Legal | Egyptian artist Magdy el Shafee, creator of the graphic novel Metro, was arrested by security forces in Cairo and is being held in Tora Prison. The arrests weren’t directly related to his graphic novel, which was banned by the regime of Hosni Mubarak; el Shafee went to Abdel Moneim Riyad Square to try to stop a showdown between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, and ended up being arrested in a sweep that rounded up 38 people. [Words Without Borders]
Legal | The local paper profiles Susan Alston, who has been active in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund since the 1990s and even ran it for a while from the garage of her Northampton, Massachusetts, home. [Masslive.com]
Cartoonists | A campaign to raise money to erect a 9-feet-tall bronze statute of Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane in his hometown of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is trailing about $23,000 short its goal ahead of an April 30 deadline. Alan Gardner points out that amount is reachable on Kickstarter. [The Arizona Republic]
Publishing | Kevin Roose has a brief chat with Bluewater CEO Darren G. Davis, who says that the company’s bestseller, the Michelle Obama bio-comic, sold about 150,000 copies; the CEO biographies do about half that number. [New York Magazine]
Revolutionary Comics has ended its agreement with Bluewater Productions to reprint its 1990s Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics line in trade paperback form. In addition, Revolutionary’s Jay Allen Sanford announced over the weekend that any future editions will be released digitally.
“Though we’re not renewing with Bluewater, the collaboration went well,” he wrote on the San Diego Reader website. “Over the past few years, Bluewater helped keep the RnR Comics ‘brand’ alive.”
Sanford noted that seven collections were released through the company, but an eighth, Rock ‘N’ Roll Cartoon History: The Sixties, “remains unpublished.” When the partnership was announced in 2009, it was intended to produce 10 repackaged volumes, released on a bimonthly basis.
Founded in 1989 by Todd Loren, who was murdered three years later, Revolutionary was in many ways a forerunner of Bluewater, making its name producing unauthorized biographies of musical acts ranging from the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen to KISS and New Kids on the Block.
In a follow-up to his weekend announcement, Allen told Bleeding Cool, ““The Bluewater deal was never about money. The comics reprinted by Bluewater had already made massive profits two decades ago. By reprinting, we got to treat several of the original creators to some unexpected contemporary swag above and beyond their original contracts, as well as reviving awareness of the “brand” thanks to Bluewater footing the bills and doing the promotions. Now that the Bluewater books and the documentary film and DVD have gotten Revolutionary Comics some modern day cred and attention, Todd Loren’s father and I would rather handle any and all future repurposing of the RevCom material.”
Passings | Dr. Michael J. Vassallo notes the passing of Marion Sitton, who drew romance, crime and Western comics for Timely and Atlas (earlier incarnations of Marvel) as well as Fawcett, Quality and other publishers. He was 92. [Timely-Atlas-Comics]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald interviews Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, who was selected by readers of The Beat as the Comics Industry Person of the Year. [The Beat]
Organizations | Babymouse creator Jennifer L. Holm has joined the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board of directors. [CBLDF]
Awards | Although the website for the 40th Angoulême International Comics Festival is down, several outlets managed to pick up on the official selections for the 2013 festival, to be held Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Contenders for book of the year include Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Fables by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and others, The Hive by Charles Burns, The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon, Paying For It by Chester Brown, and The Walking Dead Vol. 16 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Fatale Vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and The Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case were among those named in the crime comic category. [BoDoi]
Publishing | Bluewater Productions Publisher Darren G. Davis isn’t afraid to talk about real numbers: Bluewater’s income is about $2 million a year, and the most popular titles sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies apiece, although others never make it out of the triple digits. And while he admits he doesn’t have a thick skin, Davis says he has gotten used to criticism: “I’ve learned that I’m not my company. When they attack my company, they are not attacking me personally.” [The Columbian]
And so another U.S. presidential election comes to a close. While the incumbent was re-elected, the comics industry didn’t seem to embrace the season like it did in 2008.
