Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Even as we eagerly await details about Samsung’s Iron Man-edition Galaxy S6 Edge, ColorWare has unveiled a custom iPhone 6 Black Widow that’s not only pricey, but also not the Black Widow phone Marvel fans were hoping for.
Sure, it’s black and red, and sports the hourglass emblem. But it also featured raised web details, signaling that it has nothing to with the Soviet super-spy turned Avengers (or even Spider-Man, for that matter). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice-looking phone; it just strikes me as a bit misleading (yes, I’m aware of the black widow spider, but I call shenanigans).
Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]
Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]
ComiXology was the top-grossing non-game iPad app in the iTunes App Store in 2013, coming in at No. 11, just ahead of The New York Times. They were the only non-game apps to crack the Top 20.
In addition, the digital-comics platform announced it has served more than 6 billion pages — that figure includes both paid and free — since its launch four years ago. ComiXology trumpeted 2 billion pages just slightly more than a year ago.
“In a billion-dollar marketplace with competition between over a million apps, it’s gratifying to rank as the Top Grossing non-game iPad App in the entire iTunes App Store,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “This past year has been a great year for comics and comiXology!”
Last year saw the company further expand its industry domination with distribution deals with the likes of UDON Entertainment, Viz Media Europe, Avatar Press, and 15 French publishers, partnered with eBay, and introduced gift cards. In October, comiXology also released findings from a survey that found its female readership has grown from 5 percent to 20 percent.
Digital comics | Ethan Gach contemplates what the popularity of tablets means for the comics industry, with a particular focus on comiXology. He points out that the digital distributor offers not only bestsellers but also titles that appeal to a broader audience — and has brought success to some indie creators via its comiXology Submit program. [Forbes]
Academia | Tom Spurgeon talks to Professor Benjamin Saunders, director of the Comics & Cartoon Studies Program at the University of Oregon, which just received a major donation that will serve as an endowment for the program. [The Comics Reporter]
Manga | Kodansha will release a second printing of the January issue of Aria magazine, which features the debut of Hikaru Suruga and Gan Sunaaku’s Attack on Titan spinoff No Regrets. The first printing was five times greater than the magazine’s usual press run — Aria has a verified circulation of 13,667 copies — so with this new printing, the January issue will have 10 times the number of copies of the average issue. [Anime News Network]
Digital comics | Apple rejected 59 comics this year for in-app buying, although many of them were allowed into the iBookstore. I looked at the phenomenon, and talked to Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson about the effect that had on Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which is available via the comiXology website and Android app, iBooks, and Image’s own website, but can’t be bought in-app from comiXology’s iPad app. “”It absolutely hurt digital sales on Sex Criminals #2,” Stepheneson said. “This is a series that is getting fantastic word of mouth, it’s amazing work by Matt and Chip that is receiving rave reviews and selling out instantly. Not being able to offer the book to curious readers through our app or the comiXology app is a significant deterrent to reaching the widest possible audience.” [Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | Coast City Comicon returns this weekend to Portland, Maine, and Batman artist Chris Burnham, who will be a guest, drums up excitement by explaining the nuances of Batman’s nostrils to the local newspaper. Other guests include Mike Norton, Yanick Paquette, Rachel Deering, Ben Templesmith, Alex de Campi, JK Woodard and Lee Weeks. [Portland Press-Herald]
Publishing | Jamal Igle and Kelly Dale have been named marketing co-directors of Action Lab Entertainment, with Igle handling public relations and promotions and Dale coordinating retailer outreach. [ICv2.com]
Creators | Brian Heater interviews Paul Pope for the latest RIYL podcast. [BoingBoing]
Creators | Ed Piskor talks about his love of hip-hop and his latest graphic novel, Hip Hop Family Tree. [TribLive]
Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]
Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]
Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]
ComiXology has removed 56 titles from its iOS app this week — they range from Angry Youth Comix to Sex to The Boys: Herogasm — to adhere to Apple App Store policies. They’re still available for purchase from comiXology.com.
“In order to comply with the Apple App Store guidelines regarding adult or inappropriate content, some new releases were rejected for our iOS app this week,” a statement on the comiXology blog reads. “In addition, certain previously released titles that fall outside of these guidelines were also rejected and will be removed from sale.”
The announcement comes a little more than a month after the digital-comics distribution platform rejected Saga #12 in an effort to adhere to Apple policies, an action originally attributed to the computer giant. In the aftermath, Image asked that Black Kiss II, XXXombies and Sex #1 be revisited, resulting in all three being approved for the comiXology and Image Comics iOS apps. Now, however, all three have been removed.
The list of removed titles also includes Jess Fink’s Chester 5000, Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s classic Omaha the Cat Dancer, Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit and the gay-comics anthology No Straight Lines, which features the work of Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse and Eric Shanower, among others.
Update (11:50 a.m.): ComiXology contacted ROBOT 6 to clarify that it was notified by Apple that those titles didn’t meet the App Store content guidelines, and therefore were pulled from the iOS app.
