At least a couple of times over the course of the weekend, Bill Willingham talked about his goal for the Fabletown and Beyond convention he hosted in Rochester, Minnesota. He may not have actually used the term “bucket list,” but that’s essentially what the show seems to have been for him: an opportunity to throw the kind of comics convention he wanted to attend and to see if other creators and fans would enjoy it just as much. From the standing ovation he received at Sunday’s closing ceremony, it appears he was right.
Chris Roberson pointed out to me that Fabletown and Beyond was a lot like fantasy and sci-fi literary conventions. It had that feel from the opening ceremony (an idea Willingham freely admits to stealing from fantasy/sci-fi shows) to the final farewell. It was completely focused on comics and storytelling, and it was a uniquely intimate experience. The show was only designed to accommodate a maximum of 500 attendees, and it got 505. That meant I kept seeing the same faces over and over again all weekend — creators and fans alike — so that by the third day, even people I never talked to were familiar. Instead of a hectic event where people rushed from place to place trying to see and do everything they wanted to, it was a relaxed environment that felt more like just hanging out with friends. Really smart, interesting friends.
Continue Reading »
Following events like last year’s ImageCon and MorrisonCon, Fabletown and Beyond is the most recent comic convention devoted to serving a specific segment of readers: in this case, fans of what Fables creator Bill Willingham describes as “Mythic Fiction.” Fabletown and Beyond takes place this weekend in Willingham’s community of Rochester, Minnesota, and celebrates comics that include and update “fairytales, folklore, myth, legend, talking animals, and characters from literature.”
The festivities begin at 3 p.m. Friday and run practically non-stop until 6 p.m. Sunday. Programming is scheduled to go late into the evening on Friday and Saturday with the convention’s bar (an even more important element of this convention than most) staying open until 2 a.m.
The convention will take place in two locations, connected by skyways to allow attendees protection from the Minnesota weather. The dealers’ area, Artist
Alley Boulevard, and programming rooms will be located in in the Mayo Civic Center, with the opening ceremony and other special events held in the Kahler Grand Hotel. The hotel is also the location of the Elizabethan bar (re-named the Kill Shakespeare Bar for the weekend) that will be taken over for the exclusive use of the convention.
Digital comics | Vertical Inc. becomes the latest manga publisher to take the plunge into digital, beginning with the release of three series: Twin Spica, Drops of God and 7 Billion Needles for Kindle, Nook and iBooks. [Anime News Network]
Conventions | Fables creator Bill Willingham is the host of this weekend’s Fabletown and Beyond convention in Rochester, Minnesota, focusing on “mythic fiction.” He and organizer Stacy Sinner give a preview of what is to come. “I’m the host of the event, which means I get a lot of people to do the actual hard work, while I sit back imperiously on my throne and say ‘Yes,’ to this, and, ‘No,’ to that,” Willingham said. “The downside is, of course, I also have to write the checks.” [Rochester Post-Bulletin]
Publishing | Pulp heroes The Spirit, Doc Savage and The Avenger disappeared from the DC Comics lineup more than a year ago, with Co-Publisher Dan DiDio now confirming on his Facebook page that the company’s rights to the characters have lapsed. Brian Azzarello paired the vintage characters with Batman, Black Canary, the Blackhawks and other current DC heroes in his First Wave miniseries, which launched in 2010. Heidi MacDonald adds, “we’ve heard that at WB it was pointed out that DC paying good money to license old characters didn’t make much sense when they had their own catalog of little-used characters to exploit.” [Blog@Newsarama]
Digital comics | As noted here Monday, comiXology was No. 3 on the list of top-grossing iPad apps of 2012, and in the press release announcing this, the comiXology folks dropped another number on us: They have served more than 2 billion pages since their launch three years ago. [comiXology]
Aiming to cut the fat from the bloated pop-culture extravaganzas, a new creator-branded model for comic conventions is drawing fans to a more curated and unique experience.
