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Is the world ready for … a comics truck?

Penguin Book Truck

Penguin Book Truck

The story of Chris Romberger’s comics vending machine reminded me of an idea I had kicking around my head a couple of weeks ago: Here in Los Angeles, there has been something of a food-truck revolution going on for the past several years. And then I saw that last summer, Penguin Books launched a book truck. As Book Riot pointed out, bookmobiles and other ways to bring books to the people are nothing new, so I thought, why not comics?

A comics truck would be a fun way to spread the love of comic books, graphic novels, manga and all things sequentially artistic. It would probably never really be a replacement for a comics store, due to space limitations, but it could be effective as an outreach tool to drive buyers back to shops — plus be a dynamic retail outlet that can carry specific titles for the readers it will reach.

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Comics A.M. | Winter pours cold water on comics’ hot streak

Batman #28

Batman #28

Comics sales | ICv2 unpacks February’s miserable direct market sales numbers a bit, noting that for the second month in a row just one comic — in this case, Batman #28 — sold more than 100,000 copies, indicating weakness at the top of the list. Since September 2011, when the most recent “growth spurt” began, at least two comics have sold more than 100,000 copies each month; however, that streak ended with the first two months of 2014. One cause of the poor sales may be the unusually cold winter, which meant higher heating bills and thus less disposable income for some folks. ICv2 also has a separate analysis of dollar sales and the charts of the top 300 comics and graphic novels of the month. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M.| Inaugural Indiana Comic Con draws 15,000

Indiana Comic Con poster by Joelle Jones

Indiana Comic Con poster by Joelle Jones

Conventions | The inaugural Indiana Comic Con, held over the weekend at the Indianapolis Convention Center, attracted nearly 15,000 attendees, and it sold out on Saturday. Guests included comics creators Joe Eisma, Steve Englehart, Geof Isherwood, Joelle Jones, Don Kramer, Cary Nord and George Perez, and actors Evan Peters, Caity Lotz, Maisie Williams and Daniel Cudmore. [WRTV]

Comics sales | Comics sales in the direct market were down in February for the second time in two months, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. John Jackson Miller runs the numbers: Sales of comics and graphic novels combined are down 10.39 percent from February 2013 in terms of dollars, 14.77 percent in units. Because January sales were also anemic, year-to-date sales are down as well. Still, Miller notes, total dollars are up 3 percent from February 2012. February is traditionally a low month for comic sales, and the number of releases is the lowest in months, with just 692 new products (comics, graphic novels and magazines) being shipped last month. [Comichron]

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Comic-Con badges go on sale this morning [Updated]

Art by Thom Zahler

Art by Thom Zahler

Badges for Comic-Con International 2014 go on sale this morning at 9 Pacific, kicking off the anxiety-inducing annual rite for tens of thousands of hopeful attendees.

This year sees a couple of major changes: First, of course, is the elimination of four-day badges, which organizers believe gives attendees more flexibility and will allow more people to attend each day. The second is the personal registration code, implemented to prevent ineligible members from entering the EPIC Registration waiting room and further bog down the process.

If you have a Member ID code but haven’t received an email containing your personal registration code and a link to the EPIC Registration landing page, you may want to take a peek in your spam folder. The landing page should be open now to allow hopefuls plenty of time to enter their code and authorize their device to enter the waiting room. (You don’t have to camp out there all morning, however; there are no advantages for being the early bird. As long as you’re there by 8:45 or 8:50 to do what you need to do, you’ll be fine.)

Toucan, the official Comic-Con International blog, has a lengthy Open Online Registration FAQ that will probably answer any last-minute questions you may have.

Good luck, everyone. We’ll be checking back in with frequent updates throughout the process (which last year went on for about 90 minutes).

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Oni Press targets bad behavior with convention penalty cards

PenaltyCards-cropped

With convention season getting into full swing — major events Emerald City Comic Con, WonderCon Anaheim and C2E2 arrive in rapid succession over the coming weeks — Oni Press has stepped up to provide what no con-goer will want to be without: convention penalty cards!

“Comic conventions should be bastions of unfettered fun, enthusiasm, and safety,” explains a post on the Oni Tumblr, but lately it seems like nary a con can go by without some complaint of uncouth or downright inappropriate behavior on the part of some attendees. While these cards are by no means a solution to a systemic problem, we hope they might prove useful should one find themselves in the damnable position of encountering said behavior.”

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Comic-Con badges go on sale Saturday

comic-con

The general public finally gets its shot at badges for Comic-Con International on Saturday morning.

