Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Passings | Artist and writer Alan Kupperberg has died of thymus cancer at the age of 62. Kupperberg got his start writing dummy letters for Marvel in the late 1960s, then moved to the production department at DC and in 1974 was hired by the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard comics, where he played a variety of roles, including letterer, colorist, and editor. That company folded after a year, and he went to Marvel, where he worked on a number of different titles, including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Savage Sword of Conan, and Amazing Spider-Man. He created the one-shot comic Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men working entirely solo, and he drew the weekly Howard the Duck newspaper comic as well as the comic-strip version of The Incredible Hulk and Little Orphan Annie. His magazine work included National Lampoon, Cracked, and Spy. Kupperberg also taught at the School for Visual Arts, and he was the brother of writer Paul Kupperberg. [ICv2]
Manga | Hiromi Bando has translated Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen into Chinese and is looking for a publisher, but she has been told the Chinese government will not approve its publication. Bando, who is Japanese, was inspired to translate the manga, an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath, after hearing of her father’s experiences fighting in China during World War II. The manga is taught in the original Japanese in a few universities in China. [Asahi Shimbun]
Legal | Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem is seeking asylum in France as the prosecution and plaintiff appeal his acquittal on charges that he insulted Algeria’s president in an unpublished cartoon drawn for the newspaper Voix d’Oranie. The newspaper brought the criminal charges against Ghanem; in possibly related news, Ghanem is suing his employer for seven years’ unpaid wages. Ghanem now claims Algeria wants to make an example of him. [Radio France International, Ennahar Online]
Conventions | Mark Rahner, who has been going to Emerald City Comicon since the first one in 2003, initially as a reporter and then as a creator, talks about why the event has grown so big (75,000 attendees are expected this weekend) and why it’s still awesome anyway. [Seattle Weekly]
Retailing | Publishers Weekly’s annual comics retailer survey yields some interesting commentary, although the sample size is small (just 10 stores): Sales are up, retailers are optimistic, and Saga is the hot book right now. Also, booksellers who underestimated the demand for Chris Ware’s Building Stories lost out to direct-market retailers who didn’t, making for some nice extra sales during the holiday season. And while readers seem to be getting tired of the Big Two and their event comics, they are more enthusiastic than ever before about creator-owned comics, and Image is doing quite well. [Publishers Weekly]
Awards | Ladies Making Comics presents the complete list of women Eisner nominees for this year, noting that women have been nominated in almost every category. [Ladies Making Comics]
Retailing | As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, Jacob Weisberg looks at how Amazon and Congress have managed to delay online sales taxes for more than a decade, giving online retailers a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon, which has long fought any attempts to collect sales tax through lobbying, campaign contributions and threats to move to warehouse jobs, now supports the legislation, with Weisberg contending the retail giant “has played out the clock longer than it dared hope and would now like to be able to build warehouses everywhere without doing state-by-state battle over its ‘physical presence.'” The bill seems likely to pass the Senate, but its fate in the House is far less certain. [Slate.com]
Publishing | DC Comics has put together a guide to its graphic novel backlist, which will be available both in print and digitally. [Publishers Weekly]
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]
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]
Conventions | Three-day tickets went on sale this week for New York Comic Con. Confirmed guests so far include Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola and Josh Gates. [Collider.com]
Publishing | The revelation that DC’s newly reintroduced Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay has moved Christian comic publisher Art Ayris, who is also the executive pastor of a Baptist church, to announce that his company Kingstone Media won’t be including gay characters in its lineup: “If Kingstone is the only comic book company in America doing it, we will stand for the things God says are godly and stand against things that clearly fall under the category of sin.” [Baptist Press]
Retailing | The Avengers movie seems to be bringing new customers into comics stores looking for Marvel titles, at least in Maryland. Pullbox requests for Marvel comics are also up, suggesting some of the uptick is from existing customers. [The Star Democrat]
Legal | The trial resumed today, if only briefly, in Tunis for the president of a Tunisian television network accused of “insulting sacred values” when he aired the adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Tensions were so high in the courtroom that proceedings were postponed until April. The Oct. 7 broadcast resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui, who apologized in October, is charged with “insulting sacred values, offending decent morals and causing public unrest” because of the outrage triggered by a scene in Persepolis showing God, which is prohibited by Islam. [AFP]
Organizations | Stumptown Comics, the organization that puts on the Stumptown Comics Fest every year in Portland, Oregon, has added three new members to its board: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein, Boilerplate co-author Anina Bennett and editor Shawna Gore. [Stumptown Comics]
Bluewater Comics has gone where others fear to tread: The publisher released its Gabrielle Giffords and Mitt Romney bio-comics last week via Nook and Kindle, while the print versions won’t be out until Jan. 29. And both the Kindle and the Nook versions are priced at $1.99, two bucks cheaper than paper. (Links are to the Giffords comics because I saw that one first.)
Will retailers grab their torches and pitchforks to protest this move, as they did when they thought Dark Horse was pricing same-day digital releases below print? Probably not, for a couple of reasons: Bluewater isn’t as big a player in the direct market — it isn’t in Diamond’s Top 10 publishers, and much of its line is aimed at children, who are not the core customers of the direct market.
Beyond that, though, dedicated apps like comiXology and Graphicly seem more like competition for comics stores than e-readers. I think that the latter has broader appeal: While some Kindle comics, like DC’s exclusives, can be read only on the Kindle Fire device, the Bluewater comics can be read on any device with the Kindle or Nook app. This makes the comic more accessible than most, and it’s easy for non-comics readers to stumble upon the comics while looking for books on Romney or Giffords. On the other hand, the comiXology/Comics +/Graphicly ecosystems are set up specifically for comics readers looking for something new — readers who are using digital to supplement or supplant their Wednesday purchases. In other words, with the Kindle and Nook, the subject matter comes first; with comiXology and other apps, the medium — comics — comes first.
This is not black and white, of course. Digital Manga has successfully marketed yaoi manga via the Kindle and the Nook, and DC’s Kindle Fire exclusives were big news. The comiXology app even comes pre-loaded on the Kindle Fire. Still, most of the conversation about digital comics still seems to revolve around comics apps rather than e-readers. Interestingly, I’m not seeing the Bluewater comics on comiXology, so maybe this is a strategy to attract a different audience without cannibalizing direct market sales. (Or maybe comiXology just hasn’t processed the files yet — who knows.)
There’s a brave new world of digital comics out there, but some publishers, it appears, aren’t taking it very seriously.
One of the advantages of ebook formats like Kindle and iBooks is that you can offer the reader a free sample of the book so they can see if they will like it. The problem is that these “free samples” often consist entirely of what editors call “front matter”—title page, half-title, copyright page, and blank pages in between them. No comics.
This probably comes from automatically grabbing the first few pages of the file for the preview without checking what they are. At the downthetubes Mobile Comics blog, John Maybury offers some suggestions for publishers to get their comic into the preview and their front matter out of the way. More publishers should heed his advice, because these content-free previews are distressingly common. When I was writing about IDW’s graphic novels on iBooks the other day, I got curious and checked out some of the other offerings; of the ones I looked at, only the IDW books and Bluewater’s Violet Rose had actual previews. That’s a shame, because the preview can be a powerful selling tool—but only if it has actual content. Setting up a preview and putting nothing but almost-blank pages into it wastes everyone’s time, especially the reader’s.
Click for an example of a preview done right.