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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

C2E2

C2E2

Conventions | The inaugural Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo drew an estimated 27,500 unique attendees, slightly less than the 30,000 expected. “We felt it was an excellent launch,” Lance Fensterman, Reed Exhibitions vice president, told ICv2.com. “For the last year this show has been a theory. For the last three days people have been able to walk around and experience what the event, the concept, and the community are about, and now we can grow from here.” Christopher Borelli, Brent DiCrescenzo and Heidi MacDonald file wrap-ups from the show. [C2E2]

Publishing | According to ICv2′s annual white paper, presented during the Diamond Retailer Summit at C2E2, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada fell 5 percent last year as the total market declined from an estimated $715 million in 2008 to $680 million in 2009. In the book channel, manga sales dropped by more than 20 percent, while sales of kids and young-adult graphic novels jumped by more than 50 percent. [ICv2.com]

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Marvel splits with Diamond Book Distributors, signs with Hachette

Marvel

Marvel

Beginning in September, Marvel’s titles will be distributed in the book market by Hachette Book Group. Diamond Comic Distributors will continue to carry Marvel products to the direct market.

The announcement, made this morning in a press release from Hachette, ends months of speculation as to whether Marvel, now owned by Disney, would end its five-year-old agreement with Diamond Book Distributors. As Heidi MacDonald notes, many expected Marvel to sign with HarperCollins, which distributes Disney’s book divisions.

MacDonald speaks to DBD’s Kuo-yu Liang, who assures her the distributor will survive the loss of Marvel.

Read the Hachette press release after the break.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

From Wikipedia's lolicon entry

From Wikipedia's lolicon entry

Legal | In what some have already dubbed “the next Christopher Handley case,” Wikipedia co-founder Lawrence Sanger has reported Wikimedia Commons to the FBI for “knowingly distributing child pornography” in violation of Section 1466A of the U.S. PROTECT Act. Sanger, who left Wikipedia in 2002 and four years later launched the rival Citizendium, specifically points to entries on pedophilia and lolicon.

Manga collector Christopher Handley was sentenced in February under the same federal statute for possessing “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children and mailing obscene material.” [The Register, Icarus Publishing, Geekosystem]

Business | This profile of Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger suggests there’s already friction between Marvel’s Isaac Perlmutter and Disney’s consumer productions division: “Hollywood, familiar with Mr. Perlmutter’s penchant for ruling his roost, has started to whisper: Will he turn into Mr. Iger’s version of Harvey Weinstein, the hard-charging Miramax co-founder who caused Mr. Eisner so many headaches after Disney acquired the little studio?” [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

WonderCon

WonderCon

Conventions | Although WonderCon organizers are still tabulating attendance from last weekend’s convention, they say that “by all accounts the numbers for 2010 met or exceeded those for 2009.” Last year’s event drew about 34,000, a significant increase from the 20,000 that attended in 2008. They also set the dates for the 2011 convention: April 1-3, which undoubtedly means we’ll have to endure numerous April Fool’s announcements of titles and creative teams. [press release]

Awards | Deb Aoki, Lauren Davis, Tom Spurgeon and David Welsh provide commentary on the 2010 Eisner Award nominees. In case you missed it, I also offered my reactions. [Eisner Awards]

Creators | In an oddly worded post, Clifford Meth reports that 83-year-old comic artist Gene Colan was injured last week, and his being cared for by his children: “In addition, it appears that some of Gene’s artwork has disappeared, including pages from Nathanial Dusk and a Star Wars-related piece. The police are involved in the matter.” [Clifford Meth]

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Foreclosure auctions of the rich and famous (comics edition) [Updated]

Steve Geppi's Cliffholme (Baltimore Sun)

Steve Geppi's Cliffholme (Baltimore Sun)

As many of us grapple with the recession, layoffs and a looming tax deadline, it may be difficult to muster much sympathy for the problems of millionaires, but we can try.

A historic 19th-century mansion owned by Diamond Comic Distributors CEO Steve Geppi will be sold today for $7.7 million at a foreclosure auction at the Baltimore County (Maryland) Courthouse. Cliffeholme — yes, it has a name! — has an outstanding mortgage debt of $3.25 million.

Geppi and wife Melinda paid $4.8 million in 2004 for the eight-bedroom, 13,000-square-foot mansion and nine-acre estate. The home features nine fireplaces, a 65-foot grand hall and a master bedroom suite with a gym. The couple moved to another home in the area before putting Cliffeholme on the market in January 2008.

As the Baltimore Sun notes, it’s not been a good year or so for Geppi: He’s been sued over investment properties and printing debts; his Gemstone Publishing closed its offices in White Plains, Missouri, laid off five employees, and failed to renew the Disney comics license; and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum has struggled to pay its bills. Diamond, meanwhile, has experienced its share of difficulties.

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Amazon fallout: Talking to publishers about being unavailable from the site

amazon-logoAs reported earlier this week, Amazon.com removed the “buy” button from all of the graphic novels it lists that are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors, including books from Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, IDW, SLG Publishing, AdHouse Books, Avatar and many other publishers, most likely as a result of last weekend’s price glitch. As of this morning, a few titles seem to be listed again — like Zombies Calling from SLG, for instance — but the majority are still only available from resellers.

