments, by sensitivity analyses of subgroups, and by consistency in results between several independent studies.

There can never be any scientific guarantee that these safeguards eliminate all flaws; on the other hand, though, in the absence of a conflicting body of data, the IOM report and our analysis should be included in the determination of public policy, not ignored. Any policy like the current one that would aim to have 95% of the world’s population drastically alter their diet ought to be based upon strong, irrefutable scientific evidence.

Niels Graudal, MD, DMsc, is the lead author of “Compared With Usual Sodium Intake, Low- and Excessive-Sodium Diets Are Associated With Increased Mortality: A Meta-Analysis” (available to read for free for a limited time) with Gesche Jürgens, Bo Baslund1 and Michael H. Alderman in the American Journal of Hypertension. He is a chief consultant at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Denmark and is mainly treating patients with systemic inflammatory diseases. He has a special interest in meta-analyses

The American Journal of Hypertension is a monthly, peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for scientific inquiry of the highest standards in the field of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease. The journal publishes high-quality original research and review articles on basic sciences, molecular biology, clinical and experimental hypertension, cardiology, epidemiology, pediatric hypertension, endocrinology, neurophysiology, and nephrology.

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37. Interview: Noelle Stevenson talks about her hit book Lumberjanes

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Variant cover from Lumberjanes #1

Boom!’s new young adult, creator-owned series, Lumberjanes, about a scrappy gang of girls fighting monsters that lurk in the woods behind their summer camp, has been generating a lot of positive buzz and some early reports of solid sales as well. Boom! Confirmed that pre-orders for the first issue topped out at a respectable 16,000 and one comics retailer told The Beat that they’ve already sold 68% of the copies their store ordered, adding that they’ll probably need to order more #1′s when the 2nd issue comes out. The series features an all female creative team, including Boom! Editor, Shannon Watters (who also conceived the story with Grace Ellis), artist, Brooke Allen, and writer, Noellle Stevenson (who co-writes the story with Ellis). Stevenson’s popular web comic, Nimona, is being released by Harper Collins in 2015 as a full length graphic novel. She took time out of a busy signing schedule at Boom! to answer some questions for Beat readers:

SO: what’s it like working on a team with all female creators?

NS: it’s awesome obviously! Everyone is so cool. This is my first time working on a team to make a comic. I’m used to doing my web comic so I (usually) draw everything I write. Brooke, who’s our artist – were on the same wavelength – so every time she draws something I write, she draws exactly what’s in my head. I am thrilled with it. Everyone I work with is great and were all best friends!

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Variant Cover from Lumberjanes #2

SO: Was Lumberjanes your idea or did you all come up with the concept together?

NS: It was originally Shannon Watters and Grace Ellis’s concept and they brought me into it early in development. I did character designs and then I started developing the direction of the comic to go in but it was originally Shannon and Grace’s idea.

SO: With all the discussion in the comics industry around sexual harassment lately, I wanted to ask you about the comic you posted on your tumblr about what it’s like to be a woman in a comic book store. Would you consider that sexual harassment?

NS: I would not consider it sexual harassment. Maybe technically it is, because it’s based on gender and sex but I think sexual harassment should have a little more gravity. I never felt physically in danger. I never was propositioned or groped or anything like that. So, really, I’ve gotten it a lot better than a lot of other people have in comic book shops. Having made that comic and seeing it get passed around, a lot of people added their stories to it. I (saw) stories of what I definitely would consider sexual harassment. One (woman) said she went into a comic book store in a Batman t-shirt only to have a male shopper get very angry at her and demand that she take the shirt off, then try to take (it) off of her.

SO: What I got out of reading that comic is that you would like for comics shops to be more welcoming to women. Is that what you were trying to get across?

NS: Well really what I want is to walk into a shop and be treated like a valuable customer who’s willing and able to spend their money, just like I would in any other shop. If you walk into a shop and you’re not treated like a valued customer, you’re not really going to want to spend your money there. When I walk into a shop and my choices are disparage(ment) or someone condescending to me or they’re like, “oh, are you here for your boyfriend?” that makes me not want to spend my money there. I’m really not asking anyone to roll out a red carpet … But it would be nice that if you have any kind of question about a comic that it be answered without condescension. I think it’s a pretty low bar honestly! Just treat everyone that comes in as basically a source of money for your shop. It just seems like good business to me, really.

