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Ape Entertainment picks up Free Mars

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.

Strawberry Shortcake gets its own app

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.

Thoughts on the FCBD Gold comics

Free Comic Book Day is only six months away, and the FCBD folks started the drumbeat on Friday with the announcement of the Gold Sponsor comics. I didn’t realize this was a competition:

“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.

NYCC | A round-up of Friday news

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.”

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Previews: What looks good for December

The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot

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, “ Life with Archie 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.


Richie Rich Gems Winter Special - In addition to their modern-look Richie Rich, Ape has also re-introducied the classic version in both new and reprinted adventures. I missed the solicit for Richie Rich Gems #44 last month (which picked up where the Harvey series left off in 1982), but the series continues with not only the Winter Special, but #45 as well.


Dragons vs Dinosaurs - I haven’t had great luck with Arcana’s books in the past, but c’mon. The title alone…

Hero Happy Hour: On the Rocks - This, on the other hand, is no risk at all. I’m a big fan of Dan Taylor and Chris Fason’s superhero bar stories and this is an all-new, 80-page adventure. Not reprints; not even a printed version of the webcomic. It’s all-new and I need it.


The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot Collected Edition – Archaia prepares for their publishing Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives: The Kula Kola Caper by re-publishing the first story that was originally put out by Dark Horse.

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NYCC | Are Sesame Street comics on the way? (Everything’s A-OK)

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.

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Scouts: Prepare for Adversity to debut from Ape

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.

Previews: What Looks Good for November

The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths

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.

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SDCC ’11 | Ape to release Cut the Rope comic based on game

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.

Oh, the cuteness! Amy Mebberson draws Strawberry Shortcake

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.

C2E2 | Some comics to look forward to

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%.

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Kids’ comics in the direct market: A publisher’s perspective

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.

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These are their stories: SVU star creates comic

Christopher Meloni meets a fan at NYCC

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.

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SDCC ’10 | Freakshow to debut at SDCC, at long last

Joe Suitor's cover for Freakshow #1

Joe Suitor's cover for Freakshow #1

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.

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: What Looks Good for April

Cold Space

Cold Space

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.

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