SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Comic strips | Prompted by the insult-filled message left by an 8-year-old for the newspaper editor who dropped his favorite comics, Michael Cavna asks Big Nate creator Lincoln Peirce whether kids are still even reading comic strips in high numbers. His answer, at least in part: “I’m a firm believer that kids will ALWAYS want their comics…but they’ll want them in whatever formats are the newest and shiniest. So: Yes, kids are still reading plenty of comics. They’re just not reading them in their daily newspapers.” It kicks off an interesting, if brief, discussion with a cartoonist who’s found a great deal of success reaching young readers. Related: Christopher Caldwell looks back on Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. [The Washington Post]
Publishing | Admitting that “I don’t think men are as sexualized as women” in Marvel comics, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says the publisher is moving toward including more types of female characters: “We believe there’s an audience of women out there who are hungry for this and we want to make sure they get it. This is affirmative action. This is capitalism.” Later he states, “I challenge you to find in Ms. Marvel anything that resembles the Playboy model standard. But I don’t want to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes. We’re creating stories. I don’t want to say there’s no room for stuff that’s not just fun. Then you’re censoring yourself. I want to make sure I have books like Ms. Marvel and Black Widow that I’m proud about and could give to my daughter. But at the same time I don’t want to be the PC police and say you can’t be naughty; you can’t be fun.” [The Telegraph]
Thousands of people flying this week to Comic-Con International will be greeted at San Diego International Airport by a large ad targeting SeaWorld.
The $24,000 display, produced by PETA and comics publisher Bluewater Productions, features a cartoon of an orca with the marine parks’ CEO gripped between its teeth, accompanied by the text, “He Will Let You Go If You Let Him Go.” It was installed today in Terminal 2.
“With 130,000 people coming into San Diego for Comic-Con, we couldn’t miss this opportunity to bring this image to people,” PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews told San Diego’s ABC 10 News.
Conventions | Phoenix Comicon, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people, has placed a limit on attendance for the June 5-8 show, raising the possibility that the convention could sell out for the first time. However, convention director Matt Solberg said organizers have been working with the fire marshal to increase capacity at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s guests include Andy Kubert, Andy Runton, Camilla d’Errico, Chris Claremont, Christopher Golden, Dennis Calero, Don Rosa, Francis Manapul, John Layman, Katie Cook, Kevin Maguire, Marc Andreyko and Mark Bagley. [Facebook, via Modern Times]
Manga | Lillian Diaz Przybyl, who was the senior editor at Tokyopop until shortly before its demise, talks about her early days in fandom, her experiences at the company when it was a market leader, and the issue of piracy and creators’ rights. She also sheds some light on why the manga publishers were so slow to go to digital: The Japanese licensors were reluctant to put content from different publishers together and worried that their books would be re-imported back to Japan. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]
Manga | The 13th volume of Hajime Isayama’s hit dystopian fantasy Attack on Titan sold 1.4 million copies in Japan during its first week of release: 1.13 million copies of the regular edition, and 270,000 of a special edition that includes the original video animation. Kodansha ordered a 2.75 million-copy initial print run, a record not only for the series but for the publisher as well. The 66th volume of One Piece holds the record in Japan for highest sales in the first week with nearly 2.3 million copies. [Crunchyroll]
Publishing | Darren Davis of Bluewater Productions, talks about the evolution of his company and the origin story of its Female Force bio-comics line: “[W]e saw a comic book done of Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 elections, and my partner joked and said, ‘Why don’t we do Hillary?’ And I thought, oh my God, that’s a brilliant idea.So I thought, let’s do this, but let’s do it differently. Let’s not do it like everyone else, with a boring biography. We did it with a female empowerment angle. We released Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin at the same time, and whether you like Sarah Palin or hate Hillary Clinton, you have to respect both of them for where they came from and who they are.” [The Beaverton Leader]
Conventions | Organizers anticipate as many as 70,000 people will attend MegaCon, held Friday through Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, up from about 60,000 last year; that could translate to $23 million impact on the local economy, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Guests include Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Chuck Dixon, Adam Kubert, Greg Land, Stan Lee, Jimmy Palmiotti, George Perez, Herb Trimpe, Mark Waid and Skottie Young. However, the names drawing the most attention may be The Walking Dead stars David Morrissey, Danai Gurira and Steve Yeun. “We are the first convention in the U.S. to have both David Morrissey and Danai Gurira at the same time,” Jason Smith, MegaCon’s director of operations, told Florida Today. “The show is definitely a fan favorite of our attendees.” [MegaCon]
Creators | Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was traveling the day a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma, and he saw the damage on a news broadcast while waiting for a flight. The images stuck with him, so he rounded up fellow creators Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine, Timmy Failure) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants), all of whom he describes as “novelists whose DNA is in comics,” to hold a benefit to rebuild the town’s school libraries. The quartet will meet in Norman, Oklahoma, for a panel discussion and will raffle off original art and sell autographed copies of their books this weekend, with all proceeds going to the Moore Public Schools Foundation, earmarked for the school libraries. [Oklahoma Gazette]
Creators | Joe Sacco, author of Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza and, most recently, The Great War, talks about his work day, his process and the places he’s been. [The Telegraph]
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]