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Digital comics | Jeff Gomez examines the implications of Amazon’s planned acquisition of comiXology, opining that it will give comics a wider reach but also force publishers of superhero fare to broaden their appeal beyond the core demographic: “The books will now be exposed to millions of newcomers, so it will behoove major publishers to make their stories more female-friendly, streamlined, and accessible. With comiXology’s new aim to make ‘every person on the planet a comics fan,’ publishers will need to consider new genres, greater variety, and more varied age groups.” [Business Insider]
Digital comics | ComiXology will continue to offer its Digital Storefronts for retailers, and it will not allow Amazon to target users of its Pull List service with its own offers, according to spokesman Chip Mosher. Also, no changes are planned to comiXology’s other retailer tools. [ICv2]
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So get ready to fly really, really fast as we reverse the Earth’s orbit and head back for a look at the last seven days in comics …
In case you missed it, Amazon announced last Thursday their intent to buy the popular digital comics provider comiXology. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, and terms were not disclosed.
Maybe this explains why my Prime membership went up in price? OK, probably not. But this is a major shift for the industry, as the biggest seller of digital comics will be owned by a mega Internet company. It’s really too soon to know exactly what this will all mean, but here are a few thoughts I’ve had after shifting through the announcement and some of the reactions to it.
Dark Horse Comics is the highest-profile publisher whose digital releases are not available on comiXology, opting instead to use their own platform, Dark Horse Digital. Following Thursday’s news that Amazon has reached an agreement to purchase comiXology for an undisclosed amount, ROBOT 6 reached out to Dark Horse president and founder Mike Richardson for his thoughts on the matter:
“Companies outside our industry have been paying increasing attention to comics in recent years. New technology has offered a variety of new opportunities in both content creation and content delivery. It is not surprising that Amazon and Comixology would come together considering this environment. The comics industry, despite periods of lull, has always been an evolving and changing business, and this move is consistent with that history.”
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]