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Best of 7 | Colbert and comics, Kaare Andrews returns and more

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So get ready to fly really, really fast as we reverse the Earth’s orbit and head back for a look at the last seven days in comics …

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Can drones deliver my comics? Six thoughts on the Amazon/comiXology deal

amazon-ology-2-700e4In case you missed it, Amazon announced last Thursday their intent to buy the popular digital comics provider comiXology. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, and terms were not disclosed.

Maybe this explains why my Prime membership went up in price? OK, probably not. But this is a major shift for the industry, as the biggest seller of digital comics will be owned by a mega Internet company. It’s really too soon to know exactly what this will all mean, but here are a few thoughts I’ve had after shifting through the announcement and some of the reactions to it.

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Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson on Amazon’s acquisition of comiXology

darkhorsedigitalDark Horse Comics is the highest-profile publisher whose digital releases are not available on comiXology, opting instead to use their own platform, Dark Horse Digital. Following Thursday’s news that Amazon has reached an agreement to purchase comiXology for an undisclosed amount, ROBOT 6 reached out to Dark Horse president and founder Mike Richardson for his thoughts on the matter:

“Companies outside our industry have been paying increasing attention to comics in recent years. New technology has offered a variety of new opportunities in both content creation and content delivery. It is not surprising that Amazon and Comixology would come together considering this environment. The comics industry, despite periods of lull, has always been an evolving and changing business, and this move is consistent with that history.”

‘Hate’ & ‘Meat Cake’ debut on comiXology (with free first issues)

hate1To mark the digital debut of Peter Bagge’s Hate and Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake, Fantagraphics Books and comiXology are offering the first issues of both series for free for a limited time.

First published in 1990, Hate chronicles the life of Bagge’s longtime protagonist Buddy Bradley, a malcontent who comes of age in the Seattle grunge scene before moving back to suburban New Jersey and his dysfunctional family. One of the bestselling alternative comics of the ’90s, Hate ran for 30 issues; Bagge resurrected the title in 2000 for a series of Hate Annuals. A Hate follow-up, Buddy Buys a Dump, is planned for release in June.

Published by Fantagraphics since 1993, Darcy’s Meat Cake delves into a neo-Victorian world of humor, romance and frequently tragic fairy tales featuring such characters as Effluvia the Mermaid, the roguish roué Wax Wolf, Igpay the Pig-Latin pig and Stregapez, who speaks by dispensing Pez-like tablets through a hole in her throat.

“Debuting Hate and Meat Cake digitally on comiXology marks a new era for these historic Fantagraphics titles,” Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds said in a statement. “Although the trade paperbacks collecting these works are perennial classics, this marks the first time that the single issues of these generation-defining classics have been widely available in well over a decade. Now with comiXology’s help, readers around the world will be able to experience them anew and discover just what makes these books so timelessly great.”

DC adds single issues to Google Play store

Google Play screenshot DCWhen the announcement was made this week that DC Comics has started selling single issues in the Google Play Books store, my reaction was surprise — that the publisher wasn’t doing it already. Unlike Marvel, which has an exclusive agreement with comiXology for single-issue sales, DC takes a broader approach, offering comics through Kindle, Nook, iBooks and, of course, comiXology. There’s a lot of redundancy there: You can read DC comics on your Kindle as straight e-books or via the comiXology Kindle Fire app, on your iPad via iBooks or the comiXology iOS app or the Kindle or Nook iOS apps, and now, on your Android device via Google Play Books or the comiXology Android app.

Why choose one over the other? Actually, the question really is, why something other than comiXology? For regular comics readers, comiXology offers a more organized storefront and bookshelf area; e-book vendors just give you lists, while comiXology groups comics by publisher, by series and by creator. The other bonus for comiXology users is their Guided View panel-by-panel view system, which flows really well and makes it easier to read comics on an iPhone. On the other hand, Amazon is where the casual customers are, people who just read books but might pick up a comic from time to time.

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Titan to publish digital editions of ‘Spandex’ and ‘The O-Men’

The Spandex team

The Spandex team

The press release I received this morning from Titan Comics calls Martin Eden’s Spandex “the world’s first comic featuring gay superheroes,” which seems like the sort of claim that gets refuted as soon as you post it on the Internet. Still, Eden has taken the idea of, basically, an all-gay Justice League and really run with it.

Spandex was nominated for an Eagle Award, and Titan Books collected the first three issues into a trade edition a couple of years ago. Now it’s making the first two issues available on comiXology for $1.99 each.

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LGBT superhero comic ‘The Pride’ makes comiXology debut

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Anyone can be a hero, and in the independent comic series The Pride writer/creator Joe Glass has crafted a superhero supergroup made of LGTBQ characters. Debuting in 2012 in the United Kingdom with a six-issue series, which was followed by a spinoff called The Pride Adventures, the comic has been sold by Glass at conventions, by mail and via PDF. And this week it makes its debut on comXology.

“When I was growing up, and coming to terms with my sexuality, one of the things I always felt sad about was the fact there were no visible, openly gay superheroes I could relate to,” Glass wrote for an Indiegogo campaign for the series. “Sure, there were one or two, but they lived in the background or were poorly represented. Ever since then, I wanted to change that. And that’s what The Pride is all about.”

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Matt Ritter and Adam Elbatimy on 8-bit ‘Nova Phase’

Cover#1Veronica Darkwater lives in a world that’s a bit jagged around the edges. That’s because she’s the heroine of Matt Ritter and Adam Elbatimy’s Nova Phase, a comic that is drawn in an 8-bit style reminiscent of old-school video games.

