Creators | Following last week’s news that Stan Lee has canceled his sold-out Thursday engagement at a Toledo library event due to “a very serious circumstance,” Wizard World has announced the 89-year-old writer won’t be appearing as scheduled at this weekend’s Ohio Comic Con in Columbus. Responding to a blog post titled, “Is Stan Lee OK?” the administrator of the Stan Lee’s Comikaze Facebook page wrote, “It sucks Stan had to cancel [the Toledo event], but you know the man doesn’t just do conventions. he puts in a hard days work creating. Its really sad that the Toledo Blade had to go spread nonsense. If you want to be up to date on stan then follow us, cuz he kinda owns our company. Its sad that a some blogs are scaring fans. not really nice.” [The Beat]
Creators | Artist Molly Crabapple, who was arrested Sept. 17 in New York City during a protests marking the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, writes about the experience and her involvement with the movement. [CNN.com]
Two bits of news about comiXology crossed the radar this morning. The first is that the company is launching a push this weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con to get creators to fill its creator database with photos and information (the creators page on the comiXology website is now bare). Because the digital distributor features the work of more than 6,000 writers and artists, this is quite a task, so comiXology is asking creators to line up in alphabetical order — the company will focus on those whose names start with the letter “A” the first week and keep going for 26 weeks.
Anyone who’s interested should contact comiXology via Twitter to get the green light and instructions for the next step. It’s an interesting shift in focus, as comiXology has always been all about the comics — you can search for works by a given creator, but there isn’t much info beyond that. The displays all focus on individual comics titles and story arcs. There has been a lot of conversation lately about creators’ rights and giving credit, and as creators move from one publisher to another — or to creator-owned works — it makes sense to give readers a way to connect with them as well as all their works.
And, because sometimes the way you get the news is the news, I’ll note that the press release on this came from Ivan Salazar, whose signature indicates he’s now “PR & Events Coordinator” for comiXology. Salazar and Chip Mosher, comiXology’s vice president of marketing, PR and business development, were colleagues at BOOM! Studios until Mosher left for comiXology and Salazar moved on to become PR and marketing manager at Studio 407. ComiXology seems to be on a hiring spree, so perhaps more initiatives are in the offing.
With Labor Day weekend upon us, now is a good time to stock the virtual longbox with some digital comics. We reported the other day that Image has made 20 of its #1 issues free on comiXology; here’s a roundup of some other free’ n’ cheap digital comics to check out over the holiday.
Centsless Books is a website that rounds up all the free Kindle books on Amazon, and it has a dedicated section for comics and graphic novels. There’s a preview of Batman: Earth One up there, and a lot of first issues of different indy series. Some of the graphic novels aren’t really — at least one book I checked was prose not a graphic novel, and Little Nemo’s Wild Sleigh Ride is a picture book that uses Winsor McCay’s illustrations (which are in the public domain). Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a First Second fan, are the two Between the Panels books, which are promotional pieces put out by Macmillan, with creator essays, character sketches and side stories, all related to different First Second graphic novels. Aside from that, it’s a pretty mixed bag, but one that looks like it will be fun to rummage around in. These Kindle comics will also work on the Kindle iPad and Android apps.
Infinity is a free iPad fanzine from Panel Nine, which has published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John and David Lloyd’s Kickback as standalone iPad apps. The inaugural issue includes an interview with Lloyd, a preview of Dapper John, a roundup of digital-comics news, a couple of app reviews, art by Simon Russell, and an interview with PJ Holden, the creator of Murderdrome, a short comic that was booted from the iTunes store for being too violent (it’s actually a spoof). It’s a nice collection and well worth the effort of clicking that iTunes button.
DC Comics announced a new digital storefront in Apple’s iBookstore this week, and for now, it’s filled with Batman graphic novels. The graphic novels were already available in iBooks, but the storefront pulls them all together in one place. Of course, you can also buy DC’s digital graphic novels via comiXology or DC’s comiXology storefront, or from DC’s Amazon storefront.
You might want to shop around a bit, though, because several of those books are cheaper on Amazon than in the iBookstore: Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Vol. 1, is $9.68 on the Kindle, $11.99 on iBooks. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are $9.99 on Kindle versus $12.99 in the iBookstore. There are a couple of more, and in each case that I saw, Kindle beat Apple, at least on price, and all were readable using the Kindle apps on the iPad and Android devices, so these digital versions are in direct competition with each other.
What’s going on here? My understanding was that Apple’s agreement with publishers who use iBooks is that they won’t sell them at a lower price elsewhere. Of course, they may be easing back on that since the U.S. Department of Justice sued them, alleging price-fixing. Or maybe it’s just a glitch.
Image Comics has been on a roll lately, even before announcing a ton of projects by some great creators in San Diego in July. The last few months have brought us Saga, Fatale, The Manhattan Projects, the Glory and Prophet relaunches, Secret, Hell Yeah and many more. So who can blame you if you missed a few of them along the way? We’ve all got to eat.
