Publishing | Direct-market sales plummeted last month, down nearly 23 percent in units and more than 20 percent in dollars from January 2010. Marvel’s heavily promoted Fantastic Four #587 was, unsurprisingly, the top-selling comic, while Vertigo’s Jack of Fables, Vol. 8, led the graphic novel list. Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com puts part of the blame for the year-over-year decline on the weather. However, John Jackson Miller notes that Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 23 percent fewer comics last month — 555 different comics and trades (including variants), compared to 683 in January 2010. “This is more than can be explained by the holiday difference; this would appear to simply be the old pattern of publishers holding fire at this time of year and releasing fewer items,” Miller writes. “Some years, that effect is more in evidence than others; this could potentially be one of the bigger years for this kind of positioning.” [ICv2.com, The Comichron]
Digital piracy | A Japanese government think tank has released a study that concludes online piracy of anime series actually increases sales of DVDs. “One point of critique based on the main conclusions of the study, is that the observed relation only appears to be correlational,” TorrentFreak cautions. “This may mean that the results could in part be influenced by significant third variables such as promotion and overall popularity. Since the report is only available in Japanese we were unable to confirm whether this was taken into account.” [TorrentFreak]
So, there was a big dust-up on the anime side of the blogosphere over the past two weeks, and since it was about piracy and global rights and other things that are relevant to comics readers, I thought it would be interesting to do a quick summary over here.
Basically, a U.S. company, Funimation, got the rights to show the anime Fractale online one hour after it was broadcast in Japan. This simulcasting is the holy grail of anime — nobody wants to wait months and months for a product that is already out somewhere else, so the usual solution is that bootleggers make their own subtitles and stream the anime on pirate sites. The simulcast gave anime fans a legitimate alternative. (Here’s Funimation’s Fractale page, which currently has three episodes up, if you want to check it out yourself.)
But some pirated versions of the anime got online anyway, and the Fractale Production Committee reacted by telling Funimation they could not simulcast future episodes until the bootleg videos were removed:
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
Legal | The general affairs committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly has approved the government’s revised amendment to the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance, clearing the way for a vote by the full assembly on Wednesday. The controversial bill would further restrict sexual content in manga, anime and video games. A breakdown of the legislation can be found here. The Mainichi Daily News provides commentary. [Anime News Network]
Legal | In a surprise move, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has decided that the DC superhero- and Wizard of Oz-themed drinking glasses recalled last month because of high lead content aren’t children’s products and, therefore, not subject to recall. [The Associated Press]
Passings | Bluegrass musician and comic-art collector Don Lineberger, 71, died Dec. 5 after being pulled from a house fire in Valdosta, Georgia. Smoke inhalation is believed to be the cause of death. A banjo player who performed with the likes of Bill Monroe, Glen Campbell and Steve Martin, Lineberger was also known for his extensive collection of EC Comics memorabilia. Posters in this thread at the Collectors Society message board are attempting to compile a list of original EC work likely lost in the fire. [The Valdosta Daily Times]
Legal | A Swedish court last week upheld the copyright convictions of three founders of The Pirate Bay, billed as “the world’s most resilient bittorrent site.” Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundstrom and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg were convicted in April 2009 of copyright infringement, fined and sentenced to one year in prison. On Thursday the appeals court reduced the sentence to between four months and 10 months each for Sunde, Nij and Lundstrom while increasing the fine by about $2 million to $6.4 million. A decision regarding Warg’s appeal was postponed because of the defendant’s poor health. [CNET]
Legal | The Japan P.E.N. Club writers group and the Tokyo Bar Association last week announced their opposition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s latest effort to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. [Anime News Network]
Welcome once again to Shelf Porn! This week’s shelves were submitted by David Doub, publisher of Dusk Comics, who shares his collection of manga, graphic novels and more.
And now let’s hear from David …
Legal | The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is resurrecting a revised bill to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. An earlier version of the controversial proposal was voted down in mid-June. The new bill removes vague defining terms like “nonexistent youth” and reportedly avoids references to “characters younger than 18,” increasing the likelihood that the proposed legislation will pass. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | As the small independent retail chain Joseph-Beth Booksellers files for bankruptcy protection, its president warns of even tougher times ahead for bookstores. “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Neil Van Uum says. [Lexington Herald-Leader, via ICv2.com]
Anime News Network has picked up on a fascinating trend over on YouTube: Anime and manga fans who show off their swag to support the industry.
The manga industry’s push against scan sites, which resulted in the shutdown of OneManga, seems to have raised awareness across otakudom that watching pirated anime and reading bootleg manga online is illegal. The anime industry has been faltering for years—long before manga began to wobble in 2007—but the general tendency among fans is to blame the publishers (for high prices and bad translations), so this is an interesting shift. It also mirrors the trend of “haul videos,” in which shoppers show off the results of their latest shopping spree.