SO: when is Nimona with Harper Collins coming out?

NS: That is due out in Spring, 2015. It’s a young adult graphic novel. It’s going to be basically what’s online but there will be some extra pages, some of the earlier pages are going to be redone. there’s going to be some extra content too to kind of encourage the people who’ve already read it online to pick up the paper version.

SO: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me! I really enjoyed reading the comic and I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

NS: Awesome!

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38. Oh yeah, Marvel’s Original Sins are getting worse

Everybody_Has_OneMarvel Original Sin promos are finally getting a LITTLE outrageous, with the title “Daredevil has one” and a picture of a nun with a baby. As we mentioned before, Marvel’s retailer oriented promo for their upcoming Original Sin mini-series was a bit tepid on the shock scale, mostly involving tinkers with long ago continuity.  Of course knowing Marvel, this image just refers to that time as a kid that Matt Murdock was a babysitter and bought regular as opposed to organic applesauce for baby.

 

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39. Writers wanted: C2E2 and beyond

bagge sweatshopAre you going to C2E2? The Beat is not for the FIRST TIME. Torsten will be there for all the inside story as only Torsten can cover it, but if you have a hankering to listen to people make awkward banter about upcoming comics and then race to feverishly type it up, you may be just the person we’re looking for! If you’d be interested in covering it for The Beat, email me at comicsbeat at gmail dot com.

I’m also looking for writers for San Diego. I cannot get you a hotel room or pay your airfare but you will get a four day press badge if you are accepted, and access to media events. I’ve begun putting together our team, and it’s going to be stellar!

We’re also looking for more regular writers, seeing as the last batch we had have all graduated to running major news sites, becoming online editors for newspapers and getting award nominations. So time for the next generation to step in. I view writing for the Beat as a partnership—I’m looking for fresh viewpoints and insights, and a passionate love for comics. In particular, I’d like to run more reviews—we get a ton of material here that just isn’t being covered, and although I know a lot of people think that reviews are a mugs game, I think well-written reviews have a place.

Sadly this is not a lucrative business, however I’m going to work up some kind of rev share model for payment. Be forewarned, the rev you share will not buy more than a peanut butter sandwich…which is what I had for dinner! See, partnership!

These are exciting times for comics and I’m excited to see the voices emerging to talk about this time. As always, I am especially open to diverse viewpoints. Comicsbeat at gmail dot com

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40. Brooklyn’s Grand Comics Festival Returns June 7th

Grand Comics Festival 2014

The Grand Comics Festival 2014 a small but very friendly comics show is returning this June, although slimmed down to one day. Exhibitors include Sam Hendersn, Nick Bertozzi and organizer Pat Dorian. Admission is free, and there is the best sandwich shop ever around the corner.

Saturday, June 7th
11am-7pm
Bird River Studio
343 Grand St. (marcy + havemeyer)
Brooklyn, New York.

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41. July’s cover theme will be THE BATMAN!

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DC has announced its latest month of cover variants and the topic is Batman, in honor of his 75th Anniversary. Artists include Kevin Nowlan, Klaus Janson, Jim Steranko, Walt Simonson, Graham Nolan, Cliff Chiang, Sean Murphy, Dave Johnson, Dan Jurgens, Mike Kaluta and more!

Previous variant theme months included Scribblenauts in January, steampunk in February, Robot Chicken in March, and MAD themed covers in honor of Alfred E. Neuman’s Birthday this month. In May it’s Batman ’66 and Bombshell’s in June.

I never see these covers! Where are they!

The first Batman cover for July released was by Jim Steranko, above

Here’s the list of books with Batman covers that aren’t Batman:

ACTION COMICS #33
AQUAMAN #33
BATGIRL #33
BATMAN #33
BATMAN AND ROBIN #33
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #13
BATWOMAN #33
DETECTIVE COMICS #33
EARTH 2 #25
GRAYSON #1
GREEN LANTERN #33
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #33
HARLEY QUINN #8
JUSTICE LEAGUE #33
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #33
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITED #3
SUPERMAN #33
SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #10
TEEN TITANS #1
THE FLASH #33
WONDER WOMAN #33

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42. Nice art: The Mad Flatter shows how coloring creates abstract images

“Flattiong” is a stage of the coloring process wherein shapes are outlined in flat colors for later embellishment. it’s a tedious stage often parcelled out to “Flatters”—a sort of apprentice position whose practitioners often graduate to full colorist. Now someone known as The Mad Flatter has created a tumblr of these images, which are sort of beautiful and haunting in themselves.

