Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Passings | Michael C. Gross, the artist, designer and film producer best remembered for creating the iconic Ghostbusters logo, passed away Monday following a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 70 years old. Hired in 1970 as the art director of The National Lampoon, Gross is credited with pioneering the magazine’s approach to comics and illustration; he’s also famed for his notorious cover bearing the headline, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” Gross was encouraged by his friends John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to move in the early 1980s from New York to Los Angeles, where he produced such films as Heavy Metal, Twins and both Ghostbusters films, and worked on the animated series The Real Ghostbusters. [The Associated Press]
Passings | Rick Obadiah, one of the founders of First Comics, died Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack while on the treadmill. In its original incarnation, which ran from 1983 to 1991, First was a pioneer in the direct market, publishing works such as American Flagg, Badger and Nexus and selling them outside the confines of the Comics Code. It was also one of the first American publishers to publish manga, bringing out a translated edition of Lone Wolf and Cub in 1987 as a monthly comic with covers by Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz and others. “Last year, Rick reread a lot of the old First titles and was pleased to see how well they held up,” writes his friend and former First Comics colleague Mike Gold. “He took a lot of pride in that, for which I am very grateful.” [ComicMix]
Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kodansha has launched a free Magazine Pocket manga app for iOS and Android devices, which in addition to titles already serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine features two exclusive spinoffs: Fairy Tail Spinoff: Twin Dragons of Sabertooth, springing out of Fairy Tail, and Brass of Diamond! Seidō High School Wind Instrument Club, based on Ace of Diamond. The app boasts more than 30 titles, with some chapters offered for free and others requiring a fee. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | “In Hungary there is little or nil culture for comics,” says Arpád Barabás, owner of the Budapest comic shop Trillian. “The main reason is that between 1946 and 1989 there was nothing except for the Boy Scout propaganda publications in this genre, all other things having been prohibited.” Barabás, who goes by the nickname Grif, is working hard to fill that vacuum, mostly with imported comics, but because of the cost, very few have been translated into Hungarian. [The Budapest Times]
Censorship | China may have banned 38 manga and anime series, including Attack on Titan and Death Note, but fans are still finding ways to read and watch them — and Death Note is one of the most popular topics on the social media service Sina Weibo. “Chinese authorities are used to a certain degree of permeability in their various bans and directives,” says Jonathan Clements, author of Anime: A History. “The issue with a lot of Chinese censorship isn’t about a blanket ban that keeps 100% of material out. It’s about making life as difficult as possible for people who actually want it. A ban like this is about restricting casual access.” [BBC News]
Creators | Scott Chantler, creator of Two Generals and the Three Thieves series of children’s graphic novels, will be the first-ever cartoonist in residence at the University of Windsor, in Ontario. [Our Windsor]
Cosplay | Alyssa Salazar, who runs the Tumblr The Hijabi Lolita, talks about combining frilly dresses and headscarves: “There’s really no difference, because Lolita is fairly modest to begin with. I could wear this without a scarf.” And don’t get creepy with her, because she carries pepper spray. [Vice]
Manga | The first printing of One Piece, Vol. 77, may have dropped below 4 million, but its sales aren’t slacking. According to Japanese market research firm, the latest volume of Eiichiro Oda’s hit manga has sold nearly 1.67 million copies since its release on Friday, more than seven times that of the No. 2 title on the weekly sales chart, the 67th volume of Tite Kubo’s Bleach. That’s marks a new weekly sales record for the year, surpassing the 67th volume of One Piece, which sold 1.6 million copies upon its release in January. [Crunchyroll]
The Cartoonists Rights Network International has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000 to extend its efforts, which include advocating for freedom of speech, getting the word out when a cartoonist is in peril, and working behind the scenes to aid cartoonists in trouble.
The organization offers a downloadable manual for cartoonists, and also presents the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award each year to “a cartoonist who is in great danger or has demonstrated exceptional courage in the exercise of free speech rights, or both.”
Crime | The Wow Cool Alternative Comics store in Cupertino, California, has been burglarized for the second time in two months, and it looks as if it was the same crew both times. The thieves took cash and pretty much every minicomic and digest in the store, as well as a box of Marvel and DC comics. [Wow Cool Comics]
Political cartoons | Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, who’s facing sedition charges in his home country, has been invited to speak at a United Nations forum next month in Geneva, Switzerland, titled “Defending Artistic Expression — Time for the UN to Act.” “In my speech, I will reaffirm my stand that freedom of expression for artistes including cartoonists is paramount and cannot be compromised,” he said, and he will also criticize the UN’s lack of commitment to the issue, which has “given more power to corrupt regimes and extremist bigots to be more repressive toward artists.” [The Rakyat Post]
Publishing | Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater responds to Singapore’s ban of the third volume of Life With Archie, which features the wedding of Kevin Keller and Clay Walker: “Riverdale will always be about acceptance, equality and safety. I’m sad readers in Singapore will miss out on the chance to read such a pivotal moment in comics.” [The Hollywood Reporter]
Business | Devin Leonard looks at the possible effects of a Fox/Time-Warner merger on superhero movies; Time-Warner owns DC Entertainment, and Fox has the movie rights to some Marvel characters. The New York Times offers a broader overview. [Business Week]
Joe Phillips has been drawing comics for 25 years, telling stories of superheroes in the pages of Mister Miracle, Timber Wolf and Wonder Woman. Now he could use some heroes in his corner.
