Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The first two Walking Dead Compendium volumes have sold a combined 100,000 copies this year in bookstores, towering above the other titles on Nielsen BookScan’s list of the Top 10 bestselling adult graphic novels for the first half of 2013. With a suggested price of $59.99, Image Comics’ 1,088-page Compendium One is “by far” the most expensive book on BookScan’s Top 200 chart for adult fiction.
Graphic novel sales have increased 10 percent year over year, which the company seems to attribute in no small part to the performance of the collections of the long-running comic by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, and the popularity of the AMC television series.
Volumes of The Walking Dead accounted for four of the top five spots on the BookScan chart, a streak only interrupted by Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, Vol. 60, at No. 4. In fact, six of the Top 10 graphic novels were held by Image books, with another volume of The Walking Dead claiming the No. 7 spot, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga, Vol. 1, slipping into the final slot with 15,000 copies; the remaining books are manga.
According to BookScan, The Walking Dead books have sold more than 1 million unites in the past 18 months, with Compendium One seeing “a 47 percent week-to-week sales lift” that coincided with the Season 3 finale of the AMC series in March.
“I think the digital distribution revolution is maybe the best thing that’s ever happened to mainstream comics. I really miss the days when you could find a comics spinner rack in every drug store, but now anyone who owns a mobile device can have their own personal spinner rack, and it’s always stocked with every issue imaginable. I don’t know if creators at other companies are privy to exactly how many digital copies their books are selling these days, but the statements Fiona and I get from Image are pretty staggering. I realize that’s not true for every book, but the day when many titles start selling more digital copies than print copies is not years away, it’s months away.”
– Brian K. Vaughan, discussing digital comics in a new interview with Comic Book Resources about Saga and The Private Eye
More than seven weeks after the second issue debuted, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin continue their name-your-own-price digital comic with the release of The Private Eye #3.
A detective story that centers on timely issues of privacy and surveillance, The Private Eye is set in a not-too-distant future, where everybody in the United States has a secret identity: “Our protagonist is a member of the paparazzi, outlaw private investigators who dig up the kind of personal dirt no longer readily available through search engines. It’s a mystery with lots of masks, but no superpowers.”
The arrival today of the second collection of Saga, the hit space opera by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will be met with glee not only by readers following the Image Comics series in trade paperback but also by a good number of retailers — and Brian Hibbs in particular.
The owner of Comix Experience in San Francisco (and Comic Book Resources columnist) commented last week on our post about the first volume’s strong performance in the direct market eight months after its debut, saying, that “Saga is, by far, our best-selling title.” Hibbs expanded upon that last night on his own blog, revealing that Saga, Vol. 1, “is now my second-best selling title in the store’s history of point-of-sale. Nearly seven years.”
“It just passed into that spot a few days ago, where it passed the previous #2, The Walking Dead v1,” he continued. “Understand, that is for sales of TWD v1 OVER THE LAST SEVEN YEARS. Uh, yeah. What’s the most remarkable about Saga is that it steadily sells even at this point. When it crossed into #2 position, it was something like 243 copies sold in 248 days — even at this point, months and months after it first came out, we’re still selling 5+ copies a week.”
Creators | Stan Lee, characterized by CNN as “the Godfather of comic book heroes,” is modest about his own achievements in a new interview: “If my publisher hadn’t said ‘let’s do superhero stories’ I’d probably still be doing A Kid Called Outlaw, The Two Gun Kid or Millie the Model or whatever I was doing at the time.” He reflects on the increased female audience for comics and discusses some new projects, including a new superhero, The Annihilator, created specifically for a Chinese audience. [CNN]
Comics| Chris Huntington reflects on the importance of Miles Morales for children of color, like his son: “… To see Spider-Man pulling his mask over a tiny brown chin – to see a boy with short curly hair sticking to the ceiling of his bedroom— well, something happened. Dagim has been Spider-Man for two Halloweens in a row. He takes a bath with his Spider-Man and a toy killer whale. He has Spider-Man toothpaste and a Spider-Man toothbrush. If Spider-Man offered medical coverage, I think he would want that, too. My son somehow understands that there is a Peter Parker Spider-Man, who is vaguely grown-up and my age, and a younger Spider-Man, closer to his age. That’s just how Dagim likes it. He even understands that Peter Parker — like Superman, like Batman – wasn’t raised by his birth parents. The best superheroes were all adopted like him.” [The New York Times]
While some delight has already been taken in the debut of X-Men atop Diamond Comic Distributors’ May sales chart — the title’s all-female cast remains a magnet for rancor from some shadowy corners — the bigger story may be the long-term performance of the first Saga trade paperback.
