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Quote the day | ‘We’re … creating some of the best comics in history’

“The numbers don’t lie: More people are reading Image comics every single week, and those numbers are going to increase, whether they get them from your stores or from someplace else, because no offense to everyone who made the last 20 years so vital and creative, but right now, we’re blasting headlong into the future and creating some of the best comics in history.

See – in the past, when everyone claimed the sky was falling, it was because we were losing readers in droves – and worse, we were losing stores – because our numbers had been inflated by speculation. But the reason the sky isn’t falling now – the reason we’re actually skyrocketing – is because there are readers – real readers, the kind of customers we all want – in abundance. It’s our job – yours, mine, and the creators we publish – to capture their attention and give them the kind of experience they’ll come back for again and again.”

– Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, in his speech at the Diamond Retailer Summit at C2E2


C2E2 | DC Comics to add more digital-first content

Ame-Comi Girls, by Amanda Conner

Following the release of the digital Smallville: Season 11 series today, USA Today reports that DC Comics has added two more titles to its upcoming slate of digital-first releases.

Joining Smallville, Justice League Beyond, Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond and Batman: Arkham Unhinged will be Ame-Comi Girls, based on the DC Collectibles line of Japanese manga-style statues, and an out-of-continuity Batman series.

Brian Truitt nails the lede here, saying “DC Comics aims to make every day a new comics day.” Ame-Comi Girls, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, will come out on Mondays, while Batman–which will feature tales of the Dark Knight by Ben Templesmith, Steve Niles, B. Clay Moore, Nicola Scott, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Damon Lindelof and Jeff Lemire, among others–will come out on Thursdays. So the weekly line-up of digital-first series from DC looks like this:

Monday: Ame-Comi Girls
Tuesday: Batman: Arkham Unhinged
Wednesday: The Beyond comics
Thursday: Batman
Friday: Smallville: Season 11

“Our goal has always been from the very beginning to have something for everyone. The opportunities that digital opens up, it really allows us to go for as wide an audience as possible,” Hank Kanalz, DC’s senior vice president for digital, told USA Today. “The Lindelof thing will really appeal to tons of fans who don’t read regular comics, obviously. Hopefully when they come, they’ll see what an amazing medium this is and stay.”

Update: Via press release, DC has announced more details on the Ame-Comi Girls series. “AME-COMI GIRLS, launching in May, is based on the best-selling product line from DC Collectibles that brings the distinct Japanese influence of anime and manga to DC Comics’ female heroines and their foes. In the new series, the heroines must unite to stop an invasion by the female Braniac, who is aided by a group of ‘bad girl’ super villains. Initially, there will be five individual character arcs with multiple chapters, leading up to united, Ame-Comi girl series. All stories are written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with Wonder Woman art by Amanda Conner and Tony Akins, Batgirl art by Sanford Greene, Duela Dent art by Ted Naifeh, Power Girl art by Mike Bowden and Supergirl art by Santi Casas.”

They also announced the creative pairings for the Batman digital comics: “BATMAN digital, launching in June, will take place outside of DC Comics – The New 52 continuity and feature a series of stand-alone stories by various creators that chronicle different cases handled by The Dark Knight. Confirmed creative teams include Damon Lindelof and Jeff Lemire; Jonathan Larsen and JG Jones; Tom Taylor and Nicola Scott; Ales Kot and Ryan Sook; B. Clay Moore and Ben Templesmith; Steve Niles and Trevor Hairsine; Joe Harris and Jason Masters; TJ Fixman and Christopher Mitten; Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman; Joshua Hale Fialkov and Phil Hester; David Tischman and Chris Sprouse; and many more!”

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C2E2 | ComiXology to offer ‘digital first’ Archaia titles

ComiXology and Archaia announced today a new distribution agreement that includes exclusive “digital first” content and same-day-as-print distribution through comiXology’s various digital channels. The deal begins today, as comiXology added two “digital first” titles to their platform, Hopeless, Maine by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown, and The Grand Duke by Yann and Romain Hugault.

Mouse Guard has always been a favorite of mine and I had personally quested to bring it to comiXology, but I’ve been blown away by the top quality and wide diversity of Archaia’s titles since we launched,” said comiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger in a press release. “So, comiXology offering digital firsts from Archaia excites me on a personal level.”