Yesterday I reached out to a few publishers to see how this was affecting them and to see if they’d heard an update on when the issue would be resolved. I heard back from two of them, and below are their responses. I’ll follow up with any additional ones that may come in later, or with any response from Diamond, who I also emailed yesterday.

Dan Vado, Publisher, SLG Publishing

JK: If I’m not mistaken, you’re in a different boat than a lot of the other impacted publishers, as you sell your books directly to Amazon vs. going through Diamond. So how did you guys end up being caught up in all this?

Dan: Diamond uploads data to Amazon for everything it carries, our stuff included. Even though we are Amazon’s primary source for our books, they might still buy occasional books from Diamond. We also cannot list our books on Amazon way in advance while Diamond can.

JK: How much of an impact does this have on your business?

Dan: In the first quarter of 2010 Amazon has far and away outstripped Diamond on sales of our backlist titles (backlist, Diamond obviously sells more of our new releases). Right now I have negative sales to Diamond due to bookstore returns, but Amazon sales are consistent and non-returnable. Not being able to sell to through Amazon is a real killer as that channel is slowly becoming not only as important to us as the other sources, but in some ways more important.

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Spider-Man musical loses its Mary Jane

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Just when it looked as if the long-troubled Spider-Man musical finally had gotten back on track, it’s been dealt another blow: Evan Rachel Wood, who had been cast as Mary Jane Watson, has dropped out of the $52-million production.

Variety reported on the departure of the True Blood actress Tuesday afternoon. Producers for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark issued a statement citing “a scheduling conflict,” and said that casting has begun for a new Mary Jane.

The ambitious musical, possibly the most expensive in Broadway history, originally was set to open this month at the Hilton Theatre in New York City. However, “cash-flow obstacles” pushed that date to sometime this fall.

Directed by The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor and scored by Bono and the Edge, Spider-Man stars relative newcomer Reeve Carney as Peter Parker and Alan Cumming as Green Goblin.

Production was stopped in August while producers sought more money for a budget that ballooned from $35 million. In November, Bono’s longtime business partner Michael Cohl was brought onboard to put the show back on track. According to a January report, Disney stepped in to provide “a chunk” of the financing for the musical, whose producers include Marvel and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Spider-Man will cost about $1 million a week to produce — hundreds of thousands of dollars more than elaborate shows like Mary Poppins and West Side Story — and require the 1,700-seat Hilton to sell out for every show for four years just to break even.

Robert Iger’s multibillion-dollar effort to reinvent Disney

Disney-Marvel

Disney-Marvel

This BusinessWeek profile offers an interesting overview of the Walt Disney Co. under CEO Robert Iger, who’s investing billions in an effort to transform the media giant and increase its appeal among boys.

Iger, who in 2005 succeeded Michael Eisner, is — in the words of the article — on a “spending spree” marked by the purchases of Pixar in 2006 ($7.4 billion) and Marvel in 2009 ($4.3 billion) and a planned overhaul of Disney’s 350 retail outlets.

The piece includes quotes from Dan Vado, whose SLG Publishing released comics based on the Haunted Mansion theme-park ride, as well as criticism of the Marvel acquisition because licensing deals prevent Disney from exploiting some of the bigger superhero properties until at least 2013.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1

Comics | A “very fine”-rated copy of Action Comics #1 sold at auction Monday for $1 million, breaking the previous record price for a comic book. The names of the buyer and seller weren’t released.

The previous record for the most expensive comic was held by another copy of Action #1, which sold last year for $317,000. About 100 copies of the issue are known to exist, and only two are graded “very fine” or higher. John Jackson Miller provides analysis. [Times Online, Hero Complex]

Business | Sean Kleefeld gets details from Wowio CEO Brian Altounian about his efforts to secure financing for the e-book publisher. Altounian, who purchased the struggling company in July from Platinum Studios, will retain a majority interest. [Kleefeld on Comics]

Awards | The manga nominees have been announced for Japan Expo, the Japanese pop-culture convention held each year in Paris. The winners will be announced at the event in July. [The Comics Reporter]

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Back on track, Spider-Man musical set to open this fall

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Although the Spider-Man film franchise has hit a snag, it looks like the wall-crawler’s $52-million musical may at last be back on track — if still behind schedule.

The New York Post reports that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the most expensive show in Broadway history, is set to open this fall, months past its original date of March.

The ambitious musical, directed by The Lion King‘s Julie Taymor and scored by Bono and the Edge, was derailed in August by “cash-flow obstacles” that led producers to halt production while they sought more money for a budget that had ballooned from $35 million. In November, Bono’s longtime business partner Michael Cohl was brought onboard to put the show back on track.

According to the Post’s Michael Riedel, Disney is providing “a chunk” of the financing.

Spider-Man will cost about $1 million a week to produce — hundreds of thousands of dollars more than elaborate shows like Mary Poppins and West Side Story — and require the 1,700-seat Hilton Theatre to sell out for every show for four years just to break even.

