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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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ComiXology reveals 51% of its users are outside U.S.

ComiXology logoFifty-one percent of comiXology users are outside the United States, the New York City-based company revealed overnight. The announcement was accompanied by a global heat map (below) illustrating the popularity of the digital comics platform by country.

Following last week’s news that comiXology was the top-grossing non-games iPad app last year in the United States, the company added that it’s the top-grossing iPad book app in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. It’s also currently the No. 1 iOS book app in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, The Philippines and other countries.

ComiXology expanded its international reach in 2013 with the opening of a Paris-based European division, followed by distribution agreements with French publishers Delcourt, Glénat and a dozen others, as well as with Viz Media Europe.

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Best of 7 | The best in comics from the last seven days

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “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 without further ado, let’s get to it …

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Comics A.M. | Steinberger on comiXology’s growth, what’s next

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | ComiXology CEO David Steinberger dicusses the growth of the digital-comics platform, which was the top-grossing non-game iPad app for the third year in a row. “We’re finding that a larger and larger percentage of our user base — our new user base — is people who are buying comics for the very first time with us,” he tells Wired. Steinberger also hints at a next step for comiXology: curation. [Wired.com]

Comics | Torsten Adair looks back at some comics trends in from 2013 and looks ahead to what we can expect in 2014. [The Beat]

Comics | Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie discusses the relaunch of the publisher’s Alien, Predator and Alien vs. Predator series and the debut of Prometheus. [io9]

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ComiXology was top-grossing non-game iPad app in 2013

comiXology

comiXology

ComiXology was the top-grossing non-game iPad app in the iTunes App Store in 2013, coming in at No. 11, just ahead of The New York Times. They were the only non-game apps to crack the Top 20.

In addition, the digital-comics platform announced it has served more than 6 billion pages — that figure includes both paid and free — since its launch four years ago. ComiXology trumpeted 2 billion pages just slightly more than a year ago.

“In a billion-dollar marketplace with competition between over a million apps, it’s gratifying to rank as the Top Grossing non-game iPad App in the entire iTunes App Store,” comiXology CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “This past year has been a great year for comics and comiXology!”

Last year saw the company further expand its industry domination with distribution deals with the likes of UDON Entertainment, Viz Media Europe, Avatar Press, and 15 French publishers, partnered with eBay, and introduced gift cards. In October, comiXology also released findings from a survey that found its female readership has grown from 5 percent to 20 percent.

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Oni’s ‘Down Set Fight’ gets early release on comiXology

Down! Set! Fight!

A month before it’s scheduled to arrive in stores, the Oni Press graphic novel Down Set Fight is debuting digitally today on comiXology.

The publisher revealed this morning that the book, by co-writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers and artist Scott Kowalchuk, will be serialized weekly on the digital comics platform in six installments, priced at $1.99 each, bringing readers to the Feb. 12 release of the print edition.

Announced at New York Comic Con 2012, Down Set Fight follows the adventures of fallen football star Chuck Fairlane in his cross-country battle against an army of mascots gone mad. Here’s the official description:

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Comics A.M. | Google granted patent for social media comics

Google

Google

Digital comics | Google was granted a patent this week for “Self-creation of comic strips in social networks and other communications,” which means the Internet giant apparently has patented a mechanism for creating comics about your status updates and chats and sharing them via social media. This sounds a lot like the wildly popular, but widely reviled, Bistrips. [Geekwire]

Best of the year | Brian Truitt takes a look back at the year in comics, picking out some significant events and offering his nominations for best creator, best comic book movie, and best comic in a variety of genres and formats. [USA Today]

Best of the year | Writing for The Advocate, cartoonist Brian Andersen reflects on the year’s 10 greatest LGBT moments in mainstream comics. [Advocate.com]

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Christmas is over, but the comics deals continue

mm25-official-complete-works-2Although the United States has never really embraced the Boxing Day tradition, Americans do like a good sale. So it’s lucky for comics fans the world over that a handful of publishers are offering some post-Christmas deals.

• Dark Horse Digital continues its “2013 #1s Sale” through Dec. 29, with the debut issues of such titles as The Black Beetle: No Way Out, B.P.R.D.: Vampire, Itty Bitty Hellboy and Star Wars available for download for 99 cents.

• DC Entertainment is offering digital versions of its 25 essential graphic novelsAll-Star Superman, Batman: Year One and the first volumes of The Sandman, American Vampire and Y: The Last Man, among them — for $5.99 each through Jan. 2.

• At comiXology, you can find the digital collection of the entire Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez for $44.99 (or half price on nearly all of the individual issues and volumes) through Dec. 29. Also: Marvel NOW! titles are available for 99 cents each through Jan. 2.

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