ICv2 notes that the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera sold an estimated 7,552 copies in May, securing the No. 2 spot on the graphic novel chart, behind BOOM! Studios’ Adventure Time: Playing With Fire. That in itself is pretty impressive, but that Saga collection was released eight months ago.
The Image Comics book has charted in the Top 10 in all but one of those months (it slipped to No. 13 in November); however, May’s 7,552 copies represents a 65-percent increase from April, and the most in any month since January, when it sold 8,456 copies. In total, Saga, Vol. 1, has sold an estimated 53,000 copies in North American comic shops.
And that’s only in the direct market: As ICv2 points out, Saga is creeping back up the BookScan chart for graphic novels sold in bookstores.
Saga‘s status as a hit and a long-term seller comes as no surprise, but that direct-market surge (65 percent!) and book-market uptick this far from the book’s debut are certainly eye-openers. Is the boost a result of good word of mouth, the impending release of the second collection, or the widespread attention given to the merry mix-up in April, when it was erroneously announced that Issue 12 had been banned from the Apple App Store?
I’d place money on the latter (although word of mouth undoubtedly plays a significant role in the book’s overall performance). Of course, we should never discount the contributions of Lying Cat …
Retailing | Naruto topped the May BookScan chart of graphic novels sold in bookstores, followed by two volumes of The Walking Dead, the latest volume of Sailor Moon, and Yen Press’ latest Twilight adaptation New Moon. Just three volumes total of The Walking Dead made the Top 20 (down from eight last month), and as usual, DC and Marvel got clobbered: DC had three titles on the list (two volumes of Court of Owls and Watchmen) while Marvel had one (Hawkeye), and none was above No. 15. Or to put it another way: Vol. 14 of Dance in the Vampire Bund, a high-numbered volume in a fairly niche manga series, placed higher than every Big Two book on BookScan last month. [ICv2]
Creators | With the second issue of their digital-only comic The Private Eye recently released, writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin talk about their story, why they decided to do it digitally, and what the response has been so far. [The Verge]
In the recent New York Times profile of former Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger, Dave Itzkoff writes that DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio “said it would be ‘myopic’ to believe ‘that servicing a very small slice of our audience is the way to go ahead.'” It’s a weird way to structure the quote, but assuming Itzkoff is accurately capturing what DiDio meant, that’s a controversial stance for DC to take.
But he kind of has a point. Heidi MacDonald rightly notes that Vertigo books make up roughly one-third of DC’s list of essential graphic novels, but if we’re just going by sales, Vertigo’s slice of DC’s pie does look pretty small. According to Diamond Comic Distributors, just 6 percent of DC’s graphic novels in April’s Top 100 were Vertigo titles. The percentage was a lot higher in March (15 percent), but only 7 percent in February. The number of Vertigo titles in the Top 100 has been pretty consistent in the past three months: two or three. What made the difference in March was that DC had less Top 100 titles overall. Of course, that only covers a short amount of time and only includes direct market sales, but if we look at a list of what DC considered its top-selling graphic novels as of last autumn, only about 13 percent of those are from Vertigo. None of that is super-scientific, but it paints a pretty good picture of how much Vertigo contributes to DC in terms of sales.
For those who might’ve missed this 2006-2007 miniseries, Doctor Strange: The Oath is a five-issue story written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin — that pedigree alone should ensure it has a place in your long box or the handy trade paperback sits on your shelf. Vaughan’s clear, lyrical writing style is in full force, and Martin’s art is as fluid and dynamic as it’s been for Mark Waid’s Daredevil. The story delves into the occult to save Wong, who’s been stricken with a fatal disease. Not only does it have magic and mysticism, it also reminds you of Strange’s classical origin as an arrogant surgeon who had to learn humility in an area both street-level and far-flung dimensions. It also brought Night Nurse in as a strong supporting character to the good Doctor’s retinue and, as the back cover tells me, firmly establishes Doctor Strange in the Marvel Universe.
A nice idea, but it really did nothing of the sort.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and whatever else we’ve been checking out lately. Today our guest is Shaun Manning, a former staffer at CBR, occasional convention reporter and comics writer. His current project is a comic called Hell, Nebraska (with artist Anna Wieszczyk), and he’s currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds to publish it. So go check it out.
