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As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Digital editions of this week’s DC Comics titles were available as early as last night on some platforms, hours before their traditional release — and before most brick-and-mortar stores open for New Comics Day.
Less than a week after the publisher announced it would offer its full line of periodicals across all major e-bookstore platforms, visitors last night to the Barnes & Noble Nook Store could access new issues of Batman, Batgirl, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Saucer Country, among others. A check early this morning showed the same availability on comiXology, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s iBookstore. We’ve verified the issues are downloadable and readable.
Previously, DC’s new comics debuted Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on comiXology, giving direct-market retailers a leg up on sales. We’re awaiting comment from DC to learn whether this signals an official change in its digital-release policy.
Meanwhile, a glance this morning at comiXology’s Same Day As Print page revealed some new issues from other publishers — notably, the debuts of Marvel’s All-New X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor: God of Thunder, and Image’s Saga #7 and The Walking Dead #103 — are already on sale; the statuses of some titles changed from “Pre-Order” to “Buy Comic” even as this paragraph was being written. According to the comiXology blog, non-DC new releases previously went live “around 10 a.m.”
DC Comics is expanding its digital reach by making its full line of periodicals available for download from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.
With the move, which begins today, DC becomes the only comics publisher to offer its line of titles across all major e-bookstore platforms. The company previously had sold digital editions of its monthly comics exclusively through comiXology.
“We were the first to offer our entire comic book line same-day digital and now we are the first to offer fans the convenience of multiple download options,” Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement.
DC Comics announced a new digital storefront in Apple’s iBookstore this week, and for now, it’s filled with Batman graphic novels. The graphic novels were already available in iBooks, but the storefront pulls them all together in one place. Of course, you can also buy DC’s digital graphic novels via comiXology or DC’s comiXology storefront, or from DC’s Amazon storefront.
You might want to shop around a bit, though, because several of those books are cheaper on Amazon than in the iBookstore: Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Vol. 1, is $9.68 on the Kindle, $11.99 on iBooks. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are $9.99 on Kindle versus $12.99 in the iBookstore. There are a couple of more, and in each case that I saw, Kindle beat Apple, at least on price, and all were readable using the Kindle apps on the iPad and Android devices, so these digital versions are in direct competition with each other.
What’s going on here? My understanding was that Apple’s agreement with publishers who use iBooks is that they won’t sell them at a lower price elsewhere. Of course, they may be easing back on that since the U.S. Department of Justice sued them, alleging price-fixing. Or maybe it’s just a glitch.
This week, 2000AD launched its new iOS reader, adding the U.K.’s iconic anthology to Apple’s lucrative Newsstand application. 2000AD artist Paul “PJ” Holden is a longstanding commentator on the digital distribution of comics, frequently blogging and podcasting about the subject, since long before the launch of the game-changing iPad device. ROBOT 6 asked Holden to review the app, and he quickly obliged.
PJ Holden: First, let me get this out of the way, I’m a 2000AD artist, who’s worked for “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” (as it is sometimes known) for something over a decade. In fact, I’m currently the artist on “Judge Dredd” (at least for the next two weeks). So, in some respects, I have a horse in this race. Rebellion, the parent company of 2000AD, has had a curious relationship to digital comics. They bought the digital comics company Clickwheel a number of years ago, far in advance of the real blossoming of digital comics with the advent of the iPad (and whatever you feel the merits of Apple vs Android, the iPad was what really opened the doors to the tablet becoming a mass-medium digital comic reading device) and have been selling PDF/CBZ formats of 2000AD ever since. Since then they’ve also opened a digital comic shop on the 2000AD website itself, again selling DRM free versions of 2000AD (in both PDF and CBZ formats). But now, at last, they’ve joined the surprisingly small ranks of publishers who’ve put out on iOS comic reader, and, as a publisher which also happens to be a video game developer, the only thing that’s really a wonder is how long it’s taken.
The venerable British anthology 2000 AD will now available digitally worldwide, through the Apple Newsstand, the same day copies go on sale in the United Kingdom. That’s good news, certainly, for U.S. fans.