Retailing | Barnes & Noble, the largest book chain in the United States, lost $63 million in the first quarter, a vast decline from a $12-million profit it reported for the same period a year ago. The retailer pinned about $10 million in losses on its costly fight with billionaire investor Ronald Burkle, and warned that a proxy battle could push the company even further into the red. [Reuters, ICv2.com]
Passings | Paprika director Satoshi Kon, who began his career as a manga artist before moving into anime in 1995, died Tuesday from pancreatic cancer. He was 46. Kon made his directorial debut in 1997 with Perfect Blue, and went on to helm such critically acclaimed anime features as Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and the aforementioned Paprika, as well as the television series Paranoia Agent. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Kai-Ming Cha looks at initial efforts by manga publishers to provide digital content as legal alternatives to scanlations. [Publishers Weekly]
Announcements slowed down on Sunday at Comic-Con International, and apparently so have I. So let’s get to it …
• Marvel announced that Dan Slott will be the sole writer on Amazing Spider-Man, as the “Brand New Day” storyline comes to a close. He’ll work with artists Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin and Stefano Caselli on the series. The book will ship twice a month.
• At that same panel, Marvel announced the creative team on the new Spider-Girl series teased in recently in Previews will be Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry. They also announced a new Carnage miniseries by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain, as well as an Osborn miniseries by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios about Norman Osborn’s time in prison.
For a little more than $200, you can strut around with the familiar One Piece slogan “I’m gonna be the Pirate King!!” emblazoned across your denim-clad behind.
Anime News Network reports that beginning in late August Japanese retailer Cospa will offer Straw Hat Pirates Jeans, featuring buttons engraved with the figurehead of the Thousand Sunny, the front-right pocket and waistband imprinted with a straw hat-wearing Jolly Roger, and pants legs printed with the names and positions of each of the Straw Hats. Oh, yeah, plus that big stylized lettering across the butt.
Business | Japanese e-book publisher Bitway has invested $750,000 in Crunchyroll, the San Francisco-based website that streams anime and live-action Asian movies. A major distributor of electronic books, including manga, in Japan, Bitway hopes to work with Crunchyroll to develop a comics-distribution platform overseas, with an emphasis on the United States and Canada.
Crunchyroll launched in 2006 as a for-profit site, and featured among its content illegally hosted user-uploaded fansubs and bootleg anime. But in 2009, following a $4 million investment from venture-capital firm Venrock, Crunchyroll began offering only licensed content. The website reportedly attracts 6 million unique visitors a month. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | Michael Cavna reports that Apple CEO Steve Jobs essentially accused cartoonist Mark Fiore of lying about the rejection of his iPhone app, telling attendees at a tech conference the Pulitzer Prize winner “never resubmitted” NewsToons after the company’s initial brush-off. “We’re doing the best we can, we’re fixing mistakes,” Jobs is quoted as saying. “But what happens is — people lie. And then they run to the press and tell people about this oppression, and they get their 15 minutes of fame. We don’t run to the press and say ‘this guy is a son of a bitch liar!’ — we don’t do that.”
Fiore seems baffled, telling Cavna: “My NewsToons app was, in fact, rejected. … The reason I never resubmitted the app was because I wasn’t about to make the changes Apple sought and remove any ‘content that ridicules public figures.’ Ridiculing public figures is what I do and is an essential part of journalism.” Tom Spurgeon offers some commentary, pointing out how strange Jobs’ accusations are. [Comic Riffs]
Legal | The Democratic Party of Japan, which holds 54 of the 127 seats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and several smaller groups are threatening on June 14 to vote down a bill to tighten restrictions on the sexual depictions of minors in comics, animation and video games. Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Tokyo could come up with a new bill if the current one is defeated. [The Japan Times]
Here’s a challenge for budding and experienced artists alike: Design the mascot for New York Anime Fest. The organizers are holding a mascot design contest, and the prizes are pretty good—the winner gets 10 free weekend passes to the con, 50 volumes of manga from Del Rey, and a copy of every piece of swag that bears their design. Runners-up do OK too. TheOtaku.com, which is one of the co-sponsors (along with NYAF, Del Rey, and Kinokuniya) has all the fine print, and the deadline is May 20, so start drawing now!
Writer and producer Carl Macek, best known for his work on the popular 1985 syndicated anime series Robotech, died April 17 of a heart attack, former business partner Jerry Beck reports. Macek was 58.
A somewhat controversial figure among anime devotees, Macek served as producer and story editor for Harmony Gold USA on Robotech, a sprawling space opera that was actually a redubbed and edited adaptation of three different mecha anime series: Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada. Although Macek would later be criticized for that approach to Robotech, the series was an undeniable hit that’s regarded as key to anime making inroads in North America.
The TV anime spawned a feature film (which also used repurposed footage), novelizations, toys, games and comic books — the latter perhaps most notably from Comico.
With art historian Jerry Beck, Macek in 1988 co-founded Streamline Pictures, the distribution company that imported and dubbed such anime as My Neighbor Totoro, Akira and Fist of the Northstar. He also partnered with animator John Kricfalusi on Spumco Inc., and helped to sell Ren & Stimpy to Nickelodeon.
“Carl had his critics,” Beck wrote. “But one thing is certain: the popularity of anime in the North America would not be where it is today without Macek’s groundbreaking work on Robotech and his efforts on behalf of Streamline Pictures.”