Relative newcomer Reeve Carney has been cast in the lead, while Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming will play Mary Jane and Green Goblin.

Marvel stock removed from New York Stock Exchange today

Marvel Enterprises stock certificate (Is it a collector's item?)

Marvel Enterprises stock certificate (Is it a collector's item?)

Today, less than two weeks after shareholders approved the company’s $4.3-billion acquisition by Disney, Marvel’s stock was removed from the New York Stock Exchange. Yes, the “MVL” ticker symbol is no more.

Marvel made its initial stock offering under billionaire investor Ronald Perelman in 1991, just five years before the company went bankrupt.

In the Disney acquisition, Marvel shareholders received $30 in cash and approximately 0.745 in Disney stock for every Marvel share they own.

Marvel Studios’ David Maisel to step down after Disney merger

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

David Maisel, who helped to secure the funds that allowed Marvel to finance and produce its own films, will step down as chairman of Marvel Studios once Disney’s purchase of the company wraps up on Dec. 31.

He will remain as an executive producer of Iron Man 2, The First Avenger: Captain America and Thor, and is poised to make $20 million when the Disney deal closes.

Maisel, who joined Marvel in 2003, helped to raise the $525 million that enabled the company to produce its own movies rather than simply license its characters to film studios. He also played a key role in early negotiations that led to Disney’s $4-billion acquisition of Marvel.

After the merger, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will report to Rich Ross, who was named chairman of Walt Disney Studios in October.

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle

Libraries | There is, of course, follow-up on the decision by the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to remove the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age from middle-school libraries. Local CBS affiliate KELO reports on the reactions of parents and highlights some of the better-known challenged and banned books.

As we noted yesterday, teachers will still have access to the 2007 collection of stories about life as a teen-ager (by such contributors as Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt and Dash Shaw). That’s because, in the words of School Board President Kent Alberty, “There is value in the book. One of the subjects addressed is bullying, something the district is very interested in making sure is handled appropriately, and the book does address that.” [KELOLAND.com]

Publishing | Japan’s NHK television network reports that publishing giant Shueisha, a co-owner of Viz Media, plans to develop plans to sell manga via mobile phones in the United States beginning in spring 2010. [Anime News Network]

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Spider-Man musical gets new producers — and a Peter Parker

Reeve Carney

Reeve Carney

The creative team behind Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark emerged from today’s meeting with an announcement about new producers and official word on the musical’s lead actor.

What they didn’t reveal, however, was a specific date for the troubled Broadway musical, only saying that it will open in 2010 at the Hilton Theatre in Manhattan. The show, whose proposed budget has ballooned to $52 million, initially was set to bow in late March, but the most recent rumors had it opening past April 29 — the cutoff for Tony Award nominations.

The creative team confirmed relative newcomer Reeve Carney, long rumored for the role, has been cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The casting initially had been reported this morning in the Los Angeles Times. The 26-year-old Carney, lead singer of the rock band of the same name, also will appear in Spider-Man director Julie Taymor’s big-screen adaptation of The Tempest.

In Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Carney joins Evan Rachel Wood as Mary Jane and Alan Cumming as Green Goblin in a production scored by Bono and the Edge.

This afternoon’s press release also included the announcement that Michael Cohl has replaced Chicago lawyer David Garfinkle as lead producer, with Jeremiah J. Harris becoming second producer. The full producing team is Cohl, Harris, Hello Entertainment/Garfinkle, Marvel Entertainment/David Maisel, and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Future of troubled Spider-Man musical could be set today

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

The fate of the financially troubled Spider-Man Broadway musical could be decided today.

According to published reports, producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, whose budget has soared to $52 million, are meeting in Manhattan with director Julie Taymor and other members of the creative team to discuss the cash-flow problems that stalled production for nearly a month and cast doubt on the future of the production.

The musical had been set to preview in late February at a renovated Hilton Theatre, and then open sometime in March. But Patrick Healy of The New York Times writes that Taymor is expected to say rehearsals for the technically complex show won’t be able to begin before January, which could push the opening past April 29 — the cutoff date for Tony Award nominations.

Perhaps of more pressing concern is the $24 million needed to cover a proposed budget that ballooned to $52 million from an estimated $35 million, in part due to theater renovations and restorations. According to the Los Angeles Times, Spider-Man will cost about $1 million a week to produce — “hundreds of thousands dollars more than what some elaborate shows such as Mary Poppins or West Side Story cost — and require the 1,700-seat theater to sell out for every show for four years just to break even.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which boasts a musical score by Bono and the Edge, has cast Evan Rachel Wood as Mary Jane, Alan Cumming as Green Goblin and, apparently, relative newcomer Reeve Carney as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. (Carney, who will appear in Taymor’s big-screen adaptation of The Tempest, long had been rumored for the role of Spider-Man but never confirmed.)

However, as the LA Times notes, with production delays the musical risks losing the cast to other projects. Cumming, for instance, was just added to the cast of Burlesque, which begins filming next week.

NOTE: A post detailing the announcements made after the meeting can be found here.


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