Organizers have announced open online registration will begin shortly after 9 a.m. PT; the EPIC Registration landing page will open two hours earlier to allow hopefuls to enter their personal registration code and authorize their device to enter the waiting room. (The personal registration code and a link to the landing page will be sent by email to those with Member IDs at least 24 hours before badges go on sale.)

Confused by mention of the “personal registration code”? It’s been implemented to prevent ineligible members from entering the EPIC Registration waiting room and further bog down the process. Details can be found here.

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Comics A.M. | Manga market showing signs of ‘modest’ recovery

New Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1

New Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1

Manga | In a two-part interview, ICv2 talks at length to veteran Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn about how the manga market has evolved since 1987, which manga do and do not do well, and what the future may hold. The good news is the market seems to be recovering after several years of declining sales; the hard evidence is that Dark Horse is sending more royalties back to the Japanese licensors. And the new reality is that while the market may be smaller, almost everyone knows what manga is now: “You can’t simply put a manga on the market and expect it to sell because it is manga (that was one of the nice things about the boom because you could take a chance on more marginal titles), but on the other hand you don’t have to do as much explaining about what manga is anymore.” In addition, ICv2 lists the top 25 manga and the top 10 shoujo and shonen properties from the last quarter of 2013. [ICv2]

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When it comes to comics, what is ‘real’?

Real? Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Real? Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Eric Stephenson means well. As publisher of Image Comics, and even before he held that position, he’s often called out for change in the comics industry. I love these calls to action, even if they’re not always graceful; change usually isn’t. Most of us agree that changing the comics industry for the better is in everyone’s best interest, but how to change it and how we define better is when things get messy. I’m usually in agreement with what Stephenson is saying, but his speech last week at the ComicsPRO annual meeting was jumbled and tripped over itself when it came to licensed comics.

Stephenson got hung up on a significant sector of comics publishing, and I think it muddied his larger message. In his speech, as I’m sure you’ve seen re-quoted multiple times by now, he claimed that licensed comics like IDW’s Transformers and GI Joe, and Dark Horse’s Star Wars “will never be the real thing.” In the lead-up, he also explained there are “only two kinds of comics that matter: good comics and bad comics.” Now, he never outright said licensed comics are in the “bad” category, but some certainly viewed that as the implication.

His argument is that comics should rely on original ideas to produce original content, a point he underscored by pointing to the perennial bestseller The Walking Dead and the fast-growing Saga, both coincidentally published by Image. I agree original comics are where the magic can happen, and where the creators can most benefit. But that doesn’t mean everything else is by default a waste of time.

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First Second creates a modern-day Bullpen Bulletins

First Second

First Second

Something has been going on at the First Second website. For about a year and a half to two years, the publisher’s marketing and publicity coordinator Gina Gagliano has been bringing personality to its blog with informative, funny and engaging posts that make me want to Make Mine First Second. Yes, there’s decidedly a lack of alliterations, but there’s an effortless style to the blog that harkens back to the classic days of Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins, as written by Stan Lee.

Gina was introduced to us in 2007, when First Second was just establishing itself. It was using Typepad for its blogging, and editor Mark Siegel was the primary writer. Gina’s posts generally stuck to limericks to promote new releases. Cute, and a unique way to talk about First Second’s books, but maybe too brief and structured so they didn’t really create a personal connection or invite conversation. But then somewhere around summer 2012, she began to become the dominant voice on the blog. As she took over, her posts became meatier, and she started to cover a richer variety of topics that have really brought the site to life in a unique way.

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Comic-Con International opens ‘Early Bird Hotel Sale’

comic-con

Comic-Con International has kicked off its “Early Bird Hotel Sale,” offering a limited number of rooms in Mission Valley and the airport area at special rates before general housing opens.

Beyond the geographic restrictions — no downtown rooms are included in the sale — there are some other notable conditions, including full, non-refundable “prepayment” at the time of the book. Nearly all of the hotels also require a minimum three- or four-night minimum stay. The early-bird rates expire on April 8, after which reservations are non-transferable.

Attendees staying Mission Valley and the airport area would need to take a 15- to 20-minute shuttle or cab ride to and from the San Diego Convention Center. Twenty-four-hour shuttle service to Comic-Con begins at 7 a.m. Thursday, July 24 and continues through 7 p.m. Sunday, July 27.

The fatal flaw in Diamond Digital

Diamond DigitalDiamond Comic Distributors’ digital comics program, Diamond Digital, will shut down on Friday, although titles purchased through the service will continue to be available via iVerse’s Comics Plus app.

The news broke Friday at The Hollywood Reporter, where Graeme McMillan picked up on an email sent to retailers two weeks ago. The stated reason: “18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.”