Four years ago, the bestselling comic book issue of the year was The Amazing Spider-Man #583, by a wide margin — by such a wide margin that it ended up being the bestselling issue of the decade with more than half a million copies ordered, according to numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller. In fact, this became such a thing that there was nearly a boutique industry of comic books featuring Barack Obama. From Savage Dragon and Army of Darkness to Bomb Queen and Licensable Bear (the first Obama comic), it seemed the president was everywhere. IDW Publishing released an entire line of biographical comics on the presidential candidates, and similar titles were also published by Antarctic Press and Bluewater Productions. The latter’s efforts were so successful that the company continues to mine that niche.
Four years later, this mini-genre has all but vanished. Last year, BOOM! Studios attempted to lead the charge with Decision 2012, the first straw poll conducted through comics: Pre-orders determined which candidates would get their comics published, with the one receiving the highest print run being declared the winner. While a creative idea, the project may have been a victim of poor timing, as the event was held so early in the campaign — it was announced in August 2011 — that there wasn’t a clear line-up of Republican candidates. Despite all of her teasing, Sarah Palin never entered the race, yet she was included among the list of comics. In fact, on the same day the one-time GOP vice presidential nominee announced she wouldn’t be running on the same day that BOOM! revealed the results of its straw poll. Out of the 10 biographical comics offered for pre-order, just four met the benchmark of 1,500 pre-orders: Obama, Palin, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney came in fifth, but just below the benchmark, so he and the five others never got their comics.
Bluewater Productions, the publisher largely known for its biographical comics about political and showbiz personalities, has announced a complete break with Diamond Comic Distributors. Bluewater comics will now be distributed, and printed, by Comic Flea Market.
Bluewater had already announced a distribution partnership with CFM for some of its titles, so the news piece here is that the publisher is making a complete break with Diamond. Bluewater comics are also available digitally through the usual channels.
Give Bluewater President Darren G. Davis credit for putting a bold front on it and saying in the press release that Diamond “abruptly” canceled several Bluewater comics because they didn’t make their sales benchmarks. In an interview with MTV Geek in March, Davis presented Bluewater’s problems with Diamond as a clash of business models.
“It’s really difficult, because according to these benchmarks your comics have to make a certain amount of money, or they won’t issue you a purchase order,” he said. “I get it – they’re a bigger company. And if we have a book that only sold 500 copies, there’s no reason why they should distribute it. But it just doesn’t help me as a publisher. But I don’t condemn them for it.”
Davis emphasized today that this move does not mean Bluewater is abandoning the direct market; on the contrary, he pledged to continue to offer Bluewater comics to retailers at about the same discount they were receiving from Diamond.
“My experience has shown me that if your name is not DC or Marvel, it is very difficult to get support from Diamond,” Davis said in the press release. “As an independent producer, I felt it was time to take our titles to the next level.”
Comic Book Resources reached out to Diamond and Davis for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Legal | Danny Bradbury takes a look at the financial and copyright aspects of online comics in an insightful article spurred by the recent dust-up between The Oatmeal and FunnyJunk. Among other things, he parses out how The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman makes $500,000 a year from his comic, why Inman and other creators object to their work being published elsewhere without attribution (and why they sometimes don’t care), the legal protections they can use (and how they sometimes fail), and how sites like Pinterest avoid the problem. There’s also an explanation of why FunnyJunk attorney Charles Carreon is suing Inman et al. on his own behalf, rather than FunnyJunk’s: “Carreon has now effectively abandoned the threat of a FunnyJunk lawsuit, stating that he was misinformed by his client. His letter claimed that all the comics had been removed from FunnyJunk, but Inman pointed out dozens that were still there.” [The Guardian]
Bluewater Productions has teamed up with Soldier of Fortune Magazine for a new comic series called Soldier of Fortune Presents: Stealth. And the comics publisher sent out a testosterone-dripping press release today on this new partnership, the kind with quotes like this: “Finally a real adventure graphic novel for real men,” said Lt. Col. Robert K. Brown, USAR (Ret.), publisher of Soldier of Fortune Magazine.
And this one, from Marc Shapiro, the book’s writer and an Army veteran: “I’m writing Soldiers Of Fortune with the idea of creating the ultimate war comic. Lots of action, lots of humor, lots of character and more firepower than you can shake a bazooka at. Big guns. Big attitude. Guts and grit.”
