Amid the flurry of news coming out of Comic-Con International in San Diego, digital-comics distributor comiXology announced this morning it has surpassed 180 million downloads worldwide. That’s just about nine months after the company hit the 100-million mark.
It’s been a year of growth for comiXology, which opened a Paris branch in January, leading to distribution agreements with French publishers Delcourt, Glénat and a dozen others. And just this week, the company announced a partnership with North American manga publisher Seven Seas.
However, it hasn’t all been about signing deals, as comiXology also launched the comiXology Submit self-publishing platform, as well as subscription and bundle features.
The distribution agreement launches with 13 Seven Seas graphic novels: Amazing Agent Luna Vols. 1-3 by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir and Shiei; Arkham Woods by Christopher Rowley and Jhomar Soriano; Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends Vol. 1 story by Yomi Hirasaka and Itachi; Hollow Fields Vol. 1 by Madeleine Rosca; Jack the Ripper: Hell Blade Vol. 1 by Je-tae Yoo; Dance in the Vampire Bund Vols. 1-3 by Nozomu Tamaki; The Sacred Blacksmith Vol. 1 by Isao Miura and Kotaro Yamada; and Vampire Cheerleaders/Paranormal Mystery Squad Vols. 1-2 by Adam Arnold, Shiei and Comipa.
The debut of those titles will be followed by more of Seven Seas’ back catalog, with the two companies promising eventual same-day digital release.
“Since its inception, Sevens Seas’ commitment to bringing the best in original and licensed manga has been evident by how many titles they’ve had chart on the New York Times bestsellers list,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “Seven Seas publisher Jason DeAngelis has a great eye for talent, whether it’s licensing and translating material from Japan and Korea or creating new content. We’re very excited to help bring Seven Seas Entertainment’s catalog to new and old fans across the globe on comiXology.”
With multiple new Monkeybrain Comics titles launching today to mark the digital publisher’s second year, expect Detectobot, the new series by brothers Peter Timony and Bobby Timony (Zuda’s Night Owls), to receive a lot of attention for one word in particular: free. That’s right, the Timony brothers and Monkeybrain are offering the prologue to the new series for free on comiXology, beginning today.
As part of ROBOT 6′s coverage of today’s Monkeybrain announcements, we spoke with the Timony brothers about the development of the their world’s greatest detective, who happens to be a robot, and why they wanted to offer the prologue for free. They also shared some preview pages from Detectobot.
Tim O’Shea: Beyond the natural “Yippie!” response, please describe your reactions when you found out the prologue to Detectobot was going to be available for free on comiXology. Or was that actually your decision to make to a great extent?
Peter Timony: We requested it, and the fine folks at Monkeybrain agreed. We wanted to do a freebie to entice new readers. It’s a lesson we learned from all of our years selling crack.
Writer Anina Bennett and artist Paul Guinan join the Monkeybrain Comics line with today’s digital re-release of first episode of their creator-owned Heartbreakers, which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #35 in 1989.
The sci-fi adventure has gathered has gathered a growing following over the years, and as it turns out Monkeybrain Co-Publisher Chris Roberson is one of those longtime fans.
Bennett and Guinan spoke with ROBOT 6 about the history and influence of Heartbreakers, its digital debut, and why they partnered with Monkeybrain. To learn how real-world events helped to change the direction of Heartbreakers makes me even more interested to see how Bennett and Guinan plan to observe the comic’s 25th anniversary next year.
If you’re attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, be sure to visit Bennett and Guinan in Artists Alley at Booth CC-01.
Comics | Could the competition to become the 2017 U.K. City of Culture hinge on … Desperate Dan, the pie-eating Wild West strongman from the long-running children’s comic The Dandy? Hull Daily Mail columnist Angus Young thinks the character could give Dundee the edge over fellow finalists Leicester, Swansea Bay and, yes, Hull. Dundee, Scotland, is home to The Dandy and The Beano publisher DC Thomson, and features statues of Desperate Dan and Beano character Minnie the Minx in its city center. “Having your picture taken next to the barrel-chested grizzly-chinned hero is apparently one of the top-ten things to do when visiting Dundee,” Young writes. “[...] This a bloke who thinks nothing of eating several cow pies in one sitting. A cowboy so tough he shaves his chin with a blowtorch and sleeps in a reinforced bed filled with building rubble.” The winner will be announced in November. [Hull Daily Mail, The Evening Telegraph]
Last week, we noted that comiXology had added a major French publisher, Glénat, to its lineup. The other shoe drops today with the news that the digital-comics giant has signed 12 more French publishers: Aelement Comics, Akileos, Ankama, Éditions Ça et Là, I Can Fly, Indeez Urban Éditions, Los Brignolès Éditions, Panini Comics, Sandawe, Soleil Productions, Wanga Comics and WEBellipses.