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43. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 4/22/14 – shocking facts that will leave you limp!

§ Big big ups to Shannon O’Leary and Pam Auditore for their WonderCon coverage! You guys are THE BEST.

§ Here is that big piece was was working on last week, How to Throw a Comic Con at Your Library for Publishers Weekly. It’
s behind the paywall right now—I”ll remind you when it comes out. I talk to Dan Merritt of Kids Read Comics, the folks behind the Chesterfield Comic Con, the Clearwater Comic Con and other library events. I even caught up with how things are with the Northlake Library Hulk.

§ Here is a cautionary tale about how CG Hub, a portfolio site shut down suddenly taking ALL its content with it. I know that Deviant Art and FB are stable places, but I can’t say it enough: own your own shit, people. there are so many free portals for uploading your own content, there is no reason not to. Websites are very ephemeral things.

§ Why aren’t there more women working in superhero comics? This interview with Janelle Asselin lays out the facts very well. I know this is a super long quote, but all of this is well worth considering any time there is an outcry. Not that the factors Asselin lays out can’t be mitigated, but they need to be acknowledged:

When you’re an editor, especially an editor on monthly comic books where the company you work for owns all the characters in what it publishes, you have a different set of responsibilities than an editor who works on a less structured schedule or with creator-owned properties. The people you hire to work on books have to either be intensely reliable or immensely talented (preferably both, really). Hiring new talent is always a risk. If this person you’re trying out doesn’t hit deadlines or isn’t as skilled as you thought they were based on samples, well, that’s your fault in the eyes of the company.

So when you need a fill-in to help a schedule out or you are testing out new talent on a short story, the ideal is to find people who have already proven their reliability and talent in some way. So far, this still seems like an equal playing field, right? Then consider the fact that you have approximately 30 minutes to try to look for someone before you are given a list of people who are already proven at your company but who are looking for work because they lost their regular monthly book or haven’t had a regular gig in a while. Then add in the fact that historically your company has hired men so the creators being recommended to you are almost always male. And then add in the fact that FAR, FAR fewer women are putting their work in front of editors or pursuing these editors for work (I got one email from a woman looking for work in 3 years. I got at least one a day from male creators).

Finally, add in the fact that too often, pushing for female creators over male gets you a side-eye from the powers that be. In that moment, it’s just easier to hire a dude than spend hours you don’t have digging around on the Internet for someone who might be appropriate for the job. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it’s easier.

§ Another interview with Zack Soto which wraps up Lineworks NW and other stuff:

CB: There was Stumptown, but there was only Stumptown once a year. It seems like it should be more. I guess between Portland and Seattle there should be more.

Soto: Well if there is Short Run in November in this area, and then we are doing ours in April this year – and I think we’ll probably continue in the Spring/cusp of Summer or something like that next year. In between the two shows, you have pretty good coverage of the year for regional arts comics. You know what I wish?  That the Portland Comics Show, like the dealer shows that used to happen? I wish those would come back. Because now I think that people would actually appreciate those because otherwise they’re paying forty dollars to go to Wizard Con, and do the same thing.

§ The New Yorker writes up the Comixology-Amazon deal. NOthing we didn’t know but funny to see it in New Yorker-eese.

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§ Must read: Here is an interview with Nat Gertler, founder of 24 Hour Comics Day on the occasion of its 10th Anniversary. Fascinating to see a simple idea become an institution. Did you know Fiona Staples participated one year?

What impressions still stick with you 10 years later from that first event?

I got to a visit a few of the event sites during the event, heading in during the wee hours, and I was amazed at the sheer joy of the participants. I had done a 24-hour comic myself — felt I had to before I could ask Scott to let me publish the book — and let me tell you, at 2 or 3 a.m., things seemed pretty bleak. And it wasn’t just me, if you read 24 -our comics done before the first 24 Hour Comics Day, they tend to get pretty bleak, as tired people working alone face the strong chance that they would fail in what they trying, and realizing how much work still lay ahead. But when you have a bunch of people taking that same challenge side by side, there is a shared energy, a party atmosphere going on, and overall the comics done at these events tend to be much more upbeat than those done by folks working alone. Perhaps its a shared insanity, but really, that joy was striking.