There are a lot of reasons why Diamond Digital didn’t work, but I think chief among them is the initial concept was flawed. The idea wasn’t to provide readers with a simple, easy-to-use digital comics service; it was to protect brick-and-mortar retailers by providing them with a digital comics service that wouldn’t compete with them. That drive to avoid competition resulted in a clunky and almost-unusable platform. Meanwhile, comiXology took a different tack and expanded the comics market, bringing in new readers — who then found their way to comics shops and bought print comics.

Of course, the biggest problem operationally was that Diamond Digital catered to a market dominated by Marvel and DC but didn’t carry single-issue comics from either publisher. And granted, that is a huge flaw.

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Comics A.M. | Amid Korea’s webtoon boom, cartoonists struggle

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

The Great Catsby, Vol. 2

Digital comics | The Korea Times takes a look at the comics market in that country, where government suppression of comic books in the 1990s (and school-sponsored book burnings even before that) has combined with the current demand for free digital material (in the form of the wildly popular “webtoons”) to create an uncertain environment for cartoonists trying to make a living from their work. “Unlike Japanese manga, which continues to drive a large part of the country’s publishing market and provide a creative influence to movies, music and video games, Korea’s cartoon culture was deprived of its opportunity to thrive,” said Lee Chung-ho, president of the Korea Cartoonist Association. “However, the most difficult process for us will be to find a sustainable business model. Readership has increased dramatically through webtoons, but you have no clear idea on how many of these readers will be willing to pay for content.” [The Korea Times]

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Comics A.M. | U.K. artists Gordon Bell & Tony Harding pass away

"Dennis the Menace," by Gordon Bell

“Dennis the Menace,” by Gordon Bell

Passings | British cartoonist Gordon Bell has died at the age of 79. He was a contributor to DC Thomson’s children’s comics, including The Beano and The Dandy, in the 1960s and ’70s; his creations include The Bash Street Pups. After that, he went on to become a political cartoonist (under the nom de plume Fax) for the Dundee, Scotland, newspaper The Courier, which is also apparently owned by DC Thomson. Lew Stringer has posted a sampling of his work at Blimey! [The Courier]

Passings | Another U.K. creator who drew for weekly children’s comics, Anthony John “Tony” Harding, has also died. While Bell’s work was on the goofy side, Harding drew soccer stories for action-packed boys’ comics such as Bullet, Hornet and Victor. His best-known gig was as the artist for “Look Out for Lefty,” the story of a hotheaded soccer player with a skinhead girlfriend, which got a bit too close to reality with its depictions of violence during soccer games. Again, Lew Stringer posts some of his work. [Down the Tubes]

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Comics A.M. | Creator couples discuss sexism in industry

"Bandette," by Tobin and Coover

“Bandette,” by Tobin and Coover

Creators | Frannie Jackson talks with a handful of prominent creator couples — Mike Allred and Laura Allred, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin — about sexism within the comics industry. “I’m occasionally invited to participate in panel discussions about ‘women in comics,’” Coover says. “I’m usually emotionally torn by those invitations, because, yeah, I want women in comics to thrive and be seen as thriving, but I’d much rather be part of a discussion about ‘awesome creators in comics’ that’s stacked with awesome women and men.” [Paste]

Retailing | Andrew Wyrich visits several comics shops in the North Jersey area and finds they rely on a friendly atmosphere and incentive programs to keep customers coming back. “People who buy comics tend to have a $40 weekly budget,” said Len Katz, co-owner of The Joker’s Child in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “We hear of people who love comics, but eventually just hit a wall with expenses. The key for us is to get customers coming back. The reality is we are not a necessary item; we aren’t milk, bread or cheese.” [The Record]

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Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford passes away

dallas fantasy fair-1985Word has only recently begun to circulate about the Dec. 25 death of Dallas Fantasy Fair founder Larry Lankford, a prominent figure in both the Texas and national convention scenes of the 1980s and early ’90s. He was 53.

“I will always remember him as a pioneer of the Texas convention scene,” Arlington retailer Cole Houston wrote on the funeral home’s memorial page, “someone who got me started as a convention vendor, inspired the tiny conventions I produced, and brought me and other attendees of the Fantasy Fairs memories that will last a lifetime.”

A veteran of the D-Con sci-fi/comics events held sporadically throughout the 1970s, Lankford launched the Dallas Fantasy Fair in 1982, attracting such guests as Frank Miller, John Byrne and Gil Kane to the inaugural show. By 1988, the convention had become so successful that he spun off three smaller two-day events in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Those were followed in 1992 and 1993 by a series of well-remembered Dallas Minicons, one-day expos that drew about 500 attendees each.

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