IMAGE EXPO: New Projects Revealed From Rucka, Simone, Aaron and More
Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]
Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]
Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]
Conventions | Registration begins Friday for the Small Press Expo 2014 Exhibitor Table Lottery, a new system designed to both bring the old process into the 21st century and address rapidly increasing demand. Online registration will continue through Feb. 14, with lottery winners announced on Feb. 21. There’s a good deal of information to absorb, but convention organizers have created a lottery FAQ. [SPX]
Publishing | Reports of the demise of Ape Entertainment turns out to have been premature. The company, which had one of the bestselling digital comics a few years ago with Pocket God, has been quiet of late and recently canceled a number of outstanding orders. However, COO Brett Erwin emerged Tuesday to say the publisher is simply going through a period of reorganization after the departure of CEO David Hedgecock, who now works for IDW. Ape will release a new Fruit Ninja comic at the end of the month. [The Beat]
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.