§ Remember that retailer survey I was pimping not too long ago? it’s taken on a life of its own.

§ Nice profile of the state of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

“At the time, graphic novels and cartoonists were certainly becoming more widespread and known for their work — there was a lot of interest and celebration around [them],” Center for Cartoon Studies president Michelle Ollie said. “So I think the timing certainly was good for the school. The awareness and interest and appreciation was just starting to build.” Since then, cartooning has continued to develop into a respected artistic field.

§ Emma Stone totally schooled Andrew Garfield. Squabbling like an old married couple about Spider-man’s costume. Oh, kids.

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44. Lion Forge Comics forges ahead into 2014

New comics company, Lionforge, showed off an intriguing selection of licensed and original comics at Wondercon last weekend. SBTB_1_cover_Page_01The company’s licensed comics include modern adaptations of popular 80′s and 90′s TV shows, Saved by the Bell, Punky Brewster, Miami Vice and Knight Rider, while original series include comics based on six time WWE champion, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and another with MMA fighter, Rampage Jackson as superheroes.

The editorial team is helmed by industry veterans, Adam Staffaroni, who worked in editorial at Boom! and DC comics, and Shannon Eric Denton, a longtime staffer at DC’s now defunct Wildstorm imprint (Staffaroni is working on the YA and All Ages Roar Imprint for Lion Forge). Lion Forge is currently a digital only outfit with titles available for purchase on iverse’s comics plus app and the kindle for amazon but company insiders hinted that wider distribution will be available soon.

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45. Another take on Comixology Submit

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The excited combustion of the Amazon/Comixology announcement has cooled off and now people are just wondering when the first effects of this blockbuster deal will be seen. While many people have been fretting about the survival of Comixology Submit—their upload it yourself, share the profits platform for indie comics—it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that Amazon would be averse to since they are also big on upload it yourself portals.
When I first wrote about his deal, I linked to Ryan Estrada’s take on Submit, which was that it wasn’t ahuge money maker for him. However I received an alternate view of Submit from Graham Johnson, co-creator of Of Stars and Sword (above)and a member of Serious Turtle Studios. With his permission, I’m quoting his comments here. ONe thing before you read it, check out Of Stars and Swords, it’s a nice looking webcomic!

My name is Graham Johnson and together with my wife, Caroline, we make the comic Of Stars and Swords. It’s primarily a webcomic, but we’ve been on Comixology through Submit since they launched the program. I was reading your article on the whole thing and wanted to throw some of my own thoughts your way. We’re tiny and not really well known, but a couple things you mention about Submit aren’t entirely accurate in our experience with it.

Mainly, the idea that Submit takes about a six month turnaround. It’s definitely longer than it was at the start (which was about a month), but our most recent issue went live in early March after having been submitted in December. It was even rejected for some low rez text that I quickly fixed and resubmitted. This kind of leads into some things I’ve noticed about Ryan Estrada’s blog post that also don’t fit with what we’ve seen, nor many of the other Submit creators that we know. Rejection definitely happens a fair bit, as Comixology is extremely picky about making sure files are the right resolution and such, but quite a lot of creators don’t seem to e-mail them. Whenever we’ve had a problem, I’ve sent an e-mail and had a reply within hours and had help figuring out the problem. We’re scrambling to make do like anyone, and I know it’s busy, but the Submit program isn’t nearly as bad as many of the posts seem to talk about.

Not only that, but places like Gumroad and such might bring more money to creators with a name, but it does nothing for the rest of us. Submit is a HUGE deal for Of Stars and Swords, as well as for the other comics from friends of ours that are also in those first few years and not well known. Places like Gumroad are more or less useless to us, as we’re already stretched thin on the marketing end and  no one knows who we are anyway…but Comixology puts us right there with everyone else on a slightly more level playing field. It’s really the closest thing to an Artist Alley at a convention.

To be entirely honest, I’m not really all that worried about Amazon buying Comixology. There are the obvious, usual fears that come to mind when a larger company buys a smaller, well liked one, but the potential positives HUGELY outweigh the negatives for us smalltimers. Mainly, the chance at a larger audience (maybe) is a big deal, even if we’re still kind of drowned out. Whereas if Comixology is just folded out completely and destroyed, it would be terrible, but we make so little money ANYWAY that Comixology is much more about exposure levels and eyes. Besides, that’s where places like Gumroad and our own website come in!