Seriously, if the above quotes and image don’t make you want to eat some red meat, belch and fire off a few rounds, then check your manly man card at the door.
The action-adventure series by Shapiro and artist Steven Black centers around a fictional secret special ops team hired by the government to do the jobs that the military is incapable of doing for either practical or political reasons. Several of Soldier of Fortune’s advertisers will have product placement in the comic.
“If a character is using a grenade launcher, firearm or any piece of paramilitary hardware, it will be an accurate depiction of a current brand,” said Bluewater president Darren Davis. “This is the first time we have taken this approach. As long as it fits the narrative, readers will see a little bit of realism. There is so much excitement here on this project that our licensing agent is already looking to make this a TV series and toys based of the character designs that Ramon Salas did for this project!”
The first issue comes out in June.
Legal | The Second Circuit Court of Appeals backed the 2010 decision by a federal judge to dismiss a comic writer’s claims that Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Columbia Pictures and parent company Sony Picture stole his idea for a hairdresser-turned-hero and transformed it into the movie You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Robert Cabell filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit in February 2009 accusing the moviemakers of ripping off his comic The Hair-Raising Adventures of Jayms Blonde, about a Navy SEAL-turned-hairdresser who fights crime armed with a blow dryer. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Creators | The Hero Initiative reports that comics creator Josh Medors, who has a rare form of cancer, has been released from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection. [Hero Initiative]
Creators | Dave McKean discusses his most recent work, the erotic graphic novel Celluloid. [Suicide Girls]
Bluewater Comics announced yesterday that they are getting into the superhero game with a shared-universe featuring characters based on the Greek gods who apparently have been transported to modern times.
OK, it’s been done before, but just because Zane Gray wrote westerns doesn’t mean nobody else can write westerns. The problem, as I see it, is that superheroes that are not from Marvel and DC are a tough sell. Let’s take BOOM! Studios as a comparison, as both BOOM! and Bluewater are small indy publishers. BOOM! has well known writers and artists, and it promotes the hell out of its comics to retailers and the comics press. Its superhero comics sell between 10,000 copies (Mark Waid’s Irredeemable and Incorruptible) and 7,000 copies (the Stan Lee titles) a month—respectable for a small press, but hardly DC/Marvel numbers. Bluewater has unknown writers and artists, and while it promotes the hell out of its comics, a lot of the press they get is bad. So it looks like this line has a lot of obstacles to overcome. (Not that bad reviews don’t move comics—I’m sure there are people who bought the Justin Bieber bio-comic because it’s cheaper than LSD.)
The digital comics scene continues to be a bit of a mishmash.
Every week, I get an e-mail from comiXology listing all of its new issues for the week, but the order seems to be somewhere between alphabetical and random. Viz Media also does a nice job of letting me know what’s new on its app. Graphicly sends a chatty e-mail featuring a couple of titles, but the company doesn’t put them front and center in its app, so I have to go looking for them (and it’s not the most intuitive interface). And while I know the iVerse folks have been busy, they don’t update their blog or (as far as I can tell) send out e-mails. This is all my way of saying that while the following may seem heavy on comiXology content, that’s not because I’m biased — it’s because comiXology has more titles and is doing a better job of promoting them.
That said, I thought it would be helpful to sift through this week’s offerings and pull out some good weekend reading.
A couple of classic series are debuting on comiXology this week. Having attended both the Vertigo panel and the Bill Willingham spotlight panel at C2E2, I was interested in seeing more of Fables, so it’s a happy coincidence that Jack of Fables #1 is up there for free. It’s just as clever as the main series, and Tony Akins’ supple penciling is a treat for the eyes. (One of the things I enjoy about Fables is that there is plenty of eye candy for the ladies as well as the guys.) Sometimes the free samples are kind of mingy, but not here: This is the whole first issue of Jack of Fables, and if that whets your appetite, Issue 2 is up there for $1.99.