For decades, comic conventions have been building up (or “diversifying,” if you prefer) to include television shows, movies, video games, board games, toys, novels, scantily clad models, and new-media companies that used speech balloons in their marketing campaign that one time. Basically they’ve become magnets for any project with an air of geekery, regardless of the lack of any sequential art or cartooning. A number of cons can feel more like a pop-up strip mall in their efforts to be everything for as many people as possible. And con-goers feel it. You really haven’t had the full convention experience if you don’t hear someone grumble how the con used to be about the comics, man. It’s a chorus that seems to attract more voices each year.
Perhaps in response to the growing Grumble Choir, a number of event organizers have been testing more focused conventions branded under a single creator or identity. These conventions bring in vendors, guests and exhibitors that more directly reflect the name on the banners, resulting in a more authentic and cohesive experience. While it’s splicing a niche market to a niche within a niche, it’s also creating a more irresistible ticket item for people within that sub-niche. And those fans coming to see the name they recognize are probably super-fans eager to experience, sample and buy more at a deeper level than the more scattershot crowd under the general geek umbrella.
Bill Willingham sent out a newsletter last week to those who expressed interest in his inaugural Fabletown and Beyond convention next March in Rochester, Minnesota. It was a long email, so I’ll just hit the highlights, but those who want to learn more can do so at the convention’s website or by following the event on Twitter.
Fabletown and Beyond will celebrate what Willingham calls “Mythic Fiction,” which includes books about fables, fairy tales, folklore and mythology. “It’s a growing movement within entertainment as a whole, and comics in particular,” Willingham writes. “We decided it needed its own convention to better explore and appreciate.”
Retailing | The Manchester, Connecticut, comics store Buried Under Comics will reopen with a new name, A Hero’s Journey, and a new owner, April Kenney. A friend of previous owner Brian Kozicki, who died unexpectedly last month, Kenney arranged to purchase the store from Kozicki’s family. [Patch.com]
Retailing | Toronto retailer Silver Snail has moved from its longtime location on Queen Street to Yonge Street. [CityNews]
Publishing | Brian Smith, the DC Comics associate editor publicly ridiculed by Rob Liefeld last month, has announced his departure from the company, apparently under amicable circumstances. Nonetheless, Liefeld took a parting shot on Twitter. [Blog@Newsarama]
Retailing | DC Comics dominated bookstore graphic novel sales in August, probably because of the release of The Dark Knight Rises and a “buy two, get one free” sale on DC graphic novels at Barnes & Noble. Six of the Top 10 titles are Batman comics, with The Walking Dead, Watchmen, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Naruto each taking a slot as well. [ICv2]
Creators | Judge Dredd writer John Wagner talks about the origins of his character, the importance of U.K. publisher DC Thomson, and his dislike of digital comics. [The Daily Record]
Creators | Nick Spencer guests on Kieron Gillen’s podcast to discuss Morning Glories. [Kieron Gillen's Workblog]
Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!’” [MTV Geek]
Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. [TCJ.com]
Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]
Following his announcement that after an upcoming arc of the Fables spinoff Fairest he’s done writing for DC Comics, writer Chris Roberson said today that the Fairest arc he was scheduled to write is no longer happening.
“Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all,” Roberson said on Twitter. “It was decided my services were no longer required.”
The tweet was soon followed by a show of support from Fables creator Bill Willingham: “Not decided by me. I will work with @chris_roberson any time. Any place.”
If you missed it yesterday, Roberson announced he would no longer write for the publisher based on their treatment of other creators and their heirs. “My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs,” Roberson told CBR yesterday. “The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. I’d like to make clear, though, that I have nothing but nice things to say about the editorial staff at Vertigo with whom I’ve worked for the past few years.”
Roberson, who has written not only the awesome iZombie and various Cinderella spinoff mini’s but also took over as writer of Superman after J. Michael Straczynski left the title, has taken a stand based on principle and has now paid the price by having paying work taken from him. No doubt he expected it–hell, given DC’s history, everyone probably knew this would happen–and I give him big props for doing it anyway.
