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Top Shelf Productions, home to some very successful graphic novels — among them, March and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — has announced it will make its graphic novels available digitally as DRM-free direct downloads. That’s something readers say they want, and it’s a model that Image Comics has already implemented.
Digital readers have been clamoring for this sort of thing on message boards and in comments sections for some time, although it remains to be seen whether the warm feeling of absolute ownership that comes with a DRM-free PDF trumps the convenience of cloud storage, easy syncing and Guided View offered by comiXology. As a matter of fact, Top Shelf’s Chris Ross and comiXology’s John Roberts discussed this very point in July at Comic-Con International and found a surprising amount of common ground.
Comics | Parents at a Woodland Hills, California, elementary school are outraged that a comic handed out to their children turned out to include graphic images of cows being mistreated in factory farms. A calf had been brought to the school for a unit on dairy farming, and when children were given a copy of what looked like a kid-friendly comic titled A Cow’s Life, they didn’t anticipate what they found inside: Images of cows being mutilated, electrocuted and dehorned. PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman apologized, saying the comics were intended for adults (it’s not clear how or why they were distributed to the children, though the copy provided to the local media is labeled on its covers as “PETAkids Comics”), and offered to provide non-dairy ice cream sandwiches to students and staff.
UPDATE: PETA has clarified to ROBOT 6 that the comic itself is a kid-friendly publication. However, it contained an inserted pamphlet intended for parents which featured graphic photographs of “pictures of baby cows being electrocuted, factory farms with machetes.” PETA maintains that the pamphlet was not intended to be included inside the comic, and “intended for the in-depth leaflets to go to the students’ parents so that they could be fully informed about how the dairy industry hurts animals (and how dairy products can make kids and adults sick).” [CBS News]
Amazon Publishing has expanded its Kindle Worlds platform to include G.I. Joe and Valiant Entertainment’s Quantum and Woody and Eternal Warrior, opening the door for writers to publish stories based on those properties in the next few months.
Other new additions include Warner Bros. television series Veronica Mars and Ravenswood (a spinoff of Pretty Little Liars), Marcus Sakey’s Abnorm Chronicles novels and Theresa Ragan’s Lizzy Gardner Files books.
“Since 1964, G.I. Joe has inspired the imagination of multiple generations by providing a backdrop of excitement and adventure,” Hasbro’s Michael Kelly said in a statement. “Whether exploring the secrets of the mummy’s tomb, or defending freedom from the evil plots of Cobra, G.I. Joe has been there. It is with equal excitement that Hasbro now enters a new segment of the business by embracing the concept of open-source storytelling, and officially unlocking the world of G.I. Joe to our fans through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds.”
Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]
Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.
The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]
As funny as the Amazon Drone Twitter account is, the best response to Sunday’s big revelation that the online retail giant is developing delivery by unmanned aerial vehicles has to be from Waterstones.
On Monday, the U.K. bookseller announced O.W.L.S., the Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service, which will utilize owls to bring books to customers’ doors. As Waterstones Press Manager Jon Owls (ahem) explains in the video below, “O.W.L.S. consists of a fleet of specially trained owls that, either working individually or as an adorable team, will be able to deliver your package within 30 minutes of you placing your order.”
Last night, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show devoted a full 10-minute segment to March, its creators Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, and to Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, the 1958 comic that helped to inspire the civil-rights movement.
While many authors, musicians and politicians have cited increased sales and profiles following their appearances on The Colbert Report — the frequently mentioned, by Stephen Colbert himself, “Colbert Bump” — March seems seems to be the beneficiary of the lesser-known “Maddow Bump”: Following last night’s episode, the book rocketed to No. 12 on the Amazon Best Seller list, its peak position.
Maddow, an avowed comics fan, recently conducted a one-hour interview with Lewis about March at the Kentucky Author Forum. CBR spoke with the March team in June, and in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
As we reported earlier this week, publisher Top Shelf Productions has partnered with Fellowship of Reconciliation to offer Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in a digital bundle with March. Watch the Maddow segment below.
Of course, comics weren’t limited to that one section: While Gilbert Hernandez’s Marble Season was named the best book in Comics & Graphic Novels, it also appeared at No. 71 on the editors’ rundown of the Top 100 of 2013, alongside Rutu Modan’s The Property (No. 80). Here’s the full Comics & Graphic Novels list:
- Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh (Touchstone)
- Batman, Vol. 3: Death of the Family, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC Comics)
- Saga, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
- Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
- Battling Boy, by Paul Pope (First Second) Continue Reading »
Viz Media is making its entire digital manga catalog available for download on Amazon Kindle devices, meaning readers will be able to access more than 1,500 volumes from 160 different series.
Launch titles include Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Bakuman, Demon Love Spell and Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. New volumes, generally priced at $6.99 each, will be added each week, with future Kindle Store manga titles and print editions receiving near-simultaneous domestic release.
“We are strong advocates for the continued growth of digital manga content, and are very pleased to partner with Amazon to bring the world’s best titles to millions of avid readers and fans in North America,” Viz Media’s Gagan Singh said in a statement. “We invite Amazon Kindle users to explore VIZ Media’s extensive offerings, one of the most current, diverse, and also historically deep manga catalogs available anywhere.”