Titles that will debut digitally before they’re seen in print include several of the Archaia titles that CBR told us about right before WonderCon, like the upcoming Pantalones, TX by Yehudi Mercado, Strange Attractors by Charles Soule, Mumbai Confidential by Saurav Mohapatra and the Space: 1999 adaptation. They also plan to release Rust, Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives!, Jeremy Bastion’s Cursed Pirate Girl and the various Jim Henson titles they’ve done–Tale of Sand, The Dark Crystal and The Storyteller–digitally.

“We are dedicated to bringing our library of award-winning content into the digital forefront, and comiXology has proven the demand for digital content in the marketplace, providing readers with a simple and immediate means of accessing the latest graphic novel content. We’re excited to offer readers some of our hottest content weeks, and in some cases months, before it sees print,” said PJ Bickett, CEO of Archaia.

Comics A.M. | Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions wins Lynd Ward prize

Big Questions

Awards | Big Questions by Anders Nilsen has won the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for 2012, the second such award given by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The organization also named four honorees: Freeway by Mark Kalesniko, Habibi by Craig Thompson, Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier and Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil. The awards will be presented during a ceremony at Penn State later this year. [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]

Publishing | IDW Publishing has promoted Dirk Wood to vice president of marketing. Wood joined IDW in 2010 as director of retail marketing. [IDW Publishing]

Conventions | Misha Davenport previews this weekend’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. [Chicago Sun-Times]

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A thousand-piece puzzle without the frame: McCann talks Mind the Gap

On the surface it may not look like The Return of The Dapper Men, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, and Mind the Gap have much in common, beyond the fact that they are all written by Jim McCann. One’s a fairy tale, one’s a straight up superhero comic and the third McCann describes as a “thriller mystery” with some “preternatural” elements.

But McCann says they have more in common than you might think, or at least that I thought. Last week when I interviewed him about his new Image series, McCann drew parallels between Mind the Gap and those two previous projects, noting that he had plans for a big central mystery for his run on Hawkeye and Mockingbird that never came to pass.

“With Hawkeye and Mockingbird, unfortunately that series was cancelled, but I had a two-year plan for that, and it started to lay a couple of seeds early on,” McCann told me. “Brian Bendis picked up on one of them that occurred in the last issue of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, issue #6. There was a brief moment between Clint Barton and Jessica Drew that was supposed to set up a fling between the two of them. We had talked about that before, and when the series ended he was able to take it and run with it. So there are still some ideas out there that were able to live on. I like to plan things out no matter what the story is. I think it’s important to know your ending, and I think it’s fun to plant Easter eggs and seeds.”

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Matt Fraction and David Aja to reteam for new Marvel series

Marvel released a teaser this morning touting a reunion of The Immortal Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction and David Aja for an all-new ongoing series. Alas, we’ll have to wait to wait until April 14 “Cup O’Joe” panel at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo to learn the details. Until then, we’ll just have to busy ourselves with wild speculation based on the above teaser …

Threadless prepares another round of Comics-On Tees

The crowdsourcing T-shirt site Threadless has produced four rounds of Comics-On Tees, and it looks like round five will debut at this year’s C2E2 show.

Previously they’ve recruited creators like Becky Cloonan, Mike Allred, Eduardo Risso, Jill Thompson, Colleen Coover and Tony Moore, just to name a few, to create shirts. This round will be “written” by Jeffrey Brown, who also contributes the design of one of the shirts, along with Jeff Lemire, Anders Nilsen, and Paul Hornschemeier. The shirts will debut at their booth C2E2 weekend and will be available for purchase from the Threadless site on April 16.


Comics A.M. | Comics rebound in 2011 while graphic novels slump

Justice League #4

Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]

Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Banned Egyptian GN to be published in English

Metro

Graphic novels | Metro, the graphic novel by Egyptian cartoonist Magdy El Shafee that was banned in 2009 under Hosni Mubarak’s regime, will be published in English next year by Metropolitan, a division of Macmillan. El Shafee who, along with his publisher Mohammed al Sharqawi was convicted of disturbing public morals, has appealed to Egypt’s new Ministry of Culture to have the ban lifted. “I’m waiting to hear if the minister of culture will allow it to be published again,” El Shafee says. “They will have to consult with the courts. I’m hoping there may be some kind of apology.” [CNN.com]

Legal | In an article that’s heavy on background and light on new information, Matthew Beloni reports that the attorney representing the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine exactly what elements from the Man of Steel’s mythology his clients can reclaim as a result of the 2008 court ruling. [THR, Esq.]

