At comic conventions, a company like comiXology has to get creative in order to draw traffic to its booth; after all the digital distributor doesn’t have anything physical to sell, and it’s not like you can line up a bunch of creators to sign iPads. (I mean, you could, but why?) At New York Comic Con, however, comiXology is getting physical — by offering limited edition art cards during artist signings.
These limited-edition art cards will be signed and handed out during creator appearances at the comiXology booth, where you can meet Nick Dragotta (East of West), Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Lazarus), Katie Cook (My Little Pony), Sara Richard (My Little Pony) and Doug Braithwaite (Unity #1). You can also meet Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari, creators of the wonderful The Bunker. They’ll be signing sketch cards that’ll have a code to get the first issue of The Bunker for free.
DC Entertainment announced today that it’s making nearly 100 graphic novels and collected editions, ranging from perennial bestsellers like Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to New 52 releases like Aquaman and Dial H, available for download from comiXology and Google Play.
Although the offerings are heavy on Batman and Superman, readers can also find such Vertigo titles as American Vampire, The Sandman, Punk Rock Jesus and The Unwritten, and recent DC Universe collections of Wonder Woman, Animal Man, The Flash and Catwoman. You can see the complete list below.
“This expanded distribution furthers DC Entertainment’s goal to offer our readers convenience and choice,” DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement. “ComiXology is a clear leader in delivering digital comics, while Google is one of the biggest mobile content brands in the world. We’re very excited to bring bestselling DC Comics and Vertigo graphic novels to their customers.”
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.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So read on to find out what we thought about Superman, Tropic of the Sea and more.
Digital comics | It took three years for comiXology to reach 100 million downloads, but just one year for it to reach 200 million. Matthew Flamm profiles the company and its CEO, David Steinberger, who first saw a business opportunity in comics when he was trying to sell his collection and couldn’t find software to catalog it. The next big moment for comiXology is likely to come in October, when the fourth season of The Walking Dead premieres on television the same week the 10th-anniversary issue of the comic is released. Image Comics projects it will sell 300,000 print copies and another 45,000, or about 15 percent, as digital. [Crains New York]
Creators | Writer Mark Waid admits he didn’t think he’d be a good fit for Daredevil, because he doesn’t write in the darker style favored by his predecessors. “I’m better at swashbuckling adventure,” he says. “When I was asked to take that tack, I was in.” [Comic Riffs]
Digital comics | Tim Beyers speculates that with 8 million downloads per month (rivaling print comics sales, although it’s not clear all those downloads are paid), comiXology may be heading for an initial public offering. [The Motley Fool]
Creators | Alan Moore reminisces about the origins of his new graphic novel Fashion Beast, which was originally commissioned as a screenplay in 1985 by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The movie was never made, and Moore set the script aside and forgot it for 20 years: “What I am surprised about, and this is something I only realised at a signing for Fashion Beast when I was reading some promotional material — which is how I generally remember the events that have happened in my life – I found out that I had written Fashion Beast in 1985 which is before I had completed Watchmen. I think it is a lot more grown up than Watchmen and perhaps a bit more prescient in its way.” [Northampton News]
Awards | The Grand Prix at 17th Salon of Antiwar Cartoon in Kragujevac, Serbia, has gone to Iranian cartoonist Shojaei Tabatabaei. [Tehran Times]
Legal | A dancer seriously injured last month during a performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark insists the accident was caused by malfunctioning equipment and not, as the show’s producers contend, by human error. Daniel Curry made the claim in documents filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court that seek to prevent the production from altering or destroying the computerized stage lift before his experts can inspect the equipment in preparation for a potential civil lawsuit. He’s also requesting maintenance records and any internal reports about the accident. The 23-year-old Curry was injured during the Aug. 15 performance of Spider-Man when his leg was pinned in an automated trap door. According to court papers, he suffered fractured legs and a fractured foot, and has had to undergo surgeries and unspecified amputations. [New York Daily News, The New York Times]
Publishing | ICv2 continues its look at August’s direct market numbers, declaring Marvel’s Infinity #1 a million-dollar book, the third this year to top $1 million in sales, thanks to its $4.99 cover price and estimated orders of 205,000 (DC Comics’ Justice League of America #1 and Superman Unchained #1 are the other two). However, it’s also important to note that Infinity #1 was offered to retailers at a deep discount (up to 70 percent). [ICv2]
Digital comics | Jeff DiBartolomeo explains why he left his job at HBO (he was one of the developers of their HBO Go app) to become chief technical officer at comiXology: “What’s interesting to me is seeing this market, which is one I’m not vary familiar with, and seeing the potential. It’s proving to be useful to have me come [to Comixology] with a different set of eyes, at a different angle.” [TechHive]
Business | The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved Disney’s plan to build a 58-acre television and film production facility on the sprawling Golden Oak Ranch, near Santa Clarita, California. Located less than an hour north of Los Angeles, the 890-acre ranch has been owned by Disney since 1959, serving as the backdrop for projects ranging from Little House on the Prairie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End. ABC Studios has been producing more series than Disney’s Burbank facilities can handle, requiring additional sound stages to be rented. The new facility is targeted for completion in 2016.