It seems that Submit will be around for a while, so it’s worth noting that the biggest slowdowns are with improperly formatted files. If you want to get your comics up there, make sure to read the instructions for DPI and resolution—although to be fair I hard a hard time finding those instructions on the Submit portal.) Perhaps that will be the next post in this series!

Have you had an experienec good or bad with Submit, Gumroad or other digital comics stroefronts? Tell us about it!

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46. Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay take on Rob Liefeld’s Supreme in SUPREME: BLUE ROSE

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You are not dreaming. 
We are trying to communicate with you. 
Local reality has been reinstalled. 
Things have gone wrong. 
The revision has corrupted. 
Finding Ethan Crane is your supreme priority. 
We are speaking to you from the ultimate bunker within the structure of multiversal time.
Do not trust Darius Dax. 
We are all going to die. 


Back in the original days of Image Comics, Rob Liefeld’s Supreme was one of the central characters, a Superman analog who later enjoyed a fantastic run with Alan Moore at the writing helm. And now, with other Extreme Studios character completely rehabilitated (Glory, Prophet) Supreme is getting a new look with Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay (ELEPHANTMEN, The Witching Hour) taking on SUPREME: BLUE ROSE.

“One day I woke up with an idea, that came out of nowhere, for how to extend this most strange and storied of ‘analogue’ properties into a new space. A new floor on top of Alan Moore and Rob Liefeld’s house,” said Ellis. “And, since I had some time on my hands that year, I emailed Image, and we got my friend Tula Lotay involved—and her work will be a revelation to people.”


It’s worth noting that in addition to her busy freelance career, Lotay is also one of the show runners for Thought Bubble, one of the gems of the Caf circuit. So she is a busy, busy lady.

The series debuts in July.

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47. Earth Day, 44 years on

By Ellen Wohl


The 1960s are famous for many reasons: the civil rights movement, the first moon walk, the Cuban missile crisis, rock and roll. The 1960s were also a period when awareness of environmental degradation spread to society at large. Events such as the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s expose of pesticides, the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, and the regular occurrence of smog in many of the world’s large cities helped to convince people that pollution and environmental degradation were pervasive and needed to be addressed.

John McConnell proposed a day to honor Earth at a UNESCO conference in 1969, and the first Earth Day was celebrated on 21 March 1970, the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere. This was definitely an idea whose time had come. A month later, another Earth Day was started by US Senator Gaylord Nelson. The second Earth Day took the form of a teach-in first held on 22 April 1970. Earth Day went international in 1990 when US Earth Day coordinator Denis Hayes organized activities in 141 countries. Nearly 200 countries now celebrate Earth Day, and some have expanded the observance to Earth Week. Thinking of this makes me want to paraphrase the standard answer parents give to children when they ask why we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but no children’s day: Every day is (or should be) Earth Day.

Students picking up trash

Students pick up trash along roadside. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Earth Day has without question helped to increase visibility of environmental issues and promote governmental and citizen responses to these issues. One indication of this response is the increasing breadth and depth of Environmental Science. Environmental science means different things to different people. Some interpret it as the systematic study of the total environment, a broadly interdisciplinary approach that draws on knowledge from diverse disciplines. Others interpret environmental science as a collection of subdisciplines that explicitly focus on the environmental component within their discipline, typically in an attempt to minimize environmental impacts. Environmental architecture, for example, focuses on green building technology using recycled and sustainable building materials and reduced energy use within buildings. Environmental history examines the development of societies within the context of environmental constraints imposed on human actions and human attitudes toward the environment. The commonality among diverse approaches to environmental science is an explicit recognition that individuals and societies exist within an environmental context defined by the weather, topography, soils, water, and plant and animal communities that interact to create an ecosystem.

