Digital comics | Ethan Gach contemplates what the popularity of tablets means for the comics industry, with a particular focus on comiXology. He points out that the digital distributor offers not only bestsellers but also titles that appeal to a broader audience — and has brought success to some indie creators via its comiXology Submit program. [Forbes]
Academia | Tom Spurgeon talks to Professor Benjamin Saunders, director of the Comics & Cartoon Studies Program at the University of Oregon, which just received a major donation that will serve as an endowment for the program. [The Comics Reporter]
Manga | Kodansha will release a second printing of the January issue of Aria magazine, which features the debut of Hikaru Suruga and Gan Sunaaku’s Attack on Titan spinoff No Regrets. The first printing was five times greater than the magazine’s usual press run — Aria has a verified circulation of 13,667 copies — so with this new printing, the January issue will have 10 times the number of copies of the average issue. [Anime News Network]
Two and a half weeks after informing attendees that pre-registration for Comic-Con International 2014 wouldn’t occur in November, organizers have announced they’re postponing the process until early next year to “fine-tune” the online system.
“Although we have been working around the clock with EPIC Registration, there is still room for improvement,” states the new update on the convention’s blog. “Because we want to have as fully developed a product as possible we have decided to postpone Comic-Con 2014 badge preregistration until early next year. We know this is a disappointment and are sincerely sorry for the delay. However it really is our hope to avoid some of the issues we’ve had in the past and the additional time will allow us and EPIC to best address those issues.”
Organizers say the hope to implement new features, including a shopping cart that “should allow you to hold available badge inventory for all members of your party during your registration session,” single-session purchasing for multiple badges, a unique registration code to help weed out the landing page and waiting room, and extensive load-testing.
Comic-Con International 2014 will be held July 24-27 in San Diego.
PictureBox, the influential Brooklyn-based publisher of such titles as 1-800 MICE, Cold Heat and Powr Mastrs, announced it will no longer release new books after the end of the year. Its final title will be Matthew Thurber’s Infomaniacs.
“This was not an easy decision, but the company is no longer feasible for me as a thoroughgoing venture,” owner Dan Nadel wrote this morning on the company’s website. “Change is, as the cliché goes, a good thing, and I am proud of PictureBox the idea and the company, and grateful to the many artists I’ve worked with over the years. I’ve been publishing since 2000, and without such an astounding array of loyal and talented people PictureBox would be nothing. Some of my closest friends were made while working on PictureBox projects.”
Nadel offers more details in an interview with The Comics Reporter, where he explains the decision to shutter PictureBox was a personal one rather than a financial one; the company remained viable.
Current titles will remain available through the PictureBox website. Nadel is also holding a 50-percent-off sale through Jan. 2 on all books, prints, posters and more.
Thursday at this time, many Americans will be digging in to their bountiful Thanksgiving dinner or, depending upon the time zone, blissfully enjoying a tryptophan coma. Feasting isn’t the only tradition, however: There’s also the custom of giving thanks, hence the holiday’s name.
With the end of the year approaching, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the state of comics, and celebrate what’s working. Sure, this crazy industry can be frustrating at times, but it also gets a lot of things right. So in keeping with the numerical motif of our namesake, here are six things in comics for which I’m thankful.
1. Image Comics is killing it
There are a lot of fantastic comics today. It’s been said a number of times by myself and others but it’s so fun to repeat: We are living in a new renaissance period for comics. I don’t think there’s ever before been such a sustained output of quality books. You can’t reasonably give credit for that to one publisher, but if we’re just looking at the major players in the direct market, Image Comics is just killing it this year. I don’t think they’ve ever had such a stellar line-up of quality creators putting out books that look fantastic, have great hooks to them, and stand on their own as solid entertainment.