Retailing | Barnes & Noble stock fell 16 cents following a report that bookstore chain, the largest in the United States, will likely end its months-long search for a buyer. Although the auction isn’t over, initial interest from at least seven potential buyers is said to have waned following the first round of bidding. [Bloomberg]

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C2E2 | Sunday wrap-up

Lots of young people at C2E2 on Sunday

I don’t remember having this problem last year, but security was especially tight at the show. Saturday evening I got booted out at closing time while talking to one of the artists I was rooming with and Sunday morning press wasn’t allowed onto the floor until the show opened at 10:00. I’m not complaining exactly, it was just different from the open access I remembered from last year. Even Friday morning this year we were allowed onto the floor during the set-up hours before 10:00.

But if I hadn’t had to wait in line to get in Sunday morning, I wouldn’t have met Doug Zawisza, who was covering several panels for CBR, including the Mark Waid/Matt Fraction one that I’d enjoyed so much on Saturday. We talked about that, about what comics we’re reading, and about what our kids are into. I’d forgotten that one of the joys of conventions is just meeting and chatting with people who love comics as much as you do.

Speaking of kids, one of the best panels I attended all weekend wasn’t on the program. It was dinner after the show on Friday with Robot 6′s Brigid Alverson (who also writes for Good Comics for Kids), Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle), school librarian extraordinaire John Schumacher, and Chris Samnee (Thor: The Mighty Avenger). Seriously, if you take me out of the mix, you couldn’t organize a better panel on all-ages comics if you had a year to do it. We talked about our favorite kid-appropriate books, how comics for young people are in better shape than ever, and how nice it would be if DC and Marvel got on board.

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C2E2 | A look at the Dark Horse Digital app

Dark Horse Marketing Director Jeremy Atkins shows off the app

Dark Horse is getting ready to roll out their much-delayed Dark Horse Digital iPad app, and marketing director Jeremy Atkins showed me the beta version at C2E2 last weekend. The app is currently scheduled to launch in mid-April with about 300 titles, Atkins said, and Dark Horse does plan to do some simultaneous print and digital releases, although they have not settled on which titles would be involved.

In some ways, all iPad apps are alike: The Dark Horse app serves as both storefront and comics reader; you open it up to an array of covers, and you tap them for more information or to buy the comic. But Dark Horse built their app from the ground up, and there are some innovations here.

One is the grouping of comics. While most apps present the user with a bewildering array of single issues, the Dark Horse app groups them by title in “stacks,” so that a single series or story arc is a single icon on the home page. You tap that to get to the individual issues. Instead of trades, Dark Horse will be offering “bundles” of issues for a discount over the single price; the issues will still be read one at a time. The selection is pretty eclectic and includes Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub, making Dark Horse one of the first American publishers to offer Japanese manga on the iPad.

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C2E2 | A round-up of news and announcements from this weekend

C2E2

The second C2E2 convention, hosted by ReedPOP in Chicago, wrapped up yesterday. Here’s an attempt to round up all the comic-related news that was announced at various panels during the show. I’d be surprised if I didn’t miss something.

While Marvel and DC Comics were both in attendance and held multiple panels, Marvel dominated in terms of the number of announcements, which is no surprise — DC tends to favor announcing new projects and creative teams on their Source blog rather than at conventions these days. I only point this out after seeing the long list of Marvel announcements and the far fewer DC ones in my summary below.

• Marvel confirmed earlier reports by officially announcing the creative teams for the two “Big Shots” titles they’ve been teasing, Daredevil and The Punisher. Irredeemable/Amazing Spider-Man writer Mark Waid will pen Daredevil, with Amazing Spider-Man artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin illustrating.

“Tonally, it’s still very much a crime series, but we’re toning down the noir a bit and playing up the high adventure a bit more,” Waid told Comic Book Resources. “He’s the Man Without Fear. I want to see that constantly. I want to see him diving face-first into perils that would make Green Lantern shriek like a little girl.”

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DC’s Eddie Berganza to Marvel: You lie!

not Eddie Berganza

not Eddie Berganza

“Let’s put it this way…we lowered our prices and didn’t lie about it.”

DC Comics Executive Editor Eddie Berganza at C2E2′s “Brightest Day” panel this weekend, responding to a fan who asked if DC was better than Marvel.

