It looks as if Sesame Street, the television series that’s educated and entertained children since 1969, could be making the move to comics.
It all seems very tentative, but Ape Entertainment has announced it’s in talks with Sesame Workshop to produce a series of a series of comic books featuring such beloved characters as Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo. If the deal pans out, the comics would debut next year in print and digital editions.
Ape Entertainment is a small publisher with an interesting line of all-ages comics that splits fairly evenly between licensed properties (Richie Rich, Strawberry Shortcake, Pocket God) and original works (Scratch 9 is the best known of these). Now they are launching a new all ages series, Scouts: Prepare for Adversity, about a hapless video game fanatic whose father sends him off to the “Shrub Scouts” to toughen him up. Brent Erwin came up with the concept; Mark Finn, who is best known for his book on Robert E. Howard but is also a seasoned comics writer, is writing the script, and Scott Ball, creator of the webcomic Scooter and Ferret, is handling the art. Richie Rich colorist Dustin Evans is also working on the project. The comics will be published as 48-page digests with stand-alone stories, and the first one will be available after the New Year.
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Dark Horse Presents is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.
Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Puss in Boots Movie Prequel – I don’t care for movie prequel comics as a rule, but swashbuckling cats are awesome in any incarnation. As long as these are fresh gags and not just ones warmed up from Shrek, I expect to enjoy this.
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Book 1 - I just introduced my son to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth a couple of weeks ago, so this is great timing. He had the same questions about The Dark Crystal‘s world that I always do, so I’m looking forward to seeing Archaia’s take on answering those. Totally feel like the world’s in good hands with this publisher and these creators.
The Sigh - If Archaia’s snagging Marjane Satrapi’s (Persepolis, Chicken With Plums) new book has been reported already, I missed it. I’m surprised that wasn’t bigger news.
Siegfried, Volume 1 – I’ve been meaning to read P Craig Russell’s Ring of the Nibelung adaptation for years, so I think this might be what pushes me to finally do it. It would be fun to read Russell’s and compare it to this version by Alex Alice.
Following on the success of its Pocket God comic, which was one of the top book apps of 2010, Ape Entertainment is doing another digital comic based on an iOS game: Cut the Rope. Like Pocket God, Cut the Rope will be a standalone app (although Pocket God is also available through iVerse’s Comics+ reader). No talent was announced, but the art here and in the slightly longer preview at Mashable looks more than competent.
Ape Entertainment announced it would be doing a Strawberry Shortcake comic at NYCC last year, and it looks like the first issues will debut this summer. The team working on the comic includes writers Georgia Ball, former Tokyopop editor Tim Beedle, and Russell and Meredith Lissau, and the artists are Tanya Roberts and Amy Mebberson. Mebberson was last seen illustrating Roger Langridge’s Muppets comics for BOOM! Studios, and it’s nice to see her back at work again. Here’s a sample, and there’s more at Ape’s preview page.
One of the best things about comics conventions is getting creators and marketers to talk about the things that aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, projects that are coming up but haven’t been the subject of a torrent of press releases. I heard about a number of interesting comics at C2E2 this past weekend; here are a few that piqued my interest.
The one that really grabbed me is Dark Horse’s nonfiction graphic novel about the Green River killer, which was first announced in 2009. The Dark Horse folks like to take their time with their books, and marketing director Jeremy Atkins tells me that it is now slated for a September release. The book is written by Jeff Jensen, whose father was a member of the investigative team on the murders. “It’s stories that have never been told before,” said Atkins. “It’s not sensationalized at all. It’s more for a true crime audience than a crime fiction audience.”
If that’s too dark for you, here’s a bit of sweetness and light: Amy Mebberson, whose super-cute art graced the global manga Divalicious (you can read the whole first volume online at the link) and many of Boom! Studios The Muppet Show comics, is not letting any grass grow under her feet: She is one of the artists on Ape Entertainment’s Strawberry Shortcake comics, doing the coloring and some of the pencilling. This increased my interest in Strawberry Shortcake 100%.
I did a lot of opinionating about whether all-ages comics are likely to do well in comics stores a while back, but Jason Burns, editor in chief of Ape Entertainment, knows a lot more about it than I do—Ape publishes a whole line of kids’ comics, including the creator-owned Scratch 9 and their own Little Green Men as well as licensed properties like Shrek and Penguins of Madagascar—and they announced at NYCC that they have just picked up the licenses for Richie Rich and Strawberry Shortcake comics as well. So I asked Jason if he would mind talking a bit about how they fare in the direct market, and he graciously acceded.