Loch Vale. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

Loch Vale by Drew Parker. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

Environmental degradation was pervasive and obvious during the early observances of Earth Day. Publication of the now-famous Blue Marble photograph of Earth taken during the 1972 Apollo mission created a stunning reminder of the limited area of the universe habitable by life. More than 40 years on, many of the issues that environmental science addresses today are much less obvious, and may therefore be more difficult to bring to public attention. One of my personal reminders of this is Loch Vale, a stunningly beautiful, high-elevation lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Visitors to the national park have to work to reach Loch Vale. The trail to the lake winds over 5.7 miles and gains more than a thousand feet in elevation. When you arrive, you feel that you have reached someplace special, a pristine mountain lake far from the noise and crowding of the urban areas at the base of the mountains. Yet, research by many scientists over the past two decades indicates that the soil and waters of the lake ecosystem are becoming acidic, largely as the result of atmospheric nitrate deposition. These nitrates originate from the feedlots and agricultural lands, industries, and tailpipes of the millions of people living at the base of the mountains, who are out of sight at Loch Vale, but not out of reach. Without the dedicated, ongoing efforts of environmental scientists such as Jill Baron of the US Geological Survey, who has led much of the research at Loch Vale, we would never be aware of the invisible but continuing acidification of this ecosystem.

For me, the lessons of Loch Vale are threefold. First, there is more to environmental degradation than meets the eye. Some of the most thorough and persistent changes are largely hidden from casual view. Second, the efforts of environmental scientists are critical to documenting environmental changes. We can only act to mitigate environmental degradation if we are aware of it. And third, we need Earth Day more than ever. Whatever form your observance of this day takes, I hope that it includes the recognition that every day is lived on Earth.

Ellen Wohl is Professor of Geology in the Department of Geosciences at Colorado State University. She is Editor in Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science, Associate Editor of Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America. She has published several books on rivers and environmental issues, including Virtual Rivers, Disconnected Rivers, A World of Rivers, Island of Grass, Of Rock and Rivers, and Wide Rivers Crossed.

Developed cooperatively with scholars worldwide, Oxford Bibliographies offers exclusive, authoritative research guides. Combining the best features of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia, this cutting-edge resource guides researchers to the best available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.

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Image: Students pick up trash along roadside

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48. Dark Horse to Publish The Art of the Venture Brothers coffee-table book

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Yessss! The Art of the Venture Brothers will be a huge collection of original artwork, character designs, storyboards, painted backgrounds, and props from every episode of The Venture Bros. with accompanying commentary on the development of the series from cocreators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer. And as you know, those guys can commentate with the best of them. If you clicked the above link, you will have seen the list price is $39.99. Patton Oswalt pens a foreword. 

In addition to Publick and Hammer, artists we can think of who have worked on the show (off the top of our head—there are lots)—include Stephen DeStefano, Carly Monardo, Esao Andrews, Bill Sienkiewicz and so on…so it will be sweet. The book, which was rumored at SDCC 2013, will be out in October 2014.

As for Venture Brothers Season Six? That’s due in January 2015, last we heard, although a one hour special is planned to air this fall.

1 Comments on Dark Horse to Publish The Art of the Venture Brothers coffee-table book, last added: 4/21/2014
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49. Mainstream media discovers Adventure Time!

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Well, to be fair, the sixth season debuted last night, so a big media push is only natural. Emily Nussbaum did the honors for The New Yorker, citing “a hero who fights villains, with fun violence, the occasional fart joke, and a slight edge of Bushwick cool-kid hipness.” They even got creator Pendleton Ward to do an illo for the piece (left). Lev Grossman took it on for Time Magazine, but now Time is behind a paywall, so you’ll just have to imagine what it says.

Ben Towle did read the piece and found a passage to give pause:


Cartooning and tromboning — definitely a thing now.

Speaking of season six, here’s a preview of an episode directed by Masaaki Yuasa, a Japanese animator known for Mind Game, Kick-Heart, and the anime based on Taiyo Matsumoto’s Ping Pong.

1 Comments on Mainstream media discovers Adventure Time!, last added: 4/22/2014
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50. WonderCon: I Didn’t Know That About Len Wein…Also Phantom Stranger may end

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Pam Auditore

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 Will Eisner Hall of Famer Len Wein walks with a beautifully crafted Giger Alien handled cane, wears his cap jauntily, and exudes a joy of life that entrances fans gathered around the DC booth to see him. As Chris Claremont said in 2009, “The history of modern comics would be incredibly different if you took [Wein's] contributions out of the mix. The fact he doesn’t get credit for it half the time is disgraceful. We owe a lot of what we are – certainly on the X-Men – to Len and to Dave [Cockrum] http://www.mania.com/legends-chris-claremont_article_114549.html.