“Making 2000 AD as accessible as possible is something we’ve been working towards for some time,” Editor Matt Smith said in an announcement on the magazine’s website. “For the first time we can offer easy, quick digital subscriptions so that readers can download the latest issue with a single push of a button. If you’ve ever had trouble getting hold of the latest 2000 AD, don’t like waiting for the physical Prog to reach your shores, or you just want the ease of having digital copies then our new app is ideal.”
As an introduction for new readers, Rebellion is offering a free 69-page sampler issue featuring such recent 2000 AD stories as “Judge Dredd: Day of Chaos,” “Zombo” and “Ichabod Azrael.”
Subscribers can save up to 24 percent, and gain free access to a range of back issues. Single issues can be purchased for download for $2.99; a one-month subscription is $10.99, while three months is $2.99. An entire year goes for $109.99.
After bringing Classics Illustrated into the digital age, and onto Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, in March, Trajectory Inc. announced this morning it has teamed with Apple to deliver the enduring comics series on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
Debuting in 1941 as Classic Comics, Classic Illustrated adapted such literary works as Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans and Jane Eyre, publishing 169 issues during its 30-year run. More than 120 titles are available from Apple’s iBookstore.
“Making the Classics available in digital form brings these brilliant works to where people live now, on their mobiles,” Trajectory CEO Jim Bryant said in a statement. “The iPad and iPhone are great for interacting with one of the most beloved comics and graphic novel series of all time.”
The Vampire Chronicles novelist Anne Rice also endorses the series, saying, “I remember reading Jane Eyre in the Classics comics and how much I loved the details and seeing the madwoman in the attic in those little panels and seeing the whole novel play out. What always drew me were very detailed, representational drawings, rather than something abstract. I wanted to see a lot of richness and a lot of depth.”
Watch the trailer and read the press release below.
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Warning: Pretty much every image in the linked article is flagrantly, joyously NSFW. If your eyeballs disintegrate and hair grows on the palms of your hands when you click the link, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Underground comics are by their nature transgressive, so it comes as no surprise that the Comix Classics: Underground Comics app produced by Toura, an app platform often used by museums, and Comic Art Productions and Exhibits, ran afoul of Apple’s content guidelines. As Kim Munson, who designed the app, explained to Michael Dooley of Imprint Magazine, the app is not a digital comic but “more of an interactive art exhibit.” It’s based on James Danky and Denis Kitchen’s book Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix, and it contains all the comics from the book and the exhibit plus some new graphics.
Oddly, when the app was submitted to Apple, the iPad version was accepted as is (with a string of warnings to potential consumers about sex, nudity, etc.) but the iPhone version was rejected for “excessively objectionable or crude content.” Munson removed 16 images, which apparently shifted the ratio enough to make the Apple folks happy. (For those who like to skip straight to the good stuff, the deleted images are at the link.) Munson noted that “The deletions were plainly based purely on the visual representation, not the context of the pieces.”
Barcelona-based developer Klicrainbow has launched SuperGay & the Attack of His Ex-Girlfriends, an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch billed as “the first video game about a gay superhero.” I didn’t look into the assertion, but I can’t think of any other gay-superhero video games.
The comic book-inspired storyline follows Tom Palmer, an idealistic young scientist who works at Genetic Corp. with his beautiful fiancée Ilsa Himmler and her father Dr. Arnold Himmler to develop a cloning project for humanitarian purposes. But when he discovers that Ilsa and Arnold have been secretly negotiating with foreign leaders to sell their work for military purposes, Tom searches for an escape. When a failed experiment transforms the young scientist into SuperGay, “the greatest superhero of all modern times,” he uses his newfound abilities — including Gay Power and Rainbow Ray — to try to stop his evil ex-girlfriend and her clone army.
In the game, SuperGay races, fights and … dances … his way through 32 levels to stop an imminent nuclear war. Check out the trailer and additional game art after the break.
Disney Publishing Worldwide this morning launched its free Disney Comics App for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, with more than 50 titles ranging from the classic adventures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to newer properties like Cars 2 and Tron: Legacy. Two new comics will be added each week.
Individual stories are 99 cents, with themed bundles available for $3.99 through In-App Purchase. The app debuts in the United States and will be available in more than 80 countries. It will be available in additional markets later this year.