If you did miss a few titles that you wanted to read or were just curious about, Image Comics and comiXology are now offering 20 first issues for free via the digital comics distributor. The list includes the first issues of the titles I listed above, plus Mind the Gap #1, Thief of Thieves #1, America’s Got Powers #1, Epic Kill #1, Creator-Owned Heroes #1, Dancer #1 and more. Apparently this isn’t a limited time only thing; according to the press release, they “will remain free permanently. So no need to rush; just mosey on over to comiXology or fire up your iPad and download them at your leisure.
The full press release can be found after the jump.
Creators | Cartoonist Stacy Curtis talks about inking Cul de Sac for creator Richard Thompson, who announced last week he’s ending the celebrated comic strip because Parkinson’s disease has left him unable to maintain the schedule: “I never felt inking Cul de Sac for Richard worked. It was like going into a theater to see Jerry Seinfeld do stand-up and watching Steve Martin deliver his lines. And that’s what it felt like. Every time I sat down at my drawing table to ink Cul de Sac, I could hear a narrator’s voice say, ‘For tonight’s performance, the part of Richard Thompson will be played by his understudy, Stacy Curtis.’” The final strip will appear Sept. 23. [Stacy Curtis]
Graphic novels | Andrews McMeel Publishing, which has focused on comic strips and comic strip compilations up to now, has announced its first original graphic novel series: The Chronicles of Desmond, by Mark Tatulli, creator of Lio and Heart of the City. The books will be published in October 2013 under Andrews McMeel’s new AMP! imprint and will be aimed at middle-grade readers. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Matthew Garrahan’s profile of reclusive Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter is somewhat sharper than the Los Angeles Times story linked last week, as it includes accusations that the 69-year-old billionaire threatened an employee, made a racially insensitive remark, and maneuvered Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney and three other executives (all African-American women who reportedly referred to themselves as “The Help”) out of their jobs. Nikki Finke follows up at Deadline with details of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at damage control, as well as the news that Disney has settled with the three former execs. [Financial Times]
Retailing | Comics shop veteran Amanda Emmert, executive director of the retailers’ association ComicsPRO and owner of Muse Comics in Colorado Springs, talks about retailing, the health of the industry, and the popular perception of comics shops as men’s clubs: “I have new customers who walk in and tell me how strange it is for a woman to work in a comic book store or a gaming store. Their experience comes more from watching The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as you pointed out, than from seeing a great number of stores, though. I am very lucky to work for ComicsPRO; I get to work with hundreds of stores around the country, a large percentage of which are owned or operated by women.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).
Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?
Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.
Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.
Digital comics, for all their convenience, come at a price. While it may be true that keeping up with comics is easier than ever now that you can digitally subscribe to be titles, but it is also true that it makes it harder to keep up with COMICS because it does not encourage you to take advantage of what is arguably the most important aspect of comics — to maintain a relationship with them. It sounds silly, even as I write it, but going to the store, hanging out and spending time with physical comics, eyes to paper, customer to customer, is a huge and fundamental aspect of comics.
– Mike Romo, writing about returning to the comic-shop habit
Romo makes some interesting points in this essay, but this I think is the key one, and it’s something that’s not necessarily obvious. I spend a lot of time looking at ComicList and Previews, so I always know what’s coming out this week, but that’s just pictures in my head. Going into a comics shop and seeing them all arrayed in a display is a totally different experience, and as I don’t do it that often, it always has an impact. Context and presentation do make a difference. Sometimes I notice completely different comics in Previews and in ComicList, simply because they are presented differently. And this doesn’t even get into the fact that the staff at a good comics store can recommend comics you have never heard of.
You know, I remember a time when Digital Manga published only print manga. That was back in 2005, before digital comics were a thing — Tokyopop ran a couple of sample chapters on its site, and there were the scanlators, of course, but that was about it. The Kindle was still a flickering star in the distant future (2007), and even when it came along, the first-gen version was a crappy comics reader.
Now Digital is the most digital of all manga publishers, releasing its work on just about every platform there is — Kindle, Nook, its own iOS app (when it’s not getting thrown off for the naughty bits), its own eManga website, and just in the past few weeks, iBooks, DriveThruComics and Wowio. These last two offer comics the way readers say they want them, as DRM-free PDFs.
Today Digital completed its sweep by putting its manga on comiXology. Digital is starting slow, with four titles from its Juné line, priced at $9.99 each. (It also has some Vampire Hunter D volumes, which look like they have been on the site for a while.) The selection is small, but it’s a significant leap forward for Digital — because company is getting its manga out onto what appears to be the most popular platform for digital comics — and for comiXology, because the distributor is adding manga to its mix, and yaoi fans tend to be voracious readers.
