Amid a flurry of announcements at New York Comic Con, comiXology revealed it has signed a digital-distribution deal with Ape Entertainment, publisher of titles ranging from Poison Elves to Kung Fu Panda to Temple Run.
The news quickly follows announcements of an expanded deal with DC Comics to carry select collections and the addition of Avatar Press, and Viz Media Europe and its French subsidiary Kazé. ComiXology also released some of the findings from its readership survey, which indicated that 20 percent of its readers are women (up from just 5 percent six years ago).
To kick off the new agreement, the following Ape comics have debuted on the digital-comics platform:
Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. [...] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]
Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]
The Black Coat creator Ben Lichius hopes to see his Colonial super-spy ride again, with some help from Kickstarter. If the name sounds familiar, that’s probably because The Black Coat has appeared in a pair of miniseries and a 52-page special dating back to 2006 and featuring the talents of such artists as Francesco Francavilla, Gabriel Hardman and Dean Kotz.
In a nutshell, The Black Coat is about Nathaniel Finch, a New York City newspaper editor and budding scientist who, in the days before the American Revolution, dons a mask to protect the Colonies from the British — and the forces of the occult. And now, Finch is back in a 66-page graphic novel called The Blackest Dye, from Lichius, Kotz and colorist Diego Rodriguez, which picks up where the 2009 miniseries Or Give Me Death left off. “The new book promises lots of twists and turns, backstabbing, sword fights, New York in flames, new mysterious monsters,” Lichius promises. “… and, oh yeah, George Washington!”
The news broke Sunday on the Two-Headed Nerd podcast that Ape Entertainment is relaunching Poison Elves, the fantasy series by the late Drew Hayes that ran from 1991 to 2004. Now in an interview with Robot 6, Ape CEO David Hedgecock discusses his plans for both new comics and new editions of the older material, and provides an exclusive look at some of the art for the new series.
Robot 6: As Poison Elves has been out of print for a while, can you give us a quick idea of what it is about and why it is important?
David Hedgecock: Poison Elves is Bauhaus Tolkien filtered through a rockabilly sense of style. Poison Elves is rock ‘n’ roll comics at its finest — dirty, messy, flying in your face, all energy and heart with an innate sense of craft applied that makes you believe in magic.
Poison Elves is the story of Lusiphur, an elf with an attitude. Lusiphur is a thief, an assassin, a force of nature that will wipe you clean from the map if you dare to call him foe. He has a disdain for authority and lives by a moral code that others might question (and often do). He is also the reluctant key player in a grand tapestry of events that may very well decide the fate of his world and all those who live upon it.
Poison Elves was one of the most successful black-and-white “indy” comics ever produced. In his time the creator, Drew Hayes, produced over 100 issues worth of material. The book spawned trading cards, statuettes, spin-off titles and more. It was a seminal work of the ’90s, a modern-day Cerebus if you will.
Digital comics | The top-selling digital comic may not be what you think: Rich Johnston reports that Ape Entertainment’s game comic Temple Run is the top paid book app in the iTunes store (it was No. 2 this morning). He also reveals that Ape Entertainment has sold a million copies of its digital Pocket God comic. [Bleeding Cool]
Publishing | Jen Vaughn and friends pay a visit to the offices of MAD magazine. [Flog]
Conventions | Corinna Kirsh files a report, with plenty of pictures, on last weekend’s Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. [L Magazine]
The inarguable success of Marvel Studios has Hollywood’s attention. In an industry forever nervous about new ideas, the strategy impulsively becomes how to duplicate it.
DreamWorks Animation’s $155 million purchase of Classic Media was inspired, at least in part, by the record-shattering performance of Marvel’s The Avengers, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told Reuters. And similar to Marvel’s pre-Iron Man days, Katzenberg sees this as a strong opportunity to farm out the newly acquired characters to other studios for adaptation. Aside from its Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3D movie already in the works, DreamWorks has no plans to create new live-action features based on the Classic Media characters. But the small screen may be another matter: The studio is setting up its own television or Internet channel, but whether this is to re-run classic episodes, like Cartoon Network does with Boomerang, or for new series is still unknown.
“A channel is one of the many opportunities we see for combining the DreamWorks brand with this extraordinary library of characters,” Katzenberg said. “It could be a domestic cable channel, international, even an Internet channel.”
But more immediately, the purchase provides DreamWorks additional leverage as it negotiates to renew its distribution deal with Paramount Pictures.