Marvel Animation opened a new studio early last year in Glendale, just minutes from Disney’s Burbank lot. Marvel Studios later followed suit, moving from Manhattan Beach to new offices in Glendale. [TheWrap]
Monkeybrain Comics announced and released five new titles last month at Comic-Con International, including Phil Hester and Tyler Walpole’s Dropout. Hester and Walpole couldn’t be at the convention, but were willing to talk with me not only about the new series, but their collaboration in general, including a personal favorite of mine: their 2005 canceled-too-soon series Stronghold.
Michael May: You guys worked together before on Stronghold. How did you meet and what drew you toward wanting to work together?
Tyler Walpole: Phil and I are both from Iowa and when I was in high school he was one of the only professional comic book artists I had met in person (at a little comic book show at a local mall). I always liked him as an artist, but when I read his comic, The Coffin, I was blown away with his writing! So when he expressed interest in working with me, I jumped at the chance.
Phil Hester: I met Tyler when he was just a kid, and I mean really just a kid. He and Andy Brase were kicking around the Iowa comics scene as teens and I could tell both guys were going to go places. I guess I’ve always been looking for something to work on with Tyler and when Stronghold popped up, I knew he’d be right for it.
Publishing | Douglas Wolk uses a classic comics trope — who would win in a fight between Marvel and DC Comics, or rather, Batman and Iron Man? — to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the two companies and how their business models have evolved. [Slate]
Comics | Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater and writer and artist Dan Parent talk about the latest story arc, which takes the Riverdale gang to India for an encounter with Bollywood. [The Times of India]
Manga | Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, spoke about manga and the importance of freedom of expression at the most recent Comiket, the world’s largest comics event, in Tokyo. [CBLDF]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller dissects the latest sales numbers and finds July 2013 to be the second-best month for comics sales in the direct market so far this century—actually, since 1997. Combined comics and graphic novel sales were up almost 17 percent compared to July 2012, and year-to-date sales are up almost 13 percent compared to last year. [The Comichron]
Retailing | Brian Hibbs, one of the founding members of the direct-market trade organization ComicsPRO, has left the group “because of the reactions of the Board to recent DC moves.” He revealed his decision in the comments on his blog post about DC’s allocation of 3D covers for Villains Month: “The org that I formed was intended to look out for the little guy; the current Board seems much more interested in keeping the big guys big. Democracy in action, I suppose, so I vote with my dollars.” [ICv2]
Mark Waid’s Thrillbent, which hosts a variety of digital comics that can be read in a variety of different ways, is adding a new way to purchase titles: download-to-own. Starting today, readers can buy downloadable PDFs of Waid’s Insufferable, Art Balthazar and Franco Aureliani’s Aw Yeah Comics!, and other comics. Insufferable will be offered on a pay-what-you-like basis.
All the comics on Thrillbent are available to read for free in a web browser, and the site also offers free downloads, in CBZ format, of many comics, including Insufferable. The titles are also offered, at prices between 99 cents and $1.99 per issue, on comiXology.
So why charge for PDFs if the CBZs are free? Waid recently addressed that in a post on the Thrillbent blog. While the free CBZs are simple files containing the weekly installments, the PDFs will include “bigger chunks of story” as well as links to bonus web content, such as footnote and behind-the-scenes features, that will be created specifically for each comic. So basically, while both CBZs and PDFs are downloadable comics that live on your device, not in the cloud, the PDFs will have added features.
Digital comics | Jason Snell uses Comic-Con International as an opportunity to take a snapshot of digital comics in “an era of experimentation,” and hones in on Madefire, the convention’s embrace of technology, comiXology and the growing popularity of the digital-first model. “Digital has made us rethink how we fulfill books into the [print] retail market,” Chris Ross, Top Shelf’s director of digital publishing, said during a panel. [TechHive]
Legal | The Attorney-Generals Chambers of Singapore has charged cartoonist Leslie Chew (the pen name of Chew Peng Ee) with contempt of court because of four cartoons posted on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. A hearing on the charges, which could result in jail time and fines, will be held on Aug. 12. Chew’s attorney M. Ravi said in a phone interview, “Our judiciary is not like fragile flowers to be offended easily by such criticism. We have full faith in the impartiality and independence of our judiciary.” [Bloomberg News]
As the Comic-Con International hangover sets in and the industry goes silent while creators, editors, publishers and publicists stagger home from San Diego, we’ll take a few minutes to try to collect the comics-related highlights of this year’s event. We’ll attempt to update as more panel reports appear and other information trickles out.
• Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Hawkeye‘s David Aja, and Building Stories by Chris Ware were the big winners at the 2013 Eisner Awards.
• At Diamond Comic Distributors’ Retailer Appreciation Lunch, Marvel teased the arrival of Marvelman — it’s been four years since the publisher revealed it had acquired the rights to the property — and, scheduled for January, a new wave of Marvel NOW! titles. In convention panels, the company announced: Wolverine: Origin II, by Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert; the return of Nightcrawler in the first arc of Amazing X-Men, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness; the November debut of Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, by Chris Hastings and Jacopo Camagni; “Afterparty,” a two-issue arc of Young Avengers that celebrates Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s first year on the series; Steve McNiven will join Rick Remender in November on Uncanny Avengers; Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, a Galactus-focused Ultimate Universe event by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley; and the January-launching Revolutionary War, in which writer Andy Lanning and “various superstar artists,” will resurrect some of the Marvel UK characters.