To see what Shaun and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Superheroes | Writer Jim Zubkavich tackles the burning question of why there are so few Canadian superheroes: “We don’t have a long standing superhero tradition in this country. We don’t have a long-standing focal point character people recognize (I like Captain Canuck, but the average person on the street does not know who he is). We’re not a country galvanized by heavy-duty patriotic pride that lends itself to a Superman, Captain America or even a Batman. We don’t have the kind of rampant crime that ‘needs’ a heroic symbol to fight back against.” [Zub Tales]
Digital comics | The first issue of Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 100,000 copies in stores, but was that because he refused to allow it to be sold in digital format the same day? Steve Bennett is doubtful, because so many people (including himself) didn’t realize until the last minute it would be print-only for now. [ICv2]
About a month and a half after the debut of The Private Eye, the name-your-own-price digital comic from Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin, the duo is back with the second issue of the futuristic detective story.
In case you’re a little late to the game, The Private Eye is set in 2076, “when everyone in the United States has a secret identity. Our protagonist is a member of the paparazzi, outlaw private investigators who dig up the kind of personal dirt no longer readily available through search engines. It’s a mystery with lots of masks, but no superpowers.”
The 32-page second issue is now available on the Panel Syndicate website. As “name-your-own-price” suggests, you can pay whatever you choose, although the Vaughan and Marcos think 99 cents is fair (the writer says $3 seemed to be the most common payment for the first issue).
I was only sort of watching Supernatural last night, which explains how I missed that geek-favorite actress Felicia Day wore a T-shirt featuring one of the best new character in recent comics history: Lying Cat from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Image Comics series Saga. Luckily a tipster at The Mary Sue was far more observant.
According to Day, the shirt was the idea of writer Robbie Thompson, and a particularly inspired one at that, considering her character Charlie Bradbury starts off her reunion with the Winchester brothers with a lie. (In case you’re unfamiliar with Saga, Lying Cat is the enormous feline companion of the bounty hunter The Will who can detect whether anyone around her is being untruthful.)
Now the question is, where can fans get their hands on one of those shirts? Maybe at that weekday comic-book convention in Topeka, Kansas, that Charlie mentioned. Wait, no, that was a lie.
This week’s new comic book releases included such noteworthy publications as the final issue of Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s drama based on UFO folklore, Saucer Country, the latest installment of Marvel’s line-wide crossover-event series Age of Ultron, the one-issue return of some of Marvel’s fan-favorite Runaways characters in the tie-in Ultron #1, the latest issue of the best superhero comic book on the stands, Hawkeye, and the final issue of the Mark Millar-written comic-as-movie pitch series Secret Service, maybe better known as “What Dave Gibbons has Been Up to While DC Published Before Watchmen.” And those were just the serially published comic book-comics.
The comic I heard the most about this week by far, however, was Saga #12, the latest chapter in Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ deservedly popular space fantas. And the reasons this particular issue was so talked about? Early in the week it seemed as Apple had rejected it for distribution for a couple of images of gay sex (although Wednesday afternoon, comiXology CEO David Steinberger said the move was actually due to his company’s mistaken interpretation of Apple policy).
I’m a somewhat-casual consumer of comics news these days, and yet I encountered iterations of this story over and over this week. And in the time between the story’s initial reporting and Steinberger’s clarification, I’ve seen stories on numerous comics news sites and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s blog. A Google News search for “Saga #12″ and “Apple” brings up 9,370 results, the top two being for The Washington Post and NPR, so obviously the mainstream media bit on the story as well.
Having actually read the comic book, though, the content that earned the mistaken, temporary pre-banning was so small and inconsequential, I probably would have missed it. (Note: Some images below may be not safe for work.)
“Fiona and I could always edit the images in question, but everything we put into the book is there to advance our story, not (just) to shock or titillate, so we’re not changing shit.”
— writer Brian K. Vaughan, responding to Apple’s rejection of this week’s Saga #12 because of two panels depicting pretty explicit, if relatively small, images of gay sex (they’re on Prince Robot IV’s head-monitor). There’s already debate online whether gay sex is Apple’s issue, or whether it’s explicit sex in general, but it’s worth noting that the company apparently had no problems with the comic’s previous obvious depictions of cunnilingus, and penetration (of the heterosexual variety, complete with erect penis), not to mention the assorted sex shots that left a little something to the imagination.
We’ll not talk about that giant’s pendulous scrotum, which has to be the most “explicit” thing to appear in Saga. Certainly the most disturbing.