Brigid: Why did you choose to sell comics in the direct market, and how is that working out for you?
Jason: As a comic publisher, we can never truly walk away from the direct market. While we’re trying to run a business, we’re also fans of comics, and more importantly, the industry in general. If we don’t support it, they won’t support us. Yes, all-ages comics do not sell as well in the direct market, but it’s important for us to never lose sight of what we are, which is first and foremost, a comic publisher. We have been finding great success in both the book market and the digital market with our all-ages titles, so we will continue to explore new outlets for getting the product to consumers, but we’ll never walk away from the direct market… not while we’re still publishing comics.
Add Law & Order: SVU star Christopher Meloni to the list of celebrities who are turning to comics for their next big project: Meloni took a break from playing the buttoned-down Detective Stabler on the show to come up with the concept for AvaTom, a dark story about a software developer who creates a software system that turns around and takes control of its creator’s life, for Ape Entertainment. Jason Burns will script the comic, and Ramon Espinoza is the artist, but Burns insists Meloni was involved in the comic every step of the way.
Last year, Meloni was the voice of Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern: First Flight DVD series, so his comics credentials are in good order.
The poster for AvaTom, which definitely plays up Meloni’s role, is below the cut.
The Ape Entertainment folks announced this week that they will have special issues of Freakshow #1 available for purchase at their booth at SDCC, and creators David Server and Jackson Lanzing will be participating in panel on Thursday at 1 p.m. With art by Joe Suitor (Spider-Man: Fear Itself, GI Joe: Helix) and a postapocalyptic premise that is interesting if not entirely novel, it looks like it might have promise.
It certainly is a slow gestation, though. If their production blog is to be trusted, they were hyping the comic at SDCC in 2008 (planning a 2009 release) and 2009. The series is currently scheduled for “early 2011,” and there has been a pre-con flurry of activity at the Freakshow production blog and Facebook, so perhaps this will be the year…
Full press release after the cut.
Time again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for interesting new adventure comics. I know it’s only been a week since the last one, but that’s ’cause I’d gotten behind.
Black Coat: Or Give Me Death – It took a while, but the second collection of my favorite Revolutionary War-era monster-hunter’s adventures is finally arriving.
Robin Hood – I’m a little nervous about Antarctic’s take on Robin Hood, but I’m encouraged by their publishing Richard Moore. I’ll give this a “shot” (ba-dum CHING!).
Cold Space #1 – Celebrity comics aren’t exactly known for their high quality, but Samuel L Jackson is a smart, talented man. I’m taking the bet that he’s a pretty good writer too. Plus: space men.
You might remember back in February when I ran a guest column by Ken Marcus, writer and creator of the mini-series Super Human Resources. Marcus shared some of this thoughts on how he approached marketing the book.
And just because the mini-series has run its course doesn’t mean that the marketing ends — Marcus dropped me a note over the weekend about the trade paperback collection of the mini-series. To help promote it, he and Ape Entertainment have put the first issue out on the web for free. The book is in this month’s Previews, with an order code of JUN090688.
Editor’s Note: I started talking to Ken Marcus, whose Super Human Resources comic comes out from Ape Entertainment next month, some time ago about doing a quick Q&A for the blog. But after doing a quick Google search, I realized I was way behind the curve. So instead, he agreed to write up a guest column. Playing off of a post I did last year, he offered to share some of the things he’s learned about marketing his indy comic over the last few months.
And if you aren’t interested in this topic, we’ve got you covered as well — Marcus also sent over some preview pages from the first issue.
by Ken Marcus
Hey, peeps. My name is Ken Marcus. I’m the creator of the new mini-series Super Human Resources from Ape Entertainment. #1 is due in comic stores at the beginning of March.
Why am I talking to you? Um, besides shamelessly whoring my own book out? I’ve learned a few things about marketing my indy comic along the way, and I thought it would be helpful to share them with those thinking about publishing their own book. Particularly in light of the new Diamond sales thresholds.
Am I an expert? Hardly. Our sales numbers are not exactly lighting the world on fire. But they were pretty good for an indy from a first-time creator. In…I don’t know…the worst economic climate ever to launch a comic. I’m also an associate creative director at one of the top ad agencies in the country. So I know just enough about marketing to be dangerous. So I wanted to share what we learned. Starting with this little pick-me-up:
People do not care about you. Not readers, not retailers, not the press and maybe not even your publisher. No one gives two turds about your book except for you. (The publisher thing isn’t really true, but regardless, this NEEDS to be your working mindset.) So making other people give two turds about your idea rests solely on your shoulders. That’s another way to say “marketing.”