All of this studio-driven activity around comic book properties sounds great, but where does that leave the comics themselves? Will DreamWorks open a comics publishing company? Will Doctor Solar be reunited with the recently revived Valiant Universe? Will The Lone Ranger vanish from Dynamite Entertainment’s line-up? What about Ape Entertainment’s Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich relaunches? Will the world finally get a new Fat Albert comic?
After revealing plans for adaptations of the popular video games Squids and Temple Run, Ape Entertainment has announced a deal with developer Halfbrick Studios to publish digital comics and graphic novels based on Fruit Ninja.
In the game, which has been downloaded more than 300 million times since its debut in April 2010, players slice fruit with a blade they control with a touch pad. According to Ape, the comics will explore the “yet untold backstory of the juicy Fruit Ninja universe and its new colorful characters.”
“A key goal for Halfbrick is to bring our content to even more fans around the world,” Halfbrick’s Phil Larsen. “By expanding the Fruit Ninja universe with new stories, characters and adventures, Halfbrick and Ape Comics are free to explore an unlimited number of creative opportunities for comics and take the brand in even more exciting directions.”
Ape has already met with great success with its adaptations of the games Pocket God — the first issue alone has sold 200,000 copies – and Cut the Rope.
• Of course you can’t have Comic-Con without news about Comic-Con itself. CBR’s Kiel Phegley spoke with CCI’s David Glanzer about the show, while Ryan Ingram spoke with Scott Morse about the Tr!ckster satellite event. And it seems like every non-comics media outlet reports on the show in some form or fashion; here’s an article by The Christian Post about religion and the show, for example. And finally, Tuesday brought the tragic news that a con attendee camping out for today’s Twilight panel was killed in front of the convention center after being struck by a car.
• I’m not 100 percent sure if it qualifies as Comic-Con news, but since it was officially announced in the Entertainment Weekly Comic-Con issue, let’s just go with it. Marvel’s big news going into the Con is that they plan to relaunch several titles later this year as part of “Marvel NOW!” Their recently released solicitations reveal they plan to cancel nine titles in October, but of course you can expect many if not all of them to come back in some form or fashion as Marvel NOW! rolls out.
• Mike Mignola and Hellboy return this December in Hellboy in Hell, the first four-issue miniseries in a series of miniseries about the title character’s post-demise adventures.
Following quickly on its Squids news, Ape Entertainment announced this morning that it’s signed a deal with developer Imangi Studios to release a series of graphic novels and digital comics based on the popular video game Temple Run.
Debuting in 2011, the endless action game revolves around explorers who attempt to steal an idol from a temple while being chased by demonic monkeys. According to the publisher, the comics will delve into the backstory of the explorers as well as the mysteries of the ancient temples. No word on the monkeys, though.
“Temple Run is by far one of my favorite adventure games on the App Store,” Ape CEO David Hedgecock said in a statement. “The thrilling gameplay plays into our plans very nicely for an extraordinary storyline that we know fans will enjoy.”
As with the previously announced Squids, the Temple Run comics will be released in print and through a standalone app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Ape has already met with great success with its adaptations of the games Pocket God — the first issue alone has sold 200,000 copies – and Cut the Rope.
Ape Entertainment, which has already released a massively successful comic based on the successful Pocket God video game, is now setting its sights on Squids, the role-playing game from French developer The Game Bakers. The licensing agreement calls for digital comics and graphic novels.
Debuting in October 2011 for iOS devices, the turn-based combat game features anthropomorphic squids attempting to defeat aquatic enemies encroaching upon their underwater kingdom. A sequel, Squids: Wild West, was released this summer.
“In terms of graphics and storytelling, the SQUIDS games already have a lot in common with comics, so continuing and expanding the adventure in comic books is a natural step,” The Game Bakers COO Audrey Leprince said in a statement.. “Ape Entertainment has a proven track record within the comics industry and we’re excited to partner with them to bring our hungry fans more of the SQUIDS stories they love.”
Ape plans to release the Squid comics in print and through a standalone app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Following the unusual press release last July where Ape Entertainment announced they were in negotiations with Sesame Workshop to produce a series of comic books featuring the characters from Sesame Street, Ape Entertainment confirmed this week that they have indeed completed those negotiations and will publish Sesame Street comics this fall.
“We are excited about our new relationship with Sesame Workshop to bring the Sesame Street characters to comics, which is a dream come true for all of us here at Ape,” said Ape Entertainment COO Brent E. Erwin in a press release. “Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover, and the whole Sesame Street gang have always been a part of our lives, now we feel like a part of their family, and that’s a great feeling.”