Conventions | Kandrix Foong, founder of Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, cautions latecomers that all 56,000 tickets for this weekend’s event are sold out. “We tell everybody now: ‘There are no on-site ticket sales,’” he said. “So they say: ‘OK, I’ll just try my luck when I get there.’ ‘No, no, no, you don’t understand. There are no on-site ticket sales. The end. If you show up you will be turned away. Sorry, but that’s the way it’s going to be.’” [Calgary Herald]
Conventions | Wizard World has released its annual report for 2012, and while its convention business was way up, from $3.8 million to $6.7 million, the company still finished the year with a net loss of $1 million. [The Beat]
Performance Designed Products, which already manufactures clip cases, iPad folios and iPod touch sleeves featuring Marvel characters, now has an exclusive line of Iconic Marvel Comic Covers cases for the iPhone 5 — available only in Apple stores and at Apple.com.
By “iconic,” PDP means landmark first appearances: Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring the debut of Spider-Man; The Avengers #1; The Incredible Hulk #1; and Giant-Size X-Men #1. Sorry, no Tales of Suspense #39, Journey Into Mystery #83 or Captain America Comics #1 … yet. They’re $34.95 each.
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Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
This week’s new comic book releases included such noteworthy publications as the final issue of Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s drama based on UFO folklore, Saucer Country, the latest installment of Marvel’s line-wide crossover-event series Age of Ultron, the one-issue return of some of Marvel’s fan-favorite Runaways characters in the tie-in Ultron #1, the latest issue of the best superhero comic book on the stands, Hawkeye, and the final issue of the Mark Millar-written comic-as-movie pitch series Secret Service, maybe better known as “What Dave Gibbons has Been Up to While DC Published Before Watchmen.” And those were just the serially published comic book-comics.
The comic I heard the most about this week by far, however, was Saga #12, the latest chapter in Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ deservedly popular space fantas. And the reasons this particular issue was so talked about? Early in the week it seemed as Apple had rejected it for distribution for a couple of images of gay sex (although Wednesday afternoon, comiXology CEO David Steinberger said the move was actually due to his company’s mistaken interpretation of Apple policy).
I’m a somewhat-casual consumer of comics news these days, and yet I encountered iterations of this story over and over this week. And in the time between the story’s initial reporting and Steinberger’s clarification, I’ve seen stories on numerous comics news sites and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s blog. A Google News search for “Saga #12″ and “Apple” brings up 9,370 results, the top two being for The Washington Post and NPR, so obviously the mainstream media bit on the story as well.
Having actually read the comic book, though, the content that earned the mistaken, temporary pre-banning was so small and inconsequential, I probably would have missed it. (Note: Some images below may be not safe for work.)
Passings | The New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher has died at the age of 86. Mike Lynch has a nice appreciation, with a sampling of cartoons and links to other obituaries. Fisher was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Lynch says, but even so, he often came to the New Yorker offices on “look day”: “He would be sitting on the couch, in the cartoonists’ waiting room, with his portfolio, ready to chat. I introduced myself and was really glad to meet him. More than once he pulled out his roughs and showed them to me. Ed treated me like an equal.” [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Muhammad Saba’aneh, who was detained by Israeli authorities in early March, has been sentenced to five months in jail and must pay a fine of 10,000 shekels. Saba’aneh was charged with contacting “enemy entities,” according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested and held without specific charges, raising fears that he would be detained indefinitely. [FARS News Agency]
“Fiona and I could always edit the images in question, but everything we put into the book is there to advance our story, not (just) to shock or titillate, so we’re not changing shit.”
— writer Brian K. Vaughan, responding to Apple’s rejection of this week’s Saga #12 because of two panels depicting pretty explicit, if relatively small, images of gay sex (they’re on Prince Robot IV’s head-monitor). There’s already debate online whether gay sex is Apple’s issue, or whether it’s explicit sex in general, but it’s worth noting that the company apparently had no problems with the comic’s previous obvious depictions of cunnilingus, and penetration (of the heterosexual variety, complete with erect penis), not to mention the assorted sex shots that left a little something to the imagination.
We’ll not talk about that giant’s pendulous scrotum, which has to be the most “explicit” thing to appear in Saga. Certainly the most disturbing.
From the quarter bin to the slabbed copy sold at auction, sales of used comics are an important factor in the collectors’ market. Many a childhood comics habit started out with with secondhand copies picked up at thrift shops or garage sales for a dime, and a hefty area of the floor at every comics convention I have been to has been set aside for dealers with tables and tables of longboxes filled with old issues.
That’s one comics tradition unlikely to translate to the digital era: A federal judge has ruled the doctrine of first sale does not apply to digital files. In this case, they’re music files, but the case is being closely watched by book publishers.
The doctrine of first sale basically says that once you’ve bought a copyrighted product, you can re-sell it, rent it out, lend it, or do whatever you like with it — except reproduce it — without any obligation to the copyright owner. This allows comics shops to sell used comics and libraries to lend out graphic novels without having to pay royalties, but for obvious reasons, its application to digital products is problematic.