Legal | Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit is in court again, this time claiming sexual harassment by former friend Sam Levitin, who was her liaison to Archie after her legal feud with the company and C0-CEO Jon Goldwater was settled last year. Levitin has responded that Silberkleit “lacks functional communication skills and has an unstable temperament” and has a “venomous and destructive effect” at the company. Levitin asked the court in December to remove Silberkleit as a trustee of the company, and she responded in April with the allegation of sexual harassment against both Levitin and Archie Comics. An outside firm hired by Archie determined that her claims were “unfounded,” and the publisher is not a party in the latest lawsuit. [New York Daily News]
Legal | Jeff Trexler takes an in-depth look at the copyright battle between Marvel and Jack Kirby’s children. [The Comics Journal]
Retailing | Following a price war during which it lost $11,000 a day, Overstock.com has vowed to match Amazon’s price on books, including graphic novels, going forward. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne thinks he can get better prices from publishers who want to boost competition for Amazon. However, as ICv2 points out, Overstock’s graphic novel selection is smaller than Amazon’s, and prices overall have risen since their recent price war. [ICv2]
Creators | Todd McFarlane recently claimed no work that was “trying to get across a message” has succeeded as a comic, but Laura Sneddon finds proof to the contrary at the Stripped festival in Edinburgh, where she talked to Joe Sacco, Paul Cornell, Stephen Collins and Grant Morrison about the ideas that drive their comics. [New Statesman]
Welcome to “Report Card,” our new week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read. The week before Comic-Con was a busy one for the industry, as all eyes look to San Diego.
Read on to find out what we thought of Batgirl, Eye of the Majestic Creature Vol. 2 and more.
Comics | A CGC-certified 9.6 copy of 1963′s The X-Men #1, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, fetched a private-sale record of $250,000 in a deal brokered by Pedigree Comics. That same comic, said to be one of just two certified near-mint copies in existence, went for a then-record $200,000 in March 2011; a 9.8 copy sold at auction in July 2012 for $492,938. The all-time record remains the $2.6 million paid in a 2011 auction for a near-mint copy of Action Comics #1. [CGC Comics]
Comics | Joe McCulloch puts together a nice guide to the self-published comics of Steve Ditko. [Comics Alliance]
Comics | If you want to read Franco-Belgian comics but don’t know where to start, Jared Gardner has you covered, with a brief introduction and some recommended works that have been translated into English. [Public Books]
Amazon Publishing has entered the world of comic books with Jet City Comics, which aims to publish titles digitally and in print, and distribute them through Kindle, the online storefront and comic shops. Now the comics industry can fret over unfair competition and business practices just like the book industry. Still, it’s a sign of the strength of the comics market that Amazon felt confident enough to launch the imprint.
As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon deserves scrutiny. Is this new venture good for comics? Will the comics be any good? Let’s take a look at what we know so far and what’s to come.
Jet City Comics is a great name, and according to the imprint’s minisite, it’s borrowed from one of Seattle’s nicknames. Amazon is headquartered in Seattle, and the city skyline is even incorporated into the imprint’s logo. It’s such a great name, in fact, that the Jet City Comic Show has been using it since 2010. It seems like a potential for brand confusion, but I guess the mammoth Amazon doesn’t have to worry about competing with a local one-day convention. Best of all, however, the two entities seem friendly with each other: Jet City Comics was announced as a major sponsor for the show, which takes place Nov. 2 in Tacoma. The show endorsed Jet City Comics Senior Editor Alex Carr as a “huge comic book fan” and Amazon gifted a Kindle Fire HD as a raffle prize for pre-purchased tickets to the event. That kind of community support says a lot about the people running Jet City Comics and the leeway they’ve been given. A company the size of Amazon could’ve easily ignored the show, purchased the name or bullied them right out of the picture. That wins some big first-impression points from me.
Following its move into fan-fiction publishing with Kindle Worlds, Amazon entered the comic-book arena with Jet City Comics, an imprint that launches today with the debut of Symposium, a new digital series by Christian Cameron and Dmitry Bondarenko set in the “Foreworld” universe created by Neal Stephenson and others.
That will be followed in October by adaptations of George R.R. Martin’s short story “Meathouse Man,” illustrated by Raya Golden, and Hugh Howey’s dystopian novel Wool, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and illustrated Jimmy Broxton, Jet City will serialize its comics for the Kindle, and then offer bundled digital editions and print collections.
In addition to those launch titles, the imprint will re-release The Hedge Knight, by Ben Avery and Mike S. Miller, a prequel set in the world of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, in print and digital formats in November and its sequel The Sword Sword in early 2014.“My fans have been clamoring for the return of Dunk & Egg ever since the graphic novels of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword went out of print several years ago,” Martin said in a statement, “so I am delighted to announce that Jet City Comics is bringing them back — newly formatted for digital readers, and in paper for those who still prefer the traditional formats. And Jet City will be bringing you something new as well: the graphic novel ‘Meathouse Man,’ adapted from one of my strangest, darkest, and most twisted short stories by the amazingly talented Raya Golden. I’m pleased and excited to be a part of Jet City’s takeoff. May they fly high.”