And as Kurt Busiek said in our comments section yesterday, DC ain’t the only game in town. “I am privy to a little inside information of what @chris_roberson will be doing instead of his Fairest arc and it will be awesome. So there,” Willingham said.
Update: Roberson says that he has been paid for the work he’s already turned in on Fairest.
Finalists have been announced for the 2011 Hugo Awards, which recognize the best in science fiction and fantasy. Presented annually since 1955 by the World Science Fiction Society, the Hugo is among science fiction’s most prestigious awards.
This year’s winners will be presented Sept. 2 in Chicago during Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention.
The nominees for best graphic story are:
• Digger, by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
• Fables, Vol. 15: Rose Red, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
• Locke & Key, Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
• Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
• The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan, created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)
This is the fourth year for the graphic story category. Girl Genius, which won the first three years, was not included on the ballot at the request of creators Phil and Kaja Foglio.
Nominees of note in other categories include Dan dos Santos for best professional artist, xkcd creator Randall Munroe for best fan artist, and Captain America: The First Avenger and Hugo for best dramatic presentation-long form. See the full list of nominees on the Hugo Awards website.
Publishing | Single-issue comics sales last month were up 22.26 percent over February 2011, and graphic novels were up 15.6 percent, making for a good month for publishers and retailers. (Of course, there were five Wednesdays in February, which may have something to do with it.) As in previous months, DC sold the most comics but Marvel, with higher cover prices, topped its competitor in terms of dollar share. [ICv2]
Publishing | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores last month was part one of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, written by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese). The Walking Dead books took four of the top 20 spots, or a healthy 20 percent of the list, and 13 of the bestsellers were manga. [ICv2]
Publishing | Marvel is cutting costs on its $2.99 comics by going with “self covers,” which just means that the covers are the same paper as the inside of the comic, rather than heavier stock. As the insides are glossy paper anyway, Todd Allen feels the difference is barely noticeable—and that the real news is that Marvel is finding it necessary to cut costs once more. [The Beat]
The latest member of the Fables family came into the world last Wednesday, as Fairest #1 by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Andrew Dalhouse and Todd Klein. The book promises to explore “the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others.” The first story arc picks up where Fables #107 left off, as it focuses on Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty after she is stolen away by the goblin army.
So what do people think of this latest spinoff of the popular and long-running Fables franchise? Here’s a round-up of a few reviews …
Alex Zalben, MTV Geek: “By gobsmacking, of course, I’m referring to the plot of the issue: a thief we haven’t seen in a good long while picks up a jar we may have forgotten about, and sets in search of a lady or two who have been trapped by goblins. Much smacking of said gobs ensues… Though mostly by one of the most bad-ass wooden puppets you might ever hope to meet. And all of this involves characters or ideas that have been seeded throughout Fables the past few years, but one of the beauties of the book (beyond, you know, Sleeping Beauty) is that Willingham provides easy entry for even the newest reader.”
Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics: “There’s no denying this is a Fables spinoff. One has to be familiar with a fair bit of continuity from the mother title to figure out where the characters are in this story and what their deal is (especially Oakheart). I haven’t read Fables in a while, but fortunately, what I remember from before I stopped following the book was enough to pick up on the appropriate and required references here. Of course, not everyone will be privy to the same backstory from Fables. Of course, one could argue DC expects only Fables readers to pick up Fairest, but limiting one’s expected readership to an audience within an established audience seems like it would be setting the bar far too low. Willingham’s script really could’ve used more exposition.”
We don’t cover a lot of store signings, but this seems like kind of a big deal for a couple of reasons. Bill Willingham and Adam Hughes are kicking off the hotly anticipated Fairest series with a launch party/signing at The Source Comics and Games in Falcon Heights, Minnesota (a suburb of Saint Paul) on Wednesday, March 7.
Coming at a time when many readers are looking for comics that feature great female characters, Fairest focuses on the fairy tale women of Bill Willingham’s Fables. Willingham is writing the book; Hughes provides the covers.