Hoping to break into comics as an artist as a teen, Len wrote stories for his friend Marv Wolfman‘s comic fanzines, with both eventually being hired as free-lance writers for DC.  Len’s first published story was “Eye of the Beholder” for Teen Titans #18 (1968).  Thereafter, he went on to populate the modern mythological mind-scape as co-creator of Wolverine, Swamp Thing, Man-Thing, NightCrawler, Storm, Lucius Fox, etc.  You can listen to Len describe those early “fun, Wild West Days” of DC and Marvel and the Comics Industry in general here: http://www.nerdist.com/2014/03/the-mutant-season-120-len-wein/  A prolific writer, he’s also an accomplished raconteur, on a panel, in person or on a podcast i.e. the Nerdist Comic Writers Podcast–Comics Edition https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nerdist-writers-panel/id455020248?mt=2.

Len’s most recent Batman story can be found in the March 2014 issue #5 of Batman: Black and White.Batman#5 Outside of DC and MaBM_BLKWHT_5_4rvel, Len also did a Simpson’s Tree House of Horror for Bongo.Simpson's TreeHouse of Horrors

I  was able to get a few minutes of his time at the DC booth WonderCon 2014 to find out what else he was up to.

Before-Watchmen_Ozymandias_2PA:  The complete Before Watchmen: Ozymanaidias is out in hardback and trades, along with some of your Justice League and Justice Society stories.  So whatcha been writin’ lately?

LW: I’m in the middle of writing a full issue of Batman ’66 off a Harlan Ellison story with Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez on the art.  I just wrote an episode of  The Avengers animated series.  My episode of Ben 10 will air soon.  And I’m told they are planning on bringing back Beware the Batman back to Toonanmi, starting May 10th at 3 in the morning.  So set your DVRs! My episode will be either the first one they air, or if they start in order, the eleventh episode.

PA:  You’ve helped lay the much of the ground work for two Universes, DC and Marvel, so my question to you is what haven’t you done? What characters might you want a crack at?

LW:  It gets harder and harder…Two years ago at this Con (WonderCon), I met Joe Hill for the first time and I’ve been friends with his Dad (Stephen King) since we were both teenagers.  We went to dinner together and he asked me the same question.  At the time I said ‘nobody.’  But a few months later I was with some other friends and I was asked that question again and realized that there was someone.  When he asked, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘Exactly!’  As it turned out, they were able to make that happen and I have a story in the 2012 Dr. Who Annual.

PA:  And you are also working on the The Phantom Stranger? (The Phantom Stranger is a paranormal entity who aides individuals and heroes in the DCU taking the form of a cloaked man) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_Stranger

LW: I helped bring back back The Phantom Stranger  (created in the 50s) in the 70s hoping to work on the book. I just finished dialoguing the next issue of plot for the current Phantom Stranger with J.M. DeMatteis.  I was supposed to do a couple of upcoming issues which doesn’t look like its going to happen, since I think the book is not long for this world.

the-phanom-stranger trinity-of-sin-phantom-stranger-vol1-stranger-among-us-dccomics-new52-didio-anderson-tan-dematteis

PA:  I was also wondering if you would re-visit The Human Target again?

LW:  I did the recent comic mini-series and the television show (Mark Valley, Jackie Earle Haley Fox,2010).  He was really the first character I created but not the first published.  Yes, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Mark Valley Jackie Earle Hayley Human Targethuman-target-comic-book-2

PA:  Did you ever want to do a text only novel or short story?

LW:  I did an Elfquest short story and an Amazing Spiderman Pocket Novel with Marv Wolfman.

PA:  You also told me some stories about the Marvel days that I think would make great ‘Days of  Marvel Past’ stories.  Such as a time someone went crashing through a wall and went sliding down a long hallway to end up at the feet of Stan Lee.

LW:  A lot of people have said that to me.  I would love to do something like that!

PA:  You’ve done some acting recently.  I know you’ve done Improv.

LW:  I’m in the next X-men:Days of Future Past and an independent film called Savage Land.  I lead a very surreal life.  I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.  I’ve go to do everything I’ve ever wanted.

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Hugh Jackman and Len Wein

Many Thanks to Nicole at DC for this opportunity!

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