BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
Censorship | China may have banned 38 manga and anime series, including Attack on Titan and Death Note, but fans are still finding ways to read and watch them — and Death Note is one of the most popular topics on the social media service Sina Weibo. “Chinese authorities are used to a certain degree of permeability in their various bans and directives,” says Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History. “The issue with a lot of Chinese censorship isn’t about a blanket ban that keeps 100% of material out. It’s about making life as difficult as possible for people who actually want it. A ban like this is about restricting casual access.” [BBC News]
Graphic novels | Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold through its second printing in Singapore and is heading into a third, just weeks after the country’s National Arts Council abruptly withdrew funding. The graphic novel traces the career of pioneering Singaporean cartoonist Charlie Chan Hock Chye through 60 years of the country’s history and includes satirical portrayals of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, and his rival Lim Chin Siong. An NAC official said it “potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the Government and its public institutions.” The graphic novel has already sold 2,500 copies, making it “the top-selling local fiction title so far this year.”
Retailing | Shares of Barnes & Noble rose 5.5 percent Wednesday, to $21.69, following the announcement that the bookseller plans to split into two companies, one for its retail stores and the other for Nook Media. Barron’s suggests those plans could buoy stock prices for a while, as long as the company doesn’t change its mind (again) about the split. The magazine also notes the possibility that an outsider buyer could make a bid for the retail stores before the split takes place, leaving Barnes & Noble with the Nook, which will be combined with the company’s successful college-bookstore operations. [Barron’s]
Manga | Inspired by a line of T-shirts featuring the work of the manga artist Jiraiya, Guy Trebay talks to Anne Ishii and Chip Kidd about the popularity of hard-core gay manga, such as the work of Gengoroh Tagame, in the United States. [The New York Times]
Struggling bookseller Barnes & Noble announced a plan this morning to split its retail and Nook businesses into separate publicly traded companies.
“We believe we are now in a better position to begin in earnest those steps necessary to accomplish a separation of Nook Media and Barnes & Noble Retail,” CEO Michael P. Huseby said in a statement. “We have determined that these businesses will have the best chance of optimizing shareholder value if they are capitalized and operated separately We fully expect that our Retail and Nook Media businesses will continue to have long-term, successful business relationships with each other after separation.”
Once criticized for its role in the decline of local booksellers, retail giant Barnes & Noble is struggling in a shrinking print market that claimed longtime rival Borders less than two years ago.
The chain, which boasts 689 retail stores (along with 674 college stores), plans to cut that number by one-third over the next decade at a rate of about 20 locations year. That will leave Barnes & Noble with about 450 to 500 stores, down from a peak of 726 in 2008. In the past month or so, the company has shuttered locations in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
While Publishers Weekly and Amazon helpfully organized their best-of-the-year lists according to clear genres and marketing categories, with comics falling (mostly) under “comics, Barnes & Noble takes a decidedly different approach: In its rundown of the Best Books of 2012, the retailer creates a “Best Quirky, Beautiful, Different Books” category, lumping comics collections and graphic novels in with cookbooks, home and garden design guides, and something called Underwater Dogs. Still, the comics selected are, overall, pretty solid:
• Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
• The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, by Alvin Buenaventura, Chip Kidd and Chris Ware (Abrams ComicArts)
• Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC Comics)
• Building Stories, by Chris Ware (Pantheon Books)
• My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf (Abrams ComicArts)
• Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson, by Mark Siegel (First Second)
• Wizzywig, by Ed Piskor (Top Shelf Productions)
• A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
It’s also worth noting that The Walking Dead Compendium Book One (Image Comics), by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, was No. 89 on Barnes & Noble’s list of The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2102. It was the only comic to make the list.
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.