Auctions | Todd McFarlane’s original cover art for The Amazing Spider-Man #328 sold at auction Thursday for $657,250, shattering the record for a single piece of American comics art set last year by a splash page from The Dark Knight Returns #3 ($448,125). However, the price falls well short of the $1.6 million shell out last month for the original cover art for Tintin in America. A 9.8 graded copy of X-Men #1 was also sold by Heritage Auctions for $492,937.50, more than twice the previous record for that comic. [ICv2]
Publishing | Lily Rothman takes a look at iVerse’s newly announced comics-only crowdfunding platform Comics Accelerator, which will allow immediate delivery of digital rewards in a more sophisticated format than an e-mailed PDF and cap its share of the take at $2,500. As Laura Morley of Womanthology points out, it can go both ways: Being on Kickstarter, a trusted platform with wide visibility, helped boost the project, but on the other hand, “Any site that’s able to take advantage of the fact that comics online already work as a big community, as a place where people talk to their friends and promote things they’re interested in, is likely to do well.” [Time]
This week I catch up with Amelia Cole and the Unknown World co-writers D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, who were part of the first round of Monkeybrain Comics creative releases on July 2. With Issue 2 poised to launch Aug. 7, it struck me as a good time to interview Kirkbride and Knave. Here’s the official nutshell description of the series: “Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action.” Before you read the interview, I must stress there is some spoiler info connected to Dani in this interview, so please do not read the interview if you have yet to pick up the first issue. My thanks to the co-writers for their time.
Tim O’Shea: Whom approached who, did the Amelia Cole team seek out Monkeybrain or vice versa?
Adam P. Knave: We’ve known [Monkeybrain Comics'] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] for a while now and so we kept in touch, you know, the way people do. So when we started Amelia Cole (originally we were thinking of doing it as a web comic) we sent them the first issue just to kind of go “Hey, this is what we’re working on.” no higher purpose, just friends sharing creative endeavors with friends.
D.J. Kirkbride: Yeah, Chris and Allison are good peoples, and we were curious as to what they thought of our book. We’re fans of Chris’s writing, too, so we were a little nervous. Well, I was. Adam’s nerves, like his beard, are made of steel.
Knave: And then one day we got an email explaining the whole Monkeybrain thing and asking if we were interested. So Amelia herself sought them out, except none of us knew it at the time.
Kirkbride: Ooh, that sounds magical.
Thursday may have started a bit slow in the news department, but it sure ended with a huge bang. Here’s a roundup of announcements that hit today from Comic-Con International in San Diego:
• Neil Gaiman announced via video that he will write a new Sandman miniseries that will detail what happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1. J.H. Williams III will provide the art. “It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman‘s 20th anniversary,” Gaiman said, “but the time got away from us. And now, with Sandman‘s 25th anniversary year coming up, I’m delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told.” The series will be published by Vertigo sometime next year.
• Legendary will also publish the Majestic Files by J. Michael Straczynski, which will feature art by Geoff Shaw and Matt Banning.
• Terry Moore will write a Strangers in Paradise prose novel to coincide with the comic’s 20th anniversary next year. He also plans to do an all-ages comic after Rachel Rising finishes in 30-40 issues.
• Top Shelf Productions is celebrating its 15th year at the convention with Cyber-Con, featuring digital editions of such new releases as The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire, American Elf 1999 by James Kochalka, and The Lovely Horrible Stuff by Eddie Campbell, and discounts on digital comics by creators appearing at Comic-Con. You can see the full list on the Top Shelf website; the sale ends Sunday.
• Fantagraphics, meanwhile, is holding its second annual Can’t-Make-It-to-Comic-Con Sale, offering buyers a coupon code that will score them 20 percent off everything on the publisher’s website, and 50 percent off its “biggest and heaviest books.” The deal ends Sunday.
• And comiXology is offering its own Comic-Con special, with a half-price sale on digital editions of IDW Publishing’s Godzilla comics.
• Of course you can’t have Comic-Con without news about Comic-Con itself. CBR’s Kiel Phegley spoke with CCI’s David Glanzer about the show, while Ryan Ingram spoke with Scott Morse about the Tr!ckster satellite event. And it seems like every non-comics media outlet reports on the show in some form or fashion; here’s an article by The Christian Post about religion and the show, for example. And finally, Tuesday brought the tragic news that a con attendee camping out for today’s Twilight panel was killed in front of the convention center after being struck by a car.
• I’m not 100 percent sure if it qualifies as Comic-Con news, but since it was officially announced in the Entertainment Weekly Comic-Con issue, let’s just go with it. Marvel’s big news going into the Con is that they plan to relaunch several titles later this year as part of “Marvel NOW!” Their recently released solicitations reveal they plan to cancel nine titles in October, but of course you can expect many if not all of them to come back in some form or fashion as Marvel NOW! rolls out.
• Mike Mignola and Hellboy return this December in Hellboy in Hell, the first four-issue miniseries in a series of miniseries about the title character’s post-demise adventures.