According to the release, the comics will “emphasize educational and entertaining content for younger readers,” in standard comic-sized printed editions for $3.99 and digest-sized hardcover comic book editions for $7.99. Ape CEO David Hedgecock told USA Today that the hardcover versions will contain additional content and are aimed at the younger crowd. “It’ll be in a sturdier format so when you pick it up and you want to read it to your three-year-old, they’re going to finger it and play with it and it’s not going to fall apart in your hands,” he said. They will also be available digitally through Apple’s App Store for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Ape has built up a solid library of kid’s titles over the past few years, licensing kid-friendly properties like Richie Rich, Strawberry Shortcake, Casper and Kung Fu Panda, as well as popular mobile games like Cut the Rope and the mega-popular Pocket God. Adding Grover, Big Bird and the rest to their line-up seems like an “A-OK” move.
A while back, I recommended a stylish new webcomic called The Sisters Grimm, noting that creators Dave Pauwels and Nicolas R. Giacondino seemed to be starting off on solid ground. Indeed, the webcomic, now retitled Free Mars, has been proceeding at the stately pace of one page a week for the past year and a half, and Pawels and Giacondino have done a nice job of building up their vision of a rebel girl band in 2339 (although they use some odd slang—the meanings are usually self-evident, but a glossary would be helpful).
Yesterday, Ape Entertainment announced that they have become “ownership partners” in Free Mars and will be publishing the graphic novel edition in July. The graphic novel will also be available via iVerse’s Comics + iOS app, which raises the question of whether Free Mars will continue to be available as a free webcomic. I checked in with Pauwels, and he cleared that up, saying, “The free webcomic will definitely continue with weekly updates and that content will be the lion’s share of the print graphic novel. But for the loyal webcomic readers, we’ll have additional material in the print version, including a mini-prequel story and some other original material.” That’s a great idea, adding some value to the print comic, and it will be interesting to see if the audience they built up with the webcomic will flock to the print version as well.
Oh, the cuteness! Ape Entertainment has just released a Strawberry Shortcake app, based on the iVerse platform and featuring three of their new Strawberry Shortcake comics priced at $1.99 each (plus a free preview). The comics are a few months old, but that’s hardly going to matter to the core Strawberry Shortcake demographic; what will matter is that these comics are colorful, competently drawn, and full of lively characters and silly situations.
The big digital-comics news this week was that the publisher IDW, an early iVerse partner, migrated to comiXology for support of its apps. Where iVerse seems to be hanging tough is in the kids’ market—they also run the Pocket God app, and when I spoke to iVerse CEO Michael Murphey a few weeks ago, he said that their biggest selling properties were not adult comics on the iPad but children’s comics on the iPhone/iPod Touch: “Our largest selling products are kids’ products,” he told me. “Kids get the hand-me-down phones and iPod Touches. As they start getting the hand-me-down iPads after Christmas this year, that will evolve.”
In that context, a stand-alone app makes a lot of sense; Strawberry Shortcake is easy to discover in the iTunes store, and you don’t have to download a separate comics reader or create an account to use it. I do think some extras would really send this app over the top, though. A separate Strawberry Shortcake game app already exists, but it would be nice to see some puzzles, coloring pages, even music or videos, to bump up the fun content even more.
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.
New York Comic Con picked up steam in its second day with announcements from Vertigo, Dark Horse, Marvel, IDW Publishing and Image, and the possibility of Sesame Street comics. Here are some of the highlights:
• Following in the footsteps of DC Comics: The New 52, most of Vertigo’s titles will be available digitally the same day as print.
• Geoff Johns announced that work is about to get under way on a Robot Chicken DC Comics special that will skewer the company’s superheroes in the same way that the show tackled Star Wars. The episode, written by Johns and MAD‘s Kevin Shinick, is set to air next summer.
• Confirming last-minute speculation, Ed Brubaker announced that he and frequent collaborator Sean Phillips (Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito) will release their next project through Image Comics. Called Fatale, the series blends noir elements with the supernatural world. “I’ve been wanting for a while to do something with a more supernatural element to it,” Brubaker told Comic Book Resources. “So Fatale mixes what we do and all the ways we’ve poked fun at the noir genre. If Incognito was us doing ‘What if Doc Savage, Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler had all existed in the same universe?’ then this is a weird combo of James M. Cain and Lovecraft. It’s got a real horror element to it — the first time I’ve really tried to do anything with horror — but it’s also got this really epic story to it.”