You might recall the last time price cuts became a topic for discussion at a Reed Exhibitions comic convention. Back at October’s New York Comic Con, DC announced the initiative that would come to be known as “holding the line at $2.99,” dropping co-features (and two story pages) from all of its ongoing series and pricing them all at $2.99 rather than the then-increasingly-customary $3.99. Not even an hour later, Marvel Senior VP-Sales & Circulation David Gabriel announced that Marvel would be cutting prices too, with new books no longer launching at $3.99 as of January 2011. Though few details were forthcoming, the announcement piggybacked on DC’s in such a way as to lead to “DC and Marvel both cut prices”-style headlines (see here and here for examples). But the price cuts many believed were forthcoming on all new Marvel titles largely failed to materialize, with the new $2.99 titles located almost entirely in the limited-series portion of the company’s offerings. This in turn led Marvel’s then-VP-Executive Editor Tom Brevoort to claim that Gabriel’s statement (and, by extension, seemingly corroborative follow-ups at NYCC by Brevoort and Marvel PR guru Arune Singh) had been “misreported or misconstrued,” which frankly was kind of a stretch given the abundance of comics press outlets who reported the story in more or less exactly the same way. And thus you get Berganza’s pointed pushback.

Of course, Brevoort isn’t the sort to take this lying down. When asked about Berganza’s comments on his Formspring account, here’s how Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing responded:

No, we didn’t lie about it. We’ve been offering more new titles at $2.99, and the $3.99 books stay where they are–we never said any different. (Also, given the pasting they took in dollar share in January and February, much of which was a result of their price reduction, I’d be surprised if they hold to it for the entire year as they said they would. I’m guessing that you’ll see more $3.99 DC books around September.)

Ah, comics: From debates about price points to figuring out whether the Hulk is really “the strongest one there is,” you wouldn’t be the same without semantics.

Comics A.M. | C2E2 attendance rises; Borders closing 28 more stores

C2E2

Conventions | Early estimates place attendance three-day attendance at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at 34,000, up from 27,500 at last year’s inaugural event. “Last year was disappointing,” said Eric Thornton, manager of Chicago Comics. “But now you definitely see this starting to take hold.” [Chicago Tribune]

Retailing | Borders Group has announced it will close an additional 28 stores, bringing the total to 228. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, had used the possibility of as many as 75 closings as leverage to negotiate lease concessions. This latest wave will bring the chain’s remaining store total to about 400. [Media Decoder]

Publishers | Chicago-based publisher Archaia, which expects sales of $11 million this year, has raised capital from a group of investors with local connections. [Crain's Chicago Business, via ICv2.com]

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C2E2 | Saturday: Panelpalooza

The question that I raised yesterday about whether TV and movies were going to steal C2E2′s focus from comics turned out to be a non-issue. Concern – and maybe this was just me – was born from a couple of things: the catch-all “Entertainment” is right there in the name and there were several movie/TV appearance announcements in a row that I guess put fears in my head. But it was clear even yesterday from the exhibitor layout that the core of the show is all about the comics. I still haven’t explored the entire floor, but I’ve yet to stumble across the media autograph area.

Phil Hester signs Firebreather posters for fans

I did start and end my day with media panels, but they both had deep comics connections. First was Cartoon Network’s presentation of the Firebreather DVD with Phil Hester. As Hester put it: “It’s Saturday morning; we should be watching cartoons!” I saw the movie when it aired in November, but it was especially impressive in Blu-Ray on the big screen. And it was cool to hear Hester answer questions about his experience having his comic translated into film by Aeon Flux‘s Peter Chung. We also learned that Firebreather screenwriter James Krieg is currently developing a Green Lantern series for Cartoon Network.

Though it was a thoroughly enjoyable start to the day, I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the panel schedule I’d planned for myself. Sitting in panel rooms all day long without even seeing the convention floor didn’t have a lot of appeal, so I started trimming things. My schedule was a mess anyway with a lot of overlapping panels and difficult choices. This was true last night too. I went to Dirk Manning’s writing panel because I know and like Dirk, but I had to make a choice between it and another writing panel. That’s a weird head-to-head line-up and there were more like it today. Several small press publishers had to compete for attendees and my next panel after Firebreather was a choice between ComiXology’s digital-focused State of the Comicsphere and a discussion between Mark Waid and Matt Fraction on Script Writing and Comics in the Digital Age. Of course, I didn’t realize it yet, but the digital conversation at C2E2 was something that involved far more than just those two panels.

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