Creators | Alan Moore will make a rare convention appearance in September — his first in 25 years, according to this article — at the inaugural Northants International Comics Expo in Northamptonshire, England. To attend Moore’s hour-long talk on writing comics or the hour-long question-and-answer session, convention-goers are required to donate graphic novels to the Northamptonshire Libraries, which will have a table at the event. [Stumptown Trade Review]
Creators | Mark Waid gets the NPR treatment, as Noah J. Nelson interviews him about his digital comics initiatives. “I got news for you: I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do,” Waid says of creating digital comics. [NPR]
Publishing | Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman discusses the publisher’s spring lineup, which will include William Stout’s Legends of the Blues, Darryl Cunningham’s What the Frack, a history of Bazooka Joe comics, and a Will Eisner artbook written by Paul Levitz. [ICv2]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Comics sales | Torsten Adair takes a snapshot of what graphic novels were selling best on the Barnes & Noble website last week, and the results look very good if you’re Robert Kirkman: Thirteen out of 20 graphic novels to make the Top 1000 books were volumes of The Walking Dead, and overall, hardcovers outsold paperbacks. So maybe the zombie thing isn’t totally over? The top-selling graphic novel isn’t even out yet: It’s the graphic novel adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Both that and The Walking Dead Compendium cracked the Top 100, which includes all books, not just graphic novels. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times says the new iPad improves the comic reading experience: “But the iPad’s new Retina Display throws the door to digital comic books wide open. The experience of reading a comic book on either of the first two generations of iPads was, at best, adequate. If your vision is good and you’re willing to squint a little, you can possibly read comics in fullpage mode. Halfway through the first issue of a story arc, though, you’ll stop being a hero. If you’re using an open comic book editor, you’ll start zooming and scrolling. If you bought your comics from the Comixology mode, you’ll switch to their guided panel view mode.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Classics Illustrated, the time-honored series that adapted such literary works War of the Worlds, Hamlet and A Tale of Two Cities, is making the leap into the digital age with the announcement today by Trajectory Inc. that the comics are now available for Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet.
“Making the Classics available in digital form re-introduces these brilliant works to a whole new generation of readers,” Trajectory CEO Jim Bryant said in a statement. “The Nook is a great platform for interacting with one of the most beloved comics and graphic novel series of all time. Barnes & Noble is a tremendous champion of digital comic and graphic novel content.”
Issues of Classics Illustrated are available for download in the Nook Comics store for $4.99; issues of the spinoff Classics Illustrated Junior, which adapted such fables and fairy tales as Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, are priced at $1.99.
Classics Illustrated debuted in 1941 as Classic Comics, publishing 169 issues during its 30-year run.
Read the official announcement below.
I may not have grown up with GI Joe – I was in the wrong country for that; they were called “Action Force” where I was, which is just generic enough for you to not care that much when you’re the right age – but somehow, I’ve always believed that knowing really is half the battle. That phrase struck me yesterday, reading about the 2000AD/Rebellion deal with Barnes & Noble to fill the space left by their removal of DC Comics’ GNs from their shelves, for somewhat obvious reasons. I mean, it’s great that Rebellion has such shelf space for 2000AD material, but… will anyone in America really know enough about the brand for it to mean anything?
I’m biased: 12 percent of the titles that they’ve physically removed were written by me. From my perspective, it’s a ridiculous overreaction [by Barnes & Noble]. The idea that these people [Amazon] have a digital exclusive, therefore [B&N] will give them a physical exclusive, too — I’m not sure it’s a sane business practice.
If you force publishers to decide between the Amazon tablet and the Barnes & Noble Nook, some of them may come down on the Amazon side.
Creator Neil Gaiman on Barnes & Noble’s removal of DC’s graphic novels from its shelves after Amazon announced DC’s graphic novels would be exclusive on the Kindle Fire e-reader for a limited time. Gaiman’s comment is a reminder that this action affects real people—and carries a certain amount of risk for both creators and publishers.
Noted in passing: I was in my local Barnes & Noble over the weekend, and while the graphic novel section has shrunk way down (to a single six-bay bookcase), there were plenty of DC graphic novels on the shelf.
In the nearly two weeks since Barnes & Noble drew a line in the sand, pulling 100 of DC Comics’ top-selling graphic novels from its shelves to protest the publisher’s exclusive agreement with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, there’s been little visible change in the tablet wars. That is, unless you count the decision by Books-A-Million to follow the chain’s lead.
Both sides appear to have dug in, with Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million insisting that books be available in all formats to all customers — specifically, their customers and their e-reader — and DC and parent company Warner Bros. insisting they’re misunderstood, and more than a little disappointed.
There are hints, however, that behind the scenes things may be a bit less … concrete.
Although there’s been some indication that DC’s exclusive arrangement with Amazon will last just four months, meaning graphic novels like Watchmen, Fables, Y: The Last Man and The Sandman could be available digitally for other platforms by mid-March, the publisher has yet to say so, much to the frustration of some fans (and, I would imagine, certain retailers).
In its overview of the dispute, The New York Times notes the DC website trumpets the books are available “exclusively to Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire,” period. No qualifiers. But comments for DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee lend credence to reports that the Amazon exclusivity is for a limited time.
Although he cited a nondisclosure agreement with the online retail giant, Lee still told the newspaper that, “Just because we’re starting with Amazon, this is not the be-all and end-all of our digital strategy and distribution.”
And to DC readers frustrated by the deal? “We say to our fans, have a little patience.”