Also new this week, although, sadly, not free, is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin. The first six issues, comprising two complete story arcs, are up this week.
Bluewater sent out a press release last week to announce that Morningside Entertainment has optioned the film rights to Bluewater’s Sinbad: Rogue of Mars comic from 2007. There are several interesting things about that.
According to the press release, Morningside has optioned the comic in order to adapt it into a feature film for 2012. Not a reboot, the movie is intended to be an extension of the Sinbad films that started with 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and continued into the ‘70s with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.
The release went on to quote Executive Producer Barry Schneer as saying that Rogue of Mars would be the first film in a new trilogy. “I’m thrilled to continue the amazing legacy my uncle, Charles Schneer began with 7th Voyage and to bring to the screen the Sinbad movie that he and Ray Harryhausen never got to make.”
Since Bluewater published Sinbad: Rogue of Mars as part of its Ray Harryhausen Presents line of comics, I started wondering how this fit together and who owned the rights to what. I assumed that Morningside already owned at least a portion of the rights to the Sinbad films. Since Rogue of Mars was based on those movies, why would Morningside need to option the story from a comic book company that had bought the license from them in the first place? What exactly was Morningside optioning? And how does Ray Harryhausen himself fit into all of this?
Although it’s been a few decades since Adam West played the title role in the 1960s TV series Batman, the actor is now moving from being a comic character to a comic creator. MTV announced today that The Mis-Adventures Of Adam West will debut in Spring 2011 from Bluewater Comics as an ongoing series co-written by West, Walter Fernandez Jr. and Arastao Maree.
Per the post on MTV’s Splash Page blog, the comic will feature “a dimension-hopping adventure featuring encounters both fictional and within [West's] real-life history.”
“That’s what I wanted: something that was more Walter Mitty or ‘Pink Panther,’ with adventure the kids will love, and action,” he told reporter Rick Marshall. “For example, an adventure might be based on him meeting Batman and how he feels about it. . . He might even be meeting himself as Mayor West on ‘Family Guy,’ and laughing at it or along with it. There are so many ways to go, as you know — especially with the audience today. I have this incredibly wonderful fanbase out there, and I know they’ll love this.”
It will be interesting to see how they pull off a meeting with Batman that doesn’t have the lawyers at Warner Bros. calling a foul. The book will feature interior art by Lipe, who drew another famous 1960s TV star in William Shatner Presents: TekWar, with covers by Matt Bellisle.
Bluewater Productions publishes comic book biographies of popular figures, from Hilary Clinton to Stephenie Meyer, and many of them (such as the Meyer comic) are unauthorized. Now Rich Johnston reports that attorney Kenneth Feinswog has sent the company cease-and-desist notices on behalf of clients who apparently don’t appreciate getting the Bluewater treatment: Lady Gaga, the subject of a recently published comic, and Justin Bieber, whose bio-comic is due in October. Both comics are unauthorized biographies.
Feinswog’s claim seems to be that the comics are trademark infringements and violate the performers’ intellectual property and likeness rights.
Bluewater Publisher Darren G. Davis wouldn’t talk to Johnston, but he did confirm that he had received the cease-and-desist orders and offered a response to MTV’s Splash Page. His defense is that the works are bona fide biographies and are therefore protected under the First Amendment:
“These are not-poster books and as it was explained to the licensing lawyer, Kenneth Feinswog, it tells the story of [Bieber's] life in 22 pages,” he continued. “We offered to send him a copy of the book before it went to print. We have been offered deals with poster books, sticker books and we had to turn them down because we know we do not have the rights to that. But doing an unauthorized biography we are in full within our rights.”
Davis also offered the theory that the reason for the action is that Bluewater’s comic is competition for Bieber’s memoir Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever, which is due out this fall, as are several other books about the 16-year-old singer.
There is some precedent for this, but not in Feinswog’s favor. In the late 1990s, Revolutionary Comics produced Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics, unauthorized biographies of rock musicians. Feinswog sued on behalf of New Kids on the Block and Motley Crue, claiming trademark infringement, but the court ruled in favor of the comics. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Bluewater recently acquired the rights to the Revolutionary line.