Time Warner filed documents last week to spin off Time Inc. — the media giant’s worst-performing division — into what Bloomberg calls “the world’s largest publicly traded magazine company.” The move, as ICv2.com notes, would effectively rid Time Warner of all of its remaining print assets except for DC Comics, which remains part of the Warner Bros. Entertainment subsidiary.
Time Inc., whose sales have fallen in five of the past seven years, publishes more than 20 magazines, including its namesake Time, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and People. It added Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure and Departures in September when it acquired American Express Co.’s publishing unit.
Talk of the spinoff, planned for sometime in 2014, began in March after a failed attempt to forge a new venture with Ladies’ Home Journal publisher Meredith Corporation. “A complete spinoff of Time Inc. provides strategic clarity for Time Warner Inc.,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said at the time, “enabling us to focus entirely on our television networks and film and TV production businesses, and improves our growth profile.”
“It is important, but it’s not the driving factor. The driving factor for me is having DC as one company together ourselves. Our ability to work more collaboratively with the whole studio is certainly a benefit. I believe everyone in DC will feel more a part of Warner Bros in the best ways. But it isn’t about more of our people talking to the film and TV people.
This is not the corporatization of DC. It isn’t about folding DC into Warner Bros. We’re going to help DC feel like more of an important priority in Warner Bros.”
– DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, addressing whether film, television and video-game adaptations are the primary reason for the recently announced move of DC’s publishing operations from New York City to Burbank, California. Since August 2011, the company’s film and television, digital, administrative and consumer-products operations have been housed on the second floor — 35,000 square feet of space — of The Pointe, a new 14-story office tower less than a mile from Warner Bros. Studios.
“You have to be scrappy. There’s a tremendous amount of noise. There’s more good comics coming out right now than probably any point in the history of comics. In order to make Valiant stand apart and let everyone know what we’re up to, you have to get a little bit P.T. Barnum from time to time. We have a tremendous amount of fun doing it, but we also want to make sure that anything that we do is in service to the storytelling of the books. That’s something that we take very seriously.”
– Valiant Entertainment’s Hunter Gorinson, discussing cover gimmicks like the 8-bit animated “variant” for Unity #1 in a lengthy group interview with Comic Book Resources that addresses the publisher’s growth, marketing to retailers, development of stories and events, and more. Unity #1 sold a reported 68,500 copies to the direct market.
“Comics used to be easy. You pitched something and if one publisher didn’t buy it, another would. Margins are tight now, and few comics are profitable. So it’s more like the Hollywood model of pitches and notes and so and so on while years crawl by. The same reasons I never wanted to write a screenplay are now present in comics. The ebooks let me just write the damned thing, and it’s out for public consumption within weeks.”
New York Comic Con reportedly attracted more than 130,000 attendees over four days, meaning the six-year-old event is now roughly the same size as Comic-Con International, which has had to cap attendance because of space limitations. Last year, NYCC drew about 116,000 people; in 2007, its inaugural event, there were just 15,000.
ICv2.com receives the news from Lance Fensterman, global vice president of organizer ReedPOP, who lays out some of the changes this year, including a reduction in the number of three-day passes (allowing more new people to attend each day), and the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) to try to clamp down on fraudulent badges and badge-sharing among exhibitors.
“I think we had wildly underestimated our fraudulent ticket issue,” Fensterman told tells the website. “We had the exact same number of ticketed people per day as last year, but if you looked at the common spaces, they were 40 percent less congested. We had a pretty big counterfeit problem.”
Despite objections by the San Diego Chargers and concerns about public access to the waterfront, the California Coastal Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as critical to keeping Comic-Con International in the city.
While the blessing of the commission — it’s a state agency with regulatory oversight of land use and public access to the California coastal zone — removes one major obstacle, U-T San Diego notes there remains pending litigation to the project’s financing scheme, which calls for a hotel surcharge of 1 percent to 3 percent. Hoteliers have already agreed to the plan, and a judge has upheld the assessment as legal, but opponents have appealed the ruling, arguing the arrangement amounts to privatizing the city’s taxing authority.
Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]
Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]
Tim Beyers of The Motley Fool recently speculated that comiXology could be positioning itself to go public. Or as he put it, “comiXology could be the next IPO multibagger.” He even asked CEO David Steinberger, who responded, “I would love to be significant enough to feel like we could do that. That would mean that it’s working, that the market is getting bigger.” Which is basically corporate for “Oh, God, I hope so!”
It may still be a few years off, but comiXology is definitely on the right track. The digital-comics platform just surpassed 200 million downloads, a milestone that was crossed exponentially faster than the 100 million mark. And no, it’s not all from free downloads. The company has been profitable since 2011, when Steinberger claims it made $19 million. That turned into $57 million in 2012. ComiXology’s expansion into the French market and the 10th anniversary of The Walking Dead, which coincides with the fourth-season premiere of the hit television series, are expected speed the company past 300 million downloads. This year’s launch of comiXology Submit is also likely helping push the needle further. Could comiXology hit $100 million in sales next year? If it stays on the current track, it seems entirely possible. ComiXology launched in July 2007 and turned a profit in about four years, an impressive feat, especially considering the state of the economy during that period.
“There are some really good reasons to do work-for-hire. It’s a valuable way to build a reputation. It’s probably not wise to devote 100% of your time to it, but only you know what your priorities and appetites are, and no one else has a right to judge them. And, yes, every job has its drawbacks and moments where it’s better to be flexible than absolute. I truly, truly understand having to take work you don’t love, or work with folks you don’t love, in order to make the rent. And early on, there are things I put up with that I now regret, and there are opportunities I lost because I pushed back, and there are still things I do sometimes to be a get-along guy that aren’t always in my best interests. Everyone’s threshold is unique, and sometimes you let someone take undue advantage because the cupboards are bare or because you’re dealing with a friend who’ll get yelled at if you don’t toe the line. I get that. Circumstances are circumstances. But if you never listen to another word I say, and I talk a lot, please know this: the only one watching out for your future is you.”
– industry veteran Mark Waid, from a lengthy “Open Letter to Young Freelancers” that’s a must-read not only for comics creators — of any age, and at any stage in their careers — but also for freelancers in other fields, to say nothing of editors, publishers and consumers.
“It might, if what DC was doing was impacting on their sales at all — but it really isn’t. Doesn’t mean we’re going to change the way we go about our business or anything, but for all that there’s a lot of uproar on the internet about whatever decisions DC is making, their sales remain constant. Sends a very clear signal to folks in charge both over there and elsewhere that it really doesn’t matter who works on what series, or how well or poorly they’re treated. So as a whole, the readership will reap what it sows.”
– Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president-executive editor, responding to a fan who wondered if, “with DC continuing on their weird way of interfering with creative teams and basically hating people does this kinda give you guys a new sense of that you’re on target for the quality of product and creative composure that needs to help make the industry thrive.”
After 13 years, iFanboy announced this afternoon that it’s “ceasing normal day-to-day operations,” with only its podcasts continuing on the website. There will be no new written content.
“The simple fact is that our lives are much different now than they were even five years ago, and with families and day jobs and other opportunities all vying for our time and attention, iFanboy.com has been suffering for it and we couldn’t watch it suffer any longer,” co-founder Conor Kilpatrick wrote on the site. “It hurts us to not be able to put our all into this place that we’ve spent so many years building into a vibrant and wonderful community.
iFanboy, which was purchased in February 2010 by digital distributor Graphicly, split with the company in January 2013, even as website co-founder Ron Richards announced he had joined Image Comics as director of business development.
“After five years spent running iFanboy.com as our primary jobs, we had to transition back to running iFanboy part time after Graphicly handed it back to us in February of this year,” Kilpatrick continued, “and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to focus on everything we need to focus on in the manner that it deserves to be.”
There’s much more at iFanboy, including messages from many of the key contributors.