Robot 6 readers got a sneak peek at the first issue late last year, and now the first two issues are available on comiXology; the first issue is free, and the second is just 99 cents. Ritter and Elbatimy plan on a six-issue story to be released digitally first, with every two issues collected into a print comic by SLG Publishing. Eventually, the whole story will be collected in one print volume.

This comic raises some interesting questions of technique and format, so I asked Ritter and Elbatimy to share some of their process and their thinking.

Robot 6: I know everyone asks this, but I’m going to start with it anyway: Where did the idea for this comic come from? Why do a space opera about a bounty hunter in 8-bit-style art? Did the story come first, or was the art a part of the concept from the beginning?

Matthew Ritter: I was interning over at Dark Horse Entertainment, and I wanted to pitch them something before I left. So I contacted my artist friend Adam, who I had worked on other projects with/for. We both loved comics and pixel art, so as we tossed ideas back and forth we settled on pixel art. We talked about some video game spoof comics and other ideas, and eventually I wrote a little short piece set in the Nova Phase world, he liked it, and so we went on from that.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Matthew Petz on ‘War of the Woods’

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Comics are a visual medium, and some images grab your attention at the outset. In the case of writer/artist Matthew Petz‘s War of the Woods, I liked the story from the moment I saw a live turtle being used as the otter Phin’s helmet.

The digital series, which reveals an alien invasion of Earth from the perspective of an animal kingdom, has completed two seasons (both Season 1 and Season 2 are available on comiXology) with more on the horizon. Petz recently took some time to discuss how the series came into being and some of his plans for Season 3.

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comiXology offers 100 self-published books for $10

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comiXology announced today that they will offer 100 self-published comics for $10, as they celebrate the “one-year anniversary of comiXology Submit at SXSW today.” The special deal is available through Monday at 11 p.m. Eastern.

comiXology Submit allows independent creators and cartoonists to upload their comic book and graphic novels into comiXology at no cost. The package of 100 comics includes some really good stuff, including The Bunker #1, Becky Cloonan’s The Mire, Moth City #2, The Deep: Here Be Dragons #1 and The Antler Boy and Other Stories, which alone costs $9.99.

The deal goes along with a whole week’s worth of comics that comiXology has been giving away at South by Southwest, which included the first Locke & Key trade paperback, issues of Smallville and XO Manowar, and more. Visit their Tumblr to get the redemption codes, as some of them expire tonight.

Check out the full press release after the jump

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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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Top Shelf goes DRM-free and adds digital-print bundles

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Top Shelf Productions, home to some very successful graphic novels — among them, March and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — has announced it will make its graphic novels available digitally as DRM-free direct downloads. That’s something readers say they want, and it’s a model that Image Comics has already implemented.

Digital readers have been clamoring for this sort of thing on message boards and in comments sections for some time, although it remains to be seen whether the warm feeling of absolute ownership that comes with a DRM-free PDF trumps the convenience of cloud storage, easy syncing and Guided View offered by comiXology. As a matter of fact, Top Shelf’s Chris Ross and comiXology’s John Roberts discussed this very point in July at Comic-Con International and found a surprising amount of common ground.

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Comics A.M. | New DreamWorks imprint won’t affect licenses

DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks Animation

Publishing | DreamWorks Animation’s announcement on Monday that it is launching its own book-publishing unit doesn’t mean the end of the road for its comics licensees, at least not yet: ICv2 talked to representatives from IDW Publishing, which publishes the Rocky & Bullwinkle comics, and Ape Entertainment, which has had a number of DreamWorks licenses, and both say that this won’t affect their comics. [ICv2]

Auctions | A collection of comics that included the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and the British satirical comic Viz, as well as long runs of several Marvel series, brought in almost £25,000 (about $41,300 U.S.) at an auction in Newcastle, England. The majority of the comics were from a single collector whose wife decided to put them up for sale after he died. For those who are curious about the details, Duncan Leatherdale of The Northern Echo liveblogged the auction. [BBC News]

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Comics A.M. | Protest of SodaStream’s Angoulême sponsorship grows

Angoulême International Comics Festival

Angoulême International Comics Festival

Controversy | Zainab Akhtar has a good roundup of the SodaStream controversy: A number of internationally known creators have protested SodaStream’s sponsorship of the Angoulême International Comics Festival because the soft-drink manufacturer has a factory in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “All of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied West Bank are illegal under international law, and SodaStream’s factory in specific was build on land seized from several Palestinian villages in what is regarded as the largest single act of expropriation by the Israeli government in its 47-year long military occupation of the West Bank,” the organizers of the protest said in a statement. A number of artists, including Jacques Tardi (whose work was celebrated in a special exhibit at the show) have signed an open letter to festival organizer Frank Bondoux, asking him to end the relationship with SodaStream. Tardi also issued a statement saying he felt that he had been “taken hostage,” as he did not know about the sponsorship until the festival began. [Comics and Cola]

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Comics A.M. | ComiXology updates app with Wish List, more

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | ComiXology has released an update for its Comics iOS app with a few fixes and a new feature: a Wish List. The app also now supports Manga Fixed Format. [App Advice]

Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz takes a look at the issues surrounding digital comics platforms for libraries and discusses one possible solution, iVerse’s Comics Plus Library Edition. [ICv2]

Digital comics | Tyler James offers some solid advice for creators planning to use comiXology Submit. [Comix Tribe]

Conventions | Steve Duin has a largely tepid assessment of last weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con, declaring, “Thank God for Emerald City.” [The Oregonian]

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