Disney boasts that the app offers “a new, director-style reading experience,” with readers allowed to choose portrait or landscape mode, automatic or manual smart paneling, and double-page spreads. Readers also may preview titles before purchase, share their stories on Facebook and save content for offline reading. There’s also a feature that automatically updates readers when stories relating to their favorite characters become available. Also: sound effects!
“Comics are a tremendous part of our heritage and we see great potential and interest in bringing our extensive catalog of Disney Comics to mobile devices,” Russell Hampton, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, said in a statement. “We create over 25,000 original comic pages each year and it’s critical that we deliver this content to our readers around the world. We have over 1 billion Disney comic readers today, and our Disney Comics App will further broaden that audience.”
Read the official announcement after the break.
One of the two private-equity firms negotiating to buy the bankrupt Borders Group reportedly hopes to save more than half of the remaining stores by taking a page from Steve Jobs’ playbook.
In a profile of rival moguls Jahm Najafi and Alec Gores, The Wall Street Journal contends a plan by the Los Angeles-based Gores Group would save about 250 of the 416 Borders outlets — most of them superstores — by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” similar to the Apple Store chain.
According to the newspaper, the 58-year-old Gores is in talks with more than a dozen companies, including Hewlett-Packard, to showcase their products in the revamped Borders stores. In exchange, Borders would offer discounts to customers downloading books from Hewlett-Packard’s e-readers in the stores. Gores, who would pay somewhere around $250 million for the bookseller’s outlets and other assets, including the website and customer list, would also “emphasize developing a more robust online business for Borders.”
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, is expected to announce a bidder by July 1.
Dark Horse has announced it will offer a first look at its somewhat-delayed digital comics app this weekend during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
Announced in October at New York Comic Con, the planned January launch of the publisher’s digital comics program was put on hold because because of Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store (something Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson confirmed earlier this month).
But now the beta version of the app is ready to be shown off at booth #601, with Dark Horse staff on hand for demonstrations, to answer questions and allow fans to take it for a test run.
Check out the official press release after the break.
Publishing | In a wide-ranging interview with retail news and analysis site ICv2, Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson discusses the state of the market, the potential impact of Borders’ bankruptcy, digital comics, the decline in manga sales, the success of Troublemaker and more. Of particular note is Richardson’s confirmation that Apple’s stricter enforcement of a prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store was behind the delay of the planned January launch of Dark Horse’s digital comics program. He also says that Frank Miller is working on the third issue of his 300 prequel Xerxes, which is expected to be “roughly six issues, but he hasn’t exactly decided yet.” [ICv2.com]
Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson provides an overview of recent changes to BOOM! Studios’ kids’ line, from the loss of the Pixar licenses to a new imprint name — changed from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! — to the announcement this week of a Peanuts original graphic novel. “BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children’s comics — kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike,” CEO Ross Ritchie said. “Roger Langridge’s Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, ‘My child loves this show but I’m buying this comic book for myself!’ The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!” [Publishers Weekly]
Back in October, at New York Comic Con, Dark Horse announced an ambitious new digital comics program that would make many of their most popular titles available, at a discount, on a number of different platforms. At the time, they said the program would launch in January 2011 with about 150 titles.
Last week, Dark Horse posted an update on their digital comics page, saying that “factors beyond our control have impacted our plans.”
While there could be many different reasons for the delay, recent developments suggest that Dark Horse’s decision to allow readers to buy comics through their own digital storefront may have fallen afoul of Apple’s prohibition on in-app purchases outside the iTunes store. UPDATE: Apple clarified today that this is not a new rule but simply stricter enforcement of existing policy. See below for more details.
Publishing | Sales of comics, graphic novels and magazines to comic stores declined slightly in 2010, slipping 3.5 percent from 2009, according to a year-end report released Thursday by Diamond Comic Distributors. John Jackson Miller’s estimate places the North American market at between $410 million and $420 million, down from the 2008 peak of $437 million.
Marvel again emerged as the top publisher, leading the market in both dollar and unit sales. May’s Avengers #1 was the top-selling periodical, followed by X-Men #1, Blackest Night #8, Siege #1 and Blackest Night #7. As expected, The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim dominated the graphic novel and trade paperback list, taking eight of the Top 10 spots (the remaining two went to the Kick-Ass premium hardcover and Superman: Earth One). [Diamond Comic Distributors]