Together with Delcourt, which comiXology brought aboard in January, this group represents 40 percent of the French comics market and more than 400 titles. You can find the French-language comics here; if you were thinking it might be a little classier to read Kick-Ass in French, well, here’s your chance. All the French comics released today are available in French-speaking European countries, and most of them are available in the United States as well.
This is a logical move for comiXology; as CEO David Steinberger observed at SXSW, 40 percent of the company’s sales are outside the United States, and this expands the market even further. In keeping with this, comiXology has included a French-language navigation option in the latest release of its iOS app, version 3.3, and Android users will soon get that option as well.
Legal | The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar has appealed a court decision upholding his 2010 arrest and detention, claiming police acted in bad faith when they arrested him under the Sedition Act because of his book Cartoon-O-Phobia, which had not yet been released at the time of his arrest. No charges were ever filed, as the police could not identify any actual seditious content in the books. A court ruled in July 2012 that Zunar’s arrest was lawful but ordered the police to return the books they had confiscated and pay him damages. An appellate court will hear the case next week. [The Comics Reporter]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald takes a look at Marvel’s new graphic novel line, which will launch in October with Warren Ellis and Mike McKone’s Avengers: Endless Wartime. [Publishers Weekly]
Several French-language news sites are reporting that French publisher Glénat, whose properties include Titeuf and The Little Prince, has signed with comiXology and will begin releasing comics on the digital platform this month.
This is the second big score in France for comiXology, which opened a European branch in Paris in January and a few days later announced it had inked a deal with Delcourt, the largest independent publisher in France.
Glénat is the second-largest comics publisher in the French market, with a catalog of over 4,000 titles. Its properties include Le Bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue is the warmest color), whose film adaptation won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last month, as well as a range of French and Belgian comics. It’s also one of the big players in the French manga scene (although it’s unlikely any of the manga will make it onto comiXology as the licenses are usually country-specific). The number of titles to be released through comiXology has not been announced.
ComiXology has removed 56 titles from its iOS app this week — they range from Angry Youth Comix to Sex to The Boys: Herogasm — to adhere to Apple App Store policies. They’re still available for purchase from comiXology.com.
“In order to comply with the Apple App Store guidelines regarding adult or inappropriate content, some new releases were rejected for our iOS app this week,” a statement on the comiXology blog reads. “In addition, certain previously released titles that fall outside of these guidelines were also rejected and will be removed from sale.”
The announcement comes a little more than a month after the digital-comics distribution platform rejected Saga #12 in an effort to adhere to Apple policies, an action originally attributed to the computer giant. In the aftermath, Image asked that Black Kiss II, XXXombies and Sex #1 be revisited, resulting in all three being approved for the comiXology and Image Comics iOS apps. Now, however, all three have been removed.
The list of removed titles also includes Jess Fink’s Chester 5000, Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s classic Omaha the Cat Dancer, Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit and the gay-comics anthology No Straight Lines, which features the work of Alison Bechdel, Howard Cruse and Eric Shanower, among others.
Update (11:50 a.m.): ComiXology contacted ROBOT 6 to clarify that it was notified by Apple that those titles didn’t meet the App Store content guidelines, and therefore were pulled from the iOS app.
To celebrate the four Eisner Award nominations for Paul Tobin and Colleen Cover’s Bandette — Best New Series, Best Digital Comic, Best Penciler/Inker and Best Coloring — Monkeybrain Comics is offering the first issue for free on comiXology through the entire voting period.
The series, which debuted in July, follows a costumed thief who gleefully leads a group of urchins through the streets of Paris, serving on the side of justice, except when an old-fashioned heist proves too fun to resist. Bandette is every bit as entertaining as it sounds.
Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
This week’s new comic book releases included such noteworthy publications as the final issue of Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s drama based on UFO folklore, Saucer Country, the latest installment of Marvel’s line-wide crossover-event series Age of Ultron, the one-issue return of some of Marvel’s fan-favorite Runaways characters in the tie-in Ultron #1, the latest issue of the best superhero comic book on the stands, Hawkeye, and the final issue of the Mark Millar-written comic-as-movie pitch series Secret Service, maybe better known as “What Dave Gibbons has Been Up to While DC Published Before Watchmen.” And those were just the serially published comic book-comics.
The comic I heard the most about this week by far, however, was Saga #12, the latest chapter in Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ deservedly popular space fantas. And the reasons this particular issue was so talked about? Early in the week it seemed as Apple had rejected it for distribution for a couple of images of gay sex (although Wednesday afternoon, comiXology CEO David Steinberger said the move was actually due to his company’s mistaken interpretation of Apple policy).
I’m a somewhat-casual consumer of comics news these days, and yet I encountered iterations of this story over and over this week. And in the time between the story’s initial reporting and Steinberger’s clarification, I’ve seen stories on numerous comics news sites and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s blog. A Google News search for “Saga #12″ and “Apple” brings up 9,370 results, the top two being for The Washington Post and NPR, so obviously the mainstream media bit on the story as well.
Having actually read the comic book, though, the content that earned the mistaken, temporary pre-banning was so small and inconsequential, I probably would have missed it. (Note: Some images below may be not safe for work.)
Passings | The New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher has died at the age of 86. Mike Lynch has a nice appreciation, with a sampling of cartoons and links to other obituaries. Fisher was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Lynch says, but even so, he often came to the New Yorker offices on “look day”: “He would be sitting on the couch, in the cartoonists’ waiting room, with his portfolio, ready to chat. I introduced myself and was really glad to meet him. More than once he pulled out his roughs and showed them to me. Ed treated me like an equal.” [Mike Lynch Cartoons]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Muhammad Saba’aneh, who was detained by Israeli authorities in early March, has been sentenced to five months in jail and must pay a fine of 10,000 shekels. Saba’aneh was charged with contacting “enemy entities,” according to his lawyer. He was originally arrested and held without specific charges, raising fears that he would be detained indefinitely. [FARS News Agency]
Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited service allows unlimited access to a library of more than 13,000 comics, all more than six months old. The service has been around for a while — I’ve been a subscriber for more than a year — but it took a great leap forward a few days ago with the release of a new iOS app that allows the user to read comics on an iPad or iPhone and download up to six comics at a time. Marvel executives discussed the new service, now rebranded Marvel Unlimited, over the weekend at South by Southwest, and it has received a good deal of coverage since its debut. I thought it would be interesting to dig a little deeper, so I asked ROBOT 6 contributors to join me in a discussion about how they read digital comics and whether Marvel Unlimited ties in with that.
Brigid Alverson: What do you think of the idea behind Marvel Unlimited, an all-you-can-eat streaming service? Would you prefer it to a download service like comiXology?
JK Parkin: I’m torn about it, to be honest. On the one hand, having access to Marvel’s complete library — or a huge chunk of it, or however many comics they have out there — sounds appealing. But I don’t think I’d have time to really use it enough to get the bang for my buck I’d be looking for. I spend most of my comics reading time trying to keep up with all the new comics I read — and I’ve got a stack of comics and graphic novels that tell me I’m not doing such a good job in that department already — so I don’t think I’d have time to make use of a library of stuff like this.
The crash of comiXology’s servers over the weekend brings home a nagging detail to digital comics that deserves renewed attention: the lack of a file for consumers to keep.
The current model for most digital comics providers is to offer access to files through a proprietary reader available through their apps or websites. It’s essentially a leasing arrangement, granting temporary access with an open-ended term limit. You can “download” a local copy, but this isn’t a true download. The file is returned to the provider’s cloud storage after a short period of inactivity, although access remains through your library on the reader.
All things being fine in the universe, that hasn’t caused many problems. There have been a few incidents of comics being yanked back into the archives either because of an inadvertent early release or because a publisher no longer wishes to sell a certain title, but by and large there haven’t been any issues with the current model. Some previously voiced reservations about that arrangement, yet theoretical concerns are often ignored or quickly forgotten until they become a reality. And they became a reality over the weekend.