Last fall, complications from diabetes forced the artist to have his foot amputated. He’s received generous charitable assistance during that time from The Hero Initiative and IDW Publishing, for whom he recently drew Star Trek, but at the end of the day it’s not enough. But Phillips has incurred sizeable medical bills, and understandably has trouble getting up and about for work each day. So fellow artist Cully Hamner has stepped in to kickstart a $5,000 fundraising drive to pay for a prosthetic foot for Phillips.
Comics sales | ICv2 unpacks February’s miserable direct market sales numbers a bit, noting that for the second month in a row just one comic — in this case, Batman #28 — sold more than 100,000 copies, indicating weakness at the top of the list. Since September 2011, when the most recent “growth spurt” began, at least two comics have sold more than 100,000 copies each month; however, that streak ended with the first two months of 2014. One cause of the poor sales may be the unusually cold winter, which meant higher heating bills and thus less disposable income for some folks. ICv2 also has a separate analysis of dollar sales and the charts of the top 300 comics and graphic novels of the month. [ICv2]
Retailing | The manager of Dragon’s Lair Comics & Games in Omaha, Nebraska, estimates 50 to 60 percent of their inventory was ruined by smoke and water after a fire broke out Sunday in the building that’s housed the store’s main location since 1976. Employees have been sorting through tens of thousands of comics to determine what can be salvaged while directing customers to the Dragon’s Lair store in the city’s Millard neighborhood. The hope is to use a store room next to the damaged building to begin offering limited services to customers — pull lists and special orders — as the retailer plans for what comes next. “We have every intention of reopening, here or elsewhere,” manager Craig Patterson said. “More than likely it will be elsewhere. And hopefully bigger and better than before.” [World-Herald]
After growing to 2 percent the size of the direct market in the last quarter of 2013, the crowdfunding sector of comics stumbled in January, even while the younger Patreon expanded.
Following up on my number-crunching and analysis from last month, I’ve continued tracking the progress of a market within comics that’s only beginning to mature. While there are more than two dozen crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been the established leaders from the get-go, especially in terms of comics-related campaigns. There is a smattering of comics projects on sites like GoFundMe, but by comparison those could be considered the long tail of this market. A crowdfunding hit has yet to occur on a platform other than Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
That could change with Patreon, however. As our ROBOT 6 contributor Chris Arrant noted last week, Zach Weinersmith of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal was already bringing in $7,500 a month after launching his campaign on Dec. 10. At the time of this writing, that amount is now $7,822.86 each month of comics he produces (minus Patreon’s fees). That;s coming from 2,839 patrons, or supporters. Meredith Gran’s campaign for Octopus Pie, which launched at the beginning of this month, already has more than $750 per month from 235 patrons. Last month, I would’ve included Patreon in the previously mentioned long tail with GoFundMe; however, those two high-profile campaigns are drawing attention to Patreon, so I wanted to see if I could better measure its footprint, and see how it stands up against Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Surprisingly, it turns out that Patreon could eclipse Indiegogo as the No. 2 comics crowdfunding platform.
Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]
After about five years of slowly building momentum, the crowd-funding sector of comics may be nearly 2 percent the size of the direct market. Based on analysis of the past three months of campaigns, funds generated through Kickstarter and Indiegogo would be roughly the equivalent of the sixth- or seventh-largest publisher distributing to specialty shops in North America.
While crowd-funded comics haven’t seen as brisk of an increase as digital comics, it’s a sector of the industry that’s undeniably growing. As more established creators and publishers experiment with running campaigns, they have pulled in their readers, increasing the awareness, and even the legitimacy, of the platforms. I’ve found this area to be under-studied, and I was curious to see just how economically significant crowd-funding is becoming to the comics industry. So I have collected data on every campaign that successfully raised funds through Kickstarter and Indiegogo from October 2013 to December 2013. I’m actually going further back than that, but that data isn’t ready yet; I’m still digging through the numbers, as data collecting, sorting and number-crunching can be challenging due to the different platforms and currencies. But I wanted to make public what I have so far because as we head into 2014, following Fantagraphics’ amazing Kickstarter campaign (as just one example), I believe we’re going to be seeing the industry embrace crowd-funding more and more, and there’s a